Friday, March 1, 2013

The End of the Adventure

I am behind, as always...there are never enough hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the month and months in the year.  I apologize to all of you for being slow with this  entry.

So much has happened since I last left you at Thanksgiving.  In a few short months our lives have changed dramatically!  We discovered a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving that we are expecting our fourth and what Chris claims as the last, child!  We were overjoyed with the news and very excited about this new and unexpected blessing!  The tiniest of people can change your life the most and this pregnancy brought with it a lot of hard decisions.  Most of you know I don't have the easiest of pregnancies and given our remote location and the lack of availability of even a simple doctors appointment, it was decided after much discussion that the kids and I would return to Houston.  This decision was met with a myriad of emotions.  We were elated at the thought of returning home and resuming our life in the States.  The sadness came in leaving Chris behind and our much loved Canadian family, the Sabines.

Decision made, whirlwind begins...Christmas was spent in Connecticut at my parents and we had a wonderful time baking cookies, shopping and spending time together.  Chris' dad and Jill joined us for a few days around the New Year and it was wonderful to see them.  Much of our"vacation" was spent with Chris and I at various doctors appointments making sure that all was well with our new addition.

Of course, with the move coming fast and furious, we also spent a large amount of our time stateside planning the logistics of moving our family back home.  A key component to making the transition without Chris was my sister Kylee, who agreed to take a leap of faith and join the kids and I in Texas to help me through the pregnancy and life with three kids and no husband.  We are so grateful and excited that she chose to take this big step into life and it is our goal to help see her settled into a wonderful life and teaching position in the Lonestar State!

We returned to Canada and the moving plans were taken into high gear and the hunt for a rental in Texas was almost as stressful as our Canadian hunt.  We finally secured a house, sight unseen, two streets over from our old, beloved house barely a week before the movers were set to arrive.  The movers came the first week of February and packed and loaded our belongings and we set about the sad business of saying goodbye.  

There is much about our Canadian adventure that I could easily do without.  I hated the cold, the lack of amenities and the disadvantages I felt my children encountered due to the location, but there were experiences and people that we treasured and leaving those behind was hard.  Turning the reins to the Lacrosse association over was a sad moment for me.  I spent countless hours and vast amounts of energy trying to make something wonderful for the kids with amazing, dedicated people.  Letting that go was difficult for me.  But nothing was harder than saying goodbye to our much loved Sabine family.  It was they who made the days of our lives there not so lonely and hard to bear.  We had a wonderful last evening with them and Jody and I both made it to the very end of the night before the water works started.  I will treasure every moment we had together and will make the concentrated effort to make more memories with visits and constant calls and Facebook messages.  Some things are too precious to lose!

The kids and I boarded a plane and Chris and the dogs loaded up the car and our family began the journey back to Texas.  We landed at the airport to hugs and our Texas family waiting to take us home!   Chris arrived a few days later with the dogs and we camped out with the Sellers family until the new house was ready for us.  The craziness continued with the moving truck showing up late, mom and Kylee arriving with her stuff, school and activities in full swing and the overall chaos of family life.  

I am sitting here 3 weeks into this chapter of our lives and the boxes are still here and there, stacks of pictures need to be hung and the flotsam of life still needs to be found a home.  Chris returned to Canada a little over a week ago and we miss him everyday. I can't wait until October when he can come home permanently and complete our family again.   Strangely though, I am as close to peace as I can get with all these kids, the crazy schedule and the dogs...we are in the home of our hearts and I am anxious to see what this new/old adventure will bring.

My advice on expat life remains the same...take whatever you can from the experience, find someone to help you find your way and at the end of it, it will have been a success.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Fall is always busy at the Evans house and being in Canada is no exception!  I am having a hard time keeping up with the schedules and laundry, let alone this poor, neglected blog.  

We started the season out with our very first visitors to our new location!  Chris' mom and Stepdad, better know as Nana and PopPop arrived in Edmonton at the very end of September.  after picking them up at the airport, we loaded the car down with luggage and our monthly Costco haul and headed up to Ft. McMurray.  The car has never been so full!  There were things on the roof and strapped to the was a little Beverly Hillbillies-esque.  all that aside, we made it home in one piece and with new wildlife pictures to show for it as well!  We had our first look at Wood Buffalo, which are slightly different from their Plains Buffalo counterparts that we see in the US.  These homely, yet magnificent animals were almost hunted to extinction and are now a protected species.

The grandparents arrived during the busiest week of our Canadian adventure to date.  Lacrosse started back up and I was in full, crazy President mode and both of the bigger kids started skating lessons.  This took the schedule from spending 3 evenings a week at the community center for Chloe's dance classes, to five nights a week averaging about 4 hours a night!  Needless to say, they didn't see too much else while they were here!  We did find time in all of the uproar to have some beautiful family photos taken in the leaves.  I am hoping to find a few moments to have some of them enlarged and framed for the walls.

It was a lovely week and it was so nice to see familiar faces!  We were sad to see them go and it appeared they took fall with them, because about a week after they left, the snow started and it has been  winter ever since!

Halloween was spent Trick or Treating with about a foot of snow on the ground!  That didn't seem to slow the kids down any!  They were out in the cold for hours obtaining loot!   I guess that creature comforts don't matter when there is candy involved.  Aila was very excited about Halloween this year and came back with more than her share of sugar after only about a half an hour on the prowl.

The holidays are just around the corner and this coming Thursday, we will be the lone Americans on our street celebrating Thanksgiving, but we are looking forward to our turkey and traditions and celebrating all that we have to be thankful for.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ask Jody

Moving anywhere is hard, becoming an expat is even harder.  Making a life on unfamiliar ground is intimidating to even the strongest of people.  Everything is different  and unknown and a bit of a challenge. The key to survival is to find good friends and use them to help navigate through your uncharted waters.  I am lucky enough to have found a living, breathing compass; when in doubt, I Ask Jody!

Let me introduce you to my good friend and  coach on Canadian life,  Jody.  She has since our first meeting extended her hand not only in friendship but herself as a source of information.  I am so blessed to have this fabulous pharmacist turned stay at home mom in my life!  She is warm, funny, practical and is a endless store of knowledge.  She is showing me the ropes and I would be lost without her.

Most people have a question and do a web search....I just Ask Jody.  Forget Google, it can't tell you which doctors are good and taking new patients, where to have your kid's birthday party, what you actually need to survive winter here or where to buy corn muffin mix.  The list of questions I have asked is long and I see no end in sight.  When I set her phone ringing it is always answered warmly and with a willingness to help.

There are times I am sure that I have made her crazy with the endless questions, some of which may be trivial, but there has never been a time when she hasn't tried to answer them on her own and if she doesn't have the answer, she asks around to help me find it.  She still answers my calls, even though she knows the questions are never going to end.  You would think after all these months I would be out of questions and that all of the preparation prior to moving would have eliminated the need to have a Jody.  Not even close!  Every day I find something or something finds me that has me running for the phone.  

Jody is not only my source on all things Canadian, she is the person who makes me feel not quite so lonely and out of place.  We enjoy each other, we laugh, we talk...that is the other key to surviving this life, connection.  Friends make all the difference in this experience.  My good friend and fellow expat, Joanne gave me wise advice; keep a bottle of wine, tea and baked goods on hand and invite everyone you meet into your home and life, because you will need friends if you are to be a successful expat.  She was so very right.

Of the many ways to answer a question, solve a problem or to gain a better understanding, without a doubt, the most fun and efficient way for me is to Ask Jody!  Chris, too, is finding the simplest of answers to my Canadian survival questions, is to respond "Ask Jody!"  I am so glad to have a Jody to ask!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unexpected Events

Long ago, my very good friend Joanne, who is a fellow expat, told me that one of the hardest things about the expat life is that life happens while you are not there.  People you love will marry, have babies and pass away without you being there for these momentous and life changing events.  She was right.

This past weekend my best friend’s husband left this world unexpectedly and I was not there when she called and needed me.  I managed to get on a plane two days later and held her hand through the grueling week of planning and putting him to rest, but my heart breaks over the fact that when I was most needed I was 3,000 miles away, instead of around the corner. 

Being at home was so wonderful and I feel almost guilty for enjoying any moment of my time spent in Houston.  But I must say, as we drove through the gates of our neighborhood and past all of the places that made up the days of my life, my heart was at peace and at home.  To see the faces of all of those I love so much was an unexpected pleasure and I love them even more for being able to smile and even laugh through the tears.  It was one of the hardest weeks of my life.   Leaving broke my heart.  Saying goodbye was devastating and the thought of once again being so far away when they still need me so much bothers me to the depths of my soul.  I wonder if the benefits of this life truly outweigh the price….

Today as I write this I am on the plane headed back to Connecticut where I unceremoniously dumped my children on my mother, who has been my savior through this week, so that I could be  the friend that I have always strived to be.  She has seen the kids through vomit, head lice and separation anxiety and deserves canonization for her work while I was away.  I am blessed to have such a wonderful family.  I will spend the next two weeks making it up to her before I leave them with her for a week’s planned vacation with Chris.  I only wish that I could send my overworked mother on one too.

I will leave you with a thought:

“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

-          Abraham Lincoln

Make yours count.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I Pledge Allegiance....

Today is 4th of July, here it is just July fourth.  A semantic difference you might say, but for us on this day it is a difference that is felt deeply.  This is the first fourth in my life that I have not spent on American soil and it is much harder than I thought it would be.  We have discovered that nothing makes a bigger patriot than being an expatriate.

It is difficult to put into words how it feels to be living in a country that is not your own.  Canada is very similar to the US in many ways and I am sure that these feelings would be even more pronounced in many of the other spots around the globe where Chris could be working.  It saddens me that when my children go to school they do not say the Pledge of Allegiance and the flag that flies is not the Stars and Stripes.  I come from a military family, we are born patriotic and I am proud to be an American.  I was blessed to be raised in the greatest country on earth and every day I miss it.  While hospitable and great in it's own right, Canada is not our home and we are but guests.  This experience is teaching us not only to embrace and respect other cultures but to value our own as well.  We take our country and all it has to offer for granted, we forget the fundamental reasons it exists in the first place.  I encourage everyone to take a moment and consider how lucky we are to be American.

That said,  Pledge Allegiance and be proud, be grateful.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Air Adventure!

The adventure has now led us up into the atmosphere!!  This weekend we, along with our new friends the Sabines, took an aerial tour of our new home to celebrate Father's day and both of the dad's upcoming birthdays.  What an experience!

We loaded up all of the kids, strapped everyone in to a 9 passenger prop plane and took off!  We toured the plant sites where Chris and Doug work, the forest and rivers and our little dot on the map.  It was amazing to see everything from such a new perspective.  We truly are a lone town in the middle of nowhere! Once we left town, there was literally nothing but trees as far as the eye could see.  You could see the little rivers that flow into the Athabasca are almost black naturally from all of the oil that is in the ground here.  That explains why it looks so dirty!  The plants and mines were huge and busy, even on a Saturday!  It was interesting to see all of the work it takes to end up with gas in your car at the end of the day.

The big boys were more excited than the little ones, it was almost like Christmas for them!  The kids were engaged for a while and then started to become bored once they didn't see their schools or landmarks they recognized.  Jackson fell asleep about halfway through, not sure how as it was a loud and bouncy ride!  Aila's reaction was less favorable, she cried every time the plane dipped, bounced or turned.  Poor Jody became air sick from all the bouncing and will tell you not to eat blueberries before flying!  I am sure the pilot was never so glad to see an hour come to a close....

We ended the day with a cook out at our house and backyard badminton.  It was a wonderful day spent with friends and I hope that we have many more adventures like this one!

Friday, June 1, 2012

May-The Long and Short

May was the longest, shortest month of my life.  In many ways it flew by and in others it was endless.  May is usually full of the hustle and bustle of the end of school, my volunteer commitments culminating, sports winding down and the beginning of summer.  Not so for these transplanted Americans!  May here means another month of school, the height of lacrosse season and my duties as team manager are in full swing.

It was a bittersweet month for me.  I have found in my lacrosse experience some new and wonderful friends and I am blessed to have these women in my life.  I was desperately in need of adult conversation and a feeling of belonging, you all know I am adrift without people!  The flipside is it makes me miss everyone at home even more!  It was hard to read all of the Facebook posts about all of the fun and precious moments had by everyone in this last rush before summer!!  

While bittersweet, May has been busy!!!  We traveled 6 hours for Jackson's first lacrosse tournament last weekend and are prepping for another next weekend.  They played hard and well, even though we had no wins, they held their own against teams that have games every weekend.  These tournaments will be the only games our boys play as Ft. McMurray's league does not have enough kids to have multiple teams per age group.  I am a proud mommy!

We also spent a weekend in Edmonton shopping for summer clothes and furniture for the house and of course my list is still a mile long, there is never enough time!  I miss Houston every day, but especially when I need to shop!  

Our adventure continues to be less adventure and more logistics.  The issues this month, school and medical care!!!  We discovered that the schools are quite a bit behind where the kids were at home and were very concerned about them falling so far behind that when we get home to the states there will be no catching up. We said the word HOMESCHOOL a lot.  Thank goodness we found what will hopefully be a good solution to the problem.  On every Friday these children have off, and let me tell you there are MANY, the kids will do lessons online from a homeschool curriculum that is US based. They will also put in an hour of lessons after school every day.  We are going to try this for 6 months and will then evaluate their progress.  Please pray this works.   Medical care...pediatricians see kids, all kids, right?  Wrong!!!  Here kids see a GP unless they are referred to a pediatrician for medical problems.  That so didn't work for me, so I jumped through tons of hoops but emerged the victor!  Thanks to my wonderful pediatrician in Texas and a helpful secretary at the doctor's office here, my kids will be seeing the pediatrician ALL the time!  Now if only I could convince them to give shots at the doctor instead of at Public Health...not looking forward to that.  

On the home front, the boxes still abound.  My goal of having them gone this month has not been reached and I feel an overwhelming sense of frustration.  I need less baby, more husband in order to make a dent in the mess.  Neither is going to happen anytime soon.  :(  Chris continues to work long hours and it hampers my ability to do much more than the daily stuff.  This is why you nest while pregnant, because nothing gets done after!   Do not change nests within the first 2 years unless you want to lose your mind! (which I cannot do, because according to my new found friends there is not a shrink in town!)

 We are heading into June warding off insanity and looking forward to more adventure!