ericeiraAs the sun goes down on Saturday, tomorrow marks exactly one week since we got here. Ericeira, Portugal. Our home away from home–and we’re loving it more and more as the time goes by.

The first couple of days, the kids had to adjust to their new surroundings. I had to keep myself together as every instinct inside me wanted to bawl like a baby as I left them at daycare, crying for mommy and begging me not to leave.

The first three days were overcast and drizzly. That kind of gray light naturally affects your mood. It made me question everything. Was this too much change for two little kids? Could I cope with managing a full-time job (plus a few part-time clients), plus making sure the kids were OK and had everything they needed? In a second-floor apartment with no elevator?

I spent the first few days hardly sleeping, over-questioning, and wondering if what I was doing was insane. Then the sun came out and everything changed.

Once the mist lifted, it revealed lush green hills and jagged cliff tops, giant wind turbines dotted across the horizon and a coastline punctuated by point breaks, coved beaches, rolling waves, and whitewash houses.

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Happy Kids Ericeira

The daycare center is everything I hoped it would be and more. The peace that the staff transmits to the children is even starting to rub off on me. They are allowing them to discover, explore, play, express, and just be.

No uniforms, no focus on education, just continued mindfulness, enjoying everything they see from the smell of the flowers to the morning dew.

It’s a cultural rainbow introducing my children to the world. There are kids from Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Spain, and England. It’s a mishmash of languages but it doesn’t seem to matter because a smile, a gesture, and a focus on playing in the wild make my kids grin from ear to ear.

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Cataleya is communicating daily with me in a range of at least four languages probably only intelligible to me, but I love that she’s expanding her mind.

She even wants to watch the cartoons in Portuguese, even though I can switch them to English. Valentino is starting to say more words, but with all these languages, unsurprisingly, he’s taking some time to digest it all.

And it’s making me rethink so many things. Why I have had him in a uniform and part of an “educational project” since he was four months old, how much happier we are, and how much stronger and healthier our relationship is. And I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

It’s not like I’m working any less. But I am less tense and stressed when I’m doing it. Oh, and, I am making the time in my day to go surfing.

Being out in the ocean, paddling on a board, sitting up watching the horizon for the sets, and seeing the sweeping shoreline rejuvenate like no other vitamin or antiaging cream.

I feel happier than I have felt in years. Cataleya tells me how she loves me “so very very very very very much” every day, and Valentino charges toward me with a wide grin and flings his arms around me when we’ve been apart for two minutes.

The Perfect Place for Kids

The Portuguese transmit peace. They aren’t overly friendly and they aren’t closed off either. They don’t exude falseness or tourist fatigue. They are just natural and human. They take their time to do things, and no one minds. They don’t leap to please yet they are always open to help if you ask. And Lisbon is full of amazing places for kids.

Yesterday, I took the kids to a park at Santa Marta, just a few kilometers away from Ericeira in the car. I thought it was just a playground. Turned out that it was a beautiful cobble street town with a fully closed off park, kids’ slides and miniature houses, breathtaking views of the coastline, and a restaurant with real, healthy, delicious Portigues plates, open from 18:30 with live jazz.

kids santa marta

This country is compatible with children. You don’t have to keep cranky tired kids awake until 9 pm to start dinner or wait until 2 pm to have lunch. Things open and close earlier. The food is healthier, and the people welcome kids, even when they are laughing and yelling or throwing themselves on the floor,

Today, I drove right into Lisbon. I haven’t driven into a major city for years, in fact, like, really decades. I took the kids to what again, I thought would be another playground. It was hidden in a pocket of a wooded Lisbon suburb. Acres and acres of forest giving shade to the bountiful children’s activities. Slides, a pirate ship, adventure playground, bouncy castle, push cars and more.

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The restaurant there sold real healthy good, whole grain wraps with chicken and salad, soup, lentils, freshly squeezed juices–not the hamburger and fries you would get in other countries. Needless to say, all three of us were elated. The kids slept all the way back in the car.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that motherhood has been hard for me. It didn’t come with joy, it didn’t come naturally, and it hasn’t given me happiness.

Of course, I have always loved my children. I think that happens by default when you are a parent. But this time spent with them around the clock, spending more time to dedicate to my personal wellbeing, and to open my eyes to how amazing they are, I have fallen head over heels in love with these special humans I am proud to call my kids.

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The Barriers Are in Your Mind

There were so many reasons not to do this. The upheaval, the hassle, the uncertainty, the stress, the expense… the fact that so many people told me it was insane and I couldn’t manage it all alone. I’m not denying, it’s not all unicorns and roses.

Try being passed left and right on a Lisbon highway with shrill screams coming from the back because my kid has dropped her blanket. Or walking up the stairs with a kid on either arm and bags full of heavy shopping. Or leaving the dearest thing in the world to you in the hands of an unknown entity.

None of this is easy. Let’s be realistic. But I couldn’t be gladder that we are here, that I have made peace with my stage in life, my role in life, and that I have finally started to focus on self-care as well. This has exceeded everything I ever imagined and I’m fuelled with faith that Bali will work out just as well.