Traveling With Kids, Step 4 1/2: Don’t Take the Kids

Posted May 18, 2015 by egracon
Categories: Uncategorized

So, I’ve written about traveling with kids – Where to Go, How to Go, Where to Stay, What to Pack.  The long-awaited next installment will be What to Do.  Which I’ll get to eventually because, well, kids and job and moving and life keep getting in the way.  (A preview: Don’t expect to do more than two things in any given day, especially if you are traveling with nap-age kids.)

You know what’s much, much better than traveling with kids?

Traveling without them.

We love the kids.  We love traveling.  We don’t mind both at the same time, and it’s certainly not worth staying home all the time just to avoid the hassle of traveling with them.  But really, adult vacation is worth its weight in gold.  So for my, ahem, 40th birthday, we set off for Paris. By ourselves.  Missing three wake-ups and two bedtimes with the kids.  And it was fabulous.

It was a rough week at work.  I value work/life balance and I usually have it.  In this particular job, I rarely work past five and pretty much never weekends.  I check my email once or twice in the evening after the kids go to bed.  But due to an unfortunate confluence of conferences, VIP visits, employee evaluations, and our usual high season, I worked every evening the week before we left, which added to the guilt.

And then there was that pesky fear that something would happen and the kids would be orphaned while we were off gallivanting in gay Paree.  I’m usually not overly sensitive about the horrible things that happen in the world every day.  But every so often, there’s something that really gets to me – the Amish school massacre, or the Sandy Hook shootings, to give two tragic examples.  The German Wings suicide/crash was one of those things – for some reason, that plane crash hit me so much harder than the other airline disasters this year.  If I hadn’t already bought our tickets and booked our travel before that, I would have changed our destination to somewhere we could drive.  But I had already bought the tickets and booked the houseboat on the Seine, and I know, logically, that air travel is not all that dangerous, so off we went  – seatbelts buckled, eyes closed during turbulence, trying not to think of my orphaned children, to landing in Charles de Gaulle at dawn on my 40th birthday.

When Clara was 1 1/2, we took two nights to go to a music festival in Morocco without her, and Ian and I have both traveled individually for work and personal reasons, but this was the first time we’d both left in four years.  We have two babysitters that we love and trust, and that are affordable compared to what we’d pay in the United States for 64 hours of babysitting.  So off we went.

Here are just a few of the reasons I’m glad we did:

– Two amazing dinners, one at a Vietnamese restaurant, one at a French bistro.  Both requiring reservations and starting after 8 p.m.  (Still light when we finished after 10 p.m., though!)

– Getting to stay on a houseboat on the Seine.  It had enough room for four, and a kitchen and laundry facilities, but getting on and off the boat was treacherous and would have been impossible with little ones.

– Not turning on the TV on the houseboat even once.

– Walking until our legs were exhausted, and then walking some more.

– The Musee d’Orsay.

– Wine.

– Sleep. (Not enough, since the trip required one 4 a.m. wake-up and one 6:15 a.m. wake-up to catch flights, but still uninterrupted. And on a houseboat on the Seine.)

– Learning to play petanque – a bocce-like game involving heavy metal balls that Van and Clara would have lobbed at each other.

The kids spent their weekend riding amusement park rides that don’t meet American standards, riding in our babysitter’s husband’s car without carseats, eating ice cream and popcorn, and getting fingerprint smudges all over our iPads.

In short? The guilt was totally worth it.

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Ian boards the Chalik

Ian boards the Chalik

The Great Tick Debacle

Posted May 7, 2015 by egracon
Categories: Uncategorized

It’s been ages since I posted and things have happened in the meantime, but I think I’m losing some blog steam.  We post most of our pictures on Facebook so the re-posting of things for blog purposes seems kind of pointless, but then I know that some people do read the words, and we have people in our lives who don’t use Facebook (!!) so maybe it is worth it.  But that’s a decision for another time.

So, anyway, a blog-worthy story.  (Don’t tell me if it’s not.)

Taking a walk around the neighborhood on Monday night, and I notice a black spot with red around it on Clara’s back.  Ack, tick!  So we rush home, grab the tweezers, quickly Google tick removal, and I attack that tick with a vengeance.  It’s in good, and I tug and tug and Clara cries, and then I ask Ian to get a flashlight because it’s kind of dim in the living room and I can’t really see what I’m doing, and then the tick pops out with some blood and I put it in a ziplock because Google said to.  Clara stops crying, I put on some neosporin and then I examine the tick.  And it’s not a tick at all. Its just a little scab.  A tick-shaped scab, mind you, that I’ve just yanked off my kid’s back.  But rather than admit to this particular parenting fail, I continue to pretend it was a tick and don’t tell Clara that I’ve just caused her unnecessary pain.

Fast-forward three days to today, when we get a note from Clara’s school nursing tell me that her teacher found a tick on her and that the nurse removed it and packaged it up in case we want to get it tested for diseases.  A real, live tick, somewhere in her hairline on the back of her neck.  It was so tiny I’m not sure how Clara felt it or the teacher found it, but now Clara thinks she is a complete tick magnet and wants to know why ticks don’t like Van as much as her, and I still haven’t owned up to my lie and the false-alarm tick.

Not a tick. Not a scab.  Just a ladybug that kept landing on Clara at lunch in Prague.

Not a tick. Not a scab. Just a ladybug that kept landing on Clara at lunch in Prague.

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Happy Easter from sunny Belgrade!

Posted April 5, 2015 by egracon
Categories: Uncategorized

At least, it was sunny and beautiful yesterday when we had the Embassy Easter party.  Today, it’s in the 40s and rainy.

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This year, they upgraded the bunny costume.  Better costume, but not nearly as funny as a hungover, unshaven cafeteria guy as the Easter bunny:

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The End-of-Tour Revolving Door

Posted April 3, 2015 by egracon
Categories: Uncategorized

First off, let me be clear: This is not meant to discourage guests. We love guests, and love showing off our lives and our town, and if we don’t want you to come, we’ll say so.

But our guests do have a tendency to bunch up in those last 6 months when people panic and realize that we’re about to leave, and if they’re going to see some off-the-beaten-path place that they wouldn’t travel to otherwise, that they need to come NOW.  In February 2005 in Istanbul, we had seven friends at once.  (You know who you are.  Some of you had to sleep in the living room, if I remember correctly.)  In spring 2011 in Morocco, we had three sets of back-to-back guests.  And we are currently taking an 8-day guest-free break between a string of three guest sets and the arrival of the the next (who shall remain nameless until after she’s safely home just in case robbers are among the 10 readers of this blog).

First, our college friend Sarah came to visit and to celebrate her and Ian’s shared 40th birthday.

Then Cousin Stephen came through town.  The kids loved him, and I got to check a must-see monastery off of my list.

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And finally, our friends Randy & Shandra and their daughter Audrey came to visit.

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We saw them in January in Chicago, but the real blast from the past are these photos of Clara & Audrey together five years ago, and now:

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The reservation line’s still open.  (Hint, hint, Aunt Regen.)

The Birthday Begins

Posted March 15, 2015 by egracon
Categories: Uncategorized

Van is closing in on three.  This is his third birthday in Belgrade, and the first where I didn’t impose a shamrock cake on my St. Patrick’s Day baby.  (He picked the green t-shirt himself, though.)  We doubled up with another family to share birthday party space and costs and not to torture our colleagues and neighbors by making them go to two kids’ parties in two days, although admittedly kids’ parties here do involve alcohol so they’re not all bad.  Fun was had by all although the pictures are mostly a blur of kids and cake.

Birthday boy, or the rodjedanac.

Birthday boy, or the rodjedanac.

Clara wanted to take the flowers home until she realized they were pure sugar.

Clara wanted to take the flowers home until she realized they were pure sugar.

The best gift.  Top that.

The best gift. Top that.

Over the Hill in Budapest

Posted February 22, 2015 by egracon
Categories: Uncategorized

We took advantage of the confluence of a 4-day weekend, Clara’s February school break (the European “ski break”), a visit from our friend Sarah, and Sarah and Ian’s 40th birthday to head for Budapest.  We’d been once before, also in the winter, but our list of places to go is long and our time here relatively short, so compromises must be made.  We got relatively lucky with sunny but cold days.  When we first came to Belgrade, we thought that we’d find ourselves hopping over to Belgrade all of the time, but that just hasn’t happened due to work, and life, and the joys of traveling with kids.

All in all, a good trip.  We did a nighttime bus tour of the city all lit up (Clara insisted on sitting on top of the open-air bus and while it seemed tolerable when we started, we were frozen solid by the end of the hour-long ride); toured the opera (me and Sarah); spent most of a day riding a Metro, tram, and cogwheel railway to ride the Children’s Railway, only to have Clara and Van fall asleep the moment we were warmed up and seated on the train; ate goulash and drank Hungarian wine; and climbed around the Fisherman’s Bastion.  I could easily spend more time there, but saw enough that Budapest can now be successfully checked off the “must visit” list.

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For comparison’s sake, here’s what Van and Clara looked like the last time we were in Budapest:

Clara vs. Homework

Posted February 11, 2015 by egracon
Categories: Uncategorized

IMG_1933 (853x1280)So, Clara has homework.  In kindergarten.  Twice a week she is supposed to read a short book assigned by her teacher, and then write something in her reading journal about the book.  She likes the reading part, and happily will read the book to anyone who will listen.  But getting her to write in her journal is a battle.  She’s lazy about writing both at school and at home.  And because Ian and I are both working full-time now, I don’t want our babysitter to have to fight the fight with her, so homework gets squeezed in to the hour we have between dinner and bedtime.  She’s resorted to writing “I like XXX”  or “It is about YYYY” every time, and while I know she has more complex thoughts and could write more, I also figure that her genes will kick in eventually and she’ll be more enthusiastic about writing, so may not pick this particular battle this time.


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