“Just Add Water”

“Just add water.” That’s what my Keurig says more often than not. After I help get the kids ready and get them and my husband out the door on time, I make my coffee, find my breakfast, and try to clean up the mess on the counter that everyone left before they ran out the door. Usually, there is no water left in the Keurig for me to make my coffee, and it reminds me to “just add water.” It’s really not a big deal…all I have to do is put more water in, right? But every time I see those words, it reminds me of how often I have to do “just one more thing” before I get what I need. I have to fold one more load of laundry before I can relax for the evening. I have to make one more glass of chocolate milk for my son before I can find something for breakfast. I have to find someone to watch my kids so I can go to an appointment, take on a gig, etc. The list goes on. It also reminds me of the fact that no one else in my life is “adding the water” for me. Everyone is busy with their own lives so I’m going to have to be the one to make sure my needs are being met.

The truth is, I find myself constantly trying to find that balance of taking care of my family, providing quality therapy for my patients, finding time to plan trips for my travel clients, keeping track of the schedule for my family, making sure everything that needs to be done around the house somehow happens, and making sure that I’m taking time out for myself. How does that even work? To balance all of those things at once? I can’t be the only one…

March into April

Travel:

  • January Wellness Weekend 
  • Weekend away with the kids - We are going camping for a weekend in April.
  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation - We will be going to Greece in June.

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (9/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (15/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (13/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (9/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (6/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I have been able to keep up so far!

 Music:

  • Create one new Singalong packet for my Singalongs (for work). (0/1) - I need to get to work on this. It is my next big work project.
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. I have a new book about listening to Beethoven’s piano music that I intend to use for this purpose. (2/10) - I started reading this book and I am starting to listen to some of Beethoven’s first concertos.
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (0/20) - I am finishing up a CMTE course right now that would give me 10 points, as well as supervising students that will eventually give me an additional 2 points.

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation. - Eric has decided to build a climbing wall, so he has ordered some parts he needs for that…should be interesting!
  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it. – We have bought the wood and are just waiting for a good weekend for Eric to start working on this. 
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.
  • Go through and re-organize the pantry. -
  • Go through refrigerator.
  • Go through freezers.

Family:

  • Inflatable Fun Factory 
  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Movie Night We watched Pete’s Dragon this past weekend and it was a really good movie.
  • Gatti Town or Chuck E. Cheese 
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (1/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Run the 10-mile River Race in May. - I am in the middle of training for this.
  • Complete at least 5 fitness challenges. (2/5) - I had a really hard time making myself finish the 2nd one, but I did it. I am planning to start an upper body strength fitness challenge next.
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I really need to get back into doing this…I felt so much better when I was drinking more water!
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – I have been keeping up with this so far, even the week I was sick.

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (1/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (1/10) - We have not been very good with this, so I need to find more motivation to do this.
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc. - I would really love to do this in May, but I’m still trying to figure out when in May.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. (1/20)

I feel like March just went by so fast, and I couldn’t even tell you what all we did, though I know we did a lot. Anya attended a one-day Suzuki workshop, which she enjoyed. I have been booking lots of trips for people and have been working on music for two weddings, plus music for my brother’s wedding in July. It has definitely been busy!

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Why We Travel with Our Kids

Me and Felix enjoying flamenco in Spain in 2014

As I’ve mentioned before, we are planning a trip to Greece this summer, and we are taking our kids. Some people are shocked to hear that they are coming along because they are so small. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t always take our kids everywhere. We have taken a few trips to places like Jamaica, Mexico, and Costa Rica and have left them here, so Eric and I could spend time together on our own. However, they have gone to Europe with us every time we have gone since they have been born. This trip to Greece will be Anya’s 3rd trip to Europe and Felix’s 2nd trip. We are really lucky in that neither of our children have serious medical issues or anything that would keep us from being able to take them out of the country, and we are very grateful that we have been able to set aside money in order to take them places like this. It would probably be easier not to take them to Europe, but our motto has always been that they can throw a fit here at home or they can throw a fit wherever we happen to be.

My hope is that our travels will help our children to learn about other cultures and how people live in other places. The world is bigger than the street we live on. It is bigger than the city we live in. And it is definitely bigger than the state, and even the country, we live in. There is nothing wrong with choosing to stay in your own country for vacations, and I can completely respect that. It can get very expensive to travel out of the country (especially in some locations), and it can be a real pain to have to figure out car seat situations and how to keep kids busy in museums. But it is when you leave your own country and fly to a different one that you really see that the world is about more than just you. It really puts things into perspective in that your life is a small part of a much, much bigger picture. When you get off a plane in a different country where the language, culture, and food are all different, it makes you realize that there is so much more to the world than the box we live in. It makes you appreciate the freedoms we do have here in America, but it also shows you that, at the end of the day, we are all just people trying to live in this world.

Yes, there are some not-so-nice people in the world, and these people have done some really horrible things to innocent people. I would be lying if I said that some of the things I see on the news don’t make me nervous to travel. But I also know that these sorts of things also happen here in America, and there have even been some crazy things happening in my own city. I remind myself periodically that I am not really any less safe in another country than I am in my own, assuming I am smart about my decisions about when and where to go.

So yes, there are bad people, but most people living in other countries don’t fall into that category. The only thing we really know about people from other countries is that there are some not-so-nice people, what the government officials in that country stand for, and what the media would like us to know about particular place, which is not even usually the full truth. But those groups of people are not the majority of the people living in those places. The majority of the people in these countries are just like us. I really enjoy being on the metro and/or the buses in other countries and watching how people living there do everyday things, like get to work and go grocery shopping. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to work, provide for our families, give our kids a good education, and take our kids to the park every once in awhile. Yes, we might go about these things in a different way, but ultimately, we all want pretty much the same things. Yes, there are some unfriendly people in other countries just like there are unfriendly people here in the US, but for the most part, we have always been met with smiles and a genuine willingness to help when we look like we could use directions or any kind of help. In fact, most people are pretty proud of their country and they want nothing more than to tell you all about it.

I hope that our travels will help to raise two intelligent, accepting, and open-minded American children. White children. Children some would call privileged. I want them to know that we do not all look or speak the same, but that we are all people, and we are all worthy of respect, no matter how we look or what language we speak. I want them to feel comfortable in unfamiliar places and be able to navigate their way around any city even if the street names are in another language. I want them to learn as much as they can about the world and the people in the world, and traveling is the best way to do just that.

This is not to say that kids can’t be taught these very same things without traveling, because that is certainly possible, but as long as we can save enough money to afford to travel with our children, we plan to keep doing just that.

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California: Day 11 – Santa Cruz

The next day, we checked out of the lodge at Yosemite and headed for our last stop before heading back home: Santa Cruz. We had rented a cute little house in neat little neighborhood that wasn’t too far from the beach.  The property manager talked with me on the phone on the way there and gave me some recommendations on things to do with the kids and where to eat. She also brought over some Meyer lemons from her lemon tree!

Even though Santa Cruz isn’t that much further south than San Francisco, it was surprisingly much warmer, which I really loved. I liked San Francisco, but I have since decided that I couldn’t live there because it was way too windy and cold in June.

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The kids and I hanging out at the house

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After settling into our new place, we went out to explore. We drove a short distance to Capitola and ate at a little beach bar type place that had a pretty view of the water. We got there in time for happy hour and those things were strong!!

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At dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After dinner, we walked down along the water before it got too cold.

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We Are Going to Greece!

I have written before about how we were considering visiting Greece this summer, and we ended up booking this trip about a month ago. Needless to say, we are working on our itinerary. So far, this is what we’ve come up with:

Wednesday – Flying all day

Thursday – Arrive in Athens mid-morning

Friday – Athens

Saturday – Athens (possibly a day trip to a nearby island called Aegina)

Sunday – Athens (this day is Anya’s birthday, so we are trying to plan something really fun for her!)

Monday – Athens, take the bus to Nafplio

Tuesday – Nafplio (day trip to Mycaenae)

Wednesday – Nafplio (day trip to Epidavros)

Thursday – Nafplio, taking a private taxi back to Athens airport, flight to Rhodes (the island)

Friday – Rhodes

Saturday – Rhodes

Sunday – Rhodes

Monday – Rhodes

Tuesday – Rhodes, flight back to Athens

Wednesday – Athens (possible day trip to Delphi)

Thursday – Athens

Friday – Fly home

 

Some of the things we definitely want to do while in Athens include visiting the Acropolis (of course!), visiting Sounio where the Temple of Poseidon is located at around sunset (you should definitely google “Temple of Poseidon at sunset”), attending a Greek Orthodox service, and lots of other things. While on the island of Rhodes, we plan to spend at least one day at the beach and maybe one day visiting Lindos, a popular cruising port. One issue I’m having is the fact that we might be able to see Turkey from where we will be on Rhodes, so of course, I’m looking into whether or not we could actually spend part of a day at a small port town. It may not work out, but I feel like we need to at least look into it before making a decision.

We were able to get the great deal I wrote about previously. We have also booked the rest of our hotels and the flights to Rhodes and back. We were able to get 12 nights of lodging (the other 3 were included in the flight package) for $932, which is pretty amazing, and our flights to and from Rhodes were around $360 for all of us. Not bad at all! With the flight package, all the hotels, and the flights to the island and back, we are still sitting at around $1,000 less than what it would have cost us to purchase just flights on our own, so I’m pretty happy with how it is shaping up.

The next order of business is figuring out how we will get ourselves to Nafplio and back, as well as booking a private taxi tour to Delphi. Then, I can start planning our itinerary for each day.

What do you think we should do in Greece?

Around the World 2017: Greece

Part of my plan for 2017 is to make some international food at home. I have been slacking in this area, but tonight we did make some Greek food. We chose chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce and served it with salad and bread. It was surprisingly easy and healthy because I got the recipe out of an international Cooking Light book. It was also something the kids could eat, though I saw Anya almost throw up when eating a piece of zucchini;)

I was proud of how well my tzatziki turned out and I was happy with how simple it was. I think we will be making this one again!

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Check out what other meals we have tried:

 

France: Part 1

France: Part 2 and 3

France: Part 4

Costa Rica: Part 1

Costa Rica: Part 2

Portugal: Part 1

Portugal: Part 2

Jamaica

Czech Republic

Italy: Part 1

Italy: Part 2

Spain

February into March

Where did February go? How is it March? I know that February is short, but it literally flew right by…

Travel:

  • January Wellness Weekend 
  • Weekend away with the kids - We are planning a camping trip for part of spring break. Stay tuned!
  • Anniversary weekend away
  • Family vacation - We have booked parts of our trip to Greece this summer. Watch for more information about the things we will be doing there!

Reading:

  • Read 30 books. (7/30)
  • Read 2 “self-help” books or books about fostering creativity. (1/2)

Writing:

  • Daily Q&A – Still keeping up with this!
  • Post in my blog at least 5 times a month or 60 blog posts. (10/60)
  • Work through the Right to Write. (43 chapters) (8/43)
  • 500 Writing Prompts – 3 writing prompts a month (36 total) (6/36)
  • Work through Writing Better Lyrics. (2 chapters per month, 24 total) (4/24)

Spiritual:

  • Practice and complete a daily devotional. I have been able to keep up so far!

 Music:

  • Create one new Singalong packet for my Singalongs (for work). (0/1)
  • Learn at least 3 new Classical pieces on the piano. (0/3)
  • Work on learning at least 3 of the modes. (1/3)
  • Listen to 10 classical music pieces. I have a new book about listening to Beethoven’s piano music that I intend to use for this purpose. (1/10) - I started reading this book and I am starting to listen to some of Beethoven’s first concertos.
  • Earn at least 20 CMTE’s (continuing education). (0/20) - I am finishing up a CMTE course right now that would give me 10 points, as well as supervising students that will eventually give me an additional 2 points.

Home and Organization:

  • Complete Bonus Room Transformation.
  • Fix the other part of the deck and stain it.
  • Wash windows and glass doors in the house.
  • Go through and re-organize the pantry. -
  • Go through refrigerator.
  • Go through freezers.

Family:

  • Inflatable Fun Factory 
  • CMoe
  • Game Night
  • Movie Night We watched Pete’s Dragon this past weekend and it was a really good movie.
  • Gatti Town or Chuck E. Cheese
  • Make a home video with the kids.
  • Paint with the kids.

Service:

  • Provide at least 3 meals at the Ronald McDonald house. (1/3)
  • Volunteer at the soup kitchen at least once.

Physical/Health:

  • Run the 10-mile River Race in May. - I am planning to start training more in March.
  • Complete at least 5 fitness challenges. Doing these kinds of challenges helps me to keep carving out time to do something physical and it gives me a chance to focus on some areas that I feel like I need to work on. (1/5) - I am in the middle of my second challenge. I’m having trouble keeping up sometimes but I’m making it work.
  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water on most days. - I kind of fell back into old habits, so I am working on getting back into this.
  • Do something active at least 3 times a week. – This has been working out so far!

Miscellaneous:

  • Eat at 8 new restaurants on our list of places to try. (1/8)
  • I plan to cook at least 10 international meals this year. (1/10) - We made a Greek meal this past weekend.
  • Take at least one day to “retreat” and work on my writing, music, etc.
  • Do something nice for myself at least 20 times. This could mean taking a bath, spending time playing the piano just for fun, buying a piece of clothing that I want, reading a book by the fire even when I still have work to do, or anything that contributes to the idea of doing something nice for myself. (1/20)

In February, we also celebrated Valentine’s Day and went to Disney on Ice with the kids.

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How is your year going so far?

 


California 2016: Day 10 – Yosemite

We spent our second day in Yosemite doing the things we had hoped to do on the first day, but it all worked out.

We did more hiking and got to see a really impressive waterfall, as well as hike to a little lake area where the kids took their shoes off and got in the water. We also saw climbers climbing up one of the really high mountains. They were hard to spot at first, but when looking through binoculars, you could actually see them on the side of the mountain.

On the way out of one area, we spotted a bear so we pulled over. It was in a meadow-like area and far enough away from us that it wasn’t even paying us any attention, but Anya was freaking out. Eric was holding Felix and he kept telling Eric not to get too close. Anya, on the other hand, was panicking and kept trying to pull me away from the grassy area but was actually pulling me into the street, though I kept explaining to her that we were more likely to get hit by a car than be hurt by the bear with as far away as he was.

We also drove for quite awhile on a really scary road to get to the top of the mountain to see a gorgeous view of the valley. On the way, Felix swore he saw a bear and looked for it on the way back down as well. Anya couldn’t stand that he had seen it and she hadn’t, so she kept asking him questions like “Are you sure it wasn’t a squirrel or another animal?”

We were lucky that we had great weather this day and were able to do a lot of hiking. I will leave you with more pictures.

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See what else we were up to in California:

 

San Francisco: Days 1 and 2

San Francisco: Day 3

San Francisco: Day 4

San Francisco: Day 5

San Francisco: Day 6

San Francisco: Day 7

Napa Valley: Day 8

Yosemite: Day 9

California 2016: Yosemite, Day 9

The 9th day of our vacation was also the first full day we got to spend in Yosemite, which also happened to be Father’s Day, which also happened to be one of the few days that President Obama decided to spend in Yosemite as well. While I admit that it was cool that we were in the same area as the President at the very same time, we did have to change our plans a little, because Obama’s presence in the park meant that things were closed off at certain times and this was causing major wait times to get in and out of the places he was visiting. This all caused a slight change in plans but it all worked out.

We ended up visiting the Sequoia Grove and Tuolumne Meadows instead of our original plans. We did some hiking at both of these areas and got to see a huge tree that was carved out in the middle so that you could stand inside it. There were also some beautiful deer in the meadows we walked through.

The day is best told in pictures…

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Read about the other days of our trip:

 

San Francisco: Days 1 and 2

San Francisco: Day 3

San Francisco: Day 4

San Francisco: Day 5

San Francisco: Day 6

San Francisco: Day 7

Napa Valley: Day 8

A Different Sort of Love…

So it’s Valentine’s Day and everywhere you look, there are signs for Valentine’s Day specials, Facebook posts, and couples strolling arm and arm or deep in conversation over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. There are people who love celebrating Valentine’s Day and there are those who see it as just another day. Some see it as just a Hallmark holiday that makes those of us in a relationship feel like we have to go all out and spend a ton of money for our significant other. But what if Valentine’s Day didn’t have to be about romantic love? What if it wasn’t even about platonic love or the love one might have for a friend or a parent or family member? What if we look at Valentine’s Day as a way to reflect on the love we have for ourselves?

Self-love has always appeared to me as a strange sort of subject, and it’s not something we think about much. But that doesn’t make it any less important. Maybe it’s time we ask ourselves “Do I really love myself? Do I love the person I am? And if I don’t, what is it about myself that keeps me from loving that person?” As a music therapist working in mental illness and substance abuse, I come across people every single day who have serious issues, and much of it goes back to self-esteem and how they feel about themselves, among other things, of course.

How we feel about ourselves dictates the way we act towards others and the way we allow ourselves to be treated. And the way we allow others to treat us flows down to our children. If they don’t see us taking care of ourselves, they won’t know that it’s important to take care of themselves. I know that seems impossible when you think about a child who is selfish and always puts himself first, but eventually that child will grow up and much of what they do at that point will be affected by what they saw and experienced in their own childhood.

So how do you know if you love yourself? I don’t think it’s an all or nothing situation, unfortunately. You may love certain aspects of yourself or your life but absolutely loathe others, and I imagine that the balance of those things puts us all on a sort of continuum of self-love that measures how content we are with ourselves.

Some questions to ask yourself…

1. Do you allow yourself to take a break from time to time? Do you allow yourself time to do things you enjoy? Many of us don’t give ourselves this kind of time unless we are finished with everything else we have to do, which is never, because the list is usually never-ending. This means that we don’t do a lot of things for ourselves unless someone pushes us. There has to be some sort of balance here. We can’t just go around doing nothing all the time and not getting things done, but we also can’t do anything BUT work, either.

2. How do the people around you treat you? If we are surrounded by people who don’t value our needs, then that will often rub off on us and make us feel like our needs aren’t important. Do you let the people around you talk you out of things you know you’d like or want? Or are they supportive of your desires and goals?

3. Do you mentally beat yourself up if you don’t do everything you think you’re supposed to do? Are you the kind of person who tells your best friend to take a break but then expects yourself to get it all done because “I should be able to handle it?”

4. Do you value your needs and see them as important, or do you always find yourself doing what others need first? If you are a parent or a “giver,” you might feel the need to always be looking out for others before yourself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…the world needs people like this. But the truth is, you can’t pour from your cup if it’s empty. In other words, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, then you can’t really do as much as you think you can for other people.

I could literally go on and on, but I won’t. What it all boils down to is that how we feel about ourselves is every bit as important as how we feel in the relationships we’re in. So maybe this year, that is something to ponder. I won’t pretend that I have it all figured out, because I don’t, but it’s something that I’ve been working on in my own life for a few years now. Yes, I said a few years. It’s not an overnight thing…stuff like this takes time and it’s a process.

I suppose it began with the realization that I am not at the top of anyone’s list of priorities. In fact, I’m not even sure I’m #2 on any of those lists, either. The sad part was that I wasn’t sure if I was even on my own list at all. I found myself wanting to do things, but then I would think “but (someone else) would rather I do this instead” and then I would proceed to do what someone else would prefer that I do instead of what I wanted to do in the first place. Of course, there’s a time and place for that, but that’s not every time it comes up. It sounds weird to say but the first couple of times I did what I wanted to do anyway, it felt weird because I hadn’t really done it all that much before. But I can tell you that it gets easier the more you do it, and I am slowly, but surely, starting to sink into a new way of thinking. You should try it sometime!

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