Sunday, October 15, 2017

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15

   I regularly take "breaks" from blogging. Usually the time between posts is consumed with living: momming three of my favorite humans, exploring our temporary home in Budapest, grocery shopping in Hungarian, and drinking more coffee than ever before. I try to balance being with the ones who are here and sharing our experiences with friends and family, but if I'm going to fall behind on one of those tasks, I think it should be the latter.
    This time, the break from blogging was different. I literally had dozens of posts swirling in my brain, just waiting to be shared, but this time, I couldn't. The "new post" button at the top of my page could not be pushed. Or would not.
    Because I had Hurricane Harvey survivor guilt, and I refused to go on sharing joyful living while my friends and family were in the midst of a mess.
    Can you even be called a survivor if you are not present to survive a storm? I'm not sure. Though we were not physically there, I know of few other times that my heart has been so far away from my present location. Clark and I truly felt we had a better understanding of the idea of "mourning with those who mourn", but mourn was all it felt like we could do. I could not open up my home to make guest beds and pallets for those whose homes were not dry. I could not cook warm meals for the masses. I could not even send needed supplies due to inaccessible roads. I could watch, hear stories, and hurt deeply.

    Hurricane Harvey hit shortly after we returned from a vacation to Norway. I had a million pictures to post and planned captions to share, blogs planned about vacationing to Bergen with children, but my Grandma Jane's birthday party got cancelled. And school start dates got pushed back. And then my friends had water in their houses.

   My children began school, and routine life went on for us, which all felt very wrong. Emma would hear her classmates discussing the storm, and she would listen as they discussed the devastation to our home. I told her often that though our friends and family were effected by the storm, they were safe, and they were working to get things back to normal. A few weeks into school, I passed by Emma's class to say hi before she headed to Girl Scouts. She was having an argument of sorts with her teacher, and she was actually being, in my opinion, rather disrespectful. The teacher saw me, and, looking as confused as I felt, he asked if I could please talk to Emma about the project they were working on. She had basically refused to do it. The assignment was to interview a family member about their culture. I couldn't understand why she was being obstinate about something like that.  I looked into her eyes and saw she was about to cry, so she and I headed to the parking lot to chat in private. When we got in the car, she fell apart. When she could calm down enough to verbalize her feelings, she said, "But Momma, interviewing over the phone is not the same. I miss them so much."
    Harvey hit us in a different way than it hit Southeast Texas. Harvey hit with a gust of  homesickness and grief that neither Emma nor I had felt in our 14 months abroad. Hurricane Harvey brought me to the realization that I need to share my hurts with my daughter so that she doesn't think she has to be tough all the time. It also reminded me to bloom where God has planted me. For whatever reason, God thought it best that Clark and I were here, a million miles away, during hurricane season 2017. Who here needs a hot meal? Who here  needs a helping hand? Who here just needs a friend? Because I have been prepared and trained, and I am here.

    After my cry with Emma, I also realized I need to be thankful for the joys that we are getting to experience here. I never want to belittle my friends' hurt or struggles, and I don't want to pretend that we are unaffected by the goings on where you are, but I need to see our blessings as blessings, not curses. Though I may never go back and post pictures from our trip to Norway, I think I need to press the "New Post" button more often.

   If you know of people who are still in need of help in their Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, please let me know. There are a bunch of expats over here who have not forgotten them and who want to help.

You are loved.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring Break in Rome

   Ciao! We have been back from Rome for a week, and as I look through pictures, I smile at the thought that we are having such adventures when we thought we would never leave Southeast Texas. God has a great sense of humor. 

Our neighborhood churches

Looking down from our apartment
   Traveling with children is always a trip, but adding a giant toddler to the mix is bound to be exciting. The big kids are seriously rockstar travelers, and Titus fell into the groove pretty well. We stayed in our first AirBnB, which was a good experience, and we walked everywhere, at least 5 kilometers a day. We were about a four minute walk to the Pantheon or Plazza Novona, depending on which way you turned out of our neighborhood. Our favorite coffee shop was just around the corner from our apartment, and each night the children were lulled to sleep with accordion music from the restaurants below.

The view from our apartment's rooftop terrace

My favorite macchiato

    Rome is quite family friendly, but we were surprised that, despite the numerous plazas, fountains, and pedestrian friendly areas, there were no playgrounds or parks. Budapest has spoiled us in that regard. The children loved going into the beautiful churches which were everywhere, and their first thought after breakfast was where we would go for gelato. We tried many different gelato stores and many different flavors, but the grown-ups' favorite was one near our apartment that had chocolate tartufo, chocolate truffle ice cream with a light dusting of cocoa powder. Emma liked the gelato store that offered 150 flavors, and after trying quite a few, her favorite was KitKat. Ransom and Titus were both happy with any gelato you offered them from anywhere at any time. 

     The children's favorite part of our trip was Gladiator School. Emma and Ransom were led through a museum of the history of Roman weaponry and gladiators, and then their gladiator guide put them through gladiator basic training. They learned basic gladius and shield moves, and then the "fought" against other trainees in the "arena". They loved every minute, and it helped them have a better understanding of what went on in the Colosseum. 

The Pantheon Oculus
Clark and Titus at Titus's Arch
    Clark and I very much enjoyed the Roman Forum and Palatino, and I loved the Pantheon. Walking around a city with standing architecture pre-dating Christ is pretty surreal. We enjoyed walking around Vatican City, and the Sistine Chapel was amazing, but it was so incredibly crowded, that we felt we didn't get to appreciate it as we would have liked (*For me, this would have been lying on the floor staring up at ceilings.). Also, Titus was done after about two hours, so we went to find more gelato. 
Trevi Fountain
    We left Rome with sunny skies and 70 degree temps to return to a freezing, snowy Budapest (in April!). The weather here has decided to become more spring-like in the last few days which makes me a little less antsy to hop on a plane and get back to Italy. We are happy to be home, but we are looking forward to our next adventure, wherever that may be!
        Hugs from Budapest!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

January in a Nutshell

Well, howdy! I have started several posts since the calendar changed to 2017, but with Titus being more mobile, it seems posts never make it past the draft stage. 

Below are a few videos and pictures to sum up our January!

Titus and Clark figuring out snow for the first time
Emma and Titus sledding in our backyard
 SNOW!!!! And SO much of it! We have had a white blanket on the ground for weeks, but it has just begun to melt. The temperatures dropped into single digits (in Fahrenheit!) at times, but usually fluttered slightly under freezing. Last Thursday the sun appeared and began to warm things up a bit. Clark and I were both surprised by how much we enjoyed a real winter. We have been warned that it is not quite over yet.

Snowy walks in the nature preserve in our neighborhood

Clark and I went to our first Burns' Supper in honor of Scottish poet Robert Burns. It was such a fun night filled with kilts, bagpipes,  Scottish music, dancing, Gaelic poetry reading, and food. Clark and I got all dressed up for an evening on the town, and the only picture I took was of my plate of mostly eaten haggis. I pretended the haggis was boudain, and I was able to eat it with little reservation. It was actually quite tasty!
I went on to the Burns Foundation Facebook page and found this picture of Clark and me dancing! I wore a blue skirt, not even thinking about it being the color of the Scottish flag!
Clark leading me in a Scottish fold dance

The beautiful Corinthia Hotel Ballroom

For the past two weeks, we had been battling illness at our house. The children sweetly shared a virus amongst themselves, and with the addition of ice and impassable roads, we were stuck at home for a while. Last weekend we escaped the confines of home and ventured to City Park (Varosliget). We didn't make it in time for ice skating on the pond, but we found a delightful cafe where we could watch the Zamboni clear the ice while sitting in warmth. We enjoyed a delicious Hungarian lunch of chicken paprika and goulash followed by sour cherry strudel and cappuccinos. 

After our lunch, we walked around the grounds of the Vajdahunyad Castle, a beautiful 200+ year old castle nestled in the middle of the park. 

 Though it was gorgeous, we began to get quite cold. The Szechenyi Baths were just across the street, but Clark and I weren't sure about taking all three kids for our first thermal bath experience. We hopped on the subway and headed home.

We have enjoyed Budapest during its coldest weather since 1985. Snowpants, snowboots, and heavy coats have been fun additions to our wardrobes. We know we are adapting to life here when we think 30 degrees F is warm. 

Enjoy your days wherever you are, and know that we send love and blessings from Budapest!