Spring has sprung

I probably would’ve never believed I would say this, but you know what life is right now?

Normal.

Hamburg 3

It’s a weekend in Germany. We watered the lawn, took a walk to the park, made good food and cleaned our house. I called a local Greek restaurant and ordered dinner in German. We sat with neighbors late into Saturday night and enjoyed a mixture of songs from the 80’s: both German pop songs and American classic rock. I went to church and got invited to sing in the church choir. And yes, I understood the invitation after struggling with the German word “Choir”. I know you’re probably confused, but in English, it translates to “Choir”. (In my defense, they DO sound different. LOL).

There are little things about life that no longer surprise me. We eat cake before dinner with friends. This is the way. And frankly, I’m sure it’s healthier. I haven’t had “Fresh” milk in our house in 2 years. We buy shelf-life milk and it’s basically only used for our cappuccinos. The sun is staying up late as summer approaches and it feels a little like a familiar, “Here we are, again”. Somehow, I will try again this year to go to bed on time… when the sun is up until past 11 pm. Even our daily routines are working better, especially since I’ve been working 4 days per week instead of 5. This month I took a walk and finally visited a cemetery near work that I had been curious to visit. It was stunning:

Cemetery

I have never seen so many beautiful displays of flowers in a cemetery in my life. It was like walking through a field of bouquets. It seemed as if none of the graves went unnoticed. It seems odd to share something like that, but it was moving. Somehow it felt like I had snuck in to someone else’s family gathering, but was allowed to wander and connect with something so beautiful about the culture here. The flowers here have always been the most stunning I’ve ever seen… And I’m delighted that they’re used for both the living and the deceased.

So I guess I’m sitting here wondering if it’s fair to hop on to the blog and tell you nothing… Probably not. But here we are. We’re all alive. We’re all working and playing hard. We still love our cappuccino machine. Driving stick shift is the regular. We know how to buy movies and usually remember to make sure that it’s not only in German. (Side note: Mary Poppins in German is available in a living room not near you… ours.) And you know what… that’s the whole story right now. Hoping you are also seeing the flowers pop up and the promise of summer as the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tulips

Tschüss!

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Lanzarote, Spain

Lanzarote

Dear Michelle Obama,

Thank you! Thank you for coming along with me on our family vacation to an all inclusive resort with pools, drinks and endless sleeping in. I’d like to take this moment to sincerely apologize for dousing you in my morning mojito on day 2 (Yes, before 11 am) and then outright dunking you into the pool on day 6. But I sincerely hope that you maybe just enjoyed your mojito and pool experience as much as I did this Spring. My husband declared that you’d probably be proud to share my mojito with me!

Sincerely,

Mary at Couch von Rot

PS- vacation was so relaxing that I only made it through chapter 2 of your book. However, I liked what I read so much that I’m already reading sections of it aloud to my husband. #WIN. Oh, and yes, the pages are a little warbled from the pool-dunking… but you know. Think of it like the beach wave look.

Ok ok. But really. Spain. What a beautiful place we went to. And at such a desperately awful time of the year for weather in Hamburg. Where to begin?

Well, I guess we’ll start with some “Eye Candy”:

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It’s tempting to tell you all the nitty-gritty details, like when I told Rowan not to sing “Frozen” on the top of her lungs on the airplane to which she responded, “Why?! Nobody’s sleeping!” Or the adventure of day two when George swung himself off a swing and into a wooden pole… face first. Don’t worry, he ended up fine–getting to talk about how tough he was with every stranger. (Mama and Papa were just relieved he hadn’t broken his neck or lost an eye… because yes. The crack sounded that bad.) And yes, he was still healing when we returned back to Germany 6 days after his accident. Ouch.

Before we left, we pulled the trigger and bought floaties. Good ones. And the kids put them on and went swimming… while I was sipping a mojito (see letter to Michelle above). It was an awesome addition to our vacation:

Floaties

We were happy to be at a family-focused resort. We were surrounded by families eating dinner at the early hour, trying to stretch their kids to nap time and hovering over those same kids through the cafeteria-style lunch to make sure their juice didn’t spill on the way to their table. (And when it did spill? No big deal. It’s a family resort.) We had this overwhelming feeling like every one there, no matter where they came from or what language they spoke… were just trying to relax on a vacation while having children. Oddly unifying.

Oh, and for our meals? This was the view:

Breakfast

We were just silly lucky when we arrived and were informed of our (free) room upgrade. We had a hot tub on our balcony and more square-footage than we deserved. And the view from our balcony was stunning, both mountain and sea showing themselves off:

Mountain

Lanzarote 3

The kids had a blast. They enjoyed the “dragon pool” with slides and water just deep enough to not need floaties for it. George cracked us both up when he went up to the slide and was told, “Vámanos!” by the life guard. He splashed into the water, looked up at me and said with a giggle, “That guy called me Bama!” They both participated in the kids’ program for 2 two-hour session (read: 2 dates for parents) and were totally crazy for the nightly Kids’ Disco. Our kids were overly concerned that dinner would take too long and the dancing would start before we arrived. They were also the last ones to want to go home. We’ve created music and dancing lovers and I couldn’t be prouder.

All in all: Amazing. I could tell you more stories like how it’s great to be a red-headed woman asking for a drink at a bar (read: long pours and tall drinks) or how the pool-side grill became a “thing” on day 4 and we had fresh burgers and fries pool-side every day after, or how our kids discovered cola for the first time… But, I’ll just leave you with a few more photos of what the goal really was:

Quality family time.

And we had it. Lots of it. It was unwinding. It was fun. It was warm. And the kids are still talking about it… 3 weeks later. George commented out of the blue this morning, “Let’s move to Spain.” Yup. We had a great time. And I’m so grateful. Our life has been one long adventure here in Europe and taking a full seven days with only us to rest, relax, enjoy, and become better friends was just the thing we were looking for.

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Two bottles of sunscreen later and we’re more than ready and happy to say:

Gracias, Spain!

Christmas in the States

flying

We went back! 18 months in Europe and then we boarded a plane like it was no thang and flew to Detroit. And frankly, it was hardly a thang, with our kids old enough to use a toilet, carry their own back-pack, and generally keep their cool until the next eating break. We had a 10-day trip plan and every German said, “Oh! So short!” I love their vacation expectations here. (Side note: 10 days is short for a 6-hour time difference.)

We woke up at a reasonable hour on the morning of our flight. George woke up not long after us and yelled up the stairs, “Gooooood moooorning! We’re gonna fly on an aaaaairplane!!” And then, as the plane got going, Rowan said with wonder, “We’re about to flieg!” Her faced flashed from nervousness to joy as we lifted off.

security

We landed in Amsterdam and discovered that Rowan’s at the perfect height for the metal lane divider of the customs line to be juuuust out of her view, while being juuuust low enough to whack her in the head. Let’s just say that the security guys in line had mercy on my spirited and wailing three-year-old and our family was escorted to the very front of a line of over 50 people… Thanks, kiddo.

As we neared our gate, “Michigan” sweatshirts started popping up everywhere. You could almost taste the impending tortilla chips and and random interactions with strangers… in English. Then we saw pilots who waved to our kids and then one turned around to give both of them Wings to pin on their shirts. They were proud as peacocks. And yes, those proud peacocks were so happy as they sang “You better watch out… Santa Claus is coming to town!!” in the airport for all to hear.

When we arrived, I’ll admit that there was some charming confusion on the order of events as George waltzed into my sister’s kitchen upon our jet-lagged arrival and inquired where the presents were… Sorry, man. It’s still the 4 more days to Christmas… He recovered quite well.

Our time was really spent soaking it all up: slow mornings, family time, Christmas movies, grocery shopping in English, and American football. Watching our kids learn how to play charades (kind of) and delight in participating in a family game reminded me so much of the joys of my own childhood. So many Saturday nights with family friends and various ages all playing charades or pictionary. A highlight of my (and now their!) childhood.

charades

We really enjoyed reinstating the tradition that Brian grew up with: Santa arriving on Christmas Eve. Brian’s cousin did the honors and you should have *seen* our kids’ faces. Santa definitely brought gifts under the Christmas tree, but he was really only credited with the items that Santa handed out (one of which was actually from Grandmommy–but details!). It was pretty funny. Seeing the joy was… a joy!

santa

We lingered and enjoyed friends and family and the icing on the cake? A little snow to cap it off! The last day we were there, we enjoyed a delightful snowfall at the park where Brian and I had our wedding photos taken.

snow

It was a lovely trip away. We crawled back, exhausted from travel, but welcomed back into Deutschland with fireworks lighting up the sky for New Year’s Eve. As we drove the streets of Hamburg to our now-home, we were delighted to feel so very at-home and happy to be back. 18 months away, with a very exciting and exhausting beginning, and a very lovely and happy landing.

Hoping your holidays were also filled with love, laughter and joy… and that your new year is off to a great start!

Tschüss!

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!

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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