Happy Father’s Day!

Fathers Day 2014

Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing dads out there!

Marlon is in Stockholm for a speaking engagement, and we started missing him even before he left (yes, that’s possible). He hasn’t had to be away for more than five or six days for work, but it’s still difficult when he’s away. Even when it’s easy, it’s just… not as fun. I don’t know how the families whose dads travel frequently or are based abroad do it.

I’m lucky to have had a mom who was both mother and father to me, but this time of year I’m also filled with a nostalgia for something I never really had. It seems everyone is changing their Facebook profile photos to show fathers walking them down the aisle or playing the doting grandfather; in my photos, Dad is eternally young, and I’m still a chubby, curly-haired baby.

I guess by now you’ve seen Dove’s sniffle-inducing Father’s Day ad? It doesn’t have to be Father’s Day to make me grateful for Tala to have a chance at all of that. And isn’t that all parents want for their children—to give them something they never had?

Okay, enough sentimental jibber-jabber. I hope you’re showing the dads in your life how special they are today. Time to think up something fun for the dad in our life when he gets back from Stockholm!

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Date night: Rotterdam edition

It’s Date Night. And the crowd goes wild!

WWE Live in Rotterdam Randy Orton

With a beer in one hand, a cone of mayo-slathered frites in the other, I navigate the sea of neon-clad 10 year-old boys who are crazed with the first hormonal stirrings, accompanied by gym-ripped dads dressed in the tiny muscle tees and leather chokers they seem to have saved from their gigolo glory days.

I sidestep pimpled teens who are communicating to each other entirely in football jargon and curse words, and push past a handful of (surprisingly large) women sporting big blond hair, fake tans and slick faux-leather leggings.

I hand the beer and frites to my husband, who’s as excited as a puppy, and settle down for the main event. As sweaty brutes in one-shouldered Spandex onesies toss each other into the air and smash metal folding chairs into each other’s ridiculously muscled backs, as a wife, I wonder: “Whose idea was this again?”

Oh yeah. Mine.

WWE Live in Rotterdam

When I first bought tickets to WWE Live in Rotterdam as a Christmas present for Marlon, a lifelong WWE fan, it seemed like a stroke of genius. Hey, I liked Hulk Hogan when I was four, so I totally get it! I boasted, feeling like a cool wife. Let’s go to Rotterdam! We’ll make a weekend of it!

Sitting in that teeming mass of testosterone, I wasn’t so sure. My eyes clung desperately to Randy Orton (above), the wrestler who seemed the least like a caricature and most like a real person. Also, he’s cute. Eye candy makes a world of difference.

Somehow, I made it through the evening without turning into a hormonally crazed tween or an ex-gigolo dad. We left Ahoy Rotterdam with Marlon looking chuffed and acting suitably grateful for my wifely sacrifice.

Rotterdam Erasmus Bridge by night

As for me? I needed a stiff cocktail. Let the real Date Night begin!

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This man

… has been a revelation to me in the past year as a husband, friend, lover, partner, and most of all, as a father. I knew he was going to be good, but I never knew he was going to be this good.

Marlon and Tala bath

This man has been hands-on literally from day one. He holds his daughter with as much loving tenderness today as he did when she was a few days old.

Marlon and Tala in Greece

This man is always happy to see her and eager to take her in his arms. He adores her, dotes on her, gives his weekends to her, and she knows it. He has to be told, sometimes, actually many times, to put her down and let her play and learn by herself.

Marlon and Tala

This man swoops to my rescue when the last grains of my energy and sanity have fallen through the hourglass. His strong arms have carried his daughter up and down endless flights of stairs in airports, train stations, museums, our home.

Marlon and Tala in Paris

This man takes his daughter to the market every Saturday to give me precious time for myself. He occasionally returns with a new discovery—wild mushrooms, carob syrup, a lobster, how to shuck oysters—that fills him with an infectious delight. This man truly loves to cook for his family, and always makes sure I have a matching fork and spoon (because he knows I care about weird things like that). Marlon and lobster

This man has seen me at my worst in every possible way, especially in the past year. Yet he is still here, my fan and friend, my confidante and champion. He makes me laugh, forgives me and believes in me. He always has a good answer for my stupid questions like “Does this make me look like a wrestler/pillowcase/hooker?” He loves me in a way I know I will never be loved by anyone else, ever.

Marlon and me in El Nido

This man is the reason my family lives this life, why it’s so much fun, why we have so much beer in the fridge, why Tala has beautiful eyes, why I am a wife and mother, and why I want to be a better one.

Family selfie

This man turns 33 today, and I can’t wait for him to get off that plane from London and come home to his girls who love him very, very much. Happy birthday, my Googly!

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What’s in the birthday box?

Who doesn’t love getting presents on their birthday? When I was a kid, it was all about quantity—the thrill of seeing a pile (the bigger the better) of gifts waiting to be opened, the sheer delight of ripping through present after present.

That’s changed a bit over the years. I’m happy to open just one present on my birthday, knowing it’s been selected with care by someone who knows me well. Being the person who knows me better than anyone, my husband always hits it out of the park.

Birthday gift sketches on kraft paper

This year, Marlon had me at hello. It was impossible not to cry upon the sight of these doodles on kraft paper, and I almost didn’t want to open the package. Our family, our journey, our story so far…

Marlon's sketches on kraft paper1

 

… our dreams, our future and all the stories to come.

Marlon's sketches on kraft paper2

Stories of which I am clearly, and happily, this family’s designated documentarian.

Sony RX100 II

As much as I love my DSLR and lenses, I’ve been dying for a point-and-shoot ever since Tala was born. As the pack mule for my and Tala’s stuff, I really feel the added bulk and weight of a DSLR and one or more lenses. Digging in my bag for the camera, not to mention changing lenses, seems to take forever, like Tala’s moving at warp speed and I’m underwater.

I wasn’t satisfied with my iPhone 4 camera, but needed something small, light, and fast. Having lived in the land of manual settings for the last three years, I couldn’t go back to just any old point-and-shoot.

Enter the Sony RX100 Mark II. I first heard about its predecessor, the Sony RX100, from The Diplomatic Wife, a conscientious shopper who did her research and found it a consistent favorite on lists of top digital compact cameras. Marlon took a big risk buying me a camera without any involvement or research from me, but he nailed it with this choice.

 

The Sony RX 100 MII gets raves on most reputable tech sites, such as Digital Photography Review and Gizmodo. What I’m loving about this camera: small size, big sensor. “How many megapixels?” is for noobs; it’s the people who ask about sensor size who know where it’s at. Simply put: the bigger the sensor, the more light and thus information a camera can capture, which translates into better images (for a more detailed, well-written explanation, check out this article).

This camera also has the all-important shallow depth of field (two words: blurry background) I just can’t live without, plus the option to shoot on manual, shutter speed priority and, my personal go-to mode, aperture priority.

Best of all, it slips into a coat pocket, making it discreet (for those times when I want to be a stealthy blogger ninja), convenient and easy to whip out for split-second flashes of brilliance/activity/cuteness. A great compact camera for me, more pictures and videos of Tala for everyone. Win-win for all!

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Simple joys and something special

How was your weekend? Feeling tired and a little broke after our recent trip to Maastricht (plus we’re saving up for the Big Trip of the year in a week’s time), Marlon and I decided to stay in all weekend long. I know, married couples are boring, they never want to go out anymore, blah blah blah. Am I just getting old, or is staying at home simply more appealing now?

Whether forced by an empty wallet or by choice, staying in can be extremely recharging and satisfying. I think the key is to mix simple pleasures with a little something special. A Masterchef Australia marathon (such a good show!) on the couch with this adorable face napping on my belly (yes, a long naptime helps!)… now that’s a prime example of a simple pleasure that doesn’t cost a thing.

Tala napping

So is being treated to the sight of the funniest bedhead ever…

Tala bedhead

… and using cuddles and playtime to put the work week firmly into the past (especially for Daddy).

Daddy and Tala

The fun part is injecting a little something extraordinary into what would otherwise be an ordinary weekend. Just one well-chosen treat can make staying at home closer to being a pleasure than a belt-tightening measure. It could be a decadent hot chocolate or a new book to curl up with on the couch.

For us, of course, it’s food. On Saturday mornings, Marlon likes to take Tala for a walk to the Noordermarkt, giving me one precious baby-free morning a week. This weekend, he came home from the market with a large, very pregnant and very LIVE lobster, wild and not farmed, from the Netherlands’ own North Sea.

Marlon's lobster dinner

If you can get over the creepy factor of a plastic bag rustling in your fridge and can handle them without getting pinched, lobsters are the easiest luxurious dinner. Just drop in a pot, cover and wait a few minutes. We had ours with potato wedges and sweet potato fries, a lime, cilantro, garlic and butter sauce, and white wine from the grocery.

Lobster and wine

What simple joys do you enjoy during a weekend at home? And what’s your favorite way to inject something special into a stay-at-home weekend?

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