August 25, 2014

Rainy Days in Amsterdam

Our visit to Amsterdam really could've sucked.  We were there for five days, and it rained on every single one.  I was also still getting over a cold, and my suitcase got lost on the way!  I spent the first three days without all my clothes, toiletries, glasses/contacts, our raincoats...  Wow, when I write all that down, I am amazed that we didn't have a crappy time.  In fact, our trip was so much fun!  The kids never complained about the rain, and we certainly didn't let it deter us from getting out and doing everything we wanted to do.  

We stayed with my fabulous friend Sara and her family.  It is always so much more fun to get to know a new city from someone who lives there, and I really did fall in love with Amsterdam.  It's such a cool city.  Shortly after we arrived, we decided to go out to dinner, so we all hopped on bikes and headed out!  I honestly can't remember the last time I rode a bike, and it felt so good!  They live close to everything, so we were always an easy bike ride away from our destination.  That was especially important when we had to head home to dry off!  

Activities included playgrounds every day, a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, a Lego exhibition, a canal boat tour, and lots of playing soccer and eating out.  The Van Gogh Museum was a definite highlight - we did a scavenger hunt with the kids that was not only fun, but also enabled us to spend enough time in the museum to really appreciate it.  Very cool!  We also got a babysitter and managed an adults-only night out, so we got to see the city at night and enjoy amazing Indonesian food and adult conversation.  

I really loved our time in Amsterdam, and I think the rain and the lost bag only made it more memorable.  Now we just need to figure out when we can go back!

Me and my wonderful friend Sara, whose clothes thankfully fit me

We all had fun on bikes!

After a certain amount of time outside in the rain, you just have to let go of all fashion sense and go with practicality.  Kevin called me his "little sanitation worker" in this get-up, but it kept me dry!

We had to stop for the obligatory windmill shot.

This picture makes me so happy.  A rain-free and kid-free night out in Amsterdam!

August 23, 2014

A Beautiful Time in Spain

Gorgeous beaches

The view from our front door

Observations and reflections on a wonderful vacation in Catalonia, Spain:

Jet lag is tough, but the transition is easier when you embrace the typical Spanish schedule.  Late wake-up, lunch at 2, dinner at 9.

Traveling with kids is getting easier.  Hooray!  Having a pool is imperative, though.

The set-up at the place we stayed was absolutely perfect for our group.  We could linger a bit longer at lunch while the kids played in the pool.  We could enjoy a late dinner at the restaurant while the kids slept or watched a movie.  It was great.

The beaches were close by and gorgeous.  Green water, cliffs, and lots of rocks to collect.  The sandy beaches meant building sand volcanoes.

The food.  Oh my gosh the food.  Patatas bravas.  Mussels ("moos clues") every day.  Paella that takes hours to prepare but is so worth the wait.  Crisp rose.  Butifarra.  Fresh tomatoes from the garden.

My two-year-old nephews, moving and laughing and talking non-stop, in all three languages.  "Ding-dong!"  "Open close?"  "Agua"  "Piscina" ...

Although traveling with kids is absolutely getting easier, we still had five boys with us, including twin two-year-olds.  My sister and her husband had to leave the beaches early in order to get back for naps, and pool-time was fun but definitely not relaxing while the twins were in the mix.  The older boys were relatively easy during the day but proved difficult at times at night, when we were attempting our kid-free dinners down in the restaurant.  One of my favorite and also most exasperating memories of the trip was our visit to Paratellada.  It is a really beautiful town, and we had envisioned being able to sit and enjoy a mojito while the boys ran around the square.  Unfortunately, the boys disagreed with our plan and proceeded to run in every direction.  We did get the mojitos, but I'm not sure I remember drinking it and I'm positive none of us ever sat down.

So the trip was not without its challenges.  I found myself looking enviously at people lingering over long lunches at the beachside restaurants, reading newspapers and drinking their wine and leisurely enjoying the views.  This is my confession.  That said, it was a fabulous week of family vacation, with all that that entails.  And if you're going to have to deal with parenting, how nice to be able to do it in the gorgeous Spanish countryside.  I did relax, and I even finished a book!  I deliberately took time to take in my surroundings and be grateful for being there.  It was wonderful.

Lots of pool fun

Here's the whole group, with the pool to ourselves

Synchronized pool jumping

Lots of time spent wandering around medieval Spanish villages

I had to include this one of me and my handsome boy, relaxed and sun-kissed

A view of Sa Tuna from the cliffs

August 18, 2014

Where I Am...

When you read this, I will be exploring Amsterdam with my family and friends.  Finally - a proper playdate with Sara and her adorable kids!  I'm thinking we will be bike riding, cruising the canal, touring playgrounds, and maybe catching some Van Gogh.  I'm so excited to visit a new city and to see friends we so rarely get to see.  

So hello from Amsterdam!  I'll be back next week with lots of pictures.

August 11, 2014

Where I Am...

I'm in Spain right now!  I have no connectivity, so I am posting this ahead of time.  Just to let you know where I am.  Hopefully at this time I will be exploring a neat little Spanish town in Catalonia.  And in a couple hours I will be watching my boys play in the pool with their cousins, and then I will enjoy some wine as we decide what to do for dinner.  Making simple decisions.  Soaking up the sunshine, catching up with my sister, and being far, far away from our normal, everyday routines.  

August 7, 2014

Recently Read...

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.  I adored this book.  Beautifully written, and I definitely felt like I really got to know and understand and feel for the main characters.  Unique and not predictable at all, I found myself reading slowly on purpose so I could savor every word.

One More Thing, by B.J. Novak.  A great book to have on your nightstand, because the stories are mostly very short.  Easy to read a few before bed.  The stories are original and funny.  Not especially deep, or detailed.  But it's a fun read.

Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend, by James S. Hirsch.  As usual, I have to pick up at least one baseball book every summer.  My brother passed this biography down to me, and I had fun learning more about Willie Mays.

One Plus One, by Jojo Moyes.  It took me all of three days to devour this one.  I don't think it's quite on par with her other books that I've loved - I felt like I could see the movie, starring Rachel McAdams sporting a British accent and some handsome British actor - and it was fairly predictable.  But I loved it anyway.

August 5, 2014

What Do You Want To Do?

When I started telling people I was looking to go back to work, the first and most common question I got was, "What do you want to do?"  It sounds simple enough, but that's a deceptively complex question.  They would often follow it up with questions like, "Do you want to work part time?" or "Do you want to do the same thing you were doing before?"  My typical response included something like this:  "My biggest priority is to find something that will allow me to balance work with my home life.  So I'm going to start by looking at companies close to home.  I will ask for flexibility or part time.  What I do is less important to me than being able to do it and still have time for everything else."  

That last line.  I really meant it.  When I started the search, I just wanted a job.  I knew I wanted to go back to work, but I didn't really care what it was.  I just wanted something to do, something that would enable me to contribute financially to our family, but a job that would be easy enough/close enough for me to still do all the other things I wanted to do.  

So I started applying to jobs that were close to home, as well as jobs that I knew I was overqualified for.  Then I got a few interviews.  One was with a company really close to home.  One was with my old company.  When I started interviewing and talking to companies about the specific jobs and meeting the people with whom I'd be thought process changed.  I realized that I did care.  I realized that I don't want to go back to a work situation where I'm just putting in the time in order to get a paycheck.  Those last couple of years before my break...I was miserable.  I don't want to do that again.  If I'm going to take time away from my kids and my family in order to work, it needs to be worth it.  It needs to be something that I will enjoy, something that I will be proud of, something that will motivate me beyond the paycheck.  

The job that is close to home is a good job.  It's a small company, and I think I could do well there.  The job with my old company would be very easy for me to do.  But I interviewed for another job as well.  It's in the city, so the commute will be awful.  It's actually a consulting job, so I'm not actually sure where I will be working every day - it depends on the client I am assigned to.  And of course it is full-time and it won't necessarily be easy.  But as I talked to people about it, I realized I started getting excited about the idea of being in consulting again (It's what I did the first half of my career).  I also realized that I really liked every person that I met with.  Smart, ambitious, cool people who lead full lives and have many interests both inside and outside of work.  I want to be around people like that.

They offered me a job yesterday, and I'm hopefully going to get the written offer and officially accept it before leaving for our trip at the end of the week.  I will start next month.

Ah!  And then I will stress out for a while until I figure out how we're going to do everything.  But I know we will.  We will find someone great to pick up the boys from school, and we will probably hire a house cleaner once we get to the point where we realize we don't have time for that any more, and I will find more recipes that I can make on the weekends and turn into new quick and easy meals during the week.  I will squeeze in occasional early bouts of exercise during the week and start exercising on the weekends again.  It will all work out.  And when I get settled in to my new job, I hope I'm able to say that it's all worth it.  I feel pretty good about it right now.

PS - Have you seen this video of Michelle Obama?  She speaks as someone who truly understands the struggles of balancing family with a professional work life.  Check it out.


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