Mindful in Sloten

img_1731

Sloten

After Christmas, we traveled up north to visit my good friend Erika. We spent two nights in Friesland and a bit of quality time with an old friend. It was fantastic and just what I needed. More about that in my next post.

Our first night in the Airbnb started off perfectly and ended up with Flora starting her day at 3:30 a.m. Why does this happen? She is such a light sleeper and the slightest sound of me walking downstairs in the middle of the night woke her up. It was ridiculous and in retrospect quite funny, but we were totally dead. Despite this, we were able to have a fun family day with friends. I’m shocked we didn’t drop dead from exhaustion.

img_1716

We had a chilly morning stroll in Woudsend admiring the windmills and canals. Of course Flora fell asleep in the stroller by 10:00 a.m. img_1731We drove to Sloten, a tiny village Erika took me to when Flora was just a baby. By that time they were both asleep and Jaap and I had some peace. We took turns walking through Sloten and I enjoyed a 25 minute mindful walk through this old place by myself. The thrill of Europe will never fade for me because I still get goose bumps exploring places like this. I’m sure the inner city looks mostly the same as it did 250 years ago. It was a beautiful pocket of alone time all to myself to enjoy a little walk, breath in the cold fresh air, and experience complete stillness. Peace on Earth. Amen!

 

Mindful Moments

IMG_1217

The Holidays are here! Yikes! Sinterklaas is in one week, Thanksgiving flew by, what is happening to the time. Oh and Thibault had a horrible cold (which— knocking on wood here– we all seemed to fight off). Well into my 5th year of being a mother here, I have learned to keep my expectations for the holidays low. Pretty much anything that we do now, I approach it with low expectations. Even Jaap said it the other day, “Oh, it’s Thanksgiving, somebody in our house is sick.” Completely true. It’s like clockwork. Every year, somebody in our family is sick that week.

IMG_1214

Through all the hustle and bustle of the holidays (which I completely love) I am to be mindful this year. I will be present. I will be grateful and most importantly show compassion for myself. It feels really good to type this out right now.

There have been some beautiful family moments here. I want to write this on this blog, to have them in my memory forever.

Walking to school a few weeks ago Flora says, “Wow, Mom. Look at the sky. It’s so big! It looks amazing.” Amen girlfriend. Her statement gave me goosebumps. The sun was rising and the sky was pink and purple. My little daughter stopped to recognise the beauty of this world. That same afternoon Flora was picking up, throwing the leaves, and running through it while we were leaving the school yard. Pure joy.

Sometimes on a Friday morning Thibault and I go for a walk after dropping Flora off from school. It reminds me of when he was a newborn. We walked everyday while I listened to a podcast. We stop and take a peak at the horses and also discovered two sheep. He loved it.

And last weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving with our friends Ann and Didier. It feels like a real home Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is such a hard week for me. I always feel homesick and sad because it’s such an important American tradition. But, I survived! I made it through the week. Only a few more days of Sinterklaas (another day I really hate— more about that in another post) and we are moving on to Christmas.

I am thankful for my health and my family. XOXO XOXO XOXO

A ride in the countryside

IMG_0832

Thibault is always excited to hop in the bakfiets. I think he’s even more excited now that we took out the baby seat and he can sit comfortably on the bench. We had a beautiful ride this morning. More like breathtaking! It was stunning. There were lots of precious moments on our little ride through the countryside. Jaap showed me this great route. It’s a perfect 30+ minute bike ride to do with the kids in the bakfiets.

IMG_0833

There’s always horses grazing at the end of this street. This horse came right up to us and then started galloping around. It was quite the show.

And of course, we had to stop and admire the cows. We sat here for a good five minutes. Thibault munching on rice cakes, the cows eating grass, and slurping their water. What an incredibly beautiful fall morning. I love the feel of Fridays.

Acadia, Maine– Hiking to Bubble Rock

40f3664f-1b26-4eb3-909c-2210b5c9879e

Flora loved our hike up to Bubble Rock. Listed as “strenuous” by the park map, we knew she could do the thirty minute uphill climb. The views at the top made it all worth while!

b7ab5209-d906-402b-b2a9-9d887b55ca92

This hike was invigorating. I felt alive, fresh, and appreciative of America’s natural beauty. I felt so far from home in this moment, but at the same time, I felt like I arrived. It was an incredible feeling. This trip reminded me of so many childhood memories camping with my family and also of exploring Maine as a chid and pre-teen. It feels like I’ve come full circle being their with my own husband and kids. It was so excited to show Jaap this beautiful place and it filled my heart to see Flora and Thibault appreciating the great outdoors.

cbe3f115-0a12-4206-bf31-20a52eeba788

Acadia, Maine— Echo Lake

DSC08925

I think my favorite day of the entire trip was our time spent at Echo Lake. It was a warm, sunny day, the sun was shining and we had the most beautiful setting for our swimming day at the lake. A huge lake surrounds by rocky mountains, soaring birds, nesting loons, and peace. Surprisingly it was not very busy and the swimming conditions were just right for our little ones. Flora had the greatest time hanging out with her cousin (and idol) Elin. They splashed around in the water together all afternoon. My cousin Tish came were her two year old son and it was the perfect time for us to catch up.

DSC08920

All the little cousins got to play together. Thibault loved playing in the sand, but also exploring the water with us. There was a raft of nesting loons roped off near the swimming area. I couldn’t believe. It was like seeing a rare species up close! The Mama and Papa protecting the little raft and nest the National Park created for them. It was truly an amazing thing to see.

DSC08911

The day ended with dinner at Jordan Pond. Popovers were a must, of course. And for the grand finale— wild blueberry crisp with Jordan Pond vanilla ice cream. Definitely the best tasting thing I ate on this entire vacation! Maine blueberries have such a unique taste. I savored every second of that dessert. Delicious!

DSC08933

Weekend Fun: Leuven, Belgium

IMG_8110

It’s really winter here! Temperatures have dropped and it’s been pretty cold here the last week. We even got a little bit of snow on Monday morning. Sunday was our family activity day and set off to explore Leuven, Belgium. What cute little university city.

It wasn’t a day full of activities, just walking, coffee and beer drinking, and admiring the old architecture. The gothic city hall in the city center is quite impressive. Very ornate and stunning. Set against that blue sky—ahhhh! We had lunch in a tavern, drank some beer, saw the church, and walked to the Grote Begijnhof. Leuven’s university is the oldest in Belgium (15th century) and has so many beautiful buildings throughout the city.

Panic set in at one point when Flora realized we weren’t going to a playground. This seems to be her definition of fun, whether it be indoors or outdoors. But, she is such a happy little traveler, we knew she would come around and find the fun or beauty in something we were seeing. She can still be redirected with a game of tag or “I Spy”. This seems to be her new favorite walking game. I love it. We both take the time to see the things around us and really look at what is in front of us.

IMG_8114

And a bonus— we scored some free drinks at the university because they were hosting an open day. I’m happy we took a little adventure out of our region. Spring feels so far away. We’ll see how we keep warm this weekend!

IMG_8147

Otranto & Baia dei Turchi

IMG_6335

By far, our day at the beach in Otranto was the best! This photo is my favorite of the entire trip. I never actually thought it would be warm enough to take a swim, but it was warmer down in Salento and we were able to have one afternoon on the beach playing in the water.

IMG_6322

Clear turquoise blue water, a wooded path down to the beach, warm water, and beautiful sunshine.

IMG_6320

I really couldn’t believe that this day was possible. Flora was so excited to take a dip. Check out this photo. Thibault would drown himself in about 2 seconds. The boy has no fear. At one point we were sitting on the beach, Flora and Jaap were building a sand castle, and Thibault was eating the sand. I looked at Jaap and said, “Babe, life doesn’t get better than this.” So whenever I have some tough days I think of these moments. Moments where I remember how lucky I am to be living my best life with the love of my life and two happy children. IMG_6333

IMG_6352