June 11, 2017

How I Ended Up In Both Charleston and Nicaragua For Spring Break

“…my children are not truly mine. They don’t belong to me; they’ve simply been entrusted to me. They are a gift life gave to me, but one that I must one day give back to life. They must grow up and go away and that is as it should be.”

My mind is a big old scramble right now.

Queue the tears, right?

This excerpt is from The Passion of Parenting.  It was the piece, from just before a certain weekend, in a certain year, that absolutely wrecked me as I was processing how, exactly, being divorced from the kids’ dad was going to ‘work.’  The kids were 1, 3 and 5 years old.  I was a stay-at-home mom that had given up a great career to be ‘that mom.’  I had rarely spent a night away from them – only to give birth to their siblings!  But part of what divorce means is shared custody….for better and for worse. (You get the joke, right?)

The Passion of Parenting genuinely touched me. It broke my heart and gave me hope simultaneously.

Letting go is hard for me to do. I must let go, but my heart feels hollow. I can’t imagine me without them.

That freaking hollow is just so relatable. To all of us, for whatever the circumstances: divorce, work, responsibilities, life, kids growing up – all of it.

I’ve only been at this parent thing for nine years now. But I’ve been at it for nine full years, the first six of which were non-stop day-in, day-out, no breaks and I liked it like that.  And then I made a choice for my own life, one that effectively created this seemingly gigantic void where every other weekend I am physically without my kids, without my heart.  And Thursday nights.  And half of all holidays and vacations.  And they are without their mom. And that?

Just sucks.

I remember reading once that you get less than 1000 Saturdays before your kids leave for college, so use them well.  I checked the math. It’s true.

That’s just not that many.

And I cut mine in half.

What the f&%# was I thinking???

Hollow is a word that I think describes well how that makes my heart feel.

And yet…I read that NYT piece and thought, ok…maybe this is an opportunity (or at least I better make it one).

First, make them count.  Cliche, right?  But when you can actually assign a numeric value to time – and you appreciate that there isn’t much of it – holy moly does it become exponentially more meaningful.

And then: own this crazy notion (from NYT author’s brilliant mother) that my kids don’t belong to me. Own that it is simply my job to do the absolute best I can while they are with me, and then to let them go.  And DO IT.

Next: spend my hollow/off time so well that I am the absolute best person I can be both without them and when I am with them….and genuinely engage in being their mom – with the determination and focus I gain from whatever I do in the hollow.

And finally: APPRECIATE that I will get 500 practice tries at turning them out before I have to actually do it when they go to college or life or wherever they go. Maybe then, it won’t feel so hollow. (That’s just the optimist in me.)

The realist knows it’ll still suck.

So almost four years into this self imposed void of divorce and custody sharing, I’m trying. I genuinely make it count when I am with the kids and I also try to genuinely make it count when I’m not. Which is how I landed in Charleston, South Carolina and Nicaragua last month, for spring break, without the kids.

Ten Days without kids. Can you imagine? EVERYONE – like every single one of my girlfriends – has a DIFFERENT response to that idea, ranging from full-on horror to dream-come-true. The custody schedule says spring break every other year, last day of school through return to school and so I had a gigantic, first ever, 10-day-hollow-void to fill and so:

Romantic weekend getaway to Charleston, South Carolina, and a Girlfriends Adventure in Nicaragua.

Done.

And absolutely A-MAZING.

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By June 11, 2017 6 No tags Permalink
June 4, 2017

When Three Moms Fly To Southbeach, Miami….

On L (left): La Blanca Top
On M (middle): Cocoship
On A (right): Salinas Bottom Salinas Top

I see you new moms out there.

And I feel you.  Genuinely.

Do you have a boob group?  Or a new mom group?  Or an infant play group?

Best new mom survival tactic ever.

Those…first days with your first child.  THOSE are the ones where you need other women, going through exactly what you are going through, spending their time exactly as you are, living your very same life, for the sake of sanity and support.  In general, I am not a ‘groups’ kinda girl – a more seasoned girlfriend basically signed me up as a ‘gift’ – and gift it was.  My group saved my life in those long, clueless days (and longer sleepless nights).  We found the laughter in the tears, and figured out how to care for babies, how to get everyone to eat, sleep, and exist – together.  It was just so much more rewarding because it was shared, both the great and the really challenging.

Mom groups:  our modern day ‘Red Tent.

While there are plenty of new groups in our city now, at the time I had my first child, there was one in our neighborhood:   Hall Mercer.  The next great place that opened here in Philadelphia, Nest, came after my third child was born, but was also such a wonderful place of support.  And of my original, first child, graduating class of moms that lived through the thick of those first months with a first child with me, I’m so lucky for 5 of us (actually 19 of us:  5 moms, 4 dads, 11 kids and counting), continuing, 9 years later, to still have dinner once a month (or every six weeks because, well, interference), life celebrations shared, an annual family tent camping trip, and…wait for it…our annual Moms’ Weekend Away.  Our kids consider each other ‘frousins.’  We consider each other sisters.  The hubs have come to love and laugh and adventure with the whole crew of us.  And once a year we take it on the road, or sometimes on a plane – just the moms!

This year was Miami.  With 2 missing for the first time ever:  Zika.  Enough said, you do the math.  So then there were 3.  And here’s how 3, advanced-maternal-age-9-years-ago-when-we-delivered moms do Miami:

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By June 4, 2017 9 No tags Permalink
May 6, 2017

4 Reasons Why Spring Is the Best Time To Take The Kids To Banff National Park

 

We just spent our Spring Break in the most amazing place:  Banff National Park.  We took helicopter rides to see mountain glaciers up close, frolicked in hot springs, skiied through so much powder that my youngest was mad about it (“TOO MUCH SNOW, MOM”), rode chairlifts through the clouds only to find blue skies up top, and stayed at a mountain lodge accessible only by gondola.  If we could’ve managed to stay awake past 10PM, we may have been able to spot the Northern Lights.

It. Was. Glorious.

If Banff in the Spring isn’t yet on your family bucket list, here are a four reasons it should be….

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By May 6, 2017 12 No tags Permalink
April 7, 2017

Packing For Cuba: What We Wore

 

If you follow me on IG (@shanachristine), you know that we recently returned from an amazing trip to Cuba.  I have so much more to say on that topic (hopefully next week??), but so many of you were asking for outfit / packing details that I wanted to crank this one out.

We visited Cuba at the end of March, which is technically considered their cold season, but…it was glorious.  Hot during the day, yet cool enough in the evenings to need a light jacket or sweater.  It did rain once, but blew in/out so quickly that the net result was wandering into the bar for one more mojito.  #twistmyarm

As I mentioned in the Kid’s Cuba Packing List article, we brought only carry-ons to avoid the long luggage line at the Havana airport.  Made extra tricky by the fact that one can’t easily run out for, say, forgotten sunscreen in Cuba.  Cuba is not a shopping destination (to put it mildly), so you’re more likely to do without rather than replace it.

A few things I learned:

  • In the off season, Cuba does get cool at night.  Especially when there’s a breeze.  (And when walking along the Malecon, there was always a breeze.)
  • Cubans have style.  It’s more of a Miami vibe than an East-Coast hipster vibe, but grown men do not seem to wear shorts at night, and the women dress sexy.
  • On that note….I thought, for a hot second, that Cuba might be conservatively dressed.  HELLS NO.  Even the Cuban TSA agents wore short, tight skirts with fishnet tights.  I am not making this up.  It was amazing.
  • Old Havana has lots of cobblestones.  I didn’t bother with heels once the entire trip.

Here’s what worked for me:

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By April 7, 2017 14 No tags Permalink
March 29, 2017

Kids’ Capsule Wardrobes For Spring Break

 

We just got back from an amazing trip to Cuba.  More (so much more) on that topic later.  For now, I wanted to share something quick and easy:  our packing strategy for the kids.

The Havana airport isn’t known for….expediency, and sitting around for potentially 3-4 hours(!!) waiting on luggage with our two little crazies (and no internet) is not the best way to begin any sort of vacation.  To put it mildly.  So we wanted to pack light, yet bring everything one could possibly need, since you can’t easily replace a forgotten item in Cuba.

The mission?  ONE carry-on for two boys to share, small enough for even the six year old to handle through busy airport connections, yet containing everything (including liquids like bugspray and sunscreen) that the two kiddos might need in Cuba.

Here’s what worked for us:

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By March 29, 2017 15 No tags Permalink
March 20, 2017

Naples, FL: What To Do (And Wear)

As Spring Break approaches I find myself a leetle regretful that I didn’t plan a warm weather trip for us this year. I mean, we’re so much closer to Hawaii here in Portland and we still haven’t been…next year maybe I can write a travel post on that trip! (Pinky, are you reading…)

We were fortunate enough to get to visit my parents in February in South Florida this year, though, for some sunshine. (You may have seen a few pics on my Instagram account @elletrain) The weather was in the low 80’s for at least half of our trip and it was lovely. We got a date night, I got some mama time and of course we had some trips to the beach while we were there. I did a little run-down here of some of our favorite activities and some suggestions on what to wear and pack if you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine State.

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By March 20, 2017 3 No tags Permalink
March 5, 2017

Hot Eats & Cool Shops in Portland, Maine

cross-graphic-tray

 Portland Trading Company

A few weeks ago the hubs and I escaped for our first weekend away since kids. Hallelujah! We spent a day exploring Portland, Maine – or as I like to call it, Brooklyn North. There are some seriously cool shops and amazing restaurants packed into this little city, not to mention the quaint cobblestone side streets (incredibly slippery in winter, FYI) and stunning views of Casco Bay. I kept thinking how much the kids would love to visit even though we were supposed to be off-duty! It’s such a unique place. The wharfs in the old, still-working port are fascinating, and there’s a strong arts culture that has fun events year round. For older kids and adults, there’s an incredible music sceneLake Street Dive was in town that weekend for a sold-out show. I was admittedly surprised at how much the city has going on and wished we had more time to explore. Note – it’s not a definitive city guide, just our picks from shops and food we found when wandering around. Think mashed potato donuts (oh, yes), a gorgeous kid’s boutique, Scandinavian heaven and lots more. Let’s go!

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By March 5, 2017 18 No tags Permalink
February 13, 2017

Travel Notes: Skiing With Kids, Breckenridge

 

Gang, we had an amazing time at Breckenridge over the holidays.  This was our second time going – we took the kids for Spring Break last year, too – and while there are a ton of different ski resorts to choose from…..we really, really love Breck.

There’s something so intense about a ski vacation – not only is everything so expensive (ski passes on top of plane tickets on top of rental cars), but much of your fun depends on weather, and god forbid anyone gets sick.  Especially if you are traveling to the Colorado Rockies, where the altitude is no joke.

So Breck hits the sweet spot for us.  It has the right mix of world class skiing, comfy places to stay close to the slopes, an apres-ski scene that’s also pretty kid-friendly, a charming downtown, fun activities off-slope, and……(and this is probably the biggest one for us)…..a seriously unique ski school experience for the kids.  This ski school, to quote Raines, is ‘EPIC’.

Here are the highlights from our trip…..

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By February 13, 2017 7 No tags Permalink
November 2, 2016

My Go-To Travel Uniform (What To Wear To The Airport…And Everyday)

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Happy November!!  I’m interrupting Cropped Flares week to talk travel.  Specifically, my very favorite Fall/Winter travel uniform.  This outfit is super comfortable, can be warm or cool depending on airport conditions (or the weather wherever you land), and is cute enough to be worn well past travel days.

In fact, when my mom was packing for her recent visit to Philly, I basically told her to pack this exact travel uniform:  jeans, fashion sneakers, cute tops, a leather jacket.  (Add a scarf, hat and mittens if it’s cold.)

Done.

Add a gorg travel bag and you’re set for a weekend getaway, or a quick trip home to visit family for Thanksgiving.

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By November 2, 2016 6 No tags Permalink
October 17, 2016

What To Pack for London: 12 Style Essentials

london1final

 

The British have a saying about their weather, “Four seasons in one day,” and it proved to be more than true on my recent trip to London.  We arrived in the middle of a heat wave – hot and sweaty the first few days – but by the time we left, the weather had turned chilly and rainy. And of course, I had packed mostly for colder, Autumn weather, so a lot of my organized, careful packing went out the window.

The packing list below is a combination of what I wore while I was there, plus a few items I didn’t pack but wish I had.  Hindsight is 20/20, right?  Also, in honor of the high street clothing brands, I’m featuring lots of Topshop, River Island, Warehouse, and Oasis, because sometimes it’s fun to see what affordable fashion looks like on the other side of the pond.

So here’s a packing capsule wardrobe for London – versatile, functional, comfortable and stylish.  (Of course, I packed extra items, but I stripped the list down to the items that I truly relied on.  Next time I’ll pack light.)

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By October 17, 2016 12 No tags Permalink