Preparing for our trip to Croatia: summer vacation hawl

Okay, I realize I am a few days late posting this, but I figure it’s better late to post than never.  Originally I was going to post this before our trip, but as life goes on, things get in the way and some things have to take the back burner.  On top of last-minute errands and packing, I also fit in some last minute cleaning.  The kids also needed a haircut and I needed a pedicure desperately.  The kids also had a birthday party the day before we departed for Croatia, so as you could imagine, it was pretty hectic.  As I am writing to you from our apartment in Vodice, here are my thoughts on what essentials you need to pack for your summer getaway…for yourself and your kids.

The “Essentials”
Lets start off with the essentials.  Whether its packing for Croatia or a camping trip, you need to pack the essentials.  For me that consists of sunblock (for you and your kids), Tylenol/Advil (again for you and your kids), aloe vera, mosquito spray and After Bite, in addition to other regular medications or vitamins you may require.   In Croatia a few of these things are readily available, but I’d rather be safe than sorry and just have these things packed in advance.  For instance, we landed in Zagreb at about noon, by the time we got out of the airport and made it to the hotel, it was already 3:00 pm.  At this point, the kids were  really hungry.  It was over 35 degrees out and so there was no time to stop at the store and buy sunscreen, as we were all starving.  Before we left our hotel room, we lathered ourselves in sunscreen and just made our way to the city centre for a late lunch.  I always say that its better to have some of these things on hand.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Makeup/Toiletry Bag
I love nothing more than a good makeup bag and whats in it.  A good makeup bag consists of a moisturizer, tinted moisturizer and/or foundation, eye brow pencil, mascara, lip gloss, blush and bronzer.  Scrunchies are very in this season so I threw some in my bag, along with some cute bobby pins and tortoise hair clips.   I also love dry shampoo for in-between hair washes and a nice, light, summer-time perfume, such as “Chance” by Chanel.  Some of my favourite products for this trip have been Benefit’s “They’re Real!” mascara, Dior Lip Maximizer, Kosmea’s Rose Hip Oil, Biossance moisturizer, Revlon Kiss Lip Balm and Pur’s tinted moisturizer.

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Kid’s Capsule Wardrobe
For summertime, I love shopping at Zara and H&M for the kids.  The styles are great and the prices are just right.  I bought a mix of dressy clothes and basics.  I picked up some cute swimming trunks from Zara, as well as Hawaiian shirts which are very in this season.   I also picked up a few t-shirts and cotton shorts from H&M as well.  A rule of thumb is that I pack a few neutral coloured bottoms and different variety of t-shirts/dress shirts and basically mix and match throughout the trip.
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Nothing says summertime more than linen.  I found some really nice linen shirts at Massimo Dutti.  The quality for both adults and kids are excellent and I always happen to find pieces there that reminds me of the things my husband peruses on Style Forum.  
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I couldn’t help but buy these shirts for my boys at H&M….I thought that these shirts couldn’t be more fitting when walking through the streets of Dalmatia…

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Your summer capsule wardrobe
Before, I used to pack a ton of stuff, not wear half of it and be frustrated why nothing worked.  It took me 30 plus years to figure it out, but you just need to pack a basic capsule wardrobe when travelling.  I am so grateful for Pinterest to teach me this.  Your sanity and your luggage will thank me for this.  For me, my capsule wardrobe consists of a few cute summer dresses, one pair of white distressed pants, a few dressy tops, a few tanks and t-shirts, one pair of jean shorts, one pair of black shorts and one pair of high-waisted linen shorts, along with two bathing suits and two bathing suit coverups.  I always pack two neutral pairs of shoes (one black and one neutral) and a cute shoulder bag.  I also bring my tote along as I use it as a carry on and throw in a nice pair of shades and accessories.   Basically the same rule as my kids applies, but a few neutral colour bottoms and different tops creates a lot of variety for your vacation getaway.

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A few days into our trip and I can say that I am really happy with the way I packed this time around.   Between four people we managed to fit everything into two large suitcases and one carry-on, along with what was in my tote.  I believe that packing smarter, as opposed to over-packing, works way better.

Work-family-life balance: myth or reality?

As a parent, I often wonder if work-family-life balance exists.  It’s no joke when I say I feel like I am a chicken running around without a head.  From the start of my day to the end, I don’t stop.  Ever.   Lately my days have been commencing at about 5:30 am and I am lucky to be in bed at 11:00 pm the earliest. My days typically consist of me preparing the kids’ outfits and bags before I head out to work, planning their schedules around mine and trying to stay on top of chores and meals. All while working a full-time job…and have some sort of relationship with my spouse (I didn’t forget about you!)

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

I often wonder how other parents do it.  How do they manage to get their kids to their activities on time? When do they have time to fit in a workout between kids and work?  Do they get any sleep?  Do they clean their house or do they hire someone to do it?  Do they have any help? I find myself exhausted on most days. Between the kids waking up in the middle of the night, trying to get them to sleep on time, all while trying to be a good employee at work, I’ve been finding it difficult. Lately I’ve been having a hard time trying to manage it all. It got to a point where I even doubted that balance actually existed.

Until one day it hit me.

I had to change my expectations.

You read that correctly. Change my expectations. Not lower them.

I had to stop for a moment and reevaluate what my goals and priorities were. That started by changing my mindset on life. I had to accept that my life is different now than before kids and that little things like going to the gym for an hour every day was not realistic. I accepted I won’t have my 20-something year old body anymore. I accepted that my house and car won’t be in pristine condition.

I had to create what was realistic for my life in this very moment, which is motherhood.

I found that making little modifications to my life style helped immensely, namely diet and sleep. I realized that between work and my kids, it’s not possible for me to get to the gym every single day, so there are other ways to stay active, like take the kids out for a walk or play with them outside. My husband and I alternate nights on which we go to the gym and it works for us. I also made some modifications to my diet that I found helped a lot.

Another aspect to achieving balance is prioritizing what is important and what can wait. Picking up the toys in the basement can wait (kids will throw it again tomorrow anyways). Putting the laundry away tonight can wait for tomorrow (I am better off reading a book to myself or getting an extra hour of sleep). We created a cleaning schedule at home so for instance, the kitchen and family room is tidied up every night and the washrooms are cleaned weekly. I realized that making things that are valuable for my time such as going for walks with the kids or having a date night with my spouse also helps me attain a sense of balance. Some of my favourite things to do are taking the kids to the park or a local Chapters, or unwinding over a glass of wine after a busy week with my husband, or having a girls’ night out. The point is, making time for things that make you happy should be number one priority. Not picking up those toys for the one millionth time.

Some days are trying and yes that will always be there. But I’m slowly letting go this idea of “perfect” motherhood, body, household and so on. Overall, I really do believe that achieving work-family-life balance is possible, you just have to make it happen.

 

 

Memories of Montreal

It feels like yesterday I was getting ready and packing for my first trip in 4 years….alone. Yes, you read this correctly.  Alone.  Alone meaning  sans husband, sans kids.  I went to Montreal for my best friend’s bachelorette.  Looking back, the timing couldn’t have been better as we were in the midst of moving and I desperately just needed a break from the demands of being wife, employee, mother, planner, referee, cook, nurse, janitor, artist and so on.

I remember the excitement of going to the airport.  Yes, the airport.  For the first time in years, I got to sit and enjoy a cappuccino uninterrupted and to make it even sweeter it was free (I flew out of Billy Bishop airport).  I felt like I was 25 again and jet setting as I once used to.  It was exciting yet at the same time I couldn’t help but feel so guilty.  Was it wrong to feel solace knowing I wouldn’t have someone crying or whining towards me? I knew my husband would have a hard time with the kids, especially my oldest who is quite spirited.  But, I also told myself, he can survive.  If I do everyday, so can he for one weekend.

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Photo by Nancy Bourque on Pexels.com

This particular weekend was absolutely beautiful.  It was Canada Day weekend, World Cup excitement was in the air and I was going to be with my best friends.  I remember arriving to our air b&b situated in the trendy Plateau area of Montreal.  Our apartment felt quite Parisian with a bit of Montreal flair.   We had a lovely balcony that overlooked the street.  Everyone was excited to party but I was mostly excited to sleep uninterrupted!

Going out, I had mixed feelings,  I felt as if I could go out like nothing has changed from before.  But at the same time, I felt a little out of place, as if everything about me was screaming “mom.”  Over the course of the weekend,  I found that I just kept talking about my kids, over and over again and that I missed them too much.  I had to mentally remind myself that this was my break from everything and to just relax and let loose.  But it was hard to not feel that way.  On the other token, I got to do something that I haven’t done in years and that was having some serious girl time:  shopping and dining out!  I will proudly admit that I did have that mimosa for breakfast along with my omelette, and it was pretty damn good.

My highlight that weekend was of course watching the Croatia versus Russia game.  We walked around the streets of Montreal with our Croatian jerseys on.  The six of us went into a pub, sat and cheered our Vatreni on over some sparkling wine.  Croatia dominated the game and won in overtime.  People from all over came up to us, cheered with us and even gave us hugs and congratulated us for our win.  Montrealers were definitely feeling World Cup fever and relished that moment with us.

Old Montreal is my favourite part of the city and we couldn’t have ended the weekend on a better note than enjoying brunch at Terrasse Nelligan, overlooking the St. Lawrence River.  For a moment in time, I felt like I was somewhere in Europe again, the sun shining, while we indulged in crepes and omelettes. For the first time in a while, I felt more like me.  At this moment, I came to the realization that I really did need this weekend and that my husband needed this time to be alone with the boys.  Towards the end, I was able to let go any sense of “guilt” for not being there or for being “selfish” to having two days of my own.  In motherhood, sometimes we get lost on striving to be the perfect mom, trying to be perfect for our kids and our spouses and so on.  Its kind of like being lost in translation.

Although I went to celebrate my best friend’s bachelorette, this weekend gave me the greatest gift of all:  it gave me an opportunity to feel more like the old Natalie again….but not the old one, rather just a small reminder of the Natalie that was always there.

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Our view of the St. Lawrence River…photo cred moi

Perhaps its time to plan another girls weekend getaway….