Monday, April 30, 2012

Preview Trip: Part 1

First thing's first:  I love it here and I'm excited!  Pete is relieved!

We arrived Sunday.   I should mention for all you potential visitors from the Portland area:  If you fly on Delta, the first flight is from PDX to Amsterdam and takes 9 hours.  The second flight to the Lux airport is 1 hour.
Lux Airport.  Bonus point if you know what "Moien" is.  Can you identify all the other languages?

Considering it's halfway across the world, I'd say it's a pretty easy trip!!!
about to land, maybe over Belgium?

Sunday was gorgeous and we wanted to stay awake, so we spent the day walking around the city to orient ourselves.  Pete assured me that a city tour "death march" would keep jet lag at bay.

Luxembourg City has a great contrast between really old and really new areas and buildings.  Like our hotel in Kirchberg:

Compared with the Grand Duke's Palace:

Although many European cities have this contrast, I think it's still somehow a strong distinguishing feature of Luxembourg City.

old (left/foreground) vs. new (right/background)
It's also a city with higher elevation sections and canyon-type sections down by the rivers.

One of the main things we set out to do on Sunday was find Pete's office building.  According to our map, the location was somewhere down here...

But we figured that had to be wrong.  It's Amazon we're talking about here.  Shouldn't it be one of those modern blueish-grayish-glass buildings up top in the distance on the right?

We decided to trust the map and go for it.  You can actually take an elevator to get down/up, but we walked the winding way down...

And sure enough, there it was, down a little cobblestone alley...

back side of building to the right of Pete
Yeah, we thought this was just about the coolest thing ever, as you can tell!

The line for the elevator back up was a a little long (and we didn't want to terrify other passengers with our uncontrollable grinning resulting from our recent discovery), so we decided to walk the bike path Pete might take to and from work.


Four hours from when we set off, we finally limped back to our hotel, ate a well-earned dinner, and crashed for the night.  Apartment hunting set to begin at 10am the next morning.

To be continued!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Timeline

Our plan as of today:

April 26: Overwhelmed into a state of non-productivity, Rosie procrastinates packing and cleaning by writing a blog post entitled "The Timeline."
April 27: Pete's last day at old job
April 28-May 5: Pete and Rosie apartment hunt in Lux
May 10: James' last day of preschool
May 15: Movers pack, we stay at Pete's parents' house in Wilsonville until we leave
May 18: Daphne's last day of school
May 18-19: Moving sale at our house - everything we didn't pack
May 19: Our last Saturday Evening Service at church (5pm)
May 20: Farewell Open House at Pete's parents' house (see Facebook for details, EVERYONE is invited!)
May 22: Off we go!
May 23: Arrive in Lux, location TBD
June 4: Pete starts new job

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Yes, we will miss Trader Joe's

That's the answer to a question we've been hearing quite a lot.  It must be common knowledge that TJ's is our favorite grocery store and we buy almost all our food there.  Most people either love or hate the place.  We are solidly in the love category.

We ran into our best buddies there after school last week.

(Daphne in her PJs from PJ day at school)
We are not allowed to ship any food in our moving containers, so I'm sure I'll be tempted to stuff our luggage with roasted flaxseed peanut butter and spiced chai latte powder.   Mmmmm.

Truthfully, I am excited to learn grocery shopping in a new country.  I have already read a few tips here, here, and here.

Yet, I'm 96.7% certain you will be reading a post entitled "I miss Trader Joe's" sometime in the future, detailing how I spent 7 hours in a store buying all the wrong items.  And you have to admit, "Luxembourg grocery store" will have a lot to live up to in the customer service department.

So for now, I'm savoring our last few outings to the Trader, and his yummy merchandise.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A message from Daphne

The kids often ask to "type a message" to someone using one of our email accounts.  I received this message from Daphne the other day:

Allow me to translate:

"gootin tog" = guten Tag = "Good day/hello" in German
"shimepil Daphne" = Je m'appelle Daphne = "My name is Daphne" in French
"hou are you" = "How are you" in English

Now she just has to work in some Luxembourgish and she's all set, eh?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Work Visa Approved!

We'll I'll be darned.  It only took 3 weeks.

Now we need to decided the rest of the timeline - when to have the movers pack, our official departure date, our moving sale, when to rent out our house here if it comes to that, etc.  But the point is we have lots of flexibility, we can all move together, and Pete can start work on time!  Hooray!

We'll keep you posted, but if we had to guess, we're probably looking at departure sometime between May 21- 27.

For now, I have renewed faith in the bureaucracy of our adopted country, as well as our ability to properly collect, complete, notarize (over $500 of notary fees-worth at just a couple bucks a page) and send the correct documents.  I think we checked about 6 times to make sure every single blank page each of our 4 passports was in fact represented, but when you send off a packet like that, I don't think you can avoid wondering, "Wait, did we do that right?"

We did!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Apartment Hunting: Aiming for the "U"

I have never been to Luxembourg.  My first visit will be with Pete later this month when we take a 5-day trip to search for housing.

A relocation agent will help guide us on our visit.  If it was completely up to Pete (or if our marriage was made up of two Pete-like individuals), I'm sure we'd proceed with full confidence that we'll just figure it all out when we get there.  After all, we will have someone assigned to us who actually lives and works in Luxembourg who's sole purpose is to help us figure it all out when we get there, right?

But there is a Rosie in this marriage, for better or for worse (ha. marriage pun).  She likes to gather as much information as humanly possible beforehand, to make the trip as efficient and effective as humanly possible (yep, Type A all they way, baby). So I gather, gather, gather, gather for weeks and weeks, and then subject Pete to reading/hearing all about it.

He's a a very good husband.  Which is why I am following him to Luxembourg.

My house-hunting tool is, a handy little website with residential listings to purchase or rent throughout the country.

I have no idea how comprehensive it is, but it seems pretty dang comprehensive (remember, the whole country is just 30x50 miles wide).  You can set the page to English, and then Google Chrome (web browser) automatically translates what's not already translated, and what's left--and there always is some left--I can cut and paste into Google Translate (I guess welcome to my new world, eh?).  I have an account on the site and can bookmark my favorite properties, and I check for new listings every day.

Here's what we think we want thus far:
1. To rent a 3 bedroom residence, most likely an apartment.
2. Live in Luxembourg City proper - the most expensive area of the country, so kinda limits our housing options.
3. Short work commute, something like 15 minutes or less, for Pete.
4. Live somewhere where it's at least possible to not own a car (we are not sure if we want one yet).
5. Spend no more than 1600 Euros (around $2000) a month on rent. This seems like a lot (at least to us), but we'll have to hit close to that to achieve both #1 and #2 above.

Luxembourg City, or Ville de Luxembourg, is really the only "big city" in the country, with a population of about 95,000.  The next largest city has about 30,000.  There are a couple cities with around 20,000 and then they drop down pretty quickly from there.  From what we can tell, most of the country's actual area is fairly rural.  The whole country altogether is about a half a million people.

So, here again is the country outlined in pink (France at South, Belgium at West, Germany at East)

The word "Luxembourg" above is the location of Luxembourg City.  See that little U-shaped bit of orange freeway under the word?  Here is a close-up of that:

So we want to live within that "U" of freeway.  We think.  Pete's office is kinda near the "o" in "Luxembourg."

From all the blogs, websites, email exchanges, message boards, Skype conversations, Google satellite spying, and any other resources I can scrounge up in English, I am starting to get an idea of what each "quarter" of the city is like and which might be the best fit for us.  I've only heard of one area to really avoid, which is sort of just south of the word "Luxembourg" near the train station.  Then, between that knowledge and what comes up in my searches for housing under 1600 Euros a month (in some areas that's nowhere near enough money for a 3 bedroom), if I had to guess, I'm thinking we'll most likely find our spot somewhere just west of the word "Luxembourg."

But then again, we are kind of weird, so we might pick an underdog neighborhood.  In fact, we may end up renting a little rural farm house nowhere near the "U."  We reserve the right to change our minds.

Side note: sometimes it's hard to know where an apartment is on the map, because if the exact location isn't known by, it seems to automatically pin the city center (I think the Grand Duke's Palace, actually!).

The most interesting and key variable in this whole process will be the schools.  I really, really hope we get to visit schools - see inside, see classrooms, see teachers, see the kids.  So far we have heard there's not much difference between the local schools, but I just can't take anyone's word for it.  I have to see for myself.  I can't fathom that our gut reaction to school A and school B will be exactly the same.  But I could just be a big dumb American.  Or maybe I have trust and control issues (remember that whole "figure it out when we get there" thing I don't do well?  I'm willing to bet I could be our relocation agent's worst nightmare.)

But yes.  We'll figure it out when we get there.

Oh, and our kids currently share a room here in the U.S. so we only use 2 bedrooms, and the kids may still share for awhile in Luxembourg - but we'd like room for visitors!!  Hint!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It's Halloween!!! I know, but just go with me on this.

Some (free!) resources I've been using so far...

A great book I picked up at the library after searching all books with “expat” in the title.  The authors are two women who each spent many years as expats in several countries.   They walk you through the whole process, from preparing to leave all the way to “reentry” back into your home culture, focusing on practical tips and how you and your family will likely feel at each stage (and steps to help cope).  Particularly relevant were the chapters on moving with kids and being the “trailing spouse” (not the most flattering term--should I walk behind my husband and wear a leash?--but that's the lingo).  I will probably end up buying a Kindle copy to keep as a reference.

Each free podcast is about 15 minutes long (i.e. coffee break length) and is taught by an instructor from Glasgow, Scotland.  He teaches a young woman, also from Glasgow, and the podcast listener repeats and practices along with her.   It’s pretty good, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m learning French with a Scottish accent.

Picked up this book and accompanying cd from the library children’s section but had my doubts at first -  "Rock 'n' Roll Frere Jacques" is the first track.  (Let's just say that if Jacques was in fact dormez-ing, he's definitely awake now and quite irritated with his sibling.)  But the kids love it, and it grew on Pete and me pretty quickly.  We always enjoy the use of real instruments, the arrangements are good, and the songs are quite catchy.  The sheet music, chords, and French text are all included, along with a translation of each song in the back.  Our family favorite is “C’est l’Halloween,” probably because the chorus just repeats that line over and over, so we can all belt it out together and pretend we've got this French thing nailed.   We even broke out the ukulele and guitar and tried our hand at a verse and chorus.  Maybe by October we’ll be good enough to post our own recording.  But for now:

Friday, April 13, 2012

When do we leave?

The short answer: we don’t know.

Pete’s start date is June 4th.  We’re not totally sure how flexible that is, but we’re treating it as pretty fixed for now.  Also, it turns out my Mom will be visiting us in Luxembourg for a few days beginning June 7th.  She was able to extend her trip to England that she’d scheduled long before we knew we were moving.  So she’s going to just pop on over for a bit since she’ll already be in our neck of the woods. 

Huh.  That’s probably the last time I’ll be able to use that phrase for a while - “neck of the woods.”  Is there a way I can add a “y’all” to that?  Not that I normally say "y’all."  But if I’m fixin’ to say it, ain’t now the time to get it out of my system, y’all? 

Clearly, this is the long answer.

Anyway, we hope to be in Luxembourg at least a week before Pete starts.  That means we’d like to leave the U.S. sometime around Memorial Day weekend.

What we’d like to do and what actually happens may be different matters.  It all depends on when Pete’s work visa has finished processing.  We were told this will take 4-8 weeks.  Friday, May 25th is exactly 8 weeks from when our massive stack of notarized paperwork arrived in Luxembourg.  So we’ll either have plenty of time (and possibly leave slightly ahead of schedule?), or just enough, or somewhere in between.   The movers cannot show up with our sea and air containers until we’ve got the visa (and we’re not allowed to pack ourselves, they’d just unpack and repack).

So everything hinges on how fast the Luxembourgish bureaucracy works its bureaucratic magic.  In all likelihood, we sit and wait, and then everything happens really fast right at the end.

And if something goes seriously awry…my Mom may be hanging out in Luxembourg before we arrive.  But that’s not going to happen.  It’s not.  Nope.

Please think speedy bureaucratic thoughts on our behalf.

Yeah, I know.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

To love the language(s)...

Everything I read about moving abroad tells me to learn some of the language before I go.  Right now I’m just really wishing there weren’t three of those.  And that the kids and I weren't each probably going to be learning different ones.

I plan to focus on French (since I took some in high school and I've heard it's the language you tend to encounter spoken most frequently in the city and in print), and hopefully catch a little bit of basic German alongside Daphne and her schoolwork.  James…oh, James…might have to be on his own with Luxembourgish.  Google Translate is no help with that one, and I figured out that Paul’s lessons turn quickly to topics not applicable to 4-year-olds (“I like to go to bars.”), and then abruptly end.   

I’m making a cheat-notebook of common phrases in English, Luxembourgish, German, and French side-by-side.  I figure it can't hurt to learn to say "hello," "good-bye," and "sorry for being such an idiot" in all of them.

(For the record, my brain is totally short-circuiting and I actually KNOW nothing at the moment.  The cheat sheet just makes me feel smarter and productive and in control of my life.  I plan to ride that illusion indefinitely).

But so help me, whatever happens, I am resolved to not purchase expensive Rosetta Stone software (or equivalent) if I can.  I’ve got cds from the library, youtube videos, podcasts.  All free, baby.

A big part of me just wants to say screw it, I’ll figure it out when I get there.

Meanwhile, observe how smart and productive and in control I am. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Love Letters

Some of you may have already seen this picture I posted on Facebook a couple months ago. Ben E. is one of Daphne's kindergarten classmates.

A lovely bouquet of "flowers" (Did your Mom help you? Was this your idea???) and a somewhat indecipherable love note. At first, we found the sheer number of people (and partial people) depicted mildly disturbing. But now we interpret it as several attempts to get the scene just the way he wanted it (the two people on the far left?). After all, what love-letter writer hasn't scratched out and revised in the quest for the perfect words (or stick figures)?

When asked what she thought of Ben E. after receiving this note, Daphne had said, "He's pretty much my boyfriend." 

Today, Daphne is bringing the following picture to school for Ben E.

Wow.  What could have been.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A first good-bye

With some time to pass during a house showing this afternoon, the kids and I headed down to Cook Park.  It's one of our town’s best and biggest parks, and within walking distance of our house (note to person who looked at our house!  You know you want to buy it!  Cook Park!  Come on!).


As the kids ran toward the familiar play structure, I was struck with my first real and unexpected wave of sentimentality about moving.  I suddenly realized the significant role this park plays in my memories of raising our kids this far.  It is the site of countless playdates with good friends over the past 6+ years.  I’ve come with larger groups - MOPS and then MOMS Club - each significant eras for us.  Pete and I have helped run two church “Young Families” picnics here.  We’ve walked down as a family for the annual balloon festival. It’s our go-to spot for leaf-jumping in the fall.  We’ve watched the 4th of July firework show just about every year, which we can see from our house. We’ve seen the play structure remodeled in various forms (I don't miss the sand pit a much as the kids do).  We've witnessed the kids graduate from the toddler play structure to the one for the big kids.  We've chased geese and (dodged goose poop) in the soccer fields.  We've pushed a double stroller along the bike paths to the two connecting parks – and now all four of us walk or ride bikes.

Up until now, I honestly haven’t been too sentimental about leaving.  I think I just assume we'll eventually be back - or maybe the reality just hasn't fully "hit me."  But today I realized in an intensely visceral way that even if we do come back, chances are we won’t be living in the exact same spot or in the exact same area.  As I relived all my Cook Park memories, I felt a twinge of guilt for not visiting it or savoring it as much as I could while I had the chance.  I moved a fair amount growing up, but this is the first time we are moving our own little family.  A chapter in our book is ending – in a way, the first chapter.  And a rich chapter it was.

Cook Park, thank you for providing one of the great settings.

Two moments from today....

And some moments from years past...

(same tree they were both in today)

Monday, April 9, 2012

The unexpected hazards of airplane safety

When we took our trip to England last month, the kids were absolutely enthralled with the emergency/safety pamphlets provided in the seat pockets.  For the first couple plane rides, they stared at those pamphlets for several minutes straight.  Relieved our children were so quietly occupied, Pete and I sat back in blissful naiveté.

But then came the questions.

"Why is that plane landing in the water?"
"Why are they wearing masks?"
"Why do they have life jackets?"
"Did that plane crash?"
"Is our plane going to crash?"
"But what if it DOES crash?"
"What is going to happen to us?"


We did our best to reassure them that this situation was unlikely that they may as well assume it's not going to happen at all.  Mommy and Daddy will take care of you, it's not something you need to worry about.  And so forth.  We're not trying to coddle our kids, but we do attempt to discourage worries about things they can't control.

Of course, just as they seemed sufficiently satisfied with our feebly improvised explanations, a helpful flight attendant brought out a special mini life jacket, especially for James.

Yeah, thanks for that.

Still, it appeared that no long-term damage was done, and their fragile psyches stayed intact.  Until just the other day, when I found this board game Daphne had been working on...

Yes, "Lundin" = London
Yes, "Canuda" = Canada
Yes, the mom has the kid strapped to herself, just like on the safety card.  No, they are not smiling.
Yes, "Zoom."
Yes, "Boom."

When we fly to Luxembourg, I think we'll go ahead and hide those safety cards.

You know, just to be safe.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Renting vs. Selling

As I mentioned, our house is for sale.  And quite reasonably priced in a desirable location, I might add…

Despite the for sale sign in our yard, we continue to debate whether we should sell our house or rent it out.  There are so many factors, pros and cons, etc. to consider.   I’m so sick of going over them that I can’t even bring myself to type about them here.  It’s also insanely boring reading, you can just trust me on that.

Suffice it to say, we continue to waffle back and forth.  In fact, we waffle so much that it’s become a sort of code word/short-hand in our relationship.  If one of us says “waffle” out of the blue, we immediately know that means we flipped back to wanting to rent, or vice versa.  It happens pretty much daily.  Pete has been known to just email me a picture of a buttery Eggo from time to time.

The core issue seems to be a financial vs. philosophical decision.  Financially, it probably is “safer” to keep the investment, although we could walk away now with equity.   Philosophically, we’d like to make a clean break and focus fully on this new chapter.

We are trying our best to let our life philosophy guide us.  The problem with letting money guide us is that it’s really just fear disguised as money.  That’s what we believe, anyway.  Our life philosophy says, without a doubt, sell.  Let’s live this life the way we want.  Plus we’re kinda weird (you noticed?), and it’s probably overall the weirder thing to do.  So that’s always a good sign.

But we’ll see.  Right now it’s sell.  Tomorrow’s breakfast is sure to be….

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Move-age of Stuff-age

photo credit: cargocarriers

We get a 40-foot sea container to ship our furniture and anything else in our house we want to take to Luxembourg.  That container won’t arrive in Lux until 6-8 weeks after it’s packed (right before we leave).  We also get a 5-foot air container that arrives after 2-3 weeks.  This if for stuff we’ll need “sooner” I guess.  Probably whatever clothes we don’t take on the plane and some kitchen items??  I dunno, what would you put in? 

What do you not need for 3 weeks, but would be desperate for in 7?

The other day a man from the relocation company came to our house to take a basic inventory what will be packed in these containers.  He concluded that our house contains less than half of a half-size sea container.  He seemed a bit taken aback, actually. 

Woo hoo!  Big fat minimalist geek-out moment for us!

We’re going to sell or give away almost everything that plugs in before we leave, since the voltage is different there.  So far we’ve heard that the adapters/converters are a bit unreliable, so we might as well just get rid of our lamps, small appliances, etc. and start over, adding back only what we really need (oooh, geeking-out again!).  We can bring our higher-tech electronics such as our laptop—those should work fine.  We are hoping our precious digital piano will work with a converter.  We’re going to give it a try.

But really, the piece of information you should take from all this is that we definitely have room for stowaways if anyone’s interested in camping out in the sea container for a few weeks.   Heck, we might even just live in ours once we get there.

photo credit: busyboo

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

So, you want to learn Luxembourgish

I had a feeling you might.  All the cool kids are doing it.

Here’s just a little intro to the Luxembourgish language from my new best buddy, Paul.  You’ll see it borrows a lot of German, French, and English-sounding words.  Or they borrowed from Luxembourgish?  I’ll just stay out of the middle of that one.

What are your favorite Luxembourgish words so far?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Our Relocation – The Nuts and Bolts

(Yeah, uh, take a moment to note the scale of this map at the top left. If a country could be "cute" I think Lux would qualify.)

First, some quick definitions:

Expat (expatriate) – a person who has taken up residence in a foreign country.
Immigrant – a person who leaves one country to settle permanently in another.

We quickly learned while negotiating Pete’s contract that our situation is a bit different than that of the typical American expat in Europe. Most Americans (or at least those with families/kids) end up in Europe on a within-company, temporary transfer assignment, often 2-5 years duration. It is understood that the family will repatriate when the assignment is over, and so the company covers some temporary expenses such as English-speaking private school for the children (a.k.a. International School).

However, Pete is joining the company as a new employee, and his job is considered "permanent" and indefinite. As such, they will help get us there and navigate the initial transition, but after that we are pretty much “on our own.” Although it’s still safe to say we intend to return to the United States at some point, we just have no clue when that might be. So functionally, we are treated more like immigrants, whether or not that is our ultimate intention. I won’t get into too many specifics here, but things like International School and annual trips “back home” are not covered.

Now, please don’t mistake this as complaining—I’m just explaining. If you know an expat family who’s done this sort of move, it’s likely you know the transfer type. A lot of people have been asking us, “But don’t you get…XYZ?” And the answer has frequently been “no.”

Anyway, the only tricky part is school. We can’t reasonably afford private school for both kids (except on a very temporary basis as a back up plan), but we still want them to learn to read and write in English. So we will just put our kids in the local school, and they will learn the local language in addition to working on English at home, right? Well, in Luxembourg there are 3 official languages: Luxembourgish, German, and French. And at school, Luxembourgish comes first.

Beginning this fall, James (age 4) will be taught in Luxembourgish for two years in compulsory pre-primary school (like a pre-k and kindergarten lumped together). They don’t learn to read and write until the equivalent of “1st grade” in the states. Daphne (age 6) will begin “1st grade” and will learn to read and write in German, and the language of instruction will gradually switch from Luxembourgish to German as well. In 2nd grade she will gradually begin to learn French alongside German. Apparently Luxembourgish will still be the common “playground” language throughout, so by the end of elementary school they should be fluent-ish (at least speaking) four languages, if you add English at home. Awesome—if we stay there that long. Potentially awkward and confusing if we move sooner and they’re suddenly back in English language school.

At this point, we’re just counting on the resiliency and adaptability of young kids, wherever the future takes us. Even if we move somewhere else relatively soon, we’re hoping that their exposure to not-so-widely-applicable Luxembourgish will just mean they have had some good practice learning foreign language in general, and that they will have honed some solid empathy for ESL kids in the process!

Meanwhile, we have resolved to think of ourselves more as immigrants than expats for now, since the kids will be taking the “immersion” route. Pete will be speaking exclusively English at work at his American company. I will be…somewhere in the middle, I guess.

But this is why we call it an “adventure.” ☺

By the way, here’s a helpful (or terrifying?) post about the different languages and when/where they’re used.

Monday, April 2, 2012

In Passionate Defense of Our Garage

Who knew? We certainly didn’t.

We are attempting to sell our house at the moment. Everyone who comes to see it really likes it. Loves it, even.

Except for the mere one-car garage.

Really? That’s the deal breaker for you?

Grrr…..I will refrain from further comment.

This is me refraining. See. It’s hard.

Actually, I typed a bunch of real snarky ones and then erased them. Ha.

It never occurred to us even once that this would be THE issue for people looking at our house.

Very disappointing, house shoppers. We are deeply offended on behalf of our little house.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Since Christmas 2011

Hello there.

I think I'm back.

I'd say there have been 3 major events since Christmas:

In January we hosted our first ever Hootenanny:

(and I started learning ukulele)

In March we took a trip to England to visit my Mom's side of the family, and celebrated my Nana Alice's 90th birthday.

And thirdly, we made the decision to move to Luxembourg.

Some quick back story on that one. In November and December, Pete traveled with his company to France to work on a project as a consultant. While there, he took his one weekend off to visit a friend from his MBA program who now lives and works in Luxembourg at They casually discussed how it would be cool if he could get a job there too. And then, a couple months later, there was a job opening. And then a job offer. We took it.

So, I've been feeling strongly that I should pick this blogging thing back up again. We'll see what happens.