Happy Halloween! Clara and Van have been to Boo at the Zoo, their school parties and parades, and it’s finally time for trick or treating. Clara wanted to be a bat again this year, but last year’s bat costume is with our household effects in a warehouse somewhere near Antwerp, and is probably too small anyway, so we had to buy a new one. Van opted for shark. We are well-prepared for a Saturday-night Halloween and have candy for 100+ kids but so far have had exactly one trick-or-treater and they said we were the only house with our light on in the neighborhood. My little shark-bat duo might be walking for their candy tonight.
Categories: Around the house
Unedited video of Clara and Van building a Duplo tower, with narration by Clara. Nothing momentous here aside from 2 minutes of cooperative, nonviolent play but posted anyway for those of you who haven’t seen them in a while. Ignore the mess / wine bottle / Ian’s head in the background.
Categories: Around the house, Quotes
Van adores Clara. The feeling is mutual, of course, but Van is more vocal about his great love for his sister. He’s sad when she gets on the school bus in the morning, and when I pick him up from daycare, he wants to go home to her immediately. When he woke up on Friday, he said, “I had a nice dream. I was sleeping with Clara… and she didn’t wake me up.”
But when they are together, particularly in a small house, they are a constant blur of kicking, tackling, and tickling:
Which results in tears every five minutes or so, and a constant litany of “keep your hands to yourselves!” I can only imagine how horrified people who grew up as only children must be to have multiple children of their own, if this is typical interaction. (And please don’t tell me if it’s only my children.)
Fall in Serbia was beautiful, but there’s just something about fall in the United States. I can’t even claim that it’s the changing leaves, because they’re not changing here yet, but it’s something about the crisp air and the scent of pumpkin spice everywhere that makes fall my favorite season here.
We went camping last weekend (and got lucky with a cool and cloudy but rain-free weekend), apple picking this weekend (in a break from the torrential rains of a nor’easter and Hurricane Joaquin), and have a slate of Renaissance festivals and Halloween festivities lined up for the next three weekends.
Or maybe it’s just the fake fireplace in our living room. I was kind of wondering how it was safe to have fire inside a TV stand but then we turned it on for the first time and realized it’s just a projection of a fire and blowing hot air. Better than nothing, I guess.
We still in transition, and I have to keep reminding myself that we only left Belgrade six weeks ago, because it feels so much longer and I feel like I should feel so much more settled back at “home.” We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.
Finally, it’s back to school time. Clara started first grade, Van started a new preschool, and Ian and I started Spanish class. I’m so curious about every detail of my kids’ days spent away from me – I want to know who they talked to, what they thought, what they learned, what other people thought of them – but I get soooo few details.
Here’s what I know about Clara’s 7 1/2 hours away:
- Her teacher says to put a bubble in your mouth when it’s time to be quiet. (Her class are fishes.) There’s also a chime of some sort that signals it’s time to be quiet.
- There were no seatbelts on the bus, as her friend Catherine told her.
- There were teachers to help her find her classroom, and she got a sticker with her bus number when it was time to come home. (My biggest worry was how she’d find her way to and from the bus in a large school.)
- She did not go to the bathroom at all.
- In PE class, she is supposed to wear shorts or a tennis skirt and tennis shoes, and that when the music is playing she is free to run around.
- They read Boom Chicka Boom.
- She had Spanish class.
- They sang in music class.
- There is only one recess.
- Some kids buy their lunch. The line was not long. She did not eat her applesauce because it did not have cinnamon in it.
- They will share their supplies. (The supply list was crazy, by the way, and I am convinced that some of these supplies don’t exist except in some secret teachers-only catalog. I had to buy from three different sources, and still ended up substitution other brands or sizes for one-third of the items.)
Van loved his first day at a new preschool. He was clingy when we first got there, but five minutes after walking into the classroom had run off with the teacher to see the fish and his new cubby. When I went to pick him up, he was playing kitchen with two girls. (They were the two mommies and he was their kid.) All I got from him (and his teacher) was that he ate (only) his peas, but a fire alarm went off mid-lunch and they had to evacuate; took off his socks because of a bothersome mosquito bite; and played outside.
As for my first day of my fourth language at the State Department’s language school, all I can say is that we did battle with bureaucracy, again. Several orientation meetings, a battery of tests on our learning style, waiting in line to re-activate my email account, waiting in line to renew my ID badge, waiting in line to find out the status of our shipment from Belgrade. The good news is that Ian and I are on opposite schedules, so he starts early, and I start late, which means that we do not need to to scramble to find before or after-school care starting tomorrow. The bad news is that we did not actually learn any Spanish yet.
Summer vacation started in Belgrade, what seems like ages ago, but was really less than three months ago. And today it ends in Arlington, Virginia, with Clara getting ready for first grade tomorrow, Van for his first day in a new daycare, and Ian and I learning Spanish.
It’s been a weird, unsettled kind of summer. First, we were living out of suitcases in Belgrade. Then living out of suitcases in hotel rooms and Grandma’s house, and now living out of suitcases in “our” new house, which is really a temporary rental for 10 months or so. Our shipment (700 pounds of our most important essentials, mostly toys, but also some clothes, camping gear, and kitchen stuff) hasn’t arrived yet, but at this point we’re unpacked and doing just fine without it and don’t know where we’re going to put 700 pounds of stuff in a small apartment with three enormous TVs but no dressers. The kids are sharing a room for the first time, which after some modifications (black-out curtains, moving the beds further apart, white noise) and lots of threatening, seems that it will work out. It has to, after all.
In two weeks of vacation, we managed to get in two minor league baseball games (Go, Doubledays!), two movies (warning: Inside Out is not a good movie to watch if you are still traumatized by moving), an amusement park, lots of hot dogs, ice cream, and beer, a boat ride, a hike, and two road trips. Somewhere in there, Clara turned six and celebrated with both a chaotic party at our empty house in Belgrade, then again with her cousins in New York.
The unexpected highlights of life back in the U.S. are:
- The public library. We have gone nearly every day since we’ve been back, and Clara begs for Van to take his nap so that she can go off to the library for an hour of reading and exploring. I’m doing battle with my 600-item Amazon wish list to figure out exactly what to read this next year.
- Recycling. We had some recycling in Belgrade, but I was never more than about 5% confident that any of the stuff we sorted out gotten taken anywhere expect the regular dump. The stuff we left out for poorer (mostly Roma) neighbors to recycle was definitely reused, but the official recycling picked up by the municipal trash collectors almost certainly went right into the trash. So it’s a great pleasure to fill up a whole recycling bin to put out by the curb on Tuesdays.
Tomorrow, school! It’s about time.
Categories: Things I Miss, Travel
It’s done. The house is empty, aside from government-issued Drexel furniture and nails in the wall. My replacement is here. It’s time to move on, and thanks to the empty house and the replacement guy sitting at
my his desk, I’m finally about ready to go. (And yes, if anyone has read this post multiple times, which I doubt, you’ll notice that I keep adding to it as I think of more and more things I should have done in the last three years.)
If I had more time here, though, here’s what I would have done:
- Traveled more – to Italy, to Poland, to Ireland. To Serbia’s beautiful but carsick-inducing mountains – Tara, Kopaonik, Stara Planina, Zlatibor. To Bosnia and to Transylvania. To Turkey and Montenegro again.
- Gone skiing.
- Done a few things differently at work, especially at the beginning of my assignment here.
- Gone to Guca Trumpet festival and Exit music festival.
- Eaten more karadjordje’s schnitzel.
- Drank more rakija.
- Drank less beer that comes in a 2-liter bottle. I’m looking at you, Jelen.
- Visited more of Serbia’s wineries.
- Gotten a personal trainer.
- Gone to Skadarlija, Serbia’s bohemian quarter. (Admittedly, this wasn’t for lack of time but a disproportionate fear of aggressive musicians who expect tips.)
- Gone to more splavs, Belgrade’s floating restaurant/nightclubs.
- Gone to one of Belgrade’s famous nightclubs at least once. I really want to experience it, but can’t handle the recovery after staying up all night.
- Watched more Serbian films.
- Gone to Serbian Orthodox Mass.
- Learned more Serbian. For real this time.