Monday, October 31, 2011


Last year, we were just settling in to Budapest, where Halloween isn't really celebrated, so we didn't have any Halloween to speak of. Specifically, we and the Stanteens drove to Szentendre on Halloween night and watched about fifty kids throw down over a measly bag of candy. It was a pretty pitiful evening and left a lot to be desired.This year, Claudia has reached an age where she generally understands the concept of Halloween and trick or treating, i.e., dress up in fun costume, get candy, be happy. I didn't want this year to be a bust like last year, so I made a self declaration... This year will be different. Depend upon it!
There are no pumpkin patches in Budapest... at least I didn't find any. So we bought a bunch of pumpkins from the produce shop by our house, took pictures with them and carved them up right. CC helped me carve a pumpkin. We named him Jonathan. He's the happy looking fella. Daddy carved two pumpkins... Darth Vader and Jack the Pumpkin King. Tragically, Darth Pumpkin withered and collapsed within a few hours. All the kids that came over said things like "that pumpkin is sad" or "that pumpkin is broken."
To celebrate Halloween, we had Claudia's closest pals over for a little trick or treating. We made cupcakes and whoopie pies and served candy to each children in an amount sufficient to put them each in a sweet little sugar coma.
The kink in our trick or treating plans ... people in Budapest don't trick or treat. Solution: I passed out candy at the front door, while Russell passed out candy at the back door. The toddlers then toddled around and around the house... each time shouting out "trick or treat!" and "hurry, next house!" They did about three rounds of this before we ran out of candy. My sweet Claudia dressed up like Minnie Mouse.
We watch a fair amount of the Clubhouse, so she was pretty excited to be Minnie.
Claudia and her bestie Carsten had a grand old time attacking each other and then sharing candy.
The highlight of the evening proved to be the pumpkin pinata. These kiddos are all well under three, so the pinata was actually a sad, droopy paper sack pumpkin... it worked like a charm. The crew of candy-crazed toddlers beat the pumpkin with croquet mallets until the pitiful thing finally burst.
It was an eventful night for all and it also marked the beginning of my last trimester! Only three months to go!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Campfire Stories & Housebound Halloween Crafts

The weather's nice and chilly here, so we lit up our fire pit this weekend.Claudia was very helpful roasting weenies, until she wasn't.
Distracted by the marshmallows, she let Daddy do all the work.
Five minutes later... an entire bag of marshmallows disappeared.
Sweet girl giving Daddy a smooch by the fire.
And look here! I did something crafty.
I asked Claudia if she would pose by the pumpkins.
She wandered off. Went back inside. We'll try that again.
Poor thing has been sick all week, so we've been quarantined, sitting inside all day.
Making glitter ghosts.
... and Q-tip skeletons, paper pumpkins... and lions.
When she regained her strength, she tested baby brother's bed out.
She commented that "it's a crummy bed, but it's fine for him."
What a sweet big sister.
After a week of indoor isolation, she's generated about fifty original works of art...
...and has made about a dozen glitter bats. They're made out of egg cartons.
We have glitter all over this house.
It really gives this place the glimmer and shine it's been missing.
Thankfully, Claudia has turned a corner, so I think by tomorrow she will be officially healed.
And we can finally leave the house!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Busy Body

We haven't been up to much around here... just chasing our wild banshee daughter around the house and wherever else she may roam. We got the potty training thing down. This is a picture of Claudia, post-potty, feeling victorious, taking a victory lap around the dining table. Party streamers in hand. Sans pants. Little lady has also been taking ballet class for the past few weeks. This is Claudia with her teacher, Miss Rachel. She gives Miss Rachel her full attention for thirty minutes every Wednesday afternoon. It's pretty impressive. I'm going to videotape the next lesson. I still can't believe how focused these girls become at the lesson. Very cool.
We bought Claudia a bunch of winter hats. Despite the dropping temperature here, Claudia insists that these hats have a very narrow purpose... head warming while she lounges on the couch. She puts her hat on and gets cozy on the sofa... reviewing her latest coloring book masterpiece. Hats are also worn while she watches Olivia and munches on popcorn.
Thus far, the hats are only worn on the couch. The hats are often found discarded in the school yard... you know, where it's like 50 degrees. We've also been cooking. Claudia gives everything a thorough smell test before tasting.
I wish I could say that I discourage this type of behavior (drinking sugar milk after polishing off cereal), but really, isn't this an essential part of being a kid? I think it is... so it goes!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Birthday Wishes

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pumpkins & Candy

A few weekends ago we headed to a pumpkin festival in Zebegeny, Hungary.
Best thing about the festival... a giant, wooden contraption that, when cranked up by hand, spun toddlers around in wicker baskets. Pretty amusing for the kids and the parents.Other than that, there was a huge crowd and it was still pretty hot out. We didn't stay too long. They had pretty decorations, though.Russell and Claudia just wanted to go home and watch football. Thanks to the modern miracle of slingbox, we can watch all the LSU, Saints & Texans football we can handle.
Last week Claudia had her Harvest Party at school. I didn't get any good pictures from the song & dance performance, but the after party was a lot of fun. The kids had little picnics.
They held hands and danced around in circles.
Claudia, and her pal, Sander, snuck into the middle of the big dancing circle.
Claudia ate and danced the whole day.
She also learned about native Hungarian instruments. That's Bop, front & center, eating bread.
At home we got a bunch of pumpkins... and my mom sent us some much appreciated Halloween treats, including this pumpkin that's light enough for Claudia to toss around.Bop & her favorite pumpkin... the fake one. =)
She's asked to carve it about a hundred times.
My sweet girl.
Did I mention we were so excited to get real deal American Halloween candy?
Claudia had her first Butterfinger and Reese's Peanut Buttercup. Happy girl.
Thanks for the goodies, Mom.

Friday, October 7, 2011

One Year Hungarianniversary

One year ago we packed up all our belongings, sold our house and cars and hopped on a flight to Budapest. At the time, we didn't know what to expect and, to be honest, I wasn't absolutely convinced we weren't making a mistake. What a difference a year makes. I recently came across some expat literature entitled "Phases of Cross-Cultural Adjustment", an article outlining the adjustment stages of an expat. Here's some excerpts, along with pics from our first year.

"Pre-Departure: Anticipation, excitement, enthusiasm, fear of the unknown, concern over leaving family, friends, familiar environment, job or career." Check, check, check.

"1st Month: Sense of mission, tourist enthusiasm." Uh, huh. Within a few weeks of arrival we had found a house, were driving around Budapest, learning the subway system, sight seeing, taking in all the festivals and generally loving Budapest.

"2nd Month: Bewilderment, disenchantment, restlessness, impatience." Right again! By this point, I was ready to hop on the next flight home. I missed my friends and family and was sick of begging people to speak English to me.
"3rd Month: Discouragement, irritability, bewilderment, concern for sanitation, homesickness." Yes, utter bewilderment, coupled with the nagging fear that we had made a huge, huge mistake. We still had fun as a family, but I was still skeptical about Budapest. The turning point came the first day it snowed, though. It was a like a calm swept over the city... and me too!
"4th / 5th Months: Gradual Recovery, constructive attitude." Once we moved into our house, received our container of home goods and made friends, we were finally feeling at home. Although I missed my family and friends, I no longer felt an overwhelming urge to board the next overnight flight to Texas. It was a good feeling to finally feel happy and at home. In Hungary!
"6th Month: Normal, equilibrium, return to familiar hobbies." Finally we felt great about living here. We were thankful we had made the decision to move here, thankful for the good friends we had made and excited for all the good things to come.
So by the end of the summer, as our one year Hungarianniversary approached, we could definitively state that we had made the right decision. We have learned the ropes and conquered the fears that come with life in a foreign country. At last, home sweet Hungary!
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