Saturday, November 29, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (76)

Ten Things of Thankful

It's Saturday, and I noticed that I was MIA more or less all week long. What happened? I've been busy, gone 3 nights this week, and running around like a crazy chicken the rest of the days. I believe one night I even went to bed at a decent time which resulted in a pretty good day this week. Being a mom and a night owl is not a good combination!

This week have been so many things to be thankful for:

1. Monday. This day was so good, I could have made the entire post just with things that happened on Monday, so I simply decided to name the entire day. I've had a good night's sleep (a), got out of bed well (b), and took Calvin on a trip into town to run some errands. Just as we left, hubby found a check from the VA in the mail (c); we were both so surprised and excited! In town, Calvin and I went to my favorite wool store to buy some wool for a holiday present and I left with way more than what I came there for (d). I picked up a prescription I've been slacking on (and which would greatly improve my condition again) (e), and went to H&M for some more gift shopping. I got a great deal on outfits for our nephews (f), which was even more improved when the lady at the check-out issued the credit on the pants instead of the shirt. Before heading home, I stopped at our bank to see whether they would accept the VA check, and they do, at a reasonable fee (g). In the afternoon, Violet had her first appointment with her occupational therapist, and she loves her (h); while I was waiting for Violet, I got to relax with some knitting (i).  Even though Calvin was pretty pee'd off for being left at home (he was napping when we left), he had calmed down when I came home (j) and only shot me a couple of stink-eye glances. We went grocery shopping in the evening and had a great family dinner (k); perfect day!

2. Hubby having earned about 1/3 of his credits towards the associate's degree after only about 6 weeks of school. CLEP-tests rule, and I am so proud of him for working so hard to get his degree as quickly as possible.

3. Getting to talk to Violet's kindergarten teacher during the general parent-teacher night at her school. I know I worry too much and stress out even though there are still almost 2 years till Violet's going to start elementary school, but I see her challenges, which are more serious than Lily's were at her age. Her teacher, however, calmed me down, confirming that she's a very normal 4-year old, and that her challenges will not affect her school-readiness. This mommy went to sleep a little easier that night.

4. Going out for dinner with a few wonderful colleagues of mine. I took Calvin, who was the only lad at the table and was properly adored by all the ladies. I so enjoyed myself, the food was delicious, the conversation even better. I totally needed this time out!

5. Spending some time in town with the entire family. We got a sneak peak at the holiday market in town and I can't wait to actually go there soon!  It's one of my favorites holiday markets; it has a forest wonderland theme, SO beautiful!

6. Ninety-two more days of no work (as of Friday). This suddenly struck me after waking up from a nap with Calvin, watching our beautiful sleeping baby. I didn't want to get up for the rest of the day..  or for the rest of my parental leave.  But I also realized that I have more than twice as much leave now than with the girls.

7. Having a great time with our former neighbor's at the Chinese buffet/Mongolian grill. The food was delicious, and the company awesome as usual.  And it was the second time that week that I was out for dinner. Don't remember when that happened last!

8. Pie-cooperation with the hubby. Hubbie's crust + my filling = delicious pies!  And enough pie crust and filling left over for 4 mini-pies for dessert tonight. Yum!!!

9. Not getting sick. Last night, I had a definite scratching in my throat, so I went into total-defense mode, and obviously it worked! Feeling better today, and we're ready to tackle our Turkey-Day tomorrow!

10. The weather forecast mentioning the words "snow" and "Germany" in one sentence. There's hope!!!!

10-1/2. Being able to remember all of Monday's thankfuls. I am so brain-dead these days that I'm more drifting than purposefully moving into the right direction. But obviously there's hope.. maybe...

I hope you all had a wonderful week with tons of things to be thankful for!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Week in Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (75)

Ten Things of Thankful

Parts of last week I've spent in a blurr. I stood as the world was moving besides me, unable to move with it myself. It's much better now, but the sadness is still underlying.  Thank you everyone for your kind words last week. Opa sure will never be forgotten! 

Still, in all grief, there are many things to be thankful for last week.

1. Getting to attend my grandfather's funeral on Monday as a family. All three kids behaved wonderfully. It was hard for them, especially the part as the gravesite, but it also helped them to express their emotions and process them. And they got to hang out with their cousin afterward.

2. Meeting all of my extended family. There were people I hadn't seen in years. Most I was really happy to see, a couple of others I could have done without, but still.

3. Witnessing once more how many lives my grandfather has touched and how many people have come to honor him and his life. I was most touched by an old childhood friend, who was obviously devastated, and by the veteran's honor guard, where he had also been a member. They offered their last salute and lowered the flag over his grave, it was so solemn.

4. Getting back into a routine.. Somewhat.  I admit that my grandfather's death has caused me plummet into a huge bout of depression. I couldn't sleep at night and dragged all day long. I couldn't do the chores around the house, or support the children properly.I was such a mess, but thankfully got back on trap, wit the support of my much, much better half!

5. My wonderful husband. He is my rock, my love, and my life. In the past week, he has taken over many of my family duties without complaining once. He's been our backbone during my grandfather's funeral and there for me when I needed to talk about my feelings. I could not ever even imagine a better life partner for myself and father for our children.

6. Lily being an über-performer in school. During the entire meeting, her teacher had not the slightest negative point to say about her. And we also reached an agreement about the prayer-issue: Besides the quick prayer, in which Lily still won't participate, the teacher will also read a short poem for the Atheist/Agnostic/Secularist/Humanist children so there's something they can participate in as well to start the day with.

7. Calvin being healthy and developing wonderfully. He is around the 75th percentile for both height and weight and has the motor skills of a 6-month old. It seems we have to start baby-proofing soon!

8. A dear friend making me leave the home where I had dug my trenches and go shopping with her. I had a great time and not only found a comfy pair of jeans but also got to dress up my beautiful friend in clothes I could never ever wear because I'm not the Indian queen she is but rather a boring chunk of Swiss cheese, at least in terms of color. I convinced her to try on a shirt that she would have never even taken off the hanger. And not only she but also her husband loved it. I have officially permission from him to go shopping with her again  :-)

9. Officially having neighbors. They arrived on Wednesday night, with all their stuff arriving the following two days. We had them over for dinner twice as their own kitchen wasn't set up yet. It's so exciting not to be living by ourselves in the townhomes any more!  And today, another family moved into the duplex right behind our townhome. It's getting full around here!

10. SKIP (Happy Birthday to him!!!), and Zoe for making my Saturday evenings brighter with sharing tons of pictures of that cute, little, old guy  :-)

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Grieving With Children - As Atheists

Today we witnessed my dear grandfather to be laid to rest. It was a difficult decision, but we took all the kids with us, Calvin mostly for the reason that he cannot be by his own again, the girls because we wanted to give them the chance to say good-bye and face their grief that way.

I told Violet the news on Friday morning after breakfast. Violet was home from kindergarten because she was feeling sick. Her reaction was a startle. Then not much more. She asked some questions later, but seemed weirdly detached, even though this is probably normal for a 4-year old.

Lily was told by Richard after she came home from school; I was sleeping with Calvin to get my feet under me again after a sleepless night. She started crying, but Richard managed to calm her down, talking with her about Opa's long, rich life.

This was luckily the first death in the family, which the girls consciously experienced, and it came with a lot of questions. What happens afterward, why do people die, etc.

As children, growing up in a somewhat Christian family, we were told that the dead will rise into heaven and live on there. I admit that it was a comforting thought that death does not really exist. Now, as Atheists, we do not believe in an afterlife. Everything ends with death. It sounds final, but makes life itself so much more important to us, as there are no second chances or a better life afterward.

So what to tell little children to console them in their grief without introducing ideas that we do not believe ourselves?

Why do people have to die?  We get all older, and when our bodies are too old to support us in our daily activies, we eventually fall asleep and die. Sometimes, younger people die because a disease destroys their bodies or it is hurt so bad in an accident that it cannot live any more, so this person dies as well.

What happens when someone dies?  They fall in a very deep sleep and never wake up. The body is then buried (or cremated and then interred) and continues to sleep there.

What happens to the bodies then?  (Life) energy cannot die, so in a way, one lives on. Whether it is as fire during cremation creating heat that spreads out to warm our hearts or whether it is our life force to feed grass and flowers, everyone lives on in one or the other form of energy.

The girls loved the idea of grandpa turning into a flower and it did help them over their initial grief. Both of them cried at the funeral; Lily kissed her little rose before she threw it on the coffin in the grave, wispering "good night" to her grandpa. 

I am so proud of them dealing with the loss so well. I expect them to have throw-backs in the weeks and months to come; I will make a photo-book of pictures of Opa, which they can look at, and which will be a prompt of all the fond memories he have of this wonderful man!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ten Things Of Thankful (74)

Ten Things of Thankful

I'm starting this post of thankfuls in a very, very sad note. I received a phone call from my mom today informing me that my dear Grandpa (Opa) has passed away this afternoon. I am still too overwhelmed to feel anything but emptiness. I know that, as usual, this piece of news will need its time to sink in and I will not be able to grief this loss until later.

Right now, I am simply thankful of having had the opportunity to have my Opa in my life for so long.My parents' grandparents had all died when they were still young children, so I do see the privilege of having my Opa in our lives until well into my adulthood.

I am beyond thankful that he got to meet our three children. As his general condition was fast deteriorating, I was not sure if he would ever meet his youngest great-grandchild. But he did not only get to meet Calvin but also all three of his other great-grandchildren being born between March and August of this year.

I am thankful for all the fond memories he is part of. The huge family meetings for the winter holidays or in spring at my grandparens' place; I was always lookign forward to these for weeks, because it meant seeing everyone together again.

I am thankful that besides his upbringing (he was 16 when WWII ended, so I don't think I have to go into detail), Opa came to love and respect my husband for the wonderful person he is. I admit, I was scared of hsi reaction when I told him that I was engaged to be married to an American. I knew his point of view; still, he has welcomed my husband into the family with open arms.

I am thankful for my Opa having always kept his inner child alive. It was fun even when we were teenagers searching for the Easter nests in my grandparents' huge garden. Yes, even when he was in his 70s, he insisted that my grandma hid a nest for him as well.

I am thankful that I was home to see him a few times when his condition became very serious. When my other grandpa suddenly died back in March of 2010, I was sitting 9 months pregnant half a world away; to this day, I have not found the place to grief for this loss. Maybe this will be the chance to work everything up now, or maybe the grief for my other grandpa will always remain penned up deep inside me.

I cannot tell yet, but no matter how this will go, I am thankful for the time in the last weeks we got to sped with him. He was so happy to see us each time we stopped by, even though our visits were very strenuous for him, he never complained.

I am so thankful that I truly got to know this wonderful man. He had his standards that he put high and lived up to. But he was not too proud to change his look on things. He has worked hard all his life; he loved his family, especially the children. I remember several times when he took us to his smithy. He had a very old anvil placed on the stump of an ancient oak tree; he would light a fire in the forge and heat a peace of iron until it was white-hot; he then would wield a hammer of a size you cannot imagine and work a little horse-shoe shape out of it. It was the greatest thing in the world when I was a child.

I am thankful for having spent the occasional weekend with him. I remember this one time, he made us sweep the huge center yard for him. I was about 14, and the least thing I had on my mind on a Saturday afternoon was spending a couple of hours sweeping the yard. But he was so convincing, making it sound like so much fun, that I simply could not bring myself to tell him no. Yes, he was that good!!!

And finally, I am thankful that I am there to bide him fare-well properly. I have no experience with funerals, and I feel totally helpless. I will have to go shopping for jackets at least for Violet if not both girls, and maybe even a skirt for myself, even though the last thing I want to do right now is shopping. But I get to be there, look at him one last time, meet everyone in the family again, share stories about him and his life and will hear new ones. It will probably be heartbreaking, but also comforting at the same time.

I wish you all the best weekend! If you have a grandparent alive, do me a favor and visit or call them this weekend!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veteran's Day 2014

It couldn't have come on a better day. Hubby received his GI Bill award letter from the VA in the mail today. Yes, I'm officially living with a college guy now!  And this college guy even has braces  :-)

Happy Veteran's Day to my wonderful hubby, and all other veterans!

(c)  Life, Unexpectedly

Monday, November 10, 2014

Favorite Fall Recipes - Pumpkin Spice French Toast

This Sunday was a late morning for me. Calvin and I slept in until 10:30, and I felt wonderful. Since Sunday is always our day for a big family breakfast, we had a quick conference on what to make. Lily and Violet first voted for croissants, until I suddenly had a relevation: French Toast. The family was happy, and so I went to work:

(picture to follow)

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 T sugar
1 t pumpkin spice*
8 slices bread (I used whole wheat bread with flax seeds to make it a little healthier)
maple syrup
some butter for greasing the skillet

Lightly beat eggs with a fork in a shallow bowl; add sugar, milk, and pumpkin spice and mix well.

Heat skillet and melt butter until it starts to foam.

Dip bread in the egg mixture and cook for about 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned; turn the bread and cook the other side.

Transfer to a plate and serve with maple syrup, apple sauce, or fresh fall fruit.

Enjoy (maybe with a cup of pumpkin spice cappuccino??)

This breakfast would also work well as a Thanksgiving or Black Friday breakfast - yes, I'm rather having a good breakfast than outrunning others for Black Friday bargains :-)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things of Thankful (73)

Ten Things of Thankful

Somehow, this week was long and at times confusing, Can't even really say why, but I'm glad that it's about over. Monday will feel like (and hopefully be) a new start. Another chance to try and keep things together  :-)

Among so many other things, I'm especially thankful this week for:

1. Friendship. All aspects of it. Being the person my friends turn to to talk; learning great, wonderful news ahead of time; having a friend who calls me at night to  inform me that I'd go and enjoy a little wellness with her the next morning. I am really, really thankful for all the wonderful friends in our lives.

2. Calvin's first laugh.

3. Lily's reading.

4. My wonderful, wonderful colleague still thinking about me. She sent me a message this week, asking me if I wanted to join her and some colleagues from another department we two are working with for dinner in a couple of weeks. Call me hormonal, but I almost cried  :-)

5. Surprise gifts for the children in the mail. I did not expect our friends to send us a box, so it was such a surprise picking up the box and seeing the sender name and address. We haven't been really in touch for several months, but receiving this gift prompted me to sit down and write a long email to them.

6. Crème Brulée. Sometimes, my needs are simple  :-)

7. Hubby really liking the book I got him for his birthday. The last couple of books I got for him weren't a hit with him, so I'm especially thankful that the book didn't last 2 days.

8. Another Starbucks city mug. Our awesome new neighbor knows that I collect those and asked her daughter to bring one for me from her trip to Hamburg.

9. A morning spent drinking tea and chatting with another mom from Lily's class. Her daughter is one of the other atheists in the class as well, and I really enjoyed spending time with the other mom.

10. Having ready access to medical care. Calvin's been sick with a virus that causes him troubles breathing. Our pediatrician made him inhale a solution that was to open his airways (and did he scream bloody murder!!) and gave us a medication for at home. His breathing is almost back to normal, he's just a little congested still in the early mornings before taking his medicine.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Halloween?

Halloween is not a traditional German holiday, but it's definitely getting established here. I still remember the first trick-or-treaters at my parents' house, when I was a teenager and suggested in this very teenager-mood to just throw a bucket of water down on them.

Today, we live in a rather small community and have been going out trick-or-treating with our (now former) neighbors all those past four years. And I thoroughly enjoy heading out with our group of little scary creatures walking the night (ok, early evening) for an hour or two, meeting other groups on the way, catch some people off guard at their door, and - as the highlight - stop by at the town's best "haunted house" (in my opinion). I don't think that I get the girls to walk for that amount of time without complaining any other day in the year.

But still the best thing about Halloween is the candy. Yes, I admit it without shame, I do eat our girls' Halloween candy when they are in bed.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (72)

Ten Things of Thankful

I'm sitting here on our couch on a day-after-Halloween Saturday night, listening to hubby playing games with his friend in the States, looking at the baby sleeping next to me, and hearing the occasional cough from the girls' rooms upstairs. I know there's a post-Halloween bash happening at someone's house about 20 minutes from ours, and I was invited. I remember a time when this constellation (Saturday night, party, me at home) would have been unbearable for me. Now, I feel nothing but thankful, for everything we have, for the choices I made (or was made to make) in the past that brought me where I am today, for the people in my life, and those who used to be there, even though there is mostly a reason for them to not be there any more.

Besides these more substantial things, I am especially thankful this week for:

1. Quality time with Calvin. I know, this is a regular item on my list these days, but still. This week, we shared some good skin-on-skin time next to the space heater (waaaaaarmmmmmmm) and I gave the little guy a massage to help with his tummy ache. He was also bathed without crying!

2. Quality time with the girls. We have slightly changed their bed-time routine recently, because they have developed this hard cough again. I've been spending time with each of them separately, rubbing some essential oils in their feet and their backs to help them recover during sleep. During the massages I tell them a story instead of reading a story to them together. We all enjoy the one-on-one time, even though Calvin is not too happy about it most of the time.

3. Lily's first school break. While Violet was going to kindergarten, we spent some mornings playing games or going shopping together. She also read to Calvin and me from her new first-readers book. She's ALMOST there!!!

4. My walks home from kindergarten with Violet. I so love watching her take off on her little balance bike, training both her coordination and balance as well as behavior in traffic.

5. Meeting up with a colleague of mine in town. We had a coffee together and chatted. It's good to be missed..

6. Halloween!  The weather was great again, still around 60° when we went out with our friends around 6 pm. It was the same group as last year, and all the kids had a ton of fun while we grown-ups were enjoying chatting and stealing some candy from the girls  :-)

7. My wonderful, wonderful hubby, whose birthday we got to celebrate this week. I am so extremely lucky to have him, and really thankful for those almost 9 years we've been together now!

8. A wonderful day spent with my parents. They came up for a brunch to celebrate hubby's birthday. My mom made her yummie salmon cream cheese spread and we all enjoyed lots of food, goot chats, and a little outing to the playground to take advantage of the beautiful weather as long as we can.

9. Going back into our normal routine next week. Lily's going to go back to school, hubby's language class is starting again, and I have a bunch of appointments to remember, most importantly the initial appointment for Violet's occupational therapy.

10. Calvin being a good sleeper. Which means that I can go to bed early if I'm so exhausted that I have double-vision and cuddle with the baby.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!