Luxembourg is a foreign country

I attended a workshop last week at the Abbaye de Neumünster, which is in the Grund area of Luxembourg city. It’s a really lovely area, down in the Petrusse valley, and a short walk from my office.  It’s hard to capture in pictures just how cool it is to be down there, standing in front of a 17th century building, walking around the winding streets, looking up at a sheer cliff face, trying to imagine what it looked like back then.  grund4 grund3 grund1

grund2

For some reason, while riding the bus back up after the workshop (walking down is easy, but getting back up is quite a hike!), I was suddenly struck by how very foreign Luxembourg still feels to me, even after working there for almost two and a half years. I only ever really see the little stretch of streets between my office and the train station, and I only go to the city center occasionally (the last time was with my parents in September). So it’s easy to forget where I am most days, when working in a building built less than 20 years ago, surrounded by McDonald’s and Sephora.

Luxembourg in general still seems like a foreign country, despite going there every other week for the past seven years to get gas (my mother-in-law lives a kilometer from the border). The colorful houses, the supermarkets, the bus stops . . . I just can’t seem to get used to it. The roadsigns are even a little different. It’s very unsettling to live so close to a country, to work there every weekday, and yet still be surprised by the foreignness of it.

Maybe part of it is the language. Hearing Luxembourgish instead of French while pumping gas means I can’t chalk up the unusual architecture or funny street names to a regional difference, the way I can when visiting the rest of France. Once when I was lost, I could not find anyone who spoke French to help me. So not understanding/being understood certainly adds to the overall foreign experience.

To have such beautiful and historic sites so close by, yet to never have the time visit them, is one of the sad realities of living abroad long-term. Once warmer weather arrives, I’ll be able to explore more during my lunch breaks. And maybe for one of our date nights we can go out in the city center. My mother-in-law took a trip to the northern part of the country and said it was really gorgeous, so that would be nice for a weekend away. I don’t know if Luxembourg will ever stop feeling totally foreign, but hopefully seeing more of it will help (and maybe cracking open one of the many “learn Luxembourgish” books we have lying around . . .)

Seven months

We’ve both been pretty sick this week, so despite my intentions to get my seventh monthly letter to bébé ready for his actual 7-month “birthday,” I haven’t been able to handle much more than a cursory glance at my emails the past few days. But I wanted to write the letter before I forgot everything that happened this month.

 

Dear bébé,

2015 hasn’t been the best year so far. This month was especially hard on everyone, but things should be getting better soon. You have a new nanny, who has less kids to take care of, so you’ll have a little more one-on-one time during the day. Your tooth still hasn’t shown up, and it makes you cry most nights, which is no fun for anyone. Everyone says the first one is the longest/hardest, so you need to be patient a little longer.

No tooth yet hasn’t stopped you from starting to really enjoy solids! You’ve tried and (mostly) liked green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, pears, apples, mangos, and bananas. If it were up to you, you’d eat pears all day every day. You eat twice a day, around 11am and 4pm. Momma’s still pumping at work, but not as much as before, so you get a bottle of her milk about every other day, and formula for the other bottles. However, you didn’t gain much weight this month, so the doctor wants to increase solids and switch to the next stage of formula. She wasn’t worried though, since you’d been sick and not eating well before the appointment. Besides, she also said (for the umpteenth time to reassure daddy) that breastfed babies tend to be smaller, and you in particular are an itty bitty thing. You’re hitting all your physical and mental milestones, so weight isn’t the only indicator of health.

Speaking of milestones, a big change this month was going from a lying-down baby stroller to a forward-facing big baby stroller, that you’ll use for the next few years! It was time for a change because you are holding your head up very well, and sitting up easily with support. You are very close to sitting on your own; you can hold yourself up sitting in the bath, or on your play gym. You like to grab two toys and once, one in each hand. Some favorites are a teething rattle, “crinkly” books, and a singing dog. You can put your pacifier in your mouth by yourself (and even take it out and turn it around if it’s the wrong way), which for some reason makes you seem very grown-up. You are rolling back and forth so much, momma and daddy had to buy a playpen to keep you safe. It also keeps the cat safe, since he is still your absolute favorite thing ever. Second favorite thing is seeing momma’s big blue exercise ball bounce around. There a strong probability that when you start crawling, it will be to grab one of those two things, and not for momma or daddy.

Or maybe you’ll crawl to the computer one day while Skyping with grandma and grandaddy. You seem to recognize them, and you really like touching screens. You still smile for almost everyone, unless you’re very tired, and new places and people still don’t faze you. This is probably why the first days with the new nanny went so well. Everyone who meets you says what a happy baby you are, which is why seeing you sick and tired is so hard; you’re not your normal happy self!

This month your uncle watched you while momma and daddy went on a date night. You slept the entire time, which made everyone happy, since it means it can happen more often. You were waking up around 11pm almost every night for awhile, because of your tooth and then out of habit, in addition to your regular 2-4am feed. However, since you’ve been sick, you have been sleeping A LOT (which is to be expected) and only woke up once around 1 to eat the past few nights, and went back to sleep immediately. The one night this month that momma slept in the guest room and daddy gave you a bottle, you didn’t drink too much. So once you’re feeling better, it might be time to start night weaning! It seems a little early, but if you don’t take to it, we’ll try again next month, there’s no rush.

Your silly long sideburns kept getting tangled, so you got your first mini-haircut. When compared to your newborn lock of hair, it’s definitely lighter now, but still brown. Blonde like momma is probably not going to happen, though maybe in the summer it will lighten a little with the sun. Your blue eyes and long dark lashes are still absolutely gorgeous. Your skin has lost that baby perfect look however, since it was a little dry this month, and you got a rash on your back and arms and legs. The doctor said it’s just eczema, and there’s a special cream, but it probably won’t go away until winter is over.

There was so much stress this month, seeing your smiling face helped everyone relax a little. Hopefully this month will be a little better, and a little calmer.

Bisous&kisses,

Your momma

Already February!

Hey look at that, it’s already February!

January was pretty awful (husband’s grandmother passed, nanny quit, work situation has gotten even more stressful) and I didn’t really feel like documenting any of it in detail. I’m glad this month is over and am looking forward to a “new start” in February. And even if turns out to be just as hard the past month, at least it’s shorter, so I won’t have to deal with it for long . . .

However, there were some good things this month, that I’ll use to inspire me for February:

–  While I didn’t get my monthly “me” time, my husband and I did manage to go out on our monthly date night. It was his brother’s first time “babysitting,” though I don’t know if you can really call it that since bébé slept the entire time . . . We went to a restaurant only a few blocks away, though, just in case. We spent a lot of time talking about bébé, so my goal for next month’s date is to talk a little bit more about other things.

– I worked out a lot. Not as much as I originally intended, but more than I expected, considering my mood/energy was pretty low most nights after work. It did seem to help lift both a little, so  I’ll try to do just as much, if not more, in February.

Hmm, I thought I had more, but I can’t think of anything else. Well, there were lots of good moments with bébé, of course, and some nice chats and emails with friends around the world, all of which helped make things seem a little less dismal. But overall, this crappy first month of 2015 made me realize what I need to do during the next 11 months to get to a happier place overall by 2016.