Monday, September 29, 2014

A Vacation, Act I: Paris in September

"Paris is the New York City of Europe" -says me

Early on, we had determined to fly into Paris as the kick-off to our European holiday. And if that ain't a bougie statement...
Onward to the CDG it was! And pronto, before the Kardashians invade!

The Oregon to France trek isn't all that bad. Daniel and I have both flown to Africa on separate occasions, and if that flight haul doesn't put hair on your chest...
With approximately twelve hours in the friendly skies toward the City of Lights, you have precisely enough time to enjoy any and all beverage services, two meals, one snack, several bathroom breaks, a 30 minute cat nap, eight prayers during turbulence over London, and four movies. Landed.

Step out of the metro and breathe that fresh, city...ozone layer. Yes. Let me begin with this. Paris stinks. In a totally stereotypical Pepe Le Pew sort of way. I was instantly enveloped by a cocktail aroma of perfume and smoke whenever anyone walked past me. Anyone. A three year old on a scooter whizzed by and I'm almost positive I smelled a faint hint of Thierry Mugler. My nose is used to some reeeeeeeeeel good Pacific Northwest air and in America you mainly see someone smoking, gosh, I don't even know, in their car, maybe? Behind a building, hidden in the bushes of shame and lung cancer, while on their lunch break? Towards the end of our time in Paris, (and Europe in general) after witnessing countless 102 year old men and women seemingly thriving on a diet of red wine and cigarette butts, I finally came to the conclusion: It must be the walking? Or the fromage? Or the chocolate croissants? Maybe they take their holiday in Portland, Oregon and fill up the internal reserve oxygen supply? These people are fabulous and fiesty and all La Vie en Rose and c'est le vie. I just might want to be like them when I grow up. Minus the smoking. Unless they invent a macaron flavored cigar. Ok ok, so of course we didn't travel across the pond for an anthropology study.

(As parents of a toddler, we obviously went to eat, drink, be merry, sleep past 7AM, and enjoy a Paw Patrol theme song free zone!)

We wined on wine and we dined on the four main food groups: chocolate, bread, cheese, and meat. We lived in a teeny Parisian apartment in the clouds. We walked past the Arc de Triomphe on our way home every day like it ain't no thang. We asked, "Parlez vous anglais?" so many times, as proper Americans should do. We marveled at the (cheap!) price of Bonne Maman jam at the supermarket, (and also failed at smuggling some into Italy, as improper Americans would do). We saw a whole bunch of naked statues, naked paintings, and naked photos, as one typically does in an art museum, and tried not to laugh too hard because we are actually 13 years old. We searched high and low for a (free) bathroom to use at 10PM, and finally found the free-est most grossest bathroom right by the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, the smell of perfumed urine wafted through the air as an accordion wheezed La Valse d'Amélie. 

Paris IS for lovers.


{Bon Bon}

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Vacation Without Kids

When your husband says, "Let's go to Europe for nineteen days!" you'll probably find yourself jumping on the couch all Tom Cruise excited-in-love like and hastily dump "Paris Street Style: A Guide to Effortless Chic" in your Amazon cart. "Should I make room in my backpack for a pair of heels?" "Striped shirt in Venice? Too cliche?"

These are the questions that will normally haunt you for the next six months as you prep for a trot around the globe.

When you become a mother, going on a trip to Europe for NINE.FREAKING.TEEN months, I mean, days, becomes...something else.

It becomes you strapping yourself into a germ-ridden tin can in the sky, hurtling thousands of miles away to places full of tiny adorable European children (on scooters!) that will remind you daily of the gaping Grand Canyon chasm in your soul that can only be filled by one tiny adorable 1/4 Korean-1/2 Ukrainian child who wobbles around the house on his blue scooter while saying, "Watch me!" before he crashes into the dining table.

I'll be honest. We almost didn't go.
Crepes in Paris, gelato in Italy, seafood risotto in Croatia, schnitzel in Germany, and goulash in Czech Republic almost didn't happen.

I've been a stay-at-home mom for the past (almost) three years. I'm with our child 89% of the time. He wonders what happened to me when I have been in the bathroom longer than 35 seconds, (Usually, I'm secretly eating a spoonful of TJ's cookie butter. As you can tell, food is my love language).

The back-and-forth inner turmoil of being equal parts realist and dreamer (fist bump to my fellow Pisces) was making me go all kinds of crazy.
My hard-working-needs-a-proper-vacation husband asked, "Well, what should we do for three weeks then? I have the time off...*sigh*"
To which I weakly replied, "Uhhhh, staycation?"

If looks could kill.

So, I put on my big girl pants and I made a decision, of course, after watching "Midnight in Paris," "Ratatouille," "Amelie," and the clincher, "Passport to Paris." All best decisions are made with guidance from St. Mary Kate and Ashley, you know.

"Buy.The.Tickets. And hurry before the wine wears off!"

I've never seen someone navigate the United Airlines website so fast, (plus, thirty other tabs and a master spreadsheet of the already planned trip, because, engineer husband, and, he knew. He knew)

We did it! We had fun! We aren't scarred for life!

Here are a few key tips in making the transition from dream trip to reality.


1). {Practice Makes Perfect} In the three years of parenthood, we have consistently done date nights from the very beginning. Sprinkle in several girls trips for me, guys or work-related trips for Daniel, plus a few weekend getaways together, and Josiah has watched us go and come back, countless times. It's hard to describe the concept of time to a toddler, but we always try to differientate the different types of "going away."

Example: Date night can be an easy, last minute kind of thing, "We'll be gone for a little bit. See you when you wake up in the morning!" A longer vacation needs some more mental prep, (we began slightly mentioning a trip about two weeks in advance). A few days before we left, "We'll get on a plane at the airport and fly to Europe!" "You're gonna stay with grandma and grandpa and go on adventures!" "Come back and pick us up at the airport!" You can be "basically specific" at this age. Give the general details in a pleasant "no big deal" kind of way, don't get too emotional or worked up.  Also, have them try and go to the airport when you leave and arrive, if possible! The actual process of "watching" you get on the plane and then walk out of the plane gives that stable realness factor for them. (Josiah talked about picking me up from the airport after my NYC trip for months after!)

2). {Trust Your People} Without our family and friends, we couldn't have done this! We left Josiah in the care of a few of his most favorite people on this world. People who gave him treats and took him to the zoo and played Legos and kissed his owies. He was living the life! (I still remember when my grandparents took care of me: trips to Toys R Us, new clothes, MCDONALDS! and they just so happened to own several TCBY stores, so, as much yogurt and ice cream as I could eat). Your child quite possibly, could have more fun than you. ha.

3). {Plan and Prepare} Cross all those t's and dot those i's (especially especially especially if you are going overseas). Leave house keys, medical release notes, medicines, special blankets or stuffed animals, general schedule/information in an easy to find place, etc. I also put together care boxes for each set of grandparents, including diapers and wipes, extra toys, snacks, and a little surprise present for Josiah to open for each day we were gone.

4). {Communicate} Thankfully we live in an age of Skype, FaceTime, and Email. Make sure you can coordinate those chats in advance with your time differences. (We found that any face-to-face communication towards the 2nd half of our trip was becoming harder for Josiah, so the "out of sight out of mind" approach worked better. Daily emails with the grandparents worked well for everyone!)

5). {Let Go and Let God} Meaning, after all the planning and preparing and worrying, just GO! Don't feel guilty or anxious. Have fun, enjoy quality alone time with your S.O. and don't forget to pick up some souvenirs for your little one!

P.S. Don't pack heels. For the love of everything holy, don't pack heels. We witnessed so many women hobbling around like wounded horses on the cobblestones of Europe. Free entertainment for us...


{Bon Bon}

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