Umbrellas

Umbrellas

Sunday, July 24, 2011

J'aime Paris!

I love Paris!  I love the busy streets, the crowded bistros and the wonderful history that resides in this city.  Joe and I have been here 3 times before, but this time is different.  This time, we get to see the city through the eyes of our boys.  When asked what they wanted most to see, the obvious came forth - the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.  Since we arrived by train mid-day Friday, we decided that the Champs Elysee would be our starting point for our weekend.  The boys learned quickly that visiting Paris does not equal a relaxing vacation.  You walk everywhere.  Yes, the metro gets you where you need to go, but you have to factor in the numerous steps required to get from one train line to the next, and you quickly question whether you were better off staying on the streets, taking in the sites and walking on level land, rather than enduring the endless train connections, stairs,... and smell.  So, we decided to teach them early that we would be doing a lot of walking on this trip, so we might as well begin by walking down its most famous street towards its most famous museum. 

We started at the Place de la Concorde and walked towards the Louvre.  Since this is the only museum open late on a Friday night, we decided to take in the highlights.  The boys were adequately impressed by the I.M. Pei pyramid, the size of the museum, and the large crowds.  It was not surprising when they were as equally unimpressed by the Mona Lisa.  Of all the wonderful paintings and sculptures on display in this former palace, the Mona Lisa is only impressive from the standpoint of the security involved to protect it and the enormous crowd surrounding it trying to take pictures. 

Following our quick tour of the Italian paintings and Grecian statues (Venus de Milo and Victory), we concluded our brief tour and headed down the busy Champs Elysee, which was already set up in preparation for the country's prized bike race.  Grandstands and barricades lined the famous street in anxious anticipation of the tour's finale on Sunday. The wheels in the boys' heads quickly started turning on the thought of getting up really early in order to secure some of these prized seats, only to have their bubbles burst by mom and dad who quickly instilled shots of reality on these hopeful ideas, insuring them that these seats were certainly not meant for the die-hard fans willing to camp out a night or two before like those determined Apple first adoptors with their iPads.  No, these seats were meant for celebraties of the French variety and we were not among that elite.  So, we ushered them past the priority bleachers and tents to our destination at the end of this famous rue - the Arc de Triomphe. With a little persuasion, I had convinced Joe to invest in 4 day museum passes for our stay here in Paris.  Not quite an easy feat given he is not generally a museum fan and the cost of the two required tickets was 100 euros (the kids get into most museums free). Though the purchase required a special trip at the Louvre, the expense and trouble paid off in spades at our first stop when we were able to bypass the hour and a half or so long line and were able to enter the Arc after a very brief security check.  Only 268 stairs or so later, the boys were gazing on the city of lights from an amazing perch above the Champs Elysee. The view was quite breath-taking (as was the ascent).  We ended our night with our quick trip via train back to the Bercy Park area of town where our hotel is and hit our pillows ready for our next busy day in France.

Saturday morning promised off and on rain showers, so we decided to make our venture to the outskirts of Paris - Versailles.  Joe and I had not been to Versailles since our honeymoom back in 1993, and we were looking forward to seeing the sprawling estate in summer weather (we had last seen it on a cloudy day in March).  Despite taking the wrong train, our timing could not have been better.  Our passes enabled us to once again bypass the ticket lines, but the security line took approximately 45 minutes to manage.  That was just enough time for the ominous black clouds to descend and break open just as we made our way into the palace.  The boys were impressed with the ostentatious architecture and decor of the famous "Sun King's" (Louis XIV) masterpiece, a never-ending maze of halls and rooms adorned with paintings, tapestries and sculptures of the grand monarch, his family and his not-so-successful succesor (Louis XVI).  You are quickly reminded of why democracy is so highly regarded when you are faced with the grandeur of past monarchies and the resulting revolution that brought those very noble men to their knees (minus their heads.)

Following our tour of the palace, we decided to finish our day with a tour of the gardens.  Being a Saturday, the palace fountains were running - a special treat for summer visitors. Classical music is piped into the never-ending maze of trees, flowers and fountains.  It's no wonder that a country-loving king would turn his back to the poverty stricken streets of Paris - who wouldn't want to bask in the beautiful surroundings of the countryside when you can have hundreds of tradesmen maintaining your endless acres of perfectly manicured lawns and gardens?  Hundreds of years later, the scenery is quite breathtaking.  Again, so are the requied walks to enjoy the vastness of the property.  We completed our day by returning to Paris via the correct RER train and decided to give the kids their requested "close-up" of the Eiffel Tower.  Though they were eager to stand in the two hour long lines for the Tower elevators, we convinced them that we should wait until a later day in our trip - one that did not preceed the country's most famous athletic event! The crowds were quite large, even given the fact that it was a Saturday, but the Tour had brought out just about every tourist (French or otherwise), and everyone was looking to take in some of the city's highlights.  Besides, we knew we would need to make our way back to our hotel in order to get up early for the big event.


This morning, following a quick breakfast at the hotel, we began our trek back to the Place de la Concord so that we could scout out our observation point for the race.  The only difference in this train trip was the various barricades set up at several of the train station's exits.  After exiting at Rue de Rivoli, we quickly grabbed a spot near the barricades off the street and began the wait - the FOUR hour wait.  What we didn't know was that four hours of waiting would require an incredible amount of patience and tolerance for the heat and our fellow race observers.  Many of these die-hard fans had been lining the barricades at least an hour or so earlier than we had, but it didn't take long for the crowds around us to amass, many of whom were Parisians used to the spectacle and prepared to shove their way to the front and immediately indulge in their pack-a-day cigarette habits, scattering their ashes along the sidewalks in what felt like attempts to mark their new-found territory.  Although our street camping began around 11:30 a.m., it wasn't until at least 2:00 p.m. before the action even began.  As the bicyclists made thier way towards Paris, their team sponsors were parading down the streets of Paris, honking horns, shaking pom poms and blasting music in their efforts to rev up the crowds for their eventual arrival.  Although I have never made it to the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, I can only guess that the experience must be a similar, though simpler, version.  Cars, vans, and large 18 wheeler trucks sporting various team logos and mascots made their way past the Louvre, down the Rue de Rivoli, past the Place de la Concord before entering the Champs Elysee.  The parade was not as creative or jaw-dropping as I imagine the Rose Bowl floats or balloons are in the US, but the distraction helped kill the last couple of hours leading up to the arrival of the athletes. Despite the hour or so between the parade and the arrival of the bikers, the crowds continued to grow and the anticipation mount.  We knew the time had finally arrived once we could hear the helicopters above and the cheers making their way toward us, similar to the way the wave makes its way around a baseball stadium.  From  where we were standing, we knew to anticipate at least eight blurry views of the racers.  The tour route makes its way through the Parisian suburbs, into Paris, down the Champs Elysee, u-turns, and makes it's way back towards the Place de la Concord, past the Louvre, and back down the Rue de Rivoli, down the Champs Elysee-repeat... 7 times.  Each lap of the racers was slightly different as they began their sprint to the end.  All in all, the event (a total of about 5 minutes of watching blurry bikers fly past us) was a people watching experience, a mark off the bucket list, and an opportunity to say we've done it.  All in all, it took 4 more hours to find out who actually won (the Aussie), but at least the brothers from Luxembourg took second and third.

Cadel Evans - yellow jersey and 2011 Tour de France winner.

Our last two days in Paris will find us making our way through a few more museums and, our favorite, to Notre Dame and the left bank.  I am sure we will endure those inevitable lines at the Eiffel Tower and will celebrate J's birthday a few days early at the Hard Rock.  My legs ache, my eyes are drooping, but I couldn't ask for a better way to introduce the kids to a city Joe and I just can't seem to get enough of!

XOXO
C

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Learning the lay of the land...

I realize it is already midnight as I start this post, but I can actually declare that the family has finally managed to get on this timezone!  Both kids are in bed, and Joe and I are headed there ourselves shortly.  It took a few very dedicated nights to accomplish this feat, but we are on our way!

We have also managed to cross a few more to-dos off of our ever growing list.  We found a permanent house near the International School of Lux, and have begun the leasing contract process.  Most expats do not buy homes here, so most everyone rents.  There are a couple of reasons for this - one, most expats are here for 2-3 year stints, and two, the houses are rather expensive (think New England home prices).  If you have a family, you are generally looking at single family homes or row houses; if you are single, flats and apartments closer in the city seem to be the favored choice.  In our case, proximity to the ISL was imperative.  Once the students reach a certain age, parents are not allowed to drive them to school.  The public bus system is basically their school bus system, or the kids walk or bike.  Since we have never lived in proximity to the boys' school, this was a quality of our prospective house that the boys were quite adamant about.  When Joe and I came out for our sell week, the realtors took us through a variety of neighborhoods so that we could get a general feel for what we liked and where we thought we wanted to be.  Although we initially thought we would prefer living in or near Strassen (one of the western suburbs), we quickly determined that Belair or Merl would work better for the boys in terms of the school.  Lux has a similar website to Realtor.com (Athome.lu) that allows one to check out rental properties.  We quickly learned that anything in the Belair area does not stay on the market for very long.  In fact, the house that we finally secured had originally come on the website (with no pictures), only to rent hours later.  Fortunately, the prospective renter changed his mind and our realtor gave us the heads up. She was able to secure the house until we were able to see it last Friday.  We toured the house and fell in love with it immediately!  The owner accompanied us for the tour and his pride in the home was quite contagious as he walked us through the rooms and pointed out the renovations that were in progress.  The house was built in the 1930's and used to belong to his mother.  For European standards, the house is pretty large (about 4000 SQFT), but the space is very well proportioned and the bathrooms and kitchens are fully renovated.  Many of the houses we had toured previously had either not been renovated, or were really small for us.  Most importantly, he and his wife were fine with Shelby, our Golden Retriever.  We learned that although dogs are very well received in Europe, owners are not always keen on leasing property to pet owners.  We actually had two dogs prior to our move .  Unfortunately, our Welsh Springer Spaniel (Sophie) is a bit high strung and has had some questionable heart health issues in the past.  We just weren't sure if she could handle the move and really didn't want to risk transporting her.  Thankfully, my father-in-law fell in love with her and she now is a happy resident of Southern California!

We also managed to purchase a car this week.  After careful consideration and observation of what driving and parking in Lux requires, Joe and I both veered away from the thought of an SUV, as well as purchasing a new car.  Roads and parking spaces are deceptively narrow and small.  After a few trips to the local grocery store, we noticed most cars looked like they had been parked in a WalMart parking lot for the last few months since many were sporting rather large scratches and dings on their doors.  We settled on a black 2010 C-class Mercedes with pretty low mileage. The process was also a bit easier than we anticipated.  We had scouted the dealership a day earlier and had noticed that there were quite a few C-class models available.  We decided to pop by the next day to see if we could test drive one.  It did take some work finding a salesperson (very much UNLIKE the US), but once we found one he was very accommodating.  Again, the protocol on the purchase is a learning experience.  Here, once you have selected a car, you must secure auto insurance and proof of your residency.  There are only a few insurance companies here, and the salesperson conveniently had a "friend in the business" that he would set us up with.  If all goes well, we should be able to pick the car up sometime next week.

Finally, we did complete the residency process this morning.  And, much like the DMV, it did take a couple of attempts.  Our first mistake was trying to go in the afternoon, only to find out the office is only open from 8:30-11:00 a.m.  We tried again this morning, got there right when the doors opened, took our number and waited for about 30 minutes before our turn at the window.  Once there, the Immigration employee sifted through our now rather large stack of paperwork, gave us a sympathetic smile and asked us if we had the receipt of payment for the processing.  Joe told her he had brought the required cash, but she slowly shook her head, apologized, and pointed to the small print on the back of one of the papers showing that the required fees had to be wired to the agency. *sigh*  Fortunately, we had just opened local bank accounts and were able to walk down the street, wire the required funds, go back to the Immigration Office, take another number, wait in line for another 20 minutes, and "Voila" - our papers were stamped and we were free to go... to the local tax office so that Joe could set up his payroll taxation.  Another line, another hour, but another check off the to-do list. So, though the process may be slow and frustrating, we are seeing some daily progress!

The mountain of paperwork and the endless number of tasks and protocol can be quite numbing; but, as we have heard from several of Joe's peers at his new company, it is always easier for those who have the benefit of trailblazers paving the way.  We have heard the horror stories of what can happen when you don't have all of the required papers, when you don't know the language, and when you aren't aware of the ins and outs of what customs and immigration officials are looking for. So, as frustrating as this may all be at times, imagine the frustration for those whose experience was that much longer, that much more frantic, or that much more expensive.

We have very dear friends who are actually moving here to Lux next week.  We have known each other for over a decade now, our children are the same ages, and we have been through the highs and lows of careers and kids.  Needless to say, going through this experience together will be comforting, knowing we are not going through it alone.  We have actually been the trailblazers for them for the last few weeks now since they are just about 2-3 weeks behind us in the process.  So, we will go through the abbreviated version of the "guinea pig" syndrome of having had to go through it all first and be able to give them a bit of guidance as they venture through the same ordeals.  Hopefully their experience will be easier and those who follow them will reap the benefits.  As I have determined, the first concept every expat learns quickly is that you are never alone in what you are experiencing.  In a country where 50% of the residents are not citizens, you can gain comfort in the knowledge that there are many more folks going through the exact same thing!

Well, we are off to Paris in the morning for a last "hurrah" before Joe starts work. The kids are excited, the bags are packed, but the parents need to get some sleep!

Bon soir!
C

Monday, July 18, 2011

Insomnia, To Do lists, and Mastering the Protocol

Five nights into our move and all of us are still struggling with the time change.  Being one who has suffered from insomnia since becoming a mom, I have long become accustomed to the 3:00 a.m. frustration of listening to everyone else in the house sleeping while I am surfing FaceBook to see how many other moms are doing the same.  However, I have always fallen asleep around 11:00 p.m., so I at least had 4 hours behind me before the unwanted mental alarm sounded.  Here, it has been 3:00 a.m. before I can even make myself venture to bed.  I am not alone.  Both boys are live wires at midnight, causing each day to have a delayed start.  This wouldn't be so bad if we didn't have a million things to get done before Joe starts work next week.  Getting your day started at noon when most offices and stores close between 6 and 8:00 p.m. does not allow for much productivity.  So, tonight, new rules, new guidelines - all of us are heading to bed early so that our to do list can get some attention.  First things first, we need to get a car.

Now, Joe and I both drove BMWs in the states and Joe's company, as part of his relocation package, did offer to move our vehicles to Europe.  This idea sounded great, until we did some basic research.  First, neither of our cars were diesel, nor were they exactly small.  My car also had almost 100k miles on it after a year in Texas.  Yes, we were only there a year and most of the miles came in the first 5 years of ownership in VA, but with everything being so spread out I was easily racking 100 miles on a day.  So, with my warranty expiring at 100k, we immediately decided that it should go.  I loved that car, so that was another one of those experiences that momentarily saddened me.  Again, it's just another thing, but that car had treated me well and had been a promotion gift when I was still a working mom.  We had thought of keeping Joe's car, but being an SUV the car drank gas like a drunk at a keg party.  Doing a little math, we determined that an SUV getting less than 20 mph was not going to cut it in a country where gas costs the equivalent of $8-9 a gallon.  So, a few days before our move we made a second trip to CarMax so that Joe could say farewell to his ride.  Another sad day, but hey, we were moving to Europe where BMWs are like Fords in the US.  Now, if only they had similar prices.

So, buying a car is one of our to-dos that we will hopefully be able to start tackling tomorrow.  Today's achievements, once we finally finished breakfast at noon, was to get our bank accounts established.  Now, unlike the common experience of going into a branch bank, waiting your turn to talk to an account manager who is likely less than a year or two out of college, and walking out with a temporary checkbook and some deposit slips, the Europeans make opening an account an experience.  We entered Dexia bank and walked up to the very formal bank lobby where the reception desk took your name and called up to the Private Banking floor to announce our arrival. At that point we were introduced to another person whose job was to escort us up to the floor to a private conference room.  Once there she offered us coffee, soda, Perrier, etc. and soon came back to the room with a silver service tray with our requested beverages.  Our banker soon arrived with all of our required paperwork.  Long story short, the process took approximately an hour and a half and involved about 5x the amount of paperwork I have ever needed in the US.  Despite all of this paperwork, you don't walk out the door with the blank checkbook.  For one thing, checks aren't used here in Lux.  Everything is electronic or paid in cash.  Furthermore, though the ATM card is identical in concept, the credit card works more like a charge card and is settled up at the end of each month, much like an Amex card.  You can request a deferral payment structure, but like most other similar requests, it is "highly discouraged" until you have been a resident for at least a year.  Same goes for securities.  I guess all of the financial calamity from the last few years has made Europe, in general, very risk adverse when it comes to credit.  As for the rule around securities, banks in Luxembourg and Switzerland have come under strong scrutiny for money laundering scandals.  It isn't that they are unwilling to accommodate - in fact, the banker was adamant that if we wished to invest sooner he could draw up the necessary paperwork - it's the IRS.  Even the tax attorneys that Joe spoke to prior to coming here said don't even bother since the IRS would make tax filing a bloody nightmare for them if he did. I can't blame them. It was a bit eye opening when our banker encouraged us to keep our money in US dollars due to the erratic fluctuations in the exchange rate to euros.  I guess Greece and Spain have shown that the US is not the only country prone to overspending and financial fraud.

Next task of the day was to continue our residency process.  Weeks before we left the country we had to begin the process of copying and notarizing just about every major piece of paperwork we had.  This included copies of every page of every passport (all notarized), our marriage license, our birth certificates, our diplomas, our transcripts,... the list goes on.  All this just to get the papers that would allow us to enter the country as hopeful long term residents. This process, we were told, could take as little as 1 week or as long as 3 months, with no indication as to where you will fall in the timeline.  Fortunately, we were on the short end and got our papers in about 6 business days.  But, that is just the beginning. Once you are here in the country you must follow certain protocol to change that stack of papers into resident cards.  Before we could even go to the Municipal Office (Commune), we had to have proof of a local residence (basically, a lease contract or proof we had sold our house in TX which, of course, we haven't).  So, we waited most of the day for a lease amendment that proved we had taken possession of the corporate apartment we are temporarily living in.  Finally, around 3:30 p.m., we were ready to go.  We got to the Commune office only to get a numbered ticket and wait in a crowded lobby waiting for our number to appear on the electronic board on the wall.  The experience pretty much mirrors a trip to the DMV, including the screaming children and frazzled moms.  An hour later our number was called.  A nice Luxembourgish man took our paperwork, looked at the four of us, looked at the clock, and sighed.  I didn't think much of it until 20 minutes later after he had made yet another copy of every page of our passports.  He was quickly looking like one of the frazzled moms in the lobby area.  I asked him how long the process took and he answered that it usually took 30-40 minutes a person and he usually only did one person at a time (i.e., he hadn't anticipated that ticket number 539 = 4 people). He did not look happy.  Needless to say, we didn't make it to the next step of the process - taking the now even larger stack of paperwork to the Immigration Office where you apparently take another numbered ticket and wait in an even longer line (primarily because the office is only open in the mornings) just to get your temporary residency cards.  It takes 3 months and physical exams to get the permanent ones.  We learned Joe's boss only received his a few weeks ago and he's been here for over two years, so I don't think we will be in much of a hurry for those either.  However, we had to get through today's red tape in order to purchase a car - the next item on our to-do list.

So, following our own household protocol, it is 11:30 p.m. and time for me to make the furtive attempt at sleep.  You'll know if I'm successful if you don't see me on FaceBook at 8:00 p.m. CST :)

XOXO

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Settling in... sort of

When I thought of starting a blog, I honestly had visions of posting quirky little stories or snippets that are always attributed to a large move.  Having moved many times since our college days, each move has had its unique stress points.  In college, your main concerns center around who your roommate is going to be - will you get along and how are you possibly going to survive sharing a room the size of a closet with someone you have never met before.  When you get married, your concerns shift to wanting to make things work, despite the inevitable disagreements that come with learning to live in such close proximity to someone you love.  In other words, learning to suppress the urge to strangle your new spouse for leaving the cap off the toothpaste or his wet towel on the bathroom floor.  Then, you make the upgrade from sharing an apartment to buying your first house.  That's when the real stress begins as you try to make a house a home.  If you are anything like me, that meant painting every room, replacing the college Ikea purchases with "grown up" furniture, and learning to become a true cook by investing in lots of kitchen gadgets and cookbooks.  Then, you start a family.  The dining room that you had once hoped to fill with the lovely dining room furniture you've had your eye on for that once-a-year meal that you dream of hosting, and using your still-packed china and silver you received for your wedding five years earlier, is suddenly put on hold and quickly filled with every imaginable piece of plastic Playskool toy available.  Why does this happen? Because, of course, you need the kids to have a playroom in vicinity of the kitchen and on the first floor, and the dining room is the last room for which anyone ever buys furniture.  As the kids get older, THEY become the source of your stress during a move.  How are the schools in the new neighborhood?  Will I find a good babysitter? How quickly can I find a house?  Why is finding a house quickly a concern? Because the idea of sharing a small apartment with two toddlers and a golden retriever has very limited appeal to any young mom.  Finally, as those kids reach school age, their concerns become yours.  Will they make friends?  Will they get bullied at their new school?  Can I find a good baseball/swim/tennis/etc. team for them to join?  In each case, certain things get easier while others get much harder.  I used to think that finding a house would be the hardest decision, especially since it is the most expensive decision you make.  Now, especially with the benefit of the internet, finding a house is a piece of cake - especially when you can start jumping on Realtor.com as soon as you get that first inkling that your spouse is entertaining a new job in a new city.  In the last year, and through our last move, I learned that how the kids accept the idea of the move far surpasses any concern I have had with any other previous move.  So, imagine the level of concern Joe and I had when the idea of moving to a new country presented itself.  Not only were we entertaining a move to a new city just one year after the first real move they had ever experienced, but a move to a country they had never heard of nor ever visited.  Surprisingly, since we had been in Dallas for only a short period of time, neither of our boys had had much of a chance to make really close friends like they had in Richmond.  They were okay with a move, but there was definitely some anxiety around the idea of moving to a country where, although English is widely spoken, most folks speak either French or German.  The locals actually speak Luxembourgish, a blend of French and German that was only a few  decades or so ago written down and documented.  Thankfully, despite our hispanic upbringing, Joe and I both took high school French, so the idea of tackling this new experience did not come off as too daunting.  Besides, after years of being asked "Why French?  When will you ever use it?," it was wonderful to finally be able to validate our choice!  Our oldest son actually took 3 years of French in Richmond, but our youngest took a couple of years of Spanish and was a bit daunted by the prospect.

So, what have been the biggest stress points on this move?  Honestly, the preparation and packing for the move, hands down.  We knew a move to Europe would entail a downsize for us.  Houses in Texas are big and we had just bought the biggest house we had ever had and will ever have. Honestly, the idea of downsizing was appealing after spending a year cleaning 7 bathrooms.  What we didn't anticipate was what all we would have to relinquish.  Two weeks into the preparation we were told not to pack anything with an electrical cord.  That meant ANYTHING.  So, think about that for a second.  Look around your kitchen, your family room, and count how many cords are conveniently attached to a favorite lamp, big screen TV, kitchen appliance... The list will grow amazingly fast.  Of all the preparations, this one sent me over the edge.  Joe and I are admittedly gadget geeks.  Most presents exchanged in our house involved something with a cord, including most of the Christmas presents exchanged just a few short months ago.  Gone were the new panini maker, high end toaster, hairdryer, TV's (and we had many of those!), lamps, pencil sharpener... the list goes on.  Even when the packers came to pack us we would spot check rooms as they were packing the boxes and grimace over the Waterpik that had been pulled aside or the random toy that we had forgotten that required a jolt of electricity to make noise.  And then, the other packing no-nos - candles, batteries, chemicals and food products.  Every room had the random tea light or taper that somehow missed my inspection and collection prior to the garage sale we held just a week prior of our moving date.  I knew they were just "things," but those things had been collected over 18 years of marriage and I knew that the majority of them would never be replaced.  It was just daunting.  I'm over it now - sort of.

Despite the enormity of the situation, I quickly embraced the idea of a move overseas.  Joe and I had talked about it many times and had assumed that if the opportunity would ever present itself, it would be London or Sydney, and it would be for the typical 2-3 year Expat term.  But this opportunity was different.  Not only would we be moving to one of the smallest countries in Europe (which, by the way, it seemed everyone we told where we were moving to assumed we meant some small town in Germany), it was not an English speaking country and it was for an indefinite period of time.  This meant, when considering moving the kids, we would have to assume that they would be graduating from high school there.  Thankfully, the International School of Luxembourg, at least through the various visits and experiences I have had with them thus far, has been terrific.  The boys will be entering 6th and 8th grades in the fall and both have received preliminary acceptances.  Although this started off as a high stress point (the admission counselors weren't sure if they were going to have room for J in the 8th grade), everything has worked out fine.

So, here I am, at 2:16 a.m. on our third night in Luxembourg, documenting just the beginning of what I imagine will be an exciting adventure for our family.  So, you may ask, what is your next task at hand?  Well, it appears that getting on this time zone is!  Therefore, I bid adieu for tonight!

XOXO