Feeling connected is something we all crave. Which is why we are so attached to our screens. It gives us a feeling of belonging. A sense of still being a part of each other lives even though we are far apart. What happens when we put down the screens, and instead of commenting on someone’s status or tweet, we pick up the phone and call each other. I know, getting us to do that is like trying to convince a child to walk away from an ice cream truck empty-handed. Impossible without a tantrum. I mean if my phone is down I feel lost and NEED it to get fixed yesterday! However, maybe by disconnecting, we could truly connect, with each other and ourselves.
Z’s spring break planning was going nowhere. First off he got two weeks for spring break. TWO WEEKS! What was I going to do for two weeks?! We discussed traveling through Spain or Portugal, but to be honest, we couldn’t afford that right now. Also, the thought of being that busy just wasn’t what we needed in our life at that moment. Rob had been so slammed with work. I have been working on a particular project. Z had definitely had too much screen time lately. I felt like we were so disconnected from each other. I was ready to give up until Z came home from school one day and announced he wanted to go camping.
Rob and I talked about it and decided that it was what we needed. So we began researching camping in Europe. We ultimately decided that we wanted to go somewhere we could drive to. We agreed we would like to explore the Netherlands a bit more, we have been flying to these fantastic countries but had yet to really explore this great country we live in. Rob found a place a couple hours drive from us called De Pekelinge. It was perfect. They had an indoor pool with a water slide, climbing walls, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, bike and skate park, restaurant, and a market that had everything you could want.
I was able to, not so subtly, convince our friends Kim and Jason to join us. They have a daughter Z’s age and a son who is 11. I thought it would be great for us to all go disconnect together. Kim and Jay’s son, E, also brought a friend. This was perfect! We all would have someone who we could enjoy the same things with.
The day finally came for us to load the car up and head out. I think I was as excited as Z. I also had a feeling of grief, though. See my mom has always gone on Z’s spring break trips with us. This would be the first since she passed away. I was trying to focus on the excitement of it all, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing as we got on the road.
As road trips go, we turned up the music and began dancing and singing our way to the campground. About an hour into the drive, the song Sweet Home Alabama came on. As I was fighting back the tears while still singing, I found myself reaching for my phone so facebook could distract me. I heard Z in the back seat belt out “Rock and Roll baby!” This is something his mamaw had taught him. I had, however, never heard him say it without my mom singing, dancing, and prompting him to do so. He even said it the way she did with “baby” pronounced “BAEBAY.” I am happy I put my phone down. I shouted it with him as song after song seemed to be another one of my mom’s favorites. I felt so connected to my mom and Z at that moment.
As we pulled up to De Pekelinge, we were all so excited to see what our safari tent was going to be like, explore the campground, and Z was ready to hit the pool. I was really looking forward to getting away from the screens, work, and life and just being with each other. I didn’t realize that this trip was going to connect us all in a way that would last a lifetime.
After unpacking the cars and settling into our home for the next 4 days, the kids were ready to explore so Jay and Rob took the kids to see what they could find. Kim and I decided we wanted to read our books for a bit. I have said it before, there is something special about a friendship when you can sit together and not talk. Being able to connect with someone when your not even speaking means something a little deeper to me. We both were just so happy as busy moms to be able to relax and read a book. We didn’t need to talk at that moment. We got each other.
A while later, Jay returned sans kids. You could see the look of panic rising on mine and Kim’s face when Jay said Rob was at the market and the kids were somewhere playing. Our littles were running around by themselves!? Jay assured us they were OK; Kim, and I tried to chill out and trust that they were fine. A bit later the kids came running back smiling so big. They were just so excited they could run around on their own. It really was so safe that they could do that. I felt this rush of relaxation come over me, what was this feeling. I have never felt this before. I don’t have to worry about my kid getting abducted, or lost. It was amazing.
Later that night Rob and I made dinner reservations at the restaurant, Kim’s family decided they were going to cook dinner at their tent, and Z could not be bothered with leaving the fun, so Kim and Jay told us to go ahead, that Z could stay with them. Rob and I practically skipped to dinner holding hands. We laughed, talked about things other than work and bills. We flirted with each other for the first time in a while. Everything else seemed to melt away. As we walked back to our tent hand in hand after dinner, I remembered what a deep connection we have. Something that seemed lost because we were so connected to everything else instead of each other. I did not want to forget this moment.
The next day, when we woke up, I was bracing myself for an argument if Z asked to watch his show. He didn’t even ask. He just wanted to go see if his friends could play. My heart smiled so big. As we had breakfast and coffee, the kids blew bubbles, played paddle ball and sword fought with brooms. It was so beautiful to see them outside, laughing, connecting, and creating memories with each other. Z is still talking about it weeks later. That evening after dinner, we taught the kids how to play Red Rover, Red light Green light, and other games we played as kids. It was so special, and they didn’t find us lame! They had a blast, we all did!
The only place the kids could not go by themselves was the pool, which is where they wanted to be. So, Jay took them to the pool; Kim and I gathered again on her porch. Sharing champagne we talked and laughed, and even though we have done this many times (sharing laughs and wine), there was something different about this night. It seemed like our friendship was growing. I knew I could tell Kim anything, but at that moment, I truly realized how important her friendship is to me. How important her family is to mine.
The next day we decided that we wanted to go to Brugge, Belgium. It was only about an hour and a half from the campground, so we loaded up the kids and took off. The first order of business was to get Mussels and Frites, I mean we were in Belgium! Then it was off to the chocolate museum. As we strolled through Brugge taking in the absolute romantic beauty of this town, I was watching my friends, the kids, and my husband. Everyone seemed so happy to be here, at this moment, in this city. The only time a phone came out was to snap a picture. We were really enjoying being together. That is what connection is all about, right?
When I look back on this trip, I smile. Yes, there were times of frustration and annoyance, but they seem so mild to the connections that were made. Sharing things with each other, that would not have happened if we had not disconnected. Moments of bravery such as going down a waterslide for the first time with everyone cheering on, climbing through the playground with the kids just to reach a slide that literally dropped straight down, I was so terrified, but the older boys encouraged: just to do it! Playing card games, sharing meals, jokes, so many laughs, and even some tears.
We all taught each other something. Our littles got to be free for the first time in their life, sincerely, and we were leaving with a stronger bond than we had when we arrived. So I wonder if we just disconnected a little more maybe we can reconnect to what really matters.
Stay tuned for more adventures of Rob, Z and I…
“By setting aside time every day, we can leave the pixelated wilds and rest at least for a little while in a place of unplugged, authentic human connection.”
― Meghan Cox Gurdon,
Have you ever been through something tough and the only person or people who can help you pick up the pieces are your girlfriends? There is something special about the bond between women. Growing up it was tough. Women use to tear each other down. In today’s world We support each other and build each other up, even when we don’t know each other. That girl in your travel group that just got her heart broken and is asking advice on traveling alone to mend her heart, you along with thousands of other women who have never met this girl show up to comment your words of support. Or what about that mommy group you joined when you found out you were pregnant? You probably knew a couple of people in the group, but at 4 am when you made a post about how nursing isn’t going so well and you feel defeated so many women, you have never met sent you love and support.
The girlfriends we make in our life are so special. Some will stand the test of time, some may not. That doesn’t mean they were not special in that season of your life though. I have been lucky enough to have the most amazing women in my life. It has made it hard to leave when I have moved to a new place. You’re always scared that you will drift apart. Or that you will never make new girlfriends in your new city that could even hold a candle to the ones you are moving away from. I have been so lucky that my girls have been by my side even, when they aren’t by my side. When I look at where I have lived, Atlanta, Charleston, and now Utrecht my heart swells because I have amazing girlfriends in each of those places. They are always there. We may not get to talk everyday, but when it matters we show up for each other. They are family to me. They have been there to help pick me up after a bad break up, to walk me through being a new mom, holding my hand through losing my own mom, and letting me vent when Rob and Z are driving me absolutely crazy. They are my glue.
One thing I think is so important: getting to spend time together, doing things like girl trips. As women we need that time, to be with our tribe, the girls who know us so well, and support us. I have had some amazing trips with my girls. Camping and hiking in Asheville, Beach weekends in Florida and Charleston, weekends in New York, and every single one was special and therapeutic in their own way.
Most recently I got to go to Prague with one of my favorites: Meghan. This trip could not have come at a better time. As a mom, I was reaching a place where I needed to take a break from Z and Rob. PSA: It’s ok to feel this way! In fact its normal! So when Meghan said she was coming to visit I was beyond excited, and PRAGUE!? Yes please!!!
We arrived in Prague on Thursday, and took an Uber to our Airbnb which was amazing. The views were incredible. We could see all the way to the Prague castle!
We settled in, freshened up and decided to go explore. The first day, we just wanted to get our bearings and explore the area where we were staying. We lucked up with our location we were in the centre of New Town. After some exploring, we were reaching hangry, so, I went into planner mode.
On all of our adventures that is what I do. I am the one who plans EVERYTHING, from where we are staying, our activities to where we are eating. Well, not this time. Before I could even get my phone out, Meghan had a place and the map pulled up to get there. This threw me back, I wasn’t use to this. It was so nice. Meghan found a great place, Cafe Imperial.
I had the best truffle gnocchi I have ever had! We also realized how inexpensive Prague really was. We had an appetizer each, entrees, and drinks and it was €40! It was a really nice restaurant too! After dinner, we decided it was time to check out one of the best beer gardens in the world: Letna-Schlösschen. This is a must when visiting Prague. The walk up is a steep one, but, when you are up there you are rewarded with great inexpensive beer (they also have wine and other drinks) and one of the best views of Prague. Go at sunset, it was breathtaking. We got lucky because there was a super blood wolf moon that night. The pictures do not do it justice. It was beautiful seeing this moon over Prague. What a great way to start our trip!
After an amazing night sleep, feeling relaxed and refreshed, we decided to go to the Prague castle and check out the John Lennon wall. Prague isn’t really that big, we walked everywhere with no need for public transportation.
Walking up to the Prague Castle, there are ton of stairs! I was so happy for cute, but very comfortable shoes! As we reached the halfway point, there is another amazing view of Prague and a charming snack bar. We decided we would stop on the way back down for a drink with a view. At the top is the St. Vitus Cathedral It is truly remarkable! It doesn’t cost anything to go inside, so do it! You will not be disappointed.
After exploring the castle and Cathedral, we started heading back down. Stopping at the halfway point, which is next to the oldest vineyard in Prague. We decided to take in the view while Meghan had a beer and I enjoyed an aperol spritz. It was so refreshing since it was so warm that day. Standing there, I felt this weight I have been carrying finally start to lift away.
After enjoying the view, it was time to head over to the John Lennon wall. It was so cool! Since the ’80’s, people have been creating street art inspired by Lennon and the Beatles with Lyrics and messages of Love and Peace. There is an incredible energy here. In keeping with the theme, we were planning on eating lunch at the Lennon Pub.
Instead, we got pulled into the Pirory Mill by the charming patio. It was so good! We wanted something light and veggie forward, it did not disappoint. I had the burrata, tomato and avocado salad. It was so fresh and mouth watering delicious.
We did still stop at the Lennon pub for afternoon drinks. They made the best Bloody Mary. We decided to take the Charles Bridge back across the river, you can’t miss the Charles bridge. There are artist selling everything from handmade jewelry, paintings and photos. I am so glad we checked the bridge out on Friday because when we tried to go back on Saturday you could not get to the bridge because of all the people.
We headed to check out the Dancing house hotel on the way back to the AirBnb. The architecture in Prague is really incredible. The hotel has a rooftop bar with more great views. You do have to buy something to go outside and enjoy the view, so I got a prosecco for a whopping 3 euros and Meghan grabbed a beer.
After we got our drinks, we went out on the terrace to enjoy them. It was worth the 3 euros. We had one of the best chats up there. I was able to get closure on something that had been bothering me. Girlfriends, they are the best. It was time to go back and relax for a bit before deciding what the plan for the evening was. As great as chats with your girlfriends are, there is also something wonderful about being able to be in the same room and there is a comfortable silence where you can reflect on the day and recharge to go out that night. I loved that Meghan and I could have that.
We decided to check out Vytopna Railway Restaurant. It was very cool! Your drinks are delivered by a train that goes all around the restaurant. Definitely worth checking out! We were, at this point, tired. It was early though and dang it I was traveling without my kid!
We decided to go to Zombie bar, hoping we would get a second wind. I am glad we did, because after talking to the bartender he told us about The Alchemist Bar. SO VERY COOL. It’s eclectic and a bit gothic, in the best way. You can just have some drinks, or, you can try your hand at choosing your fate.
We picked our first drink. It was delicious! Then, with a bit of liquid courage we decided to go for it. The Guardian of the chest came to our table and pulled tarot cards out of the smoke filled chest, you then choose a card. That card determines what your next drink was. The drinks were delicious as well. The card also tells you what bar to go to for the next card/clue, in hopes that you can help solve the mystery of Rudolph II’s treasure. We didn’t follow the card to the next bar because our second wind was fading so we went back to get ready for the next day. If you ever do go and follow the cards let me know how it ends!
Our last day in Prague was a bit more relaxed. We took our time in the morning, having coffee and getting ready for the day.
It was time to head to the Astronomical Clock. It was beautiful. honestly though, go get your picture and keep exploring. You can go up but it was so crowded and honestly there are better views in Prague that aren’t.
We wandered in Old Towne Square for a bit, before grabbing lunch. While sitting at this cafe, we noticed a museum next door. We were so excited because it housed Warhol and Dali exhibits two of my favorites. The museum was cool, we spent a lot of time wandering around. I learned a ton about Andy Warhol that I didn’t know. Seeing as he is from there.
There was a lot more than just his works, like letters he wrote home to his family, childhood photos, etc, really cool. We had a couple of hours to kill before our appointment at the beer spa so we decided to keep with the beer theme and check out the beer museum. Included in the fee is a beer tasting. The museum is small so after checking it out we went down in the cellar to get our tastings. You get four beers going from light to dark.
Finally, it was time to go to the Original Beer Spa. I can not tell you how amazing it was. We checked in; they took us to our private room. There were two oak barrel tubs that had jets and were filled with beer! The lady added in the hops and malts while she was explaining everything. You get 30 minutes in the tub, beer bread with a beer butter spread, and there are taps beside the tub for self serve beer your choices are light and dark.
After 30 minutes, you relax on a bed made of hay (it was actually really comfortable and soft) and continue to enjoy the bread and beer. It’s a really good thing we did all of that walking!! It was so relaxing and my skin was so soft for days!
Meghan and I agreed on our last night, we wanted to check out Prague nightlife. After doing some research we decided on Karlovy Lane, a 5 story club next the Charles Bridge. There was a cover of 12 euro, but honestly it had been so long since I had been out dancing I would have payed 20! Also once inside, you basically have 5 different clubs and the drinks were ridiculously cheap! Each level is a different theme: radio hits, oldies, techno, hip-hop, and chill-out. They all have very different vibes and we wandered from floor to floor. The energy was so vibrant and we danced until about 2:30 am!
On the way out, we decided to stop by the oxygen bar on the bottom level. We were not going to do it, then we got there and discovered what it actually was. For about 5 euro you choose the “flavor” I went with lavender. you get a new clean tube that goes over your ear and under your nose for you to inhale 99% pure O2 (typical air is only 21%). I felt completely relaxed, but also elated from dancing all night. Sometimes you need to blow off steam and for me dancing until 2am was just what I needed. Thanks to the oxygen bar, I woke up feeling fine. Sadly our time in Prague was over, and I had fallen in love. We grabbed breakfast and headed to the airport.
This trip could not have come at a better time. I have been in a pretty sad place since losing my mom. It had been a while since I really laughed and let loose. For this trip, I could not have asked for a better travel partner than Meghan. She knew how much I needed this and she really took the wheel. I was able to relax and go with the flow.
All the conversations, the laughs, the dancing, the love, and Prague: I will hold these memories forever. I feel like I came back to life. I know in those times of sadness and when Rob and Z drive me crazy, I can think back on this trip; make a phone call to one of the amazing women who are always there to chat; or even just listen while I cry or vent. So hold tight to your female friendships and don’t take them for granted, they are special.
Stay tuned for more adventures of Rob, Z and I.
“I think the friendship women share is so powerful. In fact, there is nothing quite like it. People talk about the mother-child bonds, but I would argue that the female friendship bond is also a league unto it’s own.”Amanda de Cadenet
Traveling is good for your soul, and it’s special getting to share the experience with friends and family. Seeing places together, or, the first time is something you can cherish forever. I have gone on beach holidays, camping trips, and most recently traveled through Europe with friends. Each trip was completely different, not only because of the locations, but because of who each trip is with.Continue reading “It’s ok to be different…”
Is having high expectations a bad thing? Should we only have high expectations about some things in our life and not others? I have been thinking a lot about this lately. Making this move to Europe, traveling, and life events that have happened recently have made me take a step back and pay attention to things I may have never paid attention to before.Continue reading “Expectations Vs. Reality”
AS I think back in 2018, as we all do at the end of the year, I am flooded with emotions. There is so much that happened, it was definitely one of the biggest and most significant years of my life so far. I have learned so very much about family, friends, loss, love and myself. It was a profound year. Yes, there were challenges that I have never faced before, there were also beautiful experiences that I am forever grateful for.Continue reading “Reflections and Predictions…”
Life is full of ups and downs. It can be something you planned, something that wasn’t necessarily planned but expected, or can also be completely unexpected. When life goes down it can be hard to experience the laughter or even feel the Love.Continue reading “Love, Loss, and Laughter”
When we decided to move to the Netherlands, we had a list of places we wanted to visit. Zakopane, Poland was not on that list. We had never even heard of it before. I was doing some research for our November trip, when I saw a photo from a Facebook group I am in called Girls Love Travel. The picture was unreal. I learned that the photo was a place called Morskie Oko, near Zakopane.Continue reading “On Top of the World”
A lot has happened since my last blog post. Things are going really great! We are making friends, getting comfortable in our new home, and traveling more than ever. That does not mean it’s been smooth sailing, but life is pretty boring without a few bumps in the road, am I right? I mean can you imagine riding a roller coaster that just went straight, without any twist, turns or loops. I would not stand in line for that. It’s those turns that show us something different, twists that grab our attention, and loops that make us think and remember to stay grounded.
Our plan when we decided to move to The Netherlands was to do a big trip once a month. In August the big trip was moving here, So we spent the month doing some weekend trips and getting settled. The first big trip we actually sat down to plan was Z’s birthday trip to Disneyland Paris. We were so excited. I was more excited about spending an afternoon in Paris than I was Disneyland, but the boys had wide eyes for Mickey.
How long does it take to get settled when you move somewhere new? I think it’s different for everyone and every place. Personally, I usually have everything out of boxes and in their place within the first two days. I am crazy that way. I get very anxious if things are in a cluttered mess around me. This move has made me really take a step back and embrace the chaos of moving and not being perfectly settled within my normal timeframe. After all, we didn’t move just down the street. Things are getting there though. Z’s room is finished and our room will be there this weekend. I guess I could spend all day working on the house, or I could do what we came here to do. Relax and spend time together as a family. Rob’s new work schedule allows us to spend mornings exploring or playing with Z, something we didn’t have a lot of time for at home.
Breathing. It is something we do everyday, yet somehow in the everyday we forget to do it, at least I do. It’s amazing how just pausing to inhale air through our nose, filling our diaphragm, then pushing it out through our mouth can relax us.
What started as an idea, a dream, something that we thought would happen after Z graduated high school, has happened. We have moved to Holland! When we came for a visit last year, thanks to My husband’s job at Automattic, or as most people know them, WordPress, we absolutely fell in love. The country, the culture, the way they raise their kids, EVERYTHING appealed to us. Holland felt like home, somewhere we were meant to be, cheesy I know. Was it because we were on vacation? Was it because we were so blown away by how safe we felt when back home things are a little… off? Maybe it was simply needing a change.