Monday, August 22, 2016

Under Paris Skies

Hi friends. I am sitting here surrounded by boxes, thinking of the tiny apartment in the 17th arrondissement in Paris that will be our permanent residence as of Monday next week. Jeffrey's transferring jobs to the Paris office (hah! I feel like laughing all crazy-cat-lady-like at how light and breezy those sentences sounded. Oh, yes, we are just moving to Paris and Jeffrey is just transferring. In reality, this transition process and all of it's red-tape bureaucratic mess have been the mental equivalent of pushing a child out of my body).  Incidentally, what do people do to indicate a side thought with out using parenthesis?  It is something I struggle with.  I love parenthesis too much, I fear.
 We are all a little nostalgic about leaving our rough-around-the-edges-but-endearing Thionville for Paris. Here's hoping that we don't kill each other in our small apartment, and that our (future) visitors don't mind sleeping on a pull out couch.  I think it is going to be a great thing once we finally get there and figure out how to manage our space efficiently.  There is a list of wonderful things I am looking forward to seeing and experiencing in the most beautiful city in the world, but that will have to wait till the next blog post.  À bientôt mes amis!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

-Shel Silverstein

I was really struggling with adulting yesterday.  My anxiety reared it's head and started nibbling at my toes, my ankles, my knees and almost swallowed me whole.  There is no way to explain to your children, and all the people you interact with when you feel that way that you might be acting weird or off, or touchy (or shout-y...) because you are trying to climb out of the mouth of anxiety.  Breathing helps, a little.  Being by myself helps, listening to music, exercising, all help a little.  But I've found that most of the time trying to make it go away makes it worse.  When I remember, the best way to make the beast leave my toes alone is to accept that it's there.  The best case scenario is for me to say: "I see you, I know you are there and I'm not going to make you leave.  You are a part of me and sometimes you'll be here and sometimes you won't."  For me, anxiety is a very strange coping/avoiding strategy.  When something scares me or stresses me out I will feel anxious about something completely different, often off the wall or illogical.  When I can look anxiety in the eyes and ask, what is the thing I don't want to face or think about that is making this anxiety surround me? That is what helps the most.
I don't write this because I'm some expert on anxiety.  All I know is I have it sometimes, and that is ok.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Traveling with Kids

My friend had the following comment about traveling with kids: "They are fun to live abroad with but travel with kids?  It's exhausting!"  I would definitely agree.  Traveling with other adults is a lot easier, but for some of us that isn't an option.  With family far away and no budget for an au pair, we mostly HAVE to travel with kids if we want to travel at all.  Having traveled a fair amount with children in tow, here are a few things that I have found helpful:

1. Airbnb.  Hotels are small.  Staying in a hotel with small children starts to feel like Animal Planet in about 20 minutes and not in a Mommy and Daddy's special hug sort of way either.  Oh, and sharing a hotel room with small children makes "special hug" time extra hard.  Airbnb's are around the same price as a hotel, but you can often get a one or two bedroom apartment for the same price.   Living in an apartment means you can pick and choose when you eat in a restaurant and when you just eat at your apartment.  Perhaps your children are all tiny little diplomats but I know we can only handle one meal in a restaurant per day.  Bonus: Some Airbnbs are rented out by families so there are toys already there for your kids!  However, some hotels offer babysitting or daycare, you'll have to weigh the pros and cons.

2. A comfort item like a portable night light.  Sleeping in lots of different places can prove stressful for our kids so we make sure to pack these items:

One is a pillow pet of sorts and one is a penguin night light.  Both items have been with us in over 10 countries with stays ranging from 2 nights to 4 months.  They really help with the bedtime routine.  

3. Snacks.  Every parent knows this, but as soon as you step in the car/plane/bus/train without provisions and it becomes a sob-fest to rival the last session of an Eat Pray Love book club.  

4. Lowered Expectations.  I walked up to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona and my husband and I decided not to go in.  Our children were extra squirelly at the moment and I knew it wouldn't go well.  We went to the other side of the massive cathedral where there was a playground, sat on a park bench and admired the amazing outside.  I am ok with it.  Also I hope I can go back someday.  Perhaps next time I'll bring tranquilizers.  Just kidding.  Maybe.  I have found when I find a way to work with my kids schedules, maybe they give a little, and I give a little things work better. When I just drag them everywhere I want to go feeling like they owe me at least this for all I do for them I end up resenting them and not enjoying it anyway.  Congratulate yourself when things go well and figure out how to re-tool your plans when you start feeling like a lonely cat-herd.  

5. Cajones.  That's right.  Balls. Or for you ladies out there, the va-jay-jay to actually travel with kids.  You can do this. You can do hard things.  It just takes some careful planning.  Give yourself lots of pep talks with lots of well placed swear-words.  It works for me.  

6. Remember Spartans weren't taking a trans-atlantic flight when they packed their tiny suitcase of tube socks, underwear and toothpaste.  You are a parent.  Ask yourself, how long exactly does your 3 year old walk by him/herself before collapsing in a sobbing heap on the sidewalk.  If they are 4 or under, pack the damn stroller.  Kids need equipment.  Unless you live like spartans at home, they are going to need some of the things on the road that they do at home.  I'm not saying over pack, but just don't imagine that there is going to be a miraculous scenario when you don't need a certain item unless that scenario regularly happens at home. That's why suitcases have wheels, so parents can bring all their crap to keep themselves and their children sane on trips.  

7.  These little guys see things I don't see.  A lot of times its rocks and sticks, but sometimes it is a smell or the way a painting makes them feel.   It can be an enriching experience to watch how they discover a new place.  Or at least console you that you won't be sitting calmly at a nice restaurant with your spouse casually sipping your drink as you laugh about how much disposable income you have.  

8.  Keep it simple.  Our best days are ones where we plan two main activities.  One activity for the morning (like going to the museum or going to the beach), and one for the afternoon.  Allow for playground pit stops.  It will give you some time to plan transportation to your next activity. 

9. Mattress protection.  Save yourself the stress of having to frantically scrub out pee stains from a mattress (if you are staying in an Airbnb).  If you have an occasional bed-wetter, chances are the stress of travel and perhaps a fear of going to the bathroom in a new place could trigger the yellow tide.  Slip one of those babies under the fitted sheet and rest easy.  

In conclusion, you can do this.  You can travel with kids.  It will make their lives better and you might just enjoy it.  And also it's illegal to leave them home by themselves.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

New week, new song.

I have always loved Tom Waits. Perhaps that's funny coming from a classically trained singer and voice teacher. But his singing has the most important quality of all: sincerity. He sings in a way that makes you feel for him, for yourself and for everyone else in that moment. Here is a song I just discovered sung by a younger version of the Tom Waits that I am used to:
 That's vulnerability, man. It is what every performer hopes for.

Found in a discount bin

Imagine, if you will, me and my boys and niece wandering the streets of Metz (France, I live in France for anyone who isn't up on the times). We wander into a vintage vinyl store recommended to us by the owner of a vintage clothing store that single handedly backed up my argument to my niece that French people can be just as nice as all those awesome people in Valencia, Spain. Anyway, we wander in, A finds magical things, the boys find a box of toys and I find CDS FOR A EURO EACH. I buy five. Including this little morsel:
The first few tracks were pretty weird and repetitive and I was consoling myself on wasting a euro when we happened on this cover of Barbie Girl. Perhaps you have to be in the right mood but the use of the güiro (an instrument that you play by scraping across the surface and it looks like this:
) Anyway it had a groove, it was creative and new and fun. After a summer of listening to people who just can't seem to get out of the T-Pain-esque auto-tuning this was a breath of fresh, adorable air. Imagine the guy singing it has a monocle.  Have a listen, and happy Tuesday!

Monday, July 18, 2016

You Are The New Day

What? I have a blog?  Hello world.  Don't worry, despite all my promises and commitments, I'll most likely forget tomorrow that this blog is here and it will retreat back into the dusty recesses of the internet.  But today I have lots of thoughts that were spurred by this song:

It would be putting it lightly to say that the last two and a half years have rocked my world.  I've lived in 4 different countries, I now communicate in a language that I didn't know two years ago, and I have started to come into my own as a feminist.  It has been a renaissance time for me as I think I am finally ready to enter the adult world without the kicking and screaming.  I feel like I am standing at the dawn after a long sleep and it is crazy, scary and amazing.  I rejoice at the opportunity to look at the world in a new way as I slowly (and often painfully) let go of unhealthy traditions, heal traditions and thoughts that can be salvaged and learn that every day is a decision.  A decision to love (because it might be your last) a decision to stand for what you believe in (because if you don't, who will?) and a decision to be kind and honest and true because it feels good and not because of any rule/law/consequence that I may have learned.

I am grateful for being thrust into this new world with the help other people's courage and trailblazing.  I'm grateful that no matter what someone says, or who says it, I get to think about what is said, research it if I like and choose to believe it or not.  I'm grateful for changing perspectives and new knowledge and that this waking up has made me less afraid.  I am less afraid of the unknown because it is either the infinite mystery there for me to contemplate, search and respect or it is a fact that can be known and therefore no longer an unknown terror.  And how incredible that those two are not so easily categorized.

The pain comes when this new world means a departure from the old one.  Perhaps I don't have to say goodbye to people, but I have to identify myself as who I am, who I want to be and perhaps that changes what other people think of me or how they feel about me.  That in itself is a sometimes painful process.  But one I am grateful for.  I look forward to each new day, with it's beauty and pain, joy and tragedy bringing me opportunities for increased authenticity and hope that at least some of the time I can deepen relationships with those around me.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Luxembourg, take two

We are back in Luxembourg for a month as we continue our spree of changing our accommodations at least every 3 weeks and at most every 2 months.  HOWEVER, the end is in sight!  We are looking at apartments in Thionville, France and plan to move there next month and not move again for at least a year and a half!  Wheeeee!  I am unbelievable excited about this.  I know I probably say this to everyone I meet, but did you know we have moved 7 times in the last 18 months? Next month's move will make eight.  Sweet fancy Moses on a cracker.  I am happy to be back in Europe, and be in a lesser form of limbo than we were in while staying with family in Utah, but oh, I miss those beautiful loving faces and those blue skies.  We have seen the sun once since we arrived almost two weeks ago.  Luxembourg and I had a rough time of it when we were here last year, things are better this time around.  We are staying in a great part of town and I know my way around, which helps a lot.  I don't see this city and I every being best friends, though, more like those friends that you hang out because they are close to the friends you really care about (ahem, Paris).  To be fair to Luxembourg, it is February after all.  February, the frozen, hairy arm-pit of the year.  Every year I feel like I barely make it through that dark cold awful month.  To comfort myself I play the ukulele every night when the kids are asleep.  I haven't gotten any better, but I like it anyway.  Ok, to rescue this post, I'll do what I always do and post some new music I've discovered lately or songs that have come back into my life:


 this next one's a little cheesy, but I love it all the same. I think about the lines from this song all the time as I try not to screw up this whole parenting gig.

 No. I'm not pregnant, this Mama is content with two.

I promise I'll have pictures next time I post.  See you in the much better month of March.