Laufrad: The balance bike

When learning how to ride a bicycle, all the German kids start off using balance bikes rather than training wheels. They call it a Laufrad – walking bicycle.

Theo’s godmother, Selina, bought him one for his 2nd birthday, with a matching red helmet to go with it. He was too short for it for a while, but back in December, we tried it out and he was finally tall enough.

Things were slow-going at first. But now he has figured out how to go quite fast on it and sometimes I have to jog to keep up. Luckily, he has gotten better at following directions in the last half year, so I think he’s developmentally more able to handle a Laufrad now, too.

I got him a horn to go with it, but he can’t quite manage to honk it by himself. I think I will trade it out for a bell to ring instead. Maybe a good little present to stick in his Easter basket this year.

And I think he loves the freedom that comes with it. This ad in the train station was appropriate: Loslassen! Freiheit genießen!

Let go! Enjoy the freedom!

 

Speaking of Easter…

k7c2847_zpsbjoycdcz(Look at Baby Theo! Gosh, how time flies!) 

I spent WAY. TOO. MUCH. TIME. the past two weeks agonizing about what kind of Easter basket to get for Avi. Should it be the same as Theo’s? Different? Should I get them both new ones? What size? What color? Agh! I kind of went down the rabbit hole (pun totally intended, ha ha) with this decision.

I may have to file this away into my list of crazy things I’ve worried about for way too much time that actually have little to no importance, but I’m a Libra. Indecision is part of who I am.

Also, as a mom, I sometimes feel a lot of pressure to make things perfect for my kids. This Easter basket thing, for example. Growing up, my brother and I had the same Easter baskets every year for as long as I can remember. “These ones I choose now have to last for years and years! ” I kept telling myself.

But you know what? I confided in my own mother about my search for the perfect life-long Easter basket and she said that even ours weren’t the original ones we had as babies or toddlers, so not to worry. It doesn’t actually matter. In 5 years, will this decision matter? In 10? Nope. Make a choice and let it go. Because there is no perfect. Especially not in parenting.

In the end, I found one online that looks exactly like Theo’s Easter basket, bit the bullet, and ordered it. I will decorate it with curly ribbon in different colors just like his, and they will have matching baskets just like my brother and I had. Passing on a little bit of my childhood to my own children feels good. Who knows. Maybe it will become tradition. Maybe not. It’s all good. It felt good to finally make a decision.

Besides. The basket is totally secondary. They’ll be more happy about what’s inside them, not the actual basket. Well, Avi might like the actual basket, since he’s still too young to really appreciate presents. I bet he’ll end up trying to eat the grass like Theo did on his first Easter.

Next up, I need to decorate an Easter tree. I wonder how I will keep it safe from Theo, though? Hmm.

Lent

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!