Friday, December 7, 2012

My Life As A Mom With Career

To set some things straight, I don’t consider myself a “working mom”, I rather call myself a full-time mom with a career, meaning that I spend some forty-some hours every week at my desk without, however, forgetting for only one moment why I am working as hard as I do. First of all, I want to provide for our family as best as I possibly can; I am lucky enough to have a job that is rewarding in so many ways. But what is important to me as well is being a role model to our daughters, proving to them that if they only work hard and are determined, not even the sky is a limit to their potential.
My normal day is about as follows:
6:00 – Beep, beep, beep, beep...
6:05-6:20 – Getting out of bed, dress myself and perform the morning routine in the bathroom, at which time usually at least one girl joins me or requires breakfast.
6:20 – Making breakfast for the girls.
6:30-6:40 – Putting away clothes I have folded, make Lily’s kindergarten lunch, coordinate their outfits for the day with the girls (this step sometimes does not happen if the evil blanket has taken me hostage a little longer in the morning).
6:45 – Running out to catch the bus
7:30-13:00/14:00 - Working till my brain starts smoking.

13:00/14:00 - Between 30 minutes and an hour lunch break. I usually go into town to run errands, shop for the girls, make calls for appointments, etc.

14:00/15:00-16:30/17:00 - Some more work; I like to take late lunch breaks so the afternoon is shorter.

16:30/17:00 - Run to catch my bus home

17:15/17:45 - Arrive home; most likely the hubby has prepared a wonderful meal by then. We have family dinner and talk about our day.

18:00 - Family time; we play games, dance, read stories, cuddle on the couch, basically catching up on mommy-daughter-time.

19:30 - BATHTIME

20:00 - Story time and off to bed with the two little ones. Oftentimes I cuddle them to sleep and try not to nod off myself.

20:15 - 23:00+ - Catching up on laundry and cleaning, blogging, calling friends, crafting and try to relax a little.

23:00 or later - It's finally mommy's bedtime!
It is not always easy; I admit, at times I am fed up and also feel guilty because of course I would love to take the girls to more play dates myself, socialize with other moms and be involved in Lily’s kindergarten; at times people's scrutiny still gets to me, who claim that I cannot be a good mother since I am away during the day. But then again I am glad to show them an alternative to the traditional ways; show them that they can too one day have children and a career and manage both with a little bit of discipline and organization skills. I truly believe that I am a better mom because I work; we enjoy our time together very intensively, have spontaneous picnic breakfasts on the living room floor or dance together in our bed. I am glad that I have a very flexible work schedule and can participate in the girls' activities and be as involved in their lives as could be. So far, I have not missed a single activity at Lily's kindergarten and I don't plan on ever missing one.
Our girls are my life and my inspiration to become a better person every day; and they are definitely the reason for me to strive to be a better person every day, at home and at work!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

House Update - The Planning Phase

As most of you may know from a post a few weeks ago, we are embarking on the journey of building - not buying - a home for our family; rather we will have a home build for us. As you may already know, we have bought the lot, had several meetings with the builder, have signed on two of our three loans (two government loans for environmentally-friendly building and for building a home as a young family and the traditional bank loan). Now, we have set the appointment to meet with the architect to draw the plans for our new home in order for us to hand in the building application to the town in January.

Before building can start in March or April we will still have to get the lot cleared of the trees and shrubs, which will be taken care of by the seller and have the ground leveled and compressed. Keep your fingers crossed for us that everything goes as planned! We'll give you an update after the meeting next week!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

So far, we were not very lucky when it comes to white winter. During the first snow spell back in Washington in winter of 2008, Lily was still too small to enjoy any of it; what she liked most about the snow was the fact that I spent some extra days at home since my office was closed due to the streets being impassable. The winter that followed did not bring any snow at all; in fact, it was so warm that I returned her winter boots to the store in March. Violet’s first winter was marked by a ton of snow being dumped on us just before the holidays. Finding a sled for them as a holiday present was certainly a task! Lily, then 2 years old, went out with me once; she was seriously waist-deep in snow and braved her way to the playground - without any help from me - to go and play on the see-saw (I know, why the see-saw??). She also got to play with the sled until she took a somersault off the back and ended up face-down in a snow hill unable to move because she was bundled up like a little Michelin man. Once back home I was frozen solid and couldn’t get warm for the rest of the day. Jeans and running shoes were definitely not the right outfit for a trip through (for me) knee-deep snow; I had planned on only shoveling a little trail and was not prepared for a lengthy outing. Before we could take any more advantage of the white, both girls got sick – and once recovered, the snow was gone and did not return for the rest of the winter. Last year was a green winter as well with temperatures way above freezing, except that cold spell in February, when it was way too cold for snow. I believe I must have jinxed us all by buying the sled back in 2010!
I almost didn’t believe in winter fun for the girls any more, but lo and behold, on December 2, 2012, just in time for the meteorological start of winter, we woke up to the streets and houses being powdered and little white flurries whirling through the air. The girls stood on their chairs, looking out the windows in awe. Lily’s first question was: “Can we take out the sled??”, and to be honest, I was about as excited for snow as the girls were. If Lily and Violet had gotten their way, we would have run outside in jammies, but since I am the grown-up I made us all hot chocolate and honey and raisin oatmeal for breakfast. After the snow had slowed down a bit, I bundled up the girls and off we went. I was beautiful! While I shoveled the stairs and front yard, the girls went to explore the white powder covering everything. When I was done we even build a little snow man and had a snowball fight; yes, I do throw snowballs at my daughters!  
After two hours, which felt more like twenty minutes, I went back in to make noodle soup for lunch while the girls kept playing with the neighbors’ girls and the dogs. I can tell you, there is nothing better than a nice family lunch after lots of play outside.  Today, the snow is everything but gone, but more snow is expected for the weekends. Cross your fingers that it will be enough for some sled action!
The girls and their snowman

Friday, November 30, 2012

I Am Beautiful

The other day, a friend of mine posted a link to this blog entry of a woman named Amanda, which was like a revelation to me. It made me feel good about myself just as much as it made me feel bad about the role model I am for my two daughters.

Those two little girls are beauty as pure as it can possibly be. No make-up, no piercings or tattoos, and none of the typical insecurities that I am battling with for most of my life.

I am recovering from eating disorders in their various forms. As a teenager I starved myself to a point where I no longer had a period. These phases turned into bulimic episodes where I would stuff myself and then "get rid" of the food to cleanse myself again. To force my body to obey. To have control at least over a small part of my life...  At some point (and I truly do not credit my various therapists for that), I decided to use the will-power, which I used to make me sick, to recover. It was a long process, but at some point, at least a little bit of normalcy had returned. I moved out from home to go to college at 19. I met my husband the year I graduated; we were married and moved a continent away from my old life. At some point, we started talking children. I was scared; I really wanted to have a child so badly, but I didn't know if those years and years of putting my body through all sorts of extremes had left permanent damage to my body. As I was worrying of becoming pregnant at all, my husband was worrying of how I would take pregnancy and the weight gain. And suddenly, after a couple of months, which felt like years, we had two little stripes on the test. I believe I jumped on the bed, that's how happy I was; and I truly enjoyed my pregnancy. No voices in the back of my head telling me that I couldn't gain weight, just the determination to do whatever is necessary to give this little person growing inside me the best possible start into her own life.

Today, I still feel the monsters stirring in the back of my head occasionally, telling me I am too fat; telling me that some body parts are no longer where they used to be. Are those crow's feet??? 

No! I am me, and I am beautiful to my daughters. I remember getting up one morning, not feeling fresh at all, and still my little girl smiled to me, telling me how pretty I was and that I was the most beautiful Mama in the world. How must she feel if she senses how I truly feel about myself? From the moment I held my little girl in my arms on the day she was born I promised myself that I would do everything in the world to not watch her go down the same path I did. And if that means enjoying my laugh lines, ignoring the not-so-tight abs and boobs, and just feel beautiful for who I am,I will do it. I owe it to my daughters and myself! It is me who they are learning from, and I want to teach them to love - not loath -  themselves!

PS: What I do in the mornings in front of the mirror?? Putting war paint on, of course  :-)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebrating The Season As An Atheist

As most of you may know, we are an Atheist family. What most of you doesn’t know is that I am crazy for the season! How does that work you may ask, since we’re not celebrating Christian Christmas or Jewish Hanukkah or one of the Muslim Eids that may or may not come around that season?
Well, in the course of the last five hundred years, there was a calendar switch from the Julian calendar introduced by Julius Cesar in the last century BCE to the Gregorian calendar, which was developed in the 16th century CE and adopted across Europe over the centuries. According to the Julian calendar, the real reason for the season was scheduled for December 25: the winter solstice! Yes, folks, as the days grow shorter and shorter, fires were lit in the homes, the family withdrew to sit around a fire and waited for the longest night to arrive for the traditional celebrations of the re-birth of light. This beautiful pagan celebration were used during the first centuries CE to mold it into what is today’s Christmas celebration, laced with traditional pagan symbols such as pine trees, Yule logs, etc. (I definitely see how the early missionaries in the Celtic countries and Germania thought that the Yule celebration provided the perfect analogy for their teachings).
Since as Atheists we don’t actually believe in things that cannot be proven or explained by science, the obvious winter solstice still provides a whimsical occasion to join in and deck the halls.
Enjoy the season and excitement, whatever you may celebrate!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Veteran's Day: Homage To My Soldier

When I met my husband, he was stationed in Bamberg, Germany as part of the 1st Infantry Division Band; and there, my 2-year adventure as an Army wife started. It was difficult since I did not fit in. I was never one of the wives to have a "Proud Army Wife" or "Support The Troops" sticker on my car or asked for military discounts wherever I went. Having lived in Germany all my life, I felt lost in the attention the soldiers received. I remember my husband visiting me at work at a middle school because he had a day off work around Veteran's Day; my colleagues bought him lunch and thanked him for his service, which is something you would never encounter where I grew up. When we went to restaurants he sometimes received a free meal, there were military discounts on apartments, rental cars, etc.

The summer I was pregnant with our first daughter I hardly saw him as he would be gone all weekend long and when he was off during the week I had to work. For his birthday that year I had planned a quick little babymoon to a theme hotel in Kansas City. Needless to say, we were almost cheated out of it due to a last minute engagement for some general's dinner party (and yes, we filled up the hot tub in our hotel room at 12:30am). As I was getting closer to Lily's birthday, it was announced that the band would be on a tour to New Orleans for Mardi Gras for several days before and after my due date, and you can't imagine that neither of us was looking forward to me being home alone during that time. We were lucky enough that his new First Sergeant decided that he would be able to stay with me should Lily not be there 2 weeks before the tour (she did arrive the day before her due date).

All this, along with the situation in the band and having no real prospects of advancing or personal development made us decide that being civilian was the best for our family. Since he had not yet deployed to the Middle East by then increased the risks of him being sent there on short notice. He was not afraid of being deployed, nor were we worried about our relationship, but our daughter deserved better. She deserved growing up with both her dad and mom with a stable environment and not how many military kids grow up.

From the time he left, we had to learn what being a "veteran" really means. He was discharged within a day without the usual trainings and medical checks. They threatened him with charging him for disorderly conduct and disobeying orders should he not sign off on all the papers they put in front of him. He was outright lied to when it came to the benefits he would be entitled to from that time on. And most of all, he was not handed over his medical records to apply for disability benefits once he was discharged.

Having experienced all that I have to say that most of the times, being a soldier or being a veteran means nothing to the government. There are people out there who appreciate the service and sacrifices these men and women and their families have made and are still making, but the support from the government is sorely missing. We are working now for month to retrieve the hubby's medical records for his injuries he suffered in the service and no-one seems to be responsible. It's going to be a longer journey and I hope that one day he will succeed in being reimbursed for all of that.

This is my homage to a man who did what was right for his family, and for this I love and respect him beyond words. I was never a proud Army wife, but I will be proud to be HIS wife till the day I die!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Election From The German Perspective

I did not sleep well during the night of the elections; being in Germany I knew I wouldn’t find out the results until the next morning. I was keeping mum during the election season, since we are not living in the United States of America any more and thus the outcome of the election would not affect us directly. To be honest, I expected Romney to win after a not-so-clean voting process; honestly, what can you expect if the company that manufactures the voting machines supports one candidate with a large sum? Learning on the morning of the 6th that Obama had actually was re-elected, and by such a large number of electoral votes (by a smaller margin he has also won the popular vote), I was very relieved.
Since you surely know all the pre-election polls from the US, I would like to share a poll conducted among Germans, who they would vote for. While in the US the polls suggested a 50-50 result, which was quite accurate since Obama won by “only” 2 million of the popular votes, the results in Germany would have been much different. The first poll (pre-Sandy) had Obama by 86%, Romney by 5% with 9% being undecided. Two weeks later, Obama won over many of the undecided and even some of the German Romney-supporters, receiving a result of 92%, while 4% would have given their vote to Romney and 4% remained undecided. At the same time, several German artists and business owners, who live in the US, were interviewed for their opinion on the elections; all of them sided with Obama, even though some of them were affected by increased cost of business due to Obama-care and higher taxes and would have profited by the changes Romney promised.
Why is it, that Romney can sway an entire country and come darn close to be elected president while one continent over, he would not even stand the slightest chance? The magazines I read here in Germany covered the US campaigns of both men, with an emphasis on the man Romney; unfortunately, most of the reports did not portray a very nice man. As chairman of his company he was responsible for thousands of people losing their jobs, which were moved to lower-wage countries. During the campaign he promised to create millions of jobs. Once, during a speech at a university he praises stem cell research in progress in treating certain diseases, later he bashes stem cell research as not producing any results and being immoral. Once, he is pro-choice regarding the issue of abortion, later he is pro-life. He chooses a running mate, who is so far to the political and social right that it seriously scares me.
Being influenced by different media during the entire campaign, I would like to know, what makes a person voting for Romney, who labels the supporters of his opponent (and president) a burden to society? I am quite sure that some of my readers supported Romney, and do not want to offend or bash any of you, since everyone has the right to his or her own opinion. However, I would like to understand the man who received about 49% of the popular vote two days ago. I appreciate all opinions and posts!
Ps: I am hoping for more bi-partisanship during the next four years and beyond. The last four years were ridiculous and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves! When have those politicians forgotten that their purpose is to serve all the people, not just themselves and their rich cronies?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Crafty Halloween

I was MAJORLY inspired by my latest addiction, Pinterest. I had planned it all out: a Halloween wreath, other door decorations, candle holders, card-stock bats on the windows, and, as grand finale, the girls' costumes.

I assure you, I was inspired and motivated, until life kicked in. There were too many things to organize for the house, scarves for the holidays to be knit, and at some point I was just way to drained to realize the projects. The beautiful wreath? Well, all the supplies, including a beautiful root wreath are still packed up in my supply box. The decoration, candle holders and card-stock bats? Sorry, maybe next year.. People, I did not even manage to locate my pre-made Halloween garland that I had found on the give-away shelf at Leo Paper a couple of years back, that's how bad it was. But no matter what, I would not fail on the master project, the costumes.

The initial inspiration came of course from Pinterest, where I found a tutorial for a ballarina tutu. I thought that this could be turned a shade or two darker for Halloween; so I dutifully ran 1 mile one way in my lunch break to buy the initial supplies and set to work at night. And after about a week, I had two cute little witch tutus. After another run I was the proud owner of a whole load of fleece, which would partly become the ponchos for the witch costumes and another lot a blanket for baby Ava, who we hopefully get to meet this weekend. *yay*  At this point, our little Lily announced, that she would NOT as planned be a witch for Halloween but decided to be a dark fairy. *WOW*  Ok, let's change the plans and turn the "witch" costume in a "dark fairy" costume by adding wings to the poncho. Another trip to the fabric store (can you see me jump up and down in excitement??)

Lots of procrastinating ensued, and finally, on October 10th after the girls went to bet I enlisted Richard to help me draw two imperfect chalk circles on the fleece to cut out the ponchos.

The day of (I got out of work late of course), I stitched on the wings to the poncho really quick, bundled the girls up in layers of sweaters and threw the costumes on top. And believe it or not, it even worked out!! Given my record of failing miserably at crafts projects (the will is there, the talent sorely missing), I am honestly a little proud of myself.

Here are the results:

Witch costume (fits about 2-4 year old)
Skirt: about 1,5 yards of each purple and black tulle; slim elastic ribbon
Poncho: about 28 in. black fleece

Dark Fairy costume (4-6 year old)
Skirt: about 2 yards each orange and black tulle; slim elastic ribbon
Poncho: about 32 in. of black fleece
Wings: about 1 yard of black tulle; take double, twist in the middle like a 
bow and attach to the poncho with a few stitches

We sure had fun trick-or-treating this night! Candy anyone??

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ode To The Crockpot

It is official: I am giving up my resistance and going to ask the hubby for a crockpot as a holiday gift. Crockpots are something largely unknown in Germany, but during my 4 years living in the States, I just cannot live without it any more. Is there anything easier than throwing something together around noon or even in the morning on work-days and have a wonderfully smelling dinner at night? And Pinterest doesn't really help being crockpot-abstinent showing me delicious recipes or even ingenious make-ahead-and-freeze meals all the time. So yes, me, the post-modern woman, will ask her hubby for a cooking utensil as a gift. And be assured, I cannot wait for all the crockpot-deliciousness to be had at the Powell-home again. My kitchen, which is ridiculously tiny, will not be happy about having to accommodate yet another appliance, but we definitely have to prioritize here. yes, I am officially excited!!!!

Share your opinion:
What are your vegetarian and meaty crockpot favorites? Could you still live without your crockpot or do you consider the hype overrated?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

(My) Momma Is In The House

Here I am again. Usually I consider myself a person who is somewhat comfortable in the daily chaos that arises with a 40-hours plus job and two active girls around. As a matter of fact, spending time with the girls after a long day of work definitely outranks cleaning the bathroom, and once the little ones have settled down, I am quite spent. So yes, I admit that my house is not always spotless, and that is ok.  At least, until my mom announces a visit. I don't know what it is that I always think I have to prove myself. Instead of sleeping in and enjoying some play or craft time with the girls in the morning, have a leisurely lunch and then see what the day brings, it is getting up early, buying groceries for a somewhat elaborate dinner (since a "what's for dinner?  - oh well, pasta and tomato sauce" won't do it on a day like today). The rest of the morning is spent with panicky cleaning the entire home, baking cake (store bought?? NEVER!!). And just as I settle down for a somewhat relieved sigh (when I'm lucky enough to be finished before mom arrives), I remember something else that needs urgent cleaning.

I don't know what it is that gets the perfectionist spinning at the thought of my mom visiting. She is not a hag who tours the home and checks under the couch and on top of cabinets for dust bunnies. Yes, she is a neat freak if ever anyone walked this earth. Believe me, if anyone considers me OCD, they have never met my mom, but she doesn't judge me (I think). But still, the normal state of our home will not do for my mom's visit. Somehow, all the "I do what I can, but playtime is more important than cleaning" goes down the drain.

On the plus side: our place is sparkling  :-)

Friday, November 2, 2012

To Build Or To Buy?

Yes, people, writer’s block is still going strong. I need a lap-top!!!! It was just perfect sitting on our living room couch with the perfect backdrop of TV or music and writing, drifting off, thinking, and returning to the post. Now, it’s more like sitting at the desk, the hubbie’s creative chaos all around, the chair too low for me to type comfortably, it just doesn’t feel RIGHT..

Anyways, a little update is in order I think. Richard and I have decided – rather spontaneously – to build a house. We knew we wanted to buy a house within the next three to five years; I had made an appointment with my bank’s mortgage adviser to find out just how much house we might afford. The feedback was quite positive and at that time I accidentally stumbled across that offer that meet our dreams almost down to “i”.  At the initial appointment with the developer we found that this was not a building ready to buy but that we would have to build ourselves – ooops! But after some more research on local builders and our options we learned, that it would not be as bad as “building” sounds to me but even has a few advantages over buying a house outright:
+ Purchase costs: The property sales tax and notary tax are measured on the sales value of the property only; savings about 85% of the sales-related tax.
+ Custom building: we are still having quite some influence on the final floor plan and can include our own ideas. If we had bought a finished house, we might have had to spend quite a sum to adjust it to our ideas.
+ Mortgage advantage: in Germany, the government is giving out ridiculously cheap loans for building a new house and building a house that meets certain energy-efficiency standards.
+ Realtor fees: since we are buying the property directly from the developer and order the house from the building company we save the cost of a buyer’s and seller’s agent, which again could be up to 7% of the total house price.
However, we also had to take a couple of disadvantages of building into consideration:
- Time: If we had bought a home, we could have simply done the necessary renovations and moved in, which should have not taken longer than a month; building a home we hope to be able to move in August or September of next year.
- Cost: Buying a house I would expect to pay both rent and mortgage for one month. Building, the mortgage will start to accrue over a period of about 9 months, and since we will have to do the flooring and painting the walls by ourselves, we expect to pay the full amount of both mortgage and rent for 2 months. However, the savings on purchase-related cost will more than make up for the extra cost accruing in the building process. I calculated that we would have to pay both the full mortgage rate and rent for about 12 months to match the savings from sales and notary tax alone, realtors not taken into consideration.
Since we are under no pressure to move quickly and have the income to float the extra monthly cost for a while we decided that this way would be the right one for us. When we had an appointment with a builder we decided on a 3-story townhome. At the current stage, we are proud owners of a little slice of land and have just signed our first loan and the building contract for the house. I will keep you updated on news regarding the progress. Building will not start until March of next year at the earliest and believe it or not, I am already trying to decide on room themes for the girls. Yes, I am officially excited to be a home owner by this time next year!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To My Sweet Violet

I remember today, 2 years ago as if it was yesterday. April 4, 2010 was Easter Sunday. The day before I had hidden tons of eggs all around the apartment for Lily to find in the morning since the weather was supposed to be awful and Easter egg search outside not recommended. I took tons of pictures that day; Lily searching for eggs, Lily finding her loot, Lily digging in. I am glad I took so many pictures that day, as we did not know yet when we got up this morning that it would be our last day as a little family of three. I was tired this day and slept a lot. I remember sometime I the afternoon I napped on the floor in the living room with Lily cuddled close to me with her little sister still in my tummy between us. For some reason I lived this day very aware of what was ahead. With my second pregnancy I had arrived at a point of natural spirituality I had looked for all during my pregnancy with Lily. With Lily all I remember is pain, confusion, lack of control. Prolonged prodromal labor, my stubbornness that told me that it was not time yet, that the doctors said it would take another 2 weeks, that the classes weren't over yet, that it was not time yet. Now, I had left work each day as if I would not come back; I cleared my desk, briefed my colleague on open cases. It was the middle of my due week. My first due date had past on March 31st and both of my midwives were safely out of town not to return until the 9th, the day after my second due date on April 8th. The minute my midwife told me that the first time in the history of their practice they would both be out of town at the same time I knew that this was the week my daughter would arrive. This time around I was patient, knowing from the depth of my heart that she would come once she was ready, and in hindsight I am grateful that she chose this first Monday in April, giving me time to live a close day with Lily before welcoming her home into our new family of four.

I love you from the depth of my heart, my sweet little Violet! I cannot believe that tomorrow will mark the second anniversary of your arrival. We are so thankful that you have chosen us to be your parents and all the changes you have brought to our lives, my daughter, my little star, my heart.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Weird Post On Interpersonal Mechanisms

Is there something like the oldest daughter complex? This question came up between a friend of mine and me last weekend. She vented about a fairly stressful visit of a friend of hers to her house, and that her mother had not been happy with her helping out the friend by letting her stay. But what else should she have done? Told her friend no? And here it comes, the oldest daughter complex. Is it just a coincidence that my closest friends are all oldest daughters? That my friend and I like to vent to each other since we know that we understand each other?
The oldest daughter complex, we found, is the urge having to help any- and everyone who asks us, whether it is good for ourselves and destroys us; and even though we do our best, we still feel guilty for not doing enough. We try to be perfect, strive to meet a benchmark that is beyond a normal person. We feel lacking at all times even though we work until we are at the end of our strength. We accept the criticism from outsiders; we allow ourselves to be hurt by it and try even harder (and here the spiral begins). I have watched oldest daughters destroying their families because they were unable to draw the line. Those, who do not have their own lives any more and while themselves being at the verge of a mental and physical breakdown are still not able to say no.
As an oldest daughter myself, I started to analyze this behavior about a year ago. And here the problem really started: when I began to break out of this mold that had shaped me for most of my life, I crashed with the little sibling personality, which seems to develop alongside the oldest daughter complex. While the oldest daughter helps and works and supports and still feels inadequate, the little sibling personality often describes a failed person, who never had to take any responsibility for their actions or decisions in their lives but being constantly praised and lifted up so that at last they perceive themselves as some sort of demi-god who cannot do any wrong.
During my personal development, which started out of utter exhaustion and depression that became the refusal to acknowledging the superiority of the little sibling personality, I decided to embrace a way that made me the target of scrutiny yet again. After a fairly degrading fist fight and other mud-slinging incidents from the little sibling personality's side, I decided to let the person for once take responsibility for their action and when I was told either to publicly apologize for something I said (and meant) or all ties would be cut, I went for option 2. Of course, this decision was considered by everyone to be completely my fault, but for once I felt like a huge burden being lifted off my shoulders. I knew that for once I had made a decision that helped myself and in turn my family. Working a 40-hour plus week and being a full time mom and wife I cannot waste any of my energy on people who take advantage of me. I still like to help, but I know my priorities. I still overdo it sometimes, but I am learning to read the signs. I am not perfect, but I know that I do my best for my family, and this is all that counts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Still Speechless!!

Last Sunday I went with the girls to see my parents (Richard had a well-deserved "day off" role playing with his friends). My parents had invited a little 3-year old girl who spends a lot of time with them so the kids could all play together. At some point during the day I got to witness the following scene:

While the girls were all playing upstairs I was having coffee with my parents downstairs. Suddenly, the 3-year old called for my mother. We went upstairs to check what had happened. Obviously, Lily had gone in one of the rooms, closed the door behind herself and was now playing there. The girl demanded from us to order Lily to open the door. Of course we refused and told the girl to open the door herself; the girl shook her head saying that she couldn't open the door because Lily had told her not to do so. We told her that if she didn't open the door she would just have to play outside (where most of the toys were anyways). There, she just lost it. She was getting angry, yelling, screaming and threatening Lily to open the door; of course, Lily did not. The girl started flailing at the door like a little maniac, continuing screaming and cussing without ever once touching the door handle to simply open the door. I removed Violet from the situation and waited until the girl recaptured composure, which took her quite a while.
To be honest, I have seen my share of tantrums with our girls, but this scene just left me completely speechless! Even not quite 2-year old Violet would have gone and opened the door which had not been locked or barred. Right now I am considering contacting her daycare providers, who have before mentioned to her custodian that her behavior in the group was strange. Obviously she was more often than not simply sitting in her corner staring in front of herself and needs to be almost forced to participate in group activities. Am I exaggerating and is all this still normal behavior for a 3-year old?  
PS: This experience will probably be part of another post in the foreseeable future, but I'm still digesting on this experience and will need some time to put it in perspective. Any comment is highly appreciated!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Modern Cooking: Individual Salad Bowls

A couple of weeks ago my parents came over for a nice antipasti dinner. Among other things like smoked salmon, roasted peppers, and feta cheese I served up this little side salad, which is quick and easy to prepare and can be really versatile.

The side salad version (basic recipe):

You need per person:
ca. 3-5 lettuce leaves
1 tomato
1/4 cucumber
olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Italian herbs

How to prepare it:
Cover a small bowl with the lettuce leaves. Dice tomato and cucumber very finely and combine. Fill the mix in the lettuce-covered bowl and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with herbs and serve.

Make it a meal:

Use a larger bowl and double ingredients using enough lettuce to cover the bowl. Cut a grilled chicken breast in thin strips and mix with the cucumber and tomato before filling it in the bowl. Serve with rosemary bread or simple French bread.

Make the meal vegetarian:

Instead of chicken breast dice some feta or goat cheese and mix in with the tomato and cucumber. You can also add chickpeas or thick white beans for extra protein.

Veganize it:

Instead of chicken breast or cheese use smoked tofu. Add chick peas or white beans if desired.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Live What You Preach

I think I can say that my kids have made me a lot more self-aware. I try to speak more clearly, try to be more self-confident about myself, eat healthier, and so on. But how much of the other things we try to our kids, like tolerance, acceptance, and the importance of diversity are we truly living? How far has prejudice and xenophobia penetrated our society and daily life? (Let's just remember the killer spree of a band of neo-nazis here in Germany being labeled the "Doener Murders".; seriously??)
A couple of weeks ago I was watching a documentary on Tolerance Week. It followed a so-called "wolf-girl", whose face and shoulders are covered in hair, in her daily life, showing her struggles to fit in and be accepted by society, her peers, and even her family. At some point Lily reacted much like a 4-year old would: she giggled and said the girl looked funny. Of course I gave her the speech of how people look different and that everyone is beautiful in their own way. But later on it made me think how much of what I had told my little girl I actually live in daily life myself?
Growing up I knew a boy, who, by false treatment in the hospital when he was born, had developed a condition of excessive hair growth on his entire body. To me, he was always just Tobi. When he first started kindergarten he was doing fine and made friends quickly. A few months later, however, that changed. I remember overhearing our moms talk about the names my friend was called in kindergarten due to his looks. Names, that definitely did not spring from the kids' heads but things they must have overheard their parents say. It took years for him to be accepted again as he was during the first few months, since kids easily learn, not only the positive things but also the cruelties.
I will be honest, I definitely catch myself in situation where I wonder: was this just necessary? Would I want my daughters see me doing or saying that? I am human and far, far from perfect, but I try not to be a bigot. I do not want to teach tolerance to my girls without heeding my own teachings. Thus, I am trying every day to become a better person for my children's sake, to make this world a better one, even if it is only by small deeds. I want both of them to be a better person than I am, and maybe even manage to become a better person myself on the way.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Walking The Line

I know it's been a long time since I've written a proper post. As I have already said, it's been a time of soul searching and trying to figure out where I am heading with all this. I had to take a step back to focus more on myself and the family, but I feel that it's time for me to start up again. I have long contemplated about this step but have decided, to start out again, that I would like to share a story with you about a girl, who has always known that she doesn't quite fit in. As long as she can remember, she has felt just a little different from the other kids, misunderstood. From an early age on she was an outsider, fleeing from her life in the world of books. Growing up she always striven to fit in, but never quite managed. She fled into different kinds of spiritualism, but eventually realized that it just was not in her to be a believer. She cut herself with everything that she could lie her hands on to dull the pain inside her with the pain on her outside. She starved herself to try and gain control of herself, her life, and her emotions, but failed. She saw therapist after therapist, who always focused on the issue on hand without looking at the big picture. The years passed and she existed on, went to school, fulfilled her duties, and kept looking for the tiniest bit of forgetting at the wrong places. She graduated and moved to the city to go to college, but nothing changed. She had friends but was still the odd one out. She was sad, she cut and starved herself. She destroyed her body with exercise and alcohol until she finally ended up with a therapist who confronted her with the big picture: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). She was put on medication to ease her depression and for a while, she kind of felt like normal. She had a relationship, got engaged and was ready to settle down, until everything came crashing down around her. At this point she decided to quit the medications and start to fight. She decided that if she was sad then so be it. She would accept it and live with it. She would accept who she is and not try to fit in any more. She fought against the urges to destroy her body and use her will power that helped her to discipline her body into ruin to become healthy. She wrote down her pain and sadness. She fought to not lose her grip on life. Eventually, one night she met someone on the internet, someone she didn't need to explain herself to, someone who just knew. They met in person, fell madly in love and were married soon afterwards.
I now would like to tell you that the girl and the guy lived happily ever after, but it would have been a lie. Six years and two beautiful children later they are still madly in love, but the struggle isn't over. Even though the girl has experienced happiness beyond her wildest dreams, the black holes of sadness are following her wherever she goes. There are still days and even weeks when she is sucked in and fights through the darkness to regain the light. She has learned to live with it and persevere, even though sometimes when making a cup of tea she feels the urge to pour the hot water over her legs to dull the pain. But for her family she keeps fighting and is the more grateful for the truly happy times.
I am telling you this story to show that BPD is a real danger. Look around and there might be a person battling those demons without you ever knowing, with the smile in their face and the darkness within, walking the line between happiness and despair, between the night of their demons and the light of their love ones; walking the line between life and death.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crafting Madness

I happen to be a person who generally likes to craft, but happens to have little talent bestowed on her. Therefore I am always excited to find interesting and easy-to-do inspirations that even let me hope for a success. My latest art project was totally inspired by my latest addiction, Pinterest. Several people have done this collage, unfortunately I didn't find the links any more in order to give the more creative people out there credit for it.

Finished piece

Even though we have moved into our place about a year and a half ago, I have been slacking decoration-wise. Therefore, our large living room wall is still bare. At the same time, there is no lack of random papers with little girls' scribbling on them, and I tend to be one of these mothers that I will not toss the paper once one of my girls has taken a pencil to it.
Bare living room wall

All I needed was a large canvas (I used 40cm x 40cm, about €7.00 at NanuNana), dark brown acrylic paint (€3.00 at the art supply section of a local drug store), a glue stick (the original poster used a hot glue gun, but I rather not fidget with that just yet), scissors and plenty of our girls' scribbles (only paper where they scribbled a few lines here and there, I did NOT cut up their artwork!!). A glass of red wine was also helpful!

My supplies (scissors and glue not in the picture)

First, I painted the entire canvas with the acrylic paint (don't forget the sides!). While the canvas dried I cut out leaves of the scribble paper. I cut them in 3 general sizes (S, M and L, having most of the small ones and just a few of the large ones).

Painting the canvas

 After the paint had dried I arranged the cut-out leaves in an asymmetrical flower pattern (you can play with that around as much as you like) and then started to glue the individual leaves on the canvas. I plan on getting some spray finish at some point just to secure the leaves better on the canvas, but it already has been up for a few days now and no fall scenery in our living room, so I might just leave it at that..

Close-up of the finished piece

A little hint: If you don't have kids' scribbles available but like the design, just use craft, wrapping, scrap book, or even news paper for the leaves!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Introducing: Modern Cooking

I have thought for a while to re-activate "Tasty Tuesday", but somehow this title didn't seem right any more, since Tasty Tuesday was more focused on yummie comfort food while modern cooking will focus more on nutritious, quick-to-prepare meals that feed a family with different dietary preferences or needs. Until a while ago, our family of 4 had to serve 3 different diets: regular omnivore (Richard and Lily), lactose-free (Violet), and vegetarian (me). Luckily, Violet's digestive system has matured enough now so that she is able to eat milk products. I am still a vegetarian though, which I stress is a personal decision which I refuse to force on my husband or children but decided to work around.

I am starting this column with a healthy meal that can be adapted to fit almost any dietary preference while being easy to prepare and extremely yummie without the slightest feeling of guilt:

Feta Cheeseburger with country potatoes and salad.

Did I ever tell you that my husband makes the most delicious hamburgers in the world? Well, he does. For the burgers you need:

- 1lb of ground beef
- 1 egg
- steak seasoning
- small hand-full of bread crumbs (I make mine fresh from day-old bread)

Mix above well with your hands and cook to taste on a grill or grill pan.
Serve on a bun with thinly sliced feta cheese and tsatsiki.

For the tsatsiki you will need:

- 1 cup of plain (or Greek) yogurt
- 1/4 cucumber very thinly cubed
- fresh garlic finely diced to taste (we use lots)
- freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Mix the yogurt with the cucumber and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the country potatoes just wash as many potatoes as you need, quarter them and arrange them on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with pepper, salt, and rosemary; bake until done and crispy.

For the salad wash the produce (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, etc.) and cut it into bite-size pieces. Prepare a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, salt, and Italian herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary) and toss with the other ingredients.

Make it vegetarian:

Forget the burger and toss the feta cheese on the grill. Watch it carefully because it will become runny (optional you can wrap the cheese in aluminum foil). Serve with the country potatoes, tsatsiki, and salad.

Veganize it:

Swap the cheese for tofu and marinate over night in garlic-infused oil. Grill and serve instead of the cheese. You can also cook up a nice soy burger to go with it. Prepare the tsatsiki with soy or rice yogurt.

Make it lactose-free:

Switch all regular milk products to either lactose-free versions or use the vegan options with the burger.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I'm Back!

Yes, people, here I am again, re-emerged from the depth of my hobbit-hole hiatus. These past months I have not been idle but writing privately, thinking about new columns to be added and in which direction I want to go with this blog. A lot of new ideas have sprung up, starting with a new food column “Modern Cooking” with delicious dishes accommodating working parents with easy modifications for different kinds of diets (vegetarian / vegan, dairy-free, etc.); luckily, our family does only have to accommodate 2 kids of diets now, since Violet has outgrown her lactose intolerance. I have also become a member of the growing crowd of Pinterest addicts, trying myself (mostly unsuccessfully) on various crafts projects (pictures to come). Our family life has been fairly uneventful, even though radical changes have taken place in the extended family (sorry people, nothing to be discussed on here at this point). It is amazing how events that are supposed to be painful can still make you emerge relieved and stronger. Mostly, I am at a good place these days, even though shopping for clothes has me in despair at times (even though I love my body most of the time, the fashion industry certainly doesn’t). So, I am definitely looking forward to how this works out in the months to come. As always, feel free to comment, I am grateful for any kind of critique from my readership.