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!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (103)

Ten Things of Thankful

Have you noticed something this past week?  I posted something BESIDES the TToT. Yes, I may have even posted more, have I not been quite busy with activities with the kids to keep them entertained during school / kindergarten break and give hubby some time alone to do school work. The energy levels are coming back, and I feel so, so much better. It may have been a very long bout of Hashimoto, or just the effects of sleep deprivation, who knows, but fact is, I'm feeling better. And this is definitely something I am incredibly thankful for.

Ten more thankfuls for this past week:

1. Meeting a wonderful person. She contacted me after I shared the information of Lily's search for sponsors for her charity race on a group on Facebook. After our first meeting Friday a week ago was canceled because she needed to rest after a medical treatment, we finally met this Friday and had a blast. She's such a wonderful, kind person, and I am truly thankful having made another friend!

2. Catching up with chores around the house. Hubby finally put up our bathroom mirror, which was a little but of a tricky situation, and I washed, dried, folded, and put away loads and loads of laundry. Yes, our laundry baskets are nearly empty!!

3. The arrival of summer!  On Thursday, hubby brought out the kiddy pool and the kiddos had a blast splashing away.

4. Eating the first strawberries from our garden. Sorry, no pictures, they were gone too quickly  :-)

5. A wonderful weekend at my parents' house. We got to celebrate my mom's birthday with a delicious barbecue on my parents' backyard; there were good conversation, much laughter, wonderful company, and the perfect weather.

6. Violet's progress in her fine motor skills. Today, she cut out a t-shirt from a piece of paper and wrote her name on it. She was so proud we put it in her folder to show to her ergotherapist tomorrow.

7. Good coffee!  And a wonderful husband who makes coffee for me in the morning.

8. Calvin's mean tooth finally breaking through. The poor little guy was suffering so hard, biting his gums raw. And just yesterday, the little sucker broke through.

9. Little Calvin getting to meet the older Calvin, a friend of ours who's on his annual visit to Germany with his wife. Little Calvin was first a little unsure, but had a blast with Lisa and Cal later.

10. Lily finally mellowing out again.. Or me having the energy to really focus on her again, which makes her feel more appreciated again and therefore winding down again. The last weeks have been quite challenging for all of us, with Lily fighting us any step of the way, not listening, ignoring rules, being confrontational, which was so incredibly frustrating for us. But last week was good, we're spending more quality time together again, and she just relaxes again. We're all so very thankful for this!

What have you been thankful for last week?

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Joy of Parenting - Waking Up

Every parent with small (or older) children knows that there is no way we get the sleep we need, let alone the sleep we want. On Mother's Day, hubby's gift to me was to let me sleep in as long as I wanted, and when he went to check on my around noonish, I still wasn't really done sleeping. Over the last years, I have learned to sleep whenever and almost wherever I can, just to catch a few more "zzz"s throughout the day.

But children always tend to find a more or less creative way to interrupt our oh so sweet slumber. After living with a growing number of children for over 7 years now, here are my top three sleep interruptions:

3. Awaken from deep sleep as a little hand is prying open my eyelids. In my still sleep-infused vision, a face with wide open eyes and an "oh"-shaped mouth slowly appears.  It was so absurd and funny, I even forgot to be mad for being woken up  :-) (This happened one Sunday morning a few years ago, not quite sure any more if it was Lily or Violet.)

2. Repeatedly getting whacked over the head with a pack of tissues (Calvin waking my from my nap this afternoon).

1. "Maaaaaamiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!! I PUUUUUUKEEEEEEED!!!!!!!!!!"  (alternatively: retching sounds from the child's bedroom) Every parent's favorite at 3 am, followed by at least 30 minutes of washing out smelly food residues from sheets, showering a somewhat shell-shocked child, finding new jammies and sheets, safely tucking said child back into bed and then washing the sheets and jammies.

My question to all the kids out there: why do you never call Daddy for jobs like that??  :-)

Happy Monday, everyone!