Brussels is NOT Paris

Turns out the job Ms. Chicken has been chasing is in….Brussels.
Now nothing against the fine folks of Brussels but that was, initially, more than a bit disappointing.

I have a habit of eavesdropping on important phone calls and what I heard went something like this: “Oh. The jobs not in Paris? Brussels? Oh, Brussels. Ok well I’m going to have to think about that. Brussels. Hmmm.”

And on the other side of the door I began googling “Brussels with children”.

Paris is sexy. Everyone knows that.
Brussels is… Um. You see, that’s the problem. Aside from beer, frites and chocolates–we knew next to nothing about Brussels.

Less than 24 hours later we’d found out enough to be sold. Turns out Brussels is a mighty fine place for a little lesbian family.

-Second country in the world to legalize gay marriage 10 years ago in 2003
-European Union headquarters means many, many expats from all over the world. This is a city used to dealing with “different” (Paris, for all her charms, does not embrace “different”).
-Housing prices are much cheaper than we could have even imagined. And because of the expat in/out way of life there is a constant surplus to choose from.
-Green. My god it’s green. Forests and parks everywhere.
-French is the dominant language spoken, followed by English and then Flemish. Yes, the ability of being able to conduct at least some of life in English is expat “lite”, I know. But it’s better than than being reduced to tears on a daily basis (like the last time I lives in Paris) because my French sucks.
-FREE preschool! Yes, I’ve been planning on homeschooling here in NYC and road schooling while traveling long term but c’mon this is totally different. They can go to ‘maternelle’ from 8:30am-3:30pm M-F with a half day on Wednesdays. And it’s ALL in French. If we’re going to do it, lets DO IT.

Best of all there is a huge, active expat women’s community that has already welcomed my inquires with welcome arms. You can never underestimate the power of community–especially since we have such a strong one in NYC we will be leaving behind.

The weather is less than spectacular. There will be a lot of rain. Perhaps cold rain. With grey skies. This part sucks and does give me pause. But then I remember how close and easy it is to travel around the region and what an adventure it will be.
I’ll buy a sunlamp, do more yoga, up the antidepressants and embrace the changes.

Hmmm…..Brussels? Didn’t see that one coming.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Moving to Paris with Young Children?

Things are moving at breakneck speed all of the sudden.
I knew it would happen like this, but it’s still overwhelming.

Chicken has an interview in Paris.  She’ll be flying out sometime in the next week or so (TBD).
The direct quote was “They feel very, very, very strongly about you” and a bunch of other fabulous things.
So, um, whoa.
If they* like her, she will be

hired for a six week trial training in Paris.  After that, both parties will decide if it’s working. 

If it is….we move to Paris.

Excuse me, but my head is about to explode.
Last time we were in Paris, May 2005

This means that shortly after her interview we very well could be frantically packing up and moving out…by the end of June.
The boys and I will join her in Paris for the six weeks because this is, after all, a family decision.  We all need to be there trying it out.

I’m thinking about really stupid things like, “Should I cancel the boy’s gymnastic classes by this Thursday’s deadline?” “Where can I buy a sunlight so we don’t all die from light deprivation?” “Is it imperative for a French woman (or one interviewing in France) to wear a skirt to an interview or can she wear pants?”  “Do I want to live in a city where I can’t spend my entire day running around in yoga/workout clothes?” “I think textiles are more expensive in Paris.  I should probably use that Bed Bath Beyond coupon and buy new towels and bring them with us.” “The boy’s table manners are f*cking abysmal, there’s no way we can go out to eat in Paris.”

Hello, she hasn’t even had the interview yet, let alone got the job!  Getting ahead of myself much?

Oh, but my brain races.

In the meantime, the Bangkok deal has yet to be fully discussed so there’s still Thailand on the table.

The jobs are different.  The cities couldn’t be more different.  There is simply no comparison between Paris and Bangkok.
I mean, it’s like trying to rate New York City against Kansas City.  They both have “City” in their name and that’s about where the similarity ends.
Bread, Cheese and Wine VS Noodles, Fish and Mango Smoothies.

I’d  probably be healthier in Bangkok, but I sure do love a perfect baguette and some stinky cheese.

*Many of you have inquired the nature of Chicken’s career.  I can’t really talk about it in detail but it’s along the lines of corporate intelligence.

How Do You Prepare for the Unknown?

We are gearing up here at Casa Puffer for travel.  Um, maybe.

The plan has always been to take off as much time as possible and travel as a family.
Originally we thought we’d be able to take a year, but the rules have changed at Chicken’s employer and it’s highly unlikely we’ll even be granted 9 months.  We think we’ll get 6 months and honestly that is a wonderful chunk of time to have as a family traveling together.

Once we decided we were really going to DO this, Chicken also decided she was ready to put a new message out to the universe:  Send an

international job opportunity our way.

Since then, we have had opportunities present themselves in Hong Kong, Berlin, Paris, Latin America, Singapore and now….maybe….our dream city, Bangkok.

How do you prepare for the unknown?

It’s gone something like this:

Hong Kong looks like it’s going to happen, we’re in round 2 of interviews and I already know which island we’re going to live on, the village I’d like to find an apartment/house, how the transportation system works, where the wet market it, how to get things delivered, where to go for yoga, swimming, hiking and I’ve made a family budget.
Of course, the job went to someone already based in Hong Kong.

But no worries, because now there’s something happening in Paris or maybe Berlin.  It looks like it would be based in Berlin.  OK, I don’t really want to do winter at all let alone more winter.  But I love a challenge and a new adventure so let’s learn about Berlin.  Oh hey, the cost of living is super cheap.  Wow.  OK, cheap enough that we can live nicely and still have enough left to save and take a vacation during the long, dark winter so I don’t go stark raving mad.  Eh, but there’s still all that snow and ice to deal with.  I don’t really want to learn German.  It’s not exactly my….favorite….language.  Ah, but Berlin is really happening and the arts scene is fabulous and life there could be super cool.  I can do it.  Let’s go to Berlin!

What’s that?  There might be a position in Singapore?  Really, Singapore?!  Fuck Berlin!  I didn’t want to go to Berlin anyway.  Never did.  Tell me more about Singapore.  Oh, you’re waiting to hear.  OK.  I’m going to go ahead and stay up until 2 am for the next 4 nights researching everything about living in Singapore, just in case, OK?

Wait, now Paris is on the table?  Oh god, really?  Not so sold on Paris either, but damn, it beats Berlin.  Searching for the best arrondissement to live in with kids…found the perfect neighborhood, totally affordable and we can send the kids to French preschool for free.  Oh my god, have you seen the menus for lunch in French preschool?  Holy shit, I’m going to see if I can eat there, too.  Oh sweet Jesus I don’t have to worry about feeding these kids lunch four days a week.  Paris rocks.
Are you qualified for this job?  You aren’t exactly fluent in French, more like basic.  Oh god, my French sucks.  I wish the French spoke Spanish, it’s so much easier.  But Paris IS beautiful.  But the Parisians aren’t exactly known for letting foreigners into their circles.  Am I going to end up a depressed mess, alone with cheap wine in a dark apartment?  Maybe I could get a sunlamp and up the antidepressants, after all this is the prime time for the kids to learn a 2nd language.  Suck it up for the children!  Get a grip, you can do this.  Living in Paris is going to be great–when do we leave?  We need to leave in the next couple of months because if we arrive too late, we won’t be able to get the kids into a maternelle (preK) for September and I really don’t want to make lunch everyday, they need to get into a maternelle!

What’s going on with Singapore, by the way?  THE call is tonight?  Really?  They want to pay you how much?  That’s a pay cut.  Screw that, Singapore is as expensive as NYC, there’s no way we’re taking a pay cut.  See ya, Singapore.  You are a boring, sterile bubble anyway (but I’ll still gladly live there if you pay us enough!).

Ah, the lady in Singapore sent your CV (resume) around to others in the South East Asian (SEA) region?  Someone in Bangkok?  For real?  The head of the team is based in Singapore but we could live in Bangkok?  And he already called you, emailed you and texted you the same day your CV was sent out?  OMFG.  THIS is what I’ve been waiting for!

And….dear readers, that brings you up to date with the level of change and chaos in our household for the last month.

It IS stressful, but in no way am I complaining.  There are so many options presenting themselves  and these are wonderful ‘problems’ to have.

My main ‘problem’ is my intense desire to know every single thing about every possible ‘maybe’.  This has caused me way too many late nights and I really let my head get away racing with thoughts of a new life in Hong Kong or Singapore or Berlin or Paris (we decided against Latin America, the large cities don’t appeal).  This is something I have to stop doing as it just stresses me out more.  I’m not doing it with Bangkok (well not yet anyway…).  Of course it helps that I already know tons about living in Bangkok so my curiosity is not at the unknown level.

For now we wait.  We wait to hear about Paris and Bangkok.  We wait to hear about any new news.  And we still have our wild card–after all, the original plan was to travel.  Just travel!
In case none of the work abroad/we are now expats plans pan out, we will travel.

I am way out of my comfort zone with all of the not knowing which equals not being able to plan.  When people say “So, are you guy really moving (ie: giving up our apartment in NYC)?  Where are you going?”  I don’t have any sort of answer to give them.
I know two things and only two.
Either we will be living abroad or we will be traveling abroad.  With careful planning, I have managed to secure 4 one way, business class tickets on Cathay Pacific from NYC to Bangkok (all free with my frequent flier miles!). 
We will be gone by October 8, 2013.
We land in Bangkok.  That’s all I know.  Yikes!

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Cherry Blossom Festival

Every spring the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens celebrates the Cherry Blossom Festival with an enormous Japanese Festival, planned for the peak of the blossoms.  It’s an amazing celebration, but also an incredibly expensive one at $20/person.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to shell out $80 for a family of four to see….a garden.  Yes, a magnificent garden, but for $80, I’ll pass.
Here’s a secret:

 It’s FREE on Tuesdays!

That’s right, all day on Tuesdays the entrance to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is free for everyone.
Since we choose to skip the extravagant (overpriced) festival, I opted to take the twins to see the Cherry Blossoms–for free–before the blooms were gone.
We were not disappointed.  The weather was perfect and I knew it was going to be a great day when the boys helped me back a lunch, pick out their clothes and get dressed.  These are no small feats before 9am with 3-year-old twin boys who prefer to go without clothes for the majority of the day!
Digging in the dirt.  They could’ve done it for hours.  Sticks + patch of dirt = babysitter.
A friend, who happens to be part of a future nomadic family herself (they launch for Central America this July), joined me.  Check out her journey at Witness Humanity.  Jenni is a nanny and her three munchkins and my boys had a blast running through the trees and digging in the dirt.
What a beautiful morning.

 One way to fit in some cardio–CHASE!

So…this is what I look like relaxed with just one small baby. I like it.  But no more!
My main squeezes

Do I see more Brooklyn Botanical Garden playdates in the future?
With this amazing weather and the free admission…why not?


Yes, Girls Can Do Push Ups

In regards to my previous post, thanks for the comments and suggestions both public and private you posted.  The support is appreciated and it did help me.
I wish so much crazy wasn’t woven deep into the fabric of “me” but it is and I just have to keep moving forward and do the best I can.

The healthiest thing I’ve done is to let go.
Meditating the negative past away in a burst of air–although it may have been something like a bursting fiery flame released from the dragon’s mouth that made me feel better.  Burn, baby, burn.
I know, that doesn’t sound terribly forgiving or a very healthy way to go about it, but imagining fire engulfing certain “events” in my life makes me feel better.  It works.

Other things work, too.
Working out works.
Running, biking, pumping.  Letting those good endorphins wash over me.  It’s been something I have let go since getting pregnant and finally almost 4 years later, I’m back in the gym and getting serious about my fitness future.

This past month and 1/2 I’ve gone back to a weekly yoga routine, biking, lifting, and swimming.  I’m not the best swimmer but I love it and the fact that I get to swim laps with Julia Stiles really helps me to get motivated.  She, by the way, is an awesome swimmer with a rocking body.  I fully admit that I can’t help but stare when she gets out of the pool and walks away.  In the hopes of seeing Julia nekkid I always think “Hey, maybe I should go take a shower now!” But that’s seems too lesbian stalkerish of me.  So, I keep on swimming.

The yoga practice is by far the most rewarding–even if I’m surrounded by grandmothers instead of movie stars.  You don’t get too many young people or uh, even people my age taking yoga classes mid-mornings.  Naturally, when you are doing poses next to an 80-year-old you feel pretty awesome about your practice.  I highly recommend it.

Today, I saw my friend at Our Spirited Life posting about a 100# push up challenge and I thought….YES!  This is what I need.
Girls can do push ups, too, right?  Well, I can do 6 perfect ones right now so we’ll see how I end up by the end of the month.  It can’t hurt and holy crap pregnancy didn’t do my arms any favors.

Reminds me of when one of my very best friends came to visit me a couple of months after the twins were born and remarked “Wow, you’ve really lost most of the baby weight already!”  Then she reached over and jiggled my upper arm as she said “But your arms are still fat.”
Love her……honesty.

So, here I go, 100 Push Ups Challenge.
Care to join?


Bringing Up the Past and Letting Go of Anger

Have you ever found yourself unexpectedly facing the past?  A past that consumes you with anger?
Oh, my past.  There are so many stories to tell.  Many that I’ve forgotten and many more that I want to forget.
Damn you, FB.

An innocent friend request.  Someone from my 20+ years ago past.
I hesitated for over a month.
Finally, I accepted.  When, out of curiosity, I scrolled through her friend list the name I found hit me hard and sent me reeling.
In an instant I was back there again.  I knew better but I couldn’t resist, I’d gone too far already.  I clicked through and found the current details.  I saw photos and almost vomited.
My skin crawled and anger rose instantly.

I’d hoped she was dead.  She’d almost died so many times.
But there she was.  A new name.  Much older and withered, but very much alive.

My first love.  She not only broke my heart, but she broke me.
The emotional, physical, financial and psychological pain she caused me all those years before derailed my life for the better part of a decade.

Reliving those memories is not something I want to do.  But now I’m forced to do so.  And I’m angry.
My god, for the last 2 days I have been so incredibly angry.

Last night, I meditated and let my mind go.  I remembered the past.  The snapshots of toxic ‘us’ played in my head.  I tried to forgive myself for making such bad choices.
My entire life had been filled with drama and abuse and bad choices.  There were no good role models for me to model any other type of behavior.  Of course, I would be attracted to complete trash.  I was trash myself.
Ouch.  Cutting myself open and bleeding it out.  Bleeding out the trash, the past, the filth, the lies, the love, the hate….letting it all go.
I cried for that girl I used to be.  I was only 21 and I was such a fucked up mess.  How damaged must I have been to love someone like that.

I want no ties to that.  I can’t erase my past.  What’s done is done and I paid the price heavily.  But I need to remember it, embrace it, forgive it and let it go.

Easier said than done.  How do I do that?
I’ve come so far in my life and this one act brought me back 23 years.  It punched me in the gut and rocked my emotional state.  I need to let it go.

How do you let go of anger?

I defriended the original request as I don’t want my perpetrator to have any access to my life/details.


Bangkok or Bust

There’s been so much going on with ‘plans’ and I’ve gone too far inside my future head.
Taking a step back here’s what we have decided:
We don’t want to move to Europe or Latin America.  Our sights have been set on Asia 100% and that’s where we want to channel all of our energy.
Receiving a blessing from the monks in 2004
So, Chicken is interviewing for

jobs in the region (Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok).  A LOT of feelers/connections, etc have been put out and we will have to see where this all leads.

IF the expat/work abroad gig all comes together in the next 6 months, then we move.
IF it doesn’t, we go with the original plan of traveling with the kids.  The sabbatical will be 6 months-one year.  Not sure how much they will give us and we haven’t pushed it….yet.  Of course, I want one year!
Either way, in six months we will be GOING!
The official countdown has begun.
I am positively giddy with the excitement the future is going to bring.

In my room, Nong Khai.  Thailand 2004
Plus, there’s one more HUGE decision we’ve made.  The NYC apartment will be gone.  We’ll not try to sublet it or hold onto it.  We will go and be free.  Whatever we decide after re-entry, is a mystery.
Perhaps we’ll stay abroad or find a place on the beach or…who knows.
But, we are GOING!!

My scooter, loaded up from a shopping trip.

Paris or Berlin?

In a strange sudden twist, there’s more on the table for our possible expat life.
For the past year I’ve only been focused on Asia.  Nothing else was on the radar.
I might as well have declared “Asia or Bust” because it was only going to be Asia.
And then….you start putting things out in the universe and she not only answers–she yells.
In the past month we’ve gone from traveling for 6 months – one year to:

Living in:

  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Latin America (Mexico City, Buenos Aires or Santiago)
  • Paris
  • Berlin
And if you are curious I’ve listed them in order of personal preference.  This is important because of regardless of our focus on Asia, the EU gig has
the most potential to pan out.
It’s all happened very quickly and IF Chicken were hired on for this project we could be out of NYC by May.  That’s 2-3 months.
So, of course the first thing I did today (OK, after making a latte and the boys breakfast and giving them forbidden objects to keep them sufficiently involved in their play so I could do my work) was start cleaning out file drawers.  I mean, either way, we’re going somewhere.
Could be 2 or 3 months or 7 months, but by late September/early October we are out of here.
For 2 years if we do the expat thing, a year if it’s sabbatical.
Might as well start cleaning it all out now.

The initial round of ‘talk’s with Hong Kong start today.  I hope it goes well and it leads to the position.  But if not, then we keep going.
I can get excited for just about anywhere.  It’s all just one great big adventure and I’m ready!

Best of all is talking about it to the boys and daily one of them will ask me “Show me where we are going.”  We have a lot of maps posted and atlases that we pour over and talk about.
Wherever we end up, it’s going to be amazing.


My Favorite Way to Wake Up

He nudges me in the soft early morning light.  It’s not time to wake up, but he’s so snuggly and sweet I can never refuse his small body burrowing under the covers next to mine.
“Are you mommy?” he whispers.
“Yes, I’m mommy.”  This is something he does regularly in the dark, in the night, when the lights are low.  
“Are you my mommy?” he asks as he touches my face.
“Yes, I’m your mommy.  Your mama-mee.”
“Are you the nicest mommy?” he wonders.
“Yes.  I am.” (Well, what would you say?)
“Are you the prettiest mommy in the whole wide world?” he declares, not so much of a question and definitely not whispering anymore.
“Well, yes, sweet boy.  I guess I am.”

My heart melted over and over as Grunter wrapped his little boy arms around my neck, hugging me tight as he said he loved me.
I’ve never been told I was the nicest or prettiest, but this little boy, MY little boy thinks his mommy is the best thing in the world.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t think I’m the prettiest mommy, which I assure you I do not, someone does.  My child.
What an amazing thing.

There have been many different ‘favorite ways to wake up’ in my 43 years, but right here, right now, this one tops them all.


Stolen Pregnancy Photos

Long time readers will remember that more than once in the past I have had my pregnancy photos stolen and posted on FB’s accounts.
It’s happened AGAIN.
I can’t be sure, but I think this is the 5th time.
What is up with that?
Why would anyone post a photo of MY pregnant twin belly and then try to pass it off as their own for thousands of people to see??

And the irony of this last THIEF, is that the woman calls herself “Fashion” and yet she posts a belly shot of ME in Old Navy pj pants and a white sports bra?! WTF?!
Ha! Ha!
Not so fashionable!
If you’re going to be all low class and steal photos, for god’s sake at least do your homework a bit better.