Random Thoughts

mimiblair instagram paris vespas

mimiblair instagram paris vespas

By Gabrielle. Photo from Maude’s Instagram.

Welcome to October’s installment of my random thoughts. Halloween is just a few days away, and then the holidays officially start. (So soon!) Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

– On my weekend link list, I mentioned the Facebook Live video I did last Thursday. It was sort of a post like this — lots of random thoughts — but a spoken version. Me on my living room couch, chatting about all sorts of things. I’d like to make it a weekly thing, so I’ll be doing a second one tomorrow. You can watch LIVE starting at 11:00 AM PST. Spoiler: I know one thing I’ll be talking about is favorite things to buy in Japantown. And if you comment, I’ll try to respond on the video!

– Our Halloween costumes are 75% done. Betty’s is complete — she’s being a pumpkin. June’s is complete — she’s being an angel. Olive’s has been ordered and should arrive today — she’s being Guy Fieri. Oscar’s is not even started. He wants to be a Rubik’s Cube. But we’ve done that one before, so I’ve got a good plan. I’ll gather supplies today and try to make it tomorrow. The first time he needs is is Saturday for our church Trunk-or-Treat.

Something unusual for us: Ben Blair and I haven’t gone to a costume party in ages, but we have several invitations this year, and I’m realizing I may need to come up with costumes. Maybe I’ll go with something simple from this video I made. How about you? Do you dress up each year? Or is it enough trying to come up with costumes for your kids?

– Maude has officially been in Paris for a month and a week. Gosh we miss her so much! But happily, we skype almost every day. During her free hours, she explores the city non-stop and it’s so fun to hear about her adventures, or see an instagram of a picnic she’s having on the banks of the Seine. This week, the family she is an au pair for is out of town. (French schools have a 2-week fall break.) So Maude has a break from work. Her cousin Lucy came to visit for the first week, and for the second week, she’s headed to Switzerland with her cousin Roxcy.

She loves the family she works for and I can see her independence and confidence increase daily. When she gets back from her trip to Switzerland, it will be November, which means UC college applications are due! So we’ll be doing lots of back and forth to finish those up and make sure she’s marked it off her list. So many good things in her future!

– Ralph also seems super happy. He arrived in Colombia yesterday and we got a quick note early this morning letting us know he was safe and happy. He’s been assigned a trainer — Elder Porras from Mexico —  and they have been asked to work in a small village about 4 hours from Bogota, called Barbosa. He says “Bogota is one of the coolest cities I’ve ever seen — mountains and bricks and rain.”

It was just a quick note and we’re dying to hear more! What is Barbosa like? How is the weather? Has he tried anything yummy to eat? What is his apartment/house like? As you can imagine, we look forward to his weekly email like crazy.

– The house definitely feels different without the older two kids. I find myself resisting getting used to it, and instead thinking of it as just a temporary change. It feels like so many less people! Which I know is strange because there are still 4 kids. But that’s how it feels. We had a lip sync contest the other day and it took me a minute to get used to the idea. Like, we’re still going to do these even though we’re missing people? Such a strange sensation!

– Did I tell you we have a funny car situation happening? We’ve been a one car family for ages. We’ve driven a Honda Pilot since we moved here (our 3rd one — we’re fans!). But last spring, we looked into adding a second car for the two teenagers to share, and decided on a Fiat 500e. I think they may only be available in California. What I heard is that California required Fiat to offer an electric version in order to do business in the state, so they made one just for that purpose and they weren’t very excited about it. But it turns out customers love it! It’s fully electric, with no gas option. It can only go about 90 miles between charges, so it’s not a roadtrip car. But it’s perfect for errands. It’s cute and little and only seats 4 people.

Well, our Honda lease ended as we left to France this summer, which means we came home to no car. So we bought the fiat 500e as planned, and figured we’d get a new family car too. But we haven’t actually bought a family car yet! We had decided on the new Metris beacuse it’s super similar to the VW Van we drove in France — sort-of industrial and the perfect roadtrip car for a big family. But then, the two older kids moved away and we weren’t sure we needed such a big car. And then we just started living life and haven’t ended up getting a second car at all. We’re still just using the little Fiat. Hah!

The Fiat has been perfect for our daily errands. But we still need a car that will fit the 6 of us left at home — and something that we can use for long drives. So we need to buckle down and pick something already. Although the idea of just renting a big car as needed has also come up. This development is definitely nothing I would have predicted.

– It’s not even cold here, but suddenly I’ve been making hot cocoa like it’s going out of style. I realized we had to go out for more milk twice this week because I’ve been drinking so much. Hah! I think it’s a sign that I’m ready for the holidays to get here.

Though if I’m honest, I’m having such mixed feelings. This year has had so many emotional changes and I wake up longing to beg God to just hold time still for a minute and let me catch up (whatever that means). It’s like I can’t believe it’s really time to thinking about Thanksgiving, and I’m also looking forward to all the smells and scents and tastes and activities that come with November and December. How are you feeling? Is the year going too fast for you? Or are you excited November 1st is less than a week away?

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

51 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. It’s so great to hear how your older kids are doing.

    So how do you all get to church with one car? I’ll be curious what you decide on.

      1. Well that’s the big question, right? That’s why we need a car that fits everybody! Hah!

        Happily, we’ve only been dealing with this for about 6 weeks (we rented a van when we first got home so we had time to do car shopping). And really, the driving we do is school drop-offs and grocery store runs, so there are only a few people in the car at a time. But I know we’re going to have reasons that we all need to be together in the car. Time to make a decision.

  2. We try renting a big SUV or a mini van for vacations and often run into issues where they give us a car reservation but then when we show up to pick it up, they only have smaller vehicles. So maddening.

    Glad your kids are doing well. My son is a senior, and we just got his apps all in. I’m already feeling a little wistful for the years gone by.

  3. Your kids picked such interesting costumes! (and challenging: I can’t wait to hear about the Rubik’s cube!)

    My husband and I usually try to dress up to hand out candy in the evening-nothing crazy: usually just something we can create from what we have (or with minimal purchases). This year, however, is our first year with children in our lives. Our children are 4 and 5, so this is their first “real” trick or treat Halloween, I think. They decided to be Superman and Batgirl, so I think we are going to be superheroes as well, to give the kids the thrill of camaraderie. For kicks, we’ll probably dress the dog up as well. When your kids “come home” a little bit older, you miss out the baby firsts: so when you get a real good one like the first true Halloween, you’ve gotta seize the opportunity and be all in!

    I’m thrilled it’s Halloween. This has been a really challenging year, and while we’ve had a lot of victories recently, I’d be lying if I said that there isn’t some small part of me that is ready to box up this year and send it packing! Ha!

    1. I hear you. 2016 has been tough in so many ways!

      I love the idea of family costumes. Superheroes sounds perfect. And I just realized when I read your comment that I forgot to link to the Rubik’s Cube costume. I’ll update the post now.

  4. I’ve always been curious how bigger families handle cars/transportation! My parents are switching from three vehicles (two cars and a truck) to just two vehicles (the truck and one, possibly smaller, car) after about 5 years of having the three. They had gotten the third vehicle for a couple of reasons: my dad needs the truck because he maintains several properties my parents own and because he is a realtor that shows a lot of rural properties, but the truck is terrible on gas and he also sometimes has to travel pretty far to show properties and wanted a car better on gas for that, and because they had 3 kids in high school, and then in college. Now my brother has his own car, I’m living abroad, and my dad’s work is generally closer to home (and both my parents are considering retiring pretty soon if possible).

    This will be the first time in my life I won’t be “home” and with my family for the holidays, and I can’t decide whether I have much to look forward to or not. I really don’t have any plans so far, and I’m in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Halloween and celebrates Christmas according to the Eastern Orthodox calendar (January 7th) and traditions. I’m sure it’ll be pretty different from what I’m used to!

    1. Oh Beth! I’m sure it will feel challenging sometimes to be so far from home for the holidays. I hope you have a few expat friends you’ll be able to gather with if you’re feeling homesick.

      I know that our Thanksgivings in France were some of our favorite ones. No one else is celebrating, so it felt special, and trying to track down traditional foods (or something close) was an adventure.

  5. One car!! I’m feeling the stress of transitioning from a mini-van to a 5 seater, and we only have 2 ladies! We use to take kids and friends to experiences but now have to think who do we really want to join us- a bit of a bummer…

  6. Dear G,
    I meant to drop you a line sooner to share a funny moment… Back in September, when you wrote about Maude’s decision to go to Paris and mentioned that Roxcy was already there? Well, I was actually in Paris at the time and saw Roxcy out-and-about that same afternoon! It totally cracked me up to see her and think “hey! That’s…”! So funny! :) Though of course I didn’t say anything to her as she scootered past, as I figured that would just freak her out. LOL

    Small world!

    1. Sorry for any confusion. I toured the Volvo factory when I was in Sweden, but I didn’t buy a Volvo. I love Volvo’s but they don’t offer a version that fits our whole family.

  7. Mixed feelings about the holidays this year! I usually love this time, I honestly think I prefer the prep to the actual celebrations, but this year it’s getting crazy. A couple of weeks ago our move to London was set in stone. I’m very, very excited and so is my husband, but the kids are still freaking out a bit. I take great comfort in knowing so many people have done this before us (thanks for moving to France, it’s been really helpful!), but still, it’s a big change. And we’re moving right after Christmas. So this holiday season is now full of to-do-lists longer than I ever could have imagined, and so far none of them has anything Christmassy on them… Turns out moving five people to a different country is a bit of work! Wish us luck :)

  8. Here in Texas, we drive Suburbans when we have to take a family. I’m in a family of five so it works — three rows, and plenty of room in the ‘trunk’ even when the third row is up. But, now, I’m looking to down-size. I have such a desire to be in a Smart car or something teeny-tiny, but that’s not realistic. I still need three rows, but don’t want a big ol’ SUV. Looking at a Volvo xc60 or the Pilot. Thoughts?!?!?

    1. I love Subarus. In 2018, Subaru is coming out with a new 7 passenger vehicle- maybe you can wait that long? Currently, we drive a Subaru Triebeca, a small size cross-over with 3 rows (no longer in production) As soon as we’re done with hockey gear & teen boys, we’ll go back to a Subaru Outback Sport (Now called the Cross Trek), which is a smaller car, with great gas mileage, but still holds a lot of gear. Best part is the all-wheel drive which is standard on models.

  9. Hi Gabrielle, Greetings from Alberta, Canada!

    Long time follower, first time commenter! We were just in Lake Louise for Canadian Thanksgiving, and my daughter said to me as we looked at the turquoise waters, “Mom, aren’t you just so glad Design Mom finally made her dream come true of visiting here?” Your reach is far, Gabrielle!

    I relate to your post on so many levels, as for years we have been in the beginnings of the empty nesting phase, with our older girls out meeting the world on their own terms. Frankly, I couldn’t be prouder of them, and happier for them.

    I have always been thrilled to read of your older children’s adventures, their wanderlust, and their maturity in reaching for their own dreams. Olive, at 13, doing her semester in France! Ralph, with his choice to complete high school early. Haiti! And Maude, exploring the streets of Paris and saying, “Well, I love my high school, but I am ready for something new!” Oh my goodness, that life that is pulsing through your kids’ veins is palpable.

    And, of course I feel your heartache too – just one photo of airport departures hits me hard, hard, hard, as it’s a scene I’ve witnessed over and over. Our middle girl left the nest at 16 while we were living in Germany to pursue her dream of professional dance training, meaning that she moved to a city 3 hours by express train to live in a German boarding house. I knew that this move was symbolic, because of all that it represented: Family life, as we had known it for 16 years, was a thing of the past, and we needed to fully embrace the new normal. If I didn’t embrace it fully, I would be in trouble – of falling prey to nostalgia, of wishing things were different, and of wallowing in self-pity. Was this the kind of Mother I wished my children to see? No.

    Shortly after that we moved back to Canada at the same time our eldest flew away to university on the other side of the country, and our middle attended yet another professional ballet boarding school. With one daughter still at home as we went through the excruciatingly painful process of expat re-entry, I felt like I was always needing to explain, “Actually, we don’t have an only child, we have 3 daughters!” It was weird, disorienting, and I often felt I was over explaining our life story. I have long since learned to relax – it’s so much simpler!

    As I see it, the truth is: “Who are we to hold our kids back, to stop them from at least attempting to realize their dreams?” We live in a city where the majority of kids continue on the university in town, so having kids go away makes you feel very, very different, and sometimes I’d get a bit down about this. I felt strange as I would hear seemingly innocent and joking comments like, “I could never do that!” (meaning, let my kids go). And then I’d think: Wait! All I’m hearing is the “I, I, I” of the parent. “I don’t want empty dining room tables. I don’t want to be on my own. I want the fulfillment that comes from being needed, I want the glory of being seen surrounded by kids.”

    I feel we need to watch that, as parents. I take myself back to my younger self, and oh, Gabrielle, how I COULD NOT WAIT to have adventures, to explore the world, to learn, to grow, to become my own person! I feel that for my personality, staying close to home would have been a slow and painful deflation of myself.

    It’s just so wonderful to watch our children expand and grow into their potential – and they do come back, oh yes they do! With lights in their eyes of adventure, stories to tell, and yes, a new, respectful, grown-up relationship with their parents. As I type this, I am just heading home to Skype with my middle daughter presently in Bangkok, shadowing doctors at the Bangkok Hospital before she joins a group of German Surgeons travelling to Myanmar to perform surgery on cleft palates and other necessary surgeries. She is on a scholarship from the University of St Andrews to travel the world for a year and learn about all types of medicine in between her medical studies. Eldest Daughter just left for London, England, for an exciting experience in her field on International Relations – specifically reconciliation. So, we’re back to one child at home, but our hearts are full.

    Our home will always be their safe harbour, and we hope they visit often, but how we rejoice, each and every day, to see our birds not only fly from the nest, but soar.

    Life is Short; Life is Long, and above all, to be lived fully.

    Keep on Keeping On!

    1. Valerie, what wonderful perspective you have! What a gift for your children to feel supported without feeling guilty for leaving to pursue their dreams.

      I haven’t lived nearby my parents in a decade, and though they have always been supportive of me, there seems to be an undercurrent of sadness that I don’t choose to live closer to them. I can’t imagine what it would be like to pour so much of yourself into your childrens’ lives to then have to release them to the world. I only hope that should I have children someday, I can emulate your wonderful perspective and be able to celebrate and encourage their growth and blossoming.


  10. This is my first time posting, but I’ve had several random thoughts lately:

    -The first 20 minutes of this podcast has me thinking a lot about truth: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/599/seriously

    -I read fb post recently in which the author used his counting of Trump/Clinton yard signs as proof that if Clinton wins, the election is rigged because he has counted 10 to 1 Trump signs in his area. I rarely pay attention to yard signs, but I’ve started counting on my commute to work and in walks in my neighborhood. In our area, there are about 12 Clinton signs to every 1 Trump sign. But, the most interesting thing is the number of yards with Republican Candidate signs that don’t include a Trump sign. For about every 5 Republican yards, I’ll only see 1 Trump sign included. I wonder if this true in other parts of the country too? My favorite sign so far is one that reads “Love Trumps Hate.” I don’t typically put yard signs up- what about everyone else? It’s been fun counting (and of course in my own way, proving that fb guy wrong, at least in my area!)

    -My husband is starting a new job, and previously, he was in a career with a uniform. He now needs to dress “Business Casual,” but is a taller & heavier man, so is struggling to find clothes that make him feel comfortable and self-assured. I’ve been trying to help him, but struggling to find good options that match our styles & community (jeans in church!). We spend so much time talking about women’s fashion and weight that we (or maybe, just me) don’t always recognize that men often face (and care about) the same struggles. Does anyone have recommendations? Also, who knew that there are so many “man-geared” style websites!? Not me! :)

    -Finally (a bit tongue in cheek- see the last bit), we recently moved and were excited to have a wood-burning fireplace. Of course, after closing, we discovered the chimney had to be rebuilt, so we decided to put a high-efficiency wood burning insert into the fireplace. So far, we love it- we’ve haven’t turned our heat on & it keeps the house the nice and toasty. But, speaking about my husband, he is all consumed thinking about “wood,” optimal fire burn vs heat, etc. Daily, I listen to long speeches about how much firewood, how to season it, how hot the fire should be, and many other thoughts related to fire. I find it to be so cute how much thought my husband is putting into fire. When it comes to fire, are all men this way? Is it an evolutionary trait carried on from our ancestors? Or is it just my city guy expressing his rural roots?

    Stick with one car- how fortunate you are to have that option. Rent when you need something larger.


    1. Totally loving your random thoughts, Sara! So glad you posted.

      I’ve been thinking about our fireplace too. It’s a functional fireplace, but we’ve never used it since we moved in. We dealt with a lot of smoky fires when we lived in France and I just wasn’t up for the smoke damage here. I’m wondering what my options for a gas insert, or wood-burning stove would be. I need to do some research!

  11. I can’t wait to hear more about Colombia! What’s the name of the area he is in? My family is from Colombia (specifically, Bogota), and we spent two weeks traveling through a few cities over the summer. It was myself, husband, toddler, my parents and sister, AND my in-laws. It was fascinating to get my in-laws’ take on the country.

    1. I don’t know the name of the area, just the town (Barbosa), but I can’t wait to hear more too. I love that you’ve traveled the country. I understand it’s really a gorgeous place.

    1. Yes! We’ve leased 3 and the thing I loved best is that I never had to give a thought to maintenance (outside of fuel and oil changes). They’re just so reliable.

      Though I confess, the new Pilot body style isn’t doing for me. I like a boxier car and prefer the older version.

  12. Just watched your facebook video. It’s really fun to hear you chat! I completely relate to what you were saying about friends at different stages of life. My kids are 20, 18 and 14. Also I think Maude is such a lucky girl! What an amazing experience!!! I love that you face time everyday. My oldest is away at college and I am really missing him. I can imagine it must be so hard to not be able to talk to Ralph but that sounds like a special experience for him too.

  13. I loved your Facebook live video! It was so fun to hear you talk about the Daiso. I briefly commented on the video about it, but it really got me thinking. We’ve lived in Japan for 6 years now, and I hadn’t heard of Daiso before moving here, but it seems that they are growing in the US, mostly in large metropolitan areas. In Japan Daiso (and other 100Yen stores), are every where and very popular for lots of reasons, but mostly because stuff is 100yen! But I’ve heard that Daisos in America are more expensive. For example, all the paper bags you were sharing would all be 100yen per package here. The more expensive stuff is usually really big, like storage baskets, or big flower pots. And I wonder how much of the price difference is due to exporting/importing costs, and how much is just due to the novelty of “Japanese stationary, etc.” Makes me want to do my own Facebook live at our local Daiso, or go to the big 5 story one nearby!

  14. I love the idea of you guys getting around in such a tiny car! It must feel so weird after being used to having so many kids with you. I’m sure people must think you’re crazy though – just like they think I’m crazy living car free with a family of 5 ;)

    Those electric Fiats are everywhere in Berkeley but I had no idea they were just for California! It seems like most of the ones I see are bright orange, so I’m picturing you in a bright orange Fiat now :)

  15. We returned to the States last December after living in Brazil for the last 17 years.

    We would come back during our children’s Summer holidays every 4 to 5 years so this the first Stateside Fall we’ve experienced in LONG while. Getting used to American culture again has been difficult for all of us, but especially for our Brazilian born teenager. One of the best things about this season is that we are getting to share those little cultural things from our (the hubby and me), childhoods. We plan on carving the pumpkin tonight! There are always little bumps to living cross-culturally, but what a blessing to have this time together to share those things our son had only heard or read about!

    I love that you are able to use an electric car! We’ve had to purchase two cars and really miss our flex car back in Curitiba!


    1. Seventeen years out of the country! What a huge adjustment it must be to be back. I can only imagine.

      Have so much fun carving pumpkins tonight! I’ll be thinking about your son.

  16. I just had a random thought… when I see missionaries in my town, I always feel like I should do or say something. I’ve seen them at the library, typing furiously… before your posts, I hadn’t appreciated how little contact these kids have with their families.

    Anyway, I’m Catholic and not really looking to get into a religious discussion, but do admire these kids. Is there something you think they’d appreciate a stranger saying or doing?

    1. Such a good question. If I encounter them randomly as I go about my day (and I have in lots of states, and lots of countries around the world), I always offer a cheery, “Hello Elders!” or “Hello Sisters!” with a wave.

      It’s nice to be acknowledged.

      1. Why are the boys “elders” and the girls “sisters”? Why not all elders or all brothers and sisters? This is the kind of stuff that drives me crazy about organized religion. Inability to change with the times b/c “it’s just the way it’s done”. Do you get pushback from your daughters? I would think modern girls would find this troubling.

        1. Uh yeah. It drives many of us crazy. The titles in Mormonism for women are ridiculous. (Though of course there are others who aren’t bothered or have never really thought about the titles because they’ve grown up with them and they just sound normal to their ears.)

          There was a research survey about in a few months ago. Let me see if I can find a link.

  17. Electric cars are popular up here in Seattle, and although we have a Nissan Leaf as our commuter/errand car, we still have our well-loved ’05 Odyssey kicking. I wish our church were walkable. If you are making one car work, I would totally just rent for road trips! Or lease a second little electric car. We only pay $200/month for the Leaf! For what we (don’t) pay in gas, it’s almost like driving a free car.

  18. I’ve been thinking about Gracie leaving these days. I remember when Jesse left the nest, how it tore at my heart(and when you wrote about Ralph, and how it felt like a loss- I remembered. And wept a little for you.) When I think she’s been holding down a job and an apartment and a life, paying bills and taking trips I wonder where the time has gone and how old am I and who is this kid of mine? Then I get sad, and happy.
    All these emotional fumbles remind us that we’re alive, and that we’ve loved, fiercely.

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