We are in I-oway!

Having an amazing musically talented woman as a mother, Chris grew up watching musicals. His favorite? The Music Man. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s funny.  There is a song in it called “Iowa Stubborn”. It was a bit ironic and funny that our first full-time coaching adventure would bring us to Iowa.

Chris received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah where he spent the year as an undergraduate student coach. After graduation, he immediately hopped on a few miles west as an assistant coach at Salt Lake Community College. He spent the entire summer there at SLCC recruiting & working with the team, when another amazing coaching opportunity presented itself.

We were feeling quite stable and comfortable living in Salt Lake City. We were near lots of family and friends for the first time in the past 12 years, we had some sort of stability in our lives.I had started coaching CrossFit and was really enjoying it. Things seemed to be going well for us there in Salt Lake City. Chris received a call from John Wardenburg, the head coach at Indian Hills Community College, top Junior College in the nation. Chris has had a good relationship with Coach Wardenburg and the two coaches had been in contact quite a bit over the past 3 or 4 months. Coach called and told Chris that there was a potential opening on his staff and that he wanted to bring Chris in for an interview. He then told Chris to talk with his wife and see how they felt about the possibility of leaving Salt Lake and coaching in Iowa. Chris was very excited about the position and told coach he was very interested but he wanted to talk with me first and see how I felt. Just like we did when he received an offer to play overseas, we got online and started looking at the location of this opportunity. Indian Hills Community College is located in Ottumwa, Iowa. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either.

I threw up a wall right away. I was comfortable. My kids had wonderful friends, were on great teams for both basketball & soccer, had the best orthodontist, Zoey was in French immersion in school, etc. I wasn’t sure I wanted anything to change. We did some research. No CrossFit gym in Ottumwa. That meant no more coaching for me if we moved. No French immersion programs at any of the schools. The city, wait I think town is a better word, is small. Very small. Chris and I had talked about it and honestly I just wasn’t feeling great about the idea and Chris was being incredibly understanding. In fact, I told him flat out “no, let’s stay in Salt Lake and see where that takes us.” After a few conversations regarding this and going back and forth, he finally agreed to stay in Salt Lake and let Coach know “thanks, but no thanks.”

A couple days later, which was a Sunday evening, Coach Wardenburg called back and Chris was prepared to tell him that he wasn’t interested. Instead, he felt like he should just talk to Coach Wardenburg about our concerns instead of turning down the job. Coach said to give him a few days to do some research and that he would get back to us. A couple weeks went by and still no word from Coach. Chris and I both figured that Coach had moved on and the position was either not open or it had been filled by someone else. Then another call came. Coach said the position was officially available but figured that Chris wouldn’t be interested because after doing his research, he couldn’t find anything that would fix our concerns about moving there. The night before, Chris and I had decided that yes, actually we would be interested. It would be a huge opportunity for Chris and his coaching career. Coach said great, we will fly you out here next week for an interview.

Chris has always said he could play basketball on Mars. It didn’t matter where he was as long as he had his team and the game, he was fine. He feels the same way with coaching. The location of where we are affects me more since I am doing the day to day things with the kids. This being the case, Chris decided that it would be the best to bring me along to Ottumwa, Iowa during the interview and I agreed. The night before we left I felt that we should stay in Salt Lake City. However, we were both committed to going to Iowa with an open heart and mind and seeing how we felt once we were out there.

I knew the minute we were there that we would be coming back. I knew Chris would be offered the job and I knew Ottumwa, Iowa was where our family needed to be. I did have to convince my mind of that a little bit, but it didn’t take too much work. Chris nailed the interview as I knew he would and was immediately offered the job. It was all those little details with the kids that kept me from being 100% on board with the move. That night Chris and I were reading in our scriptures and just so happened to read Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” It was like a giant hammer to the head. I set my scriptures down and looked at Chris. It was at that point that I was 100% on board. I knew that our family was meant to move to Ottumwa, Iowa and that all those little things would be taken care of, as long as we trusted in The Lord with all our heart. I was washed over with a calmness that couldn’t be from anyone else.

As a family, we fasted and prayed about it and knew that a door was being opened for us. It was just up to us to walk through it. The next day Chris accepted the position and was officially the newest member of the Indian Hills coaching staff.  We spent the next four days in Ottumwa getting all our ducks in a row. Schooling, housing, teams, and exploring the city (which didn’t take too long). Renting is very difficult to do in small town Iowa, however we were able to convince a home seller to rent their home to us for a year. This home was right down the street from the elementary school we wanted our kids to attend, as well as The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-Day Saints church house we would be attending. As an added bonus, our next door neighbors happened to be a young couple like us who have three kids and our in our church ward. There was no doubt in our minds that Heavenly Father’s hand was in all of these things.

Once we got back to Salt Lake City we worked like tornadoes going through our house, throwing stuff out, donating stuff, and of course boxing up what we were to keep. My amazing mom took our kids up to Logan and watched them so that Chris and I could work non-stop. Sunday morning, the moving truck had left, all five kids were loaded into the van, and Jango was sitting shotgun in Chris’s car. This could only mean one thing..IT’S GO TIME!

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Ten days after accepting the position at Indian Hills, flying back to Utah and packing our home as fast as we possibly could, we were back in Ottumwa, Iowa moving into our new home. #ShotgunMove

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The day we arrived, Chris was at Indian Hills doing what he loves to do, coaching.

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Two days later the kids were in school. Kelli Jo would be entering the 5th grade, making this her 6th elementary school over all. Zoey, entering 3rd grade, would be on her 5th school.  Little Ava would be entering her first school as a kindergartener. You will have to read in another five years what her count is. I couldn’t have been more happy that it was all day kindergarten here apposed to half day in Utah.  Both of us need it, probably me more than her. #MiddleChild Our girls have mastered the skill of adapting. They didn’t shed a tear when we told them we were moving and actually were very excited and curious to look on the map where their new home would be. This brought comfort to both Chris and I because a main concern was uprooting our kids from Utah and taking them away from family and friends. Because of our faith and trust in the Lord, we knew Heavenly Father had blessed our kids with a sense of calmness and excitement with our move to the Midwest. They didn’t even blink twice at going to a new school and making new friends. I’m so thankful that Chris and I can give them the opportunity to develop this life skill that will be so beneficial for them.

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It just so happens that two weeks after we moved here, Ottumwa’s first and only CrossFit affiliated gym opened up. I contacted the owner, and am now coaching at the brand new CrossFit Ottumwa. Just another blessing for our family.

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Beckham has started preschool as well. He loves it and I think it will be good for him to have someone else to beat up on besides his little brother Zach. #BeastMode There’s also no doubt that the First Presbyterian Preschool of Ottumwa loves having him in there three days a week because, according to Chris, “Who wouldn’t love an overgrown 3 year old who wears Avenger t-shirts like Iron Man, Hulk, & Captain America on them along with a pair of basketball shorts everyday.” #HulkSmash #AvengersSwag

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I also know that little Zachary is enjoying his one on one time with mom and even some special time on Indian Hills campus with dad.

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Everything has fallen into place for us here in Ottumwa. We love our home, our neighborhood, the people Chris works with at Indian Hills, the elementary school, our ward, and small town Iowa. We have definitely been blessed in so many ways.

We finished our amazing book of adventures following Chris as a player. We have now started a new book following Chris as a coach, and I know this is just a page of the amazing adventures we have to look forward to. I feel so blessed and grateful to be here, however long that might be, and look forward to turning page after page.

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Bizim Türk Kız – *Our Turkish Girl*

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5 years ago both Ava and I had the experience of a lifetime.  I have told this story to some close friends, but thought it a fitting time to share.  Chris helped me write this the eve of Ava’s birthday.  It was amazing for me to sit in peace after the kids had gone to bed and reflect on this story with him.  Thanks for helping me Chris.

Ava first started as a little bean in Puerto Rico.  We had a little scare when I woke in the middle of the night with immense pain, which resulted in an ER visit to the hospital.  Some time and an injection later, everything was fine.  I believe it was that night that my Ava was telling me what kind of girl she would be.

We then spent some time in Utah during the end of summer wondering where this little bean would be born.

Chris had a few contract offers that year.  He was excited about an opportunity he got with a team in Ukraine and I voiced my concern, but hesitantly agreed to go and try to be positive, a tough thing for a pregnant woman who worries.

Four months into my pregnancy, we arrived in Donetsk, Ukraine and immediatley Chris’s translator, Konstantine, had the fun job of finding any doctor who could speak English.  The first doctor was located in a somewhat decent looking hospital so I was optimistic.  However, when we walked into the doctor’s office he quickly took one last long puff and threw his cigarette out the window.  I tried to hold my breathe through the smoky office and without feeling guilty told Konstantine that this doctor would not do.

On to the next. This time we pulled up to a hospital that looked straight out of a black and white movie from the 30’s.  I was shaking my head but still trying to be positive.  There were women patients walking around both inside and outside the hospital in their bathrobes and slippers.  This hospital did not have any working heater, so it felt 25 degrees inside.  The hallways were cold and as we were sitting and waiting to see the doctor I noticed a spider web in the corner and then a cat ran down the hallway meowing.  Ummmmmm, NEXT!

The following hospital was slightly better than the last two so I told Konstantine “OK.”  The female doctor sort of spoke English, so she arranged some blood work for me as well as an ultrasound.  The blood work was done at the hospital.  Konstantine and I were directed to a line where we waited at least twenty-five minutes and did paperwork, and then we walked through another freezing cold hallway, where we sat in a line of at least twenty people for forty-five minutes.  Finally they called my name and Konstantine ushered me forward.  Having had my blood drawn numerous of times, I sat down thinking I knew what was coming, but instead I went through the most interesting unexpected fifteen minutes.  The nurse wrote “Lesa Burgess” on four pieces of yellow tape. She then wrapped the tape around four open glass vials and then inserted these vials into a holder to keep them upright.  She then proceeded to stick my vein with a syringe and sucked the blood out of my arm, like you would medicine out of a bottle.  Then, she pushed the blood out into one of the vials, then stuck me again.  This continued until all four vials were adequately full.  Then I was dismissed.  Perfect.  All I could do was laugh.  I wish I would have had an iPhone back then so I could snap a picture and post it to Instagram.  I was then informed that my ultrasound would be in a couple days.

The ultrasound was a bit better, how bad can it be… cold gooey gel on the belly, a little wand, a screen, and boom, I’m done.  Might have not been the best one ever, but good enough.

My next appointment with the lady doctor was fine.  We spent twenty minutes talking and having no idea what either of us was saying to one another.  I was given a tour of the post-delivery room I would stay in after I had the baby to make sure it would suffice.  I wasn’t expecting much at this point so it seemed okay.  A tiny room with a small flat bed about five inches off the floor, a chair, and a window.  Good enough I guess, but still, something just didn’t feel right.

At this point Chris and I had discussed the situation and I was contemplating going back to Utah.  I was now six and a half months along and time was ticking.  I prayed so hard to know what I should do.  Chris and I had promised each other from the very beginning of his career to stay together if we could.  When I prayed, I didn’t feel good about going back home to Utah, yet I didn’t feel good about being in Ukraine either.  At this point, I was completely confused.

Meanwhile Chris was having some issues with his Ukrainian team.  A couple weeks later, Chris and his agent negotiated a deal to be released from his contract and within forty-eight hours had signed a new deal with a team in Eregli, Turkey.  When the deal in Turkey was negotiated, the team wanted Chris to play in their next game, which was in twenty-four hours, so the team had purchased tickets for Chris and our family to fly out in three hours. Chris told me this over the phone and I immediately started throwing everything in bags.  To get an idea of what I had to do to prepare for our move from Ukraine to Turkey, I had to pack seven 50lb suitcases, a carry-on, a diaper bag, stroller, and a car seat.  Not to mention, I had to get our two little girls Kelli Jo and Zoey ready as well as Jango, our fifty-five pound weimaraner dog in her kennel, along with her paperwork to travel.  With the clock ticking for our departure, I did all of this in forty-five minutes.  Amazingly, the only hick-up we had was Jango’s travel paperwork not being completely done, but nothing four hundred Ukrainian Hyrvna couldn’t take care of.  It pays sometimes to fly your dog, whose paperwork isn’t complete, out of a corrupt country. We had lived in Turkey the season prior so we felt good about going to a familiar country.  A year earlier, I had gone through a miscarriage and had surgery in Istanbul and knew there were good medical facilities there.  Was this all an answer to a prayer?  I felt it was.

However, instead of living in a big city like Istanbul, we would be living in a small working village on the Black Sea, a city called Eregli, which was in the province of Zonguldak.  Erdemir was the name of Chris’s team and they were a steel factory there in Eregli and it was a three and a half hour drive away from Istanbul. At first I thought I could make the drive for my doctor appointments, but it just didn’t end up working out that way.  I wasn’t comfortable with my doctor being that far away when I could possibly go into labor when Chris was on a road trip, so I decided to find a doctor nearby.

The greatest part about being in Eregli was that Chris’s old Turkish teammate from a year ago was also on this team as well.  I knew his wife Nilufer a little bit and she spoke English!  She accompanied me to my first few doctor appointments at the local hospital there until I got the hang of the procedure (more steps than seemed necessary… but that’s how a lot of things are overseas).  My doctor would be Dr. Ulker (oo-ker).  He spoke English and seemed alright.  I was not totally excited about this small city and small hospital and the whole situation, but honestly I finally felt at peace with delivering my baby here so I just went with it.

The best part about being pregnant overseas is that most of the time you get a quick little ultrasound at every appointment so you get to watch your little bean grow. I loved that.

I started into labor one evening while Chris was in town (yay!) but at practice.  When I knew it was time to go to the hospital I texted Chris, left my kids with Nilufer, and drove to the hospital, which was only a few minutes away.  Dr. Ulker didn’t really believe I was in labor and had a nurse hook me up to see if I was “lying about my close contractions.” Shockingly, I was telling the truth.  He had the non-English speaking nurse, hook me up to the monitors and he told me he would be back later.  The nurses and I played charades for a while until Nilufer came to join us.  Chris showed up after he took the kids to another of his teammates house for a slumber party.  Being in a traditionally Muslim city, they did not want Chris in the same room as me.  However it was late at night and nobody else was there so Nilufer convinced them to let Chris in the room.  He only had to leave when they checked my cervix, which he was fine with.

He did leave at one point when we found out that this hospital did not have any of the newborn necessities for the baby once she was born.  Chris went to the house to pick up some clothes, diapers, wipes, etc.  He then went to the store to buy some baby formula and bottled water, because I wasn’t going to be breast-feeding.

Finally it was time for Ava to come.  I had not been given any pain medication and planned on receiving none for the duration of my time there with Dr. Ulker.  I sat on a chair/table/bed that was sort of upright, but quite honestly I’m not really sure what to call it.  Whoever made it was thoughtful enough to have bars put on the side of the table for me to hold onto and squeeze while delivering.  As I pushed, and I won’t lie, screamed, Chris stood behind me wishing he was Muslim and had the law enforced of the male not being present during delivery.  However, like the good Christian he is, he stayed with me the whole time and helped me through the painful delivery.

I will tangent for a moment here to say that Chris’s Turkish teammates thought I was crazy for having a baby here.  They thought Chris was crazy for letting me.  I think the short conversation he had with his teammates was “Baba, you and your wife are crazy.”  But I knew everything would be fine.  When I prayed, I felt without a doubt that we would be watched over.

That’s why when Ava finally made her appearance with the cord wrapped around her neck twice and completely blue, I sat there calmly and watched her knowing she would be ok.  Dr. Ulker grabbed her two feet together in his hand and swung her up onto the table like you would a rabbit trying to get away.  They unwrapped the cord and started rubbing her furiously.  She let out a marvelous cry and slowly turned pink. They wrapped her in one of the diapers, that we brought, blankets, that we brought, and the attention quickly flew back to Dr. Ulker when he started stitching me up.  He had to cut me during the delivery and he was now stitching me up….. WITHOUT any local anesthetic. I felt every single stitch.  I was clenching my jaw and screaming again doing my best not to hold still and not kick him upside the head.  He made a fabulously funny joke about me sounding a lot like my daughter but I didn’t laugh.  Finally all done with that and his job was finished.  He said “goodbye, see you tomorrow.”  Ya ok, see ya Dr. Ulker!

Ava was born at 12:15 AM in Eregli, Zonguldak, Turkey.  Because of the time difference, it was the afternoon of January 16th back in the USA.  Therefore I always count the 16th as Ava’s ‘kind of’ birthday and the 17th as her real birthday.  I wonder if Dr. Ulker would agree with this logic.

I was anxious to know how much she weighed so I was persistent in asking them to weigh her.  Nilufer finally came in and explained to Chris and I that their baby scale was broken.  Chris thinks Dr. Ulker stole it because he just delivered an infidel baby.  I asked several times if they had another one but nobody seemed to care, which greatly upset me.  They handed me the clothes that I had worn to the hospital and told me to get dressed.  I put my clothes on and they handed me Ava and instructed me through Nilufer not to bathe her for at least a week.  She was still all gooey from birth and I nodded to them knowing full well a bath was one of the first orders of business when we got home.  I was then wheeled to my room.  Image

There in the room, one of the nurses brought in a bathroom scale and had me stand on it.  They then handed me Ava and said “üç kilogram”, which translated into English as three kilograms.  Or in non-metric using countries, 6 pounds 9 ounces.

Having a game the next day, Chris went home to get some rest and sweet beautiful Nilufer stayed the night with me to help with Ava since the nursery was non-existent.  For some reason I hadn’t had Chris bring a bottle and I forget why I didn’t make him bring one back, but for that evening, my little Ava was fed with a dropper.  She did great.  Bless Nilufer for staying that night with me.  I was exhausted.  I don’t know who I was mad at more, Chris or Dr. Ulker.  Just kidding, I understood Chris had a big game that day and needed a few hours of rest before tip-off.

I woke up a few hours later and was exhausted from both delivery and lack of sleep.  Nilufer went home for a short time and Chris returned to be with me.  The owner and general manager of Chris’s team came to visit me and brought a small Turkish pin that they pinned on Ava’s blanket.  This is a Turkish tradition that they do to ward off evil.  They also brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  Still waiting for a gift form Dr. Ulker.

Dr. Ulker came back for a quick visit to make sure everything was good.  He said, “everything is good?  I said “yes.”  Then he lectured me for five minutes on my duties of being a mother and how I am not fulfilling them because I was not breastfeeding.  I nodded as he lectured me and said “Okay” when he was finished.  This was my third baby.  I knew at this point what being a good mother was, and I knew I was one. Image

It was about time to go when Nilufer had come back and was telling Chris that he needed to go with her to pay the hospital bill for Ava’s delivery.  The bill needed to be paid in full before we left.  Because we didn’t have any insurance, Chris asked Nilufer if they would allow him to spread the payment over a couple credit cards, assuming the bill would be very high.  Nilfer said “Yes, I’m sure that’s fine.  No Problem.”  Chris was given the bill.  614 Turkish Lira, which is roughly $275.  Just so we are clear, that’s two hundred and seventy-five dollars.  Chris laughed and said “Oh, I’ll just pay cash.”

Just before noon we left the hospital to go home, just shy of twelve hours after I gave birth.  There were no wristbands to check.  No car seat checks.  We just left and went home.  Thank goodness we had the only white baby or who knows if we truely are Ava’s parents.

A couple days later Nilufer picked Ava and I up to go get shots at a clinic.  Nilufer told me the immunizations they were going to inject Ava with and I gave them the thumbs up to go ahead with them.  Now I was told it was my turn, which confused me. What shot did I need?  “Tetanus” Nilufer translated.  “Just in case everything wasn’t sterile.”  Oh, gee, OKAY.  Shoot me up and while you’re at it maybe have the hospital sterilize their tools now and then.

I got home later and told Chris the tetanus shot story and he then proceeded to tell me that while I was walking from labor room to delivery room, Dr. Ulker had stepped out to the stairwell for a pre-delivery smoke break.  Chris then said “I hope he washed his hands after, but I don’t know if he did.  I was too busy shielding your view of him smoking while you walked to the delivery room.”  A mini storm started in my head.  I thought about all the things that could have gone wrong and what could have happened.  I then looked at my sweet baby Ava sleeping away and knew what had happened.

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My prayers had been answered and I had been comforted.  I knew without a shadow of a doubt that both my baby and I would be watched over and protected from harm, and we were.  I knew Eregli, Zonguldak Turkey would be Ava’s birthplace and that it was right for us at that time.  I felt that Ava was my little miracle.  I know that sounds dramatic.  I know there are stories all the time of real extreme miracles, but nonetheless, I felt like Ava was my little Turkish miracle.  I think it was partly her strong will and fierceness that got us both through that.  Two qualities that continue to shine through in her.  I hope next time you bite into a piece of baklava or any other Turkish delights, you will think of my story of Ava and her birthday in Turkey.

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We love our little Turkish girl and are blessed every day to have her in our family.  Doğum günün kutlu olsun Ava!  Happy Birthday Ava!

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I Miss It??!!

It’s that time of year.  The time when Chris would normally be off somewhere with his new team and I would be getting the rest of the family ready to go.  Getting ready to go means researching schools (or buying homeschooling supplies), nagging Chris about making sure there are enough beds, pillows, blankets, etc for us when we get there. Making sure he has a car big enough for our family.  Either getting our dog, Jango ready to go or finding someone to watch her while we are gone.  Planning out clothes for everyone.. growing babies means taking extra sizes.  Buying new little coloring books, games, or toys and lots of fun snacks for the plane ride.  Making sure iPods and iPads were filled with favorite songs and movies.  Lots of trips to the store and countless checklists being completed.  Stress.

We aren’t doing any of that this year.  Our oldest just gave a book report at school and #3 just started preschool.  We are fully invested into the girls’ soccer seasons and not worried about going anywhere but to work, school, the grocery store, the soccer field, etc.

As I sit here at home I see so many of my fellow Basket Wives posting pics of their new homes for the season……….. and find myself missing it.  What?!

Being a wife of an international basketball player, going somewhere different every season was extremely difficult.  There are so many things I DO NOT miss:

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-Interesting furniture

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Weird varieties of furniture.

-Trusting Doctors you aren’t so sure about.

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-One cramped bathroom for everyone

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-Drying every single piece of laundry like this:

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-Buying yet another IKEA highchair (but on the flip side being so grateful there is an IKEA nearby.

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-Packing

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-THESE!

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-Goodbyes

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-Tired kids in the airport

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-That dreaded jet lag

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And oh the stress.  So much stress.  Where do I buy groceries, what can I do to keep my kids entertained in this shoebox apartment, when is someone going to come visit us?! Drying sad teary eyes of kids who miss their home, learning pieces of a new language, and probably so much more….

BUT…..

I will miss the adventure.  The excitement.  The learning.  We were able to see so much of the world.  We took pictures of amazing things on a regular every day basis.

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and so many many more.

-I will miss being able to teach my kids things simply by living where we did.  I’m sad that our babies won’t get all the amazing experiences, but am happy that the oldest 2 will have a lot of memories.

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-I will miss all the people from around the world who doted on my kids.

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-Watching Chris play.  It didn’t feel like I got to ‘watch’ much with all the kids in tow.  Game days were a bit stressful to me actually…. but I will miss watching Chris do what he has always loved doing.

 

 

 

 

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It’s sad to admit how many days went by that I didn’t appreciate the amazingness of what we were doing.  I longed for ‘normalcy’.  I loved traveling but with such a large family of little kids it was so difficult.

Now we are ‘normal’.  And there is a part of me that misses being adventurous and amazing without trying.  I already feel the need to take a trip to get out of the rut of normalcy that we are in.  Funny how life is like that.  Guess I’ll have to try harder to create our own excitement and hopefully find a way to enjoy being ‘normal’ and be happy I don’t have a new city to get lost in.

 

End of an Era

It has been a long time since I last blogged.  I have A LOT to catch up on.  The baby got a bunch of teeth, the toddler says more words, the preschooler decided to give herself a major haircut, the 7-year-old got braces, the 8-year-old turned 9, we MOVED (!!!!!!!!!) but there is something that easily trumps all of those things… and that’s what this post is devoted to.  My story starts a looooooong time ago.  OK, not that long, but still, pretty far back.  In a galaxy far far away, if you will. <— Chris edit

In 1988, a tall lanky 4th grader with floppy beach blond hair played on his first basketball team at the Irvine Boys and Girls club.  His team happened to be the Bulls and at this first practice, his teammates had a shoot out to decide who got first pick at jersey numbers.  Chris ended up winning this shootout and was able to secure the very number everyone was vying for… the same number that Micheal Jordan wore.. #21.  (oops)

In 5th grade he started AAU basketball and just kept going from there.  He attended camps during summers when other kids played with friends, he worked hard on his own and trained hard creating an amazing work ethic on and off the basketball court.  He loved what he was doing.  In High School he played four years of Varsity and was selected 3 times City Player of the year, 3 times All-State First Team.  As a Senior in 1997 he was chosen as McDonald’s All-American, Parade, Slam Magazine & USA Today All-American First Team.  In 1997 his High School team was the Southern California CIF High School Basketball Champions.  He was cheered on strongly the entire time by his dad who knows pretty much everything and always had words of wisdom for him… as well as his mom who consistently belted out her operatic warrior chant.

He then achieved his 1st dream as a basketball player, earning a full ride scholarship and signing to play at Duke University.  He spent 2 years at Duke where he played along side many great players and more importantly made some friends for life.

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After those 2 years he decided to transfer to the University of Utah to get more playing time and to play for a renowned big man coach, the late Rick Majerus.  Including his transfer redshirt year, he played 2 years at Utah …kind of (so many injuries held him back quite a bit).

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Despite being plagued with injuries, his work ethic and determination drove him forward to the next part of his dream, playing professionally.

Let’s not forget an important tangent here.  He then did the smartest thing he would ever do.. he married me.

He spent 4 summers playing in the NBA summer leagues, but wasn’t able to get that foot all the way through the door into a contract.  He opted to play internationally.

This decision would take us both on an incredible life altering journey.

1st stop…Izmir, Tuborg in Izmir, Turkey.  This is where Chris learned the importance of always wearing shower sandals.  Smoking in the showers in the locker room was a good thing because that meant at least the guys were showering.  Our puppy Jango came to the game with us.  And for the rest of our lives we will be able to laugh at the statement… “My name is Mummy” (the answer we got to just about everything from his driver who didn’t speak any English).

2nd, 3rd, & 5th… Cairns Taipans in Cairns, Australia.  Where everything is closed on Mondays (because nobody wants to go to work), The team was sponsored by McDonalds, and so the promotional ad in the local newspaper as well as advertisements around the city, was Chris posting up a Cheeseburger and the caption read “Burgess, fries, and a Coke. Come Watch the Taipans play!” In other words, you could take your ticket stub after the game and get a free fries and coke.  Thus, for the evening you got a Burgess, Fries, and a Coke. This is also where we learned about the sport, cane toad golf.  (Think golf, but in place of a ball on a tee, a warty, disgusting cane toad.)

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4th… San Miguel Beerman in Manilla, Philippines.  Don’t get sick here or you have to spend the night in a hospital bed that must have been made for a toddler.  If there was a white man in the crowd, the joke was on Chris… ‘Hey is that your brother?’  Apparently we all look alike.  Karma is a funny thing.

6th, 9th, & 15th… Caguas de Criollos in Caguas, Puerto Rico; Carolina Giants in Carolina, Puerto Rico; Guaynabo Mets in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.  Where the other American teammate would be stoked because he got Chris’s post game beer and would get a ride home.  Where friends in the crowd were all strapped (members of the FBI) and would jump to our aid during fights.

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7th.. Hyundai, Mobis Pheobus in South Korea.  Where everyone was amazed with Chris’s age (yes, age).  Where it wasn’t abnormal to have our pictures taken every day and our children’s hair touched.  Where an inch thick pillow to sit on for dinner in restaurants was not nearly enough for Chris and his inflexibility.

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8th & 11th… TTNET Beykoz in Istanbul, Turkey and Erdemir Sport in Erdemir, Turkey.  Where you drove defensively and offensively at the same time at all times.  Where it’s ok if your toilet explodes on Christmas because for them, it’s just another working day.  Where delivering our baby daughter Ava only cost $300 (which included the tetanus shot afterward… you know, “just in case”).

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10th… BC Donetsk in Donetsk, Ukraine.  This is where Chris finally learned to drive a stick shift.  This is where if you take your dog for a jog, you get chased by a pack of wild dogs, only to have to return past them and run for your life a 2nd time because you don’t know any other way home.  Where it’s OK to smoke in doctor’s offices.  Basically the best thing that came out of living in Ukraine was being able to continually watch this segment from Seinfeld and still laugh.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uvuz-hm3XZ8

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12th…. Al Wasl in Dubai, UAE.  Where there is always something to do.  Where seeing people in the mall with kids at midnight is totally normal.  Where you sweep off your deck only to find piles of sand on it the next morning.  One of the hottest places we lived, yet the only place our kids have taken snow ski lessons.  Where the kids and I would be 4 of the 7 people in the stands.

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13th & 14th…. Zastal in Zielona Gora, Poland and Trefl Sopot in Sopot, Poland.  Where the winter seemed to last for 8 months straight.  Where we were served Polska sausage on toothpicks as a pregame snack.  And where the doctors wanted me to put my giant baby on a veggie soup diet.

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16th… Baniyas in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  Where Chris had as many wins as they had fans… 5.  Where he was a ‘bachelor’ most of the season and a ‘single dad’ for a part of the season.    Where a man draped in all white is surrounded by 4 wives completely covered in black burqas, and a group of Pakistani’s wearing man-jammies with long Bin-Laden beards can all walk around the mall, but Chris is the one being stared at because apparently he is a freak. Where despite playing on the worst team ever, he put up record numbers, ended his career on a championship game win, and walked off the court as a professional player for the last time.

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I can’t seem to come up with the right words to end this post.  I’m so proud of Chris and the amazing career he had.  He was always able to leave basketball on the court and come home to his family and be there for us.  I will miss watching him do his thing on the court and feel his excitement after a big win.  There is so much that could be said, maybe should be said.  But the one thing I always come back to is this.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkIBUZTh2oc

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It really is the end of an era.  For the first time since that 4th grade Boys and Girls club, Chris won’t be a player on a team.  He has moved on already into a coaching position at our old home, the University of Utah and is fitting into his new role perfectly.  So for now, we know we will all be living in the same country for the entire next year.  We will spend our first Christmas in years (and our kids’ first Christmas ever) in the United States.  We will have new experiences that are “normal life” for everyone else.  It’s a bit strange, but exciting and we will just see where this new adventure takes us.

Good game Chris.. we love you.

March 2013

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I don’t spend much time online these days.  Blogging is on the bottom of my long list of things to get done in a very short amount of time.  However, I don’t want to get too far behind, so just like the last time, I am going to do a quick catch up.

Beckham spent a good 2.5 months with Chris in Abu Dhabi.  He got a lot of attention and did a lot of fun things.

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But it came time for him to come home… so I took a long weekend and flew to Abu Dhabi, spent 30 hours there packing him up, catching a game, getting some hugs from Chris, and spending time at my favorite Dubai Mall, then flew home with Beckham.

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These were the moments of peace.  There were a few here and there, but mostly it was incredibly difficult.  Imagine a 17 hour flight with a 1 year old (then a layover and another flight).  Fun stuff right? It’s even harder than it sounds.  Because of jet lag while in Abu Dhabi and just because of the shear anxiety about the trip home I got about 6 hours of sleep in 4 days.  Perfect for a 24 hour trip with a high maintenance little booger like my Beckham.  But alas, we made it home safe and sound on Sunday night.  I had to get up and go to school the next morning.

My amazing mom once again came to my rescue to help with the kids.  Zachary still wakes most nights…. boo.  Beckham had started crawling out of any crib you tried to contain him in, so not only were we changing him from an 11 hour time difference (don’t complain to me about daylight savings time), we were switching him from a crib to a bed.  It was a rough week, but we were consistent and made progress daily, and the day finally came where he would stay in bed without getting out and got his inner clock changed and slept all night.  It all really only took a couple weeks and now he’s golden.  I couldn’t have done it without my mom.  Love her to pieces.

Once everyone was feeling a bit better we took care of some things.  Haircut, doctor’s appointment (not surprisingly we learned that yes, Beckham is very BIG for his age), got reunited with his little brother, and was taken to show and tell by Kelli Jo who was beside herself happy that he was back home.

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Some other things going on… Zoey won first prize in her grade at school for her poster for Arbor Day.  I outlined the letters but she did everything else.  It was definitely a favorite.  Good Job Zoey.

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Zachary is sitting now and got his first 2 teeth on the same day.  Unless you felt his gums, you wouldn’t have even known he was teething.  He is the best baby.  He brings me so much joy.

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Easter crept up on us.  We had an Easter egg hunt with some fabulous friends.

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Easter Morning after finding their baskets.  In true Beckham style, he threw his to the ground and then went for Ava’s (his favorite target). I know this isn’t the prettiest picture, but it’s daily life here.. messy hair, Beckham making things tough, nobody looking at the camera… normal life.. Easter or not.

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Beckham before church… (Can you say Euro Jeans?)

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The girls after church. Can you tell those are Ava’s favorite leggings?

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Even though it was Easter, we took the afternoon and evening to celebrate Zoey’s birthday with family.  She requested pizza for dinner (her favorite food) and that was just fine by me (and everyone else for that matter).  It was a beautiful spring day and everyone enjoyed playing outside.  Kelli Jo and Zoey had gotten double dutch jump ropes in their Easter basket, so those were put to good use, as well as jumping on the tramp.  Grandma Burgess brought a bunch of plastic Easter eggs filled with candy.  Kelli Jo and her cousin Madison hid them and then all the kids were able to have a little Easter egg hunt.  They, of course, loved that and quickly gobbled up candy right before dinner.  Zoey wanted to open her gifts in front of everyone and since I was going to be at school the next day (her birthday) I thought it was a great idea.

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After dinner, we sang Happy Birthday to her and to my Mom, who’s birthday was a few days prior (the 29th of March).  We let her blow the candles out a couple times to make sure she got a good wish and then everyone enjoyed some ice cream cake.  The kids played and played until it was time for the evening to come to a close.  It was a great day.

Zoey was born on April Fool’s Day.  It could not be a more fitting day for her.  She is our little goof ball.  She loves to be loud and crazy and loves to make others laugh.  She lives life full and fast.  She has broken her arm 3 times and that just proves who she is.  She is a bit of a drama queen, but we are working on calming that a bit.  She loves to sing and loves to smother her little brothers and boss around her little sister.  I love her to pieces and am so happy she is my April Fool’s baby.  Happy Birthday to my big brown eyed girl.  We love you!

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And that’s about the end of the update.  I’m still in school and staying incredibly busy.  Chris is still in Abu Dhabi playing basketball.  We are not sure when he will be coming home so we try not to think about it yet.  The girls are absolutely loving school.  Beckham is a full time job, and cute Zachary is a better baby than I could have asked for.. now if he would just sleep all night!  My mom continues to be my rock that I lean on more than anyone will ever know.  I don’t know what I would do without her.  I pray that one of these days I can get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis.  Is that even possible as a mom?  I can always hope.

Meanwhile in Abu Dhabi

While we have been busy here, there has been plenty happening with Chris and Beckham in Abu Dhabi….

They are getting lots of quality time together and Becks loves his dad.IMG_2411

He likes to pretend he’s a little angel…IMG_2419

But don’t let him fool you.  He is, and most likely always will be, a handful.

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Chris bought him some official UAE garb…IMG_2386

And since Chris is in charge of everything.. his wardrobe has made a change to ‘everything superhero.’IMG_2305

Chris is taking a couple online courses working towards his degree.  One of them is a photography class and has taken some cool pics of Becks….becks2_b&w

Grandma Burgess went to visit them for a month!IMG_2559 IMG_2422

She made him an afghan..IMG_2496

Grandpa Burgess joined them for the last 10 days…IMG_1574

They did a lot of fun things together.  They went to a ranch with some animals, a playground, and then had dinner on the ground on a big rug. Looks like the cats may have thought Becks looked like a good snack.IMG_1597 IMG_1599 IMG_1619 IMG_1624 IMG_1625

meanwhile.. he had his own snack..

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They went to the Falcon Hospital….(with a fake camel in the lobby)IMG_1733 IMG_1747 IMG_1741 IMG_1750

They went to the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest tower) and went up to the observation deck on the 124 floor…IMG_2553 becks

They also went to the camel races.  They didn’t see any races but were able to go back to the sanctuary and see (and pet) a lot of the camels…IMG_1758

It has been a crazy and busy month for them.  Becks got sick in the middle of it and it was hard as a mom not to be there for my baby but Chris has done an awesome job of taking care of him and I’m so happy that they have had this time together.  Grandma and Grandpa Burgess will be leaving in a couple days and am sure they will be missed.

I miss my chunky little monster, but love that he’s with his dad and loving it.

Last Month and a Half

Since we have been home from our trip to Abu Dhabi a lot has happened, but I have been extra busy and have not even thought about blogging.  oops.  So here is a quick update to what has been going on in our world….

We got over jet lag.. IMG_2288 IMG_2290

I started full time school at the Utah College of Massage Therapy..IMG_2326

and am loving it.

Ava turned 4!!!IMG_2360 IMG_2375

We had some huge snow storms… IMG_2343 IMG_2347

Kelli Jo dislocated her pinky finger…IMG_2353

and got braces…

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Zachary continues to be a good baby.  He started eating solids..IMG_2463

He falls asleep while playing on the floor sometimes…IMG_2384

He turned 5 months old and is such a happy, cute, little guy.  He is in the 97% for legnth like all my other babies have been, but he’s more slender like the girls were (about 2.5 lbs lighter than Beckham was at this age).  IMG_2429

The girls helped make their own Valentine’s boxes.  First time ever…IMG_2544

and sent this pic to Chris for Valentine’s Day…photoblur

Snuggles, Hugs, and Kisses

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Saying goodbye is always hard.

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Usually it’s just Chris saying goodbye to everyone else.  This time I had to give one more goodbye hug and kiss than usual.  After a lot of thought, discussion, and prayer, Chris and I decided it would be a great thing to have Beckham stay in Abu Dhabi with Chris.  I know that a lot of people won’t understand this, and think I might be a bit crazy as a mom to do this… but that’s OK.  We feel that this decision is what is best for our family right now and that’s what is important.  During our month’s stay in December we worked out all the details for the help that Chris will need to take care of him while he is working.  He will be attending a day care from 8:00-2:00 three days a week to give him some social time with other children and also give Chris some extra time to rest as well as get schoolwork done, etc.  Even though I knew it would be hard to leave him there, I felt great about the day care and about the nanny and know that Jenn Florentin, my new great friend, will help make sure he is taken care of and give him lots of momma hugs.  Beckham craves attention and he will get a lot being there with Chris.  I’m excited for the father/son bonding time that will be available and know Chris will do a great job with him.

We left the Florentin’s house to go to the airport at 4:30 AM so we left him sleeping at the house with Jenn while Chris took the rest of us to the airport.  Therefore, I gave my Becks goodbye snuggles and kisses the night before when I put him to bed.  I held him extra long and didn’t want to let go.  He eventually reached for the bed and wanted in, so I reluctantly let go and rubbed his back some more.  I finally let go and left him knowing he was in good hands.  So far I just keep feeling like I’m missing something.  Because I am.  I miss my chunky little monster so much already, but am so happy that he’s with his dad and so happy that Chris has the chance to be with him.  It will be months before I see them both again and that’s hard to swallow, but I just know it’s right and that it’s good.

I will miss my little man so much.  Chris will have to send me pics every day.

His little brother will be a lot bigger when he comes home

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Beckham and his dad.. quite the pair

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I love my big boys and can’t wait to see them again… whenever that may be.

Our trip home this time consisted of 2 legs.  One was a flight from Dubai to Los Angeles which just happens to be #5 on the list of world’s longest flights, only 1 hour less than #1 on the list.  It totaled 16.5 hours.  It was LONG.  Our flight from SLC to Dubai we flew East.  Then this time, our flight from Dubai to LA we again flew East.  So… in the last month we technically flew all the way around the world.  We then had a long layover, which ended up being a good thing because one of our bags didn’t make it and it was 2 hours after we landed when we finally cleared customs and were headed to our next gate.  We had to go through security again, which took it’s normal amount of forever.  Then at the American Airlines desk there was an issue because of the whole changing of paper tickets on our way over, blah blah blah, what’s new.  We made it on the flight which was only 1 hour 45 minutes and finally made it home 27 hours after leaving.  Now to conquer jet lag once again.  Love it.  Hopefully tomorrow my lost bag shows up somewhere.  Inshallah!

Friends Are Blessings

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During our month long stay in Abu Dhabi visiting Chris, we stayed with some new friends Chris had met in church, the Florentin’s. They were so super sweet to invite us into their fabulous home since Chris just had 2 bedrooms and a living room in his apartment to fit 3 adults and 5 kids.  We had so much fun with the Florentin’s.  I didn’t get enough pics taken around the house while we were there but I did get a few…

Giving in to jet lag in the living room

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Dallin (14) changed his first diaper, and put Zachary in his pajamas…

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Collette loved snuggling Zachary…

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Movie night…

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Kelli Jo, Zoey, and Ava playing in their pool

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Right in their backyard is a canal with a great sidewalk area.  Grandma Zollinger took Beckham on a lot of walks along it.  I only got a bad picture in the evening..

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It was an awesome month and am so happy to have met and become great friends with such a great family.  I feel so blessed to be part of their ‘family’ now.  Thanks so much Florentin’s!  We will miss you.

And Back Again

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The day after Christmas it was time to make the trip back to Abu Dhabi.  We got everything packed up and loaded in the van and drove away from our little paradise.  Nobody was looking forward to the trip, but all I could think was ‘at least it won’t be as bad as the way here’.  I should have realized that very thought was just like the obvious foreshadowing that you see in scary movies.

I also failed to mention that Chris had not been feeling well and woke with a fever.  He felt dizzy when he tried to do anything but lay down.  Therefore, I would be driving.  Uugghh.  He laid his seat back and practically squished Ava, but luckily after a few hours he would start to feel a bit better.

The highway in Oman was under a lot of construction which led to a lot of traffic and diversions.  We stopped for gas before getting to the border so that we didn’t run into the same problem that we did before.  We came to the Oman border control and for some reason had to go inside once again and do some paperwork with our passports, but after getting things stamped and receiving a magical little square piece of paper that said we were good to go, we made it through and were on our way to the UAE border control.  Chris made the wise and obvious decision to take a different route… one that had nothing to do with Truck Road.

We finally made it to the Oman border control.  I was hoping we wouldn’t have to get out of the van because after listening to Beckham scream the last few hours he had just fallen asleep.  Little did I know we would be stuck there for 3 hours.  To make a long story short, residence visas have to be canceled when you leave the country.  3 years ago when we lived in Dubai we all had residence visas.  They were not canceled.  That was the issue.  So after some back and forth, and calling the airport, and once again waiting for papers to be made up, signed, faxed, etc. etc. etc. the issue was finally taken care of.  Everyone was out of sorts and it was a VERY long 3 hours.

The buildings that Chris was in for a few hours trying to get us across the border.

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Notice the barbed wire fence.  It kind of felt like we were being held hostage for a bit.

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The kids fought and whined but did find some things to do to pass the time… once again I was happy I was prepared with plenty of snacks.

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My mom and I switched off with which boy we were in charge of

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It felt like the moment would never come, but it finally did.  Everything was cleared up and we were free to enter the country.  Luckily the last couple hours of our trip were on fabulously open and empty freeways.  After an even longer day than the first (9.5 hours), we were finally home in Abu Dhabi.

So in short, our Christmas vacation was 2 awesome days in paradise sandwiched in between 2 horrific days of travel.  If I would have known what it was going to be like, I’m not sure if I would choose to do it again or not.  Either way, it was a very memorable Christmas vacation, and is just one more story to add to our book of crazy adventures over seas.  On the bright side, I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to have experiences like these and see all kinds of places across the globe.