Holidays in Germany

Hallo!

Holidays

We’re in the thick of holiday season in Germany, and some of you have been asking what it’s like here with holidays. I forget sometimes that not everyone knows the little things that I share with our immediate families over FaceTime… but more than that, I also just start to forget just how much we’ve learned in the past 503 days (say what?!).

For example, gift boxes are common here for birthday parties. If you walk into a toy store, there’s a wall of baskets with labels for Freida’s birthday, Mats’ birthday, and more. Also, we have “Meine Freunde Buch” (My Friends Book) which are kind of like yearbooks, except the child mom is responsible for completing (with the child–with Google translate, if you don’t know the language) and inserting a wallet size photo of their child (which they must figure out how to print in a foreign country). Ok–so maybe this tradition was a little stressful to begin with, but is much easier for us, now. I have my wallet-sized photos ready to go and we now know that we’re responsible for a 24 hour turn-around and we are absolutely not to “Pass it along” but return it to the owner, who will handpick who gets to fill out a page in their book. (Hopefully the family who gave us our first Freunde Buch and didn’t get it back for several weeks has forgiven us.)

Halloween

Halloween is new, here. This holiday has been celebrated here for less than 10 years. They have another holiday in February called Fasching (kind of like New Orleans’ Mardi Gras). Yes, I had to run home last year and get masks and capes because my children were horrified that we arrived un-costumed on a day when everyone arrived in a costume. True Love for my kiddos. I went back home.

Our experience is that the Halloween that made it across the pond is less “home-grown/home made” and more “store-bought”– with a lot of ghoul and blood. On the other hand, I love that trick-or-treaters recite poetry. Some do just say, “Süß oder Saures” (Sweets or Sours–translated literally), but we’ve had a few recite poems–which is so cool. Last year we had two kids come to our door, but this year the neighborhood has filled out a bit more and we had a carving pumpkin party and were able to give away a whole bowl-full of candy. It’s nice to see the neighborhood coming together. Also, because it’s not really “town-wide”, there’s not published “Trick-or-Treating” times like in the States… which led to a series of neighborhood texting as to what time it should commence. That made me giggle. #EarlyForMyKidsPlease

Thanksgiving. Ok. This one is cheating. They don’t have it, here… BUT! They do have the Erntendank Fest (or Harvest Fest) that happens in October. It’s a festival of gratitude for the fall harvest and we’ve enjoyed their parade in a neighboring town, where they mostly threw candy, but also some actual leeks, cabbage, potatoes, and other veggies. (Well, they handed those out… they didn’t chuck ’em.)

Ertendankfest

We hosted Thanksgiving here and I more than benefitted from the traditional host gift: flowers. My home has been bursting with the signs of having hosted our wonderful friends for Thanksgiving–and I love it.

Host Flowers

I don’t think I’ll ever readjust to a 9 am Macy’s Day Parade. I *love* watching the parade with cocktails at 3 pm in the afternoon and finishing at 6 pm to Thanksgiving dinner. Love. However, if we ever go back, I will kiss the American-sized oven. No really. I’ll post a photo. And then the freezer. Actually, maybe I’ll kiss the freezer first.

Weihnachtsmarkt

Weihnachten! Christmas! Yes, we love the traditional Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) that are all over the city. Fun gifts, pretty food, carousels, and of course, Gluhwein (spiced wine served warm). This year, I’m reveling in the fact that I have Fridays off without my children and might get to go shopping at the Weihnachtsmarkt without kids underfoot (or screaming in the stroller, like they did last year). It’s a lovely time in Germany–warm and cozy–especially when the weather is particularly bad. It has a knack of being just above freezing and raining here. Snow isn’t typical and I was so grateful that last year wasn’t typical and we saw a fair bit of snow.

New Year’s Eve – I have never seen–or heard–more fireworks being set off from the family/household side of things than last year’s New Year’s Eve in Hamburg. It was amazing. You couldn’t actually see too much because they were all the family-sized celebration fireworks–but the sound was unforgettable. Last year we had a lovely evening with friends and my kids still talk about it–even though we attempted to put them to bed at 10 pm (unsuccessfully). Seriously, though. We did 8 pm poppers with them and then somehow had them up still at 11 pm. Ridiculous.

And yes, just like the states, there’s this long void between my birthday (late January) and Easter… which feels way too long and way too dark to keep anyone sane. That didn’t stop us from learning that on Palm Sunday, the children are supposed to make these super long stick celebration branches that we (of course) didn’t provide for our children. This year? We’re so on it. Bring it.

It’s been great fun learning about new traditions and getting to enjoy Germany’s traditions… and yes, we have continuously found ourselves at celebrations where every single child has something our children do not. And you know what? Our kids are champs. Brian and I laughed as we stuck our cell phones on the “flashlight” mode because we didn’t buy lantern lights for Laterna–St. Martin’s fest. And George and Rowan? They’re game. We love a reason to celebrate–and God love our kids for dealing with two parents who have no idea what the regular is for any holiday here.

May your holiday season be filled with joy! And Gluhwein!

Weihnachtsmarkt 2

Tschüss!

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Berlin

Hallo, from Hamburg!

Autumn

All is well here! Autumn has arrived and I’m soaking it all in… But, please humor me–I can’t help but start out this (Berlin) blog post with my biggest victory of the year (ok ok, maybe it’s not that dramatic–but really!)

If you’ve followed along, you know that checking out at a grocery store is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I have in Germany (weekly). Last week, I checked out and furiously bagged my items with a long line of people behind me. Trust me–I have methods like crazy. My 100 items must be efficient because everyone around me has 7. And yes, they roll their eyes at me. And this day, I was killin’ it. The right bags opened when I struggled to open them, I got the right bag with the heavy stuff and the bread at the end plopped nicely on top. I was the queen of ex-pats living in Germany that day. Irritating, yes, but killin’ it nonetheless. When I finished emptying my bags into my trunk, a German woman came up to me and told me that she was so impressed and wanted to learn from my packing abilities.

YESSS!! It was one of the most affirming moments of living in Germany. Especially because she spoke to me in German, I understood, and was able to respond (like a 2 year old). Fist Bump.

BUT! I’m not here to share only my grocery victories of the week.

We vacationed! The European version of vacation days paid off again and Brian’s parents came and we spent 4 days in Hamburg and then we all enjoyed 3 nights in Berlin. Berlin is close, and we took cars to get there, affording us the awesomeness of George’s scooter and Rowan’s balance bike to aid us in getting around town.

Berlin

That’s right. It worked. This was us on our way to Checkpoint Charlie. “We’re going to do Charlie!!” Rowan said. [Shoutout to Brian, carrying all the things. Like always.]

One major highlight of this trip for me was getting to ride with Brian on some of the road trip there and talk through the history of Berlin–East and West–and all that that entailed. I’m generally woefully underinformed. In fact, embarrassingly so. But my awesome husband patiently walked me through the history and I Google Mapped and Google Imaged my way through the history story, even getting to listen to an audio file of “Ich bin ein Berliner”! And then I was able to fully marvel at the sights when we were there.

One of my favorite things we saw was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. From the edges of it, it looks like this:

Berlin 3.jpg

Like tombs. But then you start walking into the memorial, and it swallows you up. You can’t tell from the outside that it has any depth to it… But it does:

Berlin 2.jpg

It’s completely moving, overwhelming, and sobering. It’s quiet. And you get lost. And yes, sometimes (ahem) you lose your children in it. Which kind of… seemed appropriate. How awful. How moving. And God love the artists who made this memorial a reality. Thank you for honoring them.

Another highlight was a date with my husband (Thanks, Marmie and Pops!!!) to a 2 Michelin Star restaurant: FACIL. This was dessert (peaches and corn) and yes. It blew my mind. Everything on this plate was edible… The green oval thing is ice cream and the round of what looks like corn sliced and laid on the left side (with the caramel in the middle) is actually liquid and PIPED onto the plate. Say what?!

Berlin 4

It was a lovely getaway! It was indulgent for me to not cook and clean for our meals for 4 days and getting to see the sights of history was amazing. We are still our family with a 3 and 4 year old, so we mostly park-hopped, walked, and ate at restaurants–but that was ok! Oh, and the hotel breakfast and pool were our kid-highlights. Everyone had a lovely time.

Berlin 5.jpg

Another city visited! I think it might be time to purchase that huge world map for a wall so we can begin marking all the places we’ve been! We’re very blessed. Hoping you’re also enjoying your autumn and planning a trip here to visit!

Tschüss!

Deutsch

“Do you know that in Germany, they have a different word *for everything*?!”

That’s my Dad’s joke. (And I love that joke!) But it’s also not a joke. We’re here, wading in the reality of completely bilingual children. For months I thought my daughter “regressed” in her baby talk only to find that she was actually speaking German and I simply couldn’t understand her. (Mom win.)

Germany

“Achtung! Achtung!” Rowan yelled this morning as we opened the front door and she was concerned for George’s feet. “Warning! Warning!” (Watch out!) … “I love paprika!” my children declared with a “French guttural r”, not speaking of the powdered version, but of colored peppers. I’ve had my daughter look at me seriously and ask, “What English Dat?!” when wondering how we call something in English. My son proudly proclaims that “Ich spreche Deutsch and Aaanglish” (which is the German accent for English). I genuinely inform him that I’m so proud that he speaks both Deutsch and Iiiinglish. George has mostly grown out of it, but he replaced all prepositional phrases concerning himself to “bei me.” “This dinner is not spicy bei me!” To me, George, This dinner is not spicy to me. On Wednesday afternoon, George frustrated as he discovered he didn’t know how to say “Tennis fällt aus” in English. There was a terrifying minute where he realized he couldn’t communicate with his own Mama, and Google Translate to the rescue! “Tennis was cancelled!” “Yeah!” He yelled and smiled, “Tennis was cancelled!” Sigh of relief. We can communicate, again.

There’s so much cuteness in it all. And I’m really, as I said, unbelievably proud. So many other teachers and parents have commented that “George has no accent!” and has soared in his ability to speak. “Rowan understands everything!” her teachers declare. But there’s also an additional serious responsibility. Our children are soaring into the German language for 42.5 hours per week… and come home saying, “I catched the ball!” Brian and I have discussed and committed to regular instruction so that our kids can keep up with English. We laughed this week as I admitted that my pre-Germany plan for teaching my children English was to enroll them in an American, English school. Turns out that plan won’t work here! Brian is particularly good at encouraging, and honestly, our children are so accustomed to being “instructed” both at home and at school that there isn’t much sensitivity around being corrected. I’m so proud of them. And now, I sit around with my Duolingo and ask George and Rowan to help me win.

3 years ago, Brian was speaking 80% Spanish to George and we were gearing up for a year of discernment that would land us in grad school in Boston. Grad school brought a lot of change for us and Spanish fell to the side with all we were juggling. Little did we know that in 3 years time our children would be fluent in German, being something akin to a class president in the front entryway at the Kita, talking to all the parents and children as I insist, “Schuhe Aus, Bitte!” in my one-sentence-awesome-German (Shoes off, please!). I’ve slowly perfected the most important sentences like “Please excuse my terrible German” and “I’m sorry, I don’t understand”–you know, the survival ones. I have hope for the future, but I’ll say it once more–I’m so proud of my kids who were placed lovingly in the deep end of an immersion experience and actually started successfully treading water and then swimming laps (around me). Gut gemacht, mein Kinder! Ich liebe dich.

The Start of Year 2

It’s September. Amazing. Last time I checked in here, it was mid-July and I was so very vacationing.

Hamburg 2

We’re two weeks into the new school year, a month back from vacation, and thankfully 3.5 weeks from now, we’ll be welcoming a family visit from the states. It’s hard to believe we’re beginning our second year here. I keep having to correct myself when I say, “When we were in Boston last year two years ago.” (See that ship ↑? That’s not our stuff. We didn’t do an international move this year. High Five!)

We’re doing well. The work is keeping us unbelievably busy and one of the biggest changes this year is that I’m working a 4 day week. Every weekend is 3 days, and the first day is always alone without my kiddos. My first month was a streak of To-Do Listing and I look forward to a better mix of To-Dos, Learning, and Self Care. Let’s be honest–my lists will never be short. But, after a month of Fridays, I can honestly say that the things that were on the list for the past 6 months are officially done. Happy me!

I shared photos from our vacation to Denmark here. It was so lovely. Brian had the amazing idea to buy wetsuits. Yep. You read that right. Wetsuits. For all four of us. Remember, the Baltic Sea…? It’s not Cancun. And those wetsuits? They were amazing. 10 minutes of torture in cold water were 45 minutes of comfortable splashing for us. Crazy Winning.

Wetsuits

Also, the kids were *ridiculously cute* in them… And actually, so were the adults. Hah.

Wetsuit - R

The last vacation we took was to Italy, and we flew there. This Denmark vacation was a 2.5 hour drive away, and I relished in being able to bring along all of our groceries, toys, and books without it being a huge luggage issue. So nice. It was a lovely 4 days of slow mornings, family movie nights, Haribo gummy bears at all hours, happy cocktails, and lots of photography. (Read: we didn’t have to grocery shop by foot on vacation. More high fives!)

We’re buckling in. This year will be completely different than last year for a litany of reasons, but I am so glad that we’re settled, adjusted, and honestly? I love our home. Just this week, Brian and I were discussing that we never start a thought with, “I wish our home _____ (had/did/didn’t/etc…).” It serves us well. And now that we’re staying, your chances to come to Europe have increased! Come visit. We’d love to see you!

Bis Bald! (See you soon!)

Abend Brot

About 14 months ago, Brian and I were sitting in his parents’ living room, at the time almost-homeless with all of our belongings in a container ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere… I was completely unaware of what the next year would hold, but I knew one thing: our rental contract was never counter-signed by the owner. We got an email asking us to pay for the model unit designer curtains. And nope. We wouldn’t. (They were ugly–not to mention expensive!) But it turned out that the rental contract we signed (and thought was final) wasn’t final at all… because they never signed it. My mother-in-law, being the amazing person that she is, confidently proclaimed that there was some hidden blessing, some meaning, in this seemingly awful turn of event where we felt actually homeless 3 weeks before arriving in our new city.

14 months later, I would like to tell you what we already know: Mama’s always right. And yes, she was right this time, too. We received an identical contract for a unit in a different row of houses. Our backyard is shared by multiple families, making our backyard life the envy of the neighborhood with children everywhere and toys being shared, and a strip of grass behind our sheds to boot. A soccer-playing, water balloon throwing, bike riding, ice cream eating heaven.

I could end the post here–but why?! I wanted to paint the backyard picture for you because about 8 months into living here I had a sudden realization: all the other moms were sitting outside and enjoying the early evening… while I was cooking in the kitchen. Heh?! Something about their life led them to be able to sit outside, sipping sparkling water, happily refereeing any arguments and answering calls of cuts, bruises and requests for ice packs. I was aghast. And I needed to know their secret… And they were happy to oblige:

ABEND BROT.

The literal translation? Evening Bread.

The German tradition of Abend Brot is not far from what you’re imagining. Simple deli meat (or tuna), sliced cheese, herbed butter, fresh bread from your local Backerei, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, pickles, etc. A simple, cold meal. Something that takes literally 5 minutes to assemble. And I could tell! Because all of these moms are sitting outside until they literally call out “Abend Essen!” … and go in and assemble dinner.

Abend Brot

So, I converted. We’re at least 2 months into 3 nights per week of Abend Brot, and I’m totally converted. I’ve enjoyed the after school hour with my kids a lot more, feeling free to sit down and enjoy their company, or open the shed and enjoy a game. I’m also planning meals a lot less and my grocery list became much simpler.

So, I wanted to share it with you! All these German moms are sipping sparkling water and enjoying time outside during our so aptly named “Witching Hour”. I’m so thankful to be living in a new country and getting to learn different ways to do things–especially when they give back to our family culture so richly!

I hope you’re having a great week and if you don’t have a dinner plan for tomorrow–no sweat! Here’s my quick list:

  • For a sandwich, or to eat as finger foods, rolled up: Bread, meat and/or sliced cheese (Lox if you want to make your life awesome), herbed butter or cream cheese, and lettuce.
  • Pickles, Roasted red pepper, olives, etc.
  • Veggies (Cucumber and peppers are our regulars, though I love mushrooms and green beans, snow peas for a treat.)
  • Fruits (I like to buy a bit nicer since we’re not buying dinner ingredients–berries all the way! Oh, and the kids love prunes. Go figure.)

And here’s my final disclaimer: after two or three months, I will admit that it’s gotten old. We find the weekend cooked meal to be absolutely divine after so much Abend Brot… but you know? That’s ok. With Brian working longer hours, it makes the weeknights simpler and when we get to be together on the weekends, our homemade full meals are a delight and luxury–and that is a sweet thing.

 

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Have a great rest of your week! And if you try Abend Brot–please let me know how it goes! 🙂

Tschüss!

PS- good question from my friends: what do they eat for lunch? Dinner! I forgot to mention that all four of us are served hot food at lunch, which takes the pressure off of dinner… But I’m also more than happy to eat a lighter, simpler meal before we head to the horizontal position for a long night’s sleep! 🙂

It’s Time to Learn German (Really)

Rathaus

We’ve lived in Hamburg, Germany for 11 months. Time has not flown, but they’ve been good, full months. We’ve seen a lot and experienced much more on so many levels.

Moving internationally is kind of like joining a club. I keep meeting other people who simply know exactly what it was like to uproot and join a completely foreign culture. I had no idea what I was in for, and I’m so glad we came! We thought, discussed, prayed, and discerned our way through this year, the whole time wondering whether we’d have an additional international move in front of us instead of a happy-go-lucky-bike-riding summer with our kids. I’m so happy to say that we’ve decided to stay! There’s a lot that went into that decision, and much of it will be documented only verbally over bottle(s) of wine with family and friends… But the long and short of it is: we’re so excited to stay here!

We have put a lot of work into settling as a family this year, and I’m so excited to see the payoff from all that work over the course of this year. We will not need to install lights, transition our children to school for the first time, watch them completely drained after a day of a completely new language, or buy a car. (No really. That last one was a pain.) It’s amazing how our weekends this spring have be dedicated to living instead of adjusting. So much goodness.

And guys: Germany. Europe.

Travel here is cheap and yes, we have a lot of vacation days. Our kids have matured into real travelers over the past year, for which we’re really grateful.

This year, we have visited the doctor at least once per month. Outside of our monthly contributions to our health insurance plan, we have paid 20.34 € on doctor’s visit. Over 11 months. 20.34 € Every prescription our children have needed has been handed to me completely free.

The grocery stores are closed on Sundays… And do you know what that’s meant for us this year? We rest. Because we can’t work. We’re home. Or we’re at the park. And it’s restorative. (Oh, and Hamburg is the first place in my marriage where I’ve successfully and regularly stayed in my food budget. Hooray, Lidl!)

We live in a row house and the kids have friends that share  backyards. We’re outside almost every night sharing life together. Grilling dinner, riding bikes, playing soccer, running in the sprinkler. It’s downright child heaven… and Brian keeps being reminded of his childhood years living on Monroe Street–which is high praise.

It’s been a long time since we’ve stuck our heels in and felt ready to stay somewhere. It feels good to peruse eBay for furniture steals and buy the bigger package of black beans… We’re here. And it feels good.

Thanks so much for reading along with us… I do hope you’ll stick around! ♥

Family

Malta!

Hi, Friends!

So, the last time I checked in here we had traveled to Italy as a family! And now, I’m coming back with the details of fun from my trip to Malta! (Reminder: Once you get to Europe, it’s relatively cheap to travel within Europe. Yes, Malta was a bit of a pricier destination… but it’s hard to beat 40 € tickets to Italy. But, I digress.)

I had the complete pleasure of joining my sister, Melanie, her husband Edmundo, and their son on their European adventure. We shared an Airbnb, hosted by a wonderful friend, and the whole trip felt like a literal soaking of beauty. Saturation was the perfect word. By the 3rd morning, I left the house WITHOUT my camera… because I just couldn’t handle that every angle was so photogenic. (For me, this is saying something!)

So, I embarked on my husband’s birthday! Yes. You read that right. My awesome husband sent me away on his birthday to spend time with my family on an island… while he held down the fort with the kiddos. God love him.

Highlights from the trip were flying without kids (all the reading!), the beautiful view from the apartment we stayed in, the gorgeous Maltese balconies throughout the island, a trip to Gozo (another island) to enjoy more and more beauty, seeing the oldest human-made structure in the world, the beautiful vegetation (so many huge succulents!), and last (but definitely not least!) amazing hosts who showed us all around their beautiful island home.

On the last morning, I attended church, assuming that the service would be in English… but it wasn’t! I enjoyed the rhythm of (again) a familiar, but non-English Mass, and I’ll tell you what. When the cantor got up and sang the Psalm in Maltese, it was so very beautiful. I was moved to tears… and I didn’t even know what he was saying! And yes, the icing on the cake was watching the priest process out of Mass, and having the older gentleman processing out about two paces behind him, wearing his blue tinted sunglasses to boot.

Please enjoy the photos!

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A Trip to Italy

We decided the dates and we let Ryanair decide the location… Brian did a search for cheapest tickets in Europe for the dates we had… and for 175 € total, we had four tickets to Lamezia Terme, Italy. Tack on an AirBnB for 225 € and we were ready to pack our bags!

The weather was warm, but not swimming weather. It was supposed to rain, but it didn’t! The house had no internet, so we played games! The restaurant didn’t serve pizza until after the kids’ bedtimes… but the paninis were amazing. But here’s the real thing: We. Went. Away. We left the house, the dusting and vacuuming, the work emails and discussions, the scramble of backpacks to get to the Kita, and even the rainy Hamburg weather behind… And it was glorious. Tonight, Rowan succinctly summed up our trip by saying, “We flew on a plane… to throw rocks in the water!” Yup. It was a simple trip. And her highlight? It was throwing rocks in the water.

This trip felt like a serious shift. I couldn’t help but recall schlepping through airports last summer (FIVE FLIGHTS in FIVE WEEKS!) with two massive car seats on rollers, countless luggage, etc, etc, etc. (See more about that phase of life here.) Sure, we gave in and rode taxis without car seats both to and from the airport in Italy… going 110 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone… Thanks, Mr. Italy… But we arrived safely with both kids giggling with delight at the feeling of what I would prefer to call a roller coaster ride rather than a taxi ride. These kids, though. Nevermind the whining–we walked to the Terminals. All of us. One child peed in the toilet for the first time (that I’m aware of at least!) and the other is daytime trained. It was amazing. We’re like an entirely different family travel wise than we were last summer. It’s very freeing.

We also were able to pack so lightly. I pulled up a packing list from last summer to double check if I was forgetting anything… Baby monitor. No need. Stroller. No thanks. Ergo Baby Carrier? Nah. Go back even farther and you can leave at home the nursing cover, the baby bottles, spit up blankets, diaper cream… goodness me. The kids wore their own backpacks! I could get used to this.

So, without further ado, here are some highlights of what we saw. So grateful for sunshine, weather in the 70s, speed scrabble, rummy 500, salami, wine, and the good ol’ espresso. Oh, and sleep. And naps. And more sleep. Ok. And a little bourbon.

Italy 1Italy 2Italy 3Italy 4Italy 5Italy 6Italy 7

Arrivederci!

Home Tour

Hello, Friends!

Believe me, I would *love* to have all of you visit, but let’s face it… I live far away from a lot of you. So, I promised this in the first month we lived here, and here it is! Our home tour.etc.

Just in case you’re wondering, preparing your entire home for a video tour is… nearly impossible. So please, ignore the closed closet doors, empty walls, the drying dishes, etc. etc. etc. I did baby-wipe preparation of the bathrooms and filmed the second floor on a completely different day… because one contiguous video of our home was simply not happening. Too many meals to serve and oh. We have two kids under 5.

BUT! Without further ado excuses, I give you our home! It’s important that we love it because the winter and germs have hit us hard and we’ve spent a lot of quality time here. And it. is. beautiful. I’m so grateful for this more-than-the-bare-minimum shelter of ours and the space it creates for us.

10 points if you make it through all five minutes… You’re a true rockstar!

Tschüss!

Our German Home

It’s officially been one month and one week since I’ve given any update on our German life. Sprinkled in there were Christmas and New Year’s, and upcoming are two birthdays and our anniversary. Life is full, and thankfully, starting to feel more normal.

I drove to church today, and *almost* didn’t need Google Maps. I absolutely know where all of my groceries come from, and what stores I prefer. I have purchased my first items of clothing and got a haircut. So? We’re settling. (Our health hasn’t improved much, but I won’t whine about that here. Cough. Sniffle. Wipe up the messes.)

Hamburg

I went down to Hamburg proper this weekend for yes–a massage–but also coffee, because we buy from our favorite roaster in Hafencity. I giggled to myself as I drove to our familiar parking deck, felt comfortable driving in traffic, and knew where I was going. The 22 year old me would have no clue I would end up being this comfortable in cities–alone (and driving stick). Sure, I’ve always loved “The City” (New York City, Obviously. hah.), but that’s different than tackling the logistics yourself. I found myself smiling at a group of people downtown that was clearly a group of Americans. I thought to myself, “For all they know, I’m German. And that’s kind of funny. But I do feel comfortable here.” What a difference 6 months make.

Because, to be honest, I don’t see it anymore. I don’t see the funny traffic signs, I don’t notice the oversized scarves, I’m starting to love shelf-life milk (not the taste, just the practicality!), I don’t hear the funny English sentence structure, or the “Dank sei Gott” at church as foreign language anymore. Our children are speaking–even singing!–German. And I guess this is all good. Right? Right! But it does make life a bit less “Blog Worthy”. Travel blogs make a bit more sense in that they keep going to new places. We’re home. It’s our home. And yes, it’s still Deutschland, which means it’s foreign, but it’s home.