Saturday, June 20, 2015

Kid Stuff

I've been keeping myself really busy with family, activities and doing a bit of writing over at City Savvy Luxembourg.  I'm still working out at the gym regularly, eating (mostly) clean and healthy and I feel great.  I have pep and energy and if you're feeling sluggish and tired, I highly recommend making some changes in diet and activity.  I feel like I'm 21.

Hannah, my mom and I spent a few great days in London and then met up with my sister in the English countryside.  I've got some great stories and photos to share soon.

In the meantime, this.  This photo is probably my favorite ever of my kids.  I have a friend here in Luxembourg who does amazing things behind the lens and she captured this completely unplanned and unstaged.


Hannah's just about finished with this school year, and she's done so well.  We're beyond proud of her.    Last week, we were doing some shopping in Trier, Germany and we overheard some people speaking English.
"Hey, Mom?  Those people over there sound American.  We better go talk to them.  It's our job, ya know."
Identifying accents and making friends.  She's such an expat kid.

I so love my days with Finley.
He's wild and active and wears me flat out most of the time.


But deep down, I think he's a man of leisure.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dear French People, I’m Sorry for Butchering Your Beautiful Language

Last week, a light on the dashboard of my car lit up and made a demanding ding-ding sound at me when I started it up.  I got out the manual and found that I was low on coolant, so today I went to an auto shop to pick some up. 
I was a little nervous going in because the last time I was there to have a bulb replaced in the taillight, I ended up crying twice, all in the same visit.
First because the man working there was incredibly rude and it was just so frustrating.  Then another man stepped in and was ever so helpful and nice to me and my kids and it made me cry all over again.

So today I went in, guns blazing and ready to get a jug (or the European equivalent) of coolant.
Nothing was going to stop me.

Except I didn’t know the French word for “coolant.”

So I did what I often do when I don’t know a French word and said the word in English, with a French accent.  (Now listen, a lot of the time this is a good strategy and it works.)

Just as the word escaped my mouth, I realized that coolant said in a French accent sounds almost exactly like the French word for tights.
Yes, tights.
I corrected myself the best I could and pulled it together enough to come up with “liquide de froid,” cold liquid, which is what I should have said in the first place.  The man chuckled a bit and told me to pull my car around and he would put the liquide in my car for me.

In other, unrelated news, I’m going to be writing over at City Savvy, an online lifestyle magazine for English speakers in Luxembourg.  You can check out my gallery of springtime photos around Luxembourg and follow us on Instagram (City_Savvy_Lux) where I’ll be posting more pictures of this beautiful city.

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I’m so excited about this – I’ll be starting with some bits about traveling Europe via RV and the theatre scene in Luxembourg, and if you know me, you know that I love both travel and theatre.

The best part of all is that I’ll be doing this all in English.
So there’s no chance of me butchering the French language.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother’s Day 2015

We overflowed the coffee machine at a rest stop, Finley ate a smashed dandelion in a parking lot and for about six minutes, Shawn and I were in a panic because we thought our car had been stolen.

That’s how the weekend started, and if you know us, it’s a pretty typical way for us to begin a road trip.

Saturday morning, we loaded up the kids and the car and drove to the Netherlands.  I’ve been wanting to go in the spring for as long as we’ve lived here, but each year something has gotten in the way.

We saw the famous cube houses.
And bikes.
Lots and lots of bikes.
Did you know that there are more bikes in the Netherlands than actual people?

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Sunday morning we got moving slowly and I sipped coffee as my kids ran around the hotel room, jumped on the bed and watched boats out the window.  It was Mother’s Day and I couldn’t help but think that I love these two with a fierceness I never knew until I became a mom.  

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After our leisurely morning, we drove to Keukenhof Gardens, which is in the bollenstreek, or bulb growers region.

The Dutch are serious about their tulips.

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And also, clogs.

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Motherhood is exhausting, scary, messy and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left the house with cereal smashed in the bottom of my purse, a 2 year old wearing his t-shirt with one arm through the neck hole (like a toga, because he insisted) and both kids eating candy before 9AM, because this was the only way we were all going to make it to school on time and in one piece.

I hope that my kids won’t remember a childhood with a mom who was frazzled and anxious and they’ll forget all the hurry ups and straighten ups and remember their mom laughed a lot, had patience, taught them well and showed them the world.

A mom who saw the humor in being photo bombed by a goat…

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And willingly stood in the enormous, touristy wooden clogs in front of a windmill in Holland just for her kids’ amusement.

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I’ve been a mom for a little over seven years, and frankly, I feel like I’m an all-over-the-place-mess. 

I’ve birthed a baby in America and one in a foreign country.
I’ve celebrated healthy deliveries and I’ve grieved a miscarriage. 
I’ve breastfed and bottle fed, worn my babies close to my heart and pushed them in strollers.
I’ve been a stay at home mom and I’ve worked full time and part time.
I’ve judged other moms and have been judged by others.

I’m trying my best everyday to teach my children to be gentle – one with his little hands, and one with her words.  Every night when I fall into bed, I pray Lord, protect them.  And please cover up the mistakes I made with them today.

We stayed in Keukenhof longer than planned and returned home pretty late Sunday night.  All of us were exhausted and Hannah hadn’t finished her homework yet, so I declared that we’d all sleep in and take her to school late the next day.  In the flurry of events the next morning, which included window washers showing up first thing (that I had forgotten about) I asked Hannah if she could pack her own lunch, so that we weren’t too too late.  When we got to school, I peeked in her lunchbox to find nearly a pound of salami, a yogurt cup and two peppermint lifesaver candies. 

Clearly, I don’t have any part of this gig figured out.

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But despite all the mess and chaos, they’re mine and I’m theirs.
I couldn’t ask for anything better.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Oh, dear.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve updated around here. 
But I’ll be back.  Promise.

I’ve got lots of catching up to do.
And lots of exciting stuff coming up…

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Happy Birthday, Finley

Monday night, we tucked a one year old into bed for the last time.

Because yesterday Finley turned two!

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I can’t believe it’s already been two years since this guy was born.  He was the sweetest, easiest baby, and he’s growing into a silly, funny, energetic, rough and tumble toddler.

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Finley loves Hannah, who he calls “Nah-Nah.”  Everyday when he wakes up from his nap, he starts saying her name because he knows it’s time to go pick her up from school.  He squeals and giggles when he sees her coming out of school and he loves for her to sit and play with him.

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There’s not much that Finley won’t eat.  He’s such a good eater and almost always points at his plate and demands more at every meal.  He’s really good with a fork and spoon and prefers a regular cup to a sippy cup. 

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He loves to wear shoes and point to body parts and name them.  His vocabulary is building and he’s saying quite a few French words and phrases and I’ve even heard him say a few things in German.  If we ask him, “Tu veux manger?” which means do you want to eat? he always answers, “Oui.”

At his two year doctor appointment, I said something to him in French and the doctor said, “Oh, you should really only speak to him in your language.”
Touché.

Finley also loves cars, trucks, trains, buses, airplanes and anything with wheels.  He gets excited when we drive past a construction site and could watch bulldozers all day. 

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This is pretty typical for us – one kid looking sweetly at the camera, the other being goofy.

This is the face Finley makes when you tell him something he doesn’t like. 
He doesn’t like to be told no and can be difficult to strap into his car seat and stroller.  He wants to walk everywhere.

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We had a simple little birthday celebration at home, just the four of us.  We ate dinner, cupcakes, and, because Finn’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day, I made these rainbow fruit parfaits:

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(Feel free to pin this very difficult dish to your Pinterest boards.)

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Happy 2nd birthday, Finley!
We love you so much!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Skiing the Alps

Well, we’re back in Luxembourg, fresh from the slopes of the Alps in beautiful Les Gets, France.
This was our second time there and it was just as beautiful as I remembered.
(You can read about last year’s trip HERE.)

We set off on a Friday as soon as Shawn got home from work, stopped at a hotel for the night and then met up with our friends the next day.

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After we got settled in our chalet, we headed out for some sled riding and playing in the snow.

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I had been a little concerned about Les Gets, because in the days before we left, they got an enormous amount of snow and were under an avalanche warning of some sort. 

The next morning, we picked up our gear and got ready to ski.  Finley wanted to get on skis so badly, but he is still a bit too young.  Next year, buddy.

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These sweet girls are such good friends.  We’re so lucky to know them and their parents.

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As most kids do on a ski holiday in Europe, Hannah went to ski school every afternoon.  When we picked her up after the first class, I asked her about her instructor and she told me his name was UNO.  On the second day, when he introduced himself to me, I learned that his name was actually BRUNO. 
Close, I guess.

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Here’s some of our group, with the girls acting silly.

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I learned that the slope, or piste gradings aren’t the same in the US as in Europe and by the middle of the week, the girls were ready for some red runs, which means that the piste is intermediate/advanced.

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I, however, being the slowest and most cautious skier in my family and in our group of friends (there’s always one in the bunch) spent the first two days on the more gentle sloping pistes.
Hannah: Mom, were you skiing on the greens today?
Me: Yea, but just for a little while. 
Hannah: Wasn’t that embarrassing?
Maybe a little bit.

On the third day, I got in a bit over my head, on some pistes that were a bit too much for me and I fell.  A lot.  And then I had myself a little pity party and I may have said something to Shawn like I’m horrible at skiing, my French is awful and I shouldn’t have come on this vacation.  

Going on a ski holiday in France is a great way to remind yourself of just how bad you are a skiing and French.
The next morning, I was telling my friends about my meltdown and they smiled, nodded and one of them said, “Yes, of course.  That was just your ski tantrum.  Everyone has one at some point during a ski holiday.”
A ski tantrum?  I didn’t know this was a thing, but it gave me just what I needed to pull myself up by my boot straps (literally) and carry on.

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Shawn never had a ski tantrum, but he did take a day off to rest his knees because he’s not exactly supposed to be skiing.  You see, he’s had SIX knee surgeries so let’s not tell his doctor about this trip, ok?

Remember when I said that although I may not be a good skier, I am good at après-ski?  Well, here I am, doing what I do best on the slopes.  Everyday, we relaxed on deck chairs in the snow, eating, snacking and enjoying the sun, blue sky and mountain air while the kids played. 

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One morning, Hannah and I snuck off by ourselves for a hot chocolate.  We don’t get a lot of time for just the two of us, so this was long overdue.  I told her we could talk about anything she wanted.
”Mom, when you were my age, did you make excuses?”
”Oh, probably.  Why?”
”What kind of excuses did you make?”
(I wasn’t sure how to answer that one.)

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Ready to head outside.

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They spent nearly every evening snuggled under a blanket in pajamas.

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Here’s one of our whole group, at one of the restaurants in Les Gets.

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After a fantastic week, we headed out early on Saturday morning to return to Luxembourg.  We packed the car the night before and if I’m being honest, were a bit smug about making it down the mountain with no traffic.

And then we ran into this:

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We sat in this mess for a nearly FIVE HOURS.  That’s 300 minutes.  With two kids in the backseat. 
Luckily, we had water and snacks in the car and Finley fell asleep for a while.  Hannah watched a few movies on the ipad and I got to crack open a book I started but hadn’t made much progress in.  Lots of people got out of their cars and kids were building snowmen along the side of the road.  No one was moving anywhere.

Me: I’d like to know who’s in charge here.
Shawn: This is France.  No one’s in charge.

In France’s defense, however, a man wearing a fluorescent vest and a backpack did come through and ask if we were okay.

And then Shawn said, “Ya know what could make this situation worse?  If we had a cat in our car.”

Oh, you mean like this car next to us?

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We made it home around midnight, which was 16 hours after we set off.
But, what a time we had!
We skied, we relaxed, we caught up with friends.
We had raclette, tartiflette, and panaché.
We talked about everything from the future of the Euro to cats to CNN.

We made it home in one piece, with no broken bones.
And no avalanches.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On The Slopes

As I mentioned in the last post, we’re going on a ski holiday in February.
If there’s one thing that Europeans like to do in the winter it’s ski.
There’s an indoor ski slope in Amneville, France that boasts “la plus longue piste de ski indoor du monde,” the longest indoor ski track in the world.  So on Sunday after two hours of gathering up all our gear and loading the car, we headed there with some of our friends for a practice.

These two make great ski partners.

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Finley is still a bit too young to ski (I think they have to be 2 to start?) but he loved playing in the snow and sledding down the slope reserved for little ones.  Shawn and I alternated skiing with Hannah and playing with him.

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Here’s Hannah and her friend as they reached the bottom of the big slope.

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Future Olympians: Team USA and Team Great Britain.

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A family that skis together…

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It’s no secret that I’m not a great skier.
But do you wanna know what I am good at?
Après-ski.
That’s all the social stuff that happens after the skiing, like sitting around the fire, drinking wine and laughing with friends.
In fact, when we go on our ski holiday next month, I may volunteer to be our group’s après-ski instructor.

(The first lesson is free.)