Reflections

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As a parent you get to experience two different time phenomena, often times simultaneously. One is where time seems to be moving so slowly you’d swear it was actually going backwards. The other is when it zooms past so quickly, if you blink, you’ll miss it.

So I find myself facing a new year, fully aware of how much we packed into it, but still wondering where the time went.

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There were many firsts: Esmé meeting family and friends for the first time; Esmé riding on a plane, train, bus, and boat for the first time; Esmé’s first birthday; Esmé’s first Valentine’s Day, and Easter; Esmé’s first baseball game; Esmé’s first time getting sick; Our first time seeing Europe!

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There was much travel: We got to visit 6 different states, and 6 different countries this year. We saw beaches, mountains, rivers, and lakes. There were castles, cathedrals, ancient ruins, and tiny villages tucked away in the hillsides.

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It was filled with family and friends: We got to spend some serious quality time with so many family and friends: Most of my family flew in for Esme’s first birthday; Esmé got to meet almost all of my husband’s family when we were abroad; and then when we came home, we got to see my family and friends again.

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It was also a year of learning lessons the hard way: Learning what our limits are as a family; learning my limits as a mother; learning Esmé’s limits as a growing toddler; learning that I’m stronger than I thought I was, both as an individual, and as a family; learning that even though change is hard and frustrating, you adapt quicker than you think you could; learning to be present in the moment.

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As I reflect back on everything that happened this year, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.  I have so very much to be grateful for… For the amazing moments, the boring ones, the happy ones, but also the moments when I wanted to pull my hair out, scream at the top of my lungs, and then curl in a ball and cry.

With so much to be thankful for this year, I find that I am a little reluctant to let it go. I find myself questioning what if next year isn’t as good as this one was?

When I really sit down and think about it though, the things that I loved most about this year were not the big things that happened to us- the number of trips we got to take, or fancy places we got to see. It was the connections I had with those near and dear to me that I loved most. It was the moments that made me laugh, or cry, or made me feel like I mattered.

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It was staying up until 1:00 in the morning with my sisters-in-law drinking wine and laughing until my face hurt.

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It was spending a quiet evening outside with my husband after putting the baby down, listening to the sounds of the night in the countryside.

It was spending a rainy day cooped up in a hotel room with my sick daughter, my body half curled around hers on the bed while she slept.

That is what I have to remind myself as I face the New Year. I have to remind myself that even though my heart aches a little to say good-bye to another year, there are a great many more memories to be made, more time with family and friends to be cherished.

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Happy New Year everyone! May you find health, happiness, and a full heart in 2016.

 

 

Switzerland

IMG_3628If Switzerland were a person, upon introduction, she would appear to be perfect in every way. Her hair would be styled tastefully with not a strand out of place. No super-long, boho, beachy, messy waves, just hair that is smooth, shiny, clean, and perfectly cut. Makeup would be applied only to enhance her natural beauty. Her clothes and accessories would exude wealth, but not in the Beverly Hills way of being covered head-to-toe in logos. It would be in the impeccable tailoring and quality fabrics that say: I wear 1500 dollar suits to work every day. She would be confident, educated, well-spoken, reserved, and punctual. She would always follow the rules. For leisure she would enjoy swimming, biking, and running during the warmer months, and of course would also be an excellent skier during the winter months.

In short you would discover that you were wrong about your initial assessment. She doesn’t appear to be perfect, she is perfect. I realize that my analogy may be as bad as Julia Roberts’ analogy of creme brulee and jello in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding,’ but that is seriously what popped into my head as soon as we saw the city.

IMG_3630For starters, the water there is crystal clear. Even near the docks and bridges, where, at least in the States, it’s a bit muddy or murkier, you can see straight to the bottom. Most of the lakes and rivers, as you can see in the pictures above are also a bright turquoise color. Whenever I saw them in pictures, I always thought that they must have adjusted the colors to make it appear brighter, but the water is truly a vibrant shade of turquoise. It’s absolutely amazing!

FullSizeRender (3)The houses and cafes that line the cobbled streets of Old Town Zurich are all painted in soft pastel colors, with colorful flags that hang cheerfully near the windows.

IMG_3627The streets are spotless. Seriously! There was not a single piece of garbage, or cigarette butt to be found. There are also many, many clocks. Clocks on old buildings (seen above, below, and there were two in the picture that was second from the top), clocks on all the churches…they are everywhere, and they are all beautiful.

IMG_3622As beautiful and pristine a city as Zurich was, I have to say that I still prefer the streets of the Gothic quarter in Barcelona, or the tiny winding streets of Sitges. There are brighter colors, and they just seem to have so much more character than the perfect, polished streets of Zurich.

Having said that, I would happily live in the mountains of Switzerland over any city in the world, any day. I have found, having lived in Barcelona for almost two months now, that I am not a city person. There are a million and one things to do and see, and it is very convenient having all these shops and grocery stores within walking distance, but I miss my open spaces.

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Talk about open spaces! How green is that valley?! That was taken on our way to see Berggasthaus Aescher…

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which as you can see is this wonderful restaurant that is built into the side of a mountain. You can actually hike up there from the bottom, but we have a toddler. She ain’t got time for that. She has places to see, people to meet,

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ok make that animals to meet. She and Mrs. Dairy Cow had themselves a stare down. Obviously Mrs. Dairy Cow won. And yes I’m aware that our child looks like an eccentric refugee, but it was very windy, and very cold, so we made do with what we had.

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We also got to see the Swiss Alps while we were there! We took a tram with our Swiss Aunties and their little doggie up to ‘The Top of Europe,’ where you are able to see the three peaks: Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger.

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It was spectacular. Really, no words, or pictures can do it justice. You just have to see it in person to understand the beauty of this place, and how huge these mountains are. It is blissfully quiet. The air is cool and clean, and you hear the jingling of cow bells, bouncing off of hills from cows that graze all over the valley.

IMG_3636Unfortunately I didn’t get a good close up of the charming houses that are nestled down in the valley, but they are like little gingerbread houses. They are little wooden houses that have flowers spilling out of multiple containers by windows and doors. Some of the houses even had lace curtains that framed all the windows. I bet in the wintertime they look just like a dream.

IMG_3602While my favorite part might have been the mountains and crystal clear lakes. Esmé’s favorite part was spending time with ‘Chuckle,’ her Aunties’ dog. They held hands on the tram ride back down the mountains…

IMG_3554 they took naps together in the car after long days exploring multiple countries…

IMG_3556 and every morning we woke up to the sounds of ‘ah! ah! ah! ah!’ (which is Esmé speak for what a doggie says) because she had found the dog, and was barking at her and waving to her.

Switzerland was such a gorgeous place to see, but for me the best part was being able to see it with family. I think that’s what I will treasure the most when we look back on this trip…coming home after long days packed with activities, to good food, and even better company.