Family Fun / Life Abroad / Travel

Our Trip to Rome

January 25, 2018

It’s been a couple of weeks now since we’ve returned from Rome, but between coming down from the high of the holidays and all of our vacations and trying to get the kids back on a schedule over here, there hasn’t been much downtime for posting. Add to that that Prim got the flu that’s been going around and had a super high fever for three days while KC was out of the country on business… hoo, well it’s been a week over here, guys.

Anyway, back to Rome! We went to Rome with my sister’s family and my brother over New Year’s after they had traveled to Amsterdam along with my parents for Christmas. My sister’s kids are really close in age to Prim and Lark, which is awesome; her oldest is about 7 months older than Prim and her youngest is about 7 months older than Lark. (No, we didn’t intentionally plan it that way, it was just a nice coincidence!) We rented this giant house through Airbnb which was a little outside the center, and it accommodated all nine of us really well. Everyday we would head into the center for sightseeing and (the real reason you go to Rome) eating. And since my brother was traveling with us, we were able to go out to dinner a few nights after the kids went to bed, which was heaven. We had so much delicious pasta and so much good cheap wine… it was a dream.  If there’s anything more attractive than a man wearing a baby while pushing a stroller, I certainly haven’t seen it.  We had all been to Rome before (Alexis and I studied there in law school), but this was KC’s first trip to Italy. We hit most of the major sites, including the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colusseum, the Forum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. Larky thought the Colusseum was riveting. (Also those cheeks and those little lips! I love her.) KC originally wanted to take that top photo of us from underneath so he could get the giant hole in the roof of the Pantheon in the picture. I quickly informed him that nobody needs to be shot from the angle of under-chin up. No one. Primrose the party animal finds fun wherever she goes. And a city where she gets to have gelato more days than not? Well, let’s just say that we’ve been back for three weeks and we’re still talking about the gelato almost daily. (I asked her what her favorite food was the other day — her response: “Um… ice cream.” Me: “What flavor?” Prim: “Gelato.” Noted.) The weather was much warmer than Amsterdam — in the 50’s most days — which felt like a real vacation. Walking all over the place and not having my feet freeze was so, so nice. I mean, eating all the pasta, pizza, and gelato everyday? How can you not love Italy! Let me tell you, it was a rude awakening to come back home and have to start cooking again and stop having wine at lunch. (PS: wine at lunch makes parenting on vacation infinitely more enjoyable. INFINITELY.)We’ll be back again, Rome! Three visits just isn’t enough for one lifetime.

Personal / Resolutions

Goals for 2018

January 19, 2018

I realize that we’re rapidly approaching the end of January, so it’s way past the point of New Year’s Resolutions and all that, but oh well. I think you can make commitments to yourself any time of year, so I don’t get too hung up on starting in on a healthy new lifestyle on January 1. In fact, I generally like to give myself until the end of the holidays (whatever date I deem that to be, haha) to start in on whatever goals I’m setting for myself, which this year wasn’t until January 8 since we were traveling in Rome for a week over New Year’s. Who wants to start eating nothing but kale on January 1 anyway? Certainly not me.

Here are five things I’m working on continuing or bettering in the new year:

  1. Getting my body back. I’ve talked a little bit about this before, but basically after having two kids less than two years apart and never getting back into a regular workout routine after having Prim, my body was pretty wrecked and my strength was so far below what it had been pre-pregnancy. While I will admit that I am definitely motivated partly by vanity, keeping my back from hurting and keeping my body strong so I can lift the girls is my top priority. I hope that if we decide to have another baby that the strength I’m building now will help me through the pregnancy and postpartum process, and I hope that it might make it easier to stick to a regular workout routine through pregnancy as well. My Hyperemesis Gravidarum made working out feel impossible during the first half of my pregnancy with Lark, and after it finally subsided I mistakenly thought that because my weight gain with her was so low that I didn’t really need to exercise. The state of my core post-pregnancy definitely proved otherwise.
  2. Make time for and take care of myself. I know that I’m not in the minority here, being a woman and a mother, but I really struggle to carve out quality time for myself. I spend the girls’ nap time working out, which definitely falls into the “taking care of myself” category, but I have really been craving some alone time where I’m doing something indulgent for myself. I am trying to figure out exactly what that is and how to integrate it into the week right now, but it’s definitely on my mind and something I want to work on this year.
  3. Continue to live on a budget and focus on paring down our belongings. We live pretty tightly here in Amsterdam. We took a hit financially to move here (KC’s salary was adjusted to reflect the lower cost of living and we lost my salary entirely when I quit my job), and while it was definitely an adjustment at first, I’ve found that it’s actually become fairly easy to live more simply and find creative solutions to do the things we want to do, while still living within our means  (you guys already know the secret to how we afford to travel over here). One of my big concerns of moving back to America, and the Bay Area in particular, is the hyper-focus on money and belongings. It’s so easy to get sucked into that consumer culture that is so focused on “more is more.” This mentality is not only draining and stressful for me, but it’s not a value I want to instill in my kids; so I want to try to build focus on needs — not wants. This also means taking care of the things we already have. (For example, I’m in the process of re-oiling all of my cutting boards right now, something I am generally terrible at remembering to do; but after replacing a much-used one because it cracked, I am realizing that I need to be more mindful about doing this.)
  4. Focus on fewer, better things when making purchases. Piggy-backing on the above, I want to try and be mindful when we do spend money on “things.” It’s necessary to make purchases from time to time when the girls grow out of stuff, and I have pared down my wardrobe so much that it’s becoming evident that I really do need to do some shopping for myself; but this doesn’t mean that the girls need everything under the sun in their closets. And as for me, I want to work on filling my wardrobe with nicer staples rather than cheap basics. I tend to purchase five copies of the same cheap tee, which just end up looking cheap after only a few washes. Since I generally reach for the same items over and over, it makes sense to spend a little more on basic items that will hold up better, since I know I will wear them a lot.
  5. Get in the picture. Though you might not know this from reading the blog, I am not the best about remembering to take photographs. KC is actually much better at whipping his phone out on vacation and snapping away. But, honestly, I’m even worse about stepping into the picture and being photographed. I often remove myself from photo ops because I dislike having my picture taken and don’t feel that I’m particularly photogenic. But we are making memories every day here in Europe and these girls will never be these ages again, so I want to try and have photos of all of us to look back at — not just the kids. Not the easiest goal for this year (for me), but a good one, nonetheless.

What are you working on this year?

Personal

A New Year

January 17, 2018

^^ These girls started the new year off right by devouring all the treats in Rome ^^

Hi hi! Sorry it’s been silent over here for a bit. The entirety of December and beginning of January was a complete whirlwind of trips to Germany, Croatia and Italy, plus my family visiting Amsterdam, so we have been trying to settle back into our routine here; and as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we have somewhere between 6 and 8 teeth coming in between the two girls, so we’ve been dealing with that for the past week and a half as well. (If there was one part of motherhood I could opt to skip, I think teething might be it.)

I have been attempting to get my life back in order to start the new year on a good note. I jumped right back into my workout routine (thanks in part to my back making it very clear that the 2.5 week hiatus I took during the holidays was not the best move) and went through mine and the kids’ closets to weed out clothes that no longer fit or weren’t being worn. We have also been getting through some of the time-consuming logistics of our move back to the US, which is both exciting and very stressful.

And even though I felt quite productive after all of this, I now have clothing sitting in bags and laundry baskets still that needs to be donated, not to mention random travel items from our trips that still need to be put away.

A lot of the time I feel like even with as much as I’m doing each day to keep things together and running smoothly, I’m never as on top of things as I would like to be. I often wonder if there will be a time when my house will be clean for longer than 5 minutes, or whether I will ever have enough storage to actually be able to put everything away. Not to mention that the small worries about our repatriation have started to creep in here and there, as we inch closer to our move date. Our move back to California is understandably fraught with conflicting emotions. Amsterdam is an amazing city, and provides much more of the lifestyle (and, *cough* government style) we would prefer for our family, so our decision to move back to the Bay Area to raise our kids near our extended family was not an easy one to make. And, as you do when you have children, I have started to worry about how the girls will adjust to the move. I know that they will be thrilled to be near their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, but I also know that this move is going to be an adjustment for everyone, and it may be especially hard for two little ones who can’t quite articulate exactly how they’re feeling and why they feel that way.

And, yes, I know that children are resilient and they will be fine; but this will be a big adjustment for all of us, and especially the two tiny people who have lived all or most of their lives here in Amsterdam.

Hooo… so anyway. That’s just a glimpse into what’s been going on in my life and head these days. I hope to be back to posting semi-regularly here shortly. Honestly, right now I could just use a few (hundred) more hours in the day.

Baby / Lark / Motherhood

Motherhood Update: Lark at 11 months

January 16, 2018

Saying: Lark is continuing to babble more and more, and regularly shouts out nonsense words at me as though she’s saying, “Listen to me, woman! I have needs!” She seems to still know “all done” and “Dada,” but language at this age is so all over the place it’s hard to really be certain.

Eating: Lark still loves to eat and devours pretty much anything I make for her. She loves salmon with lentils (a staple in this house) and recently had Indian food, which she inhaled. The girl loves herself some curry spice, who can blame her? She is also very, very fond of what we call “cookies” in this house, which are really like less-sweet animal crackers. I try not to give Lark sugar, ever, (though KC introduced her to gelato in Italy while I wasn’t looking! Second kids, man. Haha.) but these cookies have only one gram per biscuit, so it’s a nice compromise on my part since the kids think they’re getting a treat but they actually only contain as much sugar as one serving of Cheerios.

Sleeping: Lark sleeps through the night like a champion still. I have no idea what I did to get this lucky (because Prim didn’t sleep like this until after 11 months, and I actually thought that wasn’t bad!) but it just goes to show that the whole good sleeper/bad sleeper thing might just be a whole lot more nature than nurture.

Doing: Lark is busy crawling, dancing, and getting into everything. She is at the stage where she loves to pull out all of the toys from inside the toy baskets and all the “groceries” from inside the wooden refrigerator. I don’t keep a lot of toys out for the kids (I have at least half of our toys stored in my closet at any given point and change things out periodically when I notice certain toys aren’t holding their interest anymore), but man, even with a minimal amount out for the girls to play with I still feel like I’m picking stuff up all the time. How do parents with tons of toys do it?? (Also, I have a serious love/hate relationship with Legos right now. I’m sure other parents know what I’m talking about.)

Latest milestone: Lark pulled up by herself for the first time on the last day of 2017 while we were in Rome. She isn’t pulling up and cruising all over the place like Prim was at this age, but she has figured out how to climb up onto things (the coffee table, into Prim’s bed) which Prim was not doing, so it’s been both exciting to watch and a little stressful for this poor mama’s heart (because my brain is always like, “she’s going to fall off onto her head for sure.”)

Favorite toys: Like I said earlier, she’s fascinated by objects that contain other toys these days, like the toy refrigerator. She loves pulling the magnetic doors open and pulling out all of the empty spice jars and containers.

Sweetest things: Lark is currently getting somewhere between 4 and 6 teeth (and Prim’s top molars are coming in too — we’re in full teething hell over here) so she’s been understandably extra crabby lately. While I don’t love the fussiness, all she wants is to be held and snuggled in the afternoons, which is so sweet. It makes cooking dinner quite challenging, but like everything with kids, it’s temporary, so I’m trying to take a deep breath and enjoy these little moments in between the trying ones.

Favorite thing about this age: Lark is getting very good at communicating what she wants now with her insistent babbling and body language. She will now crawl over to KC or me and lift her arms up to be picked up, which is one of my most favorite milestones of this age.

Favorite Things / Winter

Reflecting on 2017

December 28, 2017

2017 was a weird year. It was really amazing in a lot of ways, but it was also really… stressful? Anxiety-inducing? Depressing? I’m not sure what the right word is.

From our family-bubble perspective, 2017 was one of the best years yet; but from a global perspective, it was definitely one of the worst. But rather than ring in 2018 with negativity, I thought I would try to focus on what was positive in the last year; so here are some of the high points from 2017:

Attending the Women’s March at 36 weeks pregnant in Amsterdam

While the march was a bit smaller than the ones back in the US, it was still an amazing thing to be a part of here in the Netherlands, and I love that I will always have the memory of both my girls being with me at this historical event. (And I want my girls to know that even if you’re half a world away from the problem, you can still stand up and fight for what’s right.)

Snow in Amsterdam

We had one big snow storm the weekend before Lark was born, and while I was stuck inside enjoying some lovely pre-labor contractions, looking outside at the snowy wonderland was a great way to spend our last weekend as a family of three.

Lark was born

What a way to ring in 2017. While my pregnancy with Lark started off pretty rough, the end of it was easy and her birth was about as close to ideal as it gets. Lark has brought so much life and joy into this family, and she is hands-down the highest high point of the past year.

Traveling

We really went for it this past year while living abroad. After taking the first part of the year off due to Lark’s birth, I traveled to the US in May with Lark, then we all took trips to Barcelona, Madrid, Budapest, Berlin, Zagreb, and while KC was busy working in Dublin, the girls and I jetted off to Copenhagen too. For our final trip of the year (and likely the last one before Lark’s first birthday), we’re off to Rome tomorrow to ring in the New Year Italian-style.

Living abroad

We have really embraced our expat life over here in Amsterdam in the past year and have been soaking up everything this amazing city has to offer. We feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to live here and are doing our best to enjoy every minute.

Christmas in the Netherlands

My family traveled to Amsterdam for the holidays this year, which means we have been biking around the city together and enjoying the European holiday cheer for the past week or so. It has been so nice to share our home with my parents and siblings, and Prim and Lark have been in heaven playing with their cousins. This is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of holiday and we are really enjoying all the amazing memories we’re making.

We have a lot in store for 2018 already, including a big move back to the states. I know that repatriating will be quite an adjustment for all of us, but I’m looking forward to being close to our families again and am trying to focus on all the positives of moving back. And of course, we are going to make the most of every last second while we’re still over here in Europe — we’ll be traveling to Sweden, France, Greece and more in the new year!

Hope your 2017 was good, but here’s hoping that 2018 is even better. Happy New Year!