The truth about road trips

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Road to Everywhere. Cruising our way through the cloudy Splügen Pass, a mountain border made nearly invisible by the misty weather that day.

We’ve been offline for a week: Drove through 4 countries in one day, wandered through legendary castles, forests and sped through heart-stopping autobahns…celebrated the great-grandfather’s 87th, visited a UNESCO Heritage City, hunted for Steinpilz and ate half a roasted duck, got hooked on Leberknödelsüppe, had our very own Oktoberfest with an accordion player. Drank even more.

Taught my kids that seasons change, and so does the view in different countries, the cultures, the schnapps, the language, the weather—but never the need to say thank-you.

We passed over the Alpine range twice and stopped to smell the bright yellow flowers at the top.

Splügen

Here, we took a break from the 8 hour drive to enjoy the sunlight atop Splügenpass, the mountain border which divides Italy and Switzerland. Going there was a drive through thick fog and rainy weather.

Truth be told, I was scared to venture on the invisible path which climbed higher into the clouds, but still I trusted my husband’s good driving skills. The return trip a week later was much easier—sunshine and bright green illuminating the now-visible zig-zag path, making it more of a joyride.

In a way, I loved the fact that we were disconnected (from the internet), and free to just enjoy each other. With no social media access, there was no news from other continents, no updates to share, no other lives to compare with, but the joy of our own special moments, and our fun-loving kids.

Time for hugs at "Mittelpunkt", the exact middle point of Germany

Time for hugs at “Mittelpunkt”, the exact middle point of Germany

In the car, of course the husband and I bickered (8 hours a day is a long way to drive!)…but we also made up, played Who Am I games, read novels (me reading aloud because it was less scary to look down at the book than through the windshield while racing down the autobahn…) and listened to really corny music on the radio.

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I’m addicted to mushroom hunting! So are the kids ;) In search of steinpilz (funghi porcini) behind an old castle in Germany.

And the truth about long-distance road trips with family is that they do test your parenting patience, your marriage, your endurance and tolerance. They leave you with those rugged memories of both adventures and misadventures.

on the road again

Leaving Switzerland. After a week of being on the road, still all smiles. And what gorgeous weather we were welcomed back to in Italy!

Travel is EXHAUSTING when you’re a mom—but I am grateful for the chance to show my kids that the world expands, and home is where the LOVE is—wherever we may camp.

On Possibility

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My son’s second question after meeting anyone for the first time has become the standard, “And what language do you speak?”

It’s no wonder that he’s gotta sort this one out from the start. From the Philippines to Germany and now northern Italy, he’s interacted—and reacted—in several languages.

We are raising bi-lingual children, observing how effortlessly they learn and form words, phrases, and sentences to communicate. I say “observe” because the truth is, we don’t have to “teach” much at all. It’s simply always German with their father; always English with me, consistently.

Karsten can switch, translate, and go from one language to the next in the same conversation with the two of us parents, without even thinking about it. His sister, although she doesn’t talk yet, makes it clear that she understands every word—in either language—and will soon catch up verbally.

Exploring the monastery at Piona

Exploring the monastery at Piona

I am also constantly amazed at the fearless way they will start communicating with random strangers. When going for walks, my son always tries to listen for the sound of other languages.

If it’s German, he’ll be so pleased: “Sie sprechen auch Deutsch!” (They also speak German!)

If English, he’ll talk about superheroes and space. “Do you watch Futurama and LEGO movie Batman?”

If Italian, he’ll use what little he knows: “Giocare con me!”(Play with me!)

He can recognize the sound of Dutch, but not how to speak it—only that his friend Anna, went back home to Amsterdam last month, and she is Dutch.

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He’s quick at translating one word to the next, one meaning to another in an entirely different language.

But usually, we have to explain the bigger words and their definitions. Kinda keeps me on my toes—or in my thinking head.

Yesterday, he asked me: “What does “Possibility mean?”

I had to pause and ponder a moment.

Possibility…

“When something is possible, it’s doable. It could happen. You could make it happen,” I replied.

spielplatz

He spun contentedly on the swing while digesting in his busy brain, this new, five-syllable word. It sounds nearly the same in Italian: Possibile…yet very different in German: Möglichkeit

For me, the word POSSIBILITY carries so much hope.

It’s probable…it’s achievable. It’s reachable.

And I do believe it is important to teach our children to achieve, to reach, to do, and to dream.

Possibility starts with a dream, doesn’t it? When it’s possible, you don’t give up hoping. You don’t give up that dream.

Are you carrying possibility in your heart today?

Are you letting yourself reach for something you never thought possible before?

Are you doing, daring, and defying the odds?

And are you working at it with faith in your heart?

Well then, it WILL be possible for you!

…and speaking of possibilities, this week, my son begins his fifth school in a new country. With a new sprache/ lingua/language.

For sure it will be a challenge at first, but later, a guaranteed asset. Soon his world may be as diverse as the languages his tongue can speak. We’ll make it happen, one day at a time.

“tutti è possibile!”

 vercana

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” –John Lennon

 

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”—Emily Dickinson

…so tell me, what does the word “POSSIBILITY” mean to you?

 

stones

A Magical Summer & FinerMinds Feature

beachart1Doesn’t it seem like summer is slipping away too soon? We enjoyed our days and nights with the crisp warm weather, the unusual rains and occasional thunderstorms.

I hope you enjoyed the season too, that you learned new things, saw new places or new perspectives, or grew with challenges in greater ways.

But most of all, that you made time FOR TIME–with your loved ones, with your children, or with those who you may not have as close this time next year.

stonesYesterday, the awesome folks at MindValley published my piece on Making Room for Magic on their FinerMinds Blog.

Mindvalley invests in pushing humanity forward. They develop knowledge products, media platforms, community events and movements that help people in the areas of personal growth, entrepreneurship, lifestyle applications, and continuous education. 

I’m honored to be able to share my writings there with a greater audience, and hope you will take time to read the other helpful articles on their site. Thanks for reading!

Seven Ways to Make Room for Life’s Magic and Gifts

shutterstock_130937636By Nyx Martinez

I am no psychologist, or degree-holding professional. I am simply a mother, wife, and lover of life. And life has taught me that there is a force out there, greater than ourselves, which causes amazing things to happen.

But it’s not just out there…it’s right within us. The difference between people who experience magic in their lives, and those who don’t, is that the former consciously allow amazing things to happen. They focus on it. They acknowledge its existence. And what they concentrate on is what comes to life.

As if by magic.

(Continue reading the article here.)

Chiavenna kids

Valchiavenna: Time Travel, Tots, Puddles and Paint

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In this village, they say that when the Leone mountain across us wears a grey cap—when the clouds sit low on its peak gathered like a hat—it means we will have rain tomorrow.

Apparently, it’s true.

Photo of Lake Como by Wikimedia

Photo of Lake Como by Wikimedia

Last weekend, on Saturday afternoon, even though the skies were bright blue, the mountain, our ever-present and glorious background, wore a cap.

The husband and I watched silvery flat clouds shifting around its head, gathering into a perfect hat shape—not hovering like a halo, but softly settling on its crown. The son peered out with his binoculars from the hillside Bellavista restaurant terrace in Vercana where we’d gone for pizza and house wine.

“Yep, bad weather tomorrow,” we both concluded, in-between the daughter’s incessant babbles.

We clinked our glasses and drank away the afternoon, because that is what you do here on a weekend after 2pm—whether sun or rain.

Chiavenna Valtellina

So the following day, despite the rains, we headed to Chiavenna, just 16 kilometers away.

The old town cultural center, still preserved, winded the way typical Italian towns do, with their renovated cobblestone streets, semi-uncluttered gutters and olive-green shutters decked with rose-red flower pots.

walk in chiavenna

Swiss and German tourists huddled under umbrellas, checking out the Saldi signs, but all was closed during siesta hours.

“It just can’t be SUN-day,” said my son aloud, “there’s only RAIN today!”

And he said this with an air of excitement. It was still a lot of fun to wear bright rubber boots and splash around.

Valchiavenna Valtellina

But it was Sunday, and also siesta, for that matter, which meant I and my wallet would not be parting—at least not for three hours.

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An aquarelle painting exhibition near the piazza by British artist Kim Sommerschield, was the perfect place to wait out the drizzle.

Beautiful sharp strokes of the familiar mountains in deep blue and sienna, the misty lake and its wildlife splashed in striking hues, and my favorite of the water-colored portraits, a Charlie Chaplain.

Kim Sommerschield Charlie

Next, we headed for the Palazzo Vertemate Franchi, where the daughter was far too noisy, so I excused her from the tour group and headed out to the hallways to walk amongst scary portraits of middle-aged plump women in way too much jewelry and ruffles.

chiavenna palazzo

When it was time for panini and aperitvi, we headed back to the historical center for snack under the now sparkling sun.

The weather here is like that, shifting from one second to the next.

Prosecco for me, succo de mela for Karsten, a birra media for the husband and latte fresco for Alex. (I found I never have to worry about bringing milk on outings, as one can always order it fresh from any bar.)

Chiavenna stroll

I also had bresaola, a kind of salty, dried meat from the plush Valtellina region, plated with steinpilz, a delicious wild mushroom, and sharp rucola salad.

Observing my two curious kids splashing in puddles, being fascinated by waterfalls and hidden corners, even the way they sat down on the side of a random street, just to…sit and watch the world go by, reminded me that life is for these tiny, treasured moments.

Chiavenna kids

Did they understand a word the tour guide was saying in the grand palace? No.

Did they care that it was rainy weather and not “suitable” for exploring? Of course not.

Did they whine that, during siesta no stores were open to browse? No, not these kids.

Chiavenna sidewalk

They simply enjoyed what life had to offer them in that moment: lots of muddy puddles, fascinating steep steps and cobblestones, giant door handles fabricated hundreds of years ago…

…and ripples of murky water in an old piazza fountain, reflecting their own mischievous smiles.

Chiavenna fountain

+++

Back at home, I continue painting my version of the Montana Leone, the forms I see in it, the colors that inspire…

…the daughter picks up my brush and messes up a corner.

I let her…

painting the mountain

No matter that the weather is grey, or how many clouds gather at its peak, that mountain will always be beautiful, and it is the daily view like this that makes me appreciate my own sense of sight.

painting colico

Every morning, we get to wake up and watch it shift forms, spreading out on the horizon “just like a volcano,” my son always says, excitedly.

We get to see it transform, and at times completely disappear into the fog…but it always returns, to welcome our days, or to say goodnight.

“It’s as if you’ve never seen it before,” my husband remarked yesterday, when I’d had an explodation mark about its current beauty.

But I agree with my Belgian neighbor, Cara, who says, “It’s the most beautiful mountain in the world!”

Montana Leone

And if you could see it, I bet you’d say so, too

Mornings in Como

lago di como

Mist masked the Alpine mountains, while long, low-hanging clouds sliced through their peaks this morning. They shifted but refused to pull back completely. At 10am, I pondered aloud whether to go for my daily run.

“Just go. You’ll feel much better,” answered the husband, knowing I was thinking about the weather forecast. “I don’t think it will rain.”

When, at last, the baby was asleep and knocked out enough for him to take over parenting duties, I set out.

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lago di como boatDown the steep slope where our summer casetta stands overlooking the upper west end of Lago di Como, past a stone hedge with outcroppings of beautiful lavender where sheep graze, turning behind the town’s stone chapel with its bell tower, I cross the busy highway, and set out on a pebble stone bike lane. It curves around the lake and connects three rustic villages.

Not a soul in sight. Perfect, just like the view in front of me.

It’s Monday morning, but no one else is occupying the lake except a couple ducks. A slow start and I’m awkward in the cold, whipping wind.

I pass green shades of olive, oleander and juniper trees, low hanging branches dancing in the wind and high climbing cypress trees guarding manicured lawns. On some stone walls, Roman goddesses of marble, peer down serenely at me.

There are luxurious holiday villas, age-old Italian homes, sprawling campsites and cozy enclaves. The waves from the lake lap gently at a pebble-stoned beach. Continuing onward, I jog. No kids, no husband, no dirty dishes nagging in my mind. Only the open, welcoming path.

It leads to the next small town with its quiet harbor, and quiet promenade leading past the ferry port. My breathing taps the silence; it is calming, and so are my thoughts.

Funny how nature changes ones mood.

rainbow lake como

I think of the chores of everyday life—the washing, the cleaning, the cooking, the housekeeping. Always, someone, to look after, to cook for, to tend to. Such is the life of a mother. But I knew that before becoming one.

Today, I am grateful for one hour of silence and stillness. Just by myself and my thoughts. It’s almost surreal, my magical new home. Tucked between the Valtellina, below Alpine peaks where snow still cascades, the lake gleams now in glorious sunlight.

I thank God for bringing us here, no matter the problems and hard work it took to get us, a whole family, right where we are today—a perfect place.

I pray for peace to stay…for the strength to face each day ahead, doing all those tasks only mothers know about, to keep their home running with love and enough energy, willpower and patience.

Soon it’s time to turn around. Duties call…Baby will be awake soon, and I’ve still got the uphill run.

Eight kilometers later, I’m back up the cemetery cobblestone path, just before the bell tolls. Taking a short cut behind the old chapel, I come up on a stony, grassy slope overlooking it, and I’m now higher than its bell tower.

The book I’m currently reading, La Bella Lingua, speaks about Italian campanilism or “local patriotism”, derived from the word for bell tower, campanile:

“Campanilismo fosters an our-belltower-is-higher-than-yours local pride as well as a tendency to view even folks on the next hilltop with a certain amount of suspicion—and sometimes derision,” says author and Italian-language lover, Dianne Hales.

And if I were born in this tiny town, I’d have that campanilismo, too. It’s a beautiful place full of romance, adventure, and idyllic charm.

Turning the corner, there’s a sudden steep incline, up the road named Paradiso. I slow a bit, but do not stop.

Do not stop…

Passing the long lavender blooms, this time their deep violet color welcomes me at the end of my run. From here, on top of the hill, I can finally look back at the view of the lake from where I’ve come, see down into the distance, and know I’ve aced another nine kilometers.

Flinging open the door, I smile at the two little faces I love most.

“Mom, can we go rainbow hunting later today?” the son asks, as drops fall gently from the sky—they waited till I was indoors—and turn into a shower.

“Of course we can,” I answer.

There is a cozy fire crackling in the hearth, and the children have been playing in the warm living room. Could the day get any better?

But it does.

The laundry is washed and hung, a clean batch folded neatly and put away. The dishes are done and dried; all beds are made; the bathroom is spotless. I couldn’t ask for a better house-husband or a better place to call home.

This is what it’s like most mornings, living under the rainbow.

rainbow in july

kite

The Explodation Mark

thunderstorm

When was the last time you felt truly excited about being alive?

When did you last laugh out loud for no reason at all, but just because something made you really happy?

Let’s admit, these are not every day emotions. For many people, they can be more the exception rather than the norm.

And yet, why shouldn’t we be excited every day?

What really holds us back from joy?

I’m gonna guess it’s just being adults. Grown-ups don’t or shouldn’t get too excited, we think. Focus on the tasks at hand…over-think the problems…groan about what isn’t right in our world.

But kids know best that happiness and excitement just can’t be contained. My son calls it, having  an Explodation Mark. (I didn’t bother telling him the punctuation sign is actually called an EXCLAMation mark!)

It usually happens just before his favorite LEGO DVD starts…he jumps around…cheers and gets all crazy…

“Settle down,” I’ll say.

“But mom! I’m just having an Explodation Mark!”

Or upon me announcing that it’s time to go to the gelato bar now—

Uncontrollable excitement.

“Settle down now!”

“But mom—I’m just having an Explodation Mark!”

Or when someone—anyone—scores in the football match…

“Yeeahhh! TOR!”

“Settle down!”

“But it’s just my Explodation Mark!”

zirkus2

Well, this week, I have been having a few explodation marks of my own—and they weren’t even the kind that begin with stress and end in tears (usual for us moms, you know!)

They were the happy kind, the blissful kind, and even the jump-up-and-down kind, like my son has at times.

And I realized, it was because, recently, I have made up my mind to get more excited about life.

No matter how stressed I feel…

No matter how uninspired home chores can be…(No matter that my daughter just plopped my phone in the mop bucket and killed it.)

No matter what life surprises with or the challenges each day brings.

rainbowhunting1

Explodation Marks can even be just bursts of gratitude.

Or, they can be moments of peaceful silence.

Explodation Marks can be that serene feeling, watching a sunrise

Or a fantastic thunderstorm.

Explodation Marks can be long hugs between you and your partner

Or of course they can be more than just hugs.

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Explodation Marks are really saying, what my other kid has learned to say over and over again, her first actual English word:

“WOW!”

When I hear her say it, I am reminded to always see the wow, and say it—even if only silently, in my heart and mind…but sometimes, out loud, too:

Wow, Life, I am grateful for these moments with you.

Wow, Problems, you sure know how to challenge me!

Wow, Stress, you again?

Wow, Fear, you really think you are going to win?

Wow, Nature, let me never forget your beauty.

Wow, Universe—you continue to surprise me.

Wow, dear God, you are truly amazing.

kite

And you know what?

The more I see and say wow, the more explodation marks I allow myself, the more Real, True and Authentic, meaningful experiences come into my life.

More magic happens. More amazing people cross my paths. More serendipity. More Wow.

If you want your world to come alive, allow yourself some childlike awe, some Explodation Marks. Have more fun, and you will feel more alive, guaranteed.

NumNum!

Kids make the best cartoon characters. Old people too, but since I have daily access to these pretty animated kids, I’ve going to be drawing them more. With great opportunity at mealtimes to crank out some silly faces.

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Check out this artwork as a T-Shirt and Pillow design here in my store :) It’s caled “NumNum”, because that’s her word for her favorite thing in the world: food.