I’ve never really given up anything for Lent; have you? Was it hard? Were you successful? Have you given something up this year?

Growing up, my family never really did much with it. And even my current church doesn’t seem to focus so much on the act of giving up something for Lent. The Germans call it “Sieben Wochen ohne” – seven weeks without – and I do remember my church encouraging its members to instead do Sieben Wochen mit (seven weeks with!) and instead of fasting, to make a conscious effort to buy only fair trade products for the seven weeks of Lent.

But this year, I felt a quiet voice inside urging me to give Sieben Wochen ohne a try. A practice in mindfulness and being present in the moment.

In an effort to do less scrolling on my phone, I moved Instagram and Facebook into a folder on my iPhone so as not to open them easily. It’s crazy how some things become a habit. And how those habits turn into compulsions. Isn’t it crazy to feel like I have to see EVERY new post — and double tap to like them! — every day?

The first five days we were on vacation up in the mountains, I didn’t have good internet connection. Actually, I didn’t realize the hostel had free wifi – ha! and I was surprised at how the inability to use certain apps, especially Instagram, actually felt pretty good.

I love looking at the beautiful pictures of people’s lives that they post there. But lately I have been feeling pretty down because I have been comparing my life to theirs. Mine is not as picture perfect, and while I love posting pictures of my little family or things that I see around my neighborhood, I feel a surprising amount of pressure as I scroll through picture after picture, my thumb starting to feel sore from double-tapping. What’s the point?

Sometimes we get too involved in things that have no actual importance to our real lives. Being so connected all the time is a double-edged sword, because we aren’t truly present in the moment when we are staring at our phones.

If I really wanted to fast, I would give up my phone completely. Because I spend tons of time on WhatsApp chatting with friends and family. It’s my support system, as well as my way of making appointments and meet-ups and hangouts with my friends. It’s just how we communicate nowadays. But I feel that would be isolating in a way that I’m not ready to try yet, so this year I have limited it specifically to Instagram and Facebook, due to these weird depressing feelings they’ve made me feel lately. To give me some space from comparing my life to others’ and to instead look around and see how blessed and how fortunate I am to have what I have.

As with breaking any habit, it helps not just to abstain, but to also replace it with meaningful things. I would like to spend the next seven weeks focusing on my kids and my family. Taking the time to read actual books. Putting the phone aside as I play and connect. But also to write more in my poor, neglected blog here. (How good it feels typing on actual keys instead of tapping fingers on my phone!)

In addition, we have started reading from our friends’ book that was published a few years back. It’s a devotional book called Brot und Liebe: Wie man Gott nach Hause holt. To be honest, it feels a little bit strange doing it because we have never done anything like that together, and Tobi’s parents do it before and after every meal, which is kind of annoying. But if ever there were a time to be a little more religiously involved, it’s Lent. Because it’s a time to focus on things that truly matter.

The picture above is from Theo’s newest favorite activity – playing with my washi tape stash. I love this one. 

How the week flu by 

You see what I did there? 

Yeah, this past week kicked our butts. Theo caught a bad virus – God bless Kita, but holy germs – and gave it to us. We had flu-like symptoms and were just awfully feverish and sick for a week. It’s so not fair to have both parents sick at the same time when there are little ones to look after. 

And being cooped up in the house and being thrown off our routine made the toddler’s mood extremely difficult to deal with. Situations that are tough enough to handle while feeling well are so much worse when sick. There were so many moments where I was so unsure of how we would make it through. 

We somehow managed to survive, and finally a new week has begun. Theo is back at Kita. Tobi is back at work. Things are mostly back to normal again. Hallelujah. Let’s do this. 

2016 recap

Boy, does time fly when you’re having fun. Here I was, all talking about skipping Thanksgiving and moving on to Christmas, and we’re already halfway through January.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram have an idea of what we’ve been up to. For the rest of you, here goes nothing.

So…Christmas! We did end up skipping Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for that. (ha ha ha!) It was good not to have all that planning and cooking stress, although I will say that I did miss it a little. So I made a pumpkin pie (two, actually) and called it a day and happily brought down 5 boxes of Christmas decorations from the attic.

We spent the first 14 days here, and they were as busy as ever – a couple Christmas parties, a few trips to the Christmas markets (but fewer than in previous years), and activities as usual and before we knew it, we were flying to the States. We took a crazy route this time and the flights over went surprisingly well, considering it was our first long-distance flights with two kids and that our trip started with delayed flights. The way back would be much more complicated, and THAT is the understatement of the year, but perhaps best reserved for its own blog post, although it’s almost too much to write out and I think that in the long run, I would rather forget the details of how awful things went. Hah!

It was very exciting to see my family again. My nieces are now 5 and 2, and Theo was excited to see Grandma & Granddad again and play with all the new, fun toys at their house. My mom had decorated the entire house for Christmas, and it was just cozy and magical and no matter how long I am away (1.5 years this time), stepping back into the house I grew up in still feels like home. I know where every creak in the floor is, or what it feels like to walk out from my room to the kitchen. (The only thing that totally threw me for a loop for the entire two weeks we were there, though, is that they moved the trash can!)

A few days after our arrival, it was time to start Peter’s wedding festivities. Theo stayed home while the rest of us attended the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The next day, Theo made a very adorable ring bearer and, with joyful tears in my eyes, I got to watch my best friend get married. It was a lovely celebration and I am so thankful to have been there for it. Congratulations, Peter & Julia!

(Not the most flattering picture of my mom…trust me, she was very excited to have us here! haha)


Avi fell in love with his Grinch that my Gram gave him

Avi’s first thrift store shopping experience

Here are a few from Christmas Eve – and because I’d rather have it done than perfect, I just took pictures of Tobi’s computer screen with my phone. 😉

Then we had a lovely Christmas celebration with my family. Unfortunately, I felt nauseous all day long, and Avi barfed a little bit, too, but was otherwise normal. There were tons of presents and Theo really enjoyed opening all his new toys. It was a lovely day. We had breakfast in the morning, then opened stockings, and then opened the presents under the tree. The kids took naps, and when they had woken up, we drove over to my aunt and uncle’s house for Christmas part 2.

On the way home, we drove through the Winter Lights Festival at Watkins Park. I had remembered going there as a kid and wanted to do it again, and it was free on Christmas Day. We got in there on the way home, right before they closed for the evening. It was a lot of fun, although an overtired Theo fell asleep in the car and missed the whole thing.

There wasn’t much time left after Christmas, as we were (supposed) to fly out on the 27th. We missed our flight and flew out on the 28th instead. Oy.

Anyway, we had a few days to wind down from our travels and try to get back onto some semblance of this time zone, and celebrated New Year’s Eve as usual with our church friends. We ate raclette, watched Dinner for One (as is the custom here), sang songs, and shot off fireworks at midnight and toasted 2017 with champagne. It was lovely. And Theo was so into the fireworks! He especially liked the crackers (Knallerbsen). Next year we will have to get him some of his own.

And that’s all for 2016!

Would it be so bad?

We might skip Thanksgiving dinner this year and just move on to Christmas.

I’ve always enjoyed hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but this year I have very little desire to do so. On the one hand, after 6 years of cooking it on our own, we’ve got the process down. It was considerably easier last year. But this year…I don’t know. I feel like I’m in a funk.

I might just make some pumpkin pie and call it a day. I thought about outsourcing recipes this year and having all the guests each bring one dish…but somehow, it still all feels like too much.

I’m not even quite as excited about Christmas this year as I have been in previous years. What’s with that? I am happy that we will see my family this year at Christmas — we are flying in on December 14th and will be back in Hamburg in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Maybe I’m somewhat dreading the flights with two kids to get there…I don’t know.

I keep hoping that once I get my tree up and a little more Christmas feeling, I will start to feel a little better and more excited about things. So, to that end…here are some pictures I took of Christmasy things I saw at Aldi yesterday.

This was the biggest can of beer I’ve ever seen! It was 0.75 liters!

And some little Räuchermänner – I’ve seen Santa ones and hunters before, but the pirate one is funny!

Is anybody else struggling to feel motivated these days? It’s the darkness and the cold weather, right?

Life around here

At the end of October, Theo switched from the nursery to one of the big kid groups at the Kita. With that also came a new schedule, and he is now at home three days a week for naps here at the house and afternoons with me. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I have a little bit more time to do things that need doing without a toddler toddling around because he stays until 3 pm. Still, it’s been a big change. A positive one, because he is on to bigger and better things and will learn and grow a lot in the upcoming years in his new group.

Avi is 5 months old already and there isn’t one shred of newborn baby left in him. (waah! I kind of miss it!) While it’s sad to turn my back on those short-lived cuddly newborn days, it’s still so enjoyable watching him learn and grow. He is getting better at a lot of things. He grabs everything he can get his hands on — and puts it directly into his mouth, of course! — and is generally much more coordinated. He’s sitting up well with support, and now rolls over onto his belly almost as soon as I put him down. Avi is also bigger than Theo was back then. At 5 months, Theo was in the 9th percentile for weight; Avi is in the 45th percentile. Which means that he is wearing 6- to 9-month clothes now! He sure is growing like a weed.

I’m still exclusively breastfeeding until he turns 6 months old, but before we know it he will be starting solids and we will be doing Baby-Led Weaning like we did with Theo. To be honest, I’m sure he will love it, but it makes me sad that diaper changes will become more stinky.