How to Maintain Your Sanity When Flying Internationally With Kids and Dogs

I’m very much a wing-it type of woman. Dinner time is whenever it’s ready, bed time is after the kids are fed and bathed, and our daily schedule is so fluid I wouldn’t even call it a schedule. However, when trying to maintain my sanity on a long haul flight, I try to be prepared.

It’s now been about 10 years that we’ve been traveling as a family so I do consider myself somewhat of a travel expert. People often ask if I have any travel trips, especially when traveling with children and, so here are my top sanity savers just in time for the upcoming season.

(1) A few days before your flight, start getting the kids acclimated to the time zone, which often means keeping them up later than usual. It may seem annoying to have the kids up and cranky past their normal bedtime, but you’ll thank yourself once you’ve arrived at your destination and the kids are better able to naturally adjust to their new time zone.

(2) Annoy the hell out of the airlines about seating, which includes calling months ahead, weeks ahead, and days ahead so it’s on record how many times you asked for the bulk head, or a particular seating arrangement. Regardless of what seating arrangement you prefer, I find that whenever there is a problem at the airport they always tell me that I should have called ahead of time, so that is exactly what I do now.

(3) Always request the bulk head if traveling with a baby under 12 months so that you can use the airline bassinet and actually free your hands long enough to eat, pee, and breathe. Even if your child is over the age of 1, I find that the bulk head is still a life saver because of the extra space you have at your feet. I didn’t have to fear the kids kicking the seats in front of us, and there was also space for the little ones to stand up or sit and play.

(4) If you aren’t able to get the bulk head, ask if they can find a row of seats with an extra seat or two. It’ll mean the world when it’s time for a child to sleep. Although our trips are usually bought by the team, we prefer to purchase the tickets ourselves and have them reimburse us. That way I can more easily manage the details online, which include being able to see the available seats and seating chart while choosing our seats.

I always choose the aisle seats in the middle row, which leave the undesirable middle seat available. Most travelers will not choose a middle seat when both of the outer seats are taken by strangers. This only works if the flight isn’t full of course, but it has proved useful time and time again.

(5) This should go without saying, but you should plan to arrive extra early to the airport to anticipate problems that may arise. There always seems to be an issue with our dog, our visas, our seats, or things that are out of our control. Get there early and eliminate some of the stress. You can then have lunch or relax in preparation for the flight.

(6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and always be as nice as you can be! You only need that one sympathetic person to let you through to the priority line or agree to hand check your stroller instead of making you collapse the whole thing and takeoff wheels to get it to fit through the X-ray machine.

On our most recent return from Argentina, my son got sick and threw up while in the ridiculously long line at Custom’s. There was a lot going on so when someone from TSA asked if we needed help I didn’t hesitate to say yes. They got a wheelchair for my son, found a porter to help us with our bags, expedited us through Custom’s, and brought us to where our dog and his paper’s needed to be inspected. This was in Atlanta so we still had one more flight to get to NY and without the help we received, we would have absolutely missed our flight.

(7) Bring a baby carrier/sling and a stroller so you can load the stroller up with carry-ons,  jackets, food, and crap. Since you can check your stroller at the gate, it’s a life-saver to not have to carry a million things all around the airport.

(8) Let the kids run wild (within reason of course) in the airport. Find a faraway gate with minimal active flights and let them get all of their energy out while they still have some space. The same holds true for your dog. Some airports have special enclosed areas for dogs, but if not you should still exercise your dog by walking around the airport as much as you can before the flight so they’ll be nice and tired.

Perfectly well behaved when it counts

(9) Pack an extra bag in case your bags are overweight and you don’t have time to re-organize and weigh your bags over and over. You will have a place to put a few heavy items and you won’t be there all day. 

(10) If you want to eliminate all bag-related stress, get yourself a bag scale. The most practical and useful gift we’ve ever received was a bag weight from my mom. It’s small, attaches to the handle of the bag, and eliminates the ridiculousness of trying to get a bag onto a household scale, while keeping the bag steady and trying to get an accurate weight. The worst would be getting to the airport and finding out that our best estimate was either 6 pounds under or 4 pounds over. Don’t let that happen to you.

(11) If you’re nursing, it’s true what they say in that you should try to nurse during take off and landing. My oldest had a horrible ear infection years ago while on a flight, and her screams were almost unbearable. Since then I’ve been vigilant in getting them to nurse, or giving a bottle. Basically anything that gets them to suck when the altitude changes will help. If they’re older, let them have gum.

(12) Order kids meals ahead of time because they bring all the special meal requests out first, so you can feed them early and get them to bed.

(13) If you’re child is pretty much potty trained, but has the occasional accident, put them in a pull up just in case. You’ll thank me. Also, you should bring a change of clothes for every child.

(14) Let them each pack a backpack filled with their favorite toys, cars, or teddy bears. In addition to that, bring goody bags filled with coloring books, activity books, stickers, plain paper and crayons. Also bring whatever gadgets you have (mini dvd player, tablets, leappads, etc) as well as headphones that fit their ears comfortably. The key to traveling comfortably, with minimal stress , is to give the kids plenty to do, especially when there are connecting flights.

(15) Choose your snacks carefully. I’m not above the bribe/reward treat, but I’m careful to have a mix of good and bad. I bring peanut butter crackers, fruit, organic low sugar fruit snacks, granola bars, and the holy grail of bribes……lollipops.

(16) With regards to your dog, make sure your paperwork is solid, which means researching the exact requirements for your country ahead of time. Most of the European countries we traveled to didn’t need much more than the US requires, which is a health certificate within 10 days and proof of rabies. Argentina, however, required so much more and it involved days of work, so definitely be prepared.

A little hard to pack with Rico Suave hanging out in all the bags

(17) If your dog is going under the plane in cargo then you won’t have much to do, but we travel with our dog under our seat. Just like with the kids, make sure to bring plenty of toys and some food and a travel bowl for feeding, especially if you have connecting flights. Bring training pads so you can take your dog to the bathroom during the flight or in the airport. My old dog was able to hold her bladder for an entire flight, but my new dog is a puppy and I took him to pee a few times during our most recent trip from Argentina.

If your dog starts to whimper or you think he might be scared, I’ve found that putting him on my lap under a blanket works wonders. People rarely ever notice that I even have a dog, let alone that he’s on my lap.

So those are my tips for a successful trip. Good luck, safe travels, and if all else fails, have some wine!

 

 

Mastering the International Move

I have always thought of myself as a free spirit, even as a young child. I did have goals and aspirations for myself, but I knew that there was a world beyond what I had experienced, and I knew that I wanted to see it all.

In my pre-marriage, pre-baby years, I moved around depending on my mood really. I moved from New York to Boston, Boston to Florida and back again, and Boston back to New York. Each move has been wrought with the usual annoyances, such as U-haul rental problems or random moving company mishaps. As bad as those experiences may have been, nothing could have prepared me for our countless international moves.

If I remember correctly there have been around 15 moves: From New York to Cantu, Italy and back; New York to Izmir, Turkey; Izmir to Lamia, Greece; Lamia to New York; New York to Valencia, Venezuela and back; New York to Berlin, Germany; Berlin to Izmir, Turkey; Izmir to New York; New York to Edirne, Turkey and back; New York to Charleroi, Belgium and back; And finally, New York to Formosa, Argentina, where we are currently living. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

With the first move we had just one child, with the next we had two, and now we’re up to four kids and a dog. You can imagine the fun we have trying to get our gang and belongings from one country to the next with minimal stress. Even though I practically consider us experts at this point, the constant international moves are not for the faint of heart.

We must consider baggage allowances, usually only receiving one bag per person, instead of the two we used to receive per person from the US to Europe. You can imagine that five bags for a family of 6 won’t cut it for a 10 month stay (especially with the baby not receiving a baggage allowance outside of a diaper bag and stroller). We usually travel with around 10 bags and 5 carry-ons, having been forced to pay the excess baggage fees. Sadly that still isn’t enough to contain our yearly needs. As a result, we have to ship boxes, which is a an entirely different beast. Most countries have painfully slow postal systems, where they often hold our boxes in customs for weeks and find some way to charge us even more money in order to have them released. We’ve waited upwards of two months to receive our boxes before, and spent hundreds of Euros on top of the dollars spent initially. We’ve taken to leaving our boxes in whatever country we’re in, either in storage or with friends, and having them shipped between (mostly) European countries, which has proved to be far quicker and less expensive.

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The kind of shenanigans that occur during the packing process

We are also faced with the problem of how to get 6 people and 15 bags to the airport. Trying to coordinate enough SUVs is nothing short of miraculous, and also extremely expensive.  We try to get to the airport at least 3 hours early because there is always a problem with something. Always. We arrive with all necessary passports, visas, and doggy paperwork and they still manage to find a problem with our bags, or my husband has too many stamps on his passport, or the planets are just misaligned that evening so there are no available seats.

Last year they had our then two and five year olds sitting alone in the back of the plane, my husband in an exit row by himself because of his height, my 9 year old in the front of the plane, and me with my 6-month old seated somewhere else. It was a nightmare and probably took 45 minutes to solve, so it was as if we had arrived late and we had to dash through the airport, stopping to unload our million bags at security, take the dog out of his bag, fold the stroller, test the baby milk and liquids. Nightmare. The airport is probably the worst part of an international move, since much of what happens is out of your control.

The flights themselves usually vary from between 10 to 18 hours, with a connection or two. This year’s move to Argentina was the worst, with three connections involving four airports (including a two hour drive between airports in Buenos Aires), for a total of 24 hours. Thankfully, our kids are used to this nomadic lifestyle and are well behaved and occupied with their Leappads, books, puzzles, and toys. We also aren’t above the bribe snacks and candy in order to thwart an oncoming tantrum. We let the kids get their energy out in the airport, watch a movie or two onboard, eat and unwind, and then straight to sleep they go.

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After arriving in Argentina this year, she was the last kiddie standing at 3am

The key to traveling with young kids is to be prepared and organized, anticipating that they will be hungry, tired, cranky, and bored. Homemade goody bags are an essential part of maintaining your sanity. Also, wine.

When all is said and done, an international move can be taxing and stressful, but the opportunity to live in a different country is a priceless gift that not many are able to experience. All you really need is a little patience, a lot of planning, and an open mind. Think of it as an adventure and you will have the whole world at your feet.

For The Love of My Overseas WAGS

I often talk about the good and bad of overseas life, with the good far outweighing the bad. While some things hold true regardless of the team or country, I’ve found that my experiences are greatly affected by the city or town I’m in, and by whether I have a friend to help me pass the time.

It’s unfortunate in that about half of the places I’ve lived, I have been the only wife/girlfriend/fiance around, and when that’s been the case it has pretty much sucked. It can be very isolating when it’s just you and your man and kids, especially when that man is traveling from 3 to 6 days every week or two, and sometimes more, depending on the league.

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When I have no Wags, I sit alone at games and try to force my kids to play with me, such as here in Edirne, Turkey

It often feels as though time move at a snails pace when overseas, and it’s difficult to find things to keep yourself busy. While there are teams in big cities, many are in small towns where you’re lucky to find malls, restaurants, or any semblance of a night life. There may or may not be a gym, a restaurant or two, and a few stores, but really you are left to your own devices as to how to entertain yourself. So when I’ve been lucky enough to have a sister in arms it’s been nothing short of fabulous.

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The very first friend I made, in Cantu, Italy 10 years ago. This pic is 8 years and 4 babies later.

This has been my experience, but I’ve also developed relationships with other Wags online, so I know that I’m not alone in how I feel. When you find another woman overseas who is in the same position you are, it’s like you immediately begin a whirlwind love affair.

We meet and spend a season, sometimes two if we’re lucky, and we bond. You will more than likely be bored at the same times, since your guys have the same job and therefore the same schedule. We go grocery shopping, we go to the bazaar, we lunch, we have play dates with our children, we hang out when our guys are traveling, we chat and bond at games, and sometimes we just talk. To have someone there who knows what you’re going through and allows you to vent about the annoying stuff is so important and necessary. It’s also a million times more fun to have a partner in crime to explore new cities with.

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My ladies in Berlin, Germany

The overseas life differs from our lives stateside mostly because of the variety of options you may have in your daily lives and routines at home. If you have a job then there’s that, but even if you don’t, you likely have family and friends to make plans with and visit, playgrounds and museums for the kids, a gym, access to trusted babysitters, and an array of social options, from movies to bowling, for date night and girls’ night alike.

The number of cities I’ve been in that were devoid of those things are too many to count, so to be able to have someone, other than your man, to explore with is a beautiful thing.

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You don’t have to be a Wag to be a friend. In Izmir, Turkey we randomly met in the grocery store and became fast friends.

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In Izmir, Turkey our husband’s played on different teams but that didn’t stop the friendship 

How many of us are lucky enough to meet a new friend or two per year? Law school was the last time I made a significant number of friends, and since graduating I can say that I have made zero new friends at home, which included working and living in NYC. But since being overseas I have met countless women who will remain in my lives, hopefully, forever.

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My ladies in Belgium

The memories and relationships we make while living this life are unique and will last forever, so this is my shout out to all the women I’ve met along this journey. I love you ladies!

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My current Wag in Argentina. She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish, but it works!

When Bad Things Happen in Foreign Places

I always try to believe that people are inherently good, and even if they aren’t I still try to find the good in them. Throughout my travels I have met so many great people, some who have become friends, and others who have helped me or shown kindness in some way. As much as I know that a few experiences, positive or negative, should not influence my opinion on an entire country, I’m guilty as charged. Fortunately for me, almost all of these experiences have been positive so I’ve been able to continue with my adventures and learning experiences untainted.

I have’t lived in Italy for almost 10 years, but if I’m asked where I would live if I had a choice Italy is one of my top two. Why? I remember store owners and bakers running out of their stores just to pinch the cheeks of my then 18 month old and offer her pastries, breads, and treats. Strangers would stop me to talk during our daily walks, and the Italian men were always ready with a beautifully accented compliment, just like I had seen in films. I have nothing but great memories from my time there and years later I still hold them dear.

In Belgium I remember receiving a phone call while in the market, letting me know that one of my husband’s young teammates had tragically passed away, and as I broke down crying, the cashier and multiple customers on line offered me tissues and napkins and touched my back to give me comfort. They did not speak English, nor did they have any idea why I was crying. I often complained about the crappy weather while living there, and sometimes people refused to indulge my questions if they weren’t in French, but I still experienced enough kindness to outweigh the bad.

While in Turkey, I remember a day when I couldn’t find the exact location of where I was trying to go and the stranger I stopped to ask didn’t speak enough English to tell me where to go so she walked me there, in the opposite direction of where she was going, just to be helpful and kind. This is in addition to the countless other people who stopped us to talk, wanted to practice their English, wanted to give our kids treats from their shops and fruit from the bazaar, or just wanted to stop us to bless our children with “Mashalloah.” Turkey is by far my favorite country, and I’m sure that all of these experiences have influenced that.

There are countless times where the actions of others have helped to keep my sunny outlook on life going. I would say that I am an eternal optimist, though I am certainly not naive to the ways of the world. I have experienced plenty of pain in my life but I haven’t been broken by it.

These past few weeks, however, have really done a number on me and it has me questioning everything.

We aren’t clear on the details but someone managed to take our beloved dog, Bella, we believe from our yard. At the time we weren’t sure if she somehow got out so we searched everywhere that night, and the next morning plastered the neighborhood with flyers and handed them out to anyone who would take one.

Our taxi driver let us use his number since we don’t speak Spanish, and within a few hours we received a call from someone claiming that their “friend” found a dog like ours. However, he stated that the reward we offered was too low and that we should raise it. Our driver said we wanted to see a picture and “the friend” said they would send one. The whole thing sounded shady, but we waited for hours and nothing. Our driver continued to call the number and there was no answer, leading us to believe that it was a scam and they really didn’t have our Bella.

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The flyer we posted everywhere

We continued searching the area by foot and by car and the next day decided to double the reward. We called the number again and when they answered, our driver explained that we did double the reward but we needed a picture or an address of where she was. He said he would relay the message to his “friend” but we didn’t hear from them after that. Our driver called multiple times every day with no answer, until finally the phone was shut off.

So we gave up on the hope that they actually had her and I was back out in the streets, searching for hours every day and putting up new flyers with a newly increased reward. The next night, almost a week after her disappearance, the “friend” suddenly calls back and asks if we’re still giving double the original reward, and if so they will give the address of where she is. We say of course, our driver rushes over with the money at midnight, and it is indeed Bella, looking sad, depressed, and scared. Her belly was distended and she was peeing blood and urine all over the house. The man who had her told our driver that she refused to eat or drink water the entire time she was there.

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The night we got her back. We were so happy.

We took her to the vet and learned that she had a bladder stones, which are made worse by stress, and she would need surgery to remove them or she would likely die within the year. So of course we rush to have the surgery, which was performed last Monday, and the very next night, just like that,  she was gone.

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On the way to the vet for surgery. Now wishing we would’ve waited.

 

She had internal bleeding and her kidney was in bad shape and according to the vet “could not handle the surgery.” While I am upset with the vet for not doing more, because I called and called the emergency number while she was still breathing, and never got a response; I blame the horrible people who took her and held her for almost a week in an attempt to extort us. She was scared and alone, and it clearly manifested itself physically.

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My poor baby after the surgery

I can’t stop thinking about what kind of heartless person would do such a thing, even after we agreed to double the reward. How someone could refuse to answer our calls knowing that there was a loving family desperate to have her back is nothing short of evil. If I ever found someone’s dog I would return it as fast as I could, without a single thought to money.

So now I sit here in a house with 4 screaming kids, yet it’s empty and quiet. I no longer hear the quick little feet running around looking for food, or barking at a noise in the yard because she was our great protector. Her spot on the couch is empty, and I don’t hear the constant yells of “BELLA” bc she’s eaten someone’s cookie or sat in someone’s seat.

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I cry every day, and I try to hide the tears from my kids because I’m supposed to be the strong one, but I’m feeling pretty week right now. My husband is now home so I have someone to lean on, but he was on the road the week it happened and it was such a low point in my life. I have such anger in my  heart, mixed with immense sadness. The anger is directed at the people I feel are responsible, but now all I want to do is leave Formosa, and leave Argentina. I know that Argentina isn’t responsible for my heartbreak, but right now the pain is clouding my judgement.

How do I look past the horrible actions of a few? How do I reflect on my time in a country when something has happened in that country has given me the greatest pain I have felt in many years?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m trying to think of all the people who took our flyers when Bella was missing and taped them to their storefronts, or the vendors who recently saw me walking by and asked me if I found my “perrita” and seemed so genuinely happy for me when I said that I did.

As we look forward to next season, I’m trying to think of the positive from my time here, but the pain I’m feeling is too strong and I feel like I’m done with Argentina. I already spent a good deal of time annoyed at being in a hotel for 6 weeks, and then having a half furnished apartment with no working television or WiFi for so long. My time here hasn’t been great, and this is just the icing on the shitty cake.

So as I wait until the season is over, I have taken to sitting in the backyard every night. Bella would normally be out there with me since she was everywhere I was, but I’ve found one star that shines brighter than the rest and I’ve determined that it’s her, watching over us as she always has. I’m trying to think about all the joy she brought us for the past 4 1/2 years, instead of the anger I feel. Maybe we will end up in Argentina again, but this city holds too much of my pain so this time the anger wins and Formosa has ended up on my very short no-go list.

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She was my little homey

 

 

Can You Survive A Month Without WiFi? I Can’t.

*Updated to add new info*

I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed as I sit with my kids on a park bench across the street from our favorite pizza place, essentially stealing their WiFi. The kids may not look so bad with their tablets and leappads, but I’m perched with my laptop on my legs on a park bench for goodness sake! Who does that? In my defense, the restaurant is closed during the day so I would have gone in if I could. It’s also been 34 days since we’ve had WiFi and the withdrawal symptoms are serious.

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“Borrowing” WiFi on our trusty bench

I’ve come to realize that my dependence on the World Wide Web (as the old folks call it) is nothing short of ridiculous. Social media aside, I’m a hard core googler. I Google everything from stain removal, to world politics, to math problems that I can’t quite help my daughter solve. Being without WiFi has essentially stripped me of my ability to be informed, knowledgeable, and yes social.

Not having WiFi has made me think about how I survived before the internet, WiFi, and smart phones. I know I’m showing my age here, but when I was younger we had AOL with just about the slowest dial up system ever, and it couldn’t be used if someone was on the phone. It was ridiculous. I didn’t have a cell phone but I had a beeper, where I thought it was ingenious and clever to make numbers into words like “hello” and “I love you.” When I went away to boarding school I spent hours reading and writing letters from friends and boyfriends, and although the communication wasn’t instantaneous, it was certainly all I needed.

Now I feel like I’m missing out on so much, like I’m uninformed in a world where information comes at you in 5 minute intervals. We finally have a tv in the house, but there’s only one or two channels that play English language programs and none of the news shows broadcast in English. As a result, I feel like I’m living in a bubble and the world is passing me by. Is WiFi really that important? Maybe not to some people, but when you’re living in a foreign land, with a foreign language, it’s damn important!

I have things that need to be researched and preparations that need to be made for the summer. I’m trying to line up a job, summer camps for the kids, things that really require more than a phone with painfully slow local data coverage. My daughter reads digital books and needs the internet to download them. The younger kids use Abcmouse.com, which really helps to supplement the school work I’ve been doing with them at home. I don’t get them excited about doing work but ABCmouse does and that’s important. I recently learned that ABCmouse actually has some games that can be played without wifi and I’m so wishing I knew this during those agonizing 34 days (those games are ABCmouse Zoo, ABCmouse Music Videos, and ABCmouse Mastering Math).

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Trying to drag her out of the restaurant as she downloads countless books

I also like to stay connected to friends and family, either through Facebook or wireless calling on my phone. When my husband is gone every other week for at least 5 days it gets lonely just having the kids as an outlet. Social media keeps me connected to the world. I enjoy reading the many political posts and the discussions and arguments that play out on my screen. Even though I don’t rely on Facebook as my sole source for news, it often is the first place I find out about something newsworthy. From there I get to googling and can be informed from a number of different perspectives.

That’s just not something I want to do on my phone. My husband doesn’t mind surfing the net on his phone, but it’s something I really dislike. So without my trusty laptop I feel lost in the way of current events, and I feel disconnected from the friends and family that I usually talk to while I’m cooking, walking, or just bored. If I had some WAG friends here it wouldn’t be so bad, but since I don’t I need the net!

It’s also put a wrench in my quest to finally learn Spanish. Half my family speaks Spanish and it’s about time I got it together and became fluent. I had been dedicating an hour or two every day to study using the free online language center Duolingo.com (which is great for most languages btw) and by their calculations I was 37% fluent after a month of study. I’ve never been 37% fluent in anything! I posited that I’d be a native speaker by the time June rolled around. But alas, my language dreams have been crushed. I did pay $15 for a Spanish language phone app, but it’s just not the same.

I’ve concluded that even if I didn’t grow up with the internet and all the glory of WiFi, I sure as hell need it now. The internet age has changed everything — the way we communicate, the way we seek knowledge, the way we read, shop — the list is endless! So while I do admit my dependency, I don’t feel the least bit bad about it and I’ll never take it for granted. I still take walks, and exercise, and play board games with my kids, and talk to my husband. I definitely still stop to smell the flowers, but I need that World Wide Web in my life!

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The kids love their tablets, but they LOVE Uno!

Living That Hotel Life

I used to love the hotel life. The plush, comfy beds. The 24 hour room service. The immaculate cleanliness. I could do little more than go about my day and then come back and revel in my laziness. It was what dreams were made of.

That was back in my Ritz Carlton days, when I used my American Bar Association discount like it was going out of style, had 0-2 children, and never stayed for more than a week.

Oh how the tides have turned because this shit sucks.

I realize that I’ve only been in a hotel this time around for a month, and I know some Wags (mostly in Asia and South America) are forced to live this life ALL SEASON LONG, and boy do I salute you gals, bc this just blows. Why? Let’s see:

(1) We have a dog. Dogs aren’t allowed.

Before we arrived we told the team to make sure they had an apartment ready for us since the hotel where the American players live will probably prohibits dogs. When we arrived at around 2am, after 3 flights and 2 car rides totaling 23 hours, it took us awhile to register that yes, they did in fact bring us to the hotel.

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Our 2am arrival at the hotel

The team said they were looking for an apartment big enough for our brood, so we did our best to hide our little Bella. She rarely barks, is house trained, and we took her wherever we went so we knew she posed no problem.

Somehow I still ended up in an argument with the owner’s wife when she happened upon us coming back from a walk. The argument was entirely in Spanish and I don’t speak Spanish so you can imagine how that went.

Her (frantically pointing at our dog laying in the stroller’s basket): PERRO NO!!!
Me: We told la equipo we had un perro. We’ve already been here with Perro for Cinco dias.
Her: PERRO NO!!!
Me: No lo se what you want me to do. Llame the team. We told them to move us out of here AND you didn’t even know we had un perro until now, cinco dias later.
Her: PERRO NO!!!!! PERRO NO!!! (followed by more yelling that was too fast for me to understand)
Me: No entiende

I want to say that was Spanglish, but it wasn’t. It was just a mess. How could the team not have seen this coming?????

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Who could yell at this face???

(2) We wake up around 10-11am (it’s summer vacation here), at which point breakfast is over. Lunch doesn’t start until 12:30pm so there’s a big gap, but even if we did wake up early enough, breakfast here consists of croissants dipped in sugar, bread, and some fruit soaked in sugar. Not exactly what we’re looking for in our morning fuel. We’re used to having some combination of fresh fruit, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, and maybe some turkey bacon or sausage.

So we can just make it ourselves like normal people right? Well no, not without a stove we can’t. We have a sink, microwave, and a mini fridge.

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Our kitchen/dining room/living room

But it gets worse. Dinner doesn’t start until 8:30 so the kids 9pm bedtime is long gone. After a month I’ve learned that South American time is like CP time. It seems like regardless of when we order our food (which we go upstairs to order and go upstairs to pick up) the kid’s aren’t asleep before 11pm most nights, sometimes later.

(3) It’s rare in Europe, let alone South America, for hotels to have rooms big enough to accommodate a family of 6. In this case they tried, but ultimately failed. They gave us two two-bedroom suites. Adjoining rooms? Of course not. They are next door to each other, but one of the suites is essentially useless. We’re not really ready to send half the kids to what amounts to their own apartment where they can do as they please with no supervision. So we end up with one suite as a huge walk-in closet, 3 kids sharing a room, and a big baby sleeping between us every night.

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It’s all fun and games until you wake up with an elbow in your eye

(4) I don’t know about my Asian Wags, but here they seem to not want to clean the room on a consistent basis. They also don’t clean thoroughly, so I end up frustrated to no end with the fact that I can’t just clean it myself.

They sweep occasionally, rarely mop, and don’t clean the toilets or showers; they pretty much just make the beds and give us towels and toilet paper. We bought bleach spray and some cleaning wipes just so we don’t descend into filth, but isn’t a perk of being in a hotel that someone would do the basics? I thought I was getting a domestic break! We’ve reached the point where we sneak into the supply closet and borrow the broom or vacuum cleaner just to stay sane.

(5) 4 children + 1 woman + 1 sweaty basketball playing man = loads and loads of laundry and NOWHERE to do it! There is a laundry service on the outside that the hotel coordinates so we gave them two loads of laundry and three days later it was returned with half of my precious lady garments nowhere to be found. The hubs gave them a few more loads before we discovered the heist and we waited more than a week days to get it back. Insane. If my daughter’s blankie (or my son’s) had been in there, all hell would’ve broken loose and remained loose until we got them back .

I’ve since bought detergent and fabric softener and have begun washing the necessaries one by one in the sink, but there are only so many items I can stand to wash this way. Every time I walk by that pile of clothes in the bathroom I die a little inside.

(6) I need a living room. I’m a grown woman with a husband, a gang of kids, and a dog. A living room is pretty much a necessity at this point. Instead, what I have are two separate suites with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 dining rooms, and nary a living room to be found.

So my husband’s dream of lying in bed all day has become my worst nightmare. I’m essentially bedridden for no good reason. I sit in bed and create lesson plans for the kids, correct their homework, surf the web, watch the same 3 English language programs, and sometimes even eat in this modern day torture device. I just want a couch with an end table or two, and a coffee table. Is that too much to ask?

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Holding court with Baby Vuvu, the only thing that’ll keep Anaya on this bed with me

So after 4 weeks of that hotel life I can safely say that I’ve never been more eager to cook and clean in my whole life. My dreams are filled with mops and frying pans. I yearn to boil an egg and to smell the sweet scent of floral scented pine cleaner. A girl can dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade . . . and Then Sip it poolside in sunny South America

I’m a firm believer in Murphy’s Law, where just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. But I am also a believer that when one blessing comes your way many more are to follow.

My husband is such a great player and great leader and he gives his all on the court. He respects his teammates and coaches, and truly loves the game. So when it’s months into the season and he is without a team and still fielding crappy offers, I get angry and beyond frustrated. It’s not fair I tell myself and him. I know of so many hotheads, guys with no respect, guys who don’t match my husband’s skill or integrity, with better offers and in better situations. Then I step back and I remember that God has a plan. He knows what he’s doing and we must be patient because that job we thought we wanted might have put us in a bad situation. That team that we had a bad feeling about and didn’t sign with might be having money problems or management problems or something else that would’ve put us in a bad way.

So we waited and we signed with a team that was family friendly and in a safe and relatively stable country (not many countries, including the US, are even really stable anymore).  My husband is averaging 18 and 10 and he’s on the leader board in 3 categories. He has a renewed spirit. I can’t say he ever lost it, but I can see that he walks with an extra pep in his step. He is no longer the Vet that should soon think about his options after basketball, but is instead the play maker who can almost guarantee a double-double every game. We’ve now received offers from teams in multiple countries, trying to get him to jump ship once they’ve seen the numbers he’s putting up. We are happy where we are, but it’s amazing to see and makes it all worth it.

And me? I speak very little Spanish but I’m still sitting pool side with my fellow Argentinean wives, none of whom speak English, and we spend our days watching our kids splash around, while trying to communicate and learn from one other. I take the kids out to explore our city. . . the hood, the center, the waterfront. We sweat it out in 100 degree weather and then we come home where I try my best to home school them, since schools here are out for summer vacation. They have a whole new country and culture to explore and it’s pretty amazing to watch a new journey begin.

These are our first impressions.

The first home game

The view from our hotel. Who knows when they’ll move us to our apartment!

During siesta from 12pm-5pm the streets are deserted, like a ghost town!

Taking it all in

The waterfront gives the only breeze in town

True water babies

❤ ❤ ❤

Celebrating my birthday at Rock House, a big indoor/outdoor clubb

My Plea to the Overseas Baller: Know Your Worth

As I sit here alone, waiting for my two oldest to get out of the school we were forced to put them in, I’m thinking about how much I miss my husband and how I wish the game weren’t changing as much as it has. He’s gone to Uruguay to play in a month long tournament because the offers, for the second year in a row, have been lacking.

Each year the offers seem to get worse, with only the undesirable countries offering the money we want. They do not, however, offer the lifestyle we need to be comfortable as a family. Offers from Venezuela come with big money, but also political strife that can affect our day to day lives. The shortages of food and basic necessities are so great that you may find yourself without milk or eggs, which is clearly not an option when small children are involved. Small town teams in Turkey and Germany would have left us in the middle of nowhere, with little access to schools or much else, and virtually unable to function when the team is away. Offers from the Middle East do often come with good money, but are either too unstable for our liking or aren’t interested in accommodating such a large family. We even briefly considered an offer in Poland, but ultimately did not want to enter a whole new market where we would be forced to learn yet another language. The kids have already learned, and nearly forgotten, three languages, so a forth at this point seems a bit much.

One might say that beggars can’t be choosers, but having lived this life for 9 years now, we have a clear sense of what we need in order to make this lifestyle work for us. It certainly isn’t all about the money, though it surely helps. We live this life because my husband has a passion for basketball and he’s an amazing player, so we as a family support him for as long as he’s able and willing to play. Many families do support their men from home, which I did do for two years, but we’ve learned that we are stronger when we’re together so that’s the choice we’ve made.

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I do love watching him play, but we’ll have to wait for the moment

The problem is that the overseas basketball market has changed drastically in the past few years. While it has always been more of a buyer’s market because the pool of available players will always be larger than the available contracts, the market has gotten increasingly tough for players as of late. The average high-profile player (those coming from a big Division 1 school, nearly drafted, or having spent time in the D-League) generally spends their summer training and fielding offers for the next season. Offers are leveraged against one another, and negotiations are had for extra plane tickets, baggage allowances, tuition for school, pretty much anything important to that particular player.

But oh how the tides have turned. The struggling European economy is at the forefront of this downward trend. Overseas teams live and die by their sponsors, and when those sponsors hit a rough patch their priorities turn to saving their own hides. I’m not an economist, but you don’t have to be to understand that a for-profit company will always put their profit margins above all else. So the sponsors, who range from clothing companies and car manufacturers to oil and gas conglomerates, will always tend to their businesses first. As a result, team budgets decrease, players and team employees are paid late, and the teams affected turn from finding the best players they can get, to finding the cheapest players for any given position.

Even the teams who remain relatively unscathed by the economic crisis do take advantage of it. They know that some teams who previously could offer hundreds of thousands in salary can now offer only a fraction of that. So they use that to their advantage, knowing that much of the players leverage is gone. If a team has a budget of $180k for a position, they may offer $100k and say take it or leave it. No negotiations, no extra amenities to make up for the low-balled offer; nothing but the offer and threat of a younger player waiting to snatch whatever you don’t take.

This is not to blame the rookies and younger players, but because many don’t know enough about the market, their acceptance of these low salaries help to bring market rates down across the board. Teams grab these players when they’re at their most vulnerable, usually after being released from an NBA team. They know these players are eager to play on a professional level so they offer the bare minimum. For the players part, if their choice is between a D-League salary of between $15k-25k per season, and an overseas salary of $60k plus an apartment and car, they often take the overseas offer, not knowing the contract should be upwards of 100k. As a result, veteran players are put in a position to compete with young guys willing to take less than half of what the contract is worth. It’s an ugly business and it appears to be getting uglier. I know countless families forced to take massive pay cuts just to remain in their country of choice. Others, like us, wait for better. We hope and we pray that a team wants him enough to pay what he’s worth, but either way, it’s a terrible choice to have to make.

So this is my plea to the young and eager baller: Make sure you have an agent who knows his or her stuff and is familiar with the markets you’re considering entering. If you don’t have an agent, get one; ask around and find someone who’s looking out for your interests, and not the team’s. Talk to as many players as you can, asking what they make (as well as if the team pays on time), or if they know what a certain team has paid players in the past. Better yet, if you have a woman by your side, have her ask around because we’re just better at that. The wealth of information the wives have and share with each other is priceless, so take advantage of her connections and put her to work. Don’t take the first offer you get, and definitely don’t be afraid to negotiate. At worst they say no, but at best they realize you are no idiot and won’t stand for their subpar offers. If enough young players start doing these basic things we can get back to a time when players earned what they have proven they are worth, instead of merely being seen as cheap labor for these million dollar clubs.

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Being home to see these kids enjoying an American Halloween is a major positive. The glass is always full!

WAG Life: Perception Vs Reality

I’ve never given much thought to the term WAG, which simply stands for wives and girlfriends, and is mostly used in sports circles. I happen to be married to an athlete and therefore became a WAG, but I never thought it had negative connotations until fairly recently. Fellow wives and girlfriends would use the term when discussing things that many outside of our circles wouldn’t understand; things like coping with extended road games or training camp, the constant moving and changing teams, dealing with fans, or the excitement of game day. In these and countless other situations a big shout of “WAG life!” would be understood by all of us, whether good or bad.

Sadly, I’ve seen the tide turn, starting with the Basketball Wives franchise, where these basketball wives in particular were portrayed as materialistic, petty, bitchy gold diggers with not much going on for themselves. I remember the time a few years ago when a woman approached me on the streets of NYC and said that I looked like Evelyn Lozada from Basketball Wives Miami. When I gave her the side eye (because it’s just not true) she said she meant it as a compliment because I looked like a basketball wife. Now I’m sure she did mean it as a complement, but the basketball wives being portrayed were so far from how I see myself that I was offended that she somehow saw me and thought I fit the part as a shallow and materialistic opportunist. And now with this new WAG show on E! I could just about faint with all the stereotypes in one place, complete with the use of terms like “Head WAG in charge” and the statement “Millions of women want your man, it’s like a war zone.” I just can’t.

They shop all day, primp all night, they argue about WAG hierarchy, and they fight with each other in public. They are the epitome of catty and superficial and that’s just from the preview! It is reality television so we all know it’s not exactly quality programming, but they really had to go find the worst of the worst kind of boastful and egotistical women to pass off as the norm for this lifestyle.

Wag life according to E!

WAG life according to E!

At this point in my life I’ve lived in 6 countries and met many wives and girlfriends, from the NBA and overseas, and the vast majority are successful and accomplished in their own right and not at all the catty mess we see on these shows. I haven’t met a single woman who was there for the money or shoes, or whatever other garbage we’re supposed to be here for. I’m talking lawyers, accountants, teachers, physical therapists, business owners, athletes, you name it. These are women who when I say “hold things down” for their men, do so by lending emotional and spiritual support, and by taking care of their families; not by putting all of their energy into their appearance in an effort to stop their men from cheating on them, while engaging in jr high school battles in an effort to one-up each other.

It is a sad depiction of the life, and one that gives me pause when I use the term WAG to describe myself. The friendships I have made over the years have been based on our shared and unique experiences, and our love for our families and our men. We don’t fight in clubs over nonsense and we don’t argue over who’s in charge of our group of friends. The statement by one of the WAGS on the show, “Know your place in the hierarchy. There are rules” literally makes me want to gag. I’m not about that life, and I don’t know any WAGS who are.

Some will say there is a difference between the NBA WAGS and overseas WAGS and I say of course. There is generally more money and more fame, but that doesn’t mean the NBA WAGS are the living depiction of video girls, with big booties and no brains. It’s insulting and so beyond the reality that most of these families live. Of course you have your share of players (mostly young and dumb) who feel like the stripper or Instagram model is what they need to show that they’ve made it, but that’s not exclusive to the league, the NFL, or any major sport. It’s just that as professional athletes these men have much more access to the unsavory and thirsty characters; but it is by no means the norm.

At the end of the day I know that I should care less what people think of me or anyone in my situation, but oftentimes perception is reality and I’m only human. I would hate for people to think that instead of the accomplished and smart woman that I see in the mirror, they instead see a self obsessed, insecure woman who is entirely dependent on her man. So as tempting as train wrecks are, I hope to resist the urge to watch this sad depiction of women. I blame the E! Network for putting this garbage out there, but I also blame the women who allow themselves to be depicted in this way. They can’t possibly be proud to have their children see the cat fights, the shallowness, and the insecurity they display. There is nothing enviable about these WAGS and I can only hope that they are putting on an act for the cameras. I will remind myself how normal and down to earth the wives and girlfriends I know are, and I’ll hope that people see through the smoke and mirrors. If not, I’ll have to let that word go.

WAG life according to me

WAG life according to me

Rushed Packing and Lazy Parenting

So what I should be doing right now is packing. My husband and I are one of those couples who always try our best to start packing up early, so that we can chill and not stress before we fly. The reality is that we stay up all night the night before without fail, and still end up furiously rushing to get out the door without leaving anything behind. We’re sweating, we’re yelling, we’re throwing things, it’s ugly. When you’re packing for 6 people and a dog, there’s always something in need of a place to go, and there never seems to be a place to put it.  We usually travel with 10 bags, 5 carry-on’s, and pack up 10 boxes that stay in international storage. The house looks like a war zone and I’m lucky I can even find the kids in the mess.

Can you find the baby in there?

Can you find the baby in there?

To add insult to injury, we’re also expected to parent during this time. I recently read an article about a mom, quite like myself, who was on her last legs at this point in the year. She was limping across the end of year finish line, much like I am right now. I can barely remember to make the kids lunches, and that’s if I don’t sleep through my alarm in the first place. I can only do so much. I have become a lazy parent.

Like today. It’s the last Saturday we have until we leave. We were up until 5am packing up the kids clothes, toys, the kitchen, and the million living room doodads we’ve acquired in our travels. Instead of sleeping in to energize for another long night of packing, it’s 9am and we’re sitting at the kids school because they decided that of all days, today was the perfect day for their annual “Fancy Fair,” an all day party and talent show of sorts, with one performance after another, seemingly in perpetuity. As if my presence wasn’t enough, I also had to bake 3 batches of peanut butter cookies for this all day fete. Someone has apparently mistaken me for one of those organized, has it all together moms, which I am not.

Baking cookies at 4am is no bueno

Baking cookies at 4am is no bueno

Having 3 children in school ensures that our presence is required all day long, to our delight of course. So instead of using the time to pack and organize, we’re watching one child perform at 10am, the other at 11:30am, and the last at 4:30pm. I would probably be a bad mom if I said that was a complete waste of a day, so I won’t say that. I’ll move on. My kiddies looked adorable during their one minute performances, and people apparently loved the cookies (which were forgotten at home by the way, further evidence that I shouldn’t be asked to parent on a Saturday morning in May, while moving).

This is apparently how the other parents get through the day. At 10am.

This is apparently how the other parents get through the day. These pictures were taken at 10am folks.

Waiting for daddy to get the cookies that mommy forgot

Waiting for daddy to get the cookies that mommy forgot

Shouldn’t we be exempt from these obligatory parenting duties when there’s so much else to do. Is there no rule on that for those of us packing up and crossing oceans each year? There should be. I think when May hits teachers should forgive that homework isn’t always checked, and sometimes forgotten all together, the money required for the field trip will be sent in eventually, and the random French forms requiring parental signatures may never be found. Packing and moving are stressful and having young children in school is stressful. Baking cookies at 4am and standing around all day with drunk parents and their kids is not what I need to be doing.

My dream is to have the house packed by Monday, with all boxes to storage and all bags weighing just under 23 kilos, so that we can all be in bed nice and early on Tuesday, and awake refreshed and ready for a relaxing trip home with 4 perfectly behaved children. A girl can dream, right?

It's all for the kiddies, right? Look at those smiles!

It’s all for the kiddies, right? Look at those smiles!