Tuesday, 28 April 2009

A green and pleasant land

We're back. The journey wasn't as bad as I feared, there was no vomiting, I had help from the magical calm and serene granny who arrived in Budapest as scheduled and we made it back to England without any major mishaps.

Since then there has been a feasting of sights, tastes and events. I have never seen the boys eat so much. Weetabix (I'd forgotten about Weetabix!), sausages, blueberries and Innocent Smoothies all disappearing at speeds unheard of. I've been indulging in my secret vice of really good white wines which send shivers of pleasure down my spine. The local white wine we drink in Bosnia, Krstic, is fine, really it is, but it isn't good. And if you are going to drink white wine I always think it best to make it good white wine.

We took the boys to a playground this afternoon. It was pouring with rain but that didn't dampen the spirits. The boys couldn't believe their luck - a playground without nails sticking out of the equipment, trains that ran past every couple of minutes, planes in the sky. All this excitement at once. I normally have to ration it out to keep the afternoons filled up.

As Luke swung higher and higher on the toddler swing (he hasn't been in one of those for a very long time) he was so excited.

- Mummy? (as the rain dripped off the end of his nose)

- yes darling?

- my habin a lubly time

- Me too Lukey. Me too.

I'm It

I've been tagged by A Modern Mother and 4 down, Mum to go so have decided to answer the call, but with a Bosnian flavour. To complete the meme I need to answer the following questions:

1. What are your current obsessions?
Are Bosnian girls are given lessons at school about how to get into their unfeasibly tight jeans?

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear the most often?
Can't fit into any Bosnian clothes as they are all an xxxs. So, it'll have to be my extremely lovely very soft Toast jumper. Now it is summer and the weather is getting hot in BiH, I won't see it for at least 6 months, which I am a little sad about as it is a thing of great beauty.

3. What's for dinner?
Some form of stew, burek (meat pie) and Baklava. Or pizza - the other national dish.

4. Last thing you bought?
Some Bosnian honey from Herzegovina with figs and raisins in to give as presents back in the UK (from Mercator for the Bosnian readers who might be interested, it is really really good!)

5. What are you listening to?
The neighbour's turbofolk

6. If you were a god / goddess what would you be?
The one who is obeyed without question by all the others

7. Favourite holiday spots
Croatian Coast, Eastern Bosnia

8. Reading right now?
The Girl In the Film by Charlotte Eager (about journalists in wartime Sarajevo), Bridge over the Drina - by Nobel prize winner Bosnian author Ivo Andric and Evil Doesn't Live Here, a collection of posters of the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

9. Four words to describe you
Fraught, lucky, headstrong, Bosniaphile - most of the time.

10. Guilty pleasure
Some krompirusa (potato pie) for lunch. Occasionally, if I'm really lucky the bakers will still have some zeljenica (spinach and cheese pie) but that is only about once a month. Sooooo good.

11. Who or what makes you laugh?
My children. The coat peg of the Bosnian child in Adam's class called Denial (Daniel)

12. Favourite spring thing to do?
Picnics in Illincica.

13. Planning to travel next?
New York, New York!! An old old friends wedding. I am very excited.

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately?
Pad Thai and English sausages, but not together. And a glass of really good Sancerre wine. It has been a while since we were back in England - any glass of any wine that wasn't Krstic or Vranac would have had the same reaction.

15. When did you last get tipsy
Last night. More old friends. Chewing the fat. What can I say?

16. Favourite ever film
Moulin Rouge, but if this has a Bosnian flavour then it has to be No Mans Land which won Best Foreign Film Oscar and is a great great film.

17. Care to share some wisdom?
There is always a police check as you come out of Celibavici (village about 45 minutes north of Sarajevo on the Tuzla road).

18. Song you can't get out of your head?
The call to prayer. I live just opposite a mosque and find myself humming along to it like a Britany Spears song

Rules of the meme. Respond and rework. Answer questions on your own blog. Replace one question. Add one question. Tag 8 people.

Not sure I'll make 8 but here goes. Bosnian ones - did I miss anything out? Poobah, this is to entice you back to the blogosphere.

BiH Bound
La Grande Poobah
Bad Mommy Moments
My Little Brown Book
Bella Foxx's Life
3 Bedroom Bungalow

Friday, 24 April 2009

R&R ??!!!

The family (well me and the boys at least) are getting ready to head back to England for a bit of a jaunt. For long, boring and now annoyingly unnecessary reasons we had to go back for the whole of May so we are leaving tomorrow, flying via Budapest and by Saturday night I shall be eating marmite toast, Thai food and sipping dark ale. Maybe all at once.

Preparation and packing are not going so well.

Status Update:

Youngest Boy, Luke: Currently being sick and with a nasty old bout of diarrhoea. Not at nursery. When not being sick is being pretty perky and wanting to play, unpacking as fast as I pack.

Eldest Boy, Adam: Quite jolly. At nursery. Will obviously get exactly the sort of sickness and diarrhoea that you do not want to get on a plane on the plane.

Packing: Not yet

Packing of day packs for the solo trip with 2 small boys to take on the plane: Now includes many changes of clothes for inevitable sickness combo that will hit at 35,000 feet.

House: Despite being cleaned top to bottom yesterday is now trashed. Again.

Washing Machine: Never knowingly quiet, it is now dancing across the room in an attempt to get rid of the pile of dirty washing before we go and to sort out the vomit covered bedding that wasn't in there when we went to bed last night.

Weather: Tuzla - has been grotty. England - has been lovely.

Weather Forecast: Tuzla - lovely, England - grotty. (Damn it - I always travel the wrong way round - once had a year of 3 winters as I didn't pay attention when I was booking the flights)

Estimated Time of Departure: Way too close

Fraught Mummy: weirdly calm. Keep thinking how much easier it is now Luke is 2 1/2 so don't need to pack things like buggy, bottles, sleeping bags, cots. Will panic shortly but feel that denial is a better state to be in right now as I can't keep up the level of panic required for the next 48 hours. Besides, I'm going to a place where there is CBeebies on TV and Mothercare. However bad my packing is, I can bounce back.

Fraught Daddy (Dave): Is 3 weeks away from sampling his first pint. Is regarding the chaos with a degree of calmness, but he isn't the one on the plane with 2 potentially vomiting children with not enough to do.

Not Very Fraught in fact rather calm and serene Granny (My Mum): A legend in her own time. Has decided that a day trip to Hungary is just the thing and is flying from Heathrow for a coffee in Budapest before meeting her fraught daughter off the flight from Sarajevo in order to accompany said daughter and the whirlwind dervishes from Budapest to London. I may lie down and weep in gratitude on the floor of Budapest airport. Calm and Serene Granny has obviously had a rush of blood to the head in coming up with this plan and is obviously quite mad, but her fraught daughter is eternally grateful.

They call the period when the expat takes a break from being foreign, R&R. I'm not totally sure what it stands for - Rest and Recuperation? Rest and Relaxation? Either way, we need it. The build up to getting some is killing me.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Potty Training..it all depends on the definition

So, we are back on the potty training campaign. The current score is 2 attempts to train, 0 successes. Many of the Bosnians look at my youngest's Pampers clad bottom with eyebrows raised. 'Still in nappies?' they say. 'How old is he?'. Usually followed by something along the lines of how their children were trained by 6 weeks and then went on to invent a cure for cancer before they were 3.

But, I have realised it is all in the definition. If you call potty trained wearing pants then ta da - one toddler in pants and one very busy washing machine. If you call potty trained having a toddler that knows when he needs to go, tells you (or even better goes there himself) pulls down his trousers and pants, does the business and washes his hands afterwards and doesn't have an accident not ever then we have a whole different game on our hands.

Although it appears that the Bosnians are all potty trained by 18 months, I've actually realised that most of them are just like me. There is a fairly prolonged period of pants/nappies combo. Unlike me they don't take their kids out much during this period. I don't have a choice as I don't have a local Granny or massive network of willing babysitters to look after the kids. So mine come with me wherever we go. And in the interests of not being a health hazard Luke is sometimes in pants and sometimes in nappies.

I think Luke will reach my version of potty trained (the one that doesn't require the washing machine to do 6 loads a day) at the same time as the Bosnian kids. Now I've finally realised that, I can smile serenely, let the little digs pass over my head and can genuinely say that I'm so very proud of my little boy's progress so far. Yesterday, he managed a standing up wee, next to his brother. 2 little white bottoms peeing down the hill. It is the new state of Nirvana.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Birthday trips and Bosnian forts

It was my birthday this weekend. As a big night out, lots of dancing, staying out until 4am and then sleeping the hangover off until noon was out of the question, we settled for a family trip to a local town where we had never been before. Rumour had it that there was an old medieval fort there, but we couldn't find out much about it so we set off more in hope than expectation. It was quite a tight fit, some friends came along for the ride, which meant one in the boot with the dog, one squeezed between 2 toddlers whilst I, as birthday girl, travelled in luxury in the front.

Being Bosnia there were no signs for the fort. We arrived in Srebrenik and drove around for a while. 'Up' said everyone we asked. 'Up where?' we wondered and before deciding to drive along the only road we could see that went up. And up we went. And up, and up and up. Not knowing the word for 'Fort' in Bosnian did hamper us somewhat in our efforts to ask the way, but we asked everyone we could see and they all waved up. So up we went. And then, suddenly, almost mocking us for not being able to see it, there it was.

It was splendid. A proper medieval fort clinging onto a rocky outcrop, connected to the rest of the world by a rickety wooden bridge. It would not take much imagination to see rampaging warriors trying to storm the castle and being rebuffed by brave defenders. The little boys were thrilled. The big boys were very thrilled. Even the girls thought it was pretty cool. We climbed up walls, through tunnels and into nooks and crannies. The dog raced around down steep cliffs and bravely barked at a few snails. There was no one else there.

The National Trust it was not. The only other person there was an old boy who watched us with some bemusement as the rag tag crew (including dog) crossed the bridge, firing arrows as we went. He let us in (no charge for entrance) and left us to get on with it. Not a shop, cafe or piece of information about the fort in sight. This being Bosnia there was also no form of health and safety. Drops down sheer cliffs were not fenced off. Crumbling walls were not fenced off. Some of the defences looked distinctly rickety. It was nerve wracking at times but we had a wonderful afternoon.

As we attempted to squeeze ourselves back into the car, we found a bit of information about the place in English. The English was a literal translation of the Bosnian which makes for some difficult reading but I did sympathise with the fort which was described as middle-aged. As I creep towards 40, I'm starting to understand how it feels.

An additional thought for those interested in expat blogs: The Expat Mums Blog forum is hosting an expat Mums blogging carnival so pop over there for tales of cultural confusion and battles with bureaucracy.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Getting my cultural references

When I moved from the UK, I was expecting to find a number of things difficult. The loss of a network of other mothers that I could talk to was the big one. Not having around my Mum was another. Not being able to get a decent cup of tea, a packet of chocolate hobnobs or some marmite toast was always going to distress me. I knew that the success of our adventure abroad would depend upon my ability to be able to deal with these issues and I was ready for them. More or less. They were still difficult to deal with but by expecting them, they weren't such a big deal. Like an invited guest, I knew they were coming and could prepare myself for them, which made them less of an problem when they arrived (and they certainly did arrive).

It was the uninvited guest, the dropper-inner at that most inconvenient moment, that was the most difficult to come to terms with. What I wasn't expecting was how much more difficult life becomes when you lose the inherent cultural references, the instinct which points you in the right direction. So – for example – if I was looking for somewhere to cut another key or get a pair of shoes fixed in the UK, I would make train and tube stations a priority. You can usually find a cobbler, who also cuts keys, lurking in a little cabin somewhere around there. Here, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start looking. The train station is a relic of an early communist era and people don’t go there for anything, not even to catch a train.

Supermarkets became bizarre places. It took me months to find the butter. It wasn’t where I was expecting to find it, by the other dairy products. Margarine, check. Cheese, check. Yogurts, check. Butter – AWOL. I knew it was here, everyone eats it, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Only when looking (more in hope than expectation) for some fish fingers did I suddenly come across the butter. In the freezer. Between the potato pie and the peas.

Ingredients for cooking are a further source of bewilderment. I now know that you can’t buy self raising flour anywhere. You can, however, make it mixing plain flour with baking powder. I’m just not sure what I am actually using as baking powder is in fact baking powder and I don't have a clue what the ratio should be. Probably unsurprisingly, I can’t get anything to rise. So non-rising cakes for us then, luckily, chocolate brownies remain a winning formula in this household.

It was only when I was told that the billboard advertising campaign I thought was advertising laxatives was in fact for the most fashionable clothing store in town (I did think the adverts were a bit bizarre) did I realise how many submerged cultural references there are that are invisible to the newbie in town. There are so many assumptions you can make as a local that when you are the local you don't even realise you are doing it.

We've been here 9 months now and I know that I am starting to settle in. I automatically check the km/hr speed in our car rather than mph. Driving on the right isn't quite so bizarre. The supermarkets sort of make sense. I know the pink and purple butterfly billboard campaign is not advertising sanitary towels but glamourous slim style cigarettes. I'm used to the fact that the internet is not going to be able to tell me where the nearest tailors is, or what time the sports centre is open until. The city is taking on a feel of a worn glove and even beginning to make sense. It has taken awhile, but I'm starting to get my cultural bearings.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

An uncertain future

One of the things about writing a blog about living in Bosnia is that I'm aware of the need to every now and then set the context. UK and US bloggers don't need to write about the Credit Crunch, the recession or global economic meltdown, everyone knows more than they ever thought they would about that already. But, bar the Bosnians, most readers of this blog have no idea about Bosnia beyond that there was a pretty nasty war here a while back.

In general, that is more than enough needed to read the posts. I specifically want this blog to be about day to day living in Bosnia which really isn't that different from living elsewhere in Europe. However.....(and that is a big word). The political situation here is tense. Really tense. Occasionally it becomes a little less tense but the fundamental problems and issues remain. The UK and US media haven't really been reporting it, but I just read an article in The Economist from earlier this month: Bosnia's Future: A Tearing Sound, which finishes off saying that there is a remote but very real chance that the country could slip back into conflict, particularly if the politicians continue to play on the fears of the population. It also says that there is no appetite for war amoungst ordinary Bosnians, and that could not be more true.

I don't think the article was written following any particular incident. The situation has been tense here for a while (see earlier posts Getting Tenser and Letting Some Steam Out of the Pressure Cooker) and although the new EU representative who oversees Bosnia has arrived it does seem to be more of situation normal here, so fingers crossed the article was in response to a general kind of feeling rather than knowledge of anything specific.

We obviously worry, we are here with 2 small children and we do not want to find ourselves in the middle of a nasty situation. Despite the political wranglings, day to day life has not been affected. So all we can do is watch and hope that the politicians respect the wishes of the people and do not bring the prospect of a return to conflict any closer than it already is.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


We have a cleaner. For the purposes of this post I shall call her Leijla. Leijla comes twice a week and does her best to restore the house from trashed to presentable. It is not an easy task, and nor does it last more than 10 minutes after the chaos creators reappear.

Leijla and I have developed quite a good relationship. We sit and have coffee every time she comes and we talk (in Bosnian) about stuff. She has a son who at 6 is just that little bit older than Adam and who goes to the same nursery. I quite often run into her there at pick up time and we always have a bit of a gossip as our children rush off to play on the slide. She has taken to passing on the clothes that her son has grown out of to Adam, refusing any payment for them (and there is some nice stuff there - Levis jeans and the like, barely worn). We've been over to her house and she has bought her son here. We've become friends really.

When she first started she would often ask for an advance in order to cover nursery fees or whatever. I had no problems giving her an advance, she also works for our landlord and I trusted her. She hasn't asked for an advance in a while so I thought that her husband had found work or something like that. I didn't like to enquire too closely.

As you have to pay for almost everything in cash in Bosnia, we tend to have a reasonable amount of cash in the house, particularly at this time of the month just before we pay all the bills. Yesterday we had 100KM (about £50) go missing. It wasn't the first time money has gone missing, but we put it down to forgetting to note that we had taken money out of the tin or something like that. We were getting suspicious, so were keeping closer tabs upon it, and yesterday morning we counted 900KM in the tin, in the evening there was only 800KM. I was in the house for most of the day and there was only one person who went upstairs near the tin during that time, Leijla.

I now don't know what to do. I don't know for sure that she took the money, but I'm about 80%. I know that she needs this job, as well as the one with our landlord. I certainly don't want to accuse her of something like theft without being positive. When I said that I had lost some money and had she seen it yesterday she said no.

Dave is furious. I'm not. I'm just sad. I don't have enough friends (especially friends with children who are occasionally around during the day) to blow this one out of the water. And I enjoy her company, our coffees, laughing about our children and her tips on what to do with kids in Tuzla. But if I think, as I do, that she has been taking money from us it will be very difficult to recreate that trust and intimacy.

I am so disappointed.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Fairs and Carnivals

It is obviously the time for carnivals. We have a one going on down the end of the road. Enormous inflatable slides that are wildly exciting if you are 2 or 3 and wildly scary if you are a Mummy. Fairground car rides which go round and round and round. Trampolines. Nothing could be more fun for the boys or empty our pockets quicker. The only issue is how I am going to be able to avoid having to go every day for the next week as we literally have to walk through it to get home from nursery.

On the blogging side of things, the latest British Mummy's Carnival is ready to go at More than Just a Mother. So grab a cup of tea, chocolate hobnob (except please don't tell me about that as I'll drown my own puddle of drool) and have a read from the frontlines of motherhood.

For the expat Mums amongst us there is another carnival on April 21st highlighting the expat Mummy community at the Expat Mums Blog. Anyone interested email entries to expatmums (at) gmail (dot) com. I'm looking forward to reading a few tales from far flung places about how people are managing to bring up their families in a foreign environment.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Of chocolate, eggs and sunshine

With 3 religions in Bosnia, Easter is not such a big affair. The Muslims don't celebrate it and the Orthodox church celebrates it next week so we were in a minority as we got into holiday mode. I went to find chocolate eggs and was gobsmacked to find that here, in Bosnia, the most chocolate obsessed nation I have ever come across, didn't do them. At all. No big eggs. No little eggs. I did find some chocolate bunnies, next to the chocolate Santas left over from Christmas, so we went with those instead and I found some other sorts of chocolatey things that could be hidden in the garden for a traditional egg hunt.

The Bosnians may not do chocolate eggs, but they do get very into decorating their eggs. A friend had us over on Friday afternoon to help paint eggs and they turned out really well. The boys were very proud of their efforts and they occupied a very pretty looking nest in the middle of the table whilst I considered what to do with them next. Then I read a post from Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy which gave me the answer and an egg rolling competition commenced. The boys took to the event with enthusiasm. We don't have any eggs left anymore.

After a long, hard, cold, miserable, dank, dark winter it is such a joy to see the spring sunshine. It is t-shirt and shorts weather here. We spent the whole weekend in the garden digging our allotment, planting a variety of herbs and veg (fortunately being directed by a friend who actually knows what she is talking about) amongst the blossoms of the fruit trees that surround the garden. Suddenly I felt that Bosnia is a good place to be. I'm looking forward to the summer.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Who'd be a dog in Tuzla?

Up in Ilincica, the hills behind Tuzla, are some lovely walks and a restaurant. I've become quite friendly with the owner, who thinks that my daily walks up there with 2 small boys and a dog are quite bizarre but forgives us because we are English and therefore a bit odd.

As we parked up there the other day I noticed a bundle of fur by the side of the road and sure enough there were 3 bewildered rather frightened puppies. They were tiny, cannot have been more than 6 weeks or so old and certainly not old enough to be taken away from their mother. I asked the restaurateur where they had come from. 'A car came by about 5 minutes ago' he said 'they threw them out of the car'. I looked at the puppies again, a boy and 2 girls, one of whom had obviously got a broken leg.

I took my motley crew for a walk whilst I considered the options. Adam was very curious. Where did the puppies come from Mummy? Why don't they have a Mummy? Who is going to look after them? Why did the man throw them out of the car? I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier at the way in which some Bosnians treat their animals. How could they abandon these dogs like this? Luke was enchanted by them, and kept trying to return to them.

It became obvious - I couldn't leave them there. They would die, and slowly and painfully. I'd heard rumours that there was a dog home in Tuzla, something I didn't know about in previous episodes with abandoned puppies. We would take the puppies and we would find this dog home. It would be our afternoons adventure. The boys were thrilled.

When we got back to the car there were only 2 puppies. The restaurateur confirmed that the one with the broken leg had died, which I wasn't surprised about. So we found a box, put the puppies in the back, gave them some bread (all I had in the car), and set off. They were as good as gold. Not a whine, cry or whimper. Up the hills we went pursuing leads, on tracks which were definitely intended for a 4x4 and our Ford Mondeo estate was skidding around all over the place. I was rather scared (driving is not my forte) but in the end encouraged on by my 2 Lewis Hamiltons in the back, we crawled up a hill and there it was. The dog home for Tuzla. Battersea Dogs Home it was not. But it was a dog home and it was somewhere that these puppies might be cared for*.

I found the owner who was not keen. The home is for adult dogs only. For a moment I started to panic. I'd taken on these puppies, there was no way I could abandon them now. But they obviously had an element of German Shepherd in them and were going to be big dogs. Adopting 2 strays would not be a way to make my life easier. I have heard incidences of people adopting a Bosnian stray and for it to be a real success. But on the other hand a friend of mine took on a puppy from Sarajevo and he what could be termed a real handful, chases and kills chickens, sheep, cats, anything that moves. No, I really couldn't take on any more dogs.

With a combination of deliberate non-understanding of the I will not take these dogs phrases, consistent presenting of these two tiny, shivering, adorable pups and repeating the story that they had been thrown out of the car, as well as promises to get in touch with a journalist friend in Tuzla to see if we could get some more exposure for the shelter, I persuaded her to take them.

I'm going to head back up there on Sunday to take some food for the dogs. It will be a drop in the ocean, there are at least 350 dogs there, but every little helps. She told me she has very little help, very little money and doesn't know what to do. This being Bosnia I've heard other stories from other people including that she had a link with a Dutch organisation who gave money but it disappeared. Certainly, the shelter is a long way off the standards that would be required to call it humane. But it is there, and that is a whole lot better for these 350 dogs and 2 puppies than facing the hunters.


*Adam over at Balkan File had a post recently including some pictures about a similar dog home just outside of Belgrade in Serbia. There he gives a contact for anyone wanting to contribute towards the running of the home. I'd love to do something for this dogs home, but there is obviously some back story that I'm unaware of. If anyone has an idea about how to help please leave me a comment!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Lists and the love of a mother

A departure from my usual blogging self. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow. But today there has been a fortuitous coincidence.

First, I recently signed up for a 30 day improve your blog course. What can I say? It was free. I was supposed to be working. I was bored. I suddenly thought that maybe I ought to actually put some effort in beyond wittering at the few people who come by. I had actually forgotten all about it but the first lesson appeared yesterday and not only did I fail to complete it, I didn't even attempt it. It was all to do with identifying your ambitions for your blog, writing an 'elevator pitch' and working out who you are hoping will read it. That was difficult. I mean do I write for people who are interested in Bosnia? Do I write a Mummy Blog? Do I write for people interested in Bosnia and parenthood and want to read about it in English? That narrows the audience down somewhat. So I decided that I would write for myself and see where I end up. Got sidetracked from writing the elevator pitch - yesterday was a busy day involving far more important things such as escalators, potties (again, it is everlasting and I am still losing the battle) and seeing if I could get the boys to mop the porch before they realised it was a chore and not a game.

For todays lesson I am supposed to write a 'list post'. An important tool apparently. But I quite like doing lists - I'm a mother after all - so I figured I could do that.

Then, just as I was wondering if I could update an old list and be done with it, I was tagged (I didn't know what it meant either) by A Modern Mother and Notes From Inside My Head inviting me to join the modern day Verne voyage to go Around the World in 80 clicks. The idea, in conjunction with Global Voices Online is to get as many Mums from as many countries to write a post listing 5 things that they love about their children, this being a universal question that all mothers, wherever they are from, can respond to. Being about the only Mummy blogging in English from Bosnia, I guess I need to suspend British scepticism and suspicion that this is a chain letter by another name and get to it if Bosnia is to be represented.

But really I can't resist it. 2 for the price of 1. Besides, I read some of the other posts from other participating mothers and there are some really great ones. So, here goes:
  1. Getting me back into baking. Cakes, biscuits, puddings. I never cooked them when I was a career girl. Now we don't stop. And even given the amount of copious cake eating that I've achieved over the past few years (particularly as cakes are bad for children and therefore tired Mummys must step in to ensure it doesn't go stale) I'm still a size smaller than in my career girl days because the kids don't stop running around, so neither do I.
  2. The inability of Lukey to pronounce his own name. Instead he talks about Ookey. I do go a bit gooey every time I hear it and will be sad when he works out how to say it properly.

  3. Providing me with the ability to say "because I said so" and for that to be the end of the conversation! Power. I have it. They may not respect it, but for that short moment I'm the boss and I said so. So there.
  4. Making me see the world all over again. Especially seeing things that I have seen so often that I've forgotten how great they are and asking the questions that challenge the basics. I still don't know why Orangina makes you burp and not fart, whether ticks can swim or what worms do when they are not in the ground - but I'd like to.
  5. Last, but by no means least, it is the way they can give an all over body hug, which includes arms, legs, head and any other part of their body they can manage to wrap around me. I'll never feel as loved and needed again. Everything that I do for them, give them, create for them is repaid in spades in that moment.

Mission accomplished. Normal Service will be resumed tomorrow. All that remains is to tag some others. So BloominMavelous and Alice - take it away.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Spring has sprung

At last. At long last. Spring has arrived, and it has arrived with a vengeance. The weekend was beautiful, blossom on the trees, all sorts of flowers out and a general sense that the winter with its snow and mud is behind us.

We took the opportunity to see whether the lakes near Tuzla were open yet. Deliberately not taking any swimming stuff (however much the boys beg, it is too cold to go swimming just yet) we set off and joy of joys, they are. People were cooking barbecues and picnicking, playing volleyball, fishing and generally moving into summertime mode. It was lovely.

Inspired we came back, bought a barbecue and spent the evening cooking our own burgers and kebabs in the garden, enjoying the evening light and not having to put on a jacket. Throw in a few beers, the odd glass of cold white wine and some good friends and races with small children around the garden and suddenly Bosnia doesn't seem a bad place to be at all.

Even with all the above, there is one development that has really caught my imagination. I've noticed over the past couple of weeks that all the Bosnians have been very busy in their gardens. Not tending to flowers (although there are some roses and other splashes of colour appearing in front of everyone's house) but planting their vegetables. There has been a flurry of digging, weeding and planting going on in almost every garden and most the open spaces around. Well, when in Bosnia.... we now have our own allotment in the corner of the garden. More accurately we now have our own dug up bit of earth and the bottom of the garden, but I have onions, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes to plant. I know nothing about growing green stuff, being an urban girl born and bred. But, I'm very excited about having a go, and, armed with their own trowels and permission to go get really dirty, so are the boys. You never know, if they grow the vegetables themselves they may even get inspired to eat them.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Small children and Bosnian medicals...

Our efforts to get hold of the appropriate visa continue. The most recent step was to have a medical. In our innocence we had just presumed this would be a quick chat with the doctor, possibly a blood pressure measurement or two and off we would go, declared healthy with the appropriate boxes ticked. I even thought that we might be able to do this whilst the boys were in nursery, surely they wouldn't want to examine the boys?

How wrong can you be? 6 hours, 6 Doctors, many nurses and quite a lot of cash later we finally got our signed bit of paper.

The following are my top tips for anyone else considering embarking upon the application process (especially those with children).

1. Make sure that you call someone who knows someone who knows someone in the hospital. This can help ease your route through the process and bumps you up to the front of many queues. This also means you must arrive at the hospital (children in tow) at 7.15am before any queues have yet to form in order to be able to jump them.

2. Find a doctor who knows how to take blood. Let him practice first upon an adult to get his eye in and ensure that if anyone is going to have a bruise from bicep to forearm it is an adult. Female doctors are much better at taking blood from wriggling, screaming children.

3. If you give an un potty trained toddler a urine sample pot, it doesn't mean that you will get a urine sample from him. It you write his name on the lid, it doesn't mean he is anymore likely to pee in the pot. Remember, if you can get unpottytrained toddler to pee into the pot, the mother might well kidnap you and take you home until you train the toddler to pee in the potty.

4. Potty trained toddlers are also going to find peeing into a tiny urine sample pot difficult. They aren't going to be able to repeat the attempt to do so either.

5. Neither toddler will stand still long enough to take a chest x-ray without their mother in the room (and even then it is not guaranteed). The toddlers will also take off any special apron thing put around their waists.

6. It is impossible to keep toddlers behaving well for 6 hours. At some point they will leap off the waiting room chairs and run screaming at the top of their voices into a consulting room. They will repeat this several times.

7. They will also crawl under benches, chairs and generally roll around on the floor. They will probably take down giant cardboard displays and use them to build a fort. It doesn't matter how many times you tell their mother that the floor is dirty, they've been there for 6 hours and it is playing on the floor or running screaming into adjacent consulting rooms. You choose.

8. Please don't ask the mother of a toddler if she gets headaches as the toddler is bashing her over the head with a train.

9. Don't ask if she gets enough sleep either. What do you think?

10. At some point the children will have to be fed and given something to drink. This should not mean that they lose their place in the queue.

For me the highlight of the day was when we were given a psychological test. Seriously. It felt like something out of Joseph Heller's Catch 22. If you are applying for a Bosnian visa you must be mad. Therefore we deny you this visa on the basis of insanity.

The quest continues...

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Hajmo Bosno Bosno Bosno!

Bosnia's football team has yet to qualify for a big football tournament. The closest they got was about 5 years ago when they had to beat Denmark, at home, to go to Euro 2004. They drew 1-1, didn't make the cut and Bosnians still talk of their misery that day.

Whisper it quietly, but the current Bosnian team (managed by the flamboyant Ciro who took Croatia to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1998) is not at all bad. The Bosnians are secretly hopeful of going to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup. Having beaten Belgium away 4-2 on Saturday, last night they hosted them here. A win would put them into a strong position in their group. They might do it. Everyone thinks that they might.

Most people watched Saturdays game at home. You knew when Bosnia had scored, a fireworks display worthy of Guy Fawkes went off. Well, not on the fourth goal perhaps, I think everyone had run out of fireworks. But having beaten Belgium so convincingly there was a real mood of anticipation and excitement about the home leg. A group got together on FaceBook calling for the erection of a big screen in Tuzla to watch the match and after 2000 people had joined it, the government duly did so.

We couldn't resist. We found a babysitter, got the boys into bed and off we went. The square was packed, everyone dressed in blue and yellow. There was a lot of singing and laughing and flag waving. Everyone was having a ball, including the legions of young kids who were out for the event. We drank beer and ate peanuts and shouted at the TV screen along with everyone else. We leapt around singing songs when Bosnia scored and were deafened by the firecrackers exploding by our feet. There was such a sense of fun, of enjoyment and joy, with very little of the drunkenness, shouting or aggressiveness that you might expect to find at a similar event in Britain.

Bosnia won 2-1. We strode down the Korzo with the exultant crowds waving their flags and then back home as parades of cars, with men hanging out the windows, beeping their horns were singing Bosnian songs. We were singing them as well. Especially when we found out that England had won 2-1 too.

We're not the only ones who enjoyed the big screen spectacle in Tuzla. A Balkan Insight blog also writes about the event, but adds additional information about the darker side of football in Bosnia.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

nirvana.. or close to it

As I type, we are a picture of domestic bliss. One boy is sweeping. The other is following with a mop. If I can just keep this up for the next 18 years I (and any future daughters-in-law) will be laughing.

The realistic chances of it lasting for much more than the next 5 minutes are close to zero but I'm enjoying the dream.

So whilst I have 5 minutes, I'm going to add a link for the Best of British Mummy Bloggers Carnival which publishes the best posts from British Mummys every two weeks. This week it includes me (small cheers and a bit of a jig performed from a seated position). And then I'm going to go and read the other blogs (more cheers, more jigs and a quick glance over my shoulder to make sure that the mopping is still going strong, ah yes, they are now tackling behind the sofa, I'm training them well).