Monthly Archives: June 2013

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sister sister

my-sister-is-hereYou know how it would be kinda a bummer to have a YOUNGER (12 years), TALLER (three inches), THINNER (yeah) version of yourself walking around? Meet my baby sister, Elizabeth. Except it’s not a bummer! She also happens to be the sweeter, more patient, and calmer version of me. She’s the best and Mateo adores his “Auntie.” A-D-O-R-E-S.  She’s like a second little mama/big sister to him.

I wished for a sister for years (I have two younger brothers) and finally when I was 12, I got my wish. :) Of course, the age gap meant we didn’t have many years together in the same house. I was probably more of a “cool aunt” (or so I’d like to think, ha) than a sister.

The past two years, we’ve been given another chance to bond as sisters. She’s lived with us in Chicago (to be part of a school program). It’s been a crazy two years (Mateo was born and Elizabeth had to adjust to being away from our parents who she’s super close to). BUT, it’s also been really fun getting to know her now as an 18 year old. I’ll have to do a real post about that another time.

Our amazing parents, as a special (high school) graduation present, got her a ticket to come and spend our last month in Croatia together! Whohoo! :) She’s HERE! In Croatia!sistersThis is actually the second time we’ve spent a month in Europe together as sisters. When she was eleven years old (just a baby!), I was living in Barcelona with a Spanish family as an au pair. The family invited her to come spend a month with us in Spain. The answer to such an invitation should always be YES! ;) (or in that case, SIIIIIII!). We had so much fun bonding then and I can’t wait to make more memories this summer in Croatia! :)spain-sistersOH, and Aki and I had a date last night while Mateo slept at home. Thanks Auntie! ;)

it’s good to just be hanging out

popcorn in Split, CroatiaThree generations of men hanging out on the front stoop, sharing a bowl of popcorn. :) There are some more “posed” shots but I kinda like the casualness of this moment. The fact is, it’s special for these guys to just be hanging out, doing nothing special but being together. :)

Aki moved to the U.S. when he was 18 years old to go to university. A year later, he got his brother Dario to join him. Neither planned on staying longterm. Life! Skip forward over a decade later and they are both married to American women and raising kids in Chicago (Aki and me) and Florida (Dario and my sister-in-law, Melissa). The distance between Chicago and their town in Florida is big enough (17 hour drive) but then add that their sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmother, and parents are all in Croatia, oh my. Family is a big deal for those two. Having everyone together is pretty sweet.

Last week Dario and Melissa arrived with their two cuties, Tristan and Adriana. We’re all going to be together in Split for the next month. Next week Aki and Dario’s sister Žeki will be back again for a visit (she and her husband Danijel live in the Istrian region of Croatia) with their two littles, Natan and Domagoj.

Know what that means??? The FIVE cousins will be together all at once for the FIRST TIME EVER. This family has five grandkids under 4 years of age! I know two grandparents who are going to be VERY happy. :)

By the way, there’s a little story behind that bowl of popcorn the boys are sharing. Before the men came outside, it was just me hanging out with Mateo and Tristan who were running around and being goofy. A neighbor thought they were being so cute, she made a bowl of popcorn and brought it out to them. I agree, they’re pretty cute. :)

As a sidenote: Oh man, do you know how hard it is to get five people, especially two little ones into a photo?? Tristan wanted to look for bugs (that’s his thing) and Mateo just wanted to eat his popcorn in peace. I think I’ll have to make a special post just to show the outtakes! :) Funny thing, the photo I ended up loving was this candid moment.

just one of the boys

just one of the boys - toddler in Split, CroatiaWe’ve found a lovely point to watch the sunset in Split (Bene beach at Marjan Park). My sister in law showed me the spot two days ago and Aki and I have walked down with Mateo the past two evenings in a row. After the sun sets we change him into PJs and recline his stroller for the stroll back home. :)

Last night we were sitting and enjoying the sunset when a group of local kids ran past us, shouting and heading toward the water. They were after a soccer ball that had landed in the sea.

Little Mateo cracks me up. He had no idea what was going on but as soon as the boys passed, he took it as his cue to join in. Something in his head clicked and said, “Oh, I guess we’re [us boys] all headed over there.” Aki humored him and followed.

Mateo chased them all the way down the rocky pier. Really, it was the cutest thing. He was jumping up and down and yelling right along. I couldn’t hear him from where I was standing, but Aki said he was chanting “DOĐI, DOĐI!!!!”(COME, COME!!!) at the stray soccer ball with the rest of the boys.

Yep, I’m quite sure he didn’t have a clue what was going on, ha. He just knew that he was “one of the boys.”

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to my own dear Dad and of course to Aki, who is not only a wonderful husband, but a wonderful father! I know how lucky I am to have had such an incredible father and now to be married to a real role model for our son. I have a Father’s Day post started, which means that I have been thinking about those two a lot lately. I have a lot to be thankful for. I also have started a birthday post (I turned 31 on Friday!) but you know me, things are sometimes out of order. Instead I thought I’d share this silly tidbit today. :)

21 months: you little traveler

21 month milestonesThis has been a big month for you. You took two big airplanes and got yourself all the way over to Croatia (“BIIG air-pane,” as you say. Always with big eyes at the top of your voice)!

Since then you’ve taken a road trip south to Dubrovnik, and this weekend you’re going to take a boat to the islands. Hvar, to be exact (one of your mama’s favorite spots in the world).

This month you’ve tried octopus and four different types of fresh caught fish (from the Adriatic Sea). I love that you like seafood just like your mama! :) So healthy. ;)

You also adore  čevapi (Croatian sausage) just like your dad. You call it “choppi.” :) Not quite as healthy, ha. :)

The biggest news is that you are getting lots of time in with your baka and dida (Aki’s parents, Mateo’s grandparents). You videochat with them plenty from Chicago, but you haven’t been able to hug them since right after your first birthday. This is special.21-months-mateoYour baka (grandma) laughs at you all the time. She thinks it’s funny that you’re so little but you act like a big boy. :) I think it’s because you “chat” so much (half real words, half  silly “expressing yourself”). :) I think she also likes that you say “mmmmm” after every bite when you eat her food. :) You say “HI BAKA” or “HEY” to Dida every time you enter their flat and never leave without saying “Ciao Ciao” (Ćao Ćao in Croatian) and giving hugs or blowing lots of kisses. I like that about you, Mateo. :)21-months-mateo-milestonesYour Teta Žeki (Aunt Željana, Aki’s sister) and Barba Danijel (uncle) came with your cousins Natan and Domagoj just to see you! Uncle Danijel had to go back to Istria (the northern region where they live) for work but Teta Žeki (you LOVE her) and your cousins (2 and 1/2 and 8 months) have stayed to visit! Uncle Danijel is coming back this weekend to pick everyone up but don’t worry, we’ll return the visit in Istria next month.

At first you were a little suspicious of Natan taking over all of baka and dida’s toys but now you are total buds. :) You boys yell and run and tear baka & dida’s flat apart together on a daily basis. ha. :) The best part is that you are doing a little language exchange! You’ve got Natan saying “ready, set, GO!,” “hi,” and “NO.” :) It’s so cute watching you two “speak” to each other in your own toddler versions of your own languages. :)mateo-21-month-milestonesI love that everyone (and not just your Tata) is speaking to you in Croatian. You now say “još” (more), čekaj (wait), papa (papati = eat), dođi (come) and šator (tent, cause forts are very important ya know). Today you said “pazi auto” when a car passed us (watch out car)! :) You also now call your trucks “kami-truck.” (kamion = truck in Croatian). Although you still mainly use English, it’s so good for you to hear your second language all over. It seems like you understand pretty well. Everyone calls you a “mali Hrvat.” (little Croatian). :) You are.

You’ve been to four different beaches so far (between Split and Dubrovnik) and beaches are definitely your FAVORITE thing. You think the water coming in and out is hilarious and you like sand and rock beaches equally. Most beaches in Croatia are rock beaches, and you just love throwing those rocks. The sea isn’t warm yet but you don’t seem to notice, crazy boy. That’s fine, I’ll sit in the sun, you can enjoy the water with Tata. :)

Croatia has a strong singing culture. It’s normal to pass a group of people singing together (with or without a guitar). If we’re taking a walk, you make us stop to listen. Sometimes you dance. You always ask for more when a song ends. :) I love  to hear old Dalmatian songs (so Aki tells me) when we’re by the sea. Dalmatia is your Tata’s region of Croatia. You seem to like the old song traditions as well. :)mateo-21-monthsYou are such an expressive kid, Mateo. You use 2-5 word sentences now and are rambling about something from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep.

Speaking of the moment you wake up. We  are awakened every morning to a call of: “Hennaaaaa!! Henna! HENNAAAA!!” Luckily you usually revert back to “mama,” “mommy” or “mom” during the day (I won’t respond to you otherwise). Unfortunately I’m the only one calling Tata (dad) “Tata” during the day. You call Tata “Aki” much to our chagrin. Yes, you’re the kid saying “No, Aki” and yelling “Aki WAIT” down the street. Oh man…

Your friends in Chicago miss you. Three different moms have told me their kids have been asking about you. We’ll have to send postcards! :)

And maybe my favorite, whenever you are introduced to someone new you usually point to me and say “mama.” I like that you always introduce me. :) You like your mama and want everyone to know that I’m someone they should know too. ;)

On to more adventures my little man! It’s a BIG world out there. :)21-month-milestone-adventures


this is joy

this is joy - happy toddler dubrovnik, croaiaToddlers are cute, but not super interested in being cooperative. A lot of the time they aren’t.

But ya know what, this guy is pretty awesome. I love that he cannot contain his joy. I love that he sings and dances and shouts. I can’t complain that he is “spirited” because that’s how I’ve raised him. I love that I dance and yell and sing more often when he is around. :)

This photo was taken last weekend in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Aki and I were there for part of our honeymoon four years ago. That visit was more leisurely – wine, mussels, cafes, repeat. This visit had more beach time, more walks, more pigeon chasing, more toy trucks on restaurant tables, more playgrounds. Mateo was filthy by the end of every day. The kind of filthy that makes his parents look (a little) irresponsible. But ah well, that’s usually a measure of a good day in his book.

Speaking of, if you’re ever in Dubrovnik and wondering where the good playgrounds or outdoor play courts for kicking around a ball are, oh man, we’ve got all the inside info! ;)

We’ve been getting lots of questions about Croatia as well as requests for recommendations on places to visit. I’m hoping to work on a post just for you guys, but until then please join our FACEBOOK page if you want chat. I’m there! :)