Saturday, December 5, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (129)

Ten Things of Thankful

It's all about the small things, right?

My Ten Thankfuls for this week:

1. The kids meeting Santa for the first time (in the local mall). Mall Santas aren't common in Germany, so I was super-excited when I found out that there's going to be a Santa in our mall. And he was so incredibly nice to the girls. Calvin was not too keen on Santa and went to meet one of the mall's security guards instead  :-)

2. A mall security guard, who is happy to hold and hug a little guy, who's decided that it's more exciting to meet a security guard than Santa.

3. A washer and dryer in our home. I don't want to think about having to wash all those clothes in a laundry shop or, even worse, by hand. No idea how our great-grandmothers and the countless generation before them managed..

4. Two girls entertaining their brother and me with songs on our little road trip to celebrate their cousin's birthday.

5. A couple of hours of sleep in the morning after a night of taking care of a little boy, who thinks that sleep is overrated.

6. So many kind people who support Lily in her decision to go all pixie while some girls in her class try to kick her out of the girls' locker room.

7. A fun afternoon baking cookies with a friend.

8. Making progress shopping for the holidays. No holiday stress planned on these shores!

9. Effective cold medication.

10. Music. It's a common passion between Richard and me. I love it when he plays for me, I love to watch him play on stage, I love listening to music with him. I love the emotions music can stir, how it can energize me or calm me down, how it can make me cry or cheer me up. Life would be bleak without music!

What were you thankful for this week?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (128)

Ten Things of Thankful

 Should I tell the guy who called me just when I was about to leave for our family appointment at the hair salon that he is responsible for my daughter's super-short cut?  Your vote!

My Ten Thankfuls for this week:

1. Our wonderful hair stylist. Yes, I'm still getting used to Lily's super-short do, but she did talk Lily out of going EVEN shorter. And she managed to cut Calvin's hair, which he didn't like but still gave her a big hug after he was done. Oh, and not to forget, it was her who gave me the most amazing cut EVER.

2. Our Thanksgiving dinner. It's over and done, the left-overs stowed in the fridge, the kitchen somewhat cleanish, and another wonderful afternoon spend with great people, which we can remember in years to come.

3. Calvin's scar looking great! It's much smaller than I thought it would be, and with time I am sure it will fade nicely and be next to invisible. At least that's what I hope for..

4. My wonderful, wonderful hubby, who's willing to do all-nighters with Calvin so I can sleep and hopefully get over the cold that's been trying to get me for the last few days. I am so thankful that I don't just have a husband but a true partner in all aspects of our lives.

5. Decorating our home with crafts Lily's done in school.

6. Violet's huge developmental improvements. I've found a great series of books aimed at teaching the alphabet, and it seems to be right up her alley. And with her improving eye sight, her attention to detail and her overall environment is improving as well. I'm so proud of our sweet girl!

7. Lily the book worm.

8. A very positive target plan for the coming year at work. And a much deserved honoring of the work I've put in over the last two.

9. Snow!!!

10. Early morning cuddles with my sweet Violet.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (127)

Ten Things of Thankful

I didn't participate in the TToT last week. There were various reasons why, the most prominent being that I was just too tired and exhausted. This week I barely made it through Friday, and I don't expect next week to be any different. The dark season isn't for me any more, I suppose..  But this is in no way meant to be a whiny post, since it's all about being thankful and positive!

My Ten Thankfuls for these last two weeks!

1. Calvin being alright after his little accident and trip to the emergency room. Last Saturday, he fell and came up with a pretty bad cut on his forehead, so the girls were deposited at our neighbors' house and Richard and I took the little guy to the ER. He received excellent care, and we were out again within 30 minutes after arriving.

2. Our neighbors once again for taking in the girls and caring for them after I rang the door bell with a very bloody Calvin shortly after 6pm. With no family around, we'd be lost without our wonderful neighbors and friends nearby.

3. Finally finding some energy (and time) to organize little corners of chaos in our home. Everything feels much more peaceful right away.

4. The little wool store in Erlangen. Entering this little store just makes me so happy, and the owner is such a nice lady, always helping me with my questions and providing patterns for some projects I may be capable of.

5. Candles.

6. Waking up to the first snow. The girls were thrilled and Calvin positively confused.

7. Getting to buy up all of Lily's crafts at the seasonal fund-raiser at Lily's school (tying in with: candles!!!)

8. A hot shower at the end of a stressful day.

9. My mom's hoarding tendencies. Got a free ironing board out of it  :-)

10. Back-rubs from hubby!

Night-night, everyone!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (125)

Ten Things of Thankful

Calvin thought it was a good idea to pull Violet's friend's drink off the table while I was in the kitchen. Not only was he soaked (and didn't like it at all); no, he managed to splash the red juice all over the wall up to the ceiling. How he managed it? I don't know. I just know that a paint job is in our near future now. Thanks, Mr. Calvin!

My 10 Thankfuls for this week:

1. Having spare paint left for all the rooms. I had to fill some damage on the walls in Lily's room and the staircase this week, and now that Calvin decorated the wall in the dining room, we're definitely bringing out the paint and touch up Violet's wall as well for good measure.

2. Spending a fun day in town with Lily. We met a friend, had lunch together, strolled through the book store, ran some errands, and had an orthodontist appointment. Great time with my big girl!

3. Our new neighborhood. Now that most houses are built and the people moved in, there are tons of children around; the girls are never bored because someone is always happy to come out and play.

4. Beautiful fall weather. It actually almost smells like spring around here, and the girls sometimes spend all afternoon outside playing.

5. Coffee with a friend while the kids are in kindergarten and nursery school.

6. Calvin having his first playdate this week. We've met the other little boy and his mom a while ago after they moved in one of the new houses down the road, and finally we managed to set up a playdate for the boys. We all had so much fun, and it seems we found new friends there!

7. A visit from our friend, who moved to England a few months ago. Obviously, he needed to fly to maintain his frequent flyer status and decided to fly out to Germany. Oh, and thanks to him, here may or may not be a couple of glasses or orange marmalade in my pantry now  ;-)

8. Getting to take Violet and Calvin to kindergarten and nursery school every day this week and mostly pick them up as well. I enjoyed the early morning walks and the time spent with the two kids during the 20 minute walk up to the school.

9. Having a relaxing breakfast with Lily almost every morning this week. I rarely get uninterrupted one-on-one time with Lily, so I definitely enjoyed it a lot.

10. Watching Calvin sleep in my arms this morning. I watched his little shoulders move up and down with every breath, I could see the blood vessels in his eyelids and the tiny, fine hair on his skin. I already know I will miss those moments when he is older, so I savour every second I can hold him like that!

What are you thankful for this week? 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (124)

Ten Things of Thankful

I spent most of this week at home, courtesy of a virus infection turned bacterial. I slept a good deal (on Tuesday), and then put back on my big girl panties and enjoyed showing up at kindergarten a few times (yay for early morning walks).

My thankfuls for this week:

1. The German healthcare system. Here, we do not have a negotiated number of sick days. When an employee is sick, s/he remains at full pay for up to six weeks, giving them time recover without having to worry about finances. Being mostly responsible to financially support our family, this regulation definitely helps me sleep better at night.

2. Calvin's teachers. Even though I'd love, love, LOVE to have the wonderful Miss Dy as Calvin's teacher, the teachers he does have are so wonderful with him. It took him a while to take to them, but now it warms my heart to see him running to them and hugging them in the morning when I drop him off. They are truly kind, warm-hearted ladies and I absolutely love them for it.

3. Lily's teacher. I'm not really a fan of her, differing with her in some important issues. But I appreciate her for her concern for Lily and the entire class, and for her love for the kids. Lily again had a situation with some of the girls in her class, and she didn't want to go to school the next day. I asked the teacher for an emergency appointment to talk, and when she read my note she asked Lily if she had something on her heart. Lily explained the situation and the teacher took care of it right away.

4. Violet's teachers. Because they are just awesome and I truly hope that Calvin will be assigned to her class once he's moving up to kindergarten.

5. The first apple pie of the season, courtesy of a R&S cooperation.

6. Getting to celebrate hubby's birthday; it was a little stressful with Violet's appointments happening as usual, but we shared some good quality time together as a family.

7. A fun Halloween night out trick-or-treating with a bunch of people. Two hours later, some nearly frozen vampires and I returned home..

8. Retiring the mattress on the floor in Calvin's room. For the last 9 months or so I've slept at least parts of the night in his room. With his much improved sleeping schedule I've decided to move the nursing chair back down and retire the mattress, so Calvin will finally be able to PLAY in his room  :-)

9. English tea with-milk-no-sugar.

10. Fall-cleaning the house. It greatly annoyed Lily and made little Violet very, very happy!

What are you thankful for this week?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Planning For Your Future - 5 Ways To Save For Retirement

Disclaimer: This post is initiated by Personal Capital; I was not compensated and the opinions, views, and statements given are - unless otherwise declared - exclusively my own!

Here in Germany, one of the demographic groups most endangered by poverty are women 60+; those women, who have oftentimes taken years off their jobs to raise their kids. With the public retirement (and probably Social Security in the U.S.) becoming increasingly unstable, it is up to ourselves to plan for retirement in order to enjoy our lives once we've contributed our part to society.

In general, one can say that it is important to diversify our income once we retire. We cannot solely rely on our retirement we get from the government any more. Private retirement plans, both government-subsidized ones (as available here in Germany) and purely self-funded plans, investment stocks, capital life insurances, and real estate are good pillars to arrange your very own bundle to prepare you for retirement.

When getting started, it is important to analyze how much you are going to need once you're retired; don't forget to factor in inflation, be generous but don't go way over the top. Talking to a personal financial advisor or online tools like Personal Capital's Retirement Planner will help you to determine your financial needs once you hit retirement age.

But even once you determined how much you'd have to save each month to prepare for your retirement, shelling this amount out of your monthly finances every month may be difficult. I remember back in the day when hubby was still in the military and we enjoyed life as DINKs, saving was a piece of cake. This dramatically changed when Lily was born, hubby quit the military, and we were suddenly a family relying on only one income, struggling to make ends meet every month. Saving for retirement was definitely far from my mind while focussing on getting all current bills paid on time. Still, there are ways to shell out some money while staying on top of the monthly bills. Here are some ways you can save money while staying within your budget.

1. Meal planning. I was never much of a planner. I keep my pantry stocked with basics like pasta, rice, potatoes, canned goods, etc. and run out most days to buy the fresh ingredients once I've figured out what we're going to have for dinner. My friend K. is a stark opposite. She carefully plans each week's meals after consulting the weekly ads and sales at the local grocery stores. Adjusting your meal plan buying sale items, using coupons, and buying bulk can definitely save you some dollars off your grocery bill at the end of each week, without you even knowing it.

2. Save the change. The lovely Rachel over at Can't Google Everything had the glorious idea to collect her change in a nicely decorated jar to have spare cash on hand once the holiday season arrives. Why not make a Retirement Fund with the spare change most of us have laying around in odd dishes and nooks all over the house? You may be amazed how much money you collect this way every month if you actually decide to handle more real money rather than swiping your card every time you shop. Handing over bills may also make money more real again, and may make you re-consider whether a second Starbucks of the day is really what you need. Read all about Rachel's great idea here.

3. Don't pay full price. It's always an adventure to go shopping with my friend M. Believe it or not, I rarely see her paying full price on anything - even away from the sales racks. A while ago, we've been out to a store where she was looking for some new cookware. And believe it or not, she talked the salesman into giving her a 10% discount on the skillet if she bought a couple of microwave containers on top of it. I was amazed. Yes, it may take some guts approaching a salesperson with a request like that, and it sure won't work at your general huge retailer, but especially if you make big, necessary purchases you should see if you can get a deal. For example when buying a car, you definitely could negotiate a year's worth of free oil changes or a free inspection. And each dollar saved is a dollar that can go towards your retirement goal.

4. Second-hand bliss. Especially if you have small children, the clothes and toys they outgrow will pile up faster than you think, and most of those are still in very good condition (at least until they hit crawling age, or enjoy ruining every pair of pants they own by sliding down the hallway on their knees). And while donating is definitely a great way of getting rid of the pile all at once, consider sorting out some pieces you could hand it at a second-hand store or sell at a bazaar (very common here in Germany), at a garage sale, or online (Craigslist or special groups on Facebook are good options). And apart from only selling your like-new items, you can also pick up new clothes for your little ones at a fraction of the new price, with the added benefit that most of the chemicals will already have been washed out by the first owner. I admit without shame that most of Calvin's clothes are second-hand, and the girls also frequently get hand-me-downs from a friend of mine who has older twin girls. That way, I have met women who I now regularly trade clothes with, so I also know the homes where the clothes come from. The money earned from these sales plus the money saved from buying second-hand could easily go towards your savings for retirement.

5. Save small but regularly. When we opened our current checking account, we also opened a linked savings account with it and have €25 transferred automatically every month. It's actually our "Oh Crap"-fund, but so far *knock on wood* we didn't have to dig into it, and the small amounts sure add up. Even if you can only shell out $10 every month, that's $120 per year, definitely a start!

Most important, however, is that you start early. Keep retirement in mind, even if it's still 40 years away. Every year you let pass is a year lost. If you have to start small, but start now!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (123)

Ten Things of Thankful

Knitting is keeping me from writing.. But as Ned stark already knew: Winter is coming! - and we expect a pretty harsh one this year. So I'll keep on knitting (also: best and cheapest therapy there is!).

My Thankfuls for this week:

1. Calvin's bronchitis being almost gone. He missed two days of nursery school but has been back since Tuesday and really happy about it.

2. Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere!!

3. A free Wednesday afternoon. All of Violet's appointments were canceled, and the girls could enjoy an afternoon playing outside.

4. A spontaneous lunch date with two wonderful co-workers.

5. Hubby getting rid of his braces; he feels a lot better now, and Lily is excited that Daddy now, too, has a retainer, just like herself.

6. A fun evening out with friends. The dinner place wasn't as good as the Mongolian buffet we usually go to, but the kids had fun nevertheless, and we adults shared some good conversation - as far as the noise level permitted.

7. Being able to take the kids to a charity event this afternoon. Two professional soccer players from a major club have been in signing autographs to support the cause, and the two lads have been just so kind to little Calvin and the other kids.

8. New books to read with hubby.

9. More good nights with Calvin sleeping through.

10. Patient friends.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (122)

Ten Things of Thankful

This is Stephanie, writing from somewhere between "I didn't know I could be so tired" and "How does pain-free feel like again???". You have to do better to keep me from being thankful, dear body!

My Thankfuls for this week:

1. My husband. After almost 10 years together, he still goes out of his way to spend a few more seconds with me during a hectic work day.

2. Hot spiced wine. We're having pretty bleak weather here the last few days; this makes everything a little better.

3. Our wonderful paediatrician staying a little longer on Friday afternoon to see Calvin, who managed to contract his first bronchitis of the season.

4. The proverbial village. Our neighbor brought both Lily and Violet to our door this afternoon. They'd been playing with said neighbor's kids and all 5 of them had at some point the glorious idea to throw mud at our neighbors' garages. Our neighbor found them, made all of the clean whatever they could and then brought them back. It definitely is a huge plus having great neighbors like that!

5. Soup. Nothing warms better on a cruddy day than soup.

6. Those few rays of sunshine shining through solid gray skies.

7.Autumn in Franconia.

8. Finishing the Harry Potter series, and having lively discussions with hubby about it now!

9. Calvin truly enjoying nursery school now. The last day he went this week he didn't even cry when hubby left but went right for the toys and started playing when he was dropped off.

10. Apples from my colleagues garden. Yum!!!

Hope to do better next week!  Have a great time, everyone!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (121)

Ten Things of Thankful

No introduction today, just some quick Thankfuls for last week:

1. Nice bus drivers. One stopped again after having already left the bus stop to let me out one morning, because I was so engrossed in my book that I missed my stop, another saw me running towards the stop while passing me and waited until I had caught up. Those two definitely made my day right then!

2. A fun outing with people from my work and a client. We had perfect fall weather and took a hike through some vineyards with a little wine tasting at the end. Later, we had a nice dinner and more good conversation.

3. Violet's new speech therapist being absolutely sweet. I'm sure Violet will have tons of fun and learn a lot with her.

4. Calvin sleeping through the night twice this week!!

5. A shopping trip with a friend and delicious dinner afterwards with both of our families.

6. Calvin finally accepting his nursery school teacher. Hubby could leave him at school every day this week, and next week we're slowly starting to increase the time he spends there.

7. Fun with the entire family at the medieval market in our town today.

8. Vanilla-flavored rooibos tea.

9. Finally a good work week again. Slowly getting over the mess and being able again on focussing on the actual work.

10. Sunday naps.

Good night, everyone!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things of Thankful (120)

Ten Things of Thankful

TToT 119 is missing from my list. I am sorely aware of this fact, but have to admit that last week, I was physically unable to even get up and switch on my laptop. I was so exhausted to my very core, physically and mentally, and that even though Calvin was sleeping good compared to the months before. I never thought that one person at work could paralyze an entire team; there was one day last week I spent most of my day staring at my computer screen, unable to concentrate on a single email before me. A meeting that was meant to improve things within our team made everything just so much worse, to the point where I am actually carefully looking to move on to another position, should the chance present itself. I just don't have time nor nerves to spare for games like that.

This being said, let's dive into the best of 2 weeks of Thankfuls:

1. Getting to celebrate my Dad's birthday on his actual birthday. With his birthday being close to fiscal year end, it's a time I simply cannot get off, preparing a year-end financial statement for an international corporation. This year, his birthday happened to be on the weekend, and in we dived for a day of happy chaos with tons of kids, friends, neighbors, ...

2. It's officially fall, and it has been for over a week. I celebrated the beginning of my favorite season by making a PSL for one of my colleagues and myself at the office, yum.

3. Very simple pumpkin soup, topped with goat cheese crostinis.

4. The first pumpkin bread of the season. (there seems to be a pattern..)

5. Calvin's MUCH improved sleep pattern. For the last week or two, he's only waking up once or twice a night and falls back to sleep fairly quickly again. I actually get to spend most of the night in my own bed!!!

6. Time at the playground with all three kids at perfect weather. I soaked up the fall sun in the late afternoon, watching the girls play and Calvin marvel at the different leaves and the acorns on the ground.

7. My backpain.. Does that sound weird now?  Well, I see it that way: at least I know I have a backbone that does not cave in under the pressure right now.

8. Watching or listening to Lily reading to her Daddy. Her continuous homework assignment is to read aloud for 10 - 15 minutes every day. So she's reading a German book to her Daddy chapter by chapter, and it's the sweetest thing in the world!

9. The girls taking care of each other. Violet was offered candy twice at stores during the last two weeks, and each time she made a point to mention that she had a sister at home who'd appreciate a piece of candy as well. Love that sweet little girl!

10. Calvin telling jokes. Imagine the little guy looking at you all serious, babbling away and suddenly cracking up in giggles. Cuteness extraordinaire!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (118)

Ten Things of Thankful

Got to cuddle my friend's new baby today!!  Can't believe how tiny he is, and even can't believe that only a year ago, Mr. Calvin was such a teeny tiny guy!

My thankfuls for this week:

1. Calvin's skin issues being almost cleared up. He got some bad eczema right after the heat rash cleared up, and nothing would help. The paediatrician prescribed a special ointment that the pharmacist mixed for him, and within less than a week, his skin is almost back to normal!

2. Lily having transitioned well into 2nd grade and is excited about all the new things ahead in the year ahead.

3. A fun work event with tons of good food, great conversations (a certain colleague now knows the importance of matching shoes and purses, and why this rule needs to be broken sometime), and a little bit of volleyball.

4. Coffee!

5. Autumn crafting with the girls.

6. Flying kites with all three kiddos.

7. Making home-made pizza for dinner with the girls, and our neighbors, who let me use their oven when my POS of an oven went on strike half-way into baking my veggie pizza.

8. Calvin really enjoying nursery school - most of the time. Unless Daddy is leaving for a couple of minutes, then he's not too much of a happy camper any more right now...

9. Violet having fun at her new dance group. She went from the small kids' group to the older girls' group. It's a pity that she won't be able to attend frequently any more, because dance class clashes with her ergotherapy appointment, but she'll attend whenever she can.

10. Calvin's improved sleep pattern. He's been waking only about twice during the last few nights, and I already feel the effects of our improved sleep schedule!

I hope you all had a wonderful week!  What are you thankful for?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (117)

Ten Things of Thankful

It's the end of my first week back to work at 30 hours, and I guess it'll be doable. I'm not a fan of getting up at 5:30am to catch the bus at 6:15am, but still being home around 2pm is awesome!

My Ten Thankfuls for this week:

1. A very positive performance evaluation at work, even though I've only been back since March, and only for 15 hours until this month.

2. Fair fun with my family. The kids talked us into taking them on a ride for older kids/adults. I went with Lily and our niece, Richard with Violet and our nephew, and in the middle of the ride, it started raining, as if I wasn't sick enough yet. The kids had fun, and that was worth it, I guess?!?

3. Only missing my 6:15am bus once this week.

4. VERY regular bus service into town from our place; when I missed the 6:15-bus, the 6:25-bus was almost there already.

5. Hubby still willing to listen to my rants about a certain pair of colleagues in my office.

6. Violet having a great time back in kindergarten. It's amazing how much she has developed even over the summer break.

7. The kids going back to school/kindergarten/nursery school one by one and not all at once. Helps us as parents to adjust to the early morning routine and chaos of making sure everyone's ready and snacks are packed by 7:30.  :-)

8. Our neighbors. One of them just sold me a whole box of clothes for Calvin that her son had outgrown, and another one is going to watch Lily while Richard is taking Calvin to introduction at nursery school. So thankful for our "village"!

9. An hour of me-time, aka reading in the bus to and from work.

10. A great outing into town with the kids, including lunch with my friend and her family. It's always fun to meet with all of them!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Perfect - A Six Sentence Story

Everyone wants perfect - because it is --  well perfect.

Perfect skin, perfect kids, perfect home, perfect life.

But perfect is not easy, it is hard, and mostly an unachievable target.

Striving for perfect often means stress, frustration, depression, a feeling of failure.

And while everything is supposed to be perfect, reality is far, far from it.

Because we too often forget, that the really beauty in life is the imperfect.

This piece was written as part of The Six Sentence Stories, hosted by the wonderful Ivy at Uncharted.

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (116)

Ten Things of Thankful

This week, it is difficult to be thankful. Not because I had too little sleep; with the temperatures going down, Calvin's sleep schedule has actually improved. It is not because of a friend moving away or the kids acting out beyond belief. It's because of a much greater human tragedy. It's been all over the internet, seen by millions and shared by many. On Thursday night, I finally mustered the courage to click on an article describing the tragedy of the Kurdi family from Kobane in Syria. Fleeing from the IS terrorizing the area, they made it to Turkey. From there, the family entered a small rubber boat that was to bring them to the Greek island of Kos, to Europe, to safety. Only a few minutes into the journey, the boat capsizes, the person who is supposed to bring them to Greece swims back to the coast and leaves the families to their own devices. The two sons of the Kurdis drowned; their mother drowned as well. Shortly after the tragedy at sea, little Aylan's body is washed up at the Turkish coast, and a picture of his poor little drowned body goes around the world, as symbol of so many men, women, and children dying on their quest for something that should be a basic human right and a given for all people: peace and safety. A little boy, laying face-down on the beach, scooped up in the arms of a Turkish policeman. On a desperate journey to provide all that to his family, Abdullah Kurdi lost everything. Three innocents lost their lives, among with many more that day, and on many days before and after that.

In honor of Aylan, his brother, mother, and all the other people who have lost their lives at sea, died of hunger, thirst, and exposure on their way to safety, I am thankful for:

1. Being able to hold our boy. Thursday night, I slept with Calvin, I simply needed to feel his warmth, this breath, hear his little mutters in his sleep to sooth me.

2. Being able to hold and hug the girls, listen to their laughter, their arguing, their running around the house, no matter how often we tell them to slow down.

3. Safety for our entire family to sleep peaceful at night.

4. A good education for all of our kids that fits their abilities and interests.

5. Enough food to eat every single day. And then some.

6. Shelter from rain, cold, and heat, and a very comfortable one at that.

7. Living in a stable democracy, with a strong economy.

8. Having everything we need and more, and even most of the things we want.

9. Being in a position to travel for fun, not to be forced to leave our home to seek refuge.

10. My husband, our children, our parents, our friends, all being safe and sound.

Right now, more so than usual, it is important to be thankful for the little things in life, which, however, are the very essence and base for our happiness.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Content - A Six Sentence Story

Sometimes, I lay awake, contemplating my life's contents.

Sometimes, I'm worried, sometimes I'm angry, sometimes I'm happy, and sometimes I'm simply content.

Sometimes, when all things fall into place, when we had a simple, quiet day, without much hurry or excitement, when the little things become the big picture.

On these days, I only truly see the content of my life.

It is not about celebrating big victories or trying to survive the big defeats.

It is the small things that bring on the peace of content.

This post is part of the Six Sentence Stories; thank you so much, Ivy, for being a genius!!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What's CURRENTLY Going On

I'm not much on here these days, I know. And I haven't in quite a while, I also know that. So what have I been up to all that time?


Tired, mostly. The last few days have been hot again, which translates in Calvin having difficulties to sleep at night. Today, the heat broke again, so I hope for better sleep for our little guy, and for me as well. Besides the fatigue, I feel pretty relaxed, having just started my second week of leave from work. I know some stuff is going on there right now, and I try not to think about it to stay relaxed and not worry about what certain people will mess up for me again. I also do have to admit that I feel a little anxious in regards to my work. Once I go back next Monday, I'll be back on a 30-hour schedule, and I decided to start very early (as in 7am) in order to get out as soon as possible to still be present at home in the afternoon when the kids are home from school/kindergarten/nursery school. Given that I am a total night owl and have troubles going to bed before 11:30 pm, getting up at 5:30 will definitely be a challenge!

Nothing really, because our new TV isn't fully hooked-up yet. But I definitely have to finish the last seasons of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey!  My colleague is haunting me already because she wants to discuss GoT, and I'm the only one in our office who's also watching it.

Listening to:
Alexandre Desplat. You probably don't know his name, but most definitely, you know his music. My friend has introduced me to his work (the non-movie-soundtrack work), and so far, I haven't found anything I don't like!

The Harry Potter series. I'm on book 4 now, and even though I love it, I feel as if I am burning out on Harry Potter. I may have to take a short break after this book and read some other stuff for a change.

Working on:
Decluttering and (re-?) organizing the house. I managed to clean the kitchen and now need to weed through the pantry and the shelves; afterwards it's the living/dining room and the girls' rooms. There may be a room changing somewhere in there as well, we'll see.

Thinking about:
Whether or not to get new bookshelves for the living room. Our shelving is not the most efficient for a house of book lovers, and I have my eyes (and heart) set on some nearly ceiling-high shelves; now the issue is how to convince hubby that we need the new shelves and what to do with the shelving we have...

Hazelnut cream dessert (totally stealing from the kids!!)

Looking forward to:
Bed? Cooler temperatures??  Fall, definitely!! I'll have to mix my signature pumpkin pie spice again and then look forward to some delicious home-made pumpkin spice latte once it's officially autumn (isn't this name much, much nicer than "fall"??)

Making me happy:
The hint of crispness in the air, promising that autumn is near; soap bubbles; rain drops on our roof-windows; hot tea

Hope to be around a little more often again soon! 


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (115)

Ten Things of Thankful

Life finally seems to quiet down, or maybe I'm just euphoric after a week off work and a very, very extended nap this afternoon. Anyway, a good week, it has been. A break from routine, from constantly running around to meet appointments. Last week has been a lot of relaxing, enjoying the outside in the cooler weather (as in: low 80s), sleeping in (as in: 7am), playing with the kids, etc.  Simply a good week.

The Ten Things I'm especially thankful for this week:

1. Our outing with my parents and the family into town. My Mom, Richard, and I had hair appointments, Richard went first and then headed out with my Dad and the kids to the playground, so Mom and I could enjoy some peace and quiet at the salon.

2. Getting the best hair cut in a long, long time, potentially ever. My hair dresser is so awesome and worth every penny; since I usually don't really know what I want exactly, I usually ask her to help herself, and this time, she outperformed herself. I'm so, so happy!

3. Ice cream for everyone!!

4. A two-hour walk in the woods with Lily and Calvin. We had such a great time finding the best spots for wild lingonberries and natural craft supplies come fall. Can't wait to head that way again, soon!

5. The girls' passports arriving. I was so surprised when I found the envelopes in the mail, didn't expect to get those for another couple of months or so..

6. A day trip to the nearby adventure park with the girls. Hubby was still sick with a summer flue and kept Calvin at home, so we could have some Mommy-Daughters-time. And what a time he had!!!

7. Cool enough weather for spaghetti and tomato sauce for dinner. Sorry, simply can't eat a hot meal when it's in the triple digits.

8. Finally finishing the second flower bed upfront. Sort of..

9. Being greeted by Calvin with waving, clapping, and a biiiiiig smile after a nap.  He's just too adorable for my own good!

10. Lily's orthodontic treatment progressing well. The orthodontist was very happy and praised her for her resilience. Actually, Richard and I should also been praised as well for staying at her back and make her wear her retainer every night  :-)

I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Project - A Six Sentence Story

It was one of these lazy summer Sundays, with not much else to do but to feel the lush grass under my toes, to enjoy the sun's heat on my skin, and to listen to the girls laughing as they run and play with their friends.

It was one of these lazy summer Sundays (or any day, really), where Calvin did not quite know what to do with himself but to crawl all over me and let some drool drip on to my shirt.

It was one of these lazy summer Sundays, when a tub of soap bubbles just happens to turn up, and I started to entertain Calvin (or myself??).

It was one of these lazy summer Sundays, where I watched Calvin chase bubbles as good as he could, watching them in awe how they shine in all colors of the rainbow as they slowly waft across the yard, dancing on the breeze.

It was one of these lazy summer Sundays and I was laying on my back on our backyard trampoline, blowing bubbles, and listening to Calvin's giggle as he tried to catch them, when my gaze fell through the bubble wand up to a little circular piece of sky.

I think a project may have been born.

This piece of writing was born thanks to Ms. Ivy Walker's ingenious link-up, the Six Sentence Stories. Thank you so much, Ivy!!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things of Thankful (114)

Ten Things of Thankful

I'm on time this week. And it's been a good week. I'm slowly coming down from the excitement (and yes, stress as well) of having visitors for a few days and organizing two birthday party for the absolutely most adorable little 1-year old!

My Thankfuls for this week:

1. Violet having confidence in me. We got the new fall/winter catalogue Verbaudet, and Violet found a very cute hat. She did not ask me to buy it for her, she asked me: Mami, can you make one like that for me??  I melted at her words.. And yes, the pressure is on!!

Isn't it cute?? (Source)

2. A good trip down to Munich. We got a room in the nice B&B we stayed at the previous time at a very short notice, and about everything about the trip just went picture perfect.

3. The Munich Consulate General being SO much more efficient and nice than the one in Frankfurt. The clerks gave us plenty of time to fill out a form we've forgot to fill out at home without any pressure, they were patient with the kids, and overall just very, very nice. We had everything done in less than 1.5 hours!

4. A late summer walk at the English Gardens. I know it's not really late summer yet, but it felt that way. The last few days we've had fog in the morning, and due to the extreme heat a couple of weeks ago, the trees are losing their leaves early.

5. Quality time with all three kids alone. It's important, even if it's only a few minutes.

6. Not one but TWO long afternoon naps with Calvin. It's finally cool enough again for him to want to cuddle and nap with me, sweet little guy.

7. A fun outing with the three kids to the local Bat Museum. It was really interactive and fun for the girls!

8. Finally breaking down and reading the Harry Potter series, and hubby to make fun of me for being about 15 years behind everyone else  :-)

9. Having a comfortable bedroom. Our bedroom used to be cramped and stuffed with odds and ends that didn't have anywhere else to go for the time being. When our relatives arrived, the room had to be tidied up as they were staying up there. Now, hubby and I can also enjoy our "new" bedroom!!

10. Being off work for the next two weeks!

What have you been thankful for this past week?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (113)

Ten Things of Thankful

I know, I'm late. Way too late to link up.. by about two days. But sleep ended up my priority, after we were able to sleep again.

My Ten Thankfuls for last week:

1. Mr. Calvin's first birthday! We had two great celebrations for him, and he had so much fun chowing down on the cake and playing with his friends and new toys!

2. The heat wave broke, and we're able to sleep again. After a couple of days of rain, the air is so fresh and clean again, and the kids are out playing for hours again!

3. A wonderful visit with distant relatives of ours. It was so wonderful seeing them again after almost three years of not seeing each other. Last time, their daughter was only 3 months old; now, our Calvin was a year old already.. How time flies.

4. A fun trip to the adventure farm nearby. The girls got to ride on ponies, the kids jumped on a giant bouncy pillow and pet many different animals, and we had a picnic. Everyone had such a great time!

5. Many good conversations over good wines.

6. Violet's well-child appointment going so well. Her doctor was so impressed by her development within the last year, and I'm both relieved and so, so proud of our Violet, who worked and fought hard to move beyond her challenges to succeed.

7. Getting to meet spontaneously with my friend, her boys, Lily and Calvin. We had fun running some errands and catching lunch while my friend tried to get hold of her husband after locking herself out of their flat  :-)

8. Finding the PERFECT marble cake recipe. Yum!

9. Many, many tomatoes from our own vine. It's a mega-vine, and we even get to share some of our crop with our friends and neighbors!

10. To be able to post this to the TToT-page on Facebook, since I'm late for the link-up. Thanks so much for Lizzi and the other amazing hosts who take care of this page!  You are all amazing!

Enjoy your week, everyone!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (112)

Ten Things of Thankful

I'm quite honest, I wanted to skip this week. I am grieving, I feel depressed, I feel let down by the universe and our combined gene pool. In my little hole, I don't even want wine any more, and that means something! I just want to stay in my corner and mope. Until the mood passes. But this is exactly the point of this link-up. It's easy to be thankful when everything is wonderful; but when we're in the middle of a hard stretch, thankfulness becomes an exercise, to bring myself to the point where I can see the good aspects in the bad things in my life right now.

And here we go this week:

1. I am thankful for modern-day commodities. I had to say good-bye to a very, very good friend of mine this week, who's moving to England with her husband. It's been beyond sad and depressed about losing my friend, but thanks to the internet and other modern-day means of communication, she's always only be a click away. And thanks to airplanes, cars, ferries, etc., a visit to England is also not a big deal.

2. I am thankful for modern medicine. Lily was supposed to have her blood drawn this week to check for antibodies that would indicate whether she's inherited my auto-immune disease. After panicking, we decided to have and ultrasound done to see how her thyroid glands look, to see how urgent the blood test is. And lo and behold, one of her thyroid glands show the tell-tale sign of early Hashimoto Disease. I knew it. Deep down I've known it for a long time, that Lily is carrying this disease, don't ask me why. But I am thankful that unlike me, she'll get the proper treatment while the disease is still at it's earliest stages and will not spend decades of her life with it without knowing the reasons for the symptoms she's experiencing.

3. Ice cream for lunch. When it's hot and you're assisting your friend in an international move while falling and falling and falling into this stupid hole, ice cream sometimes just hits the spot.

4. Good neighbors who happily share a bottle of champagne and their porch for a good conversation while I feel deep down.

5. Calvin enjoying himself during his first visit at the daycare class he's going to attend starting mid-September. He played with the toys, interacted with the other kids, and already loves his teachers. So happy for that!

6. Calvin's first free steps!

7. Lily and Violet getting along so well these days. It simply warms my heart seeing them take care of each other, playing with each other, and sometimes just quietly sit next to each other, coloring or doing worksheets.

8. Calvin being a very healthy, active little almost-1-year old. His Well-Baby exam went perfectly, and according to our paediatrician, he's tall (75th percentile) and slim (50th percentile).

9. A fun evening walk out with all three kids. Absolutely drama and complain-free!

10. Good-bye pizza dinner with our friends. Nothing can dull the pain momentarily as well as pizza and wine.

I hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I've Become One Of These Moms

What would you do if you saw a kid that's not yours grossly misbehave in public?

I was walking through town with Violet on her little bike and Calvin in his stroller today to run some errands when a little twerp, maybe around 13 years old, came towards me on a skateboard, unwrapping some ice cream and throwing the wrapper right there on the side walk. EXCUSE ME! Spontaneously, I blocked his way with the stroller, telling him to please turn around and pick up the wrapper. He blankly looked at me, so I repeated my stern request. I somehow expected him to ignore me, or to mutter some insults, but he seemed to realize I meant business, turned around and picked up the wrapper. After he had retrieved the wrapper, I directed him to a nearby trash can and watched him toss the wrapper before we all went our way.

I know he wasn't my kid, but I bet his parents would have approved. If he had been my kid, I know I would have. Our little kids know not to toss their trash on the ground, bur somehow once they are teenagers, some simply seem to forget. I hope once our kids are older, they remember that our earth is valuable. That it is unique, and once it is destroyed, we are lost as well. I hope they remember that a wrapper tossed away thoughtlessly is not just a wrapper, but one of many millions every day, and that only one wrapper makes a difference. And teach your children that their personal decisions on how to treat the earth do matter.

Think about the earth today, and see what you can do for it everyday. Reduce trash, re-use, recycle, and if you are of the handy, creative kind, upcycle.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (111)

Ten Things of Thankful

I had an interesting phone conversation with my Dad this week. He called to discuss our plans regarding Calvin's birthday. I told him that we're planning an open house for friends and neighbors on his actual birthday and the family bash the following weekend. My Dad suggested in return that since it was also grandma's birthday that week and she wanted to celebrate at the nursing home, we could have a double-birthday party at the nursing home. Nope, no, never!!!  Can you imagine, a 1-year old's birthday party at the nursing home??  In a few years I could show him the pictures and tell him: Hey son, this will be you again in about 80 years!!!  Why am I telling you this? Because I still somehow can't believe that my Dad actually suggested it and also because everyone else in my family was on my side (thankful right there!!!).

More Thankfuls for this week:

1. Lily again bringing home a really good report card. And she even improved in PE, the only thing I was not too happy about her mid-term report. Back then, it basically said she's not even trying, and I asked her to at least try and do her best. I don't expect her to be an ace in sports, but I expect her to at least give her best, and she did. So proud of our big girl!!

2. Violet earning her Seahorse Badge as early swimmer. It took her three tries on Friday, because she always stopped shortly before she was done. In the end, I decided to be a prime parent and bribed her with the promise of an ice cream cup in town, and on she went to earn that badge. So proud of our little girl!!

3. A fun morning in town to celebrate a report card and a seahorse badge with ice cream cups. Calvin got some ice cream as well, and I had a yummie cappuccino.

4. Stumbling upon a second-hand bazaar on that morning in town and finding some awesome bargains. Yes, I love children's bazaars!

5. Summer break, so no appointments during the week. I hope for some afternoon naps and rest.

6. Visiting my colleague at her allotment. The kids enjoyed picking berries and exploring the lot. We had such a great afternoon!

7. Getting to celebrate our neighbors' eleventy-first birthday. The weather was a little cool but dry, there were new people to meet and great neighbors to share too much champagne with.

8. A good friend who takes time off her stressful moving schedule to go shopping with me and share a glass of wine, talking. I needed it so badly as I was at a not-too-great place mentally - to say the least. I am feeling so much better now, and know that I will have a really, really hard time seeing her off to England next week (trying REALLY hard not to think about it right now!!!).

9. Wonderful neighbors who are happy to watch Lily for a few hours next week while we go to visit Calvin's new day-care class with him.

10. A great year-end get-together with Violet's kindergarten class. The kids that are leaving to move on to elementary school sang a song for the teachers, and when I saw one of the teachers losing her battle against the tears, my flood gate came down as well. Next year it's going to be Violet's turn to say her good-bye, but I hope so, so much that Calvin will get a place in this class once it's his time to move on to kindergarten.

Such a busy week, and so, so many things to be thankful about. What made your week last week?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (110)

Ten Things of Thankful

I'm still old, I'm quite tired right now, and still promise that I'll produce some proof that indeed, I'm old..  Later.. (is procrastination a sign of old age??). But despite my shortage of free time last week, there are many, many things to be thankful for.

My Ten Thankfuls for this week:

1. Finishing a larger translation project and have the evenings to myself again.

2. Many, many sticky Calvin cuddles.

3. A good thunderstorm to really saturate the ground and bring the temperatures down.

4. Sharing stories of Thor with Lily to make thunderstorms less scary for her.

5. My friend Mamta. She has the most peculiar sense of humor, and I love her so much for that!!

6. A fun afternoon at the movies with the girls and my colleague Sarah.

7. Getting to watch Lily's magic show at her school's summer fest. She did such a great job showing her magic tricks, and Violet even got a confetti shower.

8. Picking my very first home-grown tomato. (no pictures, it was eaten way too quickly)

9.  My strawberries spreading as if there was no tomorrow. We have about twice as much strawberry plants as when we planted the first ones. Hoping for tons of fruit next year!

10. Mommy-Daughers-Time, aka: yay, our tow nails are painted!!!

I hope everyone has a wonderful week ahead!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (109)

Ten Things of Thankful

Oh, look, a new banner!!!! Right for our TToT #109. Doesn't it look contemplative? Thoughts growing wings and flying off.. Oh, and I've made a realization last week: I'm getting old. Stay tuned for the details on why I'm getting old..

My Ten Thankfuls for this week:

1. The high 80s feel SO great after a week of near-triple digits.

2. A fun barbecue with friends. I went there with the girls, because Richard hat blood-pressure issues due to the heat and preferred a boy's night with Calvin. I got to talk to our friend's new wife quite a bit and our first impression was confirmed that she's really a great woman and we're happy to see more of her!

3. Being stalked by an albino ladybug. If I have to have a stalker, I'd prefer it to be a ladybug. And I've never seen an albino ladybug before, let alone getting such a close look at one!

4. Another great trip to the pool with my favorite 3-some. The weather was sub-prime, and my skinny-bug had to be pulled out of the pool a couple of times to warm up, but we all had so much fun!

5. Meeting friends at the local beer cellar and having a great time chatting while the entire girl gang played.

6. Dr. Ice Cream

7. My Dad being home from the hospital and doing wonderfully. We got to visit him at the hospital on Tuesday, the day before he was released, and he looked so great, being smoke-free for over a week. His scar is healing so well already. It was great to see him and see for myself that he's doing well.

8. Lily having enough trust in us to tell us about her worries. There have been and are issues with bullying in her class,  and now she's a target as well. I always know when something's wrong with her, because she becomes so withdrawn and defiant at home. It usually takes us a while of locking heads until she talks, but she's always comes out encouraged. As much as it hurts me that she's being bullied, it's good to know that she always knows that we have her back, no matter what.

9. Dornfelder Pinot Noir from Rhine-Hesse. We make good wine in Western Germany!

10.Having Richard, who's a partner in every aspect of our lives. I always cringe when I see moms reprimanding their partners in public about their interaction with their kids. Yes, there are some (minor!!!) things the kids are allowed to do with me that they aren't allowed to do with Richard and vice versa, but I would never dare to talk to him in public or private like that woman did at the pool today. Dad's are Dad's, and not occasional babysitters if Super-Mom is busy, therefore witnessing scenes like that just make me so mad.

I hope you all had a great week!  What are you thankful for?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (108)

Ten Things of Thankful

You know the good thing about triple-digit temperatures?  When the temps finally "drop" to the low- to mid-90s, it feels heavenly. Last week, we've had temperatures from the low-80s, which saw me wearing a sweater, to the mid-90s, which felt hot but not as bad as the triple digits the previous week. Sleep - once I actually made it to bed - had been good in our house, and the kids spent many hours outside running through the sprinkler, enjoying the playground across our house, and playing with the neighbor's kid.  Yes, Christine, the sun indeed is still an item, even though we seem to be hogging an unfair share here in Germany right now!

More thankfuls for this week:

1. (which should actually count for at least 10 thankfuls!!) My Dad made it through his surgery. He had a stent placed in his aorta, which had to be cut open as the stent was quite big and an aneurism had to be removed as well. We were all so worried about him, as there was a chance that he wouldn't make it out of the OR alive, or that he wouldn't walk again or need dialysis for the rest of his life, but everything went well, so well even that he was almost released on Saturday after only 4 days. I cannot say how relieved I am to be writing this, as it's been a burden on our minds for quite a while now.

2. A really good outing to the pool with all three kiddos to get my mind off the surgery on Tuesday. The kids were perfectly behaved and we all had tons of fun! When we were packing up, the mom next to us, who was out with one little girl, asked me how I do it with 3.. Well, quite honestly, there was a stern talk beforehand about what I'd expect from them and what would happen if they didn't stick to the rules, and three kids in a really good mood to make their mommy happy  :-)

3. Violet walking a bit in my shoes. Quite literally.

4. Being serenaded by our new tenant. Meet Kermit, the maybe-frog  :-)

5. FINALLY getting Violet's glasses back. A few weeks ago (yes, WEEKS!), Violet and Calvin broke her glasses in a good old joint effort. And thanks to the postal worker's strike, it took over 3 weeks for the piece to arrive and the glasses to be repaired. So thankful for Violet to be able to see properly again!

6. A spontaneous barbecue with our neighbors. Decided just before they fired up the grill, and I ended up sitting outside until after 10pm, enjoying a delicious glass of local wine.

7. Lily getting a new hair cut. We had quite a discussion Friday night after her shower that she wanted a boy's hair cut. I asked her why exactly a boy's hair cut, and she responded that it's shorter than the bob she had. We talked about that there were also very pretty and very short girl's cuts, and went the very next day to get her exactly that. I can't imagine another cut that could catch Lily's personality better that the one she got!

8. Our neighbor being home from the hospital again and doing well. We were all quite worried when he was admitted during the heat wave with an infection of undetermined origin.

9. A really important leadership review last week. It showed that our boss really had no idea how bad the morale within the team was, and what the reasons were for it. And it showed that we really has an awesome boss, because she's started measures immediately to get to the bottom of the problem and not just cover over it.

10. Distant relatives of ours coming for a visit later this month. We haven't seen them in nearly 3 years; their precious little daughter was just a 3-month old baby back then, and now she's almost 3 years old!  So excited to see the three of them again!

Have a wonderful week, everyone!!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (107)

Ten Things of Thankful

I hate the heat. I'm one of those people, even if it never got above about 85°, I'd never miss anything. Right now, I'm melting. It's been in the high 90s up to the low triple-digits for over a week now, and I'm so absolutely done. I want to sleep again, I want to cuddle the kids and the hubby again, and especially, I want to feel "not yuckie" again.

Before I take the exit to "self pity", here is why I am also thankful for the heat wave:

1. All the hot water we currently get is 100% heated by the solar panels on our roof, so real savings right there!

2. My friend Mamta being absolutely happy. She was born and raised in India and after about 20 years in Germany, she's still not acclimatized to our climate. So she's mierable in various degrees for about 50 weeks out of the year, and the two weeks everyone else is miserable, Mamta is revelling in the heat.

3. Getting to dry my laundry on the back porch. More saving money and power plus the laundry just smells like sun. Love it!

More of this week's thankfuls (some of them even non-heat-related)

4. A fun neighborhood barbecue with the neighbors. Delicious food, great company, good drinks, sparklers for the girls to celebrate 4th of July, what more could a perfect barbecue need?

5. Richard's summer concert being very beautiful again. There were a lot less visitors than last year, due to the heat, but they did put of shades for the orchestra, so they didn't need the ambulance this year either. The program was shortened, but everyone enjoyed themselves and the concert was over about the same time the temperature reached its peak.

6. The kiddy-pool on our porch; so refreshing just to put my feet in and not move for a while.

7. Costa Rica Banana and Cookie ice cream. Delicious!

8. Surviving my colleagues going-away party without too many tears, and hopes that the girl who covered for me during my maternity leave and continues to do so while I still work reduced hours is going to become a permanent colleague.

9. A few good nights of sleep after a few days of hard teething, poor Calvin!

10. Hubby for being a responsible adult, a partner,

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (106)

Ten Things of Thankful

I've been busy this week, and therefore not very active on the internets.  I've fixed Lily's dress for the wedding, prepared the gift, pre-packed for our overnight stay near Frankfurt (still a little bit frantic about travelling with all three kids), and tried to not go to bed too late. It has been a good week indeed, even though I'm glad that it's over and we're safely back with all the kiddos.

My ten most thankfuls of this week:

1. After one week of nearly non-stop rain, it has finally stopped and the kiddos stormed outside to play.

2. All the rain made our yard look all nice and green. And the weeds also grew like crazy, so I got to get my hands and fingernails dirty with a little spontaneous weeding session.

3. Watching Violet's self-confidence explode. For the longest time, she's been our little insecure little bird, always checking people's reaction regarding her. In the last months, she learned how to ride a bike, she's become a little fish in the water, just about to earn her early swimmer's badge. She's getting defiant, and sassy, and stubborn, and truth to be told, even though she's driving me nuts sometimes, I love it!!

4. Getting to witness two wonderful people pledging their love and their lives to each other. It was a nice wedding and an even better party afterwards. The weather was perfect for the indoor/outdoor reception they had planned.

5. Booking a room in a beautiful, family-run hotel rather than a big chain hotel. We and another friend of ours who was invited to the wedding were the only guests, the hosts kept the breakfast buffet up until almost noon and we could check out late because it's been quite late (or early??) when the guys came back from the wedding.

6. Having very nice weather today, so we could make a quick stop at a local reconstructed Roman fort before heading back home.

7. A last asparagus dish made from local asparagus. I refuse to buy imported asparagus, and June 24 was officially the last day asparagus was harvested here in Germany. Now, the waiting begins for next year.

8. A fun barbecue with my co-workers. Almost all the 2014-babies from my work were present and the little ones had so much fun getting to know each other, even though there were confused looks on the babies' faces when yet ANOTHER baby showed up..

9. Getting compliments on allowing Calvin to sit on the ground and dig in the dirt. The older lady was so excited about it, obviously it's a rare sight nowadays here in Germany.

10. An early bed-time today to recover from the weekend  :-)

Good night, everyone, and have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How To Do Things Right?

I read a short comment about the plight of the modern woman: it is impossible for her to do things right.

If she decides not to have children, she's selfish.

If she decides to have children and stay home, she's a lazy home-body.

If she has children and goes back to work, she's abandoning her children.

If she's having a few pounds too many, she's lazy.

If she's in a good shape, she's self-centered and ego-centric.

In order to not feed the Tumbler-feminists, these comments are rarely ever made by men. They are made by women about other women.

Why is it that some women seem to have to look down on the choices others make? Are they so unhappy with their own lives that they have to berate others for their choices? Are they so self-conscious that others can't do right in their eyes if they not make the same choices?

Why do women have to make lives more difficult for other women?  Why not accept the choice not to have kids, or take into consideration that it possibly was not a choice but a result of circumstances or medical issues. Why not accept that a woman wants to stay home raising children if the family can afford it?  Why not accept that being a mom may simply not fulfill a woman completely, or that it may not be a choice and the additional income is needed to support the family? Why not accept other people's looks without assumptions, criticism, and judgement?

Meeting other people with kindness instead of criticism may make lives for everyone much easier. No matter our choices, I have to admit that I sometimes wonder whether it was right to take that particular path. And meeting random judgement instead of support or constructive criticism can be hard and I often second-guess myself as a result; and even if I am sure of the path I've chosen, being met with open criticism is painful.

Even if we may be insecure and other life choices may prompt us to question our own, being graceful and kind should be the way to go. It's free, and ultimately, good thoughts will make ourselves feel better as well.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (105)

Ten Things of Thankful

I'm making a pledge right here and there: No matter how often Violet will start talking about one given topic, I'll never EVER accuse her of obsessing any more after being subjected to two of my co-workers (dubbed B4WS) obsessing about roast chicken for three hours without a break. I am glad that this was on a Wednesday (aka: my Friday), because I don't think I could have stomached the two of them two more days.  But after all, I have to say that I am very thankful for this little piece of reality check.

More Thankfuls for this week:

1. Having a corded mouse at work. Believe me, had I had a cord-less mouse, I so would have thrown it into the direction of B4WS, which would have resulted in a remark in my personnel file at best and getting fired at worst. No matter which one, not something I need right now.. or ever.

2. Wonderful colleagues who gladly serve as an outlet for my frustration and anger. And vice versa.

3. Fun games of Godzilla with Calvin. I build little towers of blocks and Godzilla Baby is smashing them in. Could play that game for hours.

4. Meeting with my friend and her kids; her son is just 20 days younger than Calvin and absolutely adorable as well. It was so much fun watching the two of them engage, climb over each other, pat faces, hands, and heads, and giving out the occasional protesting screech. Watching little kids interact is just so much fun!

5. Calvin being simply the most adorable little lad anyone can imagine. When I left for work in Wednesday, he crawled outside into the hallway as I was putting on my shoes and started waving me good-bye. Could have swept him up and cuddled the heck out of him had I not been late already.

6. A shopping date with Lily. She's been put on the backburner in favor of her siblings for quite a while, and being who she is, she's not someone who pushes herself into first row. I knew she felt neglected as she was acting out for a while, so finally we managed to do something just the two of us. Lily wanted to spend some of her pocket money and found a Barbie doll she liked; I found a nice top for the wedding we're attending next week. We stopped at a café, went to the library and picked up produce at the local farmer's market. Just the best way spending quality time with my oldest!

7. Watching Violet play. She's so much more playful than Lily, and often times she doesn't even need anyone else to play with. Today, she was cooking up a nice mud soup, pretending to host a cooking show. Just beyond adorable!

8. Breakfast with all three of the kiddos.

9. Lily asking me to volunteer in her school. Yay, she's not embarrassed of me and double-yay for actually having the time to volunteer.

10. Rain, plenty of rain. No need to water the lawn and plants, and the nights are cooler, too, which means more sleep. I do hope for a little nicer weather next week though!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Learning Happiness

The year is almost at its halfway point; don’t ask me when this happened, but it is a fact that July is quickly approaching. In the last months, I have thought, mused, pondered, and meditated a lot about my word for 2015: Happiness. My goal for this year was to work towards more happiness in our family by reducing stress, easing up, and focusing more on each other.

Let me tell you about reducing stress in our family right now: it won’t happen. With a kid in 1st grade, another one in kindergarten and a feisty, adventurous, and cheeky baby, we’re on our feet most of the day, struggling to keep at least a hint of order in our house.
But still, I refuse to give up on my goal; instead, I have realized that I need to revise my previous notion of happiness as a perpetual state. Instead, I seek happiness in the moment. The moments I get to watch the kids play peacefully (and more or less quietly) together, the moments Lily is reading to all of us, when I see a field speckled with wild flowers, getting to watch Calvin dream away in my arms; the moments hubby and I hug each other for a minute, taking a time-out from the daily routine. All those moments are happiness, like rays of sun shining through a screen, making a difference every day.
I may still have hard days, frustrating days, days I wished I could lock myself in my room and just be by myself for a while, but I have realized that it’s the small things that mean happiness in my life, not surfing on a perpetual wave of bliss.

The realization that happiness is generally an attitude to life, that I need to make the conscious decision each day to make it a happy day, has taken a lot of pressure off me, striving for my goal of happiness. There are days I fail, that are stressful and I simply do not manage to get into a positive mood in my haze of sleep deprivation and general frustration, but I have also learned to let it go. Not to stress myself about “making up” for those days, but see every single day as a new, plain sheet, that has all the potential to be filled with happiness. And then it’s up to us how much happiness we paint on it.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (104)

Ten Things of Thankful

According to Lizzi, today marks the second anniversary of the Ten Things Of Thankful. And I can't stress enough how much this weekly exercise of thankfulness has changed my life. Even in a bad week, I managed to focus on the good things, which made the bad ones pale in comparison. I learned to focus more on the small things in daily life which permeates everything else. My life is so much different now from 2 years ago. We added a new baby, I went from working 40 hours a week to being home to working part-time, Lily started 1st grade and Violet has started a comprehensive early intervention program to help her overcome her issues that stem from not being able to see properly for the first two years of her life and other underlying problems. Life has been good. On some days more than on others, but good. And I am incredibly thankful to Lizzi for starting this link-up to change so many lives for the better.

More Thankfuls for this week:

1. School being back in session, which means everything going back to normal. Somewhat. The first week is always a little stressful, but the girls are finding back to their routines and things are quieting down.

2. A summer hair cut and new pair of heels acquired during a fun trip into town with my mom, her neighbor, and little Calvin. Poor guy endured the shopping trip with only minimal protests.

3. Our front yard making a huge step towards looking how it's supposed to, after Calvin decides to take an extended nap in the stroller after arriving back home from a plant shopping trip.

4. Having two of our neighbors over for dinner twice this week. It is so nice to get to know them better and cook for more than 4 people.

5. Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Always makes memories of my summer in England come up.

6. A clean kitchen.

7. Eating the absolutely best wok noodle stir fry EVER. My neighbor is a genius and I'll definitely invite myself occasionally for dinner :-)

8. Violet earning the title sous-chef for helping our neighbor prepare said noodles. We definitely need to plan in more time for cooking on the weekends now so Violet can help. Love that she found a new hobby!

9. Nice summer weather during the last few days. Warm weather, cut-off shorts, and walking on grass without shoes just makes me happy!

10. My first run in over a year. I stopped when I was about 5 months pregnant with Calvin because my body burned through the magnesium faster than I could eat the pills. The run went better than I'd thought, and I'm already looking forward to my next outing!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

False Appearances

Today, I talked to a colleague and friend of mine from Saudi Arabia. We talked about our families, our jobs, and how things were going these days. Suddenly, she said:

"You know, I really appreciate your friendship. You are always open-minded, you ask questions about my life and want to know the truth of things. A lot of time, when people see me, they make up their minds immediately, and if I then want to tell them that I'm not an oppressed woman, they won't even listen or know anything further"

My friend is Muslim, she wears the hijab, she's the mother of two children, living in Saudi Arabia. And she's also married to the man of her choosing, she is a very successful professional, and lives in Saudi Arabia even though she also holds a green card for the United States.

But still, people see her hijab, know the country she lives in, and draw their conclusions, which could not be further from the truth. But they don't even want to know the truth, because the answers may destroy their world view, of the underdeveloped world, of oppressed women, of a religion and culture they only know of what Fox News tells them.

And the sad thing is that this attitude will be passed down to their children, closing up their minds from early on.

In the name of tolerance and a peaceful coexistence: ask questions, listen to people from other cultures and backgrounds, and keep an open mind.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Joys Of Parenting - Of Pee And Company

Last week, my sister posted this video on her Facebook page:

Even though this response to a dirty diaper is a little more extreme than with most, all parents, whether of two-legged or four-legged kids, have their stories to tell about the blow-outs, the spills, and the spit-up. 

My personal top three stories:

1. All babies pee, and baby boys even pee with a hose!  Calvin had fun with it one morning during his first diaper change, not only peeing on his clothes but also me, the rug, the towel I used to change him on, and his HAIR. The Facebook response was great!
(c) Life, Unexpectedly

2. Lily has a long-standing nickname - which she has EARNED: Poopie. On occasion she asks us why she's Poopie, and it never gets old to tell her the stories. Of her very first Mother's Day present to me, a diaper filled to the brim just for ME. Of how she pooped right onto my hand during my first EVER diaper change. Of midnight baths after epic blowouts. and most of all of the diaper explosions that funneled poop out the back of the diaper up into her hair and dripping out of her sleeves. And her smiles just after one of those poops. I will never forget those!

3. We were lucky enough that none of our children ever spit up a lot. I know people who had to change their baby's outfits several times a day; for us, it was only the change from pyjamas to their day clothes in the morning and back into jammies at night - unless blow-outs happened. Thus, I did not suspect anything when I lifted baby Violet up over my head to let her "fly" around high over my head. Just when I lifted her up and over my head and looked up to her with my mouth open, she sit up. Right. Into. My. Mouth. I was too shocked to react, I think I just froze. And hubby, who got to witness this didn't know whether to roll on the floor laughing to be absolutely disgusted. I don't remember what he decided to do, I think I was just way too shocked.

I bet you have your very own stories up your sleeve, so feel free to share!