Ready, Get Set, Move! Move! Move!

Uhaul moving boxes

The kids were both in school, mine starting soon, and the schedules for Fall were in place. Everything was going smoothly (read: as planned) – we even had exercise routines and we’re actually sticking to them. It was like the perfect suburban moment. And then … we saw something. It was a glimmer of freedom, all shiny and sparkly. So we pounced on it like a kitten: completely invigorated and totally clueless of what was to come. Yep … we bought our first house. We bought into the American Dream that has thus far eluded us in this sizzling economy. Out of the blue, a series of little amazing moments lined up and we ended up with a home. Yes (right?)!

And here we come to the wonder of the balance of life. The first difference we noticed was that it was ours, all ours! We danced, we pranced, and then we realized: hey, this place is empty. Where’s all our stuff? Back at the old place.

Oh boy … and the moving began.

The rationale that you can just take a car load every time you go to do something at the new place (i.e., painting, fixing, building, mending) fades to bleak after the seventh or eighth load of stuff that you’re still not sure why you have (all this crap) in the first place. I mean really, do I need three identical vases ? Uh … no. Do I need two different sets of the same tools? (ok, ok, they are his – but I didn’t want to be too genderist, either). The motorcycle leathers from my oh-so-bitchin-cool-pre-mommy days? Probably not.

The truth is moving is both horrifying and wonderful at the same time; it’s living the yin and yang. The horror of having to stick every little thing you have ever bought or inherited (wise or foolishly) is overwhelming to even the most persistent of us. The wonder is how much stuff you can actually sort through, recycle, through away, and get rid of with a feeling of, “Woohoo!!! That’s off my plate.” We are truly realizing the difference between the convenience of having some things, and the over-burden of maintenance and space hogging with others. Why do I need to allocate space to things I may not need for five years? I don’t. Chuck it, recycle it, get it outta here.

It’s brought a whole new dimension to buying for me. Why are we so excited about buying new things? We are such a consumer motivated society here in America, that you nearly HAVE to have a huge home to accommodate all of your crap. My new mission is reduce! Reduce! Maybe everyone has this realization when they move … but this is the first time I’ve moved with a full family, so the countless plastic doo-dads have undone me. I can no longer permit all these things to remain un-recycled. It’s time to sort, sift, and toss. Goodwill is my new favorite place and so far. And although I’m sure I’ll slip and slide into consumerism, the veil has been lifted. Now I simply spend all my cash at the hardware store. Hello, home ownership!

Mommy Gets Away!

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The Bean in Millennium Park

The Bean in Millennium Park

With school underway and the kids thankfully dressed, ready, and lunched-up successfully for nearly two weeks. I was feeling pretty good about our schedules. Everything was falling into place. So instead of taking it easy, I did the typical Silicon Valley Dum-dumb move; I scheduled something else! Another trip, no less (albeit a small one, she rationalizes). But before you condemn me to crazy town, let me interject—I didn’t have to bring anyone! I am solo on this trip, actually travelling with adults only. That’s right. Do a happy dance!

We were off to Chicago for my sister’s birthday. She lives in the Midwest (which is far enough), so we wanted to celebrate by meeting her in Chicago instead of sending her something in the post she would inevitably have to return. I cashed in some Southwest miles for time together before lives got busier with schools and work and all the paperwork and responsibilities that come with it. Our Dad joined us for the fun, and since the three of us are all avid touristy explorers—it was sure to be a Labor day piece of adventure.

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Re-entering the Atmosphere of Life as Usual

ImageYou might think that travelling for a month with two small children would make me tired. And you would be right. Add on top of that family staying with us when we got home, and I was nearly postal by the time the kids’ school was about to kick in to gear (in August, really!?). Not that I wasn’t happy for family time. Seriously. But after nearly six straight weeks of sharing space with others? I was done. It’s not that I don’t like to share—but even a spastic extrovert has her limit.

The kids weren’t even ready for school: my little one didn’t have her kindergarten uniforms yet, and my older one had worn holes clear through the knees of his school pants. My bills were ominously stacked in a wire basket on my desk, threatening to teeter over at any second, and my dog wouldn’t leave my side for fear that I’d leave him again. (Although, I think he was secretly hoping that we’d legally adopt the dog walker who apparently gave him enough treats to make him quite portly in our absence).

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Homeward Bound

ImageIt wasn’t long after the third week abroad, that the kids’ unravel accelerated. Every accidental moment: bruise, scrape, or hunger pain was followed with the exclamation … “I wanna go hooooome.” There is a point for most of us when visions of our own beds start to pop into our brain, and longing – even for the most mundane things in our everyday existence-starts to fade in to a loud mantra. I. Want. My. Home.

By the time we left England early in the morning, the kids were excited. Nevermind the 6 A.M. wake up call – they were actually eager to get on a ten-hour plane ride. We had Cadburys’ chocolate stuffed into every crevice of our luggage, and were on our way home!

As seamless as a plane trip can be, we were lucky. But really – your international trip isn’t over until you are lying face-down on your bed with all your luggage strewn wildly around you. This lesson we learned as we unboarded the plane and literally hit a wall of human traffic before customs. Continue reading

Preparing for Travel Unvravel

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Finding ways to make travel less exhausting for kids.There is a past-due date for travel – especially when you’re under ten. Although frankly, my expiration date for being on the road came shortly after the kids, especially as the mommy in a completely different place. “Mommy, can you hold this?” (What!? There isn’t a garbage can in sight!) “Mommy, I have to pee. Now!” (Um, what about ten minutes ago when I told you this was the last potty stop for miles and you said, ‘I don’t have-ta go!’.) “Mommy, can we just go home now?” (No, we have six days left on this trip. But I will have this glass of wine and pretend we’re home.)

It’s exhausting travelling, and when you add little ones and their needs and wants for consistency and routine; it’s tricky. We did a few things to make our lives easier since we knew the kids might get homesick before our return trip tickets.

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Eating, An Adventure to Be Savored

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Strawberries, pastry and cream

Deliciously crispy pastry with silky sweet cream and perky, bright strawberries.

It was our last night in Paris—and half the reason I was there wasn’t for the fashion; it was for the food. After exploring for more than nine hours in a foreign city, we felt compelled to have anything less than an adventurous dinner.

I was impressed by two things in Paris (outside of architecture). One – there were no extraordinarily heavy people in site. It was like I’d walked into an American fifties newsreel and all these slim people were hurrying about with tailored suits and lovely outfits. The second — we didn’t find any bad food. Even in the touristy spot in the Rue Cler that obviously pandered to the bland, Western diets of club sandwiches and fries—nothing looked oversized, under flavored, or unpalatable.

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Exploring Paris

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Stealing away to a foreign country is exciting in itself—but having an entire day “of nothing planned” at my fingertips is an unusual and amazing feat. Instead of whiling it away lazily on a couch with cable—here we were in Paris!

We started the day off with a lovely slow breakfast at Café le Bosquet, just a walk away from the Eiffel Tower. We sat on the café patio, steps from the sidewalk, tucked out of the drizzle (yep, still raining), and soaked up our existential continental breakfast (coffee with milk, croissant, butter and jam). Considering the notorious American stories of “bad service” in Paris, I think it may be simply misunderstood. It’s a slower pace than any Silicon Valley rush-junkie is used to (like me). There is a definitive tonal difference to your day when you sit and watch people go by, whilst waiting patiently for a coffee with milk vs. standing in a loud, clanging, bustling line at Starbucks and rushing out the door with a to-go cup.

And after reading Mr. Steve’s book, it was clear; Parisians have their own rhythm. The worst thing you can do … is rush this city.

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Eiffel Towering Above You!

Intoxicated with the idea of no responsibilities to little people for nearly three days, we immediately went straight to a quiet, little restaurant recommended in the tourist book that I desperately tried to hide, lest we give away our tourist status too quickly. That moment came in a rush when we arrived for dinner at Le P’tit Troquet and the waiter took one look at us and politely inquired with an  , “Anglais”? Yep, we were stickin’ out a bit (maybe that umbrella with the Union Jack on it gave us a way?).

But, we shrugged, and realized they’d known immediately and already put us in the back half of the restaurant with other Americans. I was wondering if they were “stowing us out of sight” so that other French folks wouldn’t run in fear at the sight of us in the window.

Not that anyone was rude to us in the least. In fact, everyone we met seemed not only friendly, and very patient with my extremely bad pronunciation (and no, I’m not being modest). Most Parisians we met were so friendly, patiently watching our random utterings and hand signals, and smiling knowingly as we whipped out the - Rick Steve’s Paris 2012 book which couldn’t be more obvious in blue and yellow. I saw it everywhere (Mr. Steve, you’d be proud). He had recommended the district we were in for quieter folks, looking to get away (point!) and this restaurant for the warm, French atmosphere and delicious food – as well as how to order it (more points!!).

The dinner was all I expected from a first French dinner, despite the fact that it was still raining as we walked quickly back to our hotel. It nearly added to the ambience though, when we looked up to see that they light the Eiffel Tower at night, and send the lights sparkling throughout the night (I believe it’s on the hour, but by that time, I’d had my half caraf of burgundy). What a delicious start to a fun-filled weekend.

When it Rains in Paris

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Alas, as my signficant pointed out – even Disneyland can suck … when it rains. But when miracles happen like, you find you can turn lead into gold  or someone offers to take your kids for three days (bless you my sister- and brother-in-law!), you do whatever you can to take time away from the kids, even if the weather is the “wettest summer on record”.

We were hoping to escape the wet of the U.K. and took the first post-commute train from Newbury, to Paddington Station (only 20 pounds when you don’t buy online).

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London Calling

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Fewer things terrify me more than losing one of my kids in a crowded area. Not that that would ever happen to me, mom of constant diligence (Disneyland store, Discovery Museum, etc). If there is anything I gleened from my own mom’s stranger danger rules - it’s how to be prepared to ensure you don’t lose your kids in a crowd. Yep, I’m one of those annoying moms who dress their kids in BRIGHT clothes so that you almost don’t want to look at them they’re so blinding. But I can track yellow and pink in seconds, I tell you!

I find ways to get them to remember our phone number in case they get lost, write it on pieces of paper and stick it in their pockets, and of course, I even tried to get them bracelets with our phone numbers on them. My daughter, albeit only four, promptly alerted me to how unfashionable that was and refused. Short of enduring a tantrum or confronting my lack of fashion savvy, I quickly stuck a slip of paper into her pocket.

So off we go, me, with my significant other away, but in-laws and cousins to help. I mentioned that my little guy often is hard to track as he gets easily distracted (shiny!) and may wander, even after being told not to (typically directly after since the universe seems to think I need a lot of irony in my life). I got the look that means “are you sure you’re not being a bit paranoid?”, but later felt validated, when my brother in-law rolled his eyes in disbelief and asked if my son was transporting mentally to another planet. Probably. He just … drifts off. I like to think he’s imagining all the things he’ll treat me to in retirement.

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