The Warrior Song – My Messy Beautiful

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, the bird sings because it has a song.

Maya Angelou

I made a major change over a year ago.  I decided that rather than go back to a job that I was good at but didn’t offer me much in the realm of satisfaction, I would stay home with our newborn son.  With the full support of my husband, I made the decision to “consciously uncouple” from my career.   I don’t blame the job, and I didn’t opt out because I thought that staying at home was the prescribed role for women.  At one time, I had that thought that women should stay home.  My certainty was steeped in the belief that if you commit to a role, stuck by it, life would work in your favor.  I thought that everything you ever wanted – or thought you wanted – would just work out without much pain and hurt.  But strict roles only work when everything stays the same.  If there’s one thing that having kids has taught me, change is constant.

In the end, I didn’t leave my career because I wanted to fit in a certain role as a mother.  I realized that a career doesn’t stand in the way of motherhood anymore than anything else I pursue.     I mean does anything really work seamlessly and in tandem with motherhood?  Does cooking a meal, managing a household, volunteering, being an activist, a friend, a woman, a wife, an athlete, a professional, an entrepreneur, a neighbor or anything at all go hand in hand with motherhood?  Becoming a mother has shown me that everything requires effort, balance, teamwork, a village, and some chocolate.

Ultimately, I wanted to make a choice that wasn’t rooted in fear and insecurity.  Guess what?  It’s all harder than I thought it would be.  Messy doesn’t even cover it.  Staying at home gave me no more security in my mothering abilities than being a working mom did.  I thought making difficult choices took you down the right road?  I thought the road less travelled made all the difference?  I’m looking at you Robert Frost!   I chose a road that would confront my fears, but I’m still scared.  Now there is one singular thing I am failing at spectacularly, rather than, doing well enough at work to cover up my insufficiencies at home.

And when in doubt, I resort to old tendencies and beliefs.  I don’t know if it’s better to stay at home or have a career, but my old beliefs?  Those, I’m well acquainted with.  They’re negative and destructive, but at least I know them.  Right?  They’ve been my constant companion these 30 plus years.  Maybe you have some too?  At their core, mine sound like this:  you’re no good; you’re damaged; you will never change; who do you think you are; everything is your fault – everything.

Who has time to worry about having a career, the right parenting techniques or the best new diet to shed 10 pounds when everything is an assault.  Like, EVERYTHING.  That bad mood that the grocery store clerk was in – my fault somehow.  My daughter wishing for a two-story house – my fault.  Global warming – my fault.  So what is the right answer?  It’s not like you can Google that.

Weeks ago, I shared these thoughts with my therapist.   She pushed me to begin with what I know about myself.  A list of the good things.  Because when you have no answers, you should start with the good things you do know.  Then, she asked me if I could believe these things about myself.  It’s all very Stewart Smalley – I’m good enough, I’m smart enough – except that when you have a hard time believing in your good, then it’s actually not a silly SNL skit anymore.  It’s heartbreaking.   But I can play along.  If I’m not my old wounded self, then the possibilities are endless.

Wait.  The other shoe is bound to drop.  Because life taught me at an early age that the other shoe always drops.  Hurt happens.  Hand in hand sometimes with the good.  It’s what Glennon Doyle Melton calls “brutiful” – brutal and beautiful.   It’s not always drastic or life threatening, though sometimes it is.  The shoe dropping could be the moment you lose it and yell at your daughter for no good reason at all.  Or it could be the miscommunication with your husband that leads to a blow out of epic proportions that leaves no one unscathed.  Or it could be a rejection letter, the job you didn’t get or worse, silence.  These things happen.  The disappointments of life, of others, or of ourselves are real.  Whatever shape they take, the messiness and the hurt is waiting in the wings.

So, I asked my therapist the obvious question.  Why bother?  Why bother risking it when you can’t guarantee the outcome?  Why should I try so hard if I can’t guarantee that I will get what I want or that I won’t get hurt in the process?  My therapist doesn’t draw my attention elsewhere to shiny objects or silver linings – we’re so beyond that.  I’m glad.  She never denies the hurt and sometimes we sit in this place for a bit.  Feeling the weight of fear, the discomfort of hurt.  Just when I think I’m going to get coddled, she asks what if despite the hurt, we live life anyway?  What if we believe the good and take the risk, as they say, to fight the good fight?  Not because we can guarantee an outcome but because we’re fighting to make life, our life and lives around us, even an ounce better.

Not long after I was on the hunt for a new tattoo.  (I mean, how else does one go about sorting out questions without answers except when on the hunt for a new tattoo?)  And in a moment of divine intervention, I came across the quote from Maya Angelou.  “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, the bird sings because it has a song.”  This is it, people!  Eureka!  This is what it means to fight the good fight.  Not because I have an answer, but because I have a song to sing.  And the angels sang or my brain exploded, or both.

You know what happened next?  The song.  First – no one else can be mother to my kiddos.  Having a career, staying at home, being involved, pursuing my passions, or even not knowing what to pursue, nothing – nothing can change that.  My death won’t even change that.  I will always be Lola and Eli’s mom.  No one else can sing that song for me.  It gets better.  Despite and in spite of my imperfections, my husband and kids are getting the best of me.  Even when it’s messy and ugly and hurtful, it is my best because it’s the one where I sing a song instead of live in fear or shame.  It’s not even close to perfect, and in certain moments it’s not even beautiful, but it is so good.  This is the best part of me; the part that seeks change and growth and goodness. The part that gets to choose how to live life.  That is my song, my warrior song.

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The Momastery Recap

IMG_3389Glennon Melton Doyle recently swung through the DFW area while on her Carry On Warrior book tour. I know she may not be a household name for you as she is for me, but I thought I would pass along her words from that night. I’m sure you would also love to know that when meeting authors for the first time, my tendency is to say foolish things. Like when Glennon gave me a hug, I may or may not have said, “It’s so great to hug you in person. Because I hugged your book after I read it.” **Cringe** What you really want to know is not how I continue to embarrass myself during these type of events, but rather the 3 most common topics she hears from readers.

 

Mom Guilt – How to Deal.
There are two types of mom guilt. The first is “I feel guilty because I don’t always want to be engaged with my kids.” Glennon notes that this type of guilt is new to our generation.  It looks like this. Our child is playing on their own. We are sweeping, cooking, sitting, reading, doing laundry, going to the bathroom, on our computer, talking on the phone, etc. In generations past, it might have been considered parallel play, but today it is a source of profound guilt and shame. It also looks like this. Our child wants to play My Little Pony, Barbie, Spiderman, Superman or whatever form of torture smartly packaged to look like a toy. We feel guilty because we don’t want to play. And instead of telling your precious child, “I will play with you for 10 minutes, but then I’m going to do (fill in the blank).” We feel guilty, beat ourselves up, question our parenting skills, and on and on. It is ok to not constantly engage your child. Constantly being the operative word.

The second kind of guilt revolves around our kid suffering because (fill in the blank). Our job as parents is to protect our kiddos, right? Our job as parents is also to help our kiddos become brave, kind, strong and healthy. But sometimes when our kids are in pain, we think we’ve done something wrong.  We try to fix it because to make the guilt go away. Often the struggle through pain and suffering is the only thing that will produce those brave, kind, strong, healthy kiddos.

We might need to loosen our grips and our attraction to guilt. No one said it would be easy, right?

 

Balance – How Do You Find It?
Everything and everyone is coming at you. Work, home, friends, family, kids and many other things are pushing and pulling for your attention, but how do you find balance? Glennon shared a lesson on balance imparted by her yoga instructor. The concept of balance in yoga is opposing forces creating necessary tension to keep you upright or balanced. In other words, all those things pushing on us could actually help keep us upright. BUT…and this is a big but…in order to do this, we must participate fully in the rhythm’s of life – work/rest, give/take, help/ask for help. All too often our problem is participating fully in only side of the rhythm – we give, work, help, etc. We rarely take up the full rhythm to include rest, take and asking for help. That is why our balance is out of whack.

 

I want to (blank) but (blank). Examples – I want to write, but I’m not that good. I want to dance, but I’m too old. I want to help out but I’m just not sure I’m needed.
Glennon encouraged everyone to follow their dream and serve. She also noted that we have made up a third objective – get perfect first. Perfection is the but in the above sentence.  Anyone that is doing anything awesome started doing it before they were ready.   Whatever your dream or I want to (blank), do it. Don’t wait until you are ready or perfect.

One last worthwhile discussion – what do you do if you are an extra thinky/feely type of person? Glennon’s suggestion is to seek out the arts.  She noted that art is a world we make up that works.  The world of art can help to reveal and explain as opposed to feeling the need to hide.  Truth.

Should I run into any more famous authors, I will be sure to pass along my awesome social skills as well as any worthwhile wisdom they imparted.

Playing Princess

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I recently purchased a paper doll set at the insistence of my 6-year-old daughter. Most people would probably rejoice that a child would dare chooses a tactile toy versus life sucking technology. I think – waste of money. The dolls and everything included will most likely tear before the end of the day. I also think – I refuse to play. Think what you want, but despite having been an avid Barbie enthusiast as a child, I no longer enjoy playing dolls. Watching animated films? Yes. Playing pretend with dolls? Sorry, I’m out.

It doesn’t help that most of the pretend is centered around the outfits worn, balls attended, getting engaged to a prince, and subsequent wedding. You could say that the realities and responsibilities of adulthood have replaced fairy tales with cynicism but I wasn’t ever that girl. I played with Barbie, but I never dreamt of my wedding or getting married. One has to wonder why I even owned so many Barbies at all. It was the clothing and the hair, people. Always the clothing and the hair. Oh, and the shoes. One musn’t forget Barbie’s awesome array of shoes.

Worse is that in all this, I feel like I have somehow failed my daughter. Maybe I pushed Barbie ownership too soon. Maybe I should have evaluated my reasons for playing Barbie before I made the first purchase.  Maybe I should have been less worried about her lack of interest in baby dolls and just enjoyed swinging on swings for hours on end. Maybe my love of animated films should have taken a back seat to frequent walks in our neighborhood or bike rides. Maybe I can blame our desire to pinkify and princess-up everything so that toys are gender appropriate and appealing to little girls. Or maybe I can just let her be a princess, a well-rounded princess, mind you.

During bed time the other night, my daughter wanted to play paper doll princesses instead of reading a bedtime book. As I mentioned before, I lack in this department. Dress them up, yes. Actually play pretend? Not so much. I have no story lines to work with so I mostly follow my daughter’s lead – outfits, balls, engagement, wedding. Or a small bit of torture. But a momentary spark of brilliance occurred that night. Once our dolls were dressed, after the general pleasantries, the spark occurred. Before my daughter could invite my doll to attend the ball I said, “Did you have a chance to feed the hungry today”?

Yes, I did. I turned playtime into social issue time.  Why not?  Isn’t that why Marie Antoinette was beheaded?  So completely out of touch with the people that when they were starving, she is attributed to having said “Let them eat cake”?

The two-second pause that followed my question was enough for me. Thinking, well-rounded princesses are ok with me.

The Non-Definitive Guide to Traveling with Young Children

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When traveling with young children, one of the first things I think to ask is what should I take? Should I take a car seat or rent one? Can I take snacks on the plane? What exactly should I take on the plane that will make everyone’s life easier? Should I take a pack and play or have the hotel provide one? What clothes should I take? What if it rains? What if it snows? What clothes will make us look less touristy? The thing is, aside from the safety of your children, at some point on your trip none of these things really matter. Whether you take a pack and play or rent one doesn’t really matter if no one is sleeping. Or taking the rain cover for your stroller to account for bad weather will make no difference if your stroller is stolen or damaged in transit. There are however some valuable lessons I learned on a recent trip to Europe with our kids, age 1 and 6.  Below are my 11 Essential Tips to Traveling with Young Kids.

1. Deep Breaths and proper hydration are essential.

DSC_5785Most people would say alcohol is essential, but it just dehydrates and slows/impairs judgement. Upon arrival into Paris city limits at a major metro station at the equivalent of rush hour with two young kids and luggage, you need to be on your game. See what I mean? You had to take a deep breath just reading that sentence. Additionally, you WILL sweat profusely as you navigate the flood of people regardless of the outside temperatures. It will feel like you are literally swimming/drowning in people while you absolutely walk in the opposite flow of traffic. If you are hydrated, you won’t pass out from the physical and mental exhaustion that comes from traversing a foreign city with luggage, kids and the inability to speak the language. It is very important to breathe deeply during this time. As with all painful experiences, holding your breath will not help. Deep breaths are proven to help you relax…eventually. If you are sensitive to smells, breathe through your mouth. You will regret breathing in deeply the smells of any city unless you are parked deep inside a bakery.

2.  Invest in marriage counseling before and possibly after your trip. No, really. Public transportation or really any kind of transportation brings out the worst in people. The worst is magnified when done in the company of one child that is bound to complain and another that can’t walk yet. I’m not sure what it is about airports, but my husband and I cannot get through one without some sort of argument/I told you so moment. Never fails. So, unless you recently won the award for Best Communication in a Marriage, some sort of counseling session will only help. If you’re not into counseling, no worries, but be prepared to spend, eat or drink your feelings.

3.  Pack for the eventuality that every single bag will at some point be strapped onto your back. I suggest you try it out before you go. Pick up every single bag, even your child’s carry on, and try walking around. If you have stairs even better. Go up and down the stairs at least once. Think of this as travel bootcamp. It will feel like a workout depending on how prone you are to overpacking. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can make use of your stroller. There are places with stairs and *gasp* no escalator OR elevator. Or worse, there will be an elevator or escalator, but it will be broken. Murphy’s Law. You will at one point, or many points, carry all of your bags and your child, so be prepared. If you practice before you go, it won’t be such a shock to your system, and it may cause you to rethink you packing choices.

4.  ln light of #3, sleep naked so you can pack less. PJs take up so much space and weight. Seriously though, think long and hard about your needs versus wants. When it comes to traveling, I WANT to be able to take my entire closet, but the reality is I just don’t need that many clothes regardless of the weather. And yes, clothes can and should be worn twice. If you really want to get crazy, consider washing clothes on your trip. Think of it as an adventure, or as I realized, the most peaceful hour and a half I spent on our trip.

5.  Don’t trust single, sans kids, adorably Parisian, chic Julian when he tells you it is no problem to park your stroller at the bottom of the stairs. It IS no problem to park your stroller at the bottom of the stairs, but you will soon be relinquished of your ownership responsibilities. Despite the two secure entrances to the apartment building, someone will inevitably help themselves to your stroller. Sure it means you have to carry the stroller 4 flights of stairs, but you’ve already prepared for this eventuality in #3, remember? Two sub-lessons – 1. Should your stroller be stolen on a Sunday, familiarize yourself with local retail hours. For example, in Paris, don’t bother traipsing across the city looking for a place to buy a stroller. Retailers actually take the whole, sabbath, day of rest thing seriously. 2. When retail hours resume, please note, that should you try to purchase a new stroller in a foreign city, you will pay an arm and a leg for something that you could purchase back home for $20. As always, refer to lesson #1 for all things. Properly hydrate and take deep breaths should this happen to you.

6.  Universal laws are not actually universal – except Murphy’s Law. Seems to contradict itself, but Murphy’s Law is the exception to every rule and Universal Laws do not really exist. Parents of young ones, it is, in my opinion, a Universal Law that you can and should take your newly purchased, over-priced, unreliable, french umbrella stroller all the way to the gate. FALSE. This is NOT Universal Law and because I had believed in it so passionately, I am now convinced that Universal Laws do not exist. In the words of the Air France gate agent, each terminal and gate is different or Murphy’s Law. WHAT? Again, be thankful that you took to heart #1 and #3, because lugging your overpacked carry ons and your youngest kiddo is no big deal. You totally have this.

7.  As with all important events, don’t you dare make any drastic changes to your hair before hand. I cannot stress this enough. You will look back on pictures, and your hair will probably look cute. And because you are standing in front of some major European landmark you will convince yourself that drastically changing your hair before a trip was the best idea you had. It is not. DON’T do it. Because you are traveling with young children that require your attention and valuable toiletry space, you will not have the luxury of pretending to fix your hair. There will not be enough space for hair products that you rely on, so don’t even try it. Whatever your amazing hair dresser did to your hair before you left, you will not be able to replicate it. I get it. I wanted something new and different. Something to shake things up a bit. I wound up with severe bed head that could not be polished back into an easy bun or pony tail because my hair was too short. I was not used to fixing it and most mornings opted for breakfast instead of extra time taming my hair. My thought is ,if you can’t have easy hair, make sure you have a great breakfast. It will temporarily help you forget your hair woes should you choose to ignore this particular point.

8.  Visiting local playgrounds is a must.

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It shouldn’t be the first thing you visit each day unless the playground is right outside your door. But It should be on your list somewhere around lunch time or after a visit to a museum. There are several things that will ensure you teeter at the edge of insanity – jet lag, hunger, and spending all day visiting monuments and museums with kids. To regain a grip on reality, find a park, eat some food ,and let your kids blow off some steam while you sit. If the weather gods refuse to play nice, don’t fret just pack appropriate all-weather gear. It sounds crazy, but there are worse things than sitting under an umbrella at a playground. You could be trying to get home in the rain with over tired, soaking wet kids. Shudder. I cannot stress the necessity of appropriate clothing though or at least the knowledge of where to buy said appropriate clothing. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing.

9.  Be prepared to defy all levels of your parental I will never list. Sure it’s easy to make fun or judge others from the comfort of your own “every thing I ever needed to parent within reach” home, but when you are out there on international and unfamiliar turf, you make do. You make do or you pay for it dearly in the currency of cranky and disorderly children. I fully admit that when Alicia Silverstone admitted that she chews her children’s food and then feeds it to them, I totally judged her. Who does that? Birds, that’s who. But who can really judge another? Not this girl. With limited access to a proper knife, I absolutely made due by biting off smaller, manageable, bite size pieces for my 1-year-old. It’s not exactly bird like, but it was pretty darn close. I also let my 6-year-old go from only one sugary drink a day to 3. What can I say, travel makes you do crazy things?

10.  Speaking of things you do to survive, please note, Jet lag is not your friend, but Children’s Benadryl and Advil PM is or it was my friend. As with all medication, please consult your physician beforehand. And test it before you go. There’s nothing worse than having a sure fire plan, back fire on you.

11.  In order to ensure that everyone that goes on the trip returns with you, always decide on meeting points. Beforehand if possible and not after you get separated in a giant museum that counts with thousands of visitors each day. Realizing that there is no “meet your party at the lost and found desk” courtesy phone, after the fact might only serve to induce panic. Or wandering each floor trying to guess their location will probably make you glad you invested in marriage counseling or wish you had. It will do you no good, if after you are separated you realize that meeting next to an obscure unpopular painting of a man with a ukulele would have been a great idea.

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Meeting points mean that you get to see the sights instead of spending valuable time looking for each other or worse, cursing each others name.

There it is. The non-definitive guide to surviving and having enjoyable moments when traveling with small children. All those other lists that popped up on my google search “what to pack when traveling with children” are just as helpful, but remember, there are no Universal Laws. So stay flexible, hydrated and don’t forget to breathe.

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A Paris Pictorial

In case you missed it, I travelled with my family to Paris over Spring Break.  This is the Paris portion as recorded by my camera.

Day 1 – Arrival in Paris and ready for bed.

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One can’t capture everything that happened prior to our arrival at our Paris apartment.  Mostly because it’s irresponsible to take pictures during rush hour in a metro while transporting luggage and young kids.

Day 2 – Les Halles, Louvre, Tuileres, Eiffel Tower

Les Halles – The Belly of Paris – this used to be a central marketplace for Paris.  It has since been modernized and is undergoing more fabulous renovations to keep up with the times.  This is St. Eustace and is located at the entrance of Les Halles.

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Nearby also happens to be the site of a fabulous playground.

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Louvre – You can’t visit Paris and not visit famous works of art or the cool buildings that house said art.

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Art appreciation can never begin too early.  I would have snapped a pic of the Mona Lisa, but everyone knows about her.  I prefer less widely known art, like this guy.

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Although, if I hadn’t seen him hanging on a wall in the Louvre, I would have sworn he was an internet meme.

Just to keep it real, here are my kids entertaining themselves with an empty Coca-Cola bottle.

DSC_5745I should also mention that we got separated before any art could be appreciated – me with the stroller riding the elevator to the wrong floor, my husband and daughter waiting patiently at a completely different floor.  Lesson #461 when traveling in a foreign country – always have a preset meeting location should you get separated from your group.  Always.

Jardin des Tuileries – this garden is located close to the Louvre and is the perfect spot to shake off museum restlessness.  It helped that the weather was perfect.

Who doesn’t love a pigeon whisperer?

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I love that the gardens in Paris are both kid and adult friendly – push a sail boat along or jump on a trampoline while your parents enjoy some wine and cheese in a comfy chair whilst enjoying the sun.  What’s not to love?DSC_5760 DSC_5797DSC_5780

Carousels seem to be everywhere.

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Besides consuming wine and cheese, people watching is another favored activity.  The front of this guy’s shirt said, Carpe Diem.  In that outfit, why yes, you are seizing the day.DSC_5783

My favorite moment visiting this park was when a friendly lady sat next to me on the bench.  She proceeded to speak to me in French.  I smiled and nodded.  A lot.  Eventually she stopped trying to have a conversation and pulled out her phone.  She proceeded to call someone and speak to them in perfect English.  Eli was not amused.DSC_5788

It’s a long walk to the Eiffel Tower, or it’s a long walk for people who don’t normally walk everywhere.  Thank goodness my husband had the brilliant idea to get our daughter one of these.  DSC_5673

If not, we probably would have taken one of these.DSC_5803I’m just not sure where we would have put the stroller.

En route to the Eiffel Tower, my camera battery died.   About the same time, I would also forego my opportunity to use a bathroom near the Champs Elysee and would opt to wait in the longest line ever at the Eiffel Tower.  Sometimes when I travel, I lose the ability to make sound judgements.  The line to go up the Eiffel Tower was even longer, so we found a bench nearby where we could enjoy the view at night as well as some food.

Lola loved the Eiffel Tower.  Insisted upon seeing it every day.

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I think Eli was over it.  Or maybe, he was just over the mamarazzi in Paris.IMG_3270

Day 3 – The Bird Market, Notre Dame, Luxembourgh Gardens and the World Cup Trophy.

There’s this famous Bird and Flower Market in Paris.  It’s one of the last of its kind.  You guessed it, they have birds for sale.

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Notre Dame – there’s a picture that people take in front of the Eiffel Tower that makes it look like they are holding it in the palm of their hand.  Guess who thought this was just another type of photography pose?DSC_5816

Luxembourg gardens – more gardens, more chances to sit in the sun while your child plays.  DSC_5830

Near Notre Dame, we happened on FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour.  Yes, it’s a real thing.  We saw some sites, and then went back for our chance to see the trophy and a brazilian themed celebration.

View DSC_5840Had it not been so hot inside the tent and our stroller hadn’t been stolen at some point in the early morning hours, we might have stuck around longer and met the legend himself.  I can’t believe Pele was there!  I totally didn’t take this picture.  Because it was hot and we didn’t have a stroller.2294924_big-lnd

Yeah, our stroller was stolen on this day.  We kept hope alive and thought maybe someone in our apartment building was confused.  They weren’t.  So we opted for an early day and the calming effects of a Parisian laundromat.

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Day 4 – Stroller Shopping, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre

Stroller shopping in Paris is, as you might have guessed, unlike shopping for a stroller in the US.  Overpriced and with few options we just grinned and bared it.  Napoleon Bonaparte said, “We must laugh at a man to keep from crying for him.”  This is us laughing at ourselves, to keep from wallowing in our tears.

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The early bird gets to go up the Eiffel Tower.  The person that spends a couple of hours searching for a reasonably priced semi-lightweight stroller in Paris ends up in a two-hour line to go up the Eiffel Tower.  So we opted for the exterior view and lunch at the park.

DSC_5848 - Version 2 DSC_5852 DSC_5883DSC_5868A little bocce ball during lunch.  Why not?
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Montremartre and Sacre Cour – also known as an artist district or as I like to call it the place where your lungs and your legs burn from climbing so many steps.  When we exited the train at the Abbesses metro station, I gave a few young and able bodied people waiting for the elevator the stink eye.  I had no idea we were 118 feet below ground and would have to climb a million stairs to get to the top.  No wonder the people waiting at the elevator were giving me the “you’re crazy” eye when I bypassed the elevator.

The Wall of Love though it’s entirely possible we may have not felt much love for each other at this point.DSC_5891

Sacre Cour, where Lola and I said quick prayers to get us through the rest of the trip.DSC_5896

Day 5 – Top of the Eiffel Tower and Versailles

We had fabulous early Spring weather, so instead of taking along our jackets like we had the other days, we left them behind.  This was, of course, the wrong thing to do.  I have no pictures from the top of the Eiffel Tower because I was cold, and I was over it.

Versailles – the royal palace or as I sometimes call it – the best wedding venue ever.  Have you seen the Hall of Mirrors – that screams over the top wedding or perfect for small family get togethers.

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The war room was pretty spectacular as well.  The depictions of battle may not make for the best dance hall/wedding venue unless you’re going for a themed wedding.

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And of course Marie Antoinette and her decorators knew mint green was a super cool color long before we did.

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And of course no trip to Versailles is complete without a tour of the gardens or pictures with the sculptures.DSC_6000

If you are going to tour the extended grounds including  Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, bring walking shoes, rent a bike or even a golf cart.  It’s quite a hike and moreso if you go to the wrong entrance.
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More pictures of the kids in Versailles.  DSC_6018DSC_5949DSC_5941I think this place suits her.  DSC_6022

Day 6 – we returned to Frankfurt and then returned to the U.S.

To recap – we mostly had fun traveling to France.

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Sometimes we were fully in the moment.DSC_5951

Sometimes, we just wanted someone to hold us.DSC_5952

And sometimes, it felt like somebody was trying to take us out with a dull sword.DSC_5938

More and Less

I’m fascinated by a movement toward minimalism.  Over the holidays a blogger suggested simplifying by making a more and less list.  What do you want more of and what do you want less of in your life?  Without a doubt, I want more travel.  More experiences for our family and less stuff.  Stuff breaks easily, rarely retains its value, has to be kept organized and clean, and I most definitely need less things to clean up.  Travel is messy and often times down right ugly, but it requires less clean up and gives back more to me than a load of laundry ever has.  But I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t say that I like stuff.  I’m typing on stuff.  I take pictures with stuff.  I have stuff and by some standards around the world, lots of it.  Travel can actually induce the desire to acquire even more stuff.  But I want less stuff and more travel.

Because of the recent American Airlines merger and an article from Milescoach, we decided to cash in our miles to go to Europe, specifically Germany and France.  Why not?  We may not always have this chance and the baby will probably never remember this trip except in pictures, and it’s on the more list.  If truth be told, travel pushes us to the very limits of our comfort zones.  Crowds, different languages, crazy schedules, jet lag, overpacking, under packing, different foods and basically the inability to have everything nice, neat and wrapped with a bow.  I often foolishly believe while in the comfort of my own home that I am in control.  Travel pushes me over the edge of reality.  I cannot control every variable, nor should I.

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I’m beyond excited (as is my husband) that we got an entire bulk overhead row to ourselves.  You know that means the baby is going to sleep blissfully the entire flight and wake up refreshed and ready to begin this adventure.  Which really just means that I will sleep just as well and be refreshed and ready to conquer jet lag.  This is travel pushing me over the edge – so much leg room, so little opportunity to stretch out across two seats.  The baby slept on me and I slept very little.  I am not in control.

There was a recent study that came out regarding a very small group of people that thrives on only 4 hours of sleep.  That is not me.  I am not those people.  I thrive on somewhere closer to 8 hours.  I didn’t really take any pictures of that because bleary eyes and short tempers don’t make for exciting pictures.  When we look back on our pictures of Heidelberg, I would much rather Lola be reminded of the giant barrel in the castle than the lunatic mother that turns into a version of The Hulk on little sleep.

What we thought was the giant barrel.

DSC_5647The actual giant barrel.

DSC_5653and someone’s arm in the way.  Alas, it’s just a picture of a giant barrel.

The gorgeous views – part of the reason people visit Heidelberg.

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Outdoor cafes with sheepskin and blankets and giant pastry balls covered in chocolate.  Is there any other reason to visit a European city?  No, really.

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This is what happens when your camera is on and swinging freely on your shoulder.

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The real reason to visit any other place – faraway or close to home.DSC_5646 DSC_5638

 

 

 

 

Sleep, lack of sleep, disappoint castles and more

It’s 9:20 pm local time Thursday, March 6th and I could not keep my eyes open when I started this post. I wish I knew then what I know now. I would tell my past self to stop typing because at 3:30 am you are going to wake up from a horrific dream and then jet lag will devour the remaining sleep time hours. That’s the thing about jet lag, she completely lacks sympathy.  She doesn’t care that you went out on a limb and decided to travel with two small children.  If jet lag had a motto it would be “suck it up buttercup.”  So Friday’s theme was sleep or the lack thereof.

It all started with train problems.  Lack of sleep and train problems go hand in hand.  Something about Murphy’s Law.

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And this is what he looks like before he passes out for a nap on the train.

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And this is what deliriously happy looks like after a 20 minute cat nap.

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And we’re asleep again.

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But that was today, the theme for Thursday, our first and only real day in Germany, was a disappointing Castle, hyper parents and the smallest ever schnitzel/wine bar.

When you tell a 6-year-old that you are going to visit a castle you best be ready to dazzle her with something other than a giant barrel. Forget that France, wars, and weather destroyed most of the castle’s exterior and most likely interior, try to explain THAT to a 6-year-old as the cause for utter lack of pomp and circumstance. Thank goodness for Versailles, there will be plenty of pomp. Lest you think she gives up easily, Lola did try to open a few doors just in case there was a chance that she could sneak in.

I’m not sure what it is, but traveling – especially in Europe – makes me hyper aware, hyper vigilant and hyper anything else. Our poor kids. Whatever normal reprimands and attention they receive back home, it’s ten fold when traveling. Sit up, don’t yell, talk louder, do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that. I don’t even want to hang out with me. Thursday night it all came to a head with a dinner in the tiniest schnitzel wine bar in all of Heidelberg. Seriously, a wine bar. They only served two beers. Germany, two beers, hilarious. Best schnitzel ever, but looking back we should have waited until the ONLY other high chair was free before beginning our meal. I can’t prove it with scientific theory, but when parents are hyper everything, most likely kids will be hyper just so that they fit in the family model. Coming off a long and restful nap, the last thing I expected was our toddler would be squirmy, read hyper. Of course anyone with a toddler is probably shaking their head – a non-squirmy toddler? Does that even exist? So I thought we would manage without a high chair. Fool. Hyper fool. I took one bite and just stopped. Eventually the other table gave up the coveted high chair, and I was able to finish my meal. All I have to show for the evening is a blurry pic of the dumb-waiter (teeny elevator for delivering food) and a blurry shot snapped as I was managing evasive maneuvers with the toddler.

Dumb-waiter with a cute chalk drawing.  I know.  It’s blurry, if I hadn’t been there myself I wouldn’t know what the heck I was looking at.

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Another blurry shot.  Maybe I will begin a collection of blurry shots taken when caring for squirmy/hyper kiddos.

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How does one attain that level of less hyper that without the help of “herbs” one might ask? Prayer and meditation. And deep breaths. And more chocolate covered pastries. I’m almost positive it’s a combination of the three. Oh, and sleep. Much needed, uninterrupted sleep. And then coffee when you wake. And Advil pm before any of this, I think.  I’m not sure, but I’m working on the formula.

A Recent/Today’s Obsession – Navy

Not THE NAVY, as in the branch of a nation’s armed services that conducts military operations at sea, but rather the color Navy or dark blue. It’s serious. It’s no surprise that I’ve always liked dark colors. My wardrobe has mostly consisted of black (not goth black) but rather, sleek, sharp lines, slenderizing black.

The recent inundation of online quizzes of what harry potter/sex in the city/power ranger/friends character are you, what tattoo should you get or what european country should you live in are not new. They existed in magazines. I know, I remember those long ago days, too! My college friends and I took one once to see what fashion type we were – one friend was a twin set princess, the other granola or rather boho chic, and me – the urban ranger.  Mostly wears black was the defining characteristic. You might be thinking that navy is similar to black, so it’s not that much of a stretch, but I disagree.  It’s more of an actual color.  Except, of course, when you have to hold up a navy sweater to black pants to make sure it is in fact navy.  Not that I have EVER done that.  Seriously though, navy is clearly not fuchsia, but it’s close enough.

A few of my current navy obsessions….

J.Crew Factory swimwear

navy swim

Adult Saltwater Sandals

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pants, shorts, striped shirts/sweatshirts/tanks – there are too many to picture.

I try to pass on my obsessions to my kids so I’m alone. The boy is too young, so he not only doesn’t get a choice, but he doesn’t really care. My girl prefers pink. I shall suffer my navy obsession alone.

I just realized I recently purchased a mix of navy and light blue paperclips. Even my subconscious office supply buyer is obsessed.

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How to dress for Paris and a Giveaway

5371467839_0accb9bd5a In a brief moment of insanity, my husband and I decided that traveling to Paris with our kiddos would be a great idea. So aside from the obvious of surviving the actual trip while having fun, there’s the more important thing of what to wear. I mean there’s all those Parisians looking über chic while I sit here in my yoga pants, tee and denim jacket. How can I possibly manage to play the not obnoxious tourist when I totally look the part? I won’t even mention the side eye I’m likely to get as I overreact to everything because of my irrational and incessant worry that one of my children will be left behind on a metro stop.  So rather than disrupt our home life with my craziness, I took a different route.

About the same time that I was fretting about silly things like clothing that would impress strangers in another country, a friend of mine, reached out to me about a skin care line she’s working with. She had some Rodan+Fields samples for me to try and I thought, why not? I won’t lie, I was a little skeptical. I want great skin (or great anything else), I just don’t want to work for it. I won’t lie again when I say that this stuff is amazing. Dear God, the facial scrub (also known as Enhancements Mico-Dermabrasion Paste) she gave me made my face feel like a baby’s butt. No lie. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time my face has been that smooth. I’ve done microdermabrasion scrubs, facial peels, and what not, but this was totally different. No stinging, burning pain, just smooth. Like a baby’s butt. The night face and lip serum, I’m sure given time would be equally amazing, but the thing I noticed immediately was the scrub. You know what’s even better? She’s sponsoring a giveaway of the scrub for anyone that comments, shares or likes this post. What’s not to love people? Like it, comment, share it and you too could get a chance to have crazy smooth skin.  Like a baby’s butt.

I’ve decided that the key to dressing for Paris is to have your face look so fabulous that no one pays attention to the yoga pants, because let’s be realistic….there will be yoga pants in Paris. No doubt.

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THE NITTY GRITTY DETAILS – Up for grabs – Enhancements Microdermabrasion Paste – retails for $78. BUT if you like it – earn a chance, comment – earn another chance, share it on Facebook, twitter, etc – earn more chances. You could get it for FREE!!! Raffle ends March 2nd. Winner is announced March 3rd.  Good Luck!!

Shared Space

Imagine this is your living room.  Welcome to my home.

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You know what happens when you come up with the brilliant plan to wait 5 years into your marriage before having kids? You get used to living in an adult house. I mean, as adult as one can be when you’re in the early to mid twenties range. Of course, I don’t mean owning nice things, unless you count the electronic gadgets. It’s really more or less an adult’s ability to respect space and quirks. You know, quirks like it’s not a good idea to speak or ask me questions in the morning unless I’ve been up an hour prior. That one was pretty obvious early on in the relationship. The bigger problem – I’m not usually one to get up an hour before anyone. But as adults, we my husband soldiered on.

You know who is clueless about your need for space and respect for your quirks? Kids, that’s who. I won’t even go into the questions that are fired at me before I have a chance to open my eyes. The same amazing offspring that bring you so much joy and laughter has literally no idea what you mean by space. I know, I was shocked to figure this out, too! You could say I’m a bit slow for realizing this just now, but I’ve never been at home full-time. There’s this whole other life that occurs when kids are free to roam the house during the weekday hours of noon to 6 pm. Who knew? When you work in an office, weekends are filled with errands and activities. Trying your best to catch up on zoo and museum trips, sporting events or just trying to refill the fridge for the week ahead. Not a lot of time spent at home, so your home stays relatively easy to put back together.

I’ve noticed lately that I find myself in a place where “my spaces” are more than shared with a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old. It’s mostly a take over. Snacks, the tv, the couch, the floor, clothing, accessories are being hijacked on a daily basis. Call it selfish, but in order for this to work in everyone’s best interest, momma needs a few square feet to call her own. These are my options as I see them….

  1. I can tell the kids it’s time they struck out on their own. It’s never too soon to learn what the real world has to teach us, right?
  2. Tell them playing is overrated, as is creativity. Let’s just sit in front of the tv and do nothing. SO much better.
  3. We can buy a HUGE house. One that we can’t afford and preferably has an east and west wing and a playroom. Oh, and also comes with a cleaning lady because I can’t be bothered to clean more than my current 1500 sq feet of space. And some might argue that I don’t even do that well.
  4. We can build on to our tiny house, which will of course cost us more than it’s worth and make me wish we had just bought a different house.
  5. Get rid of all toys. Let’s get back to basics y’all. Kids these days are so spoiled and have too many choices any way. Am I right?!?
  6. I can go on one of those crazy let’s reorganize the entire house because I need to create space that is their space and my space. Together but separate, right? All about compromise.

Let’s just say in the interest of letting kids be kids and achieving some semblance of my own space, I rearrange half of the living room.

My Space

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Their Space – so much space to destroy and yet still be within arms reach of mommy and the tv.  Priorities.

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I feel so much better, already. Now I just need to sort out how to help my daughter’s room look more like a room and less like a bomb went off. What is there in life if not a good challege?

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