A New Era

An empty bed was a symbol to me that my life was about to change forever. The empty crib waiting to be filled in the rooms that I so painstakingly decorated. The baby warming bed in the hospital room when I arrived for my three inductions. The empty crib placed next to our hotel room in China. All signs that someone was going to fill that spot that was going to also fill a hole in our lives that we didn’t even know was there. I can remember looking at each of these beds with excitement and longing for the little person that would soon fill that space.

Now there is another empty bed, but this time I do know the hole that that empty bed represents. This time I again know that our life is going to change forever, but I’m not so excited about it.

This time, there is a new bed in a place far away from my house where there is another new beginning. There is new bed filled with brand new XL bedding and foam mattress toppers and fluffy new pillows and an incredible view of New York City. But, there is also an older, well- loved bed that sits empty.

It’s weird.

It’s sad.

I get it that lots of parents don’t feel that way. Maybe MOST parents don’t feel that way. But we do. The adjustment in our home, the empty space in our house, the unoccupied bed is physically painful. Our lives have again changed, and a paradigm shift has occurred, and this time I was not eagerly anticipating it.

There is a hole here. A huge, gaping hole. Every hour of every day I physically feel his absence. This grown kid that is still MY kid. The kid that I have loved an adored every day of his life.

I just want to go ahead and say a few things. Of COURSE I am over the top excited for Zac. He is living his dream, and he is happy and excited, and that is WONDERFUL. And of COURSE I am proud of him. He worked so incredibly hard to be where he is today. All of these things are true. It is wonderful and exciting and amazing.

BUT, it is also sad.

I’ve been told it gets better. I hope so. But at the same time, I don’t want to look forward to a future time when his absence feels normal. I want to see his sneakers on the hallway floor. I want to restock his favorite protein shakes in the fridge. I want to remind him to take out the recycling on Thursday. I want to hug him as he walks out the door.

I miss him.

Now we are in a new chapter. A new chapter in which Zac’s home is still here, but it is also there. This is going to take some getting used to.

View from his 13th story dorm room.

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Back Again

Well, it went and happened again- the calendar moved to August and the schools made me send the kids back yet again.

They started two weeks apart, but here we are in 11th, 9th, 8th, and 5th grades. I’m not going to lie, it stings pretty badly having only four photos here instead of five. Feels like a big hole.

We leave tomorrow to take Zac to New York, so my emotions are raw. I know I’m going to have a lot to say about that, but it seems wrong not to give these guys their due.

Kaitlyn graduated from the school she has been at for the last 8 years and has joined Drew in high school. High school. I can’t even believe it.

I didn’t really enjoy high school too much while I was in it. There were a lot of reasons for that, but it is not my favorite time of life to look back on. My hope for these two is that it is a time that is worth reminiscing about when they are adults while still being a time of life they wouldn’t want to do over again. There are too many good life lessons in high school to want it to be too much fun.

But I do want it to be mostly fun. And I want them to continue growing into the kind, thoughtful, big-hearted humans that they both are.

Hannah and Kai started 8th and 5th grade their language immersion school and are doing great. This will be Hannah’s last year there, so we will have to figure out how she can continue working on Mandarin after this year since it is not widely available in high schools. I feel so grateful that Hannah and Kai have been able to study Mandarin throughout their elementary and middle school years. They are both starting to ask when we can take a trip to China, so I know that is on their minds and in their hearts. I’m looking forward to that too.

I have always been the mom who has acutely felt how fast time flies. I never look forward to this day of first day of school photos where the growth of the previous year is glaringly obvious and the clock is loudly ticking toward the day when they too will move out of the picture.

This time is too precious and much too fleeting. I love you all so much, dear ones!

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Last Few Days in Annecy

We tried to soak up every minute of our last few days in gorgeous Annecy.

I could never get over these gorgeous vistas around every corner. Every day I just looked around in awe. I don’t think any of the pictures really do it justice. It is breathtaking!

Our favorite thing to do everyday was spend time out on the lake. Since we were there during a highly unusual heat wave, it was a relief to have a way to cool off. The first several days we rented paddle boats with slides, and then we upgraded to small motorboats. The kids swam, made up games and had regular competitions of all sorts. We had one exciting day that the boat stopped working in the middle of the lake and we had to be rescued and the boat towed back in. Even during that we laughed at the adventure of it all and the story we would have to tell.

We enjoyed all of our favorite foods. For dinners our favorite thing was something the kids call a “free for all” where we have a variety of foods served family style. We loved our local bakery and fruit and veggie stand. I am so going to miss being able to walk down a short street and buy all of the fresh foods that I could need for a dinner for nine. We all agreed that the fruit was far superior to the fruit that we get at home. The raspberries and peaches were divine, and the strawberries so good that they could have been candy.

Crepes were delicious, and by far one of my favorite things, although half the family preferred gelato, which is why they aren’t pictured here. 😉

We enjoyed serious card playing in the evenings in our flat.
According to legend, if you kiss in the middle of this bridge you will stay together forever, so of course we had to do that.
This was the night view from Drew and Kai’s room.
Turns out I’m even going to miss having to take 70 stairs up into our flat. I’m going to miss it all.

This trip was absolutely incredible for so many reasons, but the best part, as always, was the chance to just be together. As the kids get older it is harder and harder to spend time all together, and there is a constant time clock in the back of my head reminding me how fast the time is moving toward the day we send our first one out into the world. So thankful that I have this treasure trove of memories to hold onto for now.

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Day trip to the Alps

Here in Annecy we are very close to the border with Switzerland. Knowing we were that close, I wanted to take a day trip into Geneva and from there into the Alps.

This started our first transportation adventure of the trip. We bought bus tickets for the fairly short drive between Annecy and Geneva (about 50 minute bus ride). We planned out an afternoon in Geneva to visit the United Nations, the Red Cross museum, and a boat ride in Lake Geneva.

Unfortunately I got an email saying that our bus was running 110 minutes late. In actuality, the bus was running about three hours late. So, we were at the bus station (the NINE of us) with hours to go, and a crazy heat wave going on.

We decided to walk back to the grandparents’ hotel and wait in the lobby so we had at least a small stream of air conditioning. France isn’t quite known for its AC.

The girls took the opportunity to wait in a very long line for what we were assured was “the third best ice cream in France.” I’m not sure who exactly did the rankings, but apparently word has gotten around because there is always a tremendously long line despite the countless other gelato options down the street.

Verdict- it was good for sure, but not sure I would rank it higher than any others we had this trip. 🙂

Finally our bus arrived and we started what was supposed to be a 50 minute drive to Geneva. Unfortunately for us, the driver had us load the bus and then didn’t drive for another 30 minutes. Then, half way there he pulled the bus over to the side of the road and had us sit for another 45 minutes without explanation, until another bus driver came to take over. When it was all said and done we arrived in Geneva at around 9:15 pm, too late to do anything other than grab dinner at the only restaurant around that could sit a group our size.

We enjoyed the fondue, but that was the extent of our Switzerland experience.

The next morning we set out on an official tour to Chamonix and Mont Blanc, which are located in the French alps. We had a rather uneventful trip there once we found our bus, and we were greeted with incredible views of the alps throughout the trip.

Once there we took a couple of gondolas up to the top of the highest peak of Mont Blanc. It was exciting for some and terrifying for others on our journey. At the top we had an option to take an elevator to a high observation deck, and several of us jumped on that opportunity while others let themselves slowly adjust to the altitude from the safety of the cafeteria.

After our return trip on the gondolas, we took a little open air train to the top of a peak in a different direction where we could get a good look at a glacier known as Mer de Glace. We arrived at the top of the mountain and then had to take yet another gondola AND over 500 steps down to the glacier.

At the bottom of the stairs we had the option of walking into an ice cave, into the glacier. We jumped at this once in a lifetime opportunity!

During our walk down the mountain we saw tags at different locations showing where the glacier had been at different years. It was incredible to see how much the glacier had melted. I encouraged the kids to commit these pictures into their memory considering their children will probably only know of glaciers from reading about them in books.

The 500+ stairs going back up the mountain wasn’t quite as fun as going down, but we all made it.

Our transportation woes continued, however, when the bus we were aiming to take back to Annecy was full, causing us to have to stay in Chamonix for another three hours. We made good use of our time, however, and enjoyed each other’s company in yet another hotel lobby. But this time there were martinis in addition to the ice cream.

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On to Annecy

As we were trying to figure out where to go on our summer trip this year, Instagram happened to sent us a picture of an amazingly beautiful town. We had been up and down and back and forth about different options, and we saw that photo and said, “let’s just go there!” That is how we ended up going to a small town in France that we had never heard of before- Annecy.

Turns out it was a fantastic choice. We are loving our time in this absolutely gorgeous spot!

We are staying in a perfect flat on the top floor of this old building in the “Old Town” section of Annecy. Well, it is perfect minus the four story spiral staircase to get up there. That was quite a challenge with 7 people’s luggage.

The first day we were here we went exploring to find the local park, and this was the vista that greeted us. I was overwhelmed with the beauty! We were expecting a beautiful place, but the reality so far surpassed what I was expecting.

There are also canals throughout the city with crystal clear water. This lake was originally formed from a glacier, and France has gone to great lengths to keep it clean. It is known as the cleanest lake in France.

We have had fun filling our days with walking and wandering, biking, swimming, and riding paddle boats. We also have the most gorgeous spot to set up our blankets for picnics and reading. We have had great food from local cafes and markets, and I have found everyone to be very kind when I try out my high school French.

A highlight of the bike ride is when we went off the path to find the castle below. We found the castle and attempted to enter the gate only to be met with a very upset frenchman letting us know that the castle was private property. Oops!

We had a couple of our favorite grandparents join us, and we are loving exploring this area of the world together!

Touring the local castle

This part of France is absolutely gorgeous. I wish we could stay all summer!

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