Kita Kids


It’s been 3 years since I wrote and shared about our experience with our Kita (preschool/kindergarten). It’s hard to believe that we’ve graduated one child from their program and look forward to starting the journey again with our third child next year… amazing.

We’ve also been witnessing an international discussion on learning and play thanks to COVID-19 and the implications of a worldwide pandemic on education. Of course, before that conversation even began, we were all quarantined for many weeks with our children, trying to survive and flourish in unprecedented times. Our family’s particular quarantine lasted 10 weeks.

In our household, we had just had our third child and I was jealous for a year at home with Germany’s very generous maternity leave… however, I started a program of being a stay-at-home Mom to a 6 year old, a 4.5 year old, and a newborn. Thankfully, formal school starts in 1st grade in Germany, so we had no online work to do, or lessons to complete. While many of my peers were trying to figure out online platforms and group chats, I was working on an independent family program (called survival).

To say the least, I worked hard with Brian to create something sustainable. This was no time for “NO TV!” anthems (hello 3 week old baby), but we also didn’t download any new apps to keep our kids “babysat” by screens. But in all honesty, I’m not here to toot any of our own horns.

I’m here to honor our Kita. (And, by extension, our kids!) When we moved to Germany, our kids had never been in daycare or school. We had nothing to compare to, and I think I hadn’t fully appreciated the beauty of the Kita program our kids were so easily folded into.

As we treaded through the waters of quarantine, though, I could see all the Kita training of our children shine in small pockets of peace…

I say, “Play outside!” and they went… Thanks to the Kita, they know how to go outside, collect pieces of nature, color on them with chalk, bring a stick along, break it in half, play pirates, capture the swings, and a few bugs while they’re at it. This skill set was given to them by a Kita who sets them loose outside almost daily, in most weather, with no “Schedule” or “Activity” plans. They’re simply outside with a few playground equipment pieces for fun.


I say, “Go to the playroom!” and (usually) they go happily… Thanks to the Kita, they know how to enter a room full of legos and create models of dream homes with bunk beds and dog houses. They know how to combine reading chairs as forts and then to change those forts into a horse barn with stalls for feeding and tunnels for walking through. They know how to cook (pretend) breakfast, including cappuccinos (that’s my doing–sorry, Kita), and offer us the tasty foods from their play kitchen.

Activity Table

I say, “Do something at the Activity Table!” and thanks to the Kita, they have ideas on how to fold paper airplanes, small pocketbooks, and then make play money to slip inside of them and go shopping. They know how to pull out sand and create a work site and make birthday cakes. And we’ve all “eaten” plenty of play dough pizza!

We did our fair share of “special” activities like Cosmic Kids Yoga (Screen time, yes, but also active participation–or I turn it off… LOL), family movies at night, bubbles in the backyard, painting, pretzel making, planting a garden, playing Uno, reading chapter books together, and yes, Brian did an amazing job teaching about the alphabet and how to read with both kids.

Indeed, we did a lot of active-participation things with them, too… but! I’m here mostly, again, to honor the Kita. This little haven for our kids, where they’re free to be kids, getting not much actual instruction, but a world-full of learning that kids should be doing–because they’re kids! Sitting and making pretend grocery shopping lists? On the regular here in this house! Heaven forbid we forget to pick up eggs and flour to make cake!

I’m so blessed. I didn’t know a pandemic was coming right when our third baby was to arrive, but despite all the battles and difficulties (hello witching hour), what I learned over quarantine was that I’m so grateful for our Kita kid-heaven. They have the skills to keep themselves busy, to use their imaginations, and to make messes that prove they’re having loads of fun, and I’m just so darned happy about it.


Birth Story

We did it! We birthed a baby in Germany! Well, I did, anyway. 🙂


This is our third baby and the first time I watched my due date come and go… Clancy was born 3 days late. And honestly, thanks to Germany’s 6 weeks of leave before your due date, I was actually well-rested and peaceful. (And of course I knew that post partum can actually be less fun than 41 weeks pregnant… so I was OK waiting.)

Of course, this is the moment where I give the story… so take it or leave it 🙂 (I’ll never know! And I totally understand if birth stories aren’t your thing. Oh, and I promise that I won’t give too many details.)

At 11:30 pm, I woke up.

Contraction 1. Laying in bed and suddenly, I felt the urge to push. You know, the one that comes *after* transition. “Say what??” I thought to myself.

Contraction 2. PAIN. Wake up Brian and inform him that this is it. Hold his hand and squeeze it off. PAIN.

Contraction 3. “Brian. I want to push. I don’t feel comfortable being at home.”

Brian pops RIGHT UP.

So, I dress and he packs the final items. Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself that I’m terrified I will have 7-15 hours of labor at this level of intensity and suddenly feel thoroughly exhausted.  (I labored 15 hours with my first and 7 with my second.)

My amazing and lovely neighbor came to our aid and stayed with our older kids. We climbed in the car and I counted the minutes by number of contractions… I think I had 3 contractions in the car, and we started to discuss the fact that there’s no parking lot and we’re at the mercy of street parking. Do I want to be dropped off alone at the ER door where they might not speak English? No, not really… So cue two contractions on the walk from car to ER door. Yes, I squatted and held on to a bicycle rack on the side of a street, praying that I wouldn’t birth the baby… and hoping I wouldn’t be embarrassed by a greeting, exam and a send home due to not being dilated. Not to worry.

They wheeled me from the ER to the labor floor… but there was no room at the inn. “All of our birth rooms are occupied or being cleaned, so why don’t you wait here in the waiting room.” “Ok. Just so you know–I feel like pushing.” I say. “Oh,” she said very kindly, “Is this your first?” “Uh, no. My third.” I watched as her face transitioned just like I felt like I had transitioned and she said, “Follow me. We’ll put you in an observation room.”

Within 10 minutes of being in the observation room and declaring me fully dilated, all talk of an actual birthing room disappeared and I knew we were exactly where we would be when we met our son for the first time. “I need to go to the bathroom.” “Go ahead”, the midwife says, and then sternly follows it up with, “Please don’t push in there and have the baby.” I assured her that I would not go having that baby alone. I wanted her in the room.

I returned. I pushed. My water broke. First time that’s ever happened naturally! Then things really picked up, but I was parched… they had no water for me at the inn (I feel ya, Mary), and all we had was a huge 1-liter water bottle that I couldn’t use because I was kneeling… I simply couldn’t tip it back and drink… So, I asked for a straw. The midwife gave me a look that spoke a thousand words and said, “You really want me to leave right now and get you a straw??” “Yeah!” I thought in my head, with all the sass of my 16-year-old self. In the end she offered me a catheter tube as a make-shift straw… and Hooray! I had water. Thank God.

We had arrived at the hospital about 12:30 and at 1:55, Clancy arrived. Thankfully, I didn’t have to endure the intensity of 7 or 15 hours… It was a whopping 2.5 hours from first contraction to newborn, and I was so grateful when it was over.

He was our biggest baby at birth and some how seemed “grown” from moment one. A full pound and 2 ounces bigger than my first baby. We watched him as he nursed like a champ right away and we fussed over his occasional blue skin, but mostly we were amazed at how much morphing and changing his looks did in those first two hours. So wild.

In hindsight, I’m very grateful for the small amount of time we had in that observation room because as soon as we got to the Mother/Baby unit, Brian was invited to go home. It was 4 am and the ward was so full that we weren’t able to get a family room to ourselves. I shared a room and there was (also) no room at the inn for Brian. To complicate things, our house was not sickness free, so we spent much of the next two days separated while we tried our best to be together, but not infecting the ward with our 4- and 6-year old germs. (Oh, and Brian caught the flu 2 days before my due date… so he quarantined himself before we knew how popular quarantining would be in about a month… He nursed a high fever and flu, occasionally asking with trepidation whether I was in labor… thankfully, he was able to be at the birth!… fever free.)

The Mother/Baby unit was nothing too surprising or foreign. The baby’s crib was wooden, making it feel more homey, and the bed was outfitted with a nursing pillow–a massive one–and it was more than ideal.

Labor & Delivery Unit

But do you see that heater above the changing station in our room? It was 24-hours into my 48-hour stay when my roommate finally figured out that that heater was on full-blast… I had spent 24 hours with a space heater on full blast about 4 feet from my head… to say the least between that and my hormones, I was not exactly comfortable. I was *so relieved* when it was turned off and I could finally breathe again–I was so overheated!

There’s something very real about the German “One hot meal per day” rule… so we were offered bread and salami fare for both breakfast and dinner. My first hot meal delivered to me (10 hours after giving birth) was a highly disappointing vegan potato and vegetable soup. I watched as my roommate was delivered chicken, broccoli and several sides. I was wondering why I was being punished. Turns out that every mother’s first post-birth meal in German is vegan soup. I cannot tell you how disappointed I was. LOL. (After birthing my first I ate pot roast… and I still remember it being delicious… and it was hospital food…)

To make matters worse, I had been asked what I wanted to order for dinner the next day and was mistakenly under the impression that I was going to get chicken that day… NOPE. I had confused the mostly-in-German conversation about the DANG CHICKEN that appeared not to be anywhere in sight. It came the next day at lunch, 34 hours after Clancy was born. It was also mostly disappointing. In all honesty, the salami and cheese and Brötchen (bread) became my favorite two meals of each day.

When it was all said and done, Brian really won the prize.

Papa & Clancy

He bounced between home life, keeping life as normal as possible for our older two, and selflessly bringing cappuccinos to me and trying to get as much time with Clancy while not being invited to stay past visiting hours. As he juggled all the logistics, he sent me my favorite text of my two day stay:

“Do you want me to bring your compression hose?”

I laugh-cried. 5 months of compression hose every day. Good riddance.

Oh, and George wrote me a note with my chocolate… that was my favorite message of the two days:

Chocolate & Love Note

The sweetest part of welcoming Clancy was the gift of welcoming him into something: our family. The joy on my older children’s faces as they got to hold him for the first time was an amazing privilege to watch. We are so blessed.

We cannot imagine life without him, and we’re all eager for him to be even more a part of the fabric of our lives as he grows and develops.

Welcome, kiddo. We love you.

Before & After

In case you want more…

Holidays… in Review

The holidays in our home are officially over. Sure, there are a few pine needles left on the floor… but hopefully I’m not alone in that. With my due date being in less than 3 weeks, I was (as you might expect) eager to take down the decorations and start nesting. Some might say “Grinch”… and I get it! But I’m taking so much joy out of nesting and preparing for baby #3 that I really don’t believe that the “Grinch” title fits.

But, before we move on! (Babies! Snuggles! Ignoring house work!) I wanted to simply check-in and say that we had a lovely set of holidays this year. We went to Dublin, Ireland for Thanksgiving with some of my husband’s family and then we snuggled in on the home front for a cozy and low-activity (ahem: 8 months pregnant) Christmas season.

Trinity College

Thanksgiving in Dublin was exactly what it needed to be. I was actually quite happy to leave my own home for Thanksgiving this year, passing on the detail-oriented preparations for the feast… which was my big task for last year’s Thanksgiving when we hosted the Board of our school (for their first ever American Thanksgiving–no pressure!). This year, I waddled onto the airplane with a basic understanding that we would eat turkey and maybe some green bean casserole if we were lucky. And I was juuuust fine with that.

I did learn on this flight that while not a single person cared if I had the required doctor’s note approving my ability to travel so late in the pregnancy, it was basically impossible for me to get anything from under the seat in front of me… I mean this body simply wasn’t capable of bending at the waist in a seated position… for headphones, book, or any desired snacks. Just forget it. I will say, though, that we have officially figured out how to school Ryan Air flights. Sure, they’re a pain, and yes, you feel like a cow being herded, but you paid so little… and our luggage was within ounces of being the required weight, and no one asked us any questions. It felt like winning.

We stayed in a spacious Airbnb, fully aware that we’d want to watch movies and stick to home base quite a bit. And the space worked really well for that. The kitchen was the farthest from outfitted and reminded me of trying to cook in our home before our containers arrived from the US and the shower was… well, I’ll just say, “What pressure?” and that the conditioner probably never really rinsed out for the entire week… BUT! we were all comfortable and the less-than-outfitted kitchen meant less work as we opted for easier dinners (chicken ready to roast) and simply buying dessert for Thanksgiving. And who doesn’t want an excuse to visit a few more pubs while in Ireland? Bring on the (sips only for me) beer, warm stews, and fish & chips. It was lovely.

Brian & Mary

Thanks to our family who sent us out on a date! We got to meet up with an old friend and walk the streets of Dublin at night. A perfect little pocket of time for which we are so grateful.

But mostly? It was walks to parks, movies, and napping. And you know what? It was lovely. I especially loved St. Stephen’s Green. It was gorgeous. Even off-season. And reminded me so much of Boston Commons–a place so near and dear to my heart.

St. Stephen's Green

I couldn’t not share with you in summary, that our Thanksgiving meal was lovely. It was more than enough to go around and we had what we needed to make the meal happen. And yes, we even had 3 surprise guests (our cousin who’s studying in Dublin and two friends) that made the meal all the more fun and enjoyable! (What’s Thanksgiving without some surprise guests?!) I’d also be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the turkey we received from the butcher was not at all… prepped. Brian wins the “would survive on the farm” contest while I walked away uninterested in discussing the killing of animals with my 5 year old before our Thanksgiving feast. LOL.


Moving on to Christmas… It’s hard to believe that this was our third holiday season here in Germany. We’ve settled in on the best place for the Christmas tree in our living room, enjoyed the Weihnachtsmarkt without any drama, and even bought a traditional German red Christmas star to hang from our balcony.

While it doesn’t feel like there’s much to share, the bootcamp that was December at work for both Brian and me made our 2 weeks of holiday were exactly what the doctor ordered. We were all more than happy to learn some new games, decorate cookies, assemble a gingerbread house, and watch all the Christmas movies.

We are all beyond grateful for our many blessings… including you! Wishing each of you a blessed new year and we look forward to seeing you next when we welcome our newest member to the family–maybe a redhead??


A New Baby in Deutschland

For reasons of differing passport expiration dates, we had to apply only for Rowan’s German residency this year. At the start of our 3rd year in Germany, we did our best to complete all of our German paperwork ourselves with no help. Thanks to my husband’s conversational skills at the office, everything went fine. The fun moment of the meeting was when she explained that we needed to give a reason for why we applied for a 3 year old’s residency. She looked at Brian and said, “Just say,

Family Forever.'”

Without getting at all political, I’m so grateful to be immigrating to Germany. But also immigrating with a husband who is so educated that Germany has welcomed us and in general, all of our application processes have been smooth.

But that’s not why we’re here today. We took this Family Forever and decided to up the ante. We’re now a family of 5!

Baby #3

Somehow, we’ll figure out how to apply for residency in Germany for a new baby who also needs to get a new passport… from the United States… while living in Hamburg. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I wanted to give you a little window into what it is like to be expecting a baby in Germany… and yes. All the rumors of support and benefits are true. Lucky us!

But also: this is my third pregnancy. I was 28 when I got pregnant with George, and 29 when I got pregnant with Rowan. I’m officially 34 and those 6 years have led to an entirely different experience of pregnancy. Read: I’m older. And more tired. LOL. Other than confirming that we weren’t having twins, I wasn’t in any hurry to see a doctor. Which was ok, because…

It took me 6 weeks to find a doctor. Apparently, the offices are so full here that they aren’t accepting new patients. Even when I asked my “24-hour appointment making service” to help me, they took 3 weeks to be able to nail down an OB appointment for me.

Doctor Visits

The routine of prenatal visits, which is very similar to the US, looks like doctor’s visits every 4 weeks until later in the pregnancy when it’s every 2 weeks. After I finally got my first appointment, I was a bit shocked as the doctor asked me barely any questions. “Do you smoke?” “Do you have other children?” “How old are they and how was the birth?” Then, an ultrasound to confirm we had one happy baby and I was on my way. Generally speaking, I’m not sure if my experience is a language barrier issue, or if all OB maternity appointments are this low-key. With baby #3, I can’t say that I mind. Compare this to an entire folder of paperwork, 7 warnings about how to eat, vitamins to take, and classes to recommend, etc, it was a glaring difference.

Oh, and my records are kept in a book called a “Mutterpass”. This book contains a record of my visits, stats, blood type, etc. If I’m in a car accident, I’m expected to have this book on me. It will be how the ER doctor is supposed to know everything about me. Paper. Not digital. Paper. It’s crazy.

Unlike in the US, I’m entitled to 3 ultrasounds. I’ve had 3 already and I know I’ll have a couple more. I think getting more ultrasounds has to do with my doctor’s preferences, but it’s a nice perk getting to see the baby grow through ultrasounds.


In addition to an OB, all pregnant women are invited to sign up with a midwife. This is also covered by insurance. Ideally, she can replace all appointments that don’t require lab work or an ultrasound. She comes right to our house and brings her kit with her. She (typically) offers prenatal and post birth care, while a team of midwives working at the hospital will be the midwives for the birth.


I refuse to not mention this. Maternity clothes seem to be… just simply not as robust an offering here as in the US. The number of brick and mortar maternity clothes shops is equivalent to a ghost town. Essentially, Hamburg has one shop (which I hope to visit) and then everyone simply says, “Check out H&M”. It’s something… but it feels so different than my experiences in the past. I had a box left from the first two rodeos, but these outfits won’t survive me the full 9.5 months… or my fully-grown belly.



You can pick your hospital. I don’t believe there are “off limits” hospitals like there are in the US depending on your health insurance. I’ve got my list down to two possibilities based on conversations with other expats in my community here, but haven’t visited either yet because… #Deutsch. I don’t have to pick a hospital for a few more weeks and I’m not particularly worried about it. (I mean, I have to push the baby out no matter what building I’m in, right?)

There are a staff of midwives available at each hospital. I believe it’s typical, but not required, to stay 2-3 nights. That’s about the extent of my knowledge at this point… but in 4 months, I’m sure I’ll know more. : )

Postnatal Offerings

The same midwife from prenatal care will come to our home after the baby is born every 2 or 3 days for the first 4 weeks. After that, she’ll come once per week until the baby is 8-12 weeks old. She can help with questions, nursing help, weighing the baby, etc. And yes, this is all a part of the insurance-covered offerings.

About 6-8 weeks after birth, health insurance will also cover your RĂĽckbuildung classes. This is a nice post on what they are, but essentially they help new moms build strength in their abdomen and pelvic floor, while offering a mat in the middle for babies to chill out while you exercise. You get to go for 8 weeks, one hour per week.

Another recommendation that my midwife gave me was to look into the Wellcome. This organization is a volunteer network of mostly older women (from what I can tell)  who come to support families with new babies. A lot of people really like it. They come once or twice per week for a couple of hours and play with your older kids, taking them to the park, or hold the new baby while you shower, etc. A great idea for ex-pat women like me who have less of a community around them than they may be accustomed to.

Something that doesn’t exist here are Meal Trains. I’m guessing it’s an effect of paternity leave… (less need for the community to come together when the husband can take off), but that will be a major difference for us with this baby. I don’t think I cooked for a whole month after either of my first two babies. Oh, and? My freezer is still tiny. Sure, I could do what most Germans do and get an extra freezer… but I’m tempted to “tough it out”. We’ll see. To say the very least, I’m SO grateful to have my Mom coming for three weeks after the birth. I’m one lucky duck.

Federally Protected Benefits

Basically, all the memes are true. I will receive full (net) pay for 6 weeks before the birth (for me, starting at my Christmas holiday), and for 8 weeks after the birth. For 44 weeks after that, I can receive 65% of my net pay. (I can get the same amount spread over 2 years, if I wish… but I do not.) That’s a lot of support. In short, yes, we have to re-budget how we’re living a bit, but it’s nothing drastic.

The Dad can also take off for 2 months total (as secondary caregiver) and can split those 2 months. I’ve heard of many Dads taking the first month off for the baby’s life and then saving the second month for the end of the first year so that the family can take a one month vacation of sorts before everyone returns to normal life after maternity leave. What idea, no?

Oh, and when I give birth in a hospital, this decreased pay won’t be going to hospital bills… because I won’t receive a bill… unless I want a private room. I do, but the total on that (I hear) is about 700 € total for a 3-day stay. Completely worth it especially if you’re not paying the hospital bills for the birth… in my humble opinion. (But, I of course can’t just reserve one… I just have to pray that one is available. Feel free to join me.)

*     *     *

So where does that all leave me? 24 weeks pregnant, needing to research how to apply for the above benefits, how to get a passport and residence card… and what to plan to do for a year with our new baby. The most amazing part? I won’t HAVE to pump! HOORAY! I’m sure I’ll be saving and pumping some, but I won’t have to frantically make sure I’m pumping in the very beginning so that at 3 months I can return to work peacefully. And THAT. That is a huge benefit.

Also worth a big shout out are our very generous neighbors. We came with a few items, but we have a changing table, crib, clothes, bibs, sleep sacks and more from several of our generous neighbors. We’re so blessed.

But also you guys. A Year. I am a taking a whole 13 months off. OK, so I’ll be responsible for a new human being who doesn’t even know that nighttime is for sleep, yet. So yeah. That’ll be the top of my priority list. However, this is not my first rodeo. And I’m not exactly the shining “Stay-at-home” type. So, yes. I’m thinking about how to survive a year.

The biggest most fun item on my to do wish list? Our yearly family photo albums… I’m halfway through 2016’s book, and need to start the books for 2017, 2018 and will get to add 2019 to the list before my leave even starts. Hah!

But mostly, I want to start thinking about creating a daily structure. Walks, books, games with the kids, and oh! I plan to grocery shop like a German: daily. Walking. And yeah. Maybe I’ll get around to dusting the house regularly, too. But don’t hold your breath.

…If you made it this far… Congratulations! We are so excited to welcome this new little one to our family. The only one of us born abroad and we’re all so lucky to be receiving the support coming our way in the next year.

Dankeschön, Deutschland.



A few years ago, I read on Design Mom that parents need to remember that we only get 18 summers with each child… if we’re lucky to get that many before they’re off and spending full summers away. I think George was 1 at the time, so it came with all its own feelings… but it stuck with me. Summer, like Christmas and other holidays, has this dreamy spot in my mind from my childhood years. Ice cream from the ice cream truck, roller blades, staying out until my parents whistled for me (YUP), American flag cakes, ocean waves, summer camp and lightning bugs.


I guess the reality is that lots of little efforts go into making that magic. You have to buy the supplies, spend the time, adjust when things don’t work, and be creative. This summer we had less-than-perfect 60 degree weather with rain, I was feeling not-so-great with my pregnancy (yay 3rd baby!), and Brian spent 13 days in China, which meant our kids had half of the usual “energy/power” behind activities and fun… if you could call my half at full energy–which would be a flat-out lie.

However, I still find myself in awe of our summer vacation reality here: the kids’ school (a daycare of sorts: a German Kita) requires a 3-week consecutive break for each child. This means that I get to take 3 full weeks off with my kids each summer… and thankfully, German holiday time affords our family this luxury.

As I look back on our kids’ summers so far, we are beyond spoiled… Lots of beautiful trips and happy times spent with family:

2014: George’s first summer. We went with Brian’s family to a lovely resort in Mexico.

2015: Camping with friends. Major highlight: getting a sister! (No photos… LOL.)
2016: Big summer family visit tour before moving to Boston. (Pictured below: Long Island, NY)

2017: Big summer family visit tour before moving to Germany. (Pictured below: Miami)

2018: Family vacation in Denmark

20182019: Family vacation in Denmark & Malta


While I think that these major highlights of travel are fun and we’re beyond lucky and blessed to be able to take them, I also think that it’s important to keep highlighting the magic I mentioned above. Like it or not, a cold popsicle, running through a sprinkler, picking fresh basil from the garden, bubbles the size of your head, and a brand new puzzle can stick out in your kids’ minds just as much as (if not more than!) the above travel adventures.

Cheers to another summer of magic and good gracious to my children being another year older, and the school year beginning again. Wishing you the best start to your new academic year! … If you observe those 🙂

…And bring on those crunchy leaves!

Spring has sprung

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


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:


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.



Lanzarote, Spain


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!


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”:

Lanzarote 2Lanzarote 4Lanzarote 5Lanzarote 7Lanzarote 6

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:


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:


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:


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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


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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


Holidays in Germany



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 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, “SĂĽĂź 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.)


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.


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!

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Hallo, from Hamburg!


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.


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:

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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:

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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?!

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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.

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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!