nine months in and we’re doing it again

I celebrated our ninth month of living in Abu Dhabi by visiting New York.  Not intentionally but as it happened, the only time I could line up doctors’ appointments, business meetings, and a flyby visit with my mother and sister in the wilds of New Jersey coincided with the nine-month anniversary of our arrival in Arabia. (Arabia. It sounds so much more evocative than “Abu Dhabi,” doesn’t it? Like maybe I’m going to ride off with Omar Sharif or Peter O’Toole at just about any minute.)

Nine months. If I continue my pregnancy metaphor, we’re due. When I was pregnant with baby #1, people with kids would say “your life is going to change…” and I would nod and smile and think to myself “maybe your life changed, suckahs, but I am a superior form of human and my life will go on like always, except I’ll have this charming bundle to look after.”

Bwahahaha.  Hubris, my friends, pure and simple. Babies kick your ass (and mostly we love them for it); they make us better people (except when we have to read Thomas the Tank Engine for the 458th time); they are little flesh-wrapped bundles of hope that will, I think, despite what Dr Sears says, flourish even if we occasionally put them down or let them cry.

Nine months ago, when we told people we were moving to Abu Dhabi, they said “oh wow, Dubai sounds really cool.”  The next question, inevitably, was “are you going to have wear a…y’know, a thing?” and they’d sort of flap their hands around their heads. They meant “veil,” but it looked more like “goalie mask” or “diving helmet.”  And always, always, they’d say “wow, that’s going to be a big change.”

I’d nod and smile and say “mmhmm,” but inside my brain there was no hubristic nonsense. Instead there was “HOLY CRAP WE’RE MOVING TO ARABIA WHAT THE HELL ARE WE THINKING ARE THERE CHICKEN NUGGETS IN ARABIA MY KIDS ARE GOING TO STARVE.”

Despite my chicken nugget anxiety, we moved. Figured out how to move twelve huge suitcases, four people, and assorted carry-on bags half-way around the world (why yes, that was me you saw crouched in front of the departures counter at JFK, madly tossing things between suitcases trying to get the weight allotments right), figured out how to negotiate the grocery stores, figured out how to drive in a world where traffic laws are more like traffic suggestions, figured out that trying to make a strange place feel like “home” is almost as exhausting as having a newborn.

Nine months ago, if you’d asked me if we would stay in Abu Dhabi for another year, I would have laughed at you with the same incredulous laugh that you’d hear if you asked new parents when they were going to have baby #2: “We’re barely hanging on,” they’d say. “And you think we should do this to ourselves again?”

But then, you know, the baby smiles, it coos, it pats your cheek. It sits, babbles, drools, shoves oatmeal in its hair, crawls, and becomes generally the cutest baby ever in the history of babydom.  And then one day, as you watch this Platonic specimen of babyhood scooch across the floor, the thought bubbles to the surface: why not another one, because if this one is so damn cute, what would a sister/brother look like?

And so it was a few months ago that I started to think, oh good lord, we just figured out how to live here. Now we’re going to move back? Liam no longer believes that we ruined his life by switching schools; Caleb can read rudimentary Arabic words; Husband loves the work he’s doing here; there are chicken nuggets in the frozen-food section of the grocery store.  Being a typical mom-type person, I feel settled now that my family feels settled–and besides, if we moved, I would have to scrap this beautiful new blog design.

Do I really want to uproot again, move back to New York, give up our adventure before we’ve even really gotten started?


It’s been nine months; the new baby has gotten cute; we’re doing it again.

We’ve not officially told the kids, but our contracts are signed, so…expat life? Here we come again – or rather, here we stay. I guess I’m going to have to figure out a different metaphor for next year’s adventures.


one of the lovely support systems (safety nets? escape hatches?) that helped me adjust to life in Arabia has been the community at yeah write, curated by the amazing Erica (she of this blog redesign).  click over using this button and see what’s brewing at yeahwrite this week…then come back to yeahwrite later this week and vote for your favorite posts

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62 Responses to nine months in and we’re doing it again

  1. KSB May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Awesome! Here’s to an even better second year!!!! 😀

  2. Stephanie Smith-Waterman May 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    Woo HOO!!

  3. Dick Horwich May 22, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    A new metaphor for next year’s adventures: Sisyphus?
    Dick Horwich recently posted..TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAMEMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

      sisyphus is my go-to metaphor for parenting in general, so that metaphor has been taken, alas. I’m thinking of making Sisy my patron saint, actually, and getting one of those St. Christopher-type medals that people wear around their necks…a picture of a little guy and a BIG damn rock.

  4. Stacey May 22, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    Awesome! That is wonderful news! And having lived in both Italy and England, I’d say your analogy is spot on. I’ve also been that person on the floor in front of flight check in redoing her bags. Luckily those were my single days…juggling 12 bags is quite an accomplishment!
    Stacey recently posted..Llama Llama Preschool DramaMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

      Those twelve bags surface in my nightmares. Literally, now, when people talk about “having baggage,” I’ve got a whole new, non-figurative way of thinking about it.

  5. stephanie May 22, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Congrats. I think its a great thing to live outside the US, out of our comfort zones, make new comfort zones, as you have. Your kids will only benefit, no downside. My opinion, of course. I could hear the people you spoke of saying those things to you. I’ve traveled, and everywhere I’ve gone from the ease of Europe, to the wilds of Indonesia, at least one person, if not many, has said to me, Why would you want to go there? At this point it must have seemed mighty strange to visit New York and New Jersey.
    stephanie recently posted..Science of the HeartMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

      Funny the way people react to traveling, actually. It surprises me – and it surprises me how well we’ve all adapted (relatively speaking)because we all become, so easily, creatures of habit, don’t we? This last time in New York it did seem strange (blog post brewing there)…with the upshot being that nowhere quite feels like “home.”

  6. Delilah May 22, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    That’s awesome! I doubt I will ever move outside my comfort zone, I am not a risk taker anymore. I’m just old and set in my ways.
    Delilah recently posted..Dear Producers of TLC Birth Moms,My Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

      eh…I thought I was set in my ways, too. It’s amazing what you can do when there aren’t many choices. Now I’m just set in my ways…in a new place! : )

  7. Mayor Gia May 22, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    A big decision! Congrats.
    Mayor Gia recently posted..In Another Episode of Weird Pictures that Have No Context…My Profile

  8. Pish Posh May 22, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    Very cool and I wish you the best of luck! The hard part is done. I hear the second child is always the easiest. Here’s hoping your second year is too!!

    Besides, having your kids know any Arabic at all is going to put them above and beyond most American kids when they become big kids and get jobs. The languages of the future must include Arabic and Chinese.
    Pish Posh recently posted..You’re Full of Crap: Congratulations, Grads!My Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

      The youngest son’s school actually has the little kids taking Arabic and Chinese AND french. The CHinese and French are only once a week, Arabic is four, but still, his brain is so nice and soft and squishy that he can learn new things in a snap. The language program is one of the things that makes me happy about staying here, frankly – as a European friend said to me a long time ago, “only in the US can someone who only speaks one language be considered educated.” Me–who speaks only English and faux-French–winced. It’s sad..but true.

  9. Jackie May 23, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    Congratulations Deborah! I only imagine how exciting it must be, and at the same time calming to know what the next 12 months will be.
    Jackie recently posted..Mommy FailMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

      EXACTLY! glad to have the decision done with, and now I can get on with things, settle into more of a routine (I hope)!

  10. Vanessa May 23, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    This is so fascinating to read about, and I envy your spirit of adventure. I can’t ever see myself living anywhere other than here.
    Vanessa recently posted..5 Things About Yard WorkMy Profile

  11. Adrienne May 23, 2012 at 4:18 am #

    That’s exciting! Glad to hear you are feeling settled. Love the analogy!
    Adrienne recently posted..My Brazil Butt Lift Success-Day 1My Profile

  12. Mel May 23, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    I love your outlook on this! Congratulations and here’s to a fantastic second baby…er…year. 😛
    Mel recently posted..I FOUGHT THE STROLLER…AND THE STROLLER WONMy Profile

  13. anna May 23, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    so happy you are staying another year, love to hear your tales of expat life. and really with chicken nuggets, there’s no reason not to stay!
    anna recently posted..Instructions for My Husband: The Differences Between Lavender and Rosemary PlantsMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      really, right? have nuggets will travel. maybe i should get that on a sticker and slap it on my suitcase!

  14. Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms May 23, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    I do love that pregnancy analogy. That is so cool that you are staying. My friend just came back from visiting her sister there and her stories are fascinating. I can see how you could stay. Especially since there are chicken nuggets.

    I did feel a little bonding moment with you about the departure counter luggage shifting ritual. I thought I was the only one. But I’m a lightweight, never done it with 12 pieces. 🙂 Ellen
    Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms recently posted..Better Books for the Bottom of Your Beach BagMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

      Oh that luggage…was a truly low point and I couldn’t help at the time but see it as an omen of things to come: too much stuff and nothing in the right place, plus a smidge of public humiliation. A lovely way to begin The New Life. argh.

  15. Kristen May 23, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    How exciting!!!I love this! What an adventure! And I love how you explained it all so well. I want to come move too!!!
    Kristen recently posted..Embracing My RealityMy Profile

  16. Amanda May 23, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    I’m impressed! I would never have the courage to move somewhere so far away. Haha – I barely had the courage to move an hour away from where I grew up! I am glad to hear it is going well for you.

  17. Vivian May 23, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    I really giggled when you described how assured you were that a baby would not change your life. I also would have loved to see the reshuffling of luggage the day you left. I think it is wonderful that you took such brave steps out of your comfort zone.

    • Deborah Quinn May 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

      Well, it’s a place that, as far as “out of comfort zones” go, it’s not that hard: everyone speaks some form of English, there are chicken nuggets!, I have a job…so it’s weird but not as hard an adjustment as it might be even moving to a small town in Europe, actually. Which in and of itself is kind of strange. And oh god those suitcases! I think when we get ready to move back I’ll just burn everything, so I don’t have to deal!

  18. jamie May 23, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    WOW! Congratulations! Your life is filled with adventures. Envy much 😉
    jamie recently posted..You Are SpecialMy Profile

  19. tara pohlkotte May 23, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    they have chicken nuggets?? stay.right.there. 🙂 that is so great that you are revising your thoughts of home and comfort. i could only hope to be as flexable with my ideals as you!
    tara pohlkotte recently posted..Smoky Mountain AirMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      truly it’s amazing what you can adapt to – you think “nah, I could never…” and then you find yourself doing exactly the thing you thought impossible. I figure it’s good training for when my kids are teen-agers. : )

  20. Write Rinse Repeat May 23, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    Awesome! Great post!!

  21. Jenn@Fox in the City May 23, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    Wow, what an exciting experience for your whole family! I am fairly certain the heat would melt me as I am a true Canadian!
    Jenn@Fox in the City recently posted..Confession TimeMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:17 am #

      one of my good friends here in AD is from outside Vancouver and she misses the mountains a lot – they’ve done a seven year stint here, a while back, went to the States, and are now back in the Gulf. People adapt…kind of amazing.

  22. Heather May 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    Ok I’m totally sucked in. I love this premise. My husband and I (and our 1-year-old and our 2 dogs) just returned last year from a 3-year stint in South Africa. It was the best experience of my life.
    Love your writing!

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Wow, you took pets AND kids? Astonishing. How was South Africa? That’s a place on our list … we’re starting our Africa adventure with a short trip to Kenya and will work up to South Africa maybe next year. Glad to hear you had a good time – what were you doing?

  23. Kim @The G is silent May 24, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    Yay for you!!! How exciting! How brave! My cousin, his wife and their 3 kids are in Colombia for a 2-year stint but we think they’ll stay longer.

  24. Your Doctor's Wife May 24, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    I loved reading this post! I wish you much success! What an adventure. You have balls. I could never leave my State!!!
    Your Doctor’s Wife recently posted..Thanks, Food Inc.My Profile

  25. Cathy May 24, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    Glad you decided to stay another year. I would hate to miss the blog.

  26. Susan May 24, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    congratulations! we felt the same way when we extended our expat contract – and it was one of the best choices we could make. plus i selfishly really enjoy reading about your adventure here (who knew there were chicken nuggets in the middle east? and do you have to wear a goalie mask? because that seems, well, hot.) 🙂 best of luck to you!
    Susan recently posted..Hurricane PlantsMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Hah. I only wear the goalie mask on special occasions. And it’s mesh, so ventilated. Where were you expats? According to my kids, the nuggets here are somewhat inferior to nuggets “at home,” but they’ll do in a pinch. Luckily, a kebab is basically a series of nuggets on a stick, so we’re set on both counts.

  27. Kristin May 24, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    I completely understand the logic and the desire to stay longer. Especially after putting all the hard work in – now enjoy it! Very exciting.
    Kristin recently posted..Working Class DogMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      exactly – I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to get adjusted and then, once adjusted, how intimidating it would feel to undo all that we’d done…so I’ve chosen inertia, always the easiest of paths. : )

  28. Pippi May 24, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    Wow, good luck to you! You are a true adventurer!

  29. Musings of a Writer Mom May 24, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    I envy you – what a fabulous adventure!
    Musings of a Writer Mom recently posted..It’s WorkingMy Profile

  30. Aidan Donnelley Rowley May 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    “Chicken nugget anxiety”? I love this. And all of this. Signed, a born-and-bred NYC creature who is thrilled to have found your great digs.

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      thanks! sometimes I think the best training we could’ve given our kids for this whole expat life is to raise them (at least for a while) in NYC, where no one looks like anyone else, dresses like anyone else, speaks like anyone else…access to bacon is also easier there, just for the record. Sigh.

  31. Jill, Tales of a Failed Crunchy Mom May 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    So cool you’re going out and experiencing the world! Love your writing style. (And I’ve been-there-done-that with the luggage shuffle when we moved across the country, with a bonus toddler meltdown in the security line because my daughter didn’t want to take off her shoes. Fun stuff!)
    Jill, Tales of a Failed Crunchy Mom recently posted..The Room Where No Children Shall PassMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Ah the great luggage swap…true, we didn’t have a toddler meltdown, but I can’t vouch for me and the DARLING HUSBAND. Plus the 11 year old hiding behind a pillar dying a thousand deaths because his parents were so incredibly embarrassing. Ugly all ’round, frankly. shudder.

  32. Oh wow! How exciting! And how lucky for us because that means we get to hear about your very interesting experiences for another year. I love hearing about your life there. And I really like the analogy between the baby and moving across the world.
    Jennifer – Treading Water in the Kiddie Pool recently posted..The Snotty SchnozMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:09 am #

      Thanks! I’m glad you like the analogy – I worry that it’s a bit forced sometimes. I mean, after all, traveling doesn’t require you to change its diapers or puke on you. Traveling can *make* you puke, but that’s different…!

  33. Anna May 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Congratulations! I wish I had the guts to be so bold and adventurous!

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:06 am # I’ve said before, it doesn’t feel “bold” when I’m in it – I’m just another person driving her kids to soccer during rush hour!

  34. Lady Jennie May 24, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    Great decision! (If I do say so myself).

    And I love love love this: “flesh-wrapped bundles of hope”
    Lady Jennie recently posted..Magnificent OrdinarinessMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      aww thanks…a garden is a thing of hope too, I think – any growing thing is, really. do you all ever imagine living in the States? or is France it, for the foreseeable future?

  35. Jay- The Dude of the House May 25, 2012 at 3:11 am #

    Congrats and best wishes. I’m sure it will be exciting and give you plenty more to write about 🙂
    Jay- The Dude of the House recently posted..Goodbye Grandma FranMy Profile

  36. Sarcasm Goddess May 25, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    I cannot imagine making a move like that. I wish I were so cool and adventurous!!
    Sarcasm Goddess recently posted..There’s No Coming Back From ThatMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn May 25, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      eh…it’s not that adventurous when you get right down to it – it’s a lot like life anywhere else. and it’s funny, isn’t it, that we often think “oh I could never…” only to find ourselves, some point down the line, doing exactly that thing? Never say never…!

  37. Kim at Mama Mzungu May 31, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    Congrats on the decision!!! I’m thinking your second year is going to be equally filled with discoveries (external and internal) as well as fantastic blog fodder! I really think it takes at least a few years to really know a place – if not a lifetime really. Great post as usual and congrats on the win Deborah!

    • Deborah Quinn June 1, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      How long have you been in Kenya? it will take longer than another year to feel at home here, I know, and I’m not sure I’m willing, at this point, to sign on for more than another year. but I am REALLY curious to see how next year will feel different from the first – or if it will be just more of the same.

  38. Alexandra June 4, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Yes, right? selfishly yes, from the rest of us.

    I love to see people whom I really like, lead lives of international intrigue and adventure.

    I do.


    • Deborah Quinn June 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

      International intrigue and adventure? Oh, right, you saw me loading bacon (shshshsh) into my grocery cart yesterday. That’s me: bacon shopper by day, international spy by night. Mrs James Bond. And HEY. wouldn’t THAT be a great movie idea. hmm… let’s meet at blogher and write a movie. you know that I used to live in northern illinois, right? I’m practically from Wisconsin, for god’s sake. 🙂


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