The School Holiday Throw Down

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.

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My boys.

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!

All smiles with pastries and yogurt!  She's quite a foodie these days!

All smiles with pastries and yogurt! She’s quite a foodie these days!

After breakfast, we strolled around town and headed for the Zagreb Cathedral.  To say it was breathtaking would be an understatement.

Zagreb Cathedral

Zagreb Cathedral

Wyatt and his buddy Hudson

Wyatt and his buddy Hudson

She spent a lot of time in her old jalopy of a stroller.  If you'd ever to know what it's like to wrestle an octopus, you are welcome to try to get her in it when she doesn't want to be.  Good times.

She spent a lot of time in her old jalopy of a stroller. If you’d ever like to know what it’s like to wrestle an octopus, you are welcome to try to get her in it when she doesn’t want to be. Good times.

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*sigh

*sigh

Christmas beauty

Christmas beauty

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.

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But as is par for the course with Catholic relics, with the beauty often comes a taste of the creepy.  Cool, but creepy.

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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!!

We passed this as I was looking for a cup of coffee to go (also something that is not normal in Europe).  When I did find a coffee shop, the man asked where I was from in America.  When I told him I was from Texas, he said he played the guitar and liked a guy Texas guitar player.  Had I ever heard of Stevie Ray Vaughn?  Ummm, yeah.  His name rings a bell.

We passed this as I was looking for a cup of coffee to go (also something that is not normal in Europe). When I did find a coffee shop, the man asked where I was from in America. When I told him I was from Texas, he said he played the guitar and liked a Texas guitar player. Had I ever heard of Stevie Ray Vaughn? Ummm, yeah. The name rings a bell.

This wall was so interesting to me.  It almost looked intentionally distressed.

This wall was so interesting to me. It almost looked intentionally distressed.

Fruit and Veggie market

Fruit and Veggie market

Back off, ladies!!  His heart belongs to his mama!!

Back off, ladies!! His heart belongs to his mama!!

One more of the cathedral.  I'll never tire of seeing such amazing architecture.

One more of the cathedral. I’ll never tire of seeing such amazing architecture.

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!

XOXOXO

Heather

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!

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I am no party planner, so really, this is pretty good for me! Please ignore the penant flags hanging willy-nilly from the tray. I had good intentions. Really.

 

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Another reason I miss Target. You can find ANYTHING there! I miss that in Bosnia.

 

These balloons were in flower arrangements that were sent when Lyla was born, a year ago.  My mom saved them so we could put them out again.  We'll see if they survive to year two!

These balloons were in flower arrangements that were sent when Lyla was born, a year ago. My mom saved them so we could put them out again. We’ll see if they survive to year two!

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Cherry and Oreo cupcakes for dessert!

 

 

Bring on the cupcake!

Bring on the cupcake!

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I think she liked the cake!

I think she liked the cake!

She wasn't sure what to do with the gifts.  I assured her she'd figure it out soon enough!

She wasn’t sure what to do with the gifts. I assured her she’d figure it out soon enough!

Lyla was given her first Cabbage Patch Kid.  Her name is Gisele Brooklyn.  We're hoping that's just her stripper name.

Lyla was given her first Cabbage Patch Kid. Her name is Gisele Brooklyn. We think that’s just her stripper name.

What do you mean we look alike?  I don't see it.

What do you mean we look alike? I don’t see it.

This is one of those pictures that remind me why it is so important for my kids to know and love the people in my life that I love.

This is one of those pictures that remind me why it is so important for my kids to know and love the people in my life that I love.

I remember when I left for DC a year ago and I was so worried that it would be too hard to stay in touch with my most important friend.  Then she reminded me that she was there from the beginning.  She saw this child as she was born.  She'd be there every step of the way.  And she expected a prime seat at her wedding!  <3

I remember when I left for DC a year ago and I was so worried that it would be too hard to stay in touch with my most important friend. Then she reminded me that she was there from the beginning. She saw this child as she was born. She’d be there every step of the way. And she expected a prime seat at her wedding! ❤

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

I don't want to miss a moment of this.

I don’t want to miss a moment of this.