When It’s Time To Move On

20170116_235025Anyone familiar with overseas basketball knows that most contracts are year to year, sometimes with an option for an additional year, and sometimes you’ll get a two year offer. Our two year offers have mostly been from less desirable teams, so throughout my husband’s 11 year career, we’ve always had one year contracts and have never stayed with the same team for more than a year, until now.

This past season was our second year in Argentina, and the second year with the same team. There were many firsts for us in Formosa, and as we prepare for a new season with a new team, I look back on our time there with nothing but love.

Aside from a 6 week hotel stay last year, we were in the same big, beautiful house for both seasons. It’s the first time overseas that we’ve had a house, a pool, and a yard, and it really did begin to feel like home. The kids got their hands dirty in the yard, spent their days swimming, doing school work, and playing hide and seek. Our boys learned how to swim and ride bikes in that house. All the kids became true water babies.

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Our 11 year old learned Spanish and is now so fluent that she often answers my questions in Spanish and sometimes refuses to even speak to me in English, leaving me all kinds of confused!

They all made friends, and had playdates constantly, especially Maliya, who had a busier social calendar than I did. She took dance classes, Zumba classes, and spent so much time outside of the the house that we even decided to buy her her first phone. As a result, most of her time was spent at a friend’s house, or in her room talking to the friends she just saw minutes before.

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Our time in Formosa also did wonders for my boys, who are extremely shy. In addition to friends from school, they were able to play with the other kids from the team, as well as the many kids running around at the games. They joined the team’s youth basketball league and had their first taste of organized ball. They also started learning the language, and will soon hopefully have two languages to communicate in.

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It’s no secret that I didn’t love the city because there wasn’t much to do, but it was safe, relaxing, and the people were so warm and friendly. For the first time in years, there were a boatload of other wives, and despite the fact that all but one spoke no English, we became fast friends. We were constantly having playdates, parties, and nights at the casino and the club. For a small and pretty quiet city, I will say that the nightlife was pretty great. We found a reliable baby sitter and had more date nights than I can remember in recent years.

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When we decided that we wanted a change for next season, it was pretty sad in our house. The boys wanted to stay, but it was Maliya who begged and begged. She says that Formosa is where she’s made the best and most friend’s in all of our years abroad.

When it came time to leave, the school presented each of the kids with framed photos in a beautiful little ceremony, and Maliya’s friends organized a going away party, or despedida, to send her, and us, on our way. She cried, and because I’m such a softy, I cried too, and we weren’t the only ones! A few families actually offered their homes to her if she wanted to stay there for the summer, or until December so she could finish school with her friends. To see the impact she had on so many kids and their parents warmed my heart, and actually made it difficult to leave for the first time in years. It truly is the first time we’ve felt so welcome and so connected to our international community.

We will be back in Argentina next season, and we are excited to see what kind of experiences we’ll have in a new city, and with a new team, but our time in Formosa will forever be a special part of our lives.

Chau Formosa! Hasta luego! xoxoxoxo

 

ABC Mouse Semi-annual Sale

I’m excited to partner with ABCmouse for their semi-annual sale. You can save 50% off of the annual membership, so that’s a year for $45! This sale is valid until Monday May 29th, but I’m also including a link for a 30 day free trial that you can use at any time.

I’ve used ABCmouse for years, ever since I discovered it, when my 11 yr old was around 4. Since then I’ve used it for my 7 year old, 4 year old, and have recently begun using it with my 2 year old. It’s a fun way to get the younger ones interested in shapes, colors, numbers, and letters. For the older kids, they work on phonics, reading, science, and math concepts. As a part-time home schooler it really helps to have an alternative to sitting at a table doing work with boring old mom lol.

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50% off annual membership

Here’s the link for the 30 day trial that never expires!

30 day trial

Enjoy!

 

His Braids Aren’t Funny, So Why Are They Laughing?

Last week, my beautiful and sweet boy was teased and laughed at because of his hair. He just turned 7 and is pretty sensitive as it is, so when I learned that he broke down in tears because of it, my heart just about broke.

All of my kids wear their hair naturally. My two youngest have big, beautiful hair and I usually like to keep it out in an afro, and sometimes in braids or twists. My 11 year old recently started growing dreadlocks like her daddy, and Kaden, the 7 yr old, had the same big hair until my husband convinced him to get his first haircut, much to my chagrin, two years ago. Recently he’s been expressing regret at not having the same big hair we all have, so he’s been asking to grow it out so he can wear braids and a fro like he used to, and like his brother does now.

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My kiddies in all their natural glory

So last week he wore it in braids for the first time in years, after begging his dad to stop cutting the top so that his mohawk would be long enough. The very next day our 11 yr old told us that the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade classes were laughing at him and making fun of his braids. It’s hard enough to handle teasing from a few children, but dozens of children, including his own “friends,” is heartbreaking. The fact that they were insulting him in Spanish means nothing, because he clearly understood what was going on. A teacher did tell them to stop, but not before he burst into tears and the teachers had to take my 11 yr old out of class to come and console him. When I heard this I was so angry, and so so sad for my son and his feelings.

Had this happened in the states, I would have rushed down to the school and talked to all the teachers involved, trying to pinpoint which kids were involved, and gotten those parents involved as well. Whether it’s body shaming, or any other kind of bullying, it is heartbreaking to think of the impact that dozens of laughing and teasing kids can have on a young child. When you add in the aspect of race, and the fact that there is already an assault on black hair in the states, it’s all the more troubling. Black hairstyles are being banned in schools and work places, and children are being punished for nothing more than wearing an afro at the wrong school. Just today I read about two young girls at a Boston charter school (hubby’s home city) who were sent to detention, banned from all school activities, including prom, and threatened with suspension because they refused to take their braids out of their hair. It’s disturbing to see a child disciplined and ostracized for wearing their hair in its natural state.

But being overseas has somewhat altered my thinking. I don’t respond to things the same way I used to, especially when I’m overseas. For as long as I can remember I have had an open mind, and living in so many countries has allowed me to become even more open minded and accepting. Things that would have had me in a rage at home, don’t affect me the same overseas. I try to understand that there are cultural differences at play, and many reactions and interactions are due to curiosity or ignorance of the unknown.

In Turkey, people stared and then tried to touch and grab the children. I would attack someone who randomly tried to grab my baby from his stroller in NY, but in Turkey it happened numerous times. I would calmly try to explain (in my horrible broken Turkish) that he didn’t like to be touched, to which they would smile, nod, and then pick him up anyway. They generally love babies, but they went crazy for our little brown babies, so I learned to begrudgingly accept the cheek squeezes, the constant barrage of cookies, candies, and requests for photos. I also grew to appreciate amd welcome the countless blessings they gave (“Mashallah, Mashallah” they would say). It came from a place of curiosity and of love, and I was living in their country, after all, so I learned to understand and accept that aspect of their culture. (I wrote about it here Please don’t touch my baby).

In Germany, the faces were often surly, but many were helpful and kind behind those rough exteriors. In Belgium, the stares were not quite as nice, and if you didn’t properly speak French they could barely contain their contempt. In Argentina, I have shaken maybe two hands, and double kissed hundreds of strangers, something I would never do in the states. It’s all a part of maneuvering throughout our many worlds, and I mostly welcome the experiences.

This is the first time one of those cultural differences has negatively affected anyone in the family, so I was really at a loss for what to do. It’s been a week and I’m still sad about it.

My Spanish is limited, so I decided against talking to the school director, since she doesn’t speak English and we have a hard time communicating as it is. I considered telling our son not to play with anyone who harassed him that day, but that would be petty and unrealistic, especially since he said everything was back to normal the next day, and no one said anything else about his hair. I felt conflicted because I want to stand up for my son, but I also don’t want to make things worse and bring more attention to our differences.

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How can anyone tease such a sweet face?!?

Ultimately, my husband and I decided to focus on him and his feelings. We needed to make sure he knows how beautiful and smart he is, and how perfect his hair is, regardless of the style in which he wears it. We tried to explain that although kids can be mean sometimes, the kids in our small Argentinian city have never seen black hair up close, so it’s new to them and they’re fascinated and don’t always know how to react. We reminded him of all the people in Turkey who used to touch his hair because they were amazed at how different it was from their own hair, and the people in Belgium who thought that him and his brother were girls if they had their hair in braids or a ponytail. We let him know that while we of course hope that people won’t laugh at us, they will always stare and ask questions because we are different and that’s ok.

We are a large family of 6. We are American. We are giants. We are black. We are so unique that wherever we are in the world, we will stand out. This knowledge should make us feel special and more confident, and I hope that he doesn’t let this one experience affect his view of himself or his beautiful hair. In the words of the amazing Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”

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One big happy, natural, family

No, You Can’t Have My Food: My Life as A Selfish Mom

I was raised as an only child, so from my earliest moments, I admit I may not be the best at sharing. I do try, but I’d really rather buy two packs of peanut butter m&m’s and give you one, than have you all up in my bag. Sorry, not sorry.

With that said, I try try my best not to snack too much anyway, or eat too late, or overindulge, especially with my metabolism slowing and summer in NYC calling. But after two years in Argentina, this lifestyle has definitely taken ahold of us. We do everything late, including eating meals, so we’re all big on snacks to get us through the day, especially the kids. Luckily for me, they LOVE fruit, and eat it often, but they are kids (big kids at that) so we have the cupboard stocked with granola bars, crackers, nuts, rice cakes, cookies, and God knows what else. Everything out here tends to be overly sweet, and while I do have an affinity for candy, I don’t care for cakes, pastries, cookies, chocolate, or any of the other needlessly sweet things they have out here.

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The kid’s snacks. Anything their heart’s desire.

My snacking primarily consists of things brought from home, or the rare US visitor. So nothing boils my blood more than when I sit down to a bowl of Lucky Charms or Blue Diamond smoked almonds, mixed with Trader Joe’s Sesame sticks, when one, then two, then all four damn kids have surrounded me asking for bites. It may sound harsh and selfish and rude, but whatever. I DO NOT WANT TO SHARE.

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My glorious stash.

I wanted to pose this question to my mom friends but I figured they wouldn’t understand since they likely replace and replenish whatever food and snacks their kids have pillaged, so they probably would share and think I was a terribly mean mommy. Then I thought of posing the question to my WAG moms who may understand the plight of having a small amount of supplies to last 8-10 months, but I felt like only a dope would pose a question asking other moms if they were as horribly selfish with their own children as I am with mine.

Okay here’s my thing. When I sit down to have these sacred snacks, as I call them, it’s all very calculated. I make sure that the kids would have had a nice filling lunch, complete with some kind of chippy side. This is not the time for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that would fill them for all of 20 minutes. No, I’m talking tuna melts with a pickle and Doritos or pretzels on the side, or 3 egg sandwiches with fruit salads and a rice cake for good measure. I make sure they’re good and full, and I’ll often even offer an apple or banana to fill any void.

Then I create a scenario that I hope will entice, and usually does. I let the older kids play games on daddy’s Ipad, which rarely happens, so they go to a bedroom and barely look up. Then I stream ABC songs and nursery rhymes from Youtube onto the living room tv, which usually keeps the younger ones occupied for at least 30 minutes. Once I hear the singing along to “head, shoulders, knees, and toes” I know I’m golden and I quietly retreat to the kitchen to enjoy the peaceful solitude of what feels like a forbidden snack.

But make no mistake, the second I sink my teeth into the smokey saltiness of an almond, or the glorious processed cheesiness of a cheese doodle, a child has magically appeared, lustfully sniffing my bowl. Once one appears, they all appear, like lions pouncing on their prey.

Them: “What’s that sound mommy? What are u eating? Can I have a bite?”

Me: “First, how did u get here so fast? Next, why would you want some if you don’t even know what it is? But no, leave me alone”

Them: “But mommy it looks good, can I have some?”

Me: “No, you JUST ate!”

Them: “But mommy I’m hungry”

Me: “That’s impossible, I fed you like you were going off to war!”

Them: “But it looks good, can’t I just have a bite?”

Me: “No”

Them: “Just one?”

Me: “No!”

Them: *Sad faces* “Aww”

At this point, I’m in full defense mode and every child I’ve ever had is staring down my 8 almonds and 10 Sesame sticks. Its a chorus of “why mommies?” and they try to break me down. I don’t want to yell but I want this army to retreat and they just aren’t capable of doing so until some concessions are made, but I’m just not willing to make any. They eventually leave, one by one. Each one walking away looking sadder than the last, while making sure their “aww’s” are especially poignant.

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It takes me a full day to make this yogurt from scratch. She eats all kinds of store bought yogurt with no problem. I do not. So when I sit down to eat my yogurt this is what I get. She will not leave my side until multiple bites are had

So one would think that at this point I would find a way to compromise and share a little, since we lead by example and yadda yadda yadda. Yeah, no. I fattened them up just so they wouldn’t want my food. I put baby songs and cartoons on when they should’ve been doing work, just so I could get a break. Heck I even gave them Doritos so they would feel like they were getting a treat, especially when compared to my boring almonds. But one thing I’ve learned thus far is that kids don’t care what it is,….. if you have it, they want it.

So there should be a nice moral to the story, something about me learning that my kids are an extension of me so I should treat them as I do myself. Or that snacks and food items are nothing compared to the love I have for them. Or maybe that as the parent I should put their needs first?

Nope.

What I have learned is that to truly enjoy something without 8 grubby hands in my face, I have to move in silence, like a ninja at night.

Prepare. Distract. Force a nap or two. Anything to prevent my children from partaking in my rations.

So do I feel bad about going to such lengths? Define bad?

My resolve is strong.

Greek (ish) Lemon Chicken Rice Soup

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My time in Greece wasn’t the most interesting of places I’ve lived, but the food, OH THE FOOD!!! Greek food is by far the best I’ve had overseas, and consistently so. I don’t recall ever having a bad Greek meal, so whenever I have the opportunity to eat at a Greek restaurant, or the ingredients to make something myself, I’m on it. Tzatziki, spanikopita, saganaki, chicken gyros, and Greek salads with loads of yummy feta. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I usually have a tub of homemade tzatkiki, available for all our dipping and topping needs, but here in Argentina they don’t sell plain yogurt anywhere. If it doesn’t have some kind of flavor or sugar in it, it’s not for sale. I recently began making my own yogurt at home, so once I perfect the texture, I can resume having tzatkiki as a household staple. They also don’t sell feta cheese, so I’ve taken to making lemon chicken rice soup as the only thing remotely Greek I’m able to make.

I say it’s Greek-ish because I can’t say this is an authentic Greek recipe, and I’m sure that someone’s Greek grandmother would say it’s not her recipe, but it’s pretty damn tasty! I went searching for an authentic recipe a few years ago, and as usual, something was always missing. Some were too time consuming, called for more eggs than I would like, or didn’t include vegetables, and I always try to throw a couple veggies into anything I make. So with some trial and error, this is my pretty simple and delicious recipe.

As usual with my recipes, you can adjust the measurements, because I almost always do. Sometimes I use more carrots and less chicken, and I love lemon so I often use more than listed, and if I use seasoned chicken then I’ll use more water and less broth so as not to have a salty mess.

This recipe feeds our family of 6, with leftovers for a couple of days.

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8-12 cups of chicken broth/water (I use bouillon cubes and start with 8 or 9 cups of broth and then add more depending on taste and whether I’m happy with the consistency)

1 cup lemon juice (My starting point but I usually add more)

1-2 cups chopped carrots

1-2 cups potatoes (you can omit the potatoes, but I like to make heartier soups for my always hungry kids)

1 cup Celery

1-3 cups chicken, to taste (cooked breast/rotisserie chicken/uncooked quarters)

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

4-6 eggs

1 cup uncooked rice

A few bay leaves

1 cup onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine chicken broth/water/bouillon and celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and chicken legs/thighs if using uncooked chicken, in a large pot. Cook on medium until boiling, and then simmer for 30 minutes. When chicken looks done, remove from pot and shred once cool enough to do so.

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Meanwhile, add carrots, potatoes, rice, and lemon juice to the pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Return shredded chicken to pot, or add shredded chicken breast or rotisserie chicken if using previously cooked chicken.

I like using cooked chicken breast sometimes because I season it so it adds a bit more flavor to the soup. It also reduces the cooking time of the soup by about 30 minutes. However, I probably use uncooked legs/thighs more because the chicken always ends up more tender.

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At this point the rice and carrots should be tender so I start adjusting for taste. Here is where I add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and more lemon juice if necessary.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Take a ladel and slowly add about a cup of the cooked soup broth to the beaten eggs with a whisk. This must be done very slowly so that your eggs don’t turn into a scrambled mess. Once combined, return mixture to pot. Your soup should be nice and rich at this point, but you can always repeat this step with another egg if you’d like.

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Kid approved!

Enjoy!

 

When The Terror Hits Close To Home

I celebrated my birthday a few days ago and it was another great one, filled with love, friendship, and family. I had dinner with the kids, went out with hubby and friends, and received the most amazing and thoughtful homemade gifts from the kids. I felt so loved and it was another reminder that my blessings are great.

Yet despite it all, my mind and my heart has been heavy. Since finally getting DirectTv, I have been watching a great deal of CNN International and BBC, mostly to stay apprised of the side show that is American politics at the moment. Instead, I keep seeing the places that I’ve lived and loved being attacked and terrorized.

These past few months have had my emotions all over the place. It’s as if the world around me is imploding. I was angry about the seemingly never ending attacks on black men in the United States. I was sad about what was happening in Syria. I was angry and embarrassed about the outcome of the US election. The continuous attacks around the world have added to this sadness.

Whenever something happens in New York City I am deeply impacted because that’s my hometown and it’s where I grew up so I take it hard. I’m still not over 9/11 and I wasn’t personally affected by that tragedy. The thing about this lifestyle is the crazy attachment we often feel with multiple cities and towns, in multiple countries. When you live somewhere for one or more years, have made friends, have learned customs and languages, and have your children in school there, it’s almost impossible to not be impacted by what goes on.

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One of my favorite’s from a walk around Istanbul

So when those very places are being attacked, and hundreds of innocent people are being killed, it’s heartbreaking. I think of myself being there, I see the victims in my mind doing the same things with their loved ones as I did with mine, and I think about how selfish it is to feel thankful that we weren’t there at that moment.

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Celebrating the New Year in Istanbul

We were at the airport in Brussels, Belgium, as well as in downtown Brussels, quite often. We lived in Charleroi, Belgium, where the terrorists who carried out the Paris Bataclan and restaurant attacks were from, and were arrested. It was a surreal experience to watch it unfold from our window while watching the Belgian news. We also sat at cafe’s and restaurants in Paris, just as those victims had. We were at the airport in Istanbul, many times. We were at the Christmas Market in Berlin. We lived in the Karsiyaka neighborhood of Izmir, Turkey where the latest bombs went off. One of the few times my hubby and I were able to enjoy a night out alone in Turkey, was at club Reina in Istanbul. When I saw the reports from the club after the fact, and they showed the blood stained walls and piles of abandoned shoes and purses, I immediately broke down.

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Having a night out at club Reina

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Enjoying a night out in Istanbul

Knowing how close we were to so much tragedy, and how close we are to it at any given moment is unsettling to say the least. It’s human nature to be more impacted by things if they happen close to home, or if it has some relationship to them and their lives. So this for me is so real and so scary.

The feeling of being somewhere months or years before other innocent people lose their lives is an eye opening and humbling experience, and not just for me. I’m a part of an extended group of women who live overseas just as I do. Each time there is a terror attack, someone is taking an online role call to make sure families in the affected areas are safe and accounted for. These women are supporting their men in our basketball communities abroad, and the number of bombs, gun attacks, or threats of violence is heart breaking and so scary for all of us. We have to think about whether we should return home, with or without our men, whether to pull the children out of school, and even whether to avoid going out in public, or using public transportation.

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Christmas markets in Germany and Belgium are the best. Here I’m enjoying a gluwein at the Christmas market in Brussels.

It just really puts things in perspective because while I may have the choice to pack up and leave, most people can not so easily escape such extreme and constant violence. No one should be forced to walk 8 miles because they are too scared to take a city bus for fear of a bombing. No one should fear a night out amongst friends because someone may kill them for going against what some phantom person or group feels is wrong.

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The Old City in Jerusalem

As an American, I feel that we should care more about what happens in the world because we should care about humanity period. We also know the pain of terror attacks domestically, such as the recent attacks in Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, so we’re all affected and it shouldn’t matter the nationality of the innocent victim.

As an American living abroad, I feel such a connection with my adopted home countries, and considering that I spend 9-10 months out of every year overseas, it would be impossible not to feel deeply affected by so much suffering. What’s worse is that we are essentially powerless to stop that deranged individual or group from carrying out a well planned attack on a random target.

So I guess I write as a way to share my sadness because I’m often alone out here and don’t always have someone to commiserate with (hubby can only listen to me say the same things over and over for so long). I also share my hope that we all begin to feel more empathy and outrage when these attacks happen, even when they happen abroad and may not affect our lives directly . One can only live in a bubble for so long.

Our First Holiday Season in Argentina

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Although this is our second season in Argentina, this was our first Christmas here since we arrived just after the holidays last year. While I am a warm weather lover for sure, spending the holidays in 100 degree heat is a bit surreal. Considering that we are from New York and Boston, we are certainly used to the cold, and having spent the better part of the last 10 years in cold places (Germany being the worst) we pretty much expect a frigid, if not white, Christmas.

Christmas in Turkey had been the mildest, but even there we wore light winter coats, and when we lived near Istanbul it was occasionally frosty and actually snowed once.

This year it’s like all bets are off and it’s blowing my mind. It was over 100 degrees on Christmas eve and Christmas day. We spent Christmas eve swimming in the pool, which is the only way we know to beat the heat, and then put on summer dresses and shorts for Christmas dinner.

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We had a lovely time, despite the face of the angry toddler

We are lucky that despite the extreme heat, we are in a very Catholic country that loves to celebrate Christmas, which was missing during our years in Turkey. But here it seems as if every tree in the city has been decorated with lights, and shop owners, private citizens, and street vendors decorate and celebrate.

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Some parts of the city are lit up twice as much as this, but this is the main street closest to our house

The city even set up a beautiful manger scene and a sky high Christmas tree of lights on the coast.

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It’s a strange feeling to walk around sweating buckets during the holiday season. I almost feel like for Christmas to come, we must be bundled up and tramping through the snow. I had to explain to the kids that Santa does indeed show up with reindeers in tow and that he wouldn’t actually melt under the weight of his ridiculously heavy suit.

We’re nearing the point where my kids are just too smart for us to maintain this crap, but I’ll keep it going, as ridiculous as it may seem in these circumstances, in order to maintain their innocence and sense of whimsy.

As for our other Christmas traditions, we do miss that distinctive pine smell of a having a real tree, but being able to decorate any tree and seeing those happy faces on Christmas morning is priceless wherever we may be.

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This year the league had a Christmas break, which isn’t always the case because in many countries the guys have had practice or games on Christmas day, so this was very welcome break. It didn’t make sense to spend $7k for us to travel home for the week, but we were able to celebrate the New Year in Corrientes, a beautiful city 2 1/2 hours away. It’s just as hot, but they have a beach, a mall with a bowling ally, and a bigger city center than us, so definitely worth the drive. It’s the little things!

We were able to bring the whole family to a New Years party (“the ball” as the kids called it) at the hotel we stayed at and it was magical! It was the kids first big party and it was the perfect way to ring in the new year.

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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year from the Francis family!

School’s Out for the Summer

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The first day of school, just three short months ago!

This past week was the last week of school and the kids are now officially on vacation for the summer. Well in true Argentinian fashion, Kaden’s 1st grade classes ended last Monday, Maliya was done on Wednesday, and Tristan wasn’t done with preschool until this past Wednesday. Why? Why do they do this?

It’s probably the same reason why they had the most ridiculous schedule I’ve ever experienced. Classes for Maliya started at 7:30, Kaden at 8am, and Tristan at 8:30. Tristan finished at 11:45am everyday, while Kaden and Maliya were done at 1:30 pm, except for Mondays and Fridays when Kaden was done at 12pm, and Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays when Maliya was done at 12pm. Did you get all that? Yea me neither. The number of times I left Maliya at school on Wednesdays because I couldn’t get it in my head that she was done early, but Kaden wasn’t, is a little embarrassing.

Needless to say, Tristan hasn’t seen a day of classes since Kaden was done last Wednesday because no one was waking up at the crack of dawn to take a 4 year old to school so he can play for 3 hours. Nope. Not in this house.

So one can imagine how bittersweet this summer vacation is. Part of me wants to jump for joy because that schedule will make the sanest parent lose it. The other part of me wants to cry tears of sadness because now I’ll be with all four kiddies for pretty much 24 hours a day, which will also include time spent home schooling, which is never pretty.

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Creative projects are the only part of home schooling that the kids actually enjoy

I just wasn’t ready for it yet. The kids have only been in school for three months so if we think in terms of the American or European systems the kids have been in, we’d expect a good 6 more months to go.

But alas, we are in a country that is just entering the summer season so we’ve got three months of vacation to look forward to, but not the fun kind of vacation. The kind of vacation where daddy gets maybe one day off per week, so the weather is amazing but there really isn’t too much to do. 

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We’re lucky we have a pool or there wouldn’t be anything to beat the heat

So to get through it, I think of the positive. Their school this year has been a million times better than the school they were in last year. While both schools were private schools, this school was so much more professional and inclusive. All three kiddies were able to participate in school plays, musicals, and performances held at school. The teachers made an effort to introduce them to the language,and they actually had homework which was completely missing from their school last year. They also made a huge effort to involve us as parents.

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So while I may not have been ready for the end of school so soon after our American summer vacation, only jerks complain about vacations, right?

One of My Favorite Recipes: Blackened Chicken Alfredo

I try not to eat too much pasta because I just don’t enjoy it enough to justify the extra pounds. Fried chicken, yes. Fried dough, yes. Pretty much fried anything really. Pasta, rice, or potatoes, eh. I usually pass.

However, I came across a recipe years ago, and through the years tweaked it until it was exactly what I wanted. I wish I could remember where the original recipe came from so I could credit them, but I’ve made so many adjustments through the years that I probably wouldn’t recognize it anyway.

One thing to know about me is that I’m not the best at following recipes. I always use them as a baseline, but I add whatever, whenever and I feel like it makes everything that much better. So if I put down a measurement, please feel free to adjust to taste and preference. My husband constantly says that I’m trying to kill him with garlic, but it’s without a doubt my favorite ingredient and I do feel the need to point out that with two adults and four children, we rarely get sick so I’m doing something right!

So I say all that to say that you should feel free to adjust for your personal preferences. I initially started out making this without mushrooms, but my husband and I love mushrooms so I added them at some point. We also love broccoli so if they have broccoli at the store I  add that too. The veges I add really depend on what country we’re in and what veges we have available.

So here it is: My recipe is based on a super hungry family of 6. I always think there will be leftovers, but there rarely are. However, for the normal family you can cut it in half or freeze the leftovers.

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup blackening spice (I make a big batch which will have leftovers you can use for other recipes: 3 tablespoons paprika, 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 2 teaspoons white pepper, 2 teaspoons oregano, 2 teaspoons dried basil, 2 teaspoons salt, a few dashes of Goya Adobo if you have access to it).

4 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup roughly chopped sundried tomatoes

1/2 cup white wine

1 1/4-1 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

1 pound cooked fettucine

1/2 cup sliced scallions

1-2 cups mushrooms/broccoli

Salt and pepper to taste

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My prep takes a million more hours than it should

Dredge the chicken breast in the blackening spice and cook over high heat (using a few tablespoons of olive oil) for a few minutes until each side is blackened (approximately 4-5 minutes per side, depending on stove and strength. Remove from heat and place in the oven at low heat for 10-15 more minutes to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Overseas we have a real bootleg oven which doesn’t actually tell us the temperature so we just have to wing it, hence why I just say “low heat.”

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In sautee pan, big enough to hold sauce and pasta, add a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Add sundried tomatoes and chicken slices.

Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add the cream and reduce the heat to a simmer and reduce the sauce by half.

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Once the sauce is half the consistency, add 3/4 of the parmesan cheese and whatever veges your heart desires. Slowly stir until cheese has melted.

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Add pasta, and salt and pepper to taste.

 

Once finished, add scallions and rest of the parmesan cheese.

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If the sauce is thicker than you would like, add some more wine. I do this all the time so trust me, you’re kids will be fine and won’t somehow be drunk because you added wine late in the game. If you aren’t about that life, you can add some milk, chicken stock, or even a little water.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s America. A Bubble of Hate.

Being overseas for the better part of each year has resulted in me looking at current events back at home almost as if I were an outsider. I feel this way because I don’t have access to American news outlets, don’t eat American food, rarely have American friends, and am just generally out of the loop. I used to see America as a flawed country with a history of oppression, but also one that inspired hope and new beginnings. A melting pot they called it.

Now I envision a future of closed borders, conversion camps, forced deportations and broken families. Where racists and bigots are free to wreak havoc, and marginalized folks have no voice or recourse when confronted with hate. Like one great big bubble of hate.

It’s been two weeks since the election. Two weeks since I woke up, looked at my phone, and felt my heart drop. In that time I’ve had countless arguments and heated discussions on Facebook and beyond. I’ve seen my friends engaged in the same, and I’ve read so much analysis about what went wrong that I can barely stand to read anymore.

The hate that has exploded throughout the country is sickening. Racists are no longer in the closet. Xenophobes no longer fear being judged for their hateful words and actions. Send them back to where they came from, they say. Make America great again, they say.

This election has brought out the worst in America, and Trump’s victory has legitimized that hate.

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Life in this country was already hard enough for people of color and other marginalized groups, but now that Trump has empowered them, the aftermath is shocking and sad. Children are being harassed at school, given fake deportation papers by classmates, and even being told by their own teachers that they will soon be deported.

This is why people are protesting, why they’re arguing all over your feed, and why there’s a constant stream of angry articles all over the internet. We’re scared for our future, for our children’s future, for our now.

My gay friends shouldn’t fear being rounded up and sent to conversion camps. My muslim friends shouldn’t have to register for a national database. Little black boys that already fear the police, shouldn’t now have to fear their teachers, classmates, and neighbors. Undocumented immigrants, especially those brought to this country as children, should not fear being sent back to a country they don’t know, have never visited, and may not even know the language. I came to America as an immigrant, and while not illegal due to my father’s US citizenship, I can not imagine being sent back to Finland at this age, after I’ve lived most of my life in the US. Though let’s be real, I would have no worries even if I were illegal because we all know that Finland, and Europe in general, are not high on the deportation hit list.

 

I felt such a sense of despair on November 9th, but I hoped that it would begin to subside once the initial shock wore off. Instead, in light of Trumps cabinet picks thus far, I’m shocked and saddened once again.

But then again, I’m not.

This is the same person who refused to denounce the endorsement by David Duke, the former head of the KKK,  saying that he couldn’t do that because he didn’t know who he was and didn’t actually “know anything about white supremacy or white supremacists.” He even went on to say that “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group I know nothing about.”

Ok then.

Even Marco Rubio spoke on the matter, saying “If you need to do research on the KKK before you can repudiate them, you are not ready or fit to be president.” Say it again Mr. Rubio. My 10 year old has known about the KKK from books she read when she was 7. Seven.

Yet Trump refused to denounce the support and tried to play stupid ( I do think he has some screws loose, but even he is not that dumb). He also refused to quell the violence committed on his behalf during the campaign, and waited until days after the election before urging his supporters to stop with the steady stream of attacks.

But since he has said that he will unite the country, we are urged to be hopeful that he will somehow bring us all together for that big kumbaya moment, even after all his hate-filled rhetoric.

Well I’ll go out on a limb ans say that probably won’t happen, especially when we take a look at who he’s gathered at the big table. Between his transition team and his cabinet picks, it’s chock full of openly racist and xenophobic outsiders, passively-aggressive racist outsiders, the lobbyists he promised to get rid of, his children, and career politicians who were loyal to him during his campaign. So much for being anti-establishment and inclusive.

When we contrast that with President Obama’s legacy, it seems even more pronounced. Obama is smart, thoughtful, educated, and expwrienced. He also just has a way about him that will be missed. The way he genuinely laughs, interacts with young children and world leaders alike, handles sticky situation with such poise, never loses his temper publicly, but will still be quick to let you know you have over stepped your bounds or are incorrect. All qualities that Mr. Trump lacks. I worry that China will piss him off and he’ll start a war with a tweet, that he’ll sell his soul and half of our country for some nuclear bombs from Russia, or that he’ll merely self destruct and take us all down with him.

I rant because I’m scared and haven’t quite figured how we can rise above this. It’s like it’s groundhog day in hell.

But alas, I’m sure we all need some comic relief right about now. So here are the memes that have been giving me much needed life right now. Have a good hearty laugh and then continue to reflect, argue, protest, and resist. I don’t want to live in a bubble so we’ve got to figure this out.

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