Christmas, Texas Style

Sunday, December 13, 2015

I thought I would do one final post from Texas. I'm going to keep the blog public for a while now just to leave it out there for people still researching and preparing a move to Scotland. We are here, and we are mostly settled! Life is good, truly, happily good. I can't believe the weight that I feel has been lifted from my shoulders. It's a weird balance because I absolutely, positively miss Scotland. But thankfully we've been SO busy moving in, getting kids settled in to school, meeting new friends, seeing old friends, visiting family, preparing for and enjoying several holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving and now Christmas, what a blur!), I haven't really had a chance to dwell on that.

And I doubt I will. Because it feels good to be so happy. 
The entire experience has given me a wonderful fresh perspective. 

We also hit the cul-de-sac jackpot in our new town. I literally drive and walk around thinking "We are ridiculously blessed." We adore our neighborhood. Our kids go outside almost every day and just play in the cul-de-sac with all the neighbors. They love it. I'm quickly seeing the joy that comes from the suffering, and I'm thankful God allowed me to see it so early upon our return. I don't have to wonder about our purpose for living there or leaving early. It's so clear. Because we are here now with these people around us.

I'm enjoying finding a place for all our Scottish nick knacks and decor around our big Texas house. A highland coo here, a Scottish flag there. Right next to my big wagon wheel and my Texas flag. ;)

We are only slightly annoyed that it's 80 degrees, hotter than it ever got our entire time living in Scotland, and it's Christmas. But 2 years of never being quite warm helps us even appreciate a hot a Christmas! (well me at least, the jury is still out on Chad's feelings about that!)

Minion Grady on Halloween

Our first 2 weeks back it was even warm enough for the kids to go swimming in the pool. That felt odd! I had to scour the stores for shorts for me and the kids to wear for another month.

Pink Power Ranger Cassidy

Grady is doing a Bridge year for school since in Texas so many families keep their boys home for an extra year if they have a late birthday. Grady loves his class, and even though I actually think he would have done fine in kinder here, it feels good to give him that gift of a year and know he'll just always be ahead. Cassidy jumped right into 1st grade with no issues! She has straight A's and loves taking tests. She's the typical first child! I was warned that the kids would struggle coming from school in Scotland to America because they don't push as much onto little kids in Scotland, but I have to say, she has had zero issues. Her math teacher even specifically said that she has a wonderful background and understanding of math and numbers. So yay Kingswells Primary for doing such a wonderful job teaching my kiddos.

Just a few kids from our cul-de-sac out to trick-or-treat

Overall it just feels glorious to be home. The farther away our time in Scotland was, the more nostalgic I get. I remember only the awesome, beautiful things, not the stress of shopping or driving or the lack of sun. For that I'll be eternally grateful. :)

Heading Home

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I hope to get a few more blogs up showing all we've done from August until October, but we will see. We are in our final few weeks before we move back to Texas. It came about quite quick. We moved over here expecting to be here 5 years. It gradually became clear that would not be the case, then we got set to move back at Christmas, and now we're officially headed back before Halloween. It's been an interesting almost-2 years, coming over at the height of the oil industry, when there were literally 2 houses on the market to rent, prices were sky high, and tons of expats were living here. Much has changed since then. At least half the expats have gone home, I'd say. Houses abound to rent, for prices almost half what they were when we moved here. Unfortunately we've seen jobs lost, and are truly just grateful Chad has a job when we return to Texas.

It was a rough summer in Aberdeen, with much rain and cooler than normal temperatures. But we were blessed with an Indian summer at the end of September. We had 9 days in a row of gorgeous blue skies and temps all the way up to 18 degrees (65 Fahrenheit). I told all my local friends they could thank us for that because Aberdeen was just showing off, making sure we would miss it when we left. And we will. As excited as I am to move into our new house in Texas, own a house again without stains on the carpets and with appliances that actually work, it's so very hard to say goodbye. I'm not used to this. I didn't grow up in a family that moved around. My biggest move before this was going from Houston to College Station, a 1.5 hour drive. Leaving Houston to move to Scotland was hard, but it was so exciting, the prospect of this big adventure. Leaving Aberdeen to move to Texas just seems so final. It's hard to watch my kids be sad, knowing they will miss their friends. Grady doesn't really remember anything but here, being 3 when we came. I am thankful they are both still young because I know they will adjust quickly. We've had going away coffees and leaving parties, sweet, thoughtful gifts from dear friends, and now we await the packers in 4 days to make this real.

I'm not sure how to summarize an experience like this. There are so many high high's and a lot of low low's. But what a joy it is to know you can move to a completely different part of the world and make true friends. And hopefully make a small impact. One of my main goals here was to make sure I did my best to leave people I came in contact with with a positive view of Americans. We have a pretty bad rap, you know. They watch the Kardashian's and Duck Dynasty and read of the horrors like the mass shooting in Oregon, and they think this is who we are. I hope the people I met will feel differently.

Aberdeen, we will miss you. We will miss the brick-paved roads in front of our house. We will miss the roads lined with daffodils in the spring. And the fields of Highland Coo and sheep. I will miss the grocery delivery (!!), and knowing my DHL delivery guy personally.  Thank you for having us Scotland. You are special and lovely, even in your dark days. Texas, here we come. Get our minivan ready!

Scotland's Linn O'Dee and Braemar

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

We are officially on a quest to see all the things within day-trip's distance to Aberdeen that we haven't seen yet. We only have 4 months left here in Scotland (yep, that's happening, at 2 years we'll be heading back to the States). I have to say, we've really done a lot while here. We are out exploring most weekends, so I don't feel like we'll leave feeling like we should have done more. That being said, we definitely have some things we still need to see/do!

The Linn O'Dee waterfall was one of those things. We had been to Braemar before for the Highland Games, but we really didn't walk around the town (it was wet, cold and crowded that day!) so after visiting the falls, we enjoyed going about the town and popping into a few shops.

We started off by having a little picnic. This was a great idea in theory: the weather was pretty good (about mid-50's or almost 60 degrees) and it wasn't raining. But we hadn't counted on the midges. We've heard about these guys. They are basically teeny, tiny mosquito's. They look like gnats, but they bite! We were getting swarmed just sitting there so we ate a bit, then packed it up to do our hike, and finished eating in the car later! 

Chad and I decided the waterfalls here need to be named something else. Like "rush o'water" or something. Because they aren't usually very steep, like we picture a waterfall being (think Multnomah Falls or Niagra, or Dunn's Falls). It was still loud and beautiful though.

It's supposed to be a great spot to see the salmon jumping in their migration. Obviously we weren't there in the right season.

I had a death grip on Grady in the above picture. I am very thankful we get to go out and do these amazing things with our kids, but the amount of cliffs and ledges I've had to hold my kids near is starting to wear on my nerves.

Serene and lovely.

Our kids LOVE playing near water. They don't care how cold it is, they would play all day. 

The car park had the cutest welcome building:

Even the toilet was cute! (and closed!)

Stunning Views.

Then into Braemar:

Notice the yellow sign - it says Bagpiper crossing. :)

The little red phone booths are still alive and well.

Between Aberdeen and Braemar you officially enter the Scottish Highlands. I love this stone, surrounded by the Scottish heather.

Who knows what's next! Stay tuned!

The Big Brown Ireland Family Vacation

Monday, August 17, 2015

My mom came over in late July with my sister, brother-in-law, and my 3 nephews and niece. It was so fun, and so crowded having them here! They went to London first on their own, then took the overnight train up to Aberdeen and stayed with us, then we all flew over to Ireland.

Our house is pretty small (remember the blog tour?), so it was like a puzzle figuring out where 7 extra people were going to sleep. But we did it, and it was totally worth it!

Then we skipped off to Ireland...

We did one of those cheesy land/boat tours of Dublin, and it was awesome. Grrr!

From Dublin, we went to stay on a farm in Kilkenny. It was unbelievable pretty. It was called the Lawcus Guest House, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting the Dublin area and wanting to go out into the country.


The kids got to feed animals and even gather the eggs that we ate that morning for breakfast.

Dublin Gelato!

Having them all here was beyond wonderful. It's amazing how much more a place begins to feel like home when you've had the people you love there.

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