Picknick Friday

When I first learned that Sylvie wouldn’t be going to Kindergarten on Fridays, I was a bit bummed. It’s not that I don’t like being with her, but it was a transitional time here, and the thought of 3 full days without a few hours break made me cringe.

Luckily things got easier after the transition, and Fridays have become one of my favorite days of the week. We decided to make Fridays a Mama/Sylvie picnic day. We walk (sometimes Sylvie goes on her balance bike or scooter) to the bakery in the dorf, pick out a delicious item (I always have the egg brötchen and she mixes it up), and go to the Rokokogarten here. After we eat, we wander around and I let Sylvie choose where we go. I realized she spends a lot of time being told where we “have” to go, so it’s really fun for her to completely make the plan. We collect treasures, count the ducklings, see if the goose is still sitting in her spot (we suspect she has eggs there), visit the Schnecken Haus, and go through the “spooky forest.” It’s always an afternoon that I wish would go on forever.

To give you an idea of the size of the garden, just google rokokogarten veitshöchheim and look at images. Here’s a link to those I found: Rokokogarten.

IMG_2641

IMG_2644

garden treasures

garden treasures

IMG_2636

Happy Friday to all of you!

Posted in Germany, Motherhood | 2 Comments

Fulfillment

So, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought after some amazing posts (this one included).

I’m certainly not your “Betty Draper” stay at home mom, but neither is anyone in any recent decades. I help my husband run a business. I do a great deal of day to day parenting alone due to my husband’s crazy work schedule. I also run a farm, manage our household that involves juggling teenage schedules, toddler needs, and the ever changing number of kids/people in our house. Did I mention a major remodel the last 3 years…oh yeah, that too. I’m also currently taking a parenting field trip for 3 months to Germany (as those of you who read here know).

So, am I unfulfilled? Am I unhappy? Do I wish for more? I’ve really been thinking this over.

In the beginning when Sylvie was under 2, I definitely had moments where I felt unfulfilled and kind of desperate for some adult interactions, but I was lucky. I had an excellent mother’s group, and I am an introvert and not really lonely by nature. If anything the hardest part was never having a moment to myself, and yes, there were hard, hard times where I felt kind of exhausted and sad.

Prior to motherhood, I was a manager at Swedish in Seattle where I managed the implementation and upgrades of a computer program for Surgery across the multiple campuses. When I left, I was also managing two departments. It was very hard work, but if I had to be honest, it made me feel important and competent. I felt trusted and helpful. Motherhood was a shock to my system in a sense. As a first time parent, competence is not a feeling you frequently enjoy. It’s pretty hard to feel like a parenting expert in any way. (Any parent will tell you that they were a much more of a parenting expert BEFORE they had kids.) Shit be hard and complicated, and there isn’t a single book around that’s going to help you suddenly become a perfect parent. Sloppy, flailing, desperate, patched together, fly by the seat of your pants, and pray it might work. That is first time parenting. Actually, it might be all parenting, but I wouldn’t know. That computer program that I thought was so hard to manage? Oh my friends, that beast had nothing on the small being for which I was now in charge of care.

But we all evolve and grow. Things change. Our kids grow up, and they really change.

Fulfilled?

Yeah, I really think so. Here’s the thing for me. It’s so cliche to say that “parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love.” The thing about it is that when it’s hard, it’s so damn hard. When it’s not, it’s filled with lots of amazing moments. It’s an emotional roller coaster where you can go from complete joy to absolute frustration and maybe even rage in an hour. (I parent a 3 year old. I have moments where I have to put myself in time out. They are the honey badgers of children. They truly do not give a f@ck.) I don’t like being a stay at home mom every day, but I didn’t like my previous job every day either.

I don’t stay at home with my daughter because I have some kind of guilt that I “should” be doing that. I stay at home with her because I’ve come to realize that it is a job that is teaching ME. I am growing more. I am seeing more of myself and being challenged to explore myself more than I have ever done in my life. I am changing and seeing new sides of myself good and bad. I am succeeding and failing and learning how to forgive myself when I’m doing the latter. I’m learning to be ok with imperfect and not have everything be clean, dependable, controllable, reliable. It’s easy to say that a 3 year old wants everything her way, but you know what? I want everything my way too, and thus we have our challenge. I have days when parenting full time is kicking my ass, but who’s to say a little ass kicking here and there isn’t a good thing.

It’s different for everyone, definitely. I think the “Mommy Wars” are about the dumbest waste of sisterhood that I have ever heard in my life. Everyone deserves to find where they belong and where they are going to grow. In my case, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and I’ll be here failing, loving, succeeding, laughing, screaming, chasing, hugging, soothing, correcting, playing, cleaning, documenting, and fulfilling until it’s not my place anymore.

Posted in Motherhood, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Community

One of the things I used to hate about where I grew up was how small it was. I grew up in a town where rumors and gossip spread incredibly fast. I was anxious to head out to a big city where I wouldn’t deal with it anymore.

Well, guess what? For those of you who don’t live in or around Seattle, Seattle is one big small town. Even if you don’t know everyone, I can almost guarantee that someone you know, knows them. To illustrate: When I met one of my best friends, Robin, in a mother’s group, I mentioned my husband’s name to her. She knew my husband from about 10 years before I met him and had been to our home before. Robin is also friends with another woman I know who happens to work for another best friend of mine. You get what I’m saying. Small, small world.

Although I grew up resenting that smallness, as an adult, I’ve learned to find it comforting, and it gives me a sense of belonging.

It’s been hard to be new and a foreigner in this small town. You sometimes hear that Germans are unfriendly, but I haven’t found this to be true at all. I’ve found everyone to be polite and welcoming, but I’ve still felt like an other, an outsider. There’s the language barrier (ever improving) and the fact that I’m a new face.

Last week an old woman who walks everyday in town started waving to us and saying hello. She recognized Sylvie and I from our daily walks. The gardener in the Hofgarten nodded in recognition as we walked by her. I recognize people now as I walk down the street.

All of this gives me a sense of place and belonging. We’re a part of the fabric here (even if for only a short time.)

Today was Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi) and there was a procession on the street to the elderly home next door to ours. We waited on the street and watched as many in the town passed by us. We recognized a few people, and they smiled and acknowledged us. Then we saw the teachers and children from Sylvie’s kindergarten who invited us to walk along with them and throw petals. Community and belonging. Man, it feel so good.

Posted in Germany, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A little time to ourselves

We had a week long vacation for some reason or other, and so we worked hard to figure out what to do with ourselves. My MIL is on a trip with her class, and so we were missing our usual travel guide. My nephew mentioned a park just a few blocks from our house which is kind of hidden. So well hidden in fact, that I’m pretty sure we’re the only ones who ever go there. We’ve spent last week playing in the sand, having picnics, and taking walks around the neighborhood.

Sand time in our private park

Sand time in our private park

IMG_2202

We have a routine here now. We like to think of ourselves as the official gardeners and do all the watering for the garden and mow the lawn. It’s actually a great activity for the two of us to do together, and we have a good time. (The garden looks AWESOME from our watering enthusiasm. Also, electric mowers are not very loud and don’t scare Sylvie at all although she doesn’t help much with that part. She does a lot of raspberry picking and hammock time.)

This week was the first time I’ve ever driven alone in Germany. It was sort of cute because my FIL took me to an empty parking lot and had me drive before trusting me with my MIL’s car. I’m still not very confident, but I can get around town and also to some stores just out of walking distance. I felt so proud of myself when I arrived at the store the first time. It really felt like an accomplishment to brave the German streets and shop alone.

We also spent a lot of time in the Hofgarten over the past week, and Sylvie has decided she’d like to live in the Schneckenhaus. You can’t really blame her because….dragons…made of shells….hello!

Schneckenhaus

Schneckenhaus

I am personally much more smitten with this house as well as many others in the dorf. I’m kind of a house stalker here. “Heinrich, that American girl is taking pictures of our house again!!”

Dream house

Dream house

Posted in Germany | Leave a comment

It can’t all be Sonneschein

Ok. I’ve never really been accused of being one of those bright side people. I’m a bit of a realist, and I’ve never had the nickname “Susie Sunshine.” I’m not saying this makes me a downer, not in the least, but happy-go-lucky, I am not.

Having said that, I do tend to romanticize German culture and living here. I mean yesterday I sat in a Biergarten drinking really good, inexpensive white wine and eating Brotseit while my daughter played with other children on the Biergarten playground. It was relaxing. I was relaxed IN A RESTAURANT WITH A CHILD, and other parents were relaxed too. We took turns helping the kids. Try making that sucky. Impossible.

Some things deserve to be romanticized and positive. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s easier to be a parent here. In my opinion, it just is. (I say this of course coming from my own circumstances where I’m a bit more isolated on a farm, so let’s just be honest about that, but I do still believe it’s more fun being a parent here.)

There are those things though. The harder things, and just in case someone ever thinks about coming here for a trip or to live, I think I should share those things to prepare you.

1. Can you really drive there?
German drivers. They drive fast, and they don’t mess around. In my dorf, they also park on sidewalks and occasionally drive up on them when the road is narrow. At the local bakery, a bus regularly turns a corner, drives up on the sidewalk, and all the pedestrians must move quickly. No one stops for pedestrians here either. So, what I’m saying is this: Be very aware and very safe. If I’m not in an area that I know is pedestrian only (and you’d be surprised how often cars show up in areas I don’t expect, like courtyards), I am really careful to keep my child close. Germans seem to be more relaxed about this, but they’re children grew up around unexpected cars and know the town.

2. Water. Just regular water.
You hear lots of Americans complain about not getting ice in their water, and that’s not the complaint I’m making here. (Although, if that’s your thing, you might want to stick with alcohol or Appleshole.) Water is hard to come by for some reason. It’s not sitting by every cashier station in every store. There are cafes and some do sell water (some actually don’t!), but it can get expensive because you pay for the bottle, and you are refunded when you return them. You definitely want to have water bottles that you fill before leaving your house. It’s not the easiest thing to find.

3. Bathrooms.
They aren’t as common as you find in America. I’ve been in grocery stores with my child and found they had no bathroom. So, you want to plan ahead and go when you find one. Don’t assume the next place will have a bathroom even if it’s a huge store. I’ve also had to pay for a bathroom, so keep change on you at all times.

4. Apoteke.
Medicine is sold only at an Apoteke, and I mean ALL medicine. Acetominophen, Ibuprofen, all of it. You can’t go into a local drug store or grocery store and find a pharmacy section. It doesn’t exist. So, if you have a child, bring something with you or get something from the Apoteke during business hours just in case.

5. Large Superstores
There aren’t many places you can go to find everything. Often you have to go to many different stores that specialize an item (books, clothes, food, beauty products) to find things you might need. That’s always super fun with kids. There are a few exceptions (Real and Müller being two). If you’re sticking around a while and you think lots of shops and errands might be hard for you, Amazon may be your lifesaver. Two other little asides: 1. Have a Euro on you to get a grocery cart. They also make little chips you can get at some stores. No chip/no Euro/no cart/no fun. 2. You have to pay for bags in Germany. Carry they with you if you’ll be walking. If you drive, just put all the stuff back in the basket and then put it into something in the car. Cashiers move really fast here, and no one will ever bag your items for you. Ever. It can get a little hectic at the register when you’re new to the money and language.

6. Coffee to go
It’s not the easiest thing to find, so you definitely want to get your fix before leaving the house. I’ve sat in a few cafes to get my afternoon coffee, and it’s gone well and terribly, horribly wrong with my child. Coffee convenience is not a thing.

7. Toilets
Ok. This is kind of a lame one, but why are there so many different German toilets and why do they all flush different ways?! You finally found a public bathroom for your child, and now you have to keep them from touching anything while you play plumbing scavenger hunt. Pedal on the floor, button on the wall, button on the side of the toilet, buttons that don’t look like buttons.

There you have it. I’m grateful for where I am, and I’ll be honest in saying that they only things I miss in America are people and not things at all. (Ok, I miss good mexican food. I admit this.) I do want to be real though and not make it seem like it all comes easy. So worth it though.

P.S. These are things I’ve found so far in Bayern (Bavaria). I can’t speak to the rest of Germany, but I did spend a great deal of time in Berlin 10 years ago, and these things were also true there.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Living Small

There are many things I’ve learned about myself during this past month in Germany. One of the biggest things is how much I love having my life downsized and simplified. I’ve always wondered if I could live in a tiny house, and I can tell you now the answer is “YES!”

I love having less space and less stuff. It’s incredibly liberating, and I’m never going back. Less clothes, less stuff, less accumulation- it’s all for me. It’s also been fantastic for Sylvie. She has a small drawer full of toys, and she plays with them in different ways over and over. I’ve been amazed at how true the predictions in Simplicity Parenting have been. She delves in, and she’s more creative with what she has than she’s ever been.

Truth be told, I do cheat a bit since I don’t cook dinner down here (but I could). I eat with my in-laws in the evenings, but in the warm weather, we eat outside anyway.

Here’s a little look at our space:

Small desk area.  We also pull up chairs and eat lunch here when it's raining.

Small desk area. We also pull up chairs and eat lunch here when it’s raining.

Kitchen and door to the bathroom

Kitchen and door to the bathroom

Closet space for us and the curtain that separates the living area and bedroom.

Closet space for us and the curtain that separates the living area and bedroom.

Our bed and play space.  We do share a bed, but this bed is huge, so it's been a non-issue.

Our bed and play space. We do share a bed, but this bed is huge, so it’s been a non-issue.

Out our door is the garden.  It's a beauty!

Out our door is the garden. It’s a beauty!

The fenced garden behind the apartment.

The fenced garden behind the apartment.

So, there’s our little home for 2 more months, small and lovely.

Speaking of downsizing. Did you see this? Inspiring.

I hope to take more pictures of the small city in which we live this week. The internet appears to allow me to upload pictures again.

Posted in Germany | 3 Comments

For Reals

If my current reading list is any indication, I’m way over my head in the parenting department. Honestly, I am overwhelmed. I’m not really sure if it’s the time change, general change, or some kind of developmental stage, but I am at a loss as to what to do about Sylvie’s behavior. The whining, the fits, the refusals, the defiance, the crazy uncontrolled energy.

Of course I’m not saying it’s always terrible. Of course not. 75% (ok maybe 72.8%) of the time things are fine. The other 25%, things are very, very challenging.

I keep asking myself if it’s the fact that my child is having a loud English-speaking fit in the middle of a street in Germany that things seem worse, but I really think things have kicked up a notch. Maybe it’s finally the “3/threenager thing” that kicked in.

Sometimes her rejections are funny (but I don’t laugh!) like the fact that she’s begun saying, “That’s not really my style” every time she doesn’t want to do something. When you insist, she says, “This is in my heart. It’s not my style in my heart.” I mean for real, people.

I kind of feel like a parenting idiot a lot of the time. You don’t want to know how many times a day I think, “Oh shit. What the hell do I do now?!?” This is not some attempt to get reassurance that I’m a good parent from anyone. I realize everyone must feel like this from time to time, and I’m not beating myself up every minute. This is just my way of being honest and saying that sometimes these parenting challenges in a new place are a total kick in the teeth.

Thanks for listening. Now let’s see some pretty pictures, shall we?

My MIL is a teacher, and she always have some cool activity for Sylie.  Here is Sylvie doing wet on wet water coloring.

My MIL is a teacher, and she always have some cool activity for Sylie. Here is Sylvie doing wet on wet water coloring.

Our view from our picnic spot today in Hofgarten.

Our view from our picnic spot today in Hofgarten.

Another view from the picnic.

Another view from the picnic.

We made some friends with a few pieces of our picnic leftovers.  Apparently this is not allowed....oops!

We made some friends with a few pieces of our picnic leftovers. Apparently this is not allowed….oops!

Posted in Germany, Motherhood | Leave a comment

Grandpa

I have been keeping a sad situation at home very quiet the last few days both because I’m not completely sure what some of my family knows and also because thanks to some issues with my German phone, I’ve been increasingly out of the loop. (Thank you to my cousin for all the information on FB message.)

Today my maternal grandfather has passed away. He had grown increasingly ill in the last month, and although we thought he was recovering, suffered a heart attack and kidney failure the day I arrived here.

My grandfather was a very quiet man. His wife, my grandmother, could chat you up like no one I’ve ever known, but even after her passing, he remained a man of very few words.

When I was around 16, I went to live with my grandparents for a few weeks to finish my high school year in the town I had lived in. (Long story that involves teenager angst and divorced parents.) I will say that at this point I was pretty convinced I was unlikeable by anyone over 20, and I had grown to believe it was impossible to live with me and like me.

After living with my grandparents for nearly a week, my grandfather had probably spoken 3 sentences to me. (He’s that quiet.) One morning we were having breakfast together, and he said something to me that I’ll never forget. He said, “Before you lived here I used to think you were a really nice girl.” My heart sank. Then he said, “Now I know that you are a wonderful girl, and I love you.”

So, Grandpa, as you leave us let me say this. That meant everything to me. I think you’re wonderful too, and I love you.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Eisheiligen- The Ice Saints

The weather here this week has been a constant switch hourly from beautiful to dreadful. This is not the time to walk around Germany without an umbrella. (NOTED and learned the hard way during a day 1 excursion.) They call this time Eisheiligen. You can read up on the link if you’re interested. It’s basically an unusually cold time at the beginning of May. I’ve been assured that Kalte Sophie is this Thursday and that should be the end of it.

Honestly, it’s not been that bad, but the very sudden downfalls do make our new walking lifestyle a bit tricky.

Sylvie finally slept though the night and seems to be recovering from the jet lag, so she’ll likely start kindergarten here next week. Yeah, I’m totally nervous, but she is very READY to go. She begs me everyday to take her. That little girl likes other kids.

I’m adjusting well. Here’s some truth talk though. The Europe you dream about and think about is not the Europe you experience with a child. While it’s a great time, and I do not want to complain, those lovely strolls down the cobblestone streets with a child might involve whining and constant pleas to go to the bakery. (Let’s be honest, internally I want to whine to go to the bakery also.) The good news is that you can take children to the Biergarten and unlike all the hype about French children, German children can be total little shits too, so you are just like every other parent.

We do have a great time though, and I’m lucky to be in a very walkable and child friendly town here.

Some things that are very different from home that I’ve noticed:

Some things are really expensive like certain fruit and peanut butter while wine is super cheap regardless of the quality.

You will see German children around the age of 7 out alone everywhere. Today I saw 2 boys at the park alone who must’ve been 6 or 7. I’ve also seen 2 kids riding their bikes on a very busy street here who looked to be 7 and 5. You all know I’m way against helicopter parenting, but I’ll admit it challenges me.

There’s a store in town that sells toys and cigarettes. It advertises these two things as specialties on the awning outside. I’ll get a photo soon.

Lots of people will tell you that they don’t speak English but they really mean is that they believe they don’t speak English well enough to talk to you. Once you break out the struggling German, they’ll break out their struggling English, because really could theirs be worse?

Just to prove Sylvie is having a great time, here are some pics from today:

Sylvie loves this swing in the local park

Sylvie loves this swing in the local park

Built in trampoline at the same park.  I mean...AWESOME!

Built in trampoline at the same park. I mean…AWESOME!

Sylvie loves to eat outside in her Omi's garden.  This was 5 minutes before it poured.

Sylvie loves to eat outside in her Omi’s garden. This was 5 minutes before it poured.

Today we walked by and peeked into an artist's studio.  Sylvie told me she is a "Künstler" (artist) and need to work in her studio.

Today we walked by and peeked into an artist’s studio. Sylvie told me she is a “Künstler” (artist) and need to work in her studio.

Hope all of you are well. More to come…..

Posted in Germany | Leave a comment

Deutschland!

So, I had this little idea and somehow, it happened. In honesty, it wasn’t really my idea at all. My good friend Robin and I were talking one day during a playdate about our love for Germany. I’m married to a German, and I’ve been wishing we could move to Germany for a few years before our daughter starts kindergarten. That’s when the plan started.

“Well, you could just go for 3 months or something at least.”

Yeah, I could and as it turns out, I did. Here we are.

I promise they’ll be more pictures and good stuff in the upcoming 3 months, but here’s FAQ on our trip to Germany.

Sylvie was awesome on the plane. I can’t recommend the overnight trips during bedtime enough. Seriously 7 hours out of 10 she was sleeping. WOO HOO!

In a strange kismet event, I ran into my German teacher from Seattle and Berlin that I haven’t seen in 7 years at the Frankfurt airport. We were on the same flight! Crazy to have someone call your name all the way across the world, and I was incredibly excited to see her. (I’ve tried to find her via Facebook and phone with no luck.) Unfortunately she’ll be going to Berlin for a short stay and not near here for my trip.

We’ll be here 3 months staying in the mother-in-law (or as it turns out daughter-in-law) apartment in my in-laws’ basement. It’s awesome and nicer than most of the small apartments I lived in while young and in Seattle.

Sylvie will be attending kindergarten (preschool) while she’s here and should start in a few weeks after we all adjust a bit. Guido speaks German with Sylvie at home, so she understands a great deal, but she rarely answers in German.

Guido stayed at home, but will be probably be traveling quite a bit for work during this time anyway (some possibly in Europe). For those of you who don’t know a lot about my husband, he’s a cameraman and travels A LOT for work, so it’s not a huge thing or even the first time we’ve been apart for so long. He will be coming here with my mom for a bit of our trip.

I hope to make a few other small trips to places I’ve been wanting to see, and possibly a bigger trip when Guido gets here.

I do speak German, but I speak it like a 4 year old. My grammar is terrible, and if someone speaks way too fast, I have no idea what the hell they are saying. I’m hoping this will improve as well. I mean, it has to, right?!

I think that’s the majority of questions I’ve been getting so far. We’re recovering from the jet lag at the moment, and jet lagged toddlers are a handful, so it’s been a busy day. It also rained all day (I did leave Seattle, right?!), so I’m hoping for some more outdoor time to explore tomorrow.

Oh, and it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, so Happy Mother’s Day to all the bad ass mamas out there.

Posted in Germany | 2 Comments