Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Finding Yourself

When I was 19 I went to France. With my best friend.
She was working there as an au pair in the South of France (I think) - I traveled to meet her. After recovering from jet lag, and having a few days with the family she was with, we traveled together to Paris.
Picture it if you will. Two almost-19 year old girls. Together. Alone. In the City of Love.
We had life figured out.
Our trip was an adventure. We had a guide book that I was intent on following, and a couple of days in we decided to take a break from my plan and discover Paris. We found markets and we walked over bridges. We went to underground restaurants and sipped wine. We grocery shopped and ate red meat when people were stressed about mad cow. We made friends with people in the hostel and let some lovely Irish boys cook us dinner. We decided to forego taking the elevator up the Eiffel Tower and walked. We had sketches made of us that looked NOTHING like us and laughed our asses off. We spoke French (Susie did a much better job than I did) and we bought a whole tonne of Eiffel Tower crap at ridiculous prices.
When we were on the plane headed to Paris there were other young people - probably a little older than us. Different groups of people. And they all kept saying that they were going to Paris to find themselves. It became a joke between Susie and I. Whenever we left somewhere, like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, one of us would inevitably say "wow. I just found myself."
I guess it sounds like we were mocking the people who had traveled there for that purpose. But more than that it was the sense of security that we knew who we were - that there was nothing to find - and as we later put it, nothing we had really lost.
Fast forward about 12 years and it's a bit of a different story.
I've been writing a lot about my love of the author Julie Powell (of Julie and Julia and Cleaving). It's interesting to read her books. In case you haven't read Julie and Julia, Julie Powell decides to cook her way through Julia Child's book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in one year. And she blogs her experience.
Though I'm not sure she specifically says the purpose of her year of cooking dangerously is to find herself, it's the same idea. Self discovery, overcoming a challenge, etc etc.
And, as I'm reading Julie and Julia I keep thinking about how in a way I'm in the same place.
I have moments when I gasp because something she says I so totally get. TOTALLY.
Which makes me think about that time in France.
Seriously. What happened? Granted when I went there it was just before highschool graduation. We pretty much knew where our lives were headed the next year (university) and I had it all figured out. I knew I would get married at 27 (happened a little earlier) and have a perfect career (I'm happy, but I had some miserable jobs in there) and have kids at 30 (ha. I had a 4 year old and newborn at 30). It never occurred to me that everything I was dreaming may not happen according to plan. And I really thought I had it figured out.
And now I'm 31.
I'm not where Julie was at when she turned 30. Our lives are remarkably different. And the same. But that feeling through the book - the feeling of wondering whether you're living life completely, getting the most out of it, making a difference, following your dreams ... I get that.
I'm pretty sure I don't want to be where I was at 19.
I know that every day is not magical (despite what Disney tells us). I know that even the greatest things we wish for and get (marriage, family, etc) are not always as simple and perfect as we may have dreamed. And I think that's okay.
At the end of Julie's project she found out that Julia Child wasn't her biggest fan. And, I guess that's kind of life.
But it also makes me think about my own kids. How do I instill in them that feeling that they can one day own the world, that at almost-19 they can seize the moment, take whirlwind trips and know that there's nothing they need to find, and nothing they've really lost? Am I putting them in the right place?
Thinking back though, in a way I think we did find ourselves. Well, maybe I can't speak for Susie (trust me - the woman has no problem speaking her own mind!), but I can speak for myself. Maybe I didn't feel the need to find myself in the Eiffel Tower or under the Arch de Triomphe, but looking back I need to remember what that 19 year old knew. That life is an adventure. That as much as it's great to follow a map and a plan life is so much more fun when you screw up, throw out the plan and have an adventure.
Carpe Diem, people. Carpe Diem.
Oh, and since I've been asked ... yes, I love love love Julie. But, no. I'm not going to start cooking. That was her thing. I'm proud of myself when I cook a stir fry, or make roast beef. Or bake some cookies. I don't honestly get all these copycat people. That's her adventure. I will find my own. (My husband and children thank me, I'm sure!)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

M-I-C-K-E-Y !!!

We're back from a week in Disney.
What a week it was. We did the trip in true Disney fashion. We stayed at  Disney resort, we ate all Disney meals, we soaked in everything and we had a blast. And we are exhausted!
Let me tell ya. There's a big difference between going to Disney with a one year (like our last trip) and an almost 2 year old.  It was fun, but so so tiring.
I'd do a full review of it, but with laundry going and an impending return to work tomorrow I need to keep this short.
Some of the highlights ... 

Mike celebrated his birthday in Disney. (yes, that's totally my dream birthday, but anyway ...)I created the lovely hat and bought him the shirt. And we had cake at dinner. And, the waiter who brought the cake sang the awesomest rendition of Zippity-Doo-Dah. It was incredible.

We had a blast with these 2 munchkins. Here's a confession, as parents who work outside of the home, Mike and I are not used to being around our kids 24/7. So, not only was this a chance to be in Disney, this also a great chance to spend time with our kids (and appreciate our nanny!). I saw so much in my kids this week, like the fact that Matt is so incredibly social. He can start up a conversation with pretty much anyone, and is fascinated to hear what they have to say. We learned so much about other families and cast members thanks to Mr. Social.
And, Chloe ... wow! The child is talking so much now. She must have learned 100 new words in Disney. And she's smart. She knows "Lella" (Cinderella) lives in the "Castle". And she's funny. One time I said to her "whose house is that?" when I pointed to the castle. She looked at me, laughed and said "Chloe's".  Ha.

Speaking of Miss Chloe ...

I like to think she is a princess. Isn't this dress beautiful? My sister made it just for Chloe to have breakfast with the princesses.
As it turned out, Chloe, who LOVES Minnie Mouse in particular, and pretty much all the big furry characters, is terrified of the princesses. I don't know why. This is with the exception of Snow White.
Whenever Chloe sees a picture of Snow White she says "Mommy" (do you see the similarity? I don't). Anyway, she was downright terrified of Jasmine, and would have nothing to do with Sleeping Beauty. It may have had something to do with the fact that she woke up sick on the day of our Princess breakfast. Being the great mother I am, I truly thought that she was fine, and brought my sick baby on the boat to Magic Kingdom where she threw-up twice before breakfast, once in the castle and once outside before Mike came in and brought her to the hotel to get some extra sleep.
(In fairness, Chloe is a pukey kind of kid, and was running around before we left. She seemed fine).

See - prefers Minnie!
And then there was Mr. Matt.

I love this picture of Matt because this is so him!
Matt is growing up. Here's the thing with Matt. As an almost 6 year old he no longer believes in the characters. He knows they are costumes. But, he's still willing to have fun.
Matt's mind is incredible to me. I'm the kind of person who hates to have surprises spoiled. I realize Disney is out to make money, but I'd much rather believe in the "magic" of it. I don't want to read the books about how everything works. I'm quite happy to accept that pixie dust is how the monorail works, and believe that Tinkerbelle leaves little surprises for people. Matt, on the other hand, is fascinated by how things work. He wants to know how the animatronics work. He looks for the strings on puppets and needs to understand the workings behind everything.

He loved Epcot. There's magic there, but there's also a whole lot of Science. He absolutely wanted to figure out how everything works, and that's what epcot is for. There's also a secret agent thing - the Kim Possible Kimmunicator - where you get this cell phone that gives you clues and you basically go on a mission in a country in Epcot. This was a highlight for Matt (and really fun for us).
You know, there were times where I'd sit on the bus with him or the monorail and he'd talk and I'd be completely fascinated with his thoughts.

He is obsessed with Space Mountain. We were a little worried since he hates the dark,but he loves space. The child went on this ride about 10 times. One the last day we told him that he could choose one final ride. He chose Space Mountain. There was a 20-minute wait (welcome to Disney in January - no waits!). Awesome. We got near the front of the line and then they turned the lights on. Long story short there was a major technical problem and the ride had to close. I thought Matt would completely lose it but he didn't (I would have). They handed out special fast passes good for any ride, so we booted it over to Thunder Mountain (and by booted I mean we RAN across the park in record time to get on one more ride before we left).

As for me... I had a great time.
I found this trip more stressful and exhausting. I had a chest infection before we left, and on the trip back I was sick. I could have stayed another week, and at point debated it. But, you know, there's this thing called work ...
But, we have already started making plans. And part of me thinks that maybe when I retire I'll go work at Disney. I think I'd make an excellent Fairy Godmother in my retirement.