Peace Begins with a Smile

This morning I woke up seconds before the alarm because the smell of hot coffee was really-really close by. My youngest daughter stood there holding a cup and saucer towards me with a great big smile. We were leaving Disney today and that always makes me a bit sad, but smiling is such a great way to make other people feel happier.

••• Okay, this didn’t happen. I woke up feeling sad that it was our last day in my favorite place in earth. The kids were feeling bummed and scrounging leftover stuff to eat. I was packing last minute buttons, lost earrings and absolutely precious scraps of paper and discarded bottles of half used nail polish that must not be forgotten. But all the while, in the midst of travel chaos, I was desperate to bring home a bit of “disney magic” in my own heart. •••

So I made it my goal to remember the magic of Disney all day and find one thing to be grateful for each step of the way. Below you’ll see an itinerary of sorts with examples of where I deliberately chose the attitude I wanted to have instead of just waiting to see how I felt like feeling:

7:00 am 🧳 all six of us took our bags down to the lobby where a nice Disney worker checked them through to our destination. As each bag passed from my hand to his I felt their weight and the gratefulness in my spirit that I no longer had to carry or keep track of them. Did you know that putting these small pauses between actions can provide you with fresh energy for the new task ahead? It’s true! If you just completed a task and without pausing to realize it is done you might miss the sense of accomplishment you should be enjoying! So with a mental slam of the football into the end-zone I collected our boarding passes and lead our crew off to the hotel lobby to await the airport transfer.

7:30 am 🚃 the Magical Express arrived to whisk us from the Grand Floridian to Orlando International Airport. My mind so desperately wanted to cling to our vacation but I didn’t want my day to be filled with loss, I wanted to enjoy today just as much as I enjoyed yesterday. After all, this is another day of my precious life! I’ve found the best way to get out of my thoughts and into the present is to connect with my senses… you know: touch, smell, taste, sound and sight. So I forced myself to look out the window and do you know what I noticed? Palm trees. I remember looking at those same palm trees as we drove to and from the Orlando airport as a child. We when to Disney World 2-3 times a year when we lived in New York and I remember thinking how amazing palm trees were. There are no palm trees in New York. And when I saw them I knew Disney was close by. But guess what?! I live in Arizona. I have palm trees right beside my own pool. There are palm trees all around our town. And as each palm tree passed the window I no longer felt sad, because if you look hard enough you can find the magic of Disney everywhere. 🌴

8:30 am 🚫☕️ we arrived at the airport, got through security, took a tram to our terminal and got ZAZA coffee because there was no Starbucks in the terminal. Starbucks is easy because the kids know the menu and it’s simple to grab breakfast or snacks for the plane. But a Cuban coffee shop? Not as easy. As we waited in line I talked over the menu with the kids. Guava pastries? Quesitos? El Macho? But I can’t really describe what guava tastes like, or explain why they make pastries with cream cheese or figure what the difference between our bread and Cuban bread is. The kids had no idea if they would like anything here and had more than a million questions, but do you know what? I listened to the kids. Really listened to them and they weren’t complaining. They were confused. There was a Wendy’s right across from ZAZA and I suggested Brian take the kids there. Instead of getting flustered about how I was going to get my coffee if they couldn’t find anything to eat or judging them for not being adventurous with breakfast or being lost in my own pre-coffee cloud, I listened to them. So I got my coffee and they got their hash browns and we were all happy (well, as happy as you can be without Starbucks). 😉

10:00 am ✈️ to Denver International Airport and slept on Brian’s shoulder the whole way! Remember how I connected with my senses on the bus ride to the airport and turned a sad trip into gratitude? Well same thing here. I could just say whew, glad I caught up on my sleep but instead I saw the love and attention in this simple experience. I spent three hours on the shoulder of the man I care so much for. The person whose attention I crave the most in this world. And in that light, this flight brought such joy and peace to my heart. I wished the flight was longer!

12:30 pm ☕️ arrived in Denver and started looking for lunch… but what I really wanted was Starbucks. Should I wish away lunch hoping for coffee? No. I shouldn’t pass over any moment I have been given, hoping for the next. So here’s the trick… I am not my thoughts. I may observe the fact that I want Starbucks, but I can listen to that thought. It is not me. I am separate, and by watching these thoughts come and go I am present. I am not stuck in those ideas or allowing them to drag me down a hole like Alice chasing that white rabbit. So I had a lovely taco salad and afterwards, we tracked down a Starbucks. And in reality… I think I enjoyed the taco salad more!

3:00 pm ✈️ to McCarran International Airport was spent creating this blog post. I love writing. No secret about that. I write stories from the dog’s perspective and read them to my kindergartner’s class. I write diaries and short stories and letters to friends. But today… I’m writing to you. After all, the activities we enjoy connect us with our inner purpose and bring us fully alive. I’m sure you know that feeling when you’re in the flow of an activity you excel at, that you love, that feeds your soul. People who run talk about this feeling all the time. How they forget the world as their feet pound the pavement and the miles slip away. You’ve probably heard a runner describe this. Personally I don’t believe them. Running is a horrid torture that couldn’t bring such lovely feelings. But writing can! Oh all right, it’s all different for everyone I know. But running..? Alright. It’s things like this that help us lose our smaller self. The part of us that overthinks e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and worries and can never decide. On the other hand, I find my happiness soars when I add activities into my week that expand my passions and shrink my neurotic tendencies.

5:00 pm 🎡 arrived in Las Vegas and as usual… this city is a spinning top waiting to be flicked off the table by a toddlers thumb. At least that’s how it feels to me. So as I stepped off the plane I ran over the words of Thich Nhat Hanh in my mind: walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet. I usually pound the earth trying to race my kids to the nearest restroom and then lumber heavy-footed to get my baggage and drag it to the car. But tonight I was trying something new. I want the lightness of Tinker Bell mixed with the lame man Peter healed at the Beautiful Gate.

6:00 pm 🚘 started the drive home after meeting Kayana’s mom and sister in the airport. Which was actually such a lifesaver since we never would have fit our luggage in the trunk. (Guess when you bring home two more suitcases than you left with there can be space concerns…) On the way home our youngest decided she never wanted to travel away from home again and vowed to kiss the floor when we got back. Poor thing. It’s hard being 7. Actually it’s hard being every age. We all have things that pop up in life that throw us more than we would want or expect. I always try to understand, validate, create safety and encourage growth. For example:

  • I can see how traveling so long can be exhausting.
  • Feeling the way you do is completely normal.
  • I promise to get you cozy and tucked in your own bed as soon as we get home.
  • And I want you to know how proud I am of you for all you did this summer. You are growing into such a wonderful young lady.

Oh course this technique needs to be done in my own life as well. Speaking into children’s lives is important as a mom but I need to do the same thing in my life and my husband’s. We are all pretty similar in our need for understanding and support as we grow and change all throughout life.

8:00 pm 🐯🐺 we got home and spent the next 13 years hugging the cats. Okay not really, but boy they sure missed us! As I got the kids ready for bed I tried to get them to focus on their own lives, right in that moment, just as I had been trying to do all day. Avoiding getting lost in memories of our summer travels. Avoiding becoming stuck in worries about the coming days or churning thoughts of the school year to come. Avoiding lashing out with judgements and reactions to perceived attacks from other tired siblings. For tonight let’s just rest our tired bodies and enjoy the feeling of our own beds. Tomorrow will be a whole new day. Claudia is sleeping in our room tonight because lots of change needs lots of cozy. Madeline is falling asleep. Beatrice is falling asleep. The house is quiet again.

So there you have it! We’re all finally home and going nowhere before school starts again. Thanks for sharing all my vacation posts over the past month. It’s been fun writing it all down and now I have a gift to myself that I can re-read whenever I need a mini trip. If you’re local I can’t wait to see you all again and to my friends far away we need to plan more trips in the future. But before I plan anything else I’m going to need a good nights sleep. Big hugs to all!


Goodbye Chicago

Yesterday we picked up Kayana from O’Hare and today we are all flying out together. But I wanted to write one more post before we move along to Florida …

I always feel like our trips disappear into memory so fast. What is it about life that passes? How does anticipation become history with hardly a moment given to now? I don’t know if it’s my age or if time really is passing by faster these days, but it reminds me to be purposeful and grateful. Along that theme I want to list 20 things about our time in Chicago that made my life more blessed:

  • good health – All stayed fairly healthy! We have been gone over 2 weeks and are still traveling. Yes we’ve had a few tummy aches and need an antibiotic but nothing major.
  • good friends – Seeing the Carey family during our annual summers in Chicago is such a treat! So glad we can stay close (and our kiddos too).
  • my parents – They always generously put us us at their house while we’re in town. This allows us to spend so much more time together with family.
  • pets – Okay. My parents have stinkin’ cute pets! I love watching them grow and giving them all the hugs while we’re in town.
  • the color green – Everything here is SO green!!! I love living in Arizona but the color shift is really quite awesome.
  • time – The fact that I have time to travel with the kids over the summer is such a blessing and I don’t take it for granted.
  • cell phones – Staying in touch with Daddy (he couldn’t come to the Chicago portion of our trip) was wonderful and keeping up with AZ friends made my heart happy too.
  • feeling loved – There is something about going “home” that makes you feel loved, and appreciated. At least I feel that way and I enjoy it so much.
  • grocery stores – Can we talk about all the grocery stores in Chicago? The options are endless. Since I love to cook I really enjoy poking around and discovering new things.
  • internet connection – I know some people like to disappear on a desert island when they go away, but I love my internet access and the ability to watch my favorite shows, map out new places to go and put the kids to be with headspace.
  • coffee – Do I even need to explain this? I mean, I love coffee all the time but I don’t always get a full 8 hours when we travel. So coffee tastes even better.
  • memories – Being with family is so much about reliving memories with other people who were there. You feel understood, validated and sometimes learn about things you never knew happened… to add to your memories.
  • blogging – I have love love loved blogging this vacation. It’s actually amazing to look back so far and see all the things I’ve forgotten. Not amazing in a good way… but mom brain is not always a reliable working brain. So I’m super grateful for this blog.
  • super comfy bed – The bed in the room I stay in at my parents is like a cloud. I always look forward to sleeping there, and cuddling with all the kitty’s who visit me on the bed.
  • access to a car – my parents always let me use one of their cars when we visit. It is so gracious of them and I admit to loving to pop out once in a while.
  • cozymels restaurant – when we lived here Cozymels was my favorite Mexican restaurants. It hold so many happy memories of dinners with friends & family, important conversations and banana pudding.
  • family recipes – one of my very favorite things about going to my parents’ house is raising my mom’s cookbook stash to copy out some childhood favorites. I’ll post some for you soon.
  • our three girls – so grateful for our three girls who are the best little travelers. I honestly could not travel nearly as much if they didn’t obey and make good choices.
  • travel – It is such a blessing to travel. To be able to visit family. To visit friends. Space Camp. Now Disney. I have so much gratitude for that.
  • personal freedom – Last but not least I do not take for granted my personal freedom. I can go where I want. But what I want. Return when I please. Life was not always like this while we were in school for the first 15 years of our marriage, and I don’t take this blessing for granted.

So thanks Chicago, until next time! We have enjoyed our stay and look forward to returning (probably in the winter).


Today you are YOU!

“Or worse than all that…Why, you might be a WASN’T! A Wasn’t has no fun at all. No, he doesn’t. A Wasn’t just isn’t. He just isn’t present. But you…You ARE YOU! And, now isn’t that pleasant!” – Dr. Seuss

Seven years ago I gave birth to this little munchkin. This spunky, clever, industrious and giggly Claudia who I am so glad to call ours. But all this delight comes in a complicated package, just like your kids I’m sure. So I want to share two stories, giving you a more complete picture of this terrific kiddo.

When Claudia was two she decided she wanted to be a super hero. She didn’t karate chop her sister’s, smash through doors or save neighborhood cats. No… she stripped naked and colored a super hero costume on her body with sharpie markers. I still remember the excited face she was wearing when she came to show me her work. But I didn’t have quite the enthusiasm she did. I admit to being unhappy. But when I saw her face sink I knew I was wrong. She hadn’t meant to be “naughty”. She meant to be the best version of herself she could be. So I hugged her and told her she was creative and precious and super. And then I cleaned her up and bought her a costume instead. Claudia loved that costume and the smile she had when she wore it was deeper that materialism. She knew I understood her heart and encouraged her dreams.

At three we found ourselves at a similar crossroads. Claudia wanted to cut her hair. She didn’t want a “hair cut”. No. She wanted to cut off all her hair. I said no because well, you can’t really do that right? But she asked every day. Finally, I came upon her in the kitchen with a pair of scissors. A chunk of her hair was missing. And I had two options. Remembering a year ago and the sadness I caused by my disappointment I took her in my arms and asked her if she really wanted to cut her hair off. She assured me she did. So… I gave her some kid scissors and told her to have fun cutting it all off. And she did.

Every child is different. They will have different strengths and different weaknesses. Claudia thrives on the ability to make her own decisions. And as her mom I do my best to create a safe place for her to explore decision making. And when I do this, she grows. When she is met with arbitrary rules and constraints she is so easily frustrated so I try to remember, even when the request seems contrary to my preferences, that she is a unique person with preferences different from mine. Of course she can’t always be a free spirit and do as she pleases, but I try as often as I can to let her be HER.

So happy birthday you great big seven year old. I hope you explore the world your way this year and learn to make wise choices. I’m cheering you on and encouraging you. And watching you thrive reminds me to be fearless in discovering my own dreams.