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!

How Long Can I Last on the Dukan Diet???

I used to be one of those women who could eat whatever I wanted and not gain a pound. I’ve never been on a real diet and I never thought I would need to. My secret is the worst kept secret around. I work out. I eat fried chicken. I run. Nutter butters. Run. Buffalo wings, waffle fries, cheese doodles. Run, run, stairmaster, weights, run. This has worked pretty well my whole life, more so in my track days, but it’s been a win nonetheless. Even after one, two, and three kids. The 4th child, however, has broken me. No longer can I taste the delicious bits of frozen heaven that is Haagen Dazs salted caramel ice cream without immediately feeling heavy, and no sooner does a guacamole laden burrito hit my tongue, do I feel the pounds setting up shop.

So here I sit, 9 months post baby, when I’ve usually lost all or most of my baby weight, carrying a full 15 extra pounds. The “don’t worry, you look good for four kids” doesn’t help when more than half of my jeans don’t fit and I realize that the majority of my wardrobe is made up of mini skirts, short shorts, and tight dresses. So as bikini season rolls near I start to panic because that means I can no longer use the excuse “I’m not fat, I’m pregnant.” To make matters worse, I have a friend’s beach wedding to attend in about 6 weeks so I need to get it together quickly.

So in walks a fellow basketball wife (we’ll call her Franalicious) who wants to lose some weight herself and swears by the Dukan diet whenever she has a little chubb to lose. I figured what else do I have to do out here on these rainy Belgian days but commit to a diet and see if it can jump start this whole beach body thing.

So, as if this were my worst nightmare, I find out this diet is pretty much a pure protein diet, at least in the beginning. You start with 5-7 days of whatever lean meats you want, but nothing else, aside from a little fat free milk or yogurt, and oat bran. Coming from the vantage point of a person who doesn’t eat any red meat or pork, and who dislikes most chicken that’s not buffaloed, this seems like torture. You’re supposed to lose between 2 and 8 pounds in this phase though, and Fran swears by it, so I give it a go.

The next phase allows you to introduce veggies in limited quantities, so 3 days only protein, 4 days veggie and protein. Not every veggie, but you can choose from 32 allowed vegetables (of course, the very reason I get out of bed in the morning, avocado, is not on the list). You continue in this phase until you reach your target weight, which for me says will be on June 8th, more than a month away! This phase you should be losing about 1 pound for every 3 days. The third phase allows you to slowly introduce forbidden foods back into your diet in limited quantities, as long as you put aside one day every week as pure protein. The fourth phase is similar to the third and should be followed for life.

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I can’t even eat this stuff until the next phase!

Let me just say, this is not an easy diet for a non meat lover like myself. However, my husband said if he ever needed to lose weight this would be a great diet for him because he loves meat and you can pretty much eat as much meat as you want. You also can’t have alcohol and I enjoy my nightly glass of wine so this is where I cheat. I have cut my consumption though and only imbibe a few times a week. Sugar and fruit are also big loves for me, and you aren’t allowed any, so that’s been extra hard but I haven’t cheated there.

This is also not a good diet if you work out. Without carbs I’ve been weak as hell. The diet only calls for a 20 minute walk per day, so the three runs I took that first week were the worst I’ve had in awhile. I also went back to a Body Attack class with another wife, for the first time since we returned from our Italy trip and started this diet. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. We tried to hide in the back but the instructor still managed to scream at us in French. It was ugly. I don’t even like carbs like that, but I’m realizing I need them.

So we’re now a few days short of two weeks and I must say I’m on the verge of giving up. I just don’t do well with food deprivation, and I need to see amazing results if I’m going to suffer. I lost 5 pounds in the first 5 days, which was awesome, but that’s been it. Once I introduced vegetables it was wrap for the weight-loss. I lost 1 more pound and then quickly gained it back so I’m holding firm at 5. It’s better than nothing but I need to see some more results or the fruit and nutter butters are back in rotation. What’s keeping me going for now is the fact that some of my stomach pooch has gone away, which hadn’t with exercise and portion control alone. Hopefully me and Dukan can keep it together, and when I update in a few weeks I’ll be slim and lean, instead of angry and weak!

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5 pounds down

Is All Hope for Humanity Lost or Am I Just a Crybaby?

If anyone follows me regularly they will have learned that I write about the good, bad, and funny things that happen while living overseas.

But recently, in light of the tragic crash of the Germanwings Flight 9525, my mind has been elsewhere.

I’ve always felt that I was a strong, smart, and almost unemotional kind of person. One who can handle anything thrown my way, deal with adversity, drama, or stress, and do it all with a smile on my face. I have an uncanny ability to see through bullshit and I am not easily rattled, whether by the screaming tantrums of my children, or those of adults. I’m a cool, calm, and collected Capricorn. This is the woman who jumped out of a plane in South Africa! I am fearless!

However, that same woman has now spent about 6 days sitting on my couch crying because of this plane crash. I’ve randomly burst into tears, and I’ve had conversations with my husband that end before they start because I’m looking past  him at the television thinking of all those innocent people who lost their lives because some asshole felt that was the day he should die.

It doesn’t help that CNN is our only English speaking channel. And my French isn’t yet good enough to switch to our French satellite channels. So I stare at the television and I think of the many flights I take with my family every year. We fly from the states to our European home for the year, and then back at the end of the season. We sometimes take a trip home mid season. We also take at least one flight within Europe during the season. Last year we chose Barcelona.

We took a short 2 hour flight from Istanbul and thought nothing of such a quick trip. I used to clap upon landing on all flights, as a way to show gratitude towards the pilots and crew for delivering us safely to our destination. Now that I’ve taken so many flights I tend to only clap at the conclusion of a long haul flight, 9 hours or more. What could possibly happen during these quick trips I take all the time? I tell myself that I’m an expert traveler. I tell myself that the odds of dying in a plane crash are far less likely than dying in a car accident. I’m even more likely to die by lightning than in a plane crash! So why are 150 people dead just one year after my equally short trip from Barcelona?

How do we as humans deal with such tragedy? How do we understand the depravity and despair felt by some of our fellow men and women? How do we reconcile the needs of mental illness with the anger and sadness that fester when so many lives are taken so tragically? Could this have been prevented? Could the Ebola crisis have been prevented? What about the refugees dying in the Mediterranean Ocean? The women being raped in India daily? The war in Syria? Ukraine?

My thoughts are really a hodgepodge of the constant media blitz I’m subjected to each day. Every morning I look at my Facebook feed and it’s a compilation of the worst of humanity. How many times can I read an article detailing the latest unarmed Black teenager killed for merely existing? The 3 year old beaten to death for wetting the bed. The 12 year old bullied to death. The blatant and unapologetic racism embedded into so much of our society.  It wears on my soul to read about the depravity some people feel towards their fellow man. Then I turn on the television and am bombarded with the constant and seemingly endless loop of what Boka Haram did, what ISIS did, and what dumb ass Ted Cruz said today.

It’s exhausting really. I should just turn off the television, so CNN wouldn’t be able to hit me so hard with all the world’s troubles. The past few years overseas we’ve had great satellite tv and I was able to escape reality by watching things like Fashion Police, Big Bang Theory, and never ending Friends re-runs. You know, real TV! The kind of TV that makes you forget, even for a moment, that wars are going on. The kind of TV that makes you feel like your life is over when your favorite character gets killed off or your favorite couple breaks up. The kind of fantasy land where teenagers and babies and people just trying to live their lives aren’t sacrificed because someone had a bad day/week/month/life.

I’m blessed to travel the world, and my children are lucky to live and be educated in so many different countries. We are exposed to so much of the awesomeness this world has to offer. I won’t change the way we live our lives, but I will pray a bit more. I will pray for those lost souls on that doomed flight. I will pray that the grieving families will be able to feel the love, support, and prayers from people all over the world, and that it will provide them an extra layer of comfort. But most of all I will pray for humanity. And yes, I’m sure that I will also cry a bit more.

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Read Your Contracts and Avoid the Groupies: My Advice for the Overseas Baller

This is by no means my Shonda Rhimes version of how to get away with bad behavior. But I have spent 8 years observing the good and bad of this lifestyle and I’ve given the side eye countless times. Many times I’ve wanted to offer my opinion because, well, I’m just that helpful (or possibly nosy) but I have learned to mind my business. I’ve  seen mistakes made that were certainly avoidable, and I’ve seen good people taken advantage of. I have also learned a good deal myself, some of it the hard way, and it would have been nice for us to have had some tips from those in the know. So from personal experience and my general observations, here is my unsolicited advice for the young overseas player.

  • Don’t fall for every pretty woman with an accent. There is such a thing as a European groupie. They may not be as obvious as your standard NBA groupie, but they are certainly just as ruthless (Don’t get me started on the stories I’ve heard about groupies in Russia for instance). Being an American and a basketball player is a big draw for some women, and many of their intentions are less than noble. Some want the money, some want that ticket to the United States, and others want the notoriety they perceive will come from becoming a basketball wife. Now, my American father met my Finnish mother when he was stationed in Germany while in the army, so understand there is nothing wrong with finding a woman in whatever country you’re in. I know multiple players that have fallen in love with amazing women overseas. But make no mistake, groupies come in all shapes and sizes, so don’t be fooled into thinking that friendly woman at the game, with her adorable accent, who offers to “help” with translations isn’t just (insert country here)’s version of your standard groupie hoping to catch a baller.

 

  • Along the same vein, please don’t disrespect the woman you love, if you have one, by flying in hoards of women from different area codes and country codes or gallivanting around town with local women. It is inevitable that not every girlfriend/fiance/wife can travel with you abroad each year, but please, don’t start living the single life just because you’re far enough away to potentially get away with it. It embarrasses that loyal woman and makes you look like an asshole. The other WAGs will notice and talk and that behavior will follow you for all your years. If you’re bored, read a book.

 

I thought this was hilarious and would definitely be me

I thought this was hilarious and would definitely be me

 

  • Please do try to learn a little of the language. I have met very few players and wives who are fluent in the language of their playing countries, with the wives usually knowing more, but a little effort goes a long way. Those few words and phrases you do learn will be helpful to you in maneuvering throughout the day. It will also go a long way in fostering some goodwill with the people there. In many countries most people will try to work with you and the language barrier, but in some places, such as Italy and France for example, many people will be downright rude and refuse to help if you’re not speaking the language.

 

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Thankful to have found an English speaking tour guide during our trip to Bethlehem, Palestine

 

  • Travel! Don’t just go from your apartment to practice, and from practice to your apartment. Take advantage of that one day off a week and see some sights and explore. Not many Americans have the opportunity to see the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, or the Dead Sea without spending crap loads of money. You have these sights in your backyard and it would be a shame to not take advantage of it.

 

Visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

Lake Como, Italy, circa 2007

Lake Como, Italy, circa 2007

 

  • Get a good financial planner and tax preparer who understand the tax credits and special rules for Americans working overseas. Make sure they stay on top of the team for important documents that you will need in order to file. Teams aren’t always so willing to produce these documents, either from sheer laziness or because it will impact their bottom line.

 

  • You know who can and should help with this? Your agent! Make sure you have a good agent who understands your needs and truly works for you. Not all agents are created equally, and not all agents are willing to put in the work necessary when dealing with foreign clubs. There is no need to stick with an agent who isn’t getting you what you want and deserve out of some blind sense of loyalty. Your agent may be brilliant in his or her dealings within the NBA, but unfamiliar, and therefore inadequate in their representation of you with overseas clubs. I’ll go into this more in another post, but for now just make sure you’re with your agent because they are actually putting in good work for you, and not because they sold you a dream in college

 

  • While it may seem uncouth in other professions to talk about contract details, I suggest you do talk about these things with other players. There are things we never even thought to ask for in our contracts that other players were asking for, like baggage allowance while flying and tuition for schools. I only learned of many of these things by speaking with other WAGs. Depending on the team budget and how willing they are to work with you, you can have almost anything you might need provided for. You’ll already have an apartment and a car, but you can specify a minimum number of bedrooms, pet requirements, etc. You can also ask for baby accessories like cribs, high chairs, and car seats, plane tickets for your family/friends, with options for business class seats depending on the number of tickets, and other amenities that will make you comfortable in your new country. Things like washers, dryers, and dishwashers may seem standard to some, but in many countries they are not, and if you don’t include it in your contract, you may have a hard time convincing a club to provide one.

 

One of the nicer places we've lived, in Izmir, Turkey, and the only place we've had a pool

One of the nicer places we’ve lived, in Izmir, Turkey, and the only place we’ve had a pool

 

  • Read, re-read, and understand your contract. Your contract may say that it is fully guaranteed for the length of the season, it could be partially guaranteed, it may give options. Understand the terms and what could possibly violate the contract. Many of these overseas teams don’t mess around with money, and if they’re giving you hundreds of thousands of dollars and don’t feel like you are performing to their standards, they will find every loophole available to them, even creating terms and conditions if they can. Make sure you have that great agent/lawyer on hand to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of. Also, have any vitamins or supplements you are taking cleared with the team because if you fail doping because of them, you are going home.

 

  • Lastly, and somewhat randomly, get a proper converter for your clippers before you leave the US. You more than likely won’t be able to find a good barber and if you don’t have a good converter you will destroy your precious clippers and you’ll be pissed. The same is true for your woman’s curling iron/flat iron.

 

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So there you have it, my unsolicited hodgepodge of advice. No one asked for it but I hope it helps nonetheless!

The Perfect Family Photo

Whenever I see family portraits, whether in a studio or on location somewhere, I can’t help but be a bit envious. Growing up I had never taken one. We just weren’t that kind of family. I always felt that family portraits were reserved for perfect families, and since we were far from it, I don’t know that it was ever even considered.

Years later, as a full fledged grownup with a family of my own, the hubby and I spent just about every year since the birth of our first child 9 years ago (!) discussing how we would have family pictures taken soon. Year after year and child after child we would continue to discuss when and where we’d have these pictures taken, only to become too busy with life.

One year when we were living in Turkey we had to have passport pictures taken for our resident permits. The man in the studio said he wanted to give us a gift and ushered us all into the studio together and gifted us with our very first family portrait. I was so touched, even though we were far from the matching, prepared family I had always expected we’d be. I also have a slightly bewildered look on my face, almost unsure of how to take a professional family portrait. Let’s add in my son’s mischievous, cute yet bad boy, look and it was not quite what I had envisioned. Nonetheless, I put the picture in a frame and have cherished it as all we had of the family portrait I had been chasing for years.

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Some more years went by, and upon having what would be the absolute last and for sure final child we’d have, we decided now would be when we finally get to romp through a field, taking hundreds of pictures as so many perfect families had done for years. So we found a great photographer (http://www.diegomolinaphoto.com) and set out to Central Park for my dream pictures!

Although this was New York City in November, it had been in the 60s in the days leading up to our romp in the park. Of course that day the temperature dropped to the low 40s (only to rise again the very next day of course). It didn’t matter too much because hubby and I were just happy to finally get our pictures, and the kids reveled in having their picture taken over and over. Well let’s say the two older ones did. Our 3-month old couldn’t be bothered, and our 2-year old was about 2 hours past nap time and beyond cranky. I thought it was fitting though, being as he is a fairly cranky child in general so it was an accurate representation of all of our personalities.

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So now that my professional portrait virginity has been taken, I will definitely ensure that we continue the tradition of yearly family photos. Imperfections and all.

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One Year Later and the Curls are Back

A little over a year ago I stood crying in my shower in Turkey, having been forced to cut off most of my hair. I still shudder at the thought. I had my very first summer weave (as I like to call it) and had to take it out without the expertise of my stylist sister-in-law. I royally screwed it up and was left with a rat’s nest of a hair cut.

This was what I was left with

This was what I was left with

Today, I’m practically skipping with every step because I have successfully taken out my latest weave and I still have hair!

I read countless articles about the step by step process for taking the extensions out, and my husband even made an emergency call to my sister in law to make sure I was doing it right. I was to comb and detangle before washing, first with a big toothed comb, then a little one. I then had to wash my hair in a downward fashion, and most importantly, not scrub vigorously. That’s what did me in before. I was so excited to be able to wash my hair in its entirety that I scrubbed and scrubbed and it felt so good, until I felt the dreadlocks forming of course.

This time I took it easy and scrubbed ever so gently. It took me 3 days of washing to really feel like my hair was clean but boy do I feel like a new woman now.  I actually found out that I could have had my hair re-done out here because there is a pretty large African population in Belgium and therefore a good number of African hair salon’s. I decided against it, because for one, I’m scared they might mess it up or make me look crazy. I also just wanted to see how my hair looked and if it was in better shape than the sad mess that it was at this time last year.

My curls are back and I have enough hair for an afro puff again!

My curls are back and I have enough hair for an afro puff again!

What I like about having the extensions is that it’s a different look for me and something new, but it’s also a protective style, guaranteeing that I’m not pulling, tugging, blow drying, or curling it, so my hair is able to just be. As a result I now have my curls back and my hair feels healthy and strong. The lazy woman in me is also excited that I don’t have to worry about the rain messing with my hair, since it rains here practically every day. What a difference a year makes!

After a blow dry and DIY hair cut

After a blow dry and DIY hair cut

The Time Change Vortex

So today I caught poop in my hands. Not theoretical poop either (if such a thing exists). But I literally had to catch the poop in my hands. Had I really thought it through, it would have been best to just let it hit the floor and deal with it in one clean swoop. But alas, my lightening quick reflexes kicked in and it was too late. It was on my hands, the wipe I grabbed in my futile attempt to not get it on my hands, the floor, and of course his hands, as he screamed and cried in horror at what he held between his legs and didn’t know what to do with.

He clearly knew what it was though.  Potty training had been pretty successful these past few months. But one thing about the constant travel is the constant upheaval of the life you know, your kids know, and the disruption it causes in your potty training, napping schedules, mealtimes, and general routine. Even without the struggles of jet lag (which I generally escape the wrath of) the time time difference alone can wreak havoc on a family.

The son in question is 2 years and 4 months and we had been having pretty good success with the big boy pull-ups and the lollipop/skittle reward system. He had been telling us when he had to “go potty” as he so eloquently put it and we felt like we were winning as parents. But since we arrived in Belgium it’s been like one step forward and two steps back and we’ve had to way backtrack on the parenting wins.

It took us a few days to buy a potty, we were pretty busy with unpacking and organizing, and the away games were almost immediate so I was spread thin. He reverted to using his pull-up as a pamper and only once in a while said he had to go potty. So we kept him pull-up-less, guaranteeing that he has no choice but to run to the bathroom if he has the urge. It was working fantastically. Until, of course, it wasn’t.

So I share my poopy story, not to gross out or disturb, but to give a glimpse of some of the magical moments, either directly caused by, or made worse by, the time changes and disruptions we go through as a result of our lifestyle.

Sleep schedules are off and the kids are cranky at ridiculous times. Normally they might be cranky at 5pm after a long day, but out here they’re cranky at 10:30 am when they woke up at 10am. It’s like we’re living in some crazy parallel universe where nothing is as it should be. It’s almost funny.

This is the gang, looking beat up, and acting cranky as hell. It’s 11:30am!

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I started documenting the crazy, because, well, what else am I supposed to do when the boys are running around the house at midnight mooning the dog and giggling. Midnight is the new 9pm and there’s not much I can do about it until their bodies adjust.

Most of my battles involve the boys, who share a room, and do what boys do best, play loudly. It’s cute, until they’ve run out of the room 20 times telling on each other about ridiculous things and asking for the 4th and 5th hug and kiss. Tristan, my 2 year old, is always the last kid standing. We’ve wanted to get rid of his pacifier since the summer, but with the recent long flight and the move we’ve decided to let him keep it for now, as it’s the last bargaining chip we have. But even that doesn’t always work when they’re wide awake in the middle of the night.

Here he is trying to sneak back into the living room at midnight.

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This is at 12:30am, with all my threats of taking his pacifier and blankie, having fallen on deaf ears. He looks almost defiant, like “what are you gonna do about it?”

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When I had just about lost it, at 1:30am, he had the nerve to smile at me like he wasn’t acting completely bonkers.

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He finally gave in at around 2am. I could finally relax with a glass of wine and the girls of Lipstick Alley. Or I could pass out from sheer exhaustion, which is what happened.

The next night it was much of the same, but worse. There was fighting, screaming, and a barrage of “MOMMY!!!!!!” over and over again. I eventually had to separate the boys and take away the pacifier and blankie and this was the result. All while I attempted to finally sit down for dinner. At 11:30pm.

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As I sat down to write this tonight, I had to take a million breaks because they were up to the same shenanigans. The hubby is in France for an away game so I think they know that there’s strength in numbers and that I’m a lone wolf right now. After another lengthy battle, I finally think I’ve gotten them all to bed when I hear the sound of a toy car rumbling in the hallway and turn around to find this.

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I’m not sure what 2 year old thinks it’s okay to just hang out in the hallway at midnight playing with cars, and not even trying to hide it since I’m right here!

But not to be left out, I go to check on my 8 year old after practically dragging Tristan to bed, and she has clearly taken advantage of the whole ‘flying under the radar’ thing.

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I told her she could read for 15 minutes an hour ago! Her excuse? She’s just not tired.

So the moral of this story is that time changes are a bitch. Also, big boy beds are overrated.

 

In The Blink Of An Eye

It was just last week when I wrote of my frustration at my husband not being signed yet. But this business moves fast and within a few days, sometimes hours, of entering negotiations with a team, you’re expected to drop it all and hightail it to the next location.

As was the case with us. Monday we had a contract and Tuesday we were on a plane to Charleroi, Belgium. It’s great to finally get an offer you like, but it’s an entirely different thing to have 24 hours to run all the necessary errands and pack up your life. It’s like you’re ready and waiting, but really you’re not. Especially a few days before Thanksgiving, when my husband had taken 3 of the kiddies to Boston and I was to meet him with the baby a few days later. We were about to spend the first Thanksgiving in the states in years. Instead I’m running to the pediatrician, the vet, and everywhere else and he’s rushing back to NY because those 24 hours fly by. We were thankful above all else, but super stressful nonetheless.

You would think that we’d be expert packers at this point, but we are constantly undershooting how much stuff we have and end up pulling all nighters and then still end up running around like crazy chickens in the hours leading up to the flight.

Our heavy load

Our heavy load

It’s now Wednesday and we’ve arrived safely in Belgium. It’s 1pm here (6am at home) so by my calculations I’ve now been up for 43 straight hours. I look and feel like holy hell. This was not helped by the fact that we flew an unfamiliar airline, who said on the phone that my 10 lb dog could travel in the cabin with us, but when we arrived at the airport, said she could not. Unless I could prove to have enough emotional problems to necessitate a service dog certificate, she would have to be carried in cargo, which she has never experienced before. So what does any grown woman, wife, and mother of four, with a law degree no less, do? I break down in tears of course. Like real balling tears. It was not a pretty sight and I knew the lack of sleep was doing something deep.

At this point our flight is boarding so we attempt to hurry through security with our gang of 6. But have you ever tried to hurry through security with 6 people? Not happening. I of course was pulled aside and tested for explosives, because either I looked to be the type to carry a bomb in my baby bjorn, or Anaya was looking extra suspicious. They also had to take apart our bags and individually test everything from the baby water to the spices. We made the flight just in the nick of time, but let me say that I look and feel like shit. My skin is pale, my eyes are glazed over and barely open, and I don’t know where I packed my comb so I legit haven’t combed my hair in two days.

I've seen better days and she clearly feels my pain

I’ve seen better days and she cleary feels my pain

With all that said, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have enjoyed being able to watch my fav shows Scandal, Shark Tank, and The Good Wife in real time (and yes I’ll admit, everyone’s favorite ratchet mess, Love and Hip Hop), but the reality is that I would rather be out there in the world, supporting my husband and discovering new lands. So although this has been a rough 48 hours, we’re blessed to be on the road again.

The Longest Summer

Early summer is a magical, yet slightly annoying, time for us. I’m excited to go home after what would have been a long season abroad, especially with no visits home. It’s also the beginning of contract season. If you aren’t lucky to be in the middle of a multi-year contract, you’ll undoubtedly spend the majority of the summer going back and forth with your agent and various teams, who have expressed varying degrees of interest.

It can be an exciting time if the right team puts the right offer on the table, but it’s generally a process that keeps me, and most WAGS I know, in a constant state of edge. Every time an offer is on the table I spend days researching the city, schools, quality of life, and if things don’t work out with that team, I move on to the next and spend countless hours wondering where we’ll be a few months down the road. Now that we’re a family of 6, there’s a lot to consider.

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Big sis enjoying the newest addition

Over the years, I’ve had countless people tell me they envy my life. Apparently I lead a charmed life. The travel. The exotic locales. The adventure of it all. The life of an overseas basketball wife is apparently an exciting and glamorous one. Lest we not forget the endless shopping sprees, VIP treatment, and non-stop jet setting. Basically a 9 month vacation.

If only that were the reality of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, this is no pity party. I have, with the whole family, been able to travel the world, experience multiple cultures in multiple continents, learn a couple of languages (which are then quickly forgotten), and give the gift of open-minded worldliness to my children (made up concept but you know what I mean), which is worth far more than I can really articulate.

With all that said, it’s still not easy and it’s not always pretty. Anyone that knows me knows that I rarely complain. That’s because I have little to complain about. But what people don’t understand is that the lack of complaint does not equate to a perfect and charmed life.

No complaints about this little cutie

No complaints about this little cutie

Living a life overseas is filled with the usual challenges like language barriers, adjusting to different cultures and cultural norms, and being without friends and family to help us navigate it all. You spend months studying language books, trying to find a friend or two, and trying to maneuver through twisty, turny, non-numbered, narrow, and mostly cobblestone streets. Just when you think you’ve mastered the basic phrases in a given language, and made some friends, you end up in new and different country, possibly continent, and have to start the learning process all over again. Considering that we’ve been in 5 countries thus far, that equates to a lot of new beginnings.

There are also challenges specific to basketball itself. When making a decision during contract negotiations, it’s deeper and more complex than who is offering the most money. If you have children, are there adequate schools? Do those schools teach in English? Are you in a safe neighborhood? Not just safe in regards to crime, but not hostile towards Americans and foreigners. If you don’t drive (guilty!) are you able to walk to a grocery store? Or are you shit out of luck if your man and/or driver if you have one, are unavailable.

There’s a lot to consider and the process usually takes a month or two, with the guys reporting for training camp in August. Most seasons start mid to late October, so we are usually long gone by now. We’re still here because the offers this season have all been lacking, either with regards to money or location. We’ve been offered lots of money to play in a few Middle Eastern countries but that’s not somewhere I’m comfortable going with a gang of kids. Don’t get me wrong, there are many Americans, some with families, on teams throughout the Middle East, but we’re intent on staying in the European market. That’s what my husband enjoys and it’s what we’ve become accustomed to.

Other things to consider is the team and their standing. My husband would love to be on a dominant team at the top of the standings, but aside from a few powerful ones, he has mostly played on teams hovering in the middle of the pack and worse. It drives me crazy because in every country we’re in, he’s at the top of the leader board in rebounding and sometimes blocks as well, but if his team isn’t winning then he won’t get picked for the all star game and generally won’t get the recognition he deserves. It turns me into a real hater when he’s averaging 9 or 10 rebounds a game, yet we end up fielding terrible offers. So we wait. We wait for a better offer. A better team. A better location. There’s a fine line between settling for a mediocre offer and being employed, and holding out because you know you deserve more, but then just sitting around playing the waiting game.

We try not to panic since the season has officially started, but this is the longest we’ve ever been here after the summer break and it’s a strange feeling. I tell myself that since we could have taken a million mediocre offers we still have some control over the situation. It’s just frustrating to see the recent changes going on in the overseas market, but that’s another discussion for another day. For now I am grateful for the extra time I’ve been able to spend with my family and friends. We’ve been able to do so many things that we usually don’t have time for, and were actually here to celebrate the first Halloween that our 2 and 4 year old have ever experienced. With all that said, I’m really just hoping and praying that we get out of dodge before the temps reach the freezing mark!

The fabulous 5 (including our super hot dog!)

The fabulous 5 (including our super hot dog)

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There were many days spent playing in Central Park

There were many days spent playing in Central Park

The boys love their airplanes

The boys love their airplanes

So although our summer has been an extra long one, it has at least been an awesome one.

Welcome to the World Baby Anaya!

So I want to say that I’ve had an action packed summer filled with days at the beach and amazing nights out on the town. The truth is, my summer has been spent jetting the kids back and forth from gymnastics camp, various appointments, and other necessary (but not fun for mom and dad) activities. Evenings were spent on Seamless.com deciding which lucky restaurant would be delivering that night’s dinner, and complaining about (1) How fat I was (2) How uncomfortable I was, and some combination of (3) Yelling at my husband about his super sperm and (4) Threatening a world of pain if he didn’t get a vasectomy immediately. Fun times.

I ultimately just wanted to meet my little girl and regain control of my body. The only good thing about having a scheduled C-Section was that there was an actual end point and not some mythical “due date” that always seemed to come and go, as my babies are super lazy and never want to come out when they’re supposed to. So last Friday, July 25th, we welcomed our little girl, Anaya Marika Francis, to the world.

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I had a relatively uneventful delivery and she was born at 39 weeks, weighing 8lbs 8oz and 21 1/2 inches long, by far our smallest baby. The pain from this C-Section was much easier to handle than my last one, probably because this one was not an emergency, but also because they gave me real drugs. Having to handle the pain the last time around in Germany with some measly tylenol was the worst, so I’m grateful for proper meds this time, and great nurses that took such great care of me. Having my first epidural/spinal was definitely the worst part (especially since I’m deathly afraid of needles), and being awake during the whole procedure was a surreal experience.

We delivered at NY Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, which is where I had my oldest son (or would have had him, but for the whole born in the car thing) and I had the same doctor, my favorite doctor by far in life, Dr. Andrea Dobrenis. We stayed for 4 days and had a private room so my husband was able to stay with me and we didn’t irritate anyone with the constant influx of family and friends. My youngest son also turned 2 years old during my stay so we were able to have a proper birthday party for him. It was quite the festive atmosphere.

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When it came time to leave I was presented with the nicest discharge gift I’ve ever seen from a hospital. A bag of Chanel goodies for me and an outfit from Ralph Lauren for the baby. Way to go out with a bang!

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So that was the last birthing experience I will ever have and all in all it was a good experience, considering I wasn’t able to have her naturally. She’s happy and healthy and we couldn’t be anymore blessed than to have our 4 amazing kiddies.

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