HBD HHK

 

Happy Birthday, Harrison Hunter Knight!

Wow. Harrison is one today. In some ways, I can't believe it. In others, I feel like I have aged 10 years in the past year. This boy lives large, loves hard and sleeps light. But is it worth it? You bet. He definitely belongs in this family, and it's hard to imagine life without him. His presence rounds us out in that "we were too clean anyway" way.

 

 

As his birthday fell on Sunday, it made for a great afternoon to have friends over. We didn't make a big fuss over things. The hope was for the day to be easy... both on our guests and ourselves. I just made a cake, tied up some balloons and bunting, tossed a bunch of ice in the sink and stuck bottles in it for a cooler. For the kids, we filled milk bottles with juice, chocolate & vanilla milk ... it was a tiny way to make the day a bit more fun.

The cake was chocolate with cream cheese & oreo icing, and really delicious considering how simple it was to make. It tasted like a giant oreo cookie in cake form. I have a feeling we'll be having that for many birthdays in the future.

 

 

But the hero of the day was Harrison. Who, despite being away from 03:00am-06:00am the night before was the life of the party. The highlight of the day was, most likely, when 7 adults were feeding him grapes, talking to him in baby talk and waving at him. He looked like a cross between someone that was starstruck... and a Roman god.

 

 

The day was great. The party was easy. The friends were dear.

 

 

Behind every great picture of kids...

 

 

are some parents working really hard to make it happen.

 

 

 


I have to say, it feels really good to have a birthday arrive for a child that is so light-hearted. It's a bit of a new experience, and I have to say- I love it. Much like Harrison himself: light-hearted and easy going.

Happy birthday, Harrison! We're so much better with you here!



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on May 29, 2016 and filed under kids, life.

Planes, Trains or Automobiles: Traveling Between Paris & London.

The need to travel to/from Paris from London has been brought up a slew of times over the past few weeks. I thought it might be easiest for everyone planning a trip if I did a quick post on what I think is the best way to get from London to Paris.... and back.

 

There are so many options to choose from. Before the tunnel was built, my family took a hovercraft across the channel in 1994 to get us to Paris. After that, I've mainly traveled by the Eurostar on the "chunnel." However, there are endless flights between the two cities operated each day and I have many friends with cars who will drive and take the tunnel over, too.

So which is best? Well, my opinion is definitely to take the Eurostar! This isn't sponsored or endorsed in any way, but just a dedicated post to saving you a lot of time and hassle. Here are some of the reasons why I think the Eurostar is the best option to get you between London & Paris:

1. It's really cheap if you book in advance. Prices start at £29.00 per person, each way. Plus, since you won't need to trek to airports- you can save the money on ubers or the airport trains. Also, no tickets needed for children under 4, which can save you some cash if you're fine with sharing a seat. (Eurostar actually made a cost comparison between flying/train here.)

2. It's really fast. You leave from Central London and arrive in Central Paris. While you need to be there 45 minutes early, the wait time also allows for getting customs done before you ever depart. So once you're train arrives after the 02:44h journey time, you're there!

3. It's really nice. The trains are all being upgraded and the new trains are really slick. We upgrade to standard premier for the same price of

4. It's easy to pack for since they don't fuss with the same airline packing standards. There are some official packing guidelines, but they aren't checking for weight or size. Bring three bags and they won't blink. Oh, and you don't have to take out your liquids. Hoorah!

5. It saves you so much time. While the journey time is a bit longer than a flight, you save so much time getting to and from airports, going through security, waiting on a gate and then going through customs upon arrival. When your train pulls into Gare du Nord, you can hop in a taxi and be to your hotel in 10 minutes. 


A FEW OTHER THOUGHTS.

1. If you're traveling with small kids, upgrade to Standard Premier (not first, but the class in between). Rather than buying three tickets (2 adults, 1 small child)- buy two in the class above for a bit more. There have always been empty seats and, on the day, the agents are happy to swap your tickets to a table to get everyone together with some extra room. And they feed you meals. So... bigger chairs, same price, meals and less people around to watch you juggle children. It's been a game changer for our Eurostar adventures.

2. Book a car for pickup upon arrival to Paris. The taxi queue at Gare du Nord can be horrendous and it can be complicated to liase with where to meet an uber driver around the station if you're not fluent in French. Standing in the taxi rank for an hour in cold weather or late at night could be considered a mild form of torture.

I have a great guy that I highly recommend that will meet you at the end of the platform and take you, if you email me. lauren@aspiringkennedy.com). You can take a standard cab/uber on other legs of the Eurostar journey- but arrival to Paris is the one I would recommend pre-booking. Just make sure you have got Euro from the ATM at the station to pay him before you leave!

3. Book early! The tickets are inventoried by the cheapest to the most expensive. When one ticket price sells out, it bumps to the next one up. There isn't a best time to buy and PLEASE DONT WAIT to buy them until you get here. It's a common mistake that really gets expensive. You'll save loads if you book in advance on the Eurostar website. (Think of them as airline tickets and not regional train tickets.)

Hopefully that helps you in your planning. Please drop in any memories or advice you have on the topic. This is a subject that I feel weirdly nostalgic about.

Find more of my travel advice here: 6 Easy Tips for Traveling Europe with Children or Heathrow Transport Options

Need a bit more help for your trip? Maybe a travel consult is right for you!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on May 27, 2016 and filed under travel, paris, london.

A Girls Weekend in Germany and Hero's Welcome (Nearly) Home.

 

You might have seen on Instagram and Snapchat that I flew up to Germany last week. I flew up with my friend, Amber, to see our friend, Emily, on her way home from serving as a doctor in Afghanistan for the past six months with the Air Force.

Emily and I became friends a couple of years ago. We both experienced big life shocks near the same time, and, as life has a funny way of doing, became friends as we muddled through the grief process. And when she was deployed to serve six months in the Middle East, requiring her to leave her husband and 16 month old daughter behind in Texas, she found herself facing another one of life's toughest challenges.

During her time overseas, there was a little WhatsApp chat between her, Amber, Amanda Marshall and myself. We're all moms, all Americans and were all connected to eachother through blogging over the past few years. Since we are in the closest timezones to where she was stationed, we got to chat throughout the days she was away from home. We'd chat about big stuff like parenting, little stuff like nursing bras and military food, and all the moments in-between.

Even though we got a first-hand account of the her life on a base in a war zone, I'm not sure that I still could ever fullywrap my head around the experience. But even though it may be hard to imagine life in the desert surrounded by soldiers and performing medical evacuations for wounded soldiers- I do know what it feels like to have days pass by without being with your daughter. That I do get. I know how it feels to walk around, looking like a normal person, but feeling confident that- somehow- a significantly large piece of your heart has, in fact, broken off.

So, after months of being stranded in the abyss of overseas duty, the end of her deployment came into sight- and we decided to meet her at the finish line. On her way home from Afghanistan to Texas, she stopped through Germany for a few days and we didn't want to miss it.

Amber & I flew out to Frankfurt early on Friday. We hopped on a train, devoured apple turnovers, and headed to Kaiserslautern.

An hour and a half later, we reached the tiny town near Ramstein Air Force base where we hopped out of the taxi, heard a friendly, "Hey!" and turned around to find Emily running towards us with the biggest smile.

We met at a tiny hotel and spent the next 24 hours in all the girly splendor you might imagine: giant meals, chocolate truffles, long talks over coffee, shopping in a flea market and the like.

KEEP UP WITH MORE OF THE FUN ON SNAPCHAT. Username: aspiringkennedy

 

At dinner that night, we got to eat with the rest of the doctors that Emily had worked with in Afghanistan. They were all married, and (all but one) fathers of small children. Getting to sit at the table with them as they ate one of their first decent meals in six months was an honor. The smiles at that table as they cut into giant steaks, cheers-ed eachother with enormous steins of beer and talked of their familes back home was an incredible experience. There was so much JOY. The only way I can explain it is to the feeling you have at a wedding or when a baby is born. I, honestly, felt undeserving to be sitting with them at that table with them in that special moment.

I know there are so many things that I will remember from Emily's deployment. But I think that the most significant thing that I've taken from her experience is that each soldier that goes off to fight doesn't go alone. The sacrifice of military service doesn't stop at the soldier- but there is a huge ripple effect for deployment. Just leaving my kids for the night took a ton of planning, caused me a lot of angst and took hustle to pull off. What these families have to do- both logistically and emotionally- is a lot tougher than I ever expected.

As we said goodbye on Saturday, there were tears. Of relief that this was over. Of sadness for time lost. Of thankfulness. And yet, smiling through it all in anticipation. In the midst of it all, I clicked out my phone and took a picture. This last moment of sadness after such a long time deserved to be documented. Today was the last day of tears! Tomorrow, she would be home. (And she is! And the video she posted seeing Nick & Lyla gave me goosebumps and made me cry like a baby.)

Thank you Emily. And thank you to all the others who serve by quietly keep life together while your loved one is gone fighting. Your support is invaluable and, often, overlooked. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

 

Posted on May 10, 2016 and filed under life, travel.

Pack Your Bags: Domaine de Fontenille, Provence

Wow. It has been a while since my last post. Whenever I say that, I always feel like I have some pretty good reasons to back up my absence... you know, like traveling Southern France to wrap up our semester in France, packing up our place in Paris, moving into our new place in London, visiting friends in Germany on their way back from deployment in Afghanistan, grading endless stacks of papers and finals, living without wifi. You know how it goes. Life is busy!

But before the London summertime absorbs all my brain space, I wanted to share a few special places that we stumbled upon towards over the past few weeks. They're really too good not to share, and I hope that, someday, you can find yourself there, too!


When I was looking to book a spot for us to stay in Southern France, everyone seemed a bit overwhelmed at the idea of switching to a new hotel every night during our Provence trip. In search of a place that could be more central and a home base for our time there, I scoured Tablet Hotels. (One of my favorite places to find hotels!)

Domaine de Fontenille showed up in the search and the prices were really reasonable- €160 per room. Compared to staying in the city centers of the major Provençal towns, this seemed like an easy swap... and the upgrade on the quality of the hotel was a no-brainer.

Once we arrived, we all dropped bags (and jaws) and wandered around this gorgeous retreat tucked in the hills of Provence. I could go on and on, but I'll try to just hit you with the highlights and some photos to do it justice.

WHAT YOU'LL WANT TO KNOW:

-The hotel is situated in the countryside and will require renting a car. This will allow you to explore the surrounding towns easily and give you freedom to get out during the day, even if just into the tiny nearyby town of Lauris.

- The hotel has a Michelin-starred chef overseeing the food at the hotel and it is amazing.

- The hotel staff is very friendly and exceptionally accommodating. The hotel manager came and personally made the bed in the baby cot in our room.

- You can book a massage with the front desk, as well as request use of the hamman area for complimentary use of the sauna.

- Breakfast is worth waking up for, make sure you try the homemade croissants with a big smear of butter and the apricot & lavender jam. A bite of that lovely concoction may be my lasting memory of our stay there.

Also after breafkast morning, some photographers shot Viola playing out in the garden. I figured it was for the hotel website or a travel blogger at work. LIttle did I know when I asked if they could take some photos of her that it was for ELLE Magazine. Who knows if they will use the photos, but man- if they end up running the pictures of her, it will be a really neat keepsake!

We had such an amazing stay at Domaine de Fontenille, and I really do dream of getting back there sometime soon. I have no doubt that if you find yourself there, you'll not only find it to be a great hotel for exploring Provence, but feel that hits that tricky target being of approachable yet luxurious.

 

Find more of my travel favorites for France in my France Travel Guide.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kenendy

 

Posted on May 6, 2016 and filed under france, travel.

Allons-y: The Paris Commute

The past few weeks in Paris have been so busy, but so nice. I haven't been blogging a ton because I have lessons to plan, babies to love on and places to go. We've had some visitors, a trip to Normandy and so much fun in between.

Our family is thriving right now. One of the main reasons is our amazing au pair, Kristi. She's my former student and having her with us has been a total game changer. She's wonderful and we are going to miss her so much! Knowing that the kids are going to be having fun with her while we are teaching or taking the students out makes the day really enjoyable for us. 

Each morning, we head out and walk to teach together. (Tyler is a regular adjunct professor for our program, so he gets to go to classes with me each day.) Our walks each morning have been one of the things that we love the most about this semester. It feels like a little date... and while it may just be a 30 minute walk, it is some of the best quality time we've consistently had in a long time. 

And so, of course, I filmed it one day for posterity sake. So that, maybe somewhere down the line when the days are a bit more chaotic and the setting a bit less glorious, I'll be able to look at this and enjoy the memory.



 

*video original to Aspiring Kennedy, edited by K.Keese

 

Posted on April 4, 2016 and filed under paris, travel.