Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 New Year's Resolutions

See ya 2011!  As Scarlett says "Tomorrow is another day" and I'm a girl with a plan:

2012 New Year’s Resolutions

1) Health- stop taking myself for granted, for my own happiness, for my kids, for my husband, for MYSELF.  Always easier said than done, but I’m not getting any younger, and I’m tired of not being happy with myself, when I’m the only one who can ever do anything about it. 

2) Creativity- spend time sewing, painting, embroidering, just creating in some way, and helping the children do it too.  Try to not be bothered by the mess.

3) Music- play instruments, sing, and do it regularly.  There are too many instruments in this house that go untouched because we were afraid they'd get broken.  At this point I’d rather them get played and broken, than get dusty.

4) House- Celebrate and decorate the holidays and seasons. I love going to people’s houses that reflect the time of year- they feel lived in, and loved. Pinterest and Etsy are priceless for this one!

5) Dinner- Plan our meals and grocery shopping better.  It will save me time, and money. This also goes along with number 1- we eat better when I sit and plan instead of grabbing something out of the pantry.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Let's make those lists!

Well, what do you know?  It's that time again.....the time when people everywhere make bold proclamations about their intentions for the coming year.  Or they don't.  I admit, in the past, I've been hesitant to make resolutions, because I just plain forget about them after a while.  However, in this age of blogging, facebook, and instant communication- I think if I put my resolutions "out there"...maybe they'll haunt me a little more this year and I'll work a little harder to make them a reality instead of just a resolution.

People have many different reasons for not wanting to make resolutions.  I think it takes a kind of inner searching that some people just aren't comfortable doing.  When we sit and take the time to reflect upon ourselves and what we want to change- well it can be downright depressing.  As long as I don't think about my weight, it doesn't bother me.  As long as I don't think about my problem with procrastination....well, I'll think about that tomorrow.

Or, conversely, you may be pretty darn happy with the way things are, and see no reason to make a list or rock the boat.  My relationship is great, my house is clean and organized, my kids and smart and beautiful- what do I need to change?  {you have to know I am being facetious here.....}

I think that both of these views have their own merits, yet both of these types of people could benefit from a resolution list.  When someone feels that their life is so far from what they want it to be, that making changes is pointless- I certainly hope that they will realize that every journey starts with one small step.  All you have to do is choose your direction- and the choice is YOURS and yours alone.  So use your list to not even move- just point yourself in the way you want to go, and tomorrow decide to move an inch.  The next day move two inches, and the next day three.

If your life is wonderful (and damn, I'm jealous!), then GREAT!  Use your resolution list in a different fashion- maybe add something on your list that benefits someone else, besides yourself.  Or make a resolution to learn more about something that interests you- because no one knows everything about everything, and education never ends no matter your age.

The most dangerous type of thinking when it comes to New Year's Resolutions is this: "Well, I'll just fail at doing anything, and then feel like a failure, so what's the point!?".  This is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You said you would fail, so you did.  Here's the point- the only people who are failures and PEOPLE WHO DON'T TRY.  If you never try to change your life, how do you know you can't?  There is not one person on this planet who can't make some kind of positive change in their life.  Maybe your list will only have one thing on it, but that is better than nothing at all.

So, think about it.  Tomorrow I'm posting my 2012 New Year's Resolutions.  Not for comparison or scrutinization, but merely for my own memory and accountability.  2011 was a pretty awesome year for me, but I know 2012 can be better.  Now, with that- go jot down a few things and we can BOTH show 2012 which direction to take!

*if you are feeling brave, add your list or a link to your list in my comments- just for fun!*

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Germany style

We received quite a few packages in the days leading up to Christmas, and I don't normally scrutinize the customs forms, however- for some reason this particular one caught my eye.  A 6 lb 50 oz coloring book!??  WOW!  Haha!  This was from Mdx's Godparents- Michael and Lisa, who live up in Minnesota, and are Lutheran Pastors (woot!  I've been looking forward to typing that- finally!).  I think it was so cold that it froze Lisa's brain for just a minute or so.  :)

This was an awesome package from my childhood pen-pal Andrea, who is German and lives up in Northern Germany with her family.  We are planning a trip to visit her in a few months!  She also sent some really cute gifts for the kids.

Wow!  Chocolate cigars?

Mdx wanted to color Santa a rainbow instead of writing him a letter, and by this point I really didn't feel like arguing- so the old guy got a rainbow.  We left him some homemade cookies, milk, and whiskey in a glass Marshall inherited from his Grandpa Mac.

We also left some reindeer food (oatmeal and sprinkles) outside- because you don't want the reindeer to come into your house!

Santa left some great things for Mav!  A taxi, lawnmower, wooden music set, dump truck, and box to keep his cars in.

Mdx was equally spoiled with an easel, a scooter & helmet, paintbrushes, paper, a play laptop, and a shopping basket.

Thanks to all those packages we got- our tree was packed with love from friends and family!

Christmas morning the kids slept until a decent time...close to 7.  We headed downstairs to see if Santa came.  Here is where the pictures get blurry because the kids were moving SO FAST!

Mav jumped in his taxi right away!  Major hit!

Then he vaulted onto the couch to see what was up there.....

...rocked out on the xylophone for a few minutes....

...then jumped down to do some work on the lawnmower.

Mdx is showing me the wooden ladybugs that she found on her easel tray.

She could barely wait for the sun to come up so she could ride her scooter!

Which we did as soon as socially acceptable!

There was some taxi driving too!  Truthfully, Mav wants to ride the scooter, but someone's a little possessive of it.  He'll get a turn, maybe in 2013.

That night we lit the fifth candle of our dried-out-and-crispy Advent wreath.  I also made way too much food, and even had to call my Dad in America to ask what to do about all the juice in the ham.  He's so smart!

Christmas was great!  We spent so much time focusing on the kids and cleaning/cooking/assembling/playing that we weren't as homesick as we were last year in Korea.  Maybe it will get easier as time goes on and we can develop our own traditions.  To all our friends and family, we LOVE you, we miss you, and thank you so much for everything you've done for us and sent to us.  We are truly blessed. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santa and a Cookie Party

You can't have Christmas without taking your kids to see Santa, now can you?  I think all parents feel obligated to make the annual trek to wherever the weirdo who thinks dressing like Santa and having kids on his lap the closest authentic-looking Santa is, so we can get those great photos of happy, smiling children, and cute memories of kids telling Santa exactly what they want for Christmas.  If only it actually worked out that way.

If you look through the Archives back to last year (I'd link you but it's late and I'm lazy), you'd see that the kids weren't fazed at all by our Korean Santa last year.  Piece of cake.  This year, I knew it would be different.  I know my kids, and I know how they react to things, and I KNEW it probably wasn't a great idea.  Yet still, we got all dressed up, schlepped to the Community Center on base, prepped Maddox with the "Now, what are you going to tell Santa, do you remember?"....and Mav fell asleep on the way.  Great.  I actually figured that having a sleeping kid sitting on Santa's lap would be cuter than a screaming kid.  If only that plan would have worked.  As soon as we were in line and all the other kids and parents were being noisy, he woke up and looked around like "WHAT THE???"

Bad sign, folks.  He wakes up like me- really unhappy to be awake, generally pissy, doesn't want to talk to anyone about anything, or move too quickly- in fact- everyone just GO AWAY.  Mdx on the other hand wakes up all sweet and happy, full of "I love you"s and hugs.  Not Mav- he (as do I) has a hard time with the transition.  So Santa- yeah...good luck old buddy.

Maddox walks up and gives him the picture she colored of the scooter she wanted.  She then spent the next minute explaining the picture and why she colored it, and who it was, and why she brought it- until I got antsy and said "Okay, let's take a picture!".  I think all the stuffed animals and fake trees were creeping me out.

He says some "HoHoHo"s and I put her on his lap.  She fake cheeses, click, we're done.  I put Mav on his lap, and well- here:
That's the "I'm about to turn around and punch this dude in the throat" face.  Good times.  Click.  Let's get out of here!!

Back at home, he was much happier.

And the kids played a game of Let's-squish-Daddy-on-the-couch!

I grew up going to an annual cookie party with my Mother and some of her teaching friends, and I really miss it when I don't get to go.  We hope that next year we can make it back to the States in time for the cookie party (crossing all our fingers and toes!).  Mdx and I baked some cookies so she could have a little taste of the excitement.  

Apron on, and ready to bake.

Rolling out the dough

It started snowing, so she had to check it out!

The cookies cooled off so we could decorate them.

A little royal icing on each, and sprinkles, and they were GREAT!

We made some for our Landlord's family, with the letter of each of their names.

We ate a lot, but saved some for Santa!

Friday, December 23, 2011

You better watch out

This is dedicated to her naughty little brother.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trier Christmas Market

We drove to Trier last weekend (a little over one hour drive) because we heard it was a historic town with a beautiful Christmas Market.  Trier is right on the Moselle River, and has amazing Roman ruins.  The GPS took us straight there, but once inside the city we had to drive around a bit to find a place to park.  After about an 8 block walk, we came upon this- the entrance to the pedestrian market and city center.

The Roman gate- Porta Nigra- dating from 180 A.D.

So beautiful, I can't imagine if I had a better camera what kind of photos I could take!

We quickly came upon the Christmas Market, and mass chaos.

The crowds were so thick, you could hardly walk!  If you have claustrophobia you must avoid Christmas Markets at all costs!  You couldn't even walk- it was more of a shuffle, and to look at the things being sold, you had to wait your turn!  It's a shame because I was so busy making sure I wasn't plowing into anyone, that I didn't get to enjoy the beauty around me.

Definitely doing Christmas shopping here next year!  These little houses hold a tealight candle.

They sold candles of every color, shape, size, and smell.

I was JUST talking about these to my Mom.  These are little metal displays that you put together, and when you light a candle in the bottom the warmth makes the propellor on the top rotate.  It makes a tiny *ting* sound each time it goes around.

More candle holders.

Its hard to tell, but these are porcelain candle holders with historic sites etched on them.

Hand-carved and painted wooden Christmas trees, and Matryoshka dolls from Russia.  I think we'll just go to Russia if we want to get some!

This was a cute display of robots doing some baking.

It's not a Christmas Market without a carousel!

I'm riding a reindeer!

The Cathedral in the distance- hopefully we can make it there next time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

St. Nikolaus came to town

We have quite a lot of Christmas books, and they are well loved!

On December 6th, German children leave their shoes outside, to be filled by St. Nikolaus.  What is pretty interesting to me is that German Lutherans also honor the St. Nikolaus tradition, not just Catholics- woot!  I didn't know about this until a few days before it happened, and promptly forgot to put the children's boots outside that day.  Luckily our landlord has adopted us in more ways than one, and she came knocking on the door while the children were napping, with goodies for them!  She covertly handed me a bag and said "From Saint Nikolaus, for the Kinder!" (As in, hello you silly American, I don't see any shoes outside, so your poor kids obviously didn't get any candy today!)  Ah, this family- we are so blessed!  I quickly grabbed Maddox's boots and filled them will chocolate coins, and put them somewhere she'd notice them.  Mav doesn't own boots, and wouldn't care anyway.

A sack for each child, and a big family gift!  The family gift was a large family calendar, by a German artist named Janosch.  

When Mdx came down from her nap I didn't say anything about St. Nikolaus coming, I just let her find the boots- which she found immediately!  This kid has a built in candy radar!  When she asked where it came from I said "It must have come from St. Nikolaus!  He comes to the houses and brings gifts for the children!"  She accepted that answer this time, I'll need to do better next year!

A coat hook, ginormous chocolate Santa, chocolate nutcrackers, oranges, and walnuts!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Oh Tannenbaum Oh Tannenbaum!

We are "real tree" kind of people.  I grew up having live trees, I guess my parents were "real tree" people too!  I love the process of picking one out each year, bringing it home, setting it up, and decorating it.  I love the smell and look of a real tree, even though the cost, eventual drying out, and needle shedding is a pain in the rear.  Luckily, I manage the budget, I also like to vacuum, and have a tolerant husband.

We asked our landlord if she knew where we could buy a real Christmas tree, and she gave us an incredulous look.  Then she told us that 100m up the road there is a Christmas tree farm!   "No way!" I said and looked on Google Earth, to the North of our little village, and SURE ENOUGH, there's a tree farm there.  Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit!

She said that they only sell trees one day a year (really?  Not great for business if you ask me, but you didn't), so we should go early on that day because the whole village would be there to buy a tree.  Then a few days later she told me that she spoke with the owner, and he said we could come early and pick one out if we wanted to.   Right about now is when I realized how wonderful it is to have a landlord who A) speaks fantastic English,  B) loves children, C) lives right next door.....and D) has lived here essentially her whole life.  The woman knows everybody!

So, one day we received a call from her son "Your Highness" (see my facebook posts to get the reference), telling us that they were at the tree farm and we could come and pick one out.  Maddox immediately began to change her clothes into a more appropriate outfit- you'll see what I mean in a minute.

What!?  This is not what you would have worn?  For the record, that's her birthday dress, purple crocs, and a tiger hat.  Hey, if you want to freeze your little 4 year old buns off, go ahead.  I'm not going to argue about it.

Maverick wasn't really sure why we were in a field in the cold wind.

Not a bad farmhouse for a tree farmer.

Maybe it is just too many stripes Mama!

My little Elf inside the Weihnachtsbaum wrapper- where the trees are wrapped in mesh to get them home.

We got the tree all decorated, and then tried to put the star on, but that was a little harder than Marshall thought it was going to be.

Finally.  Half tree in place- we put it on a side table from IKEA.  Ornaments and star in place- Mav isn't even interested in them apparently.  But the presents are another story!