As the sun comes out more, I find myself graviting to a very special old friend; “The Park”. Since I was going to be alone with my two youngest boys, while my husband and older son went to California for two weeks, getting out of the house was the top priority for me. Two hours after we said our farewells, I found myself full of energy preparing for the day ahead at the park.
I have to admit that it was hard making my way to the park. I contemplated stopping at a cafe or taking the boys out for pizza but I kept my goal in mind. Fifteen minutes later we arrived a the very beautiful Jardin des Plantes in Toulouse! I felt like I was in a French film. Families were out on the grass having picnics, little children were playing soccer on the grass and vendors were selling every sweet treat your heart could desire. It was like a carnival for the young at heart! The boys dove right into the fun by heading to the play structure. They seemed quite caught up in the whimsical nature of it all.
As I was sitting nursing my youngest son, I noticed my two year old had made friends with a little girl. They had decided going down the slide backwards was a wonderful idea. They gave it a go about ten more times! When I looked up again he was having a cracker with the girl and her family. They were sitting on a bench not to far away from mine. I thought: that is strange normally he is so shy with strangers mainly due to the language barriers he faces in France.
As I approached the bench to make sure he was not “wearing out his welcome”, I noticed the couple was speaking English to him. As it turned out, the mother is from Seattle and her husband is French. They will be staying in Toulouse for awhile! She was just as happy as I was to meet another family from the States. We quickly exchanged number with promises to have a string of play dates during the spring and summer. I was so happy for myself and my children that we were able to make this great connection at the park. We spent two more hours there hanging out with the our new friends and having a good time. Before leaving I bought the boys a soccer ball made in Italy for 2 euros 50. It has earned the role as the sixth member of the family. What a bargain!
Our day at the park helped me discover that no matter what continent you are living on, “The Park” is a glorious refuge for families!
Kai’s favorite book right now is a wonderful story written by Karen Katz, Can You Say Peace? Even at 9 months, the colorful characters in the book resonate with him. Kai’s face lights up when I pull this book off the shelf and he laughs with excitement. Without leaving Kai’s room, we travel to 11 different countries and catch a glimpse of each child’s life with their own families. His favorite children in the book are Sadiki from Ghana who says “goom jigi” and Kenji from Japan who says “heiwa”. We have such a good time reading and learning to say peace in multiple languages. It’s never to early to teach our children to wish for non-violence around the world.
Of course, Katz isn’t able to cover evey single country. Here are some other ways to say peace:
Do you love cooking with your little citizen? If the economy has you eating in more, we’ve found these Destination Dinners– the perfect way to bring food from other cultures home. Each Destination Dinner kit includes spices, a shopping list, cooking instructions and fun information about the source of the meal. Bon appetit!
This Saturday my husband and my seven year old son are heading to California for my son’s spring time visit with his father. Although I know these trips are needed for a flourishing relationship, I still can’t help but be teary eyed as the moment of truth approaches.
We have really made a life for ourselves here in Toulouse! Going to the “marche” on the weekends,taking our nightly walks and having our French neighbors over for dinner. I sometimes forget that there are other people waiting and longing for our return to America. It is so easy for me to become caught up in the reality that my oldest son is now a bi-lingual boy of the world! To see him get up every morning with a smile on his face to tackle a new way of learning and communicating is truly inspiring for me. I am in awe of him when we
take our evening walks and he can read the notices in the local bakeries or when he is able to give the hour of day to someone who requests it in French. I start to daydream about what would happen if we want to India, Africa or Asia together. How long would it be before he could master three languages and find “ZEN” at the young age of twelve?
Then I remember that he has a whole other family waiting breathlessly in California. His father, grandmother, uncles and cousins. How would they feel about him traveling the globe with me and only being able to see him on holidays or vacations? What if I wanted to travel to a so called “unsafe” region? Would he “fight” for him to come back to “safe” California? I am starting to realize that when my son and I hold hands on our Sunday walk or have our lunch together on Wednesdays that he is just on loan to me for a short spell. Then I have to give him up. France is AMAZING and it is easy to become smitten with this dreamy life. Being a blended family though has made me up wake up from my dream a little sooner then I would like.
As the tears flow on Saturday,I will be thinking to myself; is it really worth it?
In times like these, Americans are examining the value of a dollar. Whether by choice or, in increasing cases, out of necessity we are laying aside our wants to meet our needs. For many, the quick weekend getaway isn’t as easy to come by. Enter the staycation. As our economy fails, the concept has become, dare I say, en vogue. All the cool kids are doing it.
That’s just the line I gave my husband to convince him to give it a shot. It worked. One Friday, he took the day off (rare) and we ventured into the city (rarer still) with Annie P.
Atlanta, often coined the capital of the New South, has much to offer the casual tourist. One of its newest attractions is the Georgia Aquarium. Touted the world’s largest, we couldn’t think of a better place to take a kid who just learned to point at everything she sees than to a record sized fish bowl. Ordinarily, my husband and I prefer a more ‘off the beaten path’ itinerary for our adventures. But kids love animals, and who would deny Annie P the pleasure of seeing the biggest fish in the world, a whale shark, because the place might be overrun with tourists? After all, we ourselves would be tourists if even for a day.
The place was packed. No matter. Annie P is small. I just made my way to the front of the displays and we had a blast watching her animated face. She had fun, thus we had fun. After our fill, we headed across the street to Atlanta’s location of a famous Boston-based restaurant my husband and I enjoy. Annie P was a charmer to the wait staff and a pleasant little diner. We had lobster rolls and reminisced about our idyllic trip to Nantucket the September before our daughter joined this great big world. As we talked, I realized I truly felt as if we were on vacation, even if it was simply for the morning. The ingredients that brought our staycation together were simple. We had a destination and we took the time to enjoy it. The best part was, we still made it home for naptime.