April.

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The month that began with pranks will end with our family unlocking an unfamiliar door and stepping into a new chapter in London.

The goodbyes are almost upon us, and now a date that once seemed so far off suddenly feels too close.

My mind is rather muddled at the moment. I try to be an optimist, but really I’m a bit of a worrier. I hope the kids will be okay. Perhaps one day they will be thankful for their globetrotting childhood. Maybe they will just wish they knew the answer to where they come from.

Now it is time to focus. There is a lot to do. Probably the most important is to make some memories of these beautiful April days in our Swiss neighbourhood.

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One year of reflection.

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This little space of mine has an anniversary — one year!

Moving to Norway was the beginning of a journey that would forever change me. We all change of course, shaped by the things that come our way, but some things are out of our hands. Moving was a choice I made though, a decision in my control, yet ultimately one that would take it away, for a while at least.

I spent my first years in Norway building a life and trying to figure things out. Eventually things did make sense. Kind of. Except then I started to question the things I had previously taken for granted. I had started to think differently.

That process wasn’t really a conscious one. It sometimes felt more like a battle, me versus Norway. I realise now I was just experiencing culture shock. I couldn’t have written this blog back then because I was in it, immersed in the experience.

There was a familiarity about arriving in Switzerland. First an air of being on holiday, before the realisation of the task ahead. It hadn’t seemed so daunting when we moved to Australia, for me a different language brings a whole new dimension.

In the early days of Zurich, when it dawned on me that pursuing my previous job description or chasing a new one were both going to involve an equal amount of time and effort, I had the chance to take a breath and really think about what I wanted to do. It was a unique opportunity to take stock, and one for which I am incredibly grateful.

I discovered that I wanted to write for a living. There were elements of writing in my previous jobs, I just needed to focus on that more, and so I took an online course. The last module was to write a blog, about anything, but to start one. I decided to write about my thoughts and feelings on living abroad.

I had toyed with the idea of writing a blog for some time before, but never got around to it. I knew I had lots of ideas in my head, but I wasn’t really clear about whether I actually had anything to say.

In Australia I had three small children, and headspace wasn’t in great supply. By the time we reached Zurich the kids were older and everyone had somewhere to be. So there I was, in a new country, a little lonely, a little bored, but experiencing quiet for the first time in years.

This was like a key unlocking all the thoughts I had been holding on to for so long, and writing allowed me to process them in a coherent way.

I needed to find my ‘voice’. I had initially wanted to write a funny blog, but living abroad is many things, it can certainly be fun, but not always, and I found my voice to be an honest one.

I read somewhere that you should write regularly, and post on a certain day each week. But I don’t do that. I have to wait until the words come. Sometimes they get stifled by the noise of daily life, not ready to be released just yet. Then at some point there will be a moment, a flicker from somewhere, and the words that I find so hard to say in person appear on the page. Another part of the story written.

Party planner.

January is birthday month around here, for two small and one big. Shortly after the Christmas decorations get packed away, the sleep countdown begins for the small people, and I switch to birthday party planning mode.

As is often the case though, I soon realise that my usual way is no longer the usual way.

The process starts off easily enough. I vow to keep things simple, and start writing lists. First up is the guest list. But then I find myself torn between adopting the Norwegian invite everyone approach and the Swiss invite one child per year of age rule. I set out not wanting to exclude anyone, before looking around our apartment and musing over inclusion versus practicality.

Kids’ parties seem to be fairly standard in the noise and movement they generate. But I still have to be on the lookout for clues. When we had our first party in Switzerland, we put the gifts to one side, Sydney style, ready to open after everyone had left. But as the designated home time got closer, everyone started glancing at their watches, and then at the presents. We found out just in time that, at Swiss parties, the presents get hidden, and then, when they’ve all been found, the kids play spin the bottle to decide which order to open them. This was a lot of fun, and even though we’ll be living in a different country for the next round of birthdays, we’ll try and take that tradition with us.

I seem to have found my way with the food at least, I wrote about that for Mothering matters: Party time

A new year.

If ever there is a day where you feel hope and anticipation for the future, it’s on the first day of the year.

It was only as I bid farewell to 2015 that I fully comprehended what a quietly momentous year had come to a close.

A year when you realise that you cannot change your past, and that you are who you are because of it.

One where you have to confront your deepest emotions, and realise that you have the strength to be okay.

When you realise that time is speeding along no matter how much you try to live in the present, and that when the children are grown you’ll look back and realise these were the days.

The year I started writing, and discovered I had a story to tell.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring. For now I am grateful for everything that has led to this day, for the lessons learned along the way, and for the people who give it all some meaning.

Wishing you peace, love, and happiness for the coming year.

Changes.

Almost daily since our arrival in Switzerland I’ve caught a glimpse of the mountain views visible from our village. They look different each time, an illusion from the shadows cast depending on the time of day. Sometimes distinct against a pink evening sky, at other times hidden by fog, at the moment covered in snow. Some days I’m not consciously aware of them, while on others I will point them out to my children, half mesmerized by the beauty of them. But changes are ahead for us, and there are no mountains where we are heading. A move to London is on the horizon.

I need to ponder over how I feel about returning to England. Is my longing to return just nostalgia? Will it seem like home after 14 years away? Am I still the same person or have I been away for too long, destined to forever be an outsider?

There are feelings of doubt. My children have never lived in England and while they know that it is my homeland, they don’t consider it to be theirs. Things get tricky when there are multiple perceptions of home within one family.

This time in Switzerland has been part of a process, with a beautiful backdrop, but where my heart has been somewhere else. I wasn’t ready to leave Australia, just another year, we said for many years, until one year we found ourselves on a plane, waving goodbye to Sydney as it disappeared from view.

But it is time to let go of the past, and without the benefit of hindsight there is only instinct and a naïve hope that we are travelling in the right direction. And so we look forward, with some trepidation, and excitement, to a new chapter.

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Ten.

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Candles have been blown out. Songs have been sung. Cake has been eaten. One evening a couple of weeks ago my daughter said goodbye to nine, and drifted off to sleep excited at the prospect of welcoming ten.

Ten years ago, on a crisp winter’s day in Oslo with the first sprinkling of snow on the ground, I met my brand new baby girl, and she met me. She got to meet a new version of me. One with no barriers to keep insecurities at bay, one with a fierce strength, one who’d just discovered pure love, one who was at peace for the very first time.

The Norwegian and me had left home that day as two people, but we returned home as a family. I lay her on the bed and in the evening light she opened her eyes and took in her new surroundings, calm, reassured by my presence. She needed me and I needed her.

Many memories have been made since then, of a first smile, the first mamma, meeting a baby brother, meeting a baby sister, sickness, tears, so many fleeting moments that make up a lifetime.

I am so thankful for this kind and gentle soul who made me a mother ten years ago.

Happy birthday to you x

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