Travel Gratitude: Slovenia & Croatia

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Our Slovenian holiday is one for the books! I am full of gratitude that I am living a life that enables me to travel with my loved ones to all these spectacular places. I have been wanting to go to Slovenia for several years now and this trip was built up a lot in my head. Our experience exploring Slovenia by far exceeded my expectations. I have nothing but incredible and amazing memories from this place.

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Before I forget, I wanted to jot down some of the incredible highlights and experiences. I am going to write more in details posts with pictures this week. But for now, I wanted to type these out so I never forget them.

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Swimming to the buoy in Lake Bled with Flora. Looking out at the clear emerald lake, resting on the buoy and looking up at the castle right above us. I will never forget sharing that with her.

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Swimming in the shallow end at Lake Bohinj. Bohinj was picturesque. I could have spent a week there. Getting to swim there and sit in the shallow end watching Flora swim about and Thibault play with rocks was my zen moment of the trip.

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Here are some other moments that have stood out:

  • Our incredible farm stay out in rural Slovenia near the Hungarian border. Mali Raj was fantastic!
  • Morning yoga on the balcony
  • The train ride into the caves at Postojna caves
  • Dinner at Lectar
  • Visiting the open air museum in Hungary
  • Jaap describing the thrill of one of the daring water slides at Terme 3000
  • Admiring the Julian Alps at Lake Jasna
  • Swimming in the Adriatic
  • The balcony views from our apartment out on the Opatija Riviera

These were some of the highlights and somehow we were able to create magical moments every single day by simply walking to a lake or hiking down a gorge. I’m incredibly grateful for this holiday of a lifetime.

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A big low and some great highs

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The past four weeks have hit me hard. There have been some major highs and some big low points. Just before the Carnival break started I got the flu. It completely wiped me out for an entire week and if it wasn’t for the strength of my husband and the kindness of my in-laws, I can only imagine how worse it could have been. I will never go another year without the flu shot. I hate that helpless feeling and I just felt sorry for myself the whole week. It was my winter break. A time to relax, recharge, have a little Carnival fun, and do fun things with my family. None of that happened. The only thing I got to do was sleep through the night for 10+ hours a night and watch a lot of Netflix. So in retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t a total loss.

And then it was right back into work. In one week I had two performances with the community drummers and singers. It was a week full of female empowerment and great music. I feel so privileged to be working with these women. The singing group performed at a theatrical performance all about feminism. It was beautiful and we all felt grateful to be a part of it.

My friends and I dragged our kids out marching through Maastricht to have our voices heard as part of the Youth Climate March. Three moms, six cranky kids, lots of rain, complaining, and tears, but a lot of fun too. We did it for ourselves mostly, but deep down we want our kids to know we stand for something. It felt good to be a part of it.

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On Sunday my friends and I went to TEFAF to be a part of what puts Maastricht on the map. It’s always an enriching and beautiful experience. I’m really missing my friend Antoinette. I’ve had so many artful experiences with her over the years and there’s a whole in my heart now that she is living in Italy. I miss her artistic perspective.

And finally— a beautiful performance with my students on Tuesday after a very difficult Monday. Monday was such a low point for me. I had a schedule change and ended up teaching for 5 hours straight without as much as a coffee break. Then to pick up Flora, the exhausting swim lesson, and in the middle of all of that an uncomfortable phone conversation with a good friend of min. I came home and started crying because after dinner because of the stress of everything put together.

It felt so good to make a 180 the next day! I was so proud of my students. It was such a great process for me preparing them for this short 45 minute assembly. And the icing on the cake was a bouquet of lovely flowers and homemade card. “Thank you for making music class fun.” Amen. I feel so grateful to have a job that challenges and enriches my life. I live for performances like these. It is so fulfilling.

Thibault’s Surgery

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Monday was a big day for our little man Thibault. He made it through a very challenging day. I’m happy to say that surgery went well. Thibault now has tubes in his years to release some fluid and his nose adenoids have been removed.

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The proud Papa

It was a day full of emotions for me. Luckily Jaap is always cool as a cucumber and it appears that my son is the same way under stressful situations. I was more worried about the surgery than anybody. Thibault seemed almost unphased by the whole thing within a couple of hours.

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It was quite sad to see a room full of children in the recovery room and at the same time quite comforting to see other parents experiencing the same emotions that we were. Every parent wants their child to be happy and healthy and it’s so difficult watching them go through something like this. At the same time, I did have this feeling of gratitude the entire day. Grateful that Thibault was receiving quality care and grateful that we were not at the hospital under more serious circumstances. These feelings of gratitude helped me put things in perspective. Fingers crossed his six week check up at the audiologist shows some changes in his hearing.

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Visiting Friends

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After Christmas, we traveled to Emmeloord to visit an old friend of mine. We stayed in a cute little house in Woudsend (Friesland) and spent a rainy day indoors at this huge Orchid nursery complete with playgrounds, theater shows, and animals. What a bizarre little place. The kids loved exploring this huge playground complete with sand and water play.

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It was great seeing my friend Erika again. A true friendship can last decades and long distances. I still can’t believe we both married Dutch men and live here now. Too bad we live on opposite sides of the country! If only I could see her more regularly.

I’m surrounded by transient internationals and expats here and it’s always hard when a friend leaves. It’s happened a few times now and I’ve accepted that this is just the way it is. Luckily, I have a strong group of Mama friends here that are (for the most part) here indefinitely. But, it really helps me value my other friendships. With my friends that I only see once or twice a year, or maybe every couple of years. I’m thankful for this.

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Lots of ME TIME this Autumn break

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Dessert at Tanta Roba

I’m not sure how I got this lucky for Autumn break, but I ended up with a lot of much needed alone and me time. Two nights away (KID FREE!) with Jaap in Den Haag and one night in Rotterdam with a good, old friend from New York. It was really the dream week.

I’m following a course for professional development at the Conservatorium in Den Haag. It’s been such an inspiring experience and I’m feeling very invigorated and challenged. Truly— a lovely experience. However, it forces me to be away from my family at least one full Saturday a month and in some cases a whole weekend. I can’t say I’m complaining though. Sitting on a train for three hours by myself with a good book is heavenly. Followed by choral singing, a Kodaly inspired music theory class, singing games, and discussions about music education. It’s simply fantastic.

We had the greatest weekend in Den Haag. I love that city. Dinner at 21:00, movies, and long interrupted conversations. I’m so grateful to have in-laws who allow us this free time, while they watch the kids.

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Our corner spot at the bar @ Walter Benedict

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Cube homes in Rotterdam

Fast forward to the end of the week— I had another night free from the kids. This time meeting up with my friend Erika in Rotterdam for a mini-girls night away. Dim sum, non-stop talking, reminiscing about our former New York City life, colleagues, and fun times, discussing motherhood and all it’s challenges. We had such a fabulous time. Not to mention— Rotterdam is pretty cool. I must go back with the family and explore some more. And a special thanks to Jaap to had lots of extra cuddles with the kids that weekend!

As if the day couldn’t get any better, we ended the night was some INCREDIBLE music and dancing at BIRD. I have never seen a DJ this good since living in NL. The party was electric. The entire room could not stop moving. It was such an inspiration. We were completely free and it felt so good to be alive. We heard five DJs that night and I’m pretty sure the entire place would agree the female DJ was the best. And I have never in my NL life seen such a diverse group of people, white, black, brown, gay, straight— it was all there. What a celebration for us. GIRL POWER!

Girls Weekend

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Not a bad view!

I have fallen off the blog bandwagon again. My intentions to consistently blog throughout the holidays did not happen. Life was too much fun, busy, sick, and exhausted to blog! I want to upload a “snapshots” post soon, just so I have the photo memories of our Christmas season somewhere. We had such a great holiday season complete with the cookie baking days, Christmas and NYE with friends, Christmas with the Jansens, a day trip to the Spoorweg Museum in Utrecht with friends, and the flu! Overall, a fantastic holiday! Flora has fallen in love with Christmas and there’s just not much more you can ask for.

Back to normal life and I was lucky that my friends and I had something fun to look forward after the back to work/end of Christmas slump. The Mamas had a weekend getaway planned! We planned a “spa” weekend in the Ardennes (Malmedy) at a house in the countryside complete with a relaxing sauna. 48 hours, no children, no mess to clean up, nobody to take care of in the middle of the night, late dinners, lots of coffee and wine, and hours of girl chat! Not to mention a couple of hours drinking beer in the sauna, hopping in and out of the cold in our towels and reheating again in the sauna. Thank you to my Swedish friends who taught us how to properly “sauna”. I am converted and a big fan now!

It was a fantastic weekend and I have nobody but my amazing husband to thank. Thank you for letting me recharge, regroup, and mostly RELAX! After 48 hours I actually missed my family. That’s a good sign! And I feel grateful for this life. Cheers to friends and family  in 2018!

Our Week in France– Vézelay

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Perhaps the most relaxing day of our week in Burgundy was our day trip to Vézelay. The Oma and Opa creche was up and running and we were off for a day without kids. My main goal was to have a relaxed lunch of yummy French food. Mission accomplished.

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We had a delicious menu for lunch outside on the main street. I just love how everything tastes better in France. It was so nice to chat with Jaap and Mieke and have a relaxed meal without having to entertain small children. My coffee and accompanying sweet treats was a great ending. These tiny homemade pink marshmallows were delicious!

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Afterwards we took in some sites, visiting the basilica and checking out the views. Vézelay is a tiny town situated on a top a large hill and the few from top was beautiful. I’m so grateful my in-laws were willing to give us this relaxation time. Whew.