We are two days in. Two. Days. It feels like two weeks, but in reality, we are two days into a two week Fall break at my kids’ school. My boys go to the local French school (yes, I know, we live in Bosnia. And no, French is not a prolific language spoken here. Please reference this post for more explanation on that.) The French system is structured for optimum French learning. Read: they take a lot of breaks! The kids get an hour and a half for lunch every day for crying out loud! They also get two weeks off every 6-7 weeks. So, this is only the first of FOUR two week breaks! Lord have mercy. As the days led up to this holiday for my boys, I was filled with frantic worry and panic over how to entertain them. We don’t live in a place with ample activities for two elementary boys and their two year old sister. It didn’t help that every person I mentioned to that the kids were home asked the same question, “So, do you have big plans?” Each time I wanted to scream, “Noooooo! No, I don’t have any plans whatsoever. No, I’m not driving them to the coast. No, I have no Pinterest craft projects set up. No. No. No.” I blame my generation for this nonsense. It has to be our fault. It certainly isn’t our parents. They NEVER planned craft projects for school breaks. There were no day trips to local hot spots. We spent our vacation days hiding from Mom. If she found you, she was likely to enlist you in household chores, or make you tag along to go to the grocery store. She didn’t stop her daily routine for us. She just added us in the mix. Since I know you are reading this, Mom, please hear me when I say that I don’t blame you. As a matter of fact, I don’t have any negative thoughts, memories or delusions about my holidays spent at home. Which just goes to show that my generation does this to ourselves! In our apparent attempt at overachieving, we have created a bunch of crazies who think that they need us to have fun. We’ve also created a bunch of crazy parents that think we must have a product to show for our time. Whether it be a sequin encrusted flower pot, a receipt showing we bought a fabulous experience or a handful of exhausted and cranky kids who have been subjected to mandatory fun for a little too long, we feel like we need evidence. Evidence that we did something today. So, I say, “enough is enough!” I will be the first to throw down the gauntlet. No more activities to prove that I’ve done something. No more worrying about answering that dreaded question, “so, what did you guys do today?” From now on, there will be more games of hide and seek while I put the laundry away. More “if you’re bored, why don’t you get a book?” And a lot less crossing off lists of fun things to do. I know that my kids are growing up faster than I can keep up with. I realize that I will look back on these times with them and will miss the silly, funny personalities that they have. So, please, don’t get me wrong. I will still bake cookies with them (which we did today with orange chocolate chips sent in a care package! -thanks Tonya!). We will carve pumpkins and paint popsicle stick creations. We will watch movies and have dance-offs. But now, it won’t be because every minute of our days need to be scheduled. It won’t be because the Facebook/Pinterest police are in my head subconsciously judging my parenting based on iPhone pictures and copious amounts of glitter under my kitchen table. Now, we’ll do it because we want to. Because the time is right, our attitudes are positive and our spirits are sweet and ready. Won’t you join me? Let’s teach our kids how to be involved in their playtime, rather than be passively entertained. And if you won’t join me, how about you just keep your judgements to yourself. Because my kids have a game of Ninja warrior to play as I sing along with REK and make dinner.
Category Archives: Family
Winter Vacation- Balkans Style (Part 1)
Let me begin with a big, “Hallelujah!” Why, you ask? We returned last week from a weeklong vacation with our amazing friends, without one episode of violent diarrhea, trip to an ER or handwashing Spidey underoos in the sink at a hotel. Can I get an Amen?
Our trip began with a six hour drive from Sarajevo to Zagreb, Croatia. If you look at a map, you’ll see that it really isn’t very far. Unfortunately, there is no easy way out of Bosnia, so it’s slow going for the first half of the trip. That is, until you reach the Bosnia/Croatia border and the heavens open up and a real highway appears! Then it’s smooth sailing.
When traveling with nine people, five of whom are under the age of 8, flexibility is the name of the game. Thankfully, these five kiddos are some of the best travelers you’ve ever met. We stopped twice in six hours; one stop for lunch, one potty break. And the only complaints about the squatty potty we stopped at came from your’s truly!
My only knowledge of Zagreb prior to our arrival was that they have H&M stores and a Gap. You had me at H&M. So, to say I was excited might be an understatement! But, more than the shopping, Zagreb is a beautiful city with so much charm. We stayed at an old and amazingly gorgeous hotel called The Esplanade. I’m not going to lie, I was a little concerned about bringing our brood to such a nice place. Thankfully, Croatians are like Bosnians in that they have a strong and patient love for children. Whew! Dodged that bullet!
After a long trip in the car, the kids needed to
run around like maniacs stretch their legs. We walked around the downtown until we could walk no more! There was a cute Christmas market that sold hot chocolate (to the kids delight), gluhwein (to the mom’s delight) and Austrian beer (to the daddy’s delight). All was well in Zagreb that night!
The next morning, we had our first of several delicious breakfasts! Lyla approved!
After breakfast, we strolled around town and headed for the Zagreb Cathedral. To say it was breathtaking would be an understatement.
There was a beautiful fountain right outside the cathedral with gold angels that seemed to glow. I may not be Catholic, but I can certainly appreciate their beautiful architecture.
But as is par for the course with Catholic relics, with the beauty often comes a taste of the creepy. Cool, but creepy.
One of the things we often take for granted when living in America, is easy access to restaurants that are kid friendly. In Europe, we always have a portable high chair in the car, as most eating establishments do not have them. Crayons and kid menus are unheard of. So, we began our quest to find someplace to eat that would be suitable for our party of nine. Let’s just say that we did a lot of walking… and saw some beautiful things… and unable to find a restaurant that suited our needs, we ended up right where we started. But, it was a great walk, and the reward at the end was REAL sausage!! Mmmmmm!!
I’m sure you’re wondering what happened to H&M. Shockingly, we didn’t have time to shop. But never fear!! The last leg of our trip was another stop in Zagreb! But more on that later!
Zagreb down… next post: Lake Bled. Until then, vidimo se, cao, see you soon!
Tell Me I’m Normal
I woke up Sunday morning in a funk. Like baby blues… only 14 months after giving birth. I drug myself around all day, annoyed with everything. Tired of it all. Ready to throw in the towel, but for no real reason I could pinpoint. There had been no big fight with the hubs. My kids were their typical, *ahem* charming selves. We had just come off of two weeks of fall break, which culminated a neighborhood Halloween party that would rival any small town’s Baptist church fall festival. So, what was the deal?
Monday night, as we were watching the replay of Sunday’s Colts vs. Texans game, it hit me. We are in full-on Fall mode. It is almost Thanksgiving. The holidays are upon us. (I’m not sure what about that game struck a chord. Maybe it’s because J.J. Watt‘s athletic prowess is as magical and unexplainable as Santa.) Regardless, as subtle as a dump truck, the realization that it is my favorite time of the year smacked me in my gut. It wasn’t so much that it is the end of Fall that sent me in a downward spiral of moodiness. It was that it is the end of Fall, and I am living far from family, friends, church, American culture, Christmas, the list goes on and on. It’s all going on right now, without me. I am missing it all.
I know I am supposed to relish in this experience 100% of the time. I am constantly harping on my boys to recognize that they are seeing and experiencing things that most people never even dream of. But every once in awhile, with all the maturity of a two year old, I want to throw myself on the floor, pound my fists and cry. And worst of all, not only am I trying to catch my breath in this self-made pit of despair, I feel guilty for feeling it. For those of you that don’t struggle with guilt and worry on a daily basis, let me let you in on a secret… it sucks. I have all the emotions of a “normal” person, and then I have extra emotions because I hyper-analyze why I feel that way, and then feel bad for it. I know. I need therapy. But, for the record, it’s in my genes. Ask anyone in my family. They can vouch for my kind of crazy.
So, fast forward to today. I had a sweet chat with one of my favorite people here. We have this weird habit of walking each other to the door as we leave the other’s home, and then standing there for the next hour talking. I’m not sure why we don’t just sit down and save ourselves the back ache. But, I digress. As we stood in my threshold talking, our conversation headed towards our neurotic shopping right now, as we fear the unknown that is the diplomatic pouch mail service. Fearing our children will not get Christmas gifts in time for St. Nick (insert writhing and gnashing of teeth here), we spend hours on amazon, feeding our neurosis. One thing led to another, and before you knew it, we were both teary eyed talking about how sad we were lately. How we missed our families. How this time of year makes us feel even further than the thousands of miles that separated us from all that is familiar. And then my friend said something that resonated with me. She said that she felt like we all just wanted someone else to say they felt this same way too. That she wasn’t the only one finding it hard to see the joy in the days right now. Standing there, with a tingling nose and wet eyes, I felt normal. I didn’t feel so isolated and lonely.
So, let me put it out there, to those of you who live a life like mine: You are normal. You are normal if you find yourself missing those stupid Christmas commercials that start on November 1st. You are normal if you are angry because you can’t just pick up a phone and call your mom to say hi, because it’d cost $10/minute and it’s 3am her time. You are normal if you obsess over the pictures of your friends at a particular 10 day salute to sausage that marks the beginning of the holiday season to you. You are normal if you resent the fact that you are having to “browse” online stores trying to find something your kids will love for Christmas, knowing that you really have no clue, since they haven’t seen a commercial in months and don’t ever go to stores. You are normal if your eyes fill up with tears every time you imagine what your BFF is doing right now, without you. You are normal.
And if I’m wrong, and you aren’t normal, then at least you know you aren’t alone. And sometimes, that’s half the battle.
A Munchkin Turns One
Summer lovin’ had me a blast! Summer lovin’ happened so fast!
One of the keys to my survival in another country are guaranteed trips home. It keeps me grounded, rounded and sane! I feel better knowing my kiddos get to spend quality time with the g’parents and our friends that are more like family. Praise God for modern technology and the ability to stay connected while we are away. But there is no substitute for hugs from the heart, sweet conversations over
martinis coffee, and our family favorite… Chick-fil-a! And with the addition of our little munchkin, a birthday party with all the people who love her the most!
The pictures pretty much tell the story of our day celebrating my sweet Lyla Rae. But for those of you who don’t know her, let me fill you in a little secret… She is a trip. Seriously, she is her own little caricature of herself! All those funny faces you see her make in pictures… those are just a small taste of her spiciness! And I have tried my best to give her hairstyles to match! (In my defense, her hair has a mind of it’s own, just like her!)
If I’m being perfectly honest, and hey, what better place than in the privacy of my own blog that anyone can read, there have been a couple of moments when I thought, “What were we thinking, having another baby?!?! We have two boys that are beautiful, healthy, and soooo close to independence! Why did we start back over again?” Then, Lyla came and it all made sense. It’s like our family was never without her. She fits in, in a way that I could never have imagined. Not to mention that she is super cool. I know, I know, everyone thinks that about their kids. But I mean it! She is funny and silly and intelligent to boot. And not just bright. My girl is wicked smart.
So, enough of my ramblings. Enjoy the party!
Living far away can be so hard sometimes. That’s why I am grateful for each of these sweet moments that are shared with those who are closest to me. Some days it’s just good to be hugged in person. And a number one with no pickles and a lemonade is pretty great too!
From Zadar, with Love
Oh, to live the life of a gypsy. Or a carnie. Or a diplomat. They are really similar if you think about it.
In the month since my last post, we’ve been a bit busy. We finally moved to our permanent house (yay!). Which means that our internet was down for a week. We also got our household effects that we haven’t seen since mid June of last year (big YAY!). Which means there is a crap-ton of things to put away, and a lot of, “Why in the world do we still have this?” *There are a few perks to living simply for eleven months* Not to mention all the things that we either wish we had packed, or thought we had packed and didn’t. Oh, and did I mention that when we packed out last summer, we thought we were going to be moving to the west coast of Africa? Not Central Europe. So, instead of skis and scarves, we have a plethora of beach towels and sand toys. Thankfully, we were able to use them last weekend. (How’s that for a lead-in?!)
One of the great things about living in another country as a diplomat is that we celebrate all the American federal holidays, and the Bosnian ones. That allows for us to vacation during times that would be very busy in the US, but not so much in Europe. For Memorial Day, we decided to do just that. Up until now, the only real outing we had made was our trip to Mostar. So, when the opportunity presented itself to go to Croatia for the weekend, we jumped on it! And for added fun, we went with our awesome friends, who are also Texans I might add, The Denneys. You can read Karen’s blog post about our trip here.
Before I start, let me say, this post is not for those with a weak stomach. Like, for example, if you were Wyatt, you wouldn’t want to read this. You’re about to see why.
We left Friday afternoon for the 6-8 hour drive (yep, it’s that big of a window when you are traveling with 4 grown ups and 5 kids). The kids were champs and we made it across the border into Croatia before we had to stop for dinner. We found a quaint little restaurant that served pasta for the kids, and PORK for the parents. Did you hear me? I said PORK! P-O-R-K!!! The first sign we were out of Bosnia and into Croatia. As we were getting ready to leave, Wyatt did a little complaining that his tummy hurt, but I let it pass, since he was not bad enough to turn down the snickerdoodle cupcakes that Karen brought. In hindsight, I should have paid closer attention.
We drove several more hours and made it to our final destination, Zadar, Croatia. When I say we made it, I mean we made it to the city itself. It was pouring rain and 10:00pm, so we had to do a little searching for our hotel. In the meantime, Wyatt’s tummy was getting worse. So, in a fit of desperation, I quickly dumped the snacks out of the snack bag onto my feet and tossed the bag back to him, just in time for exactly 2/3 of the vomit to make it in. We weren’t so lucky with the other 1/3. Oh, and the bag? It maybe had a few holes in it. So, for the next 20 minutes, we drove around in the freezing rain with my hand out the window holding a bag of puke. All the while, trying to hand wipes back to the back seat to clean up the other 1/3. Never before have I wished to be Elastagirl from The Incredibles like I did that night. So, we were off to a rough start. But when we pulled up to our hotel, things began to brighten up. The fresh air may have helped a bit too.
Our hotel was awesome! It’s called the Falkensteiner Funimation Borik. I know, it sounds cheesy, but it was great! All inclusive, on the beach, swimming pools and a kids play area. You can’t beat that! It would have been better if the weather had cooperated more, but we still figured out how to have fun!
The indoor play area was the first place we explored. It didn’t disappoint!
Then we walked around the beach outside the hotel.
We were able to squeeze in some swimming before the rain moved it. Tristan has become a much stronger swimmer lately. And with floaties, Wyatt is a regular Michael Phelps!
This is where the Roberts’ vacation merged with the Griswold’s. After a good long swim, Wyatt started fading fast. We thought he was just tired, but we were wrong. Boy, were we wrong. We still aren’t positive what happened, but he either ate something bad, or more than likely came in contact with something VERY bad. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say that we spent a very long, painful night together. This was definitely not the trip to pack light. We ran out of underwear for him by midnight. Poor baby!
Things didn’t improve in the morning, so we had the hotel call in a doctor to look at him. The doctor agreed with us that he probably had some kind of bacterial infection, but he was definitely dehydrated. And in our adventurous spirit and desire to experience all that each country has to offer, it was time to check out a Croatian hospital! I joke, but it really was scary at the time. And besides being a great guy, Byron is also a Bosnian (or if you happen to be in Croatia, a Croatian speaker) so he was kind enough to go with Brady and Wyatt to the hospital to translate. What a blessing that was! He was even there to hear the nurse grumble under her breath, “No wonder he’s sick. He doesn’t have any socks on.” Welcome to the Balkans!
Unfortunately for Brady and Wyatt, they spent the next five hours at the hospital getting the IV. We did our best to have fun while they were gone.
Karen is my absolute favorite person in Sarajevo! We have so much in common and always have fun together! It was a real treat to learn that she loves to take pictures too!
Before the rain started, we tried to squeeze in a family photo shoot for the Denneys. I was only able to get a few of the boys. Family pics, to be continued!
So, Brady and Wyatt got back, and Wyatt looked like a whole different boy! IV’s are amazing things! We did our best to make the most of the night and enjoy the rest of our trip. The next morning was check out, but we did manage to squeeze in a couple of games of ping pong first!
After breakfast and check out, we decided to see what Zadar really had to offer! And thankfully, Wyatt’s stomach cramps held off (mostly) during our day trip downtown. First stop: Ice cream. At 10:00am. ‘Cause that’s how we roll.
When traveling with this many children, one of whom was violently ill the day before, we have learned that the only way to succeed with a smile is to divide and conquer! So, the dads took the big boys up to the top of an The Cathedral of Anastasia and Karen and I had the littles. While we waited we listened to the sweetest street performer and his scooter-drawn trailer! The babies loved it!
After a couple of songs, he asked us to move the strollers up by him and handed me HIS camera, and asked me to take his picture. He said he wanted to put it on the cover of his next CD!
If you look closely, you’ll see Brady’s
pink salmon shirt at the top of the bell tower.
After the boys had their turn, we ditched the babies and Karen and I took our cameras up the bell tower. Here are some of the images I captured.
After our picture taking extravaganza, we met up with the rest of our crew at the sea organ. I hadn’t done much research on Zadar before we left, so I didn’t know what it was. Basically, someone way smarter than me figured out a way to make the waves make a sort of whistle as they hit the shore. It really is a sort of creepy but strangely beautiful sound. Of course, the boys loved yelling into the holes that the sound comes out of to hear their own “special melodies!”
We also coerced them all into taking some more pictures!
Then we found a park to burn some energy at.
Karen and I often joke (sort of joke, but really hope) that Cullen and Lyla will eventually get married. It’ll make Christmases so much easier on us, and after all, isn’t it about us? Well, I’m thinking that Cullen is going to have to learn not to steal Lyla’s toys before the wedding, or we may have more episodes like this:
Zadar is one of those places that isn’t as well known as say Split or Dubrovnik. But it truly was the perfect weekend getaway for us (minus the ER trip!)
You Can Take the Girl Outta Texas…
Sometimes living where you’re at means bringing home to you. I’m all for local culture and cuisine, but there are some things that this family of Texans can’t live without. Namely, Tex-Mex. And what is the staple of all Tex-Mex meals? Tortillas. You can buy tortillas at the grocery stores here, but they are one step below Mission tortillas. And as we all know, Mission tortillas are only used in dire emergencies; like it’s 5:00pm on Cinco de Mayo in South Texas and HEB is out of fresh tortillas, or every single Mexican restaurant in the state is on strike. If you usually use pre-made, long-life tortillas, please excuse my strong opinions about your choice in starchy food. I don’t mean to judge. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m totally judging you. Unless you’re using it in King Ranch Chicken Casserole, there is really no excuse if you live in Texas and don’t partake in this Manna from Heaven, made of flour and lard. True, they are only good for about 3 days, tops. Inconvenient? Sure. But, maybe we should step back and consider what is in those pre-made tortillas that keep them from getting moldy for weeks. Just sayin’. But I digress. *stepping off my soap box now*
Let me continue by saying that I am NOT a foodie or a food blogger. I idolize The Pioneer Woman, but I am very clearly not her. I am really not sure how to do food photography either, especially while I am
burning cooking tortillas on the stove in my kitchen with terrible light (not to mention already late to the lunch that I was bringing said tortillas to). So, as much as I might like to think that I will one day have a blog post that will be repinned a gazillion times on Pinterest, I am certain this post is not going to be it. But, and it’s a big butt (hee hee), that doesn’t change the fact that I can make amazing homemade tortillas and I am about to show you how to do it too. For my friends that live in other countries, like England, Poland and Washington, D.C., you will appreciate this, as you probably can’t get the real deal where you live. For my Texas folks… enjoy the pictures and my charming wit, but save yourself the time and get some fresh tortillas at your nearest taqueria!
Before I begin with the *ahem* tutorial, I must give you the back story on how I came about this recipe. When we first moved to Mumbai, India back in 2005, I realized VERY quickly that I was not going to get the food I was used to there. Ordering groceries online was a fairly new concept, and we had only a small commissary (and commissary is a very generous word for it), the size of the smallest 7-11 on earth, stocked with ONLY expired food. So, my options were limited. And as I mentioned above, Brady and I can live without a lot of things, but tortillas ain’t one of them! My sweet friend Jen and her family were serving as missionaries in Spain at the same time we were in India. Somehow, through email I divulged the hollowness in my life, not to mention my pregnant tummy, with not having tortillas at an arms length. Jen came to my rescue and emailed me her recipe for tortillas. I was thrilled to make them the first time, ready to finally calm the desire in my belly. But, alas, I learned something that day. Tortillas are a pain in the rear to make! Actually, that’s not true. The making is easy. The rolling is another story all together. But in India, they love to eat chapatis with almost every meal. So, when you have a maid/cook living in your apartment with you, it would behoove you to let her do the rolling and cooking if you want perfect, restaurant style tortillas. It truly wasn’t until moving to Bosnia that I made my first completely solo and successful batch of tortillas! On to the recipe…
Here’s what you need…
Now pay close attention, because this is a SUPER complicated recipe. First take 2 cups of flour and 1 tsp of salt and stir it together in a large bowl. Stay with me. Then, cut up 1/4 cup of shortening (Crisco) into the bowl. Am I losing you yet? In Jen’s recipe, she said you can use butter, but I say, why use butter when you can use lard? It’s a no-brainer. Keep in mind, we are still essentially living out of suitcases, and I don’t have my full kitchen yet, so I do everything the old fashioned way right now. If I had my kitchen, I would use my pastry blender to then cut the shortening into the flour and salt mixture. Since I don’t, I just use a fork. I have found that cutting the shortening in before you add the warm water makes for a more even mixture all together, when, as I said earlier, you are low-tech and have no mixer to do the work for you!
Next, add 3/4 cup of warm water to your mixture. If you have a mixer, you could use it now. I don’t, so it’s me and my trusty spatula, and then my hands. Mix it all up until it is well blended. It will be a little sticky, but you should be able to pick up small amounts to roll into balls.
At this point, you want to roll up little balls, about an inch or so in size. Once you’ve gotten them all rolled, cover the plate with Saran Wrap and let it “rise.” Really, I think it just helps to keep the Crisco warm so it is pliable and mixes well while you are setting up the next step.
Here comes the part with the steep learning curve. It’s time to roll out the balls of dough. I know it sounds easy, and maybe I am just challenged in this department, but I had a very hard time making my tortillas resemble tortillas the first few times I made them. I set up a little bowl with flour in it so I can flour my counter each time I roll them out. First, take a ball and smoosh it (that’s the technical term). Then use your rolling pin to roll it out into a circle. It needs to be rolled really thin. Thinner than you think. Make them so thin that you can almost see through them. I didn’t get any pictures of this stage in my cooking, presumably because I was elbow deep in flour and didn’t want to introduce my camera to the mess.
Once you have it rolled out, you’ll want to put it on your stove set a little shy of medium. I put it directly on the stove, but you could probably use a griddle or a skillet. Keep it there until bubbles start to form, usually about 30 seconds or so. Then flip it over and cook for another 5-10 seconds.
Timing is everything in this process. If you, hypothetically speaking, were trying to do this while taking pictures and keeping two brothers from destroying the house and each other, all while trying to figure out when you were going to shower for the party you are supposed to be at in 30 minutes, your tortilla might end up looking like this:
So, that’s it! You’ve now learned the secrets of The Tortilla. It might seem like a silly, simple thing to be so excited about. But part of living in another country is trying to find a way to exist in this vastly different culture, without completely losing touch of your own. And this four ingredient wonder does that for me.
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup warm water
1. Mix it all together.
2. Make into balls.
3. Roll out balls.
4. Cook on the stove
* Makes 8-14
In case you’re wondering, we had a great time getting together with our friends for a fajita lunch! Here is our most recent, and most fitting, family picture taken at the party.
The Glorification of Busy
One year can make a huge difference. This time last year, I was five months pregnant. We lived on an acre and a half in New Braunfels, Texas, a place Brady and I have come to call “our Eden.” Tristan was finishing up Kindergarten in the best school in the county, surrounded by his closest friends, playing soccer on the weekends and deeply involved in our church. Wyatt was going part time to the kind of preschool that I know with 100% confidence was hand-picked and gifted to us by God. (We miss you terribly, Ms. Kerry!!)
But life wasn’t all it seemed to be. I have to remind myself of this point when I get too homesick.
Besides all these beautiful things about our lives, on the inside, we were gasping for air. Brady worked and traveled constantly. He had an hour and a half commute each way! I was knee deep in being the managing owner of a successful small business. A small business that kept me from my family on EVERY major holiday for the previous five years. My phone rang constantly, never really allowing for my kids to get my undivided attention. And I was TIRED! I didn’t want anyone to miss out on anything, so every night was full of activities. That meant that I dropped everyone off at school in the morning, worked all day, and the raced home to pick them up, feed them a healthy meal (from the frozen section of HEB of course!) and get us where we needed to be. That usually entailed a panicked call to my mom who was in all essence the boys’ primary care giver, and absolutely my life saver, telling her how they needed to be dressed, what to have collected and ready to go (and where it might be located in our chaotic house). On a few occasions, Tristan had a special lunch or party at school at an odd time of day. So, I’d go to work for an hour. Drive 30 minutes back to New Braunfels for the event, stay 30 minutes, and then drive 30 minutes back. I was sure if I didn’t, Tristan would never forgive me. Afterall, in my mind, all the other kids had stay-at-home moms who made it not only to the class parties and field trips, but helped make copies for the teachers and performed major surgery in the break room in their spare time.
Fast forward to now. Now, I live in a world where I have someone who comes and watches the baby three mornings a week. The boys are both in school full time. Brady’s commute is a solid ten minutes. I no longer work outside of the home. We either go to church on Sunday only, or watch last week’s Oakwood sermon streamed from home. Tristan has French tutoring once a week, and we are trying to get both boys into football (soccer). Other than that, we lead a much slower paced life. And you know what? We are happier. We have dinner with friends at least once a week, if not more. The boys have play dates. I have gone to get my hair done and grocery shopped without any kids. I even got a mani/pedi on a Saturday afternoon (albeit with a baby on my lap!) Here’s my point: When we stopped running around being busy, we started spending our time more wisely. We have time for that game of Memory with the boys. Feeding Lyla is not the chore it was with Wyatt. I love to see the faces she makes as she tries new foods; the independence she is acquiring as she learns to feed herself. Brady and I have gone on more dates since we arrived in Bosnia than we did the entire previous year. And our kids aren’t being raised by day care, or our nanny. We are just not as busy.
When I first came to the realization that I was no longer busy, I felt guilty. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. My friends work harder than me. I need to get a job so I have more worth. It became apparent to me that busyness had become my crown of thorns that I wore like a badge of honor. Let me say that again, I was miserable, and I wanted extra credit for it. Sick, right? Until I really thought about it and came to the conclusion that our American culture glorifies busyness, and I had fallen right into the trap. If you aren’t constantly on the go, then you are lazy. And lazy adults breed lazy kids, so be sure to keep them as busy as you. I remember one time posting on Facebook something about a book I had read, and the first response was from someone loathing how they wished they had time to read. Really? We have the same 24 hours. And I was really busy at that time. So, what was the logical response? To question why I had so much free time to read and how could I be spending that time in other “more productive ways,” of course. I hate to repeat myself, but Really??
I know my life is unique in a lot of ways. I have the ability to not work anymore. I have someone who can come and love on my kids so I can go workout or get some much needed quality time with the hubs. Not everyone has that. And when we move back to the states, I likely won’t have it either. But, what I hope to have is a perspective on what’s important. I hope to have the ability to say “NO” to things so I won’t be so busy. And the confidence to be ok with watching everyone around me scuttle about trying to keep all their ducks in a row, while I sit and sip on a cup of coffee and read my book. Because in reality, this is the only life we get. I’d hate to look back on it in 50 years and see how much I truly missed when I was trying to do it all.
Getting the Most Out of Mostar
As is par for the course, I am already behind! Seeing as I took my sweet time setting up this blog, we’ve now had a multitude of experiences that are begging to be shared! So, in no particular order, I am going to begin my most frequent game… Catch-up!
A few weeks ago we decided that we’d had enough of Sarajevo for a day. We had been here a solid two months and never left the city. That might not sound like a big deal to most. After all, Sarajevo is a capital city, so it must be huge. Not so. There are amazing discoveries to be made here, but it is more like a really large village than a city. And after two months of sitting in this bowl, we needed to get out. We needed a break from the horrendous pollution and the dreary winter weather. It was time to stretch our traveling legs. So, we all piled in our car, and left for a day trip to Mostar.
But, in order to truly torture our kids, we had to stop along the way! We had been told about an amazing furniture shop in a town called Konjic on the way to Mostar. Rukotvorine didn’t disappoint. Not only was the craftsmanship mind blowing, the man that was working the floor was about the coolest guy ever! His English was about as good as our Bosnian, so we definitely had to rely on our trusty sign language to get our point across. He did his best to show us around and explain how the furniture was made and what it all symbolized. The boys were interested for a solid 3.5 seconds, so we spent a lot of time reminding them to look with their eyes and not their hands! You’ll hear me say this a lot over the next couple of years, but one of my favorite things about Bosnians is their love of children. You might be thinking, ‘Oh, I love kids too.’ But you’d be wrong. You might love kids, but Bosnians LOVE kids! All kids. Big ones, little ones, babies. And it isn’t just the women who love them. The men are just as enamored with our little people as the women are. Oh, and even the kids love kids! You should see the attention Lyla gets when I am at either boys’ school. But I digress. So, this guy was no exception to the Kid-Love rule. He cooed at the baby (and held her by the end of the visit) and rustled the boys’ hair. And then, he did something that caught me by surprise. He offered to take us back to the room that the furniture is made in. Heck yeah, we want to go! So, we all walk back to this little, sawdust filled room to see about a half dozen men, some sitting, some standing, all creating works of art. Then, one of the men patted his leg and invited Wyatt to come sit on his lap as he whittled away on a piece of wood. And wouldn’t you know, my super shy guy went right over. Not only did he get to see these creations being made first hand, the gentleman let Wyatt do the work. Here is what it looked like.
After Konjic, I knew this was going to be a great day! We hopped back into the car and headed south to Mostar.
Here are some important facts about Mostar.
It is one of the largest cities in Bosnia. One of the most recognizable architectural landmarks of Bosnian culture is in Mostar: Stari Most. This bridge was built in the 16th century by the Ottomans connecting two parts of the city over the Neretva River. It was breathtaking. But more importantly, it was of the utmost cultural importance to the people of Bosnia. So, during the war, the Serbs knew that it would be a devastating blow to the morale of the Bosnian Muslims (not to mention their supply line) if it were destroyed. And destroyed, it was. But, if there is anything I am learning about the Bosnian people, there isn’t much that will keep them down for good. So, with the financial help of a few other countries, Stari Most was rebuilt using as many of the original bricks as possible and reopened in 2004.
Besides the bridge, Mostar has an amazing “old town” paved with cobblestone (not the most stroller friendly, in case you’re wondering), and lined with vendors that sell everything from touristy trinkets, to pashmina shawls, to one-of-a-kind artwork.
During the war, for about 9 months in 1993, Mostar was under siege. They were cut off from food and electricity. Constant shelling and snipers kept people in their homes all day and night, leaving only to get water. As an American, it is incredibly difficult to imagine life like this. It goes against everything I know. Yet, walking the streets of Mostar (just like in Sarajevo) there are constant reminders that in my own lifetime, there were people being killed, tortured and raped daily for the “crime” of being ethnically Muslim. It is eerie to see so many cemeteries all over the city with one glaring detail in common… the death dates all say 1993, 1994, 1993, 1995, 1994… It’s disturbing to say the least. But, I’ll get into the real grit of the war in a future post.
Mostar is just one of the places that you have to see. It has character, culture and quality that can’t be found anywhere else. It also has crazy people that jump off the bridge for fun! The boys thoroughly enjoyed that!
This was just the first of what I am sure will be several trips to Mostar. Here are some other pictures of our day there.
This is a long video, about 45 minutes, but if you are at all interested in seeing what Mostar looked like during the war, I highly recommend it. I think it’s important to remember what this country has gone through. While I was playing volleyball and getting my hair done for school dances, Bosnians were literally fighting for their lives. And not just soldiers. Kids, teenagers, grandparents. Sometimes, when you’re American, it’s easy to forget what the rest of the world is going through, because, well, it’s easy to live in America. Really easy. Take a moment to read up on the news around the world. I promise you, where the President vacationed or who marries whom won’t seem like such a big deal anymore.
A Blog is Born
You know Heather, you just need to live where you’re at.
That came straight from Brady’s mouth one night last fall when we were living in our little apartment in Arlington. I was complaining (shocking, I know) about not wanting to get “plugged in,” as we were moving in a few short months. After all, we had been living like gypsies for months at that point, and I was tired. Tired of being the new kid. Tired of being holed up in an apartment after spending the last few years on acreage in the Hill Country of Texas. Tired of missing my friends and my family. I was waiting to move to our newest home in Sarajevo before I decided to live. When we got there, then I’d live. I’d make friends. I would consider it home. I hate to admit it sometimes, but I married a really smart man. Shhh, don’t tell him I said that! I could spend my whole life being tired and waiting to live. So, after a little pride swallowing, a prayer and a glass of red wine, I decided to heed his advice. From now on, I was going to stop waiting. Live Where You’re At. That night, our family motto was born. And I now live by it.
So, here we are. Almost three months in our new home in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. And boy, are we living! Our boys are learning a new language (Tristan is learning two!) Lyla spends three mornings a week with a nanny who loves her like she’s her own, walking the cobble stone streets of Bascarcija, flirting with every person who looks her way! And I am getting to take pictures of one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and this ain’t my first rodeo, so I’ve seen some amazing places.
What can you expect from this blog?
1. Pictures of our adventures, including, but not limited to: food, lots of pictures of food. My always well-behaved children absorbing culture all around them without a single, “Are we there yet?” and “Moooom! My DS battery is dead!! How much longer do I have to sit in this car?!?” A beautiful dichotomy of serene landscapes riddled with bullet holes, shrapnel and a country still in recovery from a pain that I can only try to imagine.
2. A history lesson or two on what this unique and amazing country has gone through in the last 20 or so years.
3. And very likely a healthy dose of sarcasm. Hey, the boys have their languages, I have mine!
I’m excited to show everyone what I live each day. It isn’t always glamorous, but it’s my life. And I’m living it where I’m at.