Paris

The last stop on vacation was Paris to see Emily. She’s been living there for years and knows the city now like the back of her hand, giving us the ultimate four day tour. She and I had spent months honing our plans, figuring out how to make the most of our trip. And while the weather thwarted a few things (the Seine was flooding!) I’m amazed at how much we got to experience. Best of all? Having your sister as your guide.

We took a train from Munich to Paris, which was a feat in itself. Emily met us at the station, flowers in hand, and we cried/laughed/cried some more all the way to our AirBnB in the Latin quarter. After we’d lugged our things up three flights of stairs, we made our way to Notre Dame, crepes in hand. Unfortunately the church was closed by the time we made it, but it was still a sight to behold against the stark white sheet of clouds in the sky. We finished our dinner at the steps of Shakespeare & Company, and Liam could have spent all night in their typewriter cubicle! The only thing that could lure him out was the promise of ice cream.

 

 

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We planned to spend the next morning at Centre Pompidou, a nice 30 minute walk from our apartment. Emily brought pastries from Chez Manon which we tried our best not to gobble down in seconds- they were that delicious. Our route took us back by Notre Dame, where we noticed there was no wait at the entrance (a rarity) and couldn’t pass up going inside. Liam was just as entranced as I was by the sculptures, reliefs, and stained glass windows. Outside, he and Emily chased pigeons around the statue of Charlemagne before we headed to the museum.
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At Pompidou, Liam impressed us again by being the perfect patron. It brought back memories of taking my brother to the art museum in Augusta when he was younger- discussing all the shapes and colors, picking out our favorite paintings.  It also helped that there was a small children’s area where little ones could use big stamps to create a backdrop for their very own photobooth-style portrait. It’s my new favorite picture of Liam.

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Afterwards we headed to the Marais for amazing falafel at Mi Va Mi, which we took to the Swedish Embassy gardens to eat. If we could have stopped and explored every little garden in Paris, we would have!

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That night we strayed the most from our itinerary. We had originally planned on having a picnic lunch at Champs du Mars, but the gloomy weather report showed threats of serious rain all weekend. The rest of our day was set to be cloudy but rain-free, so we decided to keep Liam up a little late and see the Eiffel Tower at night.

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After nightfall, the Eiffel Tower sparkles at the top of the hour- something we wouldn’t have seen if we’d stuck to the original plan! Definitely worth it. Liam rode the carousel closest to the tower (in a Le Petit Prince airplane) and on our way out he snatched a rose from a vendor who’d been heckling him. Whoops!

Friday morning we took the Metro north to visit Sacre Couer. The gorgeous basilica is on a hilltop, giving you yet another breathtaking view of the city below. We made a last minute decision to climb the 300 steps to the top of the dome- another “holy crap I can’t believe we just did that but this is so worth it” moment.

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We strolled through Montmarte, my favorite neighborhood of those that we saw. We stopped for lunch at Cafe Des Deux Moulins, which you may recognize from Amelié (one of my favorite movies)!  After a much needed nap, we took our time going back out to walk the Latin Quarter. Continuing our movie tour theme, we walked past the magical church steps Owen Wilson sits on in Midnight in Paris on our way to dinner. We gorged on fantastic pizza at Golosino, Emily’s recommendation, and ate crepes and gelato while walking down Rue Monge.
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Our last morning we spent in the Luxembourg Gardens (again, only a few minutes walk from our apartment). Liam and Ryan played at the giant, impressive playground while Emily and I sipped espresso on a park bench. We caught a show at Marionnettes du Luxembourg, a historic puppet theater that’s been in the garden since the 1930s! I was skeptical that Liam would enjoy it since it was all in French, but he watched the entire thing! His review: “The puppets didn’t talk with their mouths! They talked with their stomachs!”

After the show he took a ride on the Luxembourg carousel, the oldest carousel in Paris. It’s not flashy, but it features an awesome game- jeu de bagues- where all the kids are given sticks to try and catch iron rings on! Catcher in the Rye, anyone? Liam laughed the entire time. We walked around the garden, enjoying the immaculate landscape and watching older kids play with toy boats on the pond.

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After lunch in the park, the boys went back to the apartment and Emily took me to the Marais to do some shopping. It was impossible to believe that the last time we had spent an afternoon just the two of us was almost a year ago. We walked along the gloomy but beautiful Seine, had espresso and chocolate mousse, and wandered in and out of secondhand stores arm in arm. For our last evening together we all walked the Canal, Em’s favorite part of Paris, and ate burritos and drank beer by the water. Emily took Liam back to the apartment so Ryan and I could have a night out together. We caught some surf-rock bands at a local bar and ate gelato on the train home. Our taxi was coming at 4 AM to take us to the airport, giving the three of us an excuse to pull an all-nighter together.

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We were all heavy-hearted to say goodbye. Three weeks away from home is a while…but when you’re surrounded by people you love, the time flies by.

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See you again soon, Em! xoxoxo

Munich

As hard as it was to leave Croatia, we were so excited to get back to Germany and start the next leg of our trip. We spent a few days back at the Beresch homestead, which Liam lovingly calls the farm, thanks to the sheep and chickens who live there too! It was lovely to have a few days to play and relax before venturing off on our own.

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Being surrounded by farmland reminds me a lot of summers in Kentucky when I was a kid. We walked along the Danube and picked wildflowers, Liam helped gather the eggs for his breakfast in the morning, and the boys played soccer in the yard while I spent some time in my sketchbook. Pretty ideal.

For Liam, the most exciting thing about going to Munich was getting to see everything from one of his favorite books in person. For Ryan and I, it was getting to explore the city with bigger plans in mind… it’s our dream to someday make the big move abroad and live in Munich. We rented an apartment in Maxvorstadt, the university district, and had a direct view of the fine art campus. The neighborhood is filled with cafes and art galleries, bookstores and bakeries (these  two got a lot of love from us on this trip!). It wasn’t hard to picture ourselves living there.

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Our first full day was spent in the Kunstreal, the city’s museum quarter. We walked around the Glyptothek, King Ludwig’s personal museum of Greek and Roman sculptures, before heading to the Pinakotheken. We chose the Neue Pinakothek (18th-19th century; highlight was seeing Van Gogh’s sunflowers and Monet’s waterlillies) and the Pinakothek der Moderne (mostly 20th century). Liam amazed us and was a perfect patron- quiet, respectful, and interested in every piece. His favorites: every single statue, anything featuring animals, and a Picasso “Mutter und Kind” study that I can’t find a reproduction of anywhere! We could have spent a week going through all the exhibits, but when you’re dealing with a two year old you don’t press your luck. 

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IMG_6391.JPGIt’s also an advantage that the museums are surrounded by large green spaces, so it’s not hard to take a quick break and get some energy out. Munich is full of parks and squares that are great for running amok. 

Monday we took the train out to Allianz Arena for a stadium tour and Liam got a special treat- a personalized jersey! He chose the number 3 because that’s how old he’ll be on his birthday. Turning three is something Liam talks about incessantly… he’s already requested a blueberry cake and a new set of drums for the occasion.IMG_5869We spent our last day wandering around Marienplatz. We ate fresh-baked schmalznudel and raisin rolls for breakfast before taking an elevator to the top of the Rathaus (after climbing the bell tower in Croatia we were grateful for modern amenities!). Liam had a lot of fun pointing out the major landmarks from above, all of which he recognized from This is Munich.  We had lunch and a final beer at the steps of the Frauenkirche and snacked on hot roasted almonds all the way home. IMG_6227

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All three of us had a hard time saying goodbye… thank goodness we had a really good reason to get on that train to Paris!

Croatia

This summer, Ryan’s mama invited us to go on a family vacation to Croatia. We’d meet up with our family in Germany and drive south to Pakoštane, a small town where the Beresches have been vacationing for decades. We decided to extend the trip another week and a half to take some time to ourselves in Munich and Paris as well- so coming in at 3 weeks away from home, this was our first extended family vacation. It was exciting and a little nerve wracking to plan for an almost-monthlong trip!

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From one side of the Atlantic…
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…to the other.

 

Magically, our flight over was super smooth. Liam and I sat together and lucked out with the window seat! Also lucky- our flight left around 5 PM so we had a (somewhat) normal evening routine for L, just on a plane. I tried to keep everything as close as possible to how we’d do it at home, down to changing our pajamas in the airplane bathroom (the one thing I will never do again).  As seen above, he was kept mostly content thanks to his tiger headphones/iPod combination. I’m sure everyone around us loved hearing him hum along to the Young Folks music video on repeat.

Most exciting was having the opportunity to share in Ryan’s family tradition and build on those memories. After a 10 hour overnight drive, we finally made it to beautiful Pakoštane- a little town on the Adriatic Sea.  My favorite part about driving into a beach city is getting that first smell of salty air, and this trip did not disappoint. We stayed in a huge, bright yellow villa with a balcony view straight to the coast.

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The weather during our week in Croatia was up and down… some days had bright cloudless skies; others were grey and ominous. I ended up being thankful for the rain because it allowed us to explore more of the Dalmatia Coast, see some beautiful cities and soak up some history and culture. I love a vacation where you can learn about the place you’re visiting.  A trip both relaxing and educational is my kind of trip.

Our first day we went to Split, a city built around Diocletian’s Palace. It’s hard not to be amazed by a building that’s still standing after 1,700 years.

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And here is Liam, throwing a small fit at the steps of the palace! Those stones have been around for centuries and my kid is flailing around on them. Very cool.

The next day we spent in Zadar, a historic city built on a peninsula. Entering the city from the coast, you pass through an ancient Roman forum surrounded by beautiful churches. Another “how crazy we are walking through a place that’s been around for hundreds of years” moment! We climbed to the top of the St. Anastasia Cathedral’s bell tower to get the best view of the city. Liam especially enjoyed our descent: the bells rung right as we passed them.  We had gelato almost every day of our stay in Croatia-a euro for two giant scoops can’t be beat- and we took our cones back to the harbor to sit on the Sea Organ‘s steps. Though it had been turned off for the day, we were still able to enjoy the view of sailboats, submarines, and a few brave people who had decided to take a swim in the chilly waters.

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Thankfully the clouds disappeared for the weekend and we spent two beautiful days at the beach. The water was too cool to swim in for long but we waded up to our knees, combing the sand for hermit crabs. We spent the mornings searching for sea cucumbers and urchins, skipping stones, and snacking on cherries, apricots and “salt bread”- delicious fluffy rolls topped with a salty glaze. Ryan and I hiked up the side of the mountain to get a look at the city below and found the biggest dandelions we’d ever seen- as big as Liam’s head! And of course we ended each day with ice cream.

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Monday we took the drive up to Krka National Park, which was built to preserve the Krka river and is full of waterfalls. We were all sad that we didn’t bring our swimsuits- dozens of people were enjoying the swimming hole beneath the falls. Next time! Because yes, I’ve decided there has to be a next time. Croatia is just that amazing.

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And just like that, it was the last day of our first leg of the journey. We enjoyed a lazy day in town; Ryan and I spent the afternoon sans Liam, walking around and enjoying the sun. After dinner we had a final walk by the little harbor, listening to the church bells ring one last time.

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Before the trip I already knew that Croatia would be gorgeous- pictures of turquoise waters and terra cotta roofs before a background of mountains is enough to sell anyone. Being able to see it in person and explore it’s history made it even more beautiful and had me wishing we had time to get to know it more. Fingers crossed we will be together again soon.

two and a half

Dear Liam,

Two and a half feels like every all-nighter I ever pulled in college. Constantly going, always exhausted, often cranky, quickly satiated by snacks.

We got your endocrinology results back and you passed! Flying colors! Gone are the worries of bone diseases and vitamin deficits. Whew. You’re working hard every week in physical therapy with a doctor we love, and every day you’re getting stronger. And  more resistant towards naps. It doesn’t help that you’ve finally figured out that yes, you can get out of bed without permission, and yes, you can open the door all by yourself. It is simultaneously terrifying and adorable when in the wee hours of the morning I hear your bedroom door open and your footsteps pattering over to our bedside. You’ve also told us numerous times that you won’t go to sleep until the sun is down. Somehow I haven’t convinced you that you shouldn’t wake up until it’s coming up too…

Your favorite color is still orange. BB-8 has become your first true character crush- you go bananas for him. Probably because he is orange. Tigers, because they are orange, are you favorite animal, though your teddy bear Kodiak is a close second. You chatter nonstop to him,  explaining what you’re doing, giving him instructions. You love to boss everyone around: “So what you got to do it, put the puzzle piece riiiight here. Does that make sense?” You love cars and trucks and things that go, play-doh, and pretending (the last always comes with a verbal disclaimer- “I’m just pretending, Mama”).

The month has flown by. Looking back over my planner, every day had some appointment or activity. The weather has been (mostly) warm and refreshing, so whenever a free morning was to be had, we spent it outdoors. Pretty much every evening we go outside to run around, chalk up the sidewalk, or throw a ball around. We lay in the grass, snuggle up and look for the moon.

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Lots of love, little B.

xoxoxo

mama

Busy busy

Dear Liam,

A friend recently said to me, “How do the days feel so impossibly long but the weeks so short?!”This sums up our last month or so. Our schedule has been ruled by doctors appointments, and our in-between days filled with errands and activities. My favorite days are our Sundays together- these have become our slow down days. We read books, play games, draw together, cook together. We take turns picking out background music- I’ve been digging jazz (especially this album), you choose to listen to The Surfari’s “Wipeout” on repeat. We pretend to play all the different instruments we hear. Your favorite is still the drums- you work so diligently to keep rhythm!

You’re bright and adventurous, always asking questions and trying to understand things. Before you go to sleep, you relay your entire day to the crew of stuffed animals tucked in bed with you. I love hearing you explain all the things we’ve done throughout the day. It’s hard to get you to settle down and snuggle because you’re constantly going, but that makes those moments even sweeter.

We spent this weekend in Athens for a friend’s wedding. Papa and I had just had our fourth wedding anniversary, so it was especially fun to celebrate at the place where we first lived together as newlyweds. You were so excited to eat cake and dance! It was great to spend an evening together with old friends. This morning we slept in a little, walked around downtown and ran around the campus before heading home. The sun was bright and warm, the trees starting to bloom. It was the perfect way to welcome spring. After a winter of illnesses, broken bones, and lots of exhaustion, we are ready for this new season to begin.

I don’t expect things to settle down- we have a busy year ahead of us. But I’m hoping to get back to writing to you more regularly, taking time to slow down and reflect on our week (or month!).

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Personal aside: I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here yet, but we’re going on a 3 week trip to Europe in May! I’m playing with my Instax cameras a lot before we go in the hopes of learning their mysterious ways. It’s fun to take old-school analog pictures that I can’t edit or tweak. The whole “accept things as they are” mantra is something I’m trying to practice more. I’m also trying to figure out how exactly you’ll get a good night’s sleep on an overnight plane ride…

xoxoxo

mama

 

Self-Love

Dear Liam,

This is a picture of me, 23-and-a-half years old.

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I took this self-portrait (can I avoid using the word “selfie” here?) a week ago today. It seems like a rather silly thing to say that sharing this photograph is a big accomplishment for me. People take pictures of themselves all the time- it’s a part of our “front facing camera” culture. But whenever I become the subject of my pictures, or any pictures for that matter, an intense anxiety takes over.
 
I’m an extremely self-conscious person. I’ve carried this trait with me for a while, since I was about eight years old. Most of the time I’m fine, but out of the blue a switch flips- I’m aware that everyone around me can see me. I remember that I have a body and a face and a voice that I’m in control of but will never truly experience as an outsider. I choke up, I get nervous sweats, I suddenly feel claustrophobic. It’s like stage fright- except that the entire world is my audience and I am perpetually the performer. Youd think that maybe seeing pictures of myself would help, that Id be able to say, Look! Youre a person, just like everyone else.  But all I can see are those telling signs that Im not comfortable. See my mouth, how Im trying not to show my teeth? Or my hands, sticking out like that. Why did I think that would look natural?
 
Sometimes, I get a hold of myself quickly. I’ve found I can abate these feelings with a simple reminder: I am more aware of my physicality than anyone else. I try to look at myself from a distance. I stop zooming in on my face, stop pressing my nose to the mirror. And when I do that, I can relax. I really do like myself. I’m no narcissist, but I have come to love my appearance with a certain fondness. My physical appearance is not exactly like anyone else’s, and isnt that in itself beautiful?
 
But self-love can be an exhausting exercise. It’s hard to have to run through this whole spiel every time I get that feeling. Besides, you dont always have the time to give yourself that pep talk. One easy way to avoid all of this hassle? Avoid the camera. If I’m not having my picture taken, I don’t have to feel that anxiety. And why does anybody want to see my face, anyways? I’m defined by more than my appearance alone. So here, look at the son I’m raising. Here, look at the art I’m creating. Here, look at the places I’m going and the things that we’re doing. 
 
There’s nothing wrong with doing that- except that I’m using it as a crutch. Sure, I am much more than my physical body. But I am also that physical body. I cannot hide that, no matter how hard I try- that’s just how it is. That’s being a person. So if I have a picture of myself that I think is as beautiful as a picture of a fern, or a book, or of you, and refuse to share it? I’m just letting my anxiety control me. 
 
Here are my goals: that loving myself becomes more and more natural. That my self-consciouness will not always be so present, will not always be such a burden. That I will not have to talk myself up to see that I am a subject worth documenting and sharing.
 
There may come a time when you start to see yourself a little too closely. You might be having a conversation with someone, you might be in a room full of people, or maybe you are just drinking a cup of coffee alone in your kitchen and suddenly you remember. “I have a face. I have a body. I am a person who exists outside of my own thoughts.” And you might begin to feel that sinister anxiety take over you.
 
My advice? Go find a sunny spot, set up your camera and take a picture of yourself. E-mail me that picture, or whatever people are doing 20 years from now. Remember that you are always worth being seen. Remember that I always want to see you.
xoxoxo
mama

Today I Am Very Emotional Thanks To Star Wars

WARNING: This was written during an extreme vortex of complicated emotions as a result of watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Dear Liam,

This morning, sitting in the movie theater with my head slightly tilted up towards the screen, I was transported back in time to my grandmother’s den. Five years old, the words STAR WARS appearing in bold yellow, those first notes of the main title march ringing in my ears, my stomach pressed against the dark green carpet, my head slightly tilted up.

One day, I’ll be happy to tell you all of the Star Wars centered quirks and obsessions of my childhood. How I dreamed of becoming a director who would make the final Star Wars trilogy.  One day, I can tell you how as a teenager I became discouraged by my own limitations, jaded by the filmmaking industry (and Star Wars itself!) and how I gave up on my dreams.

It was a little heartbreaking to sit in the crowd today and think about that. I started to trace back every step in my life that took me further away from that dream and felt really small. And then I had a big thought, a lengthy thought that I will tell you all about right now:

Though sometimes you might be blinded, though sometimes you might be lost, though sometimes you might feel scared: if you truly love something, you will always find your way back.

I have always wanted to tell stories- especially in a way that combines words and images. But because I’m not a professional filmmaker or production designer or graphic artist… oftentimes I look at my little sketchbook sitting on my little desk in the corner of my bedroom and I forget why I’m making art. I focus on the things I lack instead. And then I start to feel really lost, like what turn did I take to get here? Which makes me scared. Have I been fooling myself all along? And just like a few Star Wars heroes… I think about just giving up on it all, walking away and trying something else.

But I am not meant to do something else. Even if I haven’t gotten a degree or written a book or achieved whatever accolades I’m convinced I need to be “for real”… I am meant to tell stories. 

The crazy thing is: I do that all the time. Most of my day is telling you a story- telling you “Hey! Look at this amazing cool thing. Look at this magical piece of our world, let’s explore it! Let’s talk about it! Let me tell you what I know about it!” Whether it’s in sharing a book or a movie or a part of nature or a family tradition… I’m constantly crafting your universe.

So yeah, my name wasn’t on The Force Awakens’ rolling credits like I dreamed about when I was five years old. But one day there will be an end credit to your movie- your life- and it will say: Created by Ashley Beresch. Me! Your mom.

xoxoxo

mama

Small Breaks

Dear Liam,

You’ve broken your leg (again)!

Last week you slipped on one of Cassie’s toys. It was a stunt that Papa says looked just like the slipping-on-a-banana-peel gag- limbs splayed, mouth wide open in shock.  We thought it was surely just a sprain… but nope, you managed to get a small, barely noticeable fracture to your tibia.

On the bright side of things, we’re lucky enough not endure another SPICA situation. Your cast just goes mid-thigh and they were able to skip a sedative to put it on.  The fracture has nothing to do with your bones- you don’t have any disease or growth problem which is reassuring. We also get go back at 3 weeks (Christmas Eve!) for your follow-up, which is half as long as last time. But on the other hand… you’re several pounds heavier and a few inches taller than you were 6 months ago, so schlepping you around is a whole lot tougher. The doctor assured us you’d be able to walk, but so far you’re hesitant. “Oh mama. Liam no walk. I broke my leg. Big boo-boo, got a cast. Liam no walk! Cast is so big. Too heavy, it no work!” Your great vocabulary and ability to speak your mind are awfully wearing when you’re being stubborn or particular.

I keep telling myself “It’s just a small break!”.  A small break not just in regards to the bone, but also to our routine. We’re practically experts on how to handle this anyways. I’m finding it important to give myself a break too. Between the pneumonia and this, it’s been a struggle to keep everything in balance. It’s easy for me to hold on to the little anxieties, letting them stack up until they’re crushing me.I’m working on letting go. On not letting the half-finished chores or unswept floors or incomplete doodles get to me.

I’ll have to let you know how it goes…

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Sometimes the small breaks provide the nicest small pleasures.

xoxo
mama