Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries: Bliss

As many of you may recall, Dan and I have each been chosen to be sling diarists for the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Volume V: All the Love. This is the fifth of six posts that I will be sharing here on the blog (you can find my first post heresecond post herethird post here, and fourth post here), and Dan will be sharing his over on Instagram a little later on. (You can find his past posts by searching #danslingdiary over on Instagram.) Today's post is all about the theme of bliss. I can't believe it's my next to last one! Where has the time gone?! Thank you all, new readers and old alike, for following along on this fun journey with us. 

My sweet little Oswin,

As I sit here, drinking my coffee while you nap, I think back to all the things that your Papa and I have done over the last five years of living along the French-Swiss border, the area that as you know, we like to affectionately call SwitzerFrance. And what stands out to me about this month's theme of bliss, is that my most blissful moments while living here have been the ones that were a bit left of center. The everyday, the seemingly mundane, or the times where things went seemingly wrong, and yet we were able to make things happen, despite consequences or circumstances. Europe has been good to us, but living on one paycheck means that you sometimes have to get creative when it comes to living and traveling just outside of one of the most expensive countries in the world, Switzerland.

Oswin, before you were born, Mama and Papa didn't have a car. Well, that's not entirely true, but it took us almost three years to be able to afford one. That can get tricky when you live at the foot of a mountain. When you get older we will tell you stories of when we used to walk uphill, both ways, 2 miles in each direction, in the snow, just to get baguettes, milk and eggs, and it will be completely true. We will tell you of the time Mama rode her bike 11 miles to bring home a large potted fig tree in her bike basket. We will tell you of our first year in SwitzerFrance, the year that Papa carried our Christmas tree on his shoulder well over a mile in the freezing cold. And the large slices of lumber that he carried home on his shoulder from the aforementioned 2 mile uphill each way in the snow walk, just to make us a Christmas tree stand, using a really cheap saw. There are so many stories like this Oswin, of a time before you were born, of a time before we had four wheels and a clutch. And though these stories may seem silly to some, they bring me so much joy and nostalgia. We were propelled by our ideas, and didn't want to miss out on life because we couldn't yet afford a car.

The truth of the matter is that we loved those walks, and those bike rides. Not everyone has to (or gets to, as I often told myself back then) walk 4 miles for food: to be in the fresh air, to have that connection to what they're eating by bringing it back through (sometimes) blood, (always) sweat, and (sometimes) tears. And though it might have been easier to borrow someone's car to drive to the Christmas tree market, and buy a pre-made stand for that tree, it was a lovely, albeit cold, walk back to our house. The stars were out, we could see our breath as we walked and talked, and when we came home we put on Christmas movies, poured ourselves glasses of wine, and proceeded to make our own salt dough ornaments (in case you're wondering, that explains our Star Wars and yoga businessman ornaments, as those were the only cookie cutters we had). We found our bliss by taking chances, and making things happen, even if it was difficult at times.

Now I know that living that life at this point in time isn't feasible, at least not everyday. But you and I, we do that shopping trip every once in awhile. It's nice, it's quiet, it's empowering, it's exhausting, and it reminds me of a time when we could take 3 hours and 4 miles to pick up our daily bread. But more often than not, we go for a hike on the mountain behind us, look for birds, check out trees and wild shrubs. Sometimes we go a little further away to do that, like on the day we took these pictures while hiking on Mont Blanc, in Chamonix, France. We had an unexpected glitch on that day's plans: you were apparently too young to take the telepherique up to a higher point on the mountain, called Plan de l'Aiguille du Midi (2317 m.). We could have hiked with you up to that point, but we started too late, and we'd lose the race against the sun. So instead we spent a little time hiking, and then, for the first time ever, walked around the city. We had an amazing day, both unexpected and exploratory. Who knew there was more to do in Chamonix besides hiking? Not this family, apparently. We strolled the streets, sat at a cafe and had some frites, you made friends with everyone who happened to look in your direction, and I swooned at all the shop windows. Sometimes it's the unexpected glitches that give us our most memorable and blissful days, and this was one that I won't ever forget.

But everyday bliss isn't just about making lemonade out of lemons, it's about who you're drinking the lemonade with. When you're with the people you love most in the world, even the most mundane acts, or the unplanned glitches, can turn into moments of pure gold. One of my favorite memories of living abroad has been when Papa and I road tripped to Pisa, Italy for a physics workshop. It was January, and like all of our road trips to Italy, we would have to go through the Mont Blanc tunnel. As we approached the line to go through the tunnel, we were told there was an avalanche warning, and that we would have to wait until the officials gave the all clear to continue forward. We were stranded, with a whole lot of angry skiers, in our cars, in a whole lot of snow. So what did we do? We had an avalanche picnic! Baguettes, cheese dip, berries and espressso in a thermos, while listening to the radio and occasionally getting out of the car to stretch our legs and throw the occasional snow ball at each other. Yes it slowed up our travel plans. Yes it was a little scary. Yes it was really early in the morning and cold, but because I was with my bestie, your Papa, I couldn't care less. A glitch in our plans turned into a fun hour of hanging out and appreciating not only the majestic scope that is Mont Blanc and the French Alps, but also appreciating the fierceness that is Mother Nature.

The avalanche warning wasn't the only glitch in our plans for that ten day trip. There was a small earthquake while we were in Pisa. There was an Italian train strike, which forced us to cancel our Florence portion of the trip. This was a bummer, but it led us to actually signing up to go to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which we wouldn't have had the opportunity to do otherwise. It also forced me out of my comfort zone to take one of the last trains before the strike formally began to Lucca, a small medieval town about 45 minutes away, to explore solo. There was also a freak blizzard that hit the Mediterranean while we were heading to our last stop on the trip, a monastery turned spa in Monchiero Alto, where we somehow made it through a foot of snow with our old-and-lacking-snow-tires-or-chains-car. We were snowed in and forced to spend an extra night. (That was a great glitch.) What I'm trying to say, Oswin, is that the bumps are what make life interesting, and that trip, that ten days of all plans falling through and drinking a whole lot of lemonade (or in this case, Limoncino), turned into one of the most memorable, most blissful trips/times/ten day periods of my life. That will always remain one of the greatest times I've ever had, ever. There were scary moments, there were uncomfortable moments, there were moments when we just looked at each other and said "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!" And it was the best. Road trip bliss, with my best friend in the whole wide world. Plans are meant to fall through, and the true test is what you do with that adventure as a result. We found the bliss in our logistical disaster, and we did it together.

I hope that you learn to turn the glitches into gold my dear. Because life is what you make of it, and if you make it blissful, it will be. Every moment won't be bliss, but if we keep trying, we can find the fun in most things. Food shopping without a car, carrying Christmas trees over a mile along a mountain, making the best of a freak blizzard or train strike: all have bliss hidden in those moments if you choose to see them. Find the happiness in the bumps in the road or the avalanche warnings, whichever the case may be. Appreciate all that your body can do, everyday. Appreciate the food you're putting into your body for fuel. Appreciate your health, which I can't stress enough. The mere fact of waking up and finding that you are healthy is bliss enough in itself to make the day go well, please don't ever forget that. Find the happiness in every act, because it's there, it really is. Even in walking four miles uphill both ways in the snow for groceries. You just have to look hard enough. And I hope that one day you'll find a partner in crime to appreciate those moments with. But just know that Papa and I will always be here to have an avalanche picnic with you, whenever you want, all you have to do is ask.

We'll even bring the lemonade.



Sling pictured: Essential Silk Sling in Shadow Tart, by Sakura Bloom

Saturday, September 27, 2014

49 weeks: Surprising chompers

Last week, after not much pomp and circumstance, we made a discovery: Oswin's second tooth has come in!

This was a big surprise to us with all that the first tooth entailed, including a low grade fever, vomiting, refusing all solids for a full day (VERY unlike our big time eater), and general fatigue. She had her crabby moments for two days this week, but nothing that didn't quickly pass. So you can imagine our surprise when we realized that she now has two bottom front teeth!

Other than that, nothing much is going on, other than typical busyness. Oswin and I have been getting out for runs 5 days a week, which has been awesome. (For those in the market, I highly recommend the BOB jogging stroller!) I didn't realize how much of a weight training exercise running with her in the stroller actually is, until I let Dan push her during our Saturday run. WOW. I have probably never run as fast as I did that day. Or maybe it's just because I feel that I run as slow as molasses with her in the stroller, so I felt fast by comparison. Either way, it's been great all around. It gets us out for about an hour, and sometimes ends with picking some fresh figs at one of our local community trees for a post run snack, and more often than not some gardening and harvesting of kale and rainbow chard from our garden. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, that is indeed an AT-ST walker from Star Wars taking on the city of Philadelphia on Oswin's onesie. You're welcome.

Hope everyone has had an awesome week and has a great weekend!

A la prochaine friends...


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries: Vision

As many of you may recall, Dan and I have each been chosen to be sling diarists for the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries Volume V: All the Love. This is the fourth of six posts that I will be sharing here on the blog (you can find my first post here, second post here, and third post here), and Dan will be sharing his over on Instagram a little later on. Today's post is all about the theme of vision. Thank you all, new readers and old alike, for following along on this journey with us.

My sweet little Oswin,

I could sit here and say that I have visions for your future; that you'll go to a good university, followed by an esteemed graduate school, become a doctor or scientist, meet someone who makes you laugh, and start a family. I could say that I see you taking a gap year, travelling around Europe, followed by teaching English in Argentina, and finally helping the needy in a tiny village somewhere off the grid. I could say that I envision you making all of your food from scratch, and organic, of course, for all of your life (including that gap year). That you'll never try a cigarette, that you'll listen to Johnny Cash, that you'll never be mean to another human or animal, that you'll always choose to root for Philadelphia sports teams...

...I might as well also envision that you'll find the cure for cancer, while you're at it. 

(It'll probably be during that gap year. I would envision that gap year being a very productive one for you.)

Being that you're just a wee babe, just approaching your very first birthday, it feels silly to think those things. As parents, we want what is best for our children. We mean well, in everything we try to teach our children, with every experience we provide for them, with every lesson learned. But what if, instead of trying to shape their futures for them, and lead them down a specific path, we become more interested in helping them envision their own future, towards their own personal happiness?

Which leads me to my real and truthful vision for your future Oswin: I want you to be happy. 
Whatever that is for you.

Maybe you want to cure cancer, on a gap year in Europe, while cooking all of your organic meals from scratch. But maybe that's not what you want at all. Perhaps the life you choose will not involve travelling, or graduate school, or jamming out to quality tunes by Johnny Cash. Maybe you will end up rooting for New York sports teams...

...I have to put my foot down on that last part, as there is only so much a Mama's heart can take.

I hope that we can help you in your quest for happiness, to find what you are truly passionate about in life, and support you. Whatever that is. I feel that our job is to expose you to a lot of different things, such as travel, cooking, gardening, the great outdoors, reading, music, and see where those take you. Sometimes activities you loved one minute can be flights of fancy, but sometimes those flights of fancy can lead you to the real deal, to what you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life. I hope we can find that balance, of giving you your space to explore and thrive, while being there to support you along the way. 

Your vision and your future are yours and yours alone, Oswin. You are the only one that has to live in it, and find happiness within it. Once you figure that part out, all else will fall into place. And if doesn't, you're always welcome to change your mind and start over. It may be different than what Papa and I would have done, or thought would make you happy, but that's the beauty of life: that one little person, created by two people, can have their own thoughts, ideas and opinions. Use your intelligence, use your inspirations, and use your inner (and outer) voice to create the most joyous and love filled life that you can possibly envision...and then live it. But just know that Papa and I will be there every step of the way, and we can't wait to see what life you create for yourself. 

Just please please pretty please don't become a Yankees fan. 



Sling pictured: Essential Silk Sling in Shadow Tart, by Sakura Bloom

Monday, September 15, 2014

48 weeks: Funniest Person in the Room

Last week, little miss Oswin Jade turned 48 weeks old, and as per usual, there were some things about this week that really stuck out...

{"They're called illllusions Michael."}

...namely that she is really coming into her silliness.

All last week she would break into random bouts of giggles, and sometimes boundless laughing, for no apparent reason.

{Oswin says, "live each day like it's a 1920's beach party."}

She was cracking herself up left and right. I'm pretty sure she was the funniest person in the room, all the rooms actually, all of last week.

{Oswin doing her best Patrick McGoohan, a la "The Prisoner"}

Sometimes she would laugh at random things that we're not quite sure of specifically. Other times she would laugh at us doing something silly that we didn't think was as funny as it actually was to her. She was in her own little world of hilarity, this one.

Paper bags being crumpled? HOLD THE PHONE FUNNY.

It was really cute, and I hope this silliness sticks around forever and ever.

I'm eager to see what shenanigans week 49 brings on.

A la prochaine friends...


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Harvest.

I love this time of year. September really is such a great month to live where we do, as there are so many festivals and celebrations. But not only that, it's time to start picking figs from one of the two community trees in our little village. 

I love that we have community fig trees. There's nothing better for me than taking Oswin out for a run in the BOB, and then walking to the trees and picking a handful of figs for not only my post run snack, but also to mix into Oswin's dinner. Picking the fruit and vegetables that you're about to prepare in your next meal direct from the source is where it's at. 

As for our garden, we're harvesting kale and rainbow chard every night, and adding them to stews, soups and smoothies. Kale is not easily found here in France, nor do the French really seem to get into it. Choux friseé non-pomme, as it's known in French, has done very well in our garden, and we're now reaping the benefits. 

We've just about finished the four-day period of introducing rainbow chard to Oswin, and kale will be next up on her menu. I love being able to make her meals with either food that we've grown ourselves, or picked from local trees. 

Now that summer has wound down, we're preparing our fall garden. So far we've planted carrot and kale seeds, with a few rows left for us to fill. We're planning on putting in parsley, cilantro and one or two more vegetables. What are you favorite fall vegetables to plant? We'd love some suggestions of how to round out our fall garden! 

A la prochaine friends...