Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Miss You La Paz!

If I am going to be completely honest...the first couple of months we lived there I wasn't in love with La Paz. A year and 10 months after we arrived we had to leave the post early and I was devastated. I had fallen in love with Bolivia! Time went too fast...we didn't get to know "her" as well as we wanted to. We are planning to go back and visit some of the places that you have to "check off" your list if you live in La Paz...maybe February....I hope we can make that trip happen!

I don't know if La Paz has as big a chunk of my heart as Mozambique..but in all fairness we lived in Maputo for four years and I "had" both of my babies there...it was our first expat post...we made friends that are our family now...but every time I think of Bolivia I feel guilty that we didn't travel as much as we should have and I regret "not loving" her for the first couple of months. It wasn't fair. I missed Maputo so much I wasn't giving Bolivia a chance.

This video was created by ACS (the American School in La Paz)....it brought back many memories. Great job on the video!

I miss you LP!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Neverland Places Third

This year the boys wanted to dress up like the characters from Peter Pan. Luka's first thought was Wizard of Oz, but one day he just said, "No, I want to be Peter Pan and you can dress up as Wendy mommy." Who am I to argue with a great idea. Well, Sam was eager to be Hook and we even managed to recruit a Princess Tiger Lily & Tinkerbell to join our "Neverland Crew." 

Yesterday was the Halloween Festival at Luka's school and we placed 3rd!!!! Prize winning group....we were very excited.

Can't wait...we still have the actual day of Halloween to dress up!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Being an "Expat" Aunt

As most expats know, one of the hardest parts of living away from home is being so far away from family and friends. But for me one of the hardest things is being an "expat" aunt. I only have one sister who has two amazing little boys and I only get to see them once a year for a couple of days. 

Recently I went to Miami alone for my 20-year high school reunion (will post on that later). Since I didn't have Sam and Luka with me I was able to visit with Evan and Max and be a real aunt....even if it was for a short visit.  I stayed home one day with Evan when he was under the weather, ate dinner at their house, helped Max with homework, went out to restaurants and got to chat with them one on one. 

My nephews are so funny and have changed so much since the last time I saw them a couple of months ago. I was in shock when my 7 year old nephew read the newspaper to me...he is a bit of a genius. He is also much sweeter...he couldn't give me enough hugs (are you sure you are my sister's son?) Evan is so much fun and who knew his favorite store was Target...and yes I indulged him in a shopping trip of course, but the toy section was the only section he was interested in...he didn't share in my excitement over stationary and office supplies.

This quick trip gave me an idea. Maybe on my next visit to Miami with the boys my sister and I can swap kids for the day and spend some much needed Aunt/nephew time. When I am with Sam and Luka it is hard to dedicate time to my nephews. Is this a crazy idea? I haven't run it by my sister...but I have a feeling she will jump at the chance to spend a day with Luka & Sam.

What do other "expat" aunts think?

Maybe JJ and I should do this with our Dutch niece and nephew as well. I always had such a close relationship with my aunt and uncle growing up and I remember the days spent with them were priceless. Fun aunts and uncles rule!!! 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Child Friendly Wine Tour...Seriously

Back in March our friends the Miranda Family came to Santiago. We were ecstatic to have our very good friends come and visit. We met them when were lived in Maputo, Mozambique.During our first post we had close knit group of friends and they were also experiencing their first taste of life abroad.We were all around the same age and by the time we left Mozambique we all had kids around the same age. Something happened during that post that our friends became our family...now these folks are posted all around the world, but we all keep in touch. Some of us have visited each other, but I know that we are still very "present" in each other's lives. Well, the Mirandas we part of our Maputo family and it was truly special to have them visit us in Santiago. 

They were with us for 10 days and during that time we thought it was going to be hard to take 5 kids (all 7 and under) to a wine tasting. Come on...we have to be crazy! But low and behold we went and all of us had a great time.

About 1.5 hours from our house in Santiago is Concha y Toro and we signed up for the traditional tour. I think it was around $16 per person and kids were free. I believe that was after a discount from my cell hone carrier (you can always find a discount in Chile).  

The kids are best buds. Even though it has been three years since they saw each other they didn't skip a beat and were inseparable. 
My Sammy Whammy...ready to taste some wine or something.
Here we are ready to learn about some delicious wines. 
First we had a tour of the grounds. They are spectacular and there is lots of room for the kids to run around while we try and hear some of the history of the magnificent estate. 
Then it was off to a section of the vineyard where we were able to pick grapes and taste different varieties...did you know they have 26 varieties of grape! Sam loved this part. 
Luka is wondering why this creepy hand is offering him some grapes. 
After the vineyard we sampled three different wines. Yes, they gave each of the adults three different wines to taste (almost three full glasses). They answered questions and shared a little about the ones we tasted.

Then we were taken to the cellar and discussed how the wines were stored. Cue in scary music....from there we were taken to the Casillero del Diablo. Here is an excerpt from their website about this legend:

The beautiful vineyards of Casillero del Diablo are home to some of the finest wines in the world. But few outsiders know the dark secret that lies beneath them. For the locals say that in the depths of the cellar lives the Devil himself. A tale so infamous, they named the wine Casillero del Diablo, the Devil’s Cellar.

The kids were a little freaked out with this part. It was dark, cold and creepy. But after it was all one (about 3 minutes) they thought they were very cool and for surviving and Luka still talks about it months later. You can learn more about the legend here.
After the cellar tour we were taken to a final "one glass" wine tasting, where we sampled a special blend and the souvenir etched glass was ours to take home.

All that drinking and excitement left us all very hungry. We stayed for lunch at the restaurant. The food was good and the kids were happy with their yummy pastas and parents were happy eating and having one more glass of wine! 

NOTE: Yes, I was driving, but I never drank all the glasses they offer in its entirety....just a taste. If you do drink the four glasses of wine they give you and then have more wine at lunch you will definitely need a designated driver.

Here is a photo of Sam at lunch making his own blend. He kept the grapes he picked from earlier in the tour..sneaky boy!
I totally recommend this tour with kids. If you don't have the kiddos with you then you can probably go on a more serious wine tour (plenty to choose from in Santiago) but this was perfect for us.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A Perfect Santiago Sunday

Once in a while there aren't any BBQs, school events, birthday parties, things to fix around the house, handymen to wait for, work to do and you can explore the city and take your time to enjoy the day. Honestly, this doesn't happen often, but a couple of weeks ago it did and the four of had a great Sunday.

As you can see from the photo above Luka was ready to go and wanted to get the perfect outfit. Here is what we did on our Santiago Sunday....

We headed to Tiramisu - our favorite pizza place in the city. It is a little pricey, but worth it and totally deserved on our special day. We arrived a little early, but luckily there was a little fair on the street close by so we perused while we waited for our table to open up.
Do you think we have enough food on the table? Lunch was delicious! If you live in Santiago you have probably been to eat at this Italian restaurant...if not...WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
At the time Luka was studying the Solar System at school....the "Planetario" was the place to go. I was pleasantly surprised. It is small and perfect for small kiddos...not super high tech, but it has some interactive exhibits, a craft room/activity for kids, 3D movie and the dome with the stars and planets was AWESOME. 
"Mom, where is Chile?"
"Hey, I am an astronaut guys." 
Don't we look goofy? 

From there we were on our way home, but not before a nice walk to the metro. Here is Estacion Central...actually the first time we walked by it. Nice building.
We found a vendor selling these cute hats. Luka went with Angry Birds and Sam a pitufo (or otherwise knows as a Smurf in English).
We arrived back on the Metro and here we are walking back to our car parked in Daddy's office. JJ works in a lovely part of town.

Scenes from Our Staycation

The week of "Dieciocho"is sacred in Chile. September 18th is Independence Day in Chile and they take an entire week to celebrate the occasion...yes kids are out of school, parents are out of work and it is time to party and, what most people to...TRAVEL. Santiago is EMPTY...I kind of like being the city when there is no one else around. You sort of have your own quiet playground.

We would have liked to take the week to explore a new city in Chile or take a quick trip to a neighboring country, but JJ and I both have quick trips to the states planned for October and then I will go with the boys for 4 weeks in January. This means we are in saving mode so a "staycation" was the perfect money saving option. Daddy also had to work so Mommy was the staycation coordinator, but with help from the boys.

The Saturday before the start of the staycation I sat with the boys and came up with a "to do" list for the week. 
1. Complete Photo School Yearbook for Luka & Sam (2012-2013)
2. Go to a Fun Park
3. Organize Lego & Playmobil
4. Ice Skating
5. BBQ with Friends
6. Go to the Movies
7. Play date w/ Jacobo
8. Go on a Family Hike
9. Play w/ Linda
10. Arts & Crafts

Okay, that is a pretty comprehensive list that we all contributed to. Can you figure out which ones mommy put on the list?

No, let's take a trip around Santiago and see what we really did on our "staycation."

Sunday, was our "unofficial" start of the staycation and the entire family went to the Costanera Center. We got to walk around the quiet city a little and then catch a movie at the tallest building in South America!

We parked at JJ's office and walked from there. Here you can see the bleachers ready for the big parade in town to celebrate on September 18th.
First order of the day was LUNCH. We went to the food court and everyone picked something different. JJ and I had from "Take a Wok" - fresh wok dishes custom made fresh. It was delicious. 
Movie Time...we saw Airplanes...very cute movie! Here the boys took a photo with "Berry" - new character from the sequel to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs....looking forward to that one too.

Monday...first official day of the staycation and I asked Luka was he wanted to do and he said lunch at Ruby Tuesday...score, I love their Carolina Chicken Salad.
My boys really love this restaurant. They always pick a pasta dish..nice break from burgers and fries. After lunch we went to the mall and visited some art shops to buy supplies for projects this week.
Tuesday was stay at home day...we had to wait for the plumber and gardener and were home ALL DAY.

Wednesday...whoo hoo...today we see Dinosaurs come to live at "Explora" - a special exhibit put on by the Buin Zoo. The event was at a local mall, right next to a great park. After the dinosaur experience we organized a picnic.

Sam was kind of scared inside...those dinosaurs looked real and were HUGE! By the end Sam was a little calm and excited to sit on this "little" guy to pose for a picture.
We spent the afternoon with our good friends Jake, Maya and their mommy at Parque Araucano. This park has many things to do. Here are Luka and Jake enjoying the large playground area. 
The kids spent a good 30 minutes in here looking at the birds. I might have to build one of these at home if they like it that much.
The park is also perfect to ride bike with the little ones. We didn't bring the bikes this time, but we will very soon.

Thursday....Luka went to work with Daddy and Sam stayed home with Mommy to prepare the house for the BBQ with friends we had later that day. I think he enjoyed baking the best. Look at my little sneaky Sam eating the cake batter.
Wednesday....yes, I went over to the dark side and took the boys to Chuck E. Cheese. I am not a big fan of this place, but the boys love it. Honestly, it was so empty that it was quite okay. But my biggest complaint is the price. Each coin is about 50 cents (US). It took about 15 minutes for the boys to go through $30 USD worth of coins. I don't think it is that expensive in the US. 
Here they are very proud of their winnings. 
One of our prizes was a bag of cotton candy. Sam was all over that, Luka not so much. 
It was Luka's choice for lunch and he asked for Sushi. So we headed to Sakura Express - our favorite Sushi joint where we get 40% off with our Claro cell phone. But oh no...it was a "holiday" so they didn't honor coupons. Well, that means that we will spend about $100 USD for sushi...I don't think so. I had promised Luka sushi so we got his roll to go and walked over to Burger King for the rest of the family. Sam was very happy! 

Saturday we went to Chicureo with some friends and had lunch at one of our favorite weekend spots - El Establo. The kids really love to play on their Western themed playground. Oh, no...they got arrested. They must have been up to no good.
El Establo offers FREE face painting & animal balloons for the kids. Sam was feeling like a superhero that day.

Sunday...do we really have to go to school tomorrow? YES!!!!! This mommy is ready for staycation to be over. That is the thing about school holidays...not really a holiday for the parents, well not all the time.

Sunday the boys wanted to see snow...they got dressed and ready to go all on their own. We tried, but we left a little too late. It was 2:15 pm when we headed up, but the police asked us to turn around. They had shut down traffic up the mountain. We should have known, it was too late.
The boys were disappointed for about 5 minutes, but we did have the chance to discover a new AMAZING park - Parque Bicentenario in Vitacura.
The park is gorgeous with different playground areas, nice trails for a bike and look they even had FLAMINGOS!!! Cool, we feel right at home...missing Miami.
You could buy food to feed them. 
The highlight of the visit were our ice cream popsicles. I wondered what all the fuss was about. The line for the ice cream truck was dreadfully long and at $3 USD a pop I thought they were a bit overpriced, but they were totally worth it...YUMMY! If you go to the park on the weekend don't leave without sampling one of these treats. We had pineapple and chocolate. They were both delicious, but the chocolate was the best...so rich and creamy...not what I expected from ice cream on a stick. 
That is a wrap for our Santiago Staycation.

To recap, this is what we got to check off our original list:

1. Complete Photo School Yearbook for Luka & Sam (2012-2013) (actually 80% done)
2. Go to a Fun Park
3. Organize Lego & Playmobil (i am overwhelmed by this project. still no clue how to tackle it)
4. Ice Skating (the rink was closed for the season)
5. BBQ with Friends
6. Go to the Movies
7. Playdate w/ Jacobo (not able to organize with him, but had other play dates)
8. Go on a Family Hike (it was our plan on Saturday, but the weather was cold and wet)
9. Play w/ Linda
10. Arts & Crafts

Not bad...