Esmé’s First Camp Trip

I love camping. It is such a source of nostalgia for me. I have memories from when I was young, and we went camping with family at the Grand Canyon. We weren’t all that interested in the scenery around us, but I distinctly recall setting up the inside of our tent to look like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle from ‘I Dream Of Jeannie.’ It was such fun pretending to be magic genies with my cousins.

After my husband and I were married, we ended up camping a lot. It was how we did all of our exploring around here…at the Outerbanks, in the mountains, and even river rafting in West Virginia.

My favorite was when we decided to go up to the mountains near Mount Mitchell, and hadn’t made a reservation because we thought that there would be a site available for us. Lo and behold there was not. But they did tell us that if we drove up the road a little bit farther, there were some spots off the road you could pitch a tent. So that’s what we did. There were quite a few more bugs than usual because we were right next to a creek, but it was so much more peaceful and relaxing because there were no other campers around. I sat and read my books, while Emile did lots of fishing, but the best part was at night. It was the beginning of summer, so the fireflies were out. Because we had camped where there was no one else around, there were hundreds of them! The only way I can describe it is if you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Avatar.’ How the jungle lights up at night with all those magical lights? That’s what it looked like. It was incredible.

Needless to say, we have been wanting to take Esmé for some time now. Last weekend we finally got the chance to take her and she LOVED it.

The second we let her out of the car she was off and running. She immediately started picking up as many acorns as she could find, set them on the table and was off to find more.

She was more than happy to “help” set up the tent. Though I’m pretty sure my husband would have rather she not. She kept trying to go inside before it was all the way up, and laughed like crazy when it would float back down on her head.

I will say that we had quite the upgrade in our camping situation from when Emile and I used to go camping. We used to be in a very small tent, on very uncomfortable small camping pads. We knew that we needed a bigger tent since the monkey had to sleep with us, so we got a 6 person tent. We also brought along a nice air mattress for us, and Esmé’s travel mattress (which is basically like a kid-sized air mattress). Man oh man. Let me just say, that is the way to camp! We were so comfortable and cozy in our new camping arrangements.

We also did a fair amount of exploring with her. We were right next to this trail that was about a mile walk to a lake, and it was gorgeous.

The weather was perfect, and the water was so clear. The leaves were even starting to change color, which Esmé really enjoyed. She’s seen the leaves change color before, but I don’t think she remembers it. She just loved that there were trees dropping red leaves all over for her to collect.

We even got to see a waterfall while we were there. The water was super cold, but she did not care in the slightest. She probably would have stayed all day if we’d let her. She loves water, and she loves rocks, so this was a very happy marriage of both. There was lots of splashing. There was throwing of rocks to make even more splashes. Basically she was living her best life.

As much as she loved everything else, her absolute favorite was the hammock, (also new addition to our gear!). Probably because she thought it was a swing, thus tried swinging Emile and I (not at the same time) as fast and as high as it would go. Yes, we both got very nauseous/dizzy. Esmé did not. In fact, the higher/ faster you pushed her, the happier she was. She pulled up the sides over her face to cover her whole body in there, like a little bat, and there she’d rock. Back and forth. Back and forth. All the while with her thumb in her mouth.

Truth be told it wasn’t all perfect. Esmé fell six times at our campsite alone, and every single time it was a Broadway production. People two towns over could probably hear her wailing, and she had huge tears to go with. Her poor little knees, legs, and hands took quite the beating from that. We also forgot a couple of things like towels, and cooking tongs, but that was it. Everything else was a breeze.

I know that camping isn’t for everyone. There are bugs involved, and sometimes manual labor is required. You also have to be ok with being kind of dirty for a couple days. But for me, it’s like a reset button. There’s no phone service. It’s peaceful and quiet (Esmé’s meltdowns excluded). You have gorgeous scenery everywhere you look. You’re completely free to relax and enjoy your family.

I kicked back with a good book. I got lost daydreaming in the sites and sounds around me. I got to watch my girl’s face as she experienced the magic of it all on her own. It’s just the best.

Preschool Threes Class

Esmé is back in school you guys! She had such a hard time transitioning into the summer session, (you can read about it here), that I was quite nervous for her to start up again after nearly a month off.

I thought about posting how successful her start was after her first day, but then I was like let’s not jinx it. Give it a week and see how it goes, and well, it’s official. She is one week in and absolutely LOVES it. She runs in to play with her friends and teachers, isn’t the least bit sad, and doesn’t cling to me at all. In fact, today when I asked if I could get a hug before leaving she was like “No!” Then she ran off to play with her friends. Rude.

Before she started school again, I saw all these clever moms who had ‘First Day of School’ chalkboards with fun facts about their kiddos. I, however was too lazy to do my own. Instead I conducted an interview with some fun questions, and thought I would share it here with you.

  1. What’s your favorite color: Pink
  2. What’s your favorite breakfast: Wheetabix, Oats (oatmeal), and waffles. That’s all I like.
  3. What’s your favorite lunch: Peanut jelly and today I ate grilled cheese. ( Was that your favorite too?) Yeah. I ate it all, all, all.
  4. What’s your favorite dinner: Mac and cheese
  5. What’s your favorite snack: ALL THE SNACKS!!!!! 
  6. What’s your favorite book: ALL THE BOOKS!!!
  7. What’s your favorite movie/show: Trolls and Little Einsteins
  8. What’s your favorite animal: Pigs! 
  9. What’s your favorite toy: No toys.
  10. What’s your favorite activity: All the things.
  11. What do you want to be when you grow up? Nothing!! Just a Papa.
  12. What are you really good at: Listening ( laughed so hard I almost fell out of my chair. No joke.)
  13. What’s something you want to get better at:  Listening. I really need to start listening…That’s all the questions ( At this point in time, I had to bribe her to get her to finish the list, and we carried on.)
  14. This year I want to learn: Listening at school (can you tell this is something we are really working on right now??)
  15. I’m excited about preschool because: Running in school!!!

I’m so proud of my girl for jumping right in, but I’m even more proud of myself for not crying once when I dropped her off. Yes, I was still sad, and felt like I had a weight on my chest, but it was way easier than this past spring and summer.

We’re off and running, and I can’t wait to see what this new year holds for her!

Tribute To Trolls

Earlier this summer, Netflix released the movie “Trolls.” Those trolls took over our lives. Esmé decided that she needed to listen to the soundtrack every day, in its entirety, at least twice a day. She decided that we needed to see the movie every weekend (since we don’t let her watch TV in the week, or at least we used to have this rule before summer break). We even lost our own personal identities! I was no longer mama, but Guy Diamond. Esmé was Poppy, and Papa was Branch. She even renamed her toys.

These were the very first two items to be christened as Trolls in our household (Poppy is on the left, Branch is on the spiky one on the right). It was actually very sweet because she took them with her EVERYWHERE. They ate meals with her. They came with us everywhere in the car. They came to Washington D.C. They went to school with her. They went outside with her. She even slept with them every night. Once she really got the Troll ball rolling she renamed ALL her stuffed animal friends. Let’s see if you can guess which one she liked the most…

This is Poppy.

This is also Poppy.

This is also Poppy.

This is Hunter the Troll. Hunter is not actually a ‘Troll’ from the movie. But there was a boy in her class she really liked this summer named Hunter, so he got an honorary Troll designation.

This is Branch.

She also loved sets of things, because it allowed her to name ALL her Troll friends. For example, these little containers of Playdoh lined up in a row are (from left to right), Hunter, Poppy, Branch, Satin, Chenile, Guy Diamond, and Creek.

This child seriously had Troll-mania! She would freak out if she saw any Troll items while we were out at Target, or the mall. She would imagine that all her Troll friends (listed above) came with her to school, to the park, to the pool, out for walks, basically they went wherever she went.

My personal favorite about the Trolls movie was the designated “hug time.” If you haven’t seen the movie, all the Trolls wear watches that go “Ding!” every hour, signaling that it’s “hug time.” All the Trolls would then all have a big group hug.

What we started doing, because we do not have a snuggle child in the slightest, is we created our own “hug time.” My husband and I would say “DING!!!” really loud, then say “Is it hug time??!” and we would chase her down and give her a big squeeze. It was awesome.

Yesterday, however, when we tried to do this, she said “Mama, no. We are not Trolls anymore.”

I’m not 100% surprised, because she has been more about “The Sound of Music,” and “It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” lately, but it still makes me a little sad. I’m going to miss her obsessing about all things Trolls, and the stories about all the things she and her Troll friends get up to on a daily basis. It’s the nature of growing up. The constant growing out of things, and leaving old favorites behind.

We’ve moved on from Trolls now. She has yet to figure out all the names for her stuffed animals and toys, but she knows who she is.  She is “The one with the red shirt (also known as Linus),” I am Charlie Brown, and my husband is Lucy.

In The Garden

One of things I was most excited about when we moved to North Carolina nearly 9 years ago, was having my own garden. When we were first married I grew as many pots of herbs and flowers (and trees) as I could fit, outside on our balcony. When we bought our house years ago, I was beside myself with excitement because I finally had the chance to grow my own veggie garden.

It is something I look forward to every year starting around February/March when we get a false Spring. I start seeing all these plants at the farmers market, and I get really tempted to buy them. We actually did do that one year because I got a little too eager, and we got a frost. It killed all the seedlings we planted and we had to go buy them again. Every year since then, my husband has to fight to contain my enthusiasm, so we don’t have a repeat, and have to buy them twice.

Since having Esmé my love of gardening has increased so much more. It was wondrous to watch something two inches tall grow into something that is almost as tall as myself, and bear countless tomatoes. But with her, it’s a whole new experience. She gets the biggest thrill watching all the plants grow, then flower, then start producing fruit.

Fun fact: Esmé didn’t like tomatoes until she tried them from our garden. We actually have to watch her now because she will sneak off from wherever we are outside to go pop a few in her mouth. Then she runs off laughing, while looking like a chipmunk because her cheeks are stuffed with tomatoes (see above). Last year Emile and I didn’t get to eat any for almost a month after they started ripening because she kept eating them!

This year was even better than the last because we had a surprise plant pop up. We composted our pumpkins into our veggie beds last fall, (and by composted I mean placed them in there and let them rot into the ground). One of our tomato plant seedlings died off, then something else sprouted up over top of it. Initially we thought it was a cucumber, because the leaves looked similar. However, as time passed, and it grew out of the first box, then into the second (again, see above), and the leaves grew bigger than my head, we thought ‘hmmmm. Perhaps this is something different.’

Sure enough it turned out we were growing a pumpkin! Now, I don’t think we had the best environment for it to grow in with all the other things crowding around it, so it turned out to be a rather small pumpkin. We harvested said pumpkin last month. I know, I know. Harvesting a pumpkin in July? But the vine was pretty much dead, and I wanted Esmé to get the chance to pick it before it was rotten. So yes. We have a pumpkin at our house and it’s only August. We are those people.

That’s the cool thing about living here in NC. You don’t have to have a green thumb to make things grow. Things just grow on their own! Our pumpkin grew from seeds that we didn’t plant. These mushrooms, (which are not edible, but still fun to explore), show up all by themselves every year. They pop up in our backyard a couple times in the summer, and then again in the fall.

Esmé likes to pretend that they’re homes for her “Troll” friends. She picks off tiny little pieces and then says “I opened the door for them, so now they can go in.”

I have loved gardens and plants for as long as I can remember. Something that was likely the result of having a grandmother who had the most amazing garden ever. She always had flowers. She had three enormous trees out front that were excellent for climbing, and she had fruit trees as well. The fact that she was able to get any of those to grow in the desert was impressive in and of itself, but she somehow made everything flourish.

Some of my favorite memories are from playing in her garden. Whether it was picking and eating apricots off of her tree, climbing the highest of all my siblings up the trees, or pretending we were explorers in a wild jungle. We always managed to have such grand adventures at her house.

Some sad day in the future, when my daughter is grown, I hope she remembers our time spent together in the garden. I hope she remembers it as magical an adventure as I had when I was little.

D.C. For The Fourth

I just want to preface this post by saying we have been to Washington D.C. a few times before, so this trip wasn’t about seeing all the sites. It was more of a take time off to hang out as a family sort of trip, since my husband has been super busy with work lately. With that said, here’s a little bit about what we did while we were there:

 

The first place we stayed was actually a little bit south of DC and was right by the National Harbor. It would have been an amazing place to sit outside and people watch, but it was soooooo hot. We seem to have a knack for picking the hottest, most humid environments to spend the 4th of July holiday (last year we were here).

We ended up spending the majority of our time at the hotel, either running around their big grassy lawn, or swimming at the pool. It was so cool because they had a giant movie screen by the pool, and fountains for you to splash and run around in. But the best part was the whole back side of the hotel that faced the water was covered with glass windows.

At the end of the day, we got to sit on our balcony, drink some wine, and enjoy this view of the harbor. It was pretty incredible.

The next two nights we spent in D.C. in a hotel that was actually very close to Chinatown. It made me all nostalgic because the very first time we ever saw D.C. was a month and a half after we were married back in 2008.

Look at those two youngins, so obviously, madly in love! We actually found Chinatown by accident. We had walked who knows how many miles after seeing ALL of the monuments, and were looking for food. I was dead tired and super hangry with the husband, when all of a sudden we turned a corner and there was Chinatown! Not just Chinatown, but a Nando’s in Chinatown!! For those of you who don’t know, Nando’s is a South African restaurant. At that time it was the only one in the States, so my husband, who had just moved from his home country of South Africa, pretty much felt like we won the lottery. We make a point of eating there every time we visit.

Back to the story at hand! We were also next to the cutest little outdoor shopping mall. Seriously. Beach balls and fairy lights for decorations? So fun.

Essie and I were up to our usual shenanigans of dancing and running around. They even had fountains for kids to play in next to these cool pieces of art, which we were told explicitly not to climb on.

We also got to see Georgetown while we were there, which is one of my favorite things about D.C. I love the shops.

I love all the charming little houses that have secret gardens tucked away next to them. But most importantly I love the food. You guys. We had our minds blown by the best burger I have ever had in my entire life. I wish I had taken a picture. We got it to go, and it was so amazing we inhaled it before I even thought to take one. If you ever visit you have to go to Good Stuff Eatery and get the Prez Obama Burger. Seriously. Best. Burger. Ever.

The real reason we decided to brave the crowds, heat, and humidity was for the fireworks show that you can watch from the National Mall. We went once, back in 2013 and loved it so much we vowed to go back. Well the next year we had a very tiny baby with us, so we didn’t go then. The year after that we were in another country, so couldn’t go then. Then last year my in-laws came to visit, and we wanted to take them someplace new (they had seen D.C. already), so we didn’t go last year either.

This was the year. We chose to sit  next to the Washington Monument instead of behind it, nearer to the Capitol like we had previously, and it was the perfect spot.

Esmé was completely enthralled, and didn’t take her eyes off the show for one second.

I have to be honest and say that this trip was a bit of a mission. Driving four hours to go wander around in 90+ degrees with 90% humidity, while pushing through crowds with toddler in tow was not ideal. But getting to watch her little face with eyes lit up brighter than the sky, made it more than worth the effort.

Preschool Update

I was all set to share this thoughtful post about how Esmé loved school so much, and all the fun things she loved doing while she was there after she finished her twos class this past May. I was so excited because it had been a relatively easy transition for her, and I couldn’t wait to share with everyone how smoothly it had gone. Then she started her summer session.

I don’t know if it was because the early drop-off room was significantly larger than when she was in the twos class, or if it was because it was different teachers, but she screamed and cried for two weeks straight.

It started at the stairs that led down to the room. She would slowly back away and say things like “Mama? I want to go home.” Or “Mama, I don’t want you to go.” Then I would lead her in to the classroom where she would plaster herself to my body saying “No. No. No. NO!!” and then her teachers would have to peel her off of me as it turned into a full-blown meltdown.

The last thing I would see every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday was her little face, bright red from being so distraught, with tears streaming down, and her mouth wide open in a wail. Her body was always twisting around the teacher holding her back to try and see me as she reached for me with outstretched arms. I left in tears every single time. I actually still cry when I think about it.

I HATED myself afterwards, every single time. What kind of mother was I to leave her when she was so upset? Why did I have to be so selfish to try and have some time to myself? It rattled me to my core and made me question if we were doing the right thing.

The crazy thing was that she still loved school. I know this because all of the amazing staff at the school had my cell, and would send me pictures/ messages as soon as she stopped crying, and then continue to send me pictures and/or messages throughout the day so I knew she was ok. Basically it was only torture for me as a mom. Super.

After those two weeks, she started to calm down. The third week she was slightly hesitant, but didn’t cry when I left. I’m pretty sure the entire staff did a little dance to celebrate 1) not having to listen to ear-splitting screams/cries of distress and 2) not having to ‘hold my hand’ for the rest of the day by texting me the whole time.

The fourth week she was rockin’ it. She practically ran into the classroom to go and play with her teachers. They actually had to remind her to give me a hug before I left. My feelings were slightly hurt, but I will take feeling snubbed any day over spending the whole day feeling like I’m torturing my child.

Now that I am emotionally stable, and can handle thinking about my child while she is away at school, I can finally write an update!

I did one of those first and last day of school comparison pictures, but I feel like you can’t really tell much of a difference. On the left is Esmé when she started the twos class in January, and the one on the right is when she finished this past May. I think it’s because we started in the middle of the year with her.

The feedback that I’ve gotten from her teachers so far is that she is a little quiet (which is a surprise to us as she is so loud at home), though very clear and well spoken when she chooses to talk. She likes to follow the boys around more than the girls (sorry Papa!). She loves being outdoors. She loves arts and crafts and is one of the few who is able to sit and stay focused on doing them for a long time. However her very favorite activity seems to be music class with Miss Rachel. I am told she loves to dance around and play all the instruments.

Basically, she is loving school. I love that it’s a chance for her to spend a lot more time doing all the things that she loves…art, music, reading, and playing outside. Any day she comes home with mulch in her hair (from digging, playing, and throwing it in the air), I know it’s been a good playground day. When she comes home with paint on her hands and her arms, I know that she’s getting to do her favorite art activity.

But what I love most, is when I catch her singing songs I haven’t heard before. She goes to a religious preschool, so they teach them little songs about God, and also prayer songs before they eat. To hear her sing some of these songs, or pray as she’s eating melts my heart more than anything.

Since I can’t share her singing with you, as she gets shy once I grab my phone and say “Sing it again,” I thought I would share some of the favorite pieces of art that she’s come home with so far…

This first group is from her twos class. The circle paper plate says “My planet is called Papa and it looks like Mama”-Esmé, and the butterfly painting says “My butterfly is eating grass.”

This second group is my favorites from what she has done so far in her summer session. They’ve done some sponge painting for fireworks and actually got to paint with watermelon, which i think is pretty cool. She also made me a lovely bracelet with “beatles (beads),” but I feel like the stickers on paper is the truest reflection of my child. She looooves her stickers and asks every check-out person, including the librarian if they have any (Trader Joe’s is the best btw because they give her like a whole roll, which she then covers her whole body with).

Having Esmé start school has definitely been a huge eye-opener. For one I have a whole new respect for working moms who have to put babies into day care, and had to go through this process when their kiddos were a lot younger.

I’m also acutely aware now that I won’t always be able to solve all my daughters problems for her, much as I would like to. I think that’s the hardest thing for me. If she’s upset because of something I did, fine. I can deal with that. But hearing your kid cry because of something you can’t control, or swoop in to rescue them from is HARD.

 

Traveling Truths: Paris

I’m going to tell you something. I get serious travel envy. It often happens as soon as we get back from a trip, or worse yet, while we are actually on vacation. It really doesn’t take much. I see someone else’s Instagram post about some beautiful far off place, and immediately I need to see it too. They make it look so perfect, and fun, and fabulous! I think that’s actually part of the problem. We only share the best snippets of our journey.

I want to know the whole story. I want to know the mishaps, or crazy stories that got them there. Mostly I want to know we’re not the only ones stumbling through, trying to make it look like we know what we’re doing.

So in pursuit of honesty, I thought that I would share with you guys some of our traveling truths (failures) from our last trip. Because as much as I loved Paris, it was far from perfect.

Truth #1:

Esmé got very sick while we were there. She got Pink Eye, and some sort of cold virus as well. The first day she had it just in the left eye, and it wasn’t too bad, so we were going to wait it out and see what happened. We went to a pharmacy, got an antiseptic eyewash (that she hated), and waited to see what the next day looked like. The next morning she looked better, but, as the day wore on, the right eye started producing gunk, and her left eye got worse. By day three she looked TERRIBLE. The problem was by the time that we were able to speak to our pediatrician (thank you time delay), it was already too late in the day to get her in to see a doctor. On day four we were finally able to get her in to a doctor thanks to our wonderful hotel concierge. We got antibiotic eye drops, and she was 100% improved within a day.

How did this affect our trip? For starters, we had to have her wear her sunglasses everywhere. We didn’t want her spreading it to anyone, but we also didn’t want people thinking we were child abusers. Her eyes were red and swollen all the way down to her little cheeks. I literally had a pain in my chest having to look at her, because I knew she had to be so uncomfortable.

We also had to go back to the hotel at 4 hour intervals to give her drops. This was the hardest. It was a wrestling match every time to hold her down, and she screamed like she was dying. I’m sure we made our neighboring guests super happy.

Truth #2:

We brought one too many suitcases. I’m pretty sure this took two years off my husband’s life. Every other time that we have visited Europe we’ve either had a rental car, or have stayed with family who had a car. Basically, we’ve never had to walk all our stuff to and from the airport/hotel. So I packed just like we did for all the others…one suitcase for each of us. Huuuuuuuuge mistake.

The problem was that we had a toddler with us. One of us had to push the stroller with one hand while pulling along a suitcase and the other person pushed/pulled two suitcases; OR one person pushed all three while the other person pushed the stroller (I know this option seems ludicrous, but my husband actually attempted to push all three suitcases at once because it was such a mission doing the stroller and a suitcase).

There were heated discussions about a certain someone (me) not packing everything into two suitcases at least three different times during our trip. Lesson learned.

Also we stayed at two different places while we were there. It was so much fun moving all our stuff again.

Truth #3:

Versailles was almost a total disaster. I say almost, because we managed to keep it together while we were inside the palace. The best part about this truth is that I have a photo of the exact moment that it fell apart! This picture right here, when I was taking a picture of Emile taking a picture of Esmé frolicking in the gardens. She tripped and totally ate it immediately after our picture.

She had an epic meltdown afterward. It was so loud that other people who were there with their own crying children were giving us the stink eye. We didn’t know how sick she was yet because this was day 3 of her sickness. It was past nap time. Then she got a dent in her head from falling on her face with her sunglasses on. Rough day.

I had this vision of how our trip was going be, with lots of things to see and do, and all the pictures I wanted to take. Then life happened. We had to change plans almost daily, depending on how Esmé was feeling, but we made it work. Traveling with kids is never easy, but it is certainly one heck of an adventure.

Besides, in ten years time you’re not going to remember all the bad stuff that drove you crazy, (unless you’re my husband…then you will never ever let your wife forget the suitcase incident as long as either of you lives). It’s the good stuff, like kissing in front of the Eiffel Tower while it sparkles, that you take with you. That is what drives you to go out and do it all over again somewhere new.

Paris Je T’aime

 

Last week was all about the tourist attractions we saw in Paris, which were pretty amazing, but this post is the one I have been most excited to share with you. This week it’s all about my personal favorites, starting with…

STREET LIFE

The people there were so quintessentially French. The patrons of cafés and patisseries sat at dainty tables while sipping espresso, or dining with friends.

The other thing I found fascinating was how the crowd would change depending upon the time of day. The morning was a quiet, subdued crowd who came to drink coffee or have a small breakfast before rushing off to work. The afternoon was bustling with gatherings of friends and workers enjoying a lunch out doors. The busiest time of all was happy hour, or early dinner time.

It was like people went out to celebrate and enjoy life as if it were a Friday, even though it was Monday or Tuesday evening. I found it so refreshing! I think they should call it the golden hour, because it happens right as the sun is setting. The whole city is bathed in golden light, and there are throngs of people sitting out at cafe tables and bars, just living their best lives.

WANDERINGS

I also loved just wandering around the city. If you’ve read any of my other posts on places we’ve traveled to, you already know that this is one of my favorite things to do. Paris did not disappoint. We found adorable little boutique hotels.

We found the cutest neighborhood ever next to Notre-Dame (Île De La Cité), where we also found the best ice cream we’ve ever had.

We also found the bakery where Ina Garten buys her bread when she’s in Paris, (hey, I will gladly take any excuse to consume more carbs while traveling). We bought a loaf, took it back to our hotel, and ate it as is. OK, we also snacked on it on our way back to the hotel. It was so so good.

We found a chef having an intriguing conversation in front of a pink building. I actually don’t know if it was intriguing or not. They might have been talking about something boring like ear wax, or oil changes, but it looked like it was, therefore I took their picture.

After visiting the Luxembourg gardens, on a whim, we decided to walk back to our hotel instead of taking the metro. In the picture above you can see we were walking past the Sainte-Chapelle amongst all these grand buildings when something caught our eye.

Technically two things caught our eye. First was this beautiful metro sign. Don’t you just love that? How amazing would it be if the subway signs in NYC, or Barcelona were that fancy! It just makes it look so much more inviting. In any case, because we saw this really cool metro sign, it drew us to the market behind it that turned out to be…

the most gorgeous flower market! There were tons and tons of blossoms of all types, spilling out of their containers.

It was such a treasure to find tucked in between all these massive, stately buildings. We never would have found it though, if we’d taken the fast way home on the metro.

FOOD

We only got to eat out at restaurants a few different times because we had a toddler with us, but you know what? It honestly didn’t matter because the best food we found were pastries found in these little shops, or carts that are hidden in alleyways all over the city. Our particular favorite were the crepes. Oh my goodness, if only I could have one of those right now.

They really have it down to an art form. It’s mesmerizing to watch them. When they make them, they pour out such a small amount of batter onto the hot plate that you think it can’t possibly be enough to make a crepe. But they just swirl it around, and around, and around, and around with this little batter pusher until it’s right up to the edge of the circle. It ends up being impossibly thin, but they flip it over without a hitch, fill it, fold it up, and hand it to you wrapped in paper. Seriously my biggest regret was not eating more of them.

MONTMARTRE

If you go to Paris and you only have time to visit one neighborhood, you HAVE to go to Montmartre. Absolutely the best neighborhood to wander through. You will not be able to put down your camera. I promise. We actually walked over from the Moulin Rouge, so it starts out with all these very beautiful buildings that look like they belong on top of a wedding cake.

Then as you start walking closer to the Sacré-Coeur, it morphs into the most enchanting little buildings you have ever seen in your life. All I could hear in my head as I was walked along the cobbled streets was ‘La Vie En Rose.’ All the buildings are soft, warm shades of pastels covered in ivy.

There was also music everywhere. We found a guitar player who was playing right next to someone who had strung up a tight rope to walk on, and the one above was situated, happily, next to a Christmas shop! Talk about serendipitous (not because it’s the season, just because I’m obsessed with all things Christmas).

We timed our walk to the Sacré-Coeur perfectly because we got there right as the sun was setting.

We sat down and did a little people watching before we walked down alllll the steps to the bottom, so that Esmé could play where it was a lot less crowded.

THE PEOPLE

The last thing I want to share, is actually what impressed me the most. The first time that I went to France, I was nervous because I had heard that French people are a little bit stuck-up or snobbish. At the time we were living in Barcelona, and hadn’t exactly received the warmest welcome from the people there, so we were really looking for a break.

As it turned out we were blown away at how friendly and helpful everyone was. We went a few more times and it was always the same. So when I would talk to people about our trips I would always say that I loved the French, because I’d never met anyone who had lived up to that bad rumor I heard. They would in turn say, well it might be different when you visit Paris.

Because of that, I, again, was a little apprehensive and had low expectations. Guess what? The people we met while we were in Paris were possibly the nicest, most helpful yet. Our uber driver had dropped us one street too far, so we were looking at Google maps trying to orientate ourselves when a complete stranger comes up to us. We hadn’t flagged her down, or asked for her help in any way. She just saw us standing there on the street with our luggage and tried to help us. She couldn’t speak English, so she walked away, went to find someone who did speak English and had him help us. The man then said “And once you’re at your hotel, if you need to do washing, you can come here to my laundromat!”

There were complete strangers who helped us every day getting on and off the subway, or on and off of buses. It wasn’t just us that people were helping either. People give up their seats for the elderly. We saw a handful of people help an older woman struggling to walk get off of the bus. Still more people were there to help anyone struggling with luggage.

It may just be that there isn’t that much news coverage of people doing small kindnesses, but I was amazed at the kindness and generosity shown to us and to others while we were there.

I loved Paris. Plain and simple.

 

An American Family In Paris

First of all, I know that this is long overdue. I have been putting off writing about Paris because I knew that as soon as I started going through all my pictures I would start getting homesick. Yes homesick. I can feel you rolling your eyes at me, but I’m telling you. It’s very much possible to have that achy, heart-longing feeling for a place that you do not actually live in. It’s a thing and it happened to me.

Second, we saw so much when we were there that I decided to divide it into two posts. This first one is all the touristy things that we got to see while we were there. First up, Notre-Dame Cathedral…

We actually visited Notre-Dame twice. The first time we were exploring the city with family, so we just walked around the grounds and admired the cathedral from the outside.

It was quite a rainy, gloomy day our first trip there, which made for a very moody experience. What with all the stone gargoyles glowering down at you and skeletal spires towering overhead.

Another cool thing we discovered was that in the back of the cathedral there was this beautiful little garden. (Esmé is pouting in the picture because there was a swing that was there, and there was also someone on said swing therefore preventing her from reaching full joy potential. Don’t worry though because about 5 minutes after we made her take a picture, the person got off, and she got to swing to her hearts content)

The second time we went we explored the interior, and the inside of the cathedral was just as impressive, if not more so, than the outside.

For me, churches are one of my favorite things to see when we travel. I think it’s because they are generally hundreds and hundreds of years old and there is so much history behind them.

It always makes me wonder about the kind of people who have come to worship, and what kind of lives they lived in whatever time they happened to be living them.

We got to see The Eiffel Tower!!! It is massive. It is breathtakingly beautiful. It is fabulously French. We went and saw it in the day time and were pretty flabbergasted until we saw it at night time…

Every night as soon as it’s dark, for five minutes, every hour, on the hour, the tower sparkles! We took a river cruise down the Seine and the boat was right next to the tower when it started sparkling. I can not even begin to explain how absolutely beautiful it was. Esmé loved it so much, she got upset any time it went out of sight on the way back. I’m pretty sure that it’s the closest I’ll come to seeing magic happen. It was spectacular.

Speaking of spectacular, we saw the spectacular spectacular! Well, we saw the outside. The reviews for this place were too mixed for me to actually pay to go and see the show, but it was so cool seeing the place that inspired one of my favorite movies.

The gardens in Paris are all so pristine! We actually figured out why while we were visiting the Luxembourg gardens. Do you see how there are chairs lining the lawn in the picture above? Well, those chairs are all around the gardens so that people don’t sit on the grass. They have these signs posted everywhere telling you to keep off of the lawns, and while we were there we actually saw security chase this woman out of the garden! He had a whistle and everything, so they take their garden maintenance very seriously.

When the grounds look this amazing though, I really don’t blame them. I honestly wish that I had taken more photos there because all the tree-lined promenades were so perfectly manicured you had to see it to believe it.

All throughout the garden there were these mini gardens, if you will. You would be walking along and all of a sudden it opened up into another perfect lawn with a sculpture of some sort in the middle, surrounded by beautiful flowers. There was literally perfection hiding in every nook and cranny of this place.

Esmé was happy because she got a chance to stretch her legs a bit and run around, as they had a huuuuge playground inside. Emile and I were happy because there was a little place just outside the playground, that sold the most amazing custard pastries. We all were happy because we ended the trip with a trip to Angelina’s for hot chocolate. It was basically like drinking a hot brownie batter. Heaven. The Luxembourg gardens were a smash hit for the whole family.

Versailles! I literally have to take a breath before I think about describing this place. Versailles is a gilded, very ornate, monster of a palace. It’s absolutely massive and is so over-the-top that it’s very easy to see why there was a revolution. You actually can’t get the whole of it in the picture frame unless you’re standing very, very, very, VERY far away.

You know what? I lied, because you see that building way up at the front there in this picture? That’s the palace. And not all of it is in the frame. Sorry guys. Though this was taken behind the palace in the gardens, so maybe it’s possible if you try from the front?

Here’s part of the back of the palace, and actually the middle floor of the central building is the hall of mirrors.

The inside of which looked like this. Pretty amazing, no? We got the audio guides and tried our hardest to listen to all the history about how magnificent this place was, and what went into making it.

However, Esmé thought it was a race to see who could get through the palace the fastest, so we really only caught snippets here and there. For instance we know that this was King Louis XIV’s chapel, but that’s all I got before I went running off to catch up to my little love.

You know what? That’s OK. Because as beautiful and amazing as the Palace was, the gardens were even better. They were so vast, that even though we must have walked 5 miles, we only saw a small bit of them. In the picture above, they literally stretch all the way to the horizon.

I could have happily spent a week here, wandering around exploring every square inch of the beautiful grounds. Esmé on the other hand could not.

I don’t know if it was the fact that she was sick, or the fact that we were doing this around her nap time, but she had a rough day.

Basically, this was not as big a hit for us as a family. My husband and I loved it, but if you have younger kids who still take a nap, this is a bit of a stretch for them. Totally worth it, mind you, but you will have a serious cranky-pants on your hands at the end of the day.

Last, but definitely not least…the Louvre! I really wish we had done a bit more research on this place because it’s massive. It is actually the world’s largest museum, and it’s impossible to see everything in one trip.

I think the reason why I didn’t bother to research the museum, was that I knew we were going to have our toddler with us, and I wasn’t expecting to see all that much. I know it’s super touristy, and probably reveals my lack of art history/ interest, but all I wanted to see was the Mona Lisa. Anything else that we were able to see would just be icing on top of the cake. So that’s where we headed first!

Everyone always talks about how disappointed they are because the painting is so small, and it’s too crowded, so I had low expectations. However I was pleasantly surprised when we made our way over to the exhibit. I mean, it’s definitely not the biggest painting there is, but I still felt like it was such a treat to see. It also wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be. It was definitely the busiest exhibit we saw while we were there, but it was no where near the horror stories I’d read about online. So so happy that we got to see her!

We actually were able to see a lot more than I had anticipated. We saw Napolean III apartments (above), Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, The Coronation of Napoléon (an enormous canvas!), the French Crown Jewels (serious drooling), and we even got to see the original foundations of the Louvre itself in the Medieval section. Our trip to the Louvre ended up being the perfect way to wrap up our trip to Paris.

Something we learned by accident, because we had a late nap, is that it’s actually a lot better to go at night time, than first thing in the morning (This was also the case for Versailles, because we went early afternoon, around 2, and there was no line). We didn’t have to wait at all to buy tickets, and the line for security had maybe five people in front of us? I think we got there around 6 pm, and it was perfect. That may have also been why it wasn’t so crowded in the Mona Lisa room. Also they allow you to take your stroller inside (something we could not do at the Palace of Versailles)! It’s a bit of a mission going up and down lots of stairs if you’re not close to an elevator, but it was such a help for us.

Did we have a favorite after seeing and doing all these things? Hands down, all three of us loved the river cruise at night past the Eiffel Tower. It was kid friendly, so I was more relaxed because I didn’t have to worry about keeping her under control. They also had mini bottles of wine to purchase, so we sat, cuddled together (because it was freezing), and drank our wine as Paris floated by. It was magic.

Three

I have been procrastinating writing this post for a long time in hopes that it would somehow make the month stretch out longer, therefore keeping my two year old a little while longer. But it seems that time has flown by anyway and I now officially have a three year old! Here’s what she’s loving and doing lately…

  • She still loves reading. We go to the library roughly every week/ week-and-a-half and we pick up 6 or more books at a time. Her favorite stories seem to be ones where the characters get a little silly and are shouting something in them (i.e.- Wolfie the Bunny, The Not So Quiet Library, Llama Llama Red Pajama, etc.). She also really enjoys stories that have really beautiful, fanciful illustrations in them like The Night Gardener, Miss Rumphius, or The Napping House. Her favorite thing to do is read to herself and her stuffed animal friends. Once she has me or my husband read it, she’ll say “I read it! I read it!” And she does! She’ll ‘read’ back everything she can remember including the names of the author and illustrator.

  • She got her first haircut this month! I took her with me to my salon and had my girl trim it for us. She was very curious about what was going on and kept looking around a lot, but other than that she did great. Obviously I kept the hair clippings. That’s just the kind of mama I am!

  • She’s still a water girl. She gets very excited when it rains because she knows that it means puddles. As soon as it stops we’re out the door in our boots to jump and play in all the puddles in front of our house. She also enjoys ‘washing her hands’ in the puddle water and picking out the drowned worms.
  • She is fully potty trained (nights too) and has been since about two and a half. This was something she chose all on her own, if you can believe it. Emile and I were very nervous to start potty training so early, but she had it down in about a week. Then that was that! If I’m telling the truth, I get a little nostalgic when I walk past the diaper section, because it reminds me of just how grown up she’s become.

  • The playground with the ‘bumpy slide’ is where it’s at. She requests to go to this specific playground in the morning when she wakes up, and in the afternoon as well. Every. Single. Day. That’s how much she loves this place.

  • This picture scares me a little because I feel like I can see the person she will grow up to be. Does that ever happen to you? When she was a baby Emile had this picture of her where we put doll glasses on her and I made him take it off his background because she looked too grown up. But I digress. This girl is happiest when she’s outside, which makes both of us equally happy. It is honestly my favorite activity to take her for walks in the woods. She always finds new treasures to take back home, and also attempts to tidy the forest floor by sweeping all the pine needles off the paths.

  • She looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooves music. Loves. Loves. LOVES it. I know that was a lot of “o’s” and love, but you have to understand that’s just how passionate she is about it. She loves to sing. She loves to dance, and she’ll play any instrument that you give her. Just last night Emile and I got to listen to her serenade her puppy to sleep with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as loud as she could, over, and over again. (Yes I know the above picture is in no way related to a musical activity)

  • She adores her Papa. Her face absolutely lights up whenever she sees him. She hates when he has to start work in the morning and calls for him to come back. Then whenever she hears movement from upstairs in his office she always asks “Is Papa done working??” Whenever he comes downstairs she’ll ask him directly, “Papa are you done working?? Is it the weekend?” He is always coming up with new ideas for games for her, and no one can make her laugh like he can.

For those of you interested, I actually did a little interview with Esmé so you could get her perspective on life at the age of 3:

  1. Who is your favorite person in the whole world? Me
  2. What is your favorite color? Pink and blue
  3. What’s your favorite television show? Little Einsteins
  4. What’s your favorite outfit? Pink
  5. What sport do you like best? Golf
  6. What song do you love? Frosty the Snowman
  7. What’s your favorite cereal? Wheetabix
  8. Who is your best friend? Kenzie and Savanna
  9. What do you want to be when you grow up? A Pirate Ship
  10. What is your favorite book? A Chair For My Mother
  11. What are you really good at? Making food (she really is quite the helper in the kitchen)
  12. Where do you wish you could go on vacation? Cape count (pretty sure she means Cape Town)
  13. What is your best memory? I like yogurt (no idea about this one, sorry)
  14. What would you buy if you had $1000? A skateboard (no clue she even knew what that was)
  15. What vegetable do you hate the most? Salad
  16. If you could have a wish, what would it be? A skateboard (now I’m thinking I got the wrong birthday present)
  17. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Chocolate 
  18. Who is your biggest hero? Kenzie and Savanna and Kristie and Thomas
  19. What do you like to do best with your friends? I like to play with them
  20. What do you hope you’ll get to do before your next birthday? Play

Essie love, you are the brightest sparkle this world has ever seen. You have hair that the cherubs in Michelangelo’s paintings would envy. You run with a bounce and a skip because there is so much joy bubbling inside of you, you often struggle to contain it. You love to laugh. You’re an adventurer. You’re always willing to try new foods, places, or activities (albeit cautiously at first). You know exactly what you want, and you’re not afraid to let everyone else know. You negotiate with frightening skill. You are all the proof I need that magic exists in this world. Happy happy birthday angel baby! I love you so.