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Sunday, January 29, 2012

European Secrets

My curly hair, courtesy of L'Occitane en Provence shampoo and conditioner, for dry hair. Great soothing scent too. Below, me with my Zara sunglasses and Zara winter coat, down feathers, so nice and warm for all that walking I did.

This week, I missed Europe I decided to go shopping. To
Zara was one of my favorite clothing stores when I lived in Germany. And with all the traveling I did throughout Europe, there was always a Zara store in the shopping districts throughout European cities. I never even heard of Zara until I moved to Europe.
So, I decided to go on the website and do some shopping. I LOVE Zara's shoes, and an European size 40 fits me so well. I went on-line shopping at Zara's at the perfect time, because they were having a big sale. $99 boots were now on sale for $39. Click, picked the brown ones, put in shopping cart. Found a cute sweater on sale; put in my shopping cart. Then, I went to the girl's section and shirts for Maggie were on sale for $7, normally over $25. She picked out a couple. Riley picked a couple solid tees (no graphic prints on his shirts- very picky now, since he's 9). Since Zara has stores in the United States, I was able to put in my order, and I was pleasantly surprised when there wasn't any shipping fees!
When my Zara package came in the mail days later, I was so excited. It came in the nicest, biggest box. Zara took the time to package everything nicely in the box in tissue paper. I know it might seem weird to you, but I seriously looked at the package for awhile before I opened it, to savor the packaging and the Zara logo on the box. My boots are awesome. I feel very European in them. The custodian at my school remarked to me (she's a woman, so I allowed her to compliement), "Wow, those boots are different." I wanted so bad to tell her that I just got them from Zara in this big box and that Zara was my favorite store in Europe and that I miss it and..... But I knew she would think I was a little crazy. It's just a store.
Zara was in the shopping district in the city I lived in Germany. After dropping my kids off at their school, Zara was very near to the kids' school tram stop. I found myself wandering in my friend's Zara store (she was kind of like my friend, right), intrigued by European fashion, skinny jeans, and how comfy these size 40 shoes were. (How come American shoes can't be this comfortable)? Before my Italy trip, I wanted to buy something romantic, and I found a white sweater dress. Before my summer trip to Spain, I found a cute 50's inspired polka dotted shirt. I bought my winter coat there last year and my fall coat. My favorite Zara purchase was my big old European sunglasses.
I'm a good shopper; always buying items for sale. So, I didn't go into debt or anything with Zara. But it was just my little treat. I didn't have a coffee habit, and I couldn't eat the baked goods (gluten allergy), so this was my indulgence.
I became "friends" with other shops in Germany: Mango (another clothing store), L'Occitane en Provence (a very fancy version of Bath and Body Works). When we went to New York City in November, I made Riley show me how to get to L'Occitane, and I bought new perfume and my very favorite shampoo. Before moving back to the United States, I brought back with me many bottles of shampoo and conditioner, but my stash was getting low. This shampoo is the first shampoo that I have ever used that I LOVE. It makes my curly hair manageable and frizz-free. This is the only time in my life that I have depended on a product. I have used this shampoo for over a year and can't imagine not having it. L'Occitane was a treat; it's a little more spendy, but so worth it. I love L'Occitane so much, I have dreams of winning their quarterly contests to a trip to Provence, France, where they make all their products. I vision a field of purple lavenders, where everything smells fantastic.
Everytime I miss Europe, I can look at old photos, listen to my German-speaking music CD's, or I can go shopping on-line to my favorite stores. Bonus for me: I don't have to convert euros to dollars when I do it now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sundays in Europe

Beer Garden fun in Dresden, Germany

Maggie and Riley, on a Sunday hike through a castle.
Kid's meal at a local German restaurant. Those, of course, are sausage trees!
Family fun on a Sunday dinner out in Germany. Maggie wearing a medieval crown.
Sundays in Europe were a lot different than Sundays in the United States.

Sundays in Germany ,and in most of Europe, consisted of all stores closed. So no shopping. The only things opened on Sundays were restaurants. If you needed to go out to grab that small carton of milk they only have in Germany (Germans will make fun of our gallon milk jugs), then you would need to wait until Monday morning. No shopping at all. That took some use to when I first moved there.

In the United States, as a busy mom and full-time teacher, I always used to devote Sundays to grocery shopping and other kinds of shopping. In our commercialism and Western ways, you can buy a carton (or gallon) of milk at any given time here in the U.S. Shopping is always convenient and there's always a dozen kinds of 24-hour/7 days a week shops opened throughout our area. In Germany, shops usually close on Saturdays around 5, and close all day on Sundays.

Sundays are reserved for family time. On Sundays, you will see dozens of families taking walks, hiking, and eating out at restaurants and spending whole afternoons at the neighborhood beer gardens. During the spring, summer and fall months, the beer gardens on Sundays are filled with people, but mostly with families. All the beer gardens offer playgrounds, so while Mom, Dad and other family members are sitting and chatting while eating and drinking, kids are often at the playgrounds- most times unsupervised. Many expat gatherings were held at the beer gardens, and the other American women would always laugh that we could only leave our children unsupervised at the beer gardens in Germany, and we wouldn't dare do it in the United States. Everything was family friendly.

Restaurants are also different in Germany than in the United States. My first dose of experiencing this was during my House Hunting Trip to Dresden, before our actual move to Germany. My husband and I ate at many restaurants that week; the service slow and relaxed. We often stopped for a quick meal, since we had so much to do in that short week. But in Germany, there's no such thing as a quick meal. Eating out at a restaurant is the experience and Germans and other Europeans often sit at their table for hours. I had asked a German woman, whose son was in Riley's class, what the differences were between Germany and the United States; she had been an expat herself in America before moving back to her home country of Germany. She laughed, and said right away, "Eating out." She explained that the first time her and her husband went out to eat in America, they couldn't believe how fast-paced it was, and how the wait staff continued to push the bill on them. They were used to eating in Germany, where you spend most of your evening at the restaurant. "You guys in America will go to dinner then to the movies. A date for us Germans would be one or the other. You Americans try to cram too much into a date." I laughed too. I explained to her that was one of the differences I saw too. Because in those early months, Tim and I would take the kids out, and just want to eat and get home. But we were finding it was taking forever for our food, and to even ask for the check. Hours and hours. There were some nights, especially on Fridays, when we really wanted to go out to eat, but we really didn't want to make it an all-night event, so we just simply stayed home.

Sundays were special in Germany. Because of the rush-rush of the week, on weekends, everything was halted. But it wasn't your decision it was halted. It was just the way it was, and you never had to make that decision to just be and stop; it was already made for you. As Americans, how many times on a Sunday do you feel guilty for not doing anything, and just being? Always, right? But in Europe, it was expected.

When we moved back to New York, my husband and I both wanted Sundays to be still family time. We didn't want to get back into the habit of shopping on Sundays. It worked all summer. But then, when I started teaching again, grocery shopping was put back on Sundays. But the intention is still there.

So have a great Sunday today. The Europeans are walking with their families in their quaint cities, maybe eating as a family or at a local restaurant, and relaxing. No stress or guilt for taking the day off and having no worries. We need to learn to do this more!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Important Life Lessons on Giving

Last year, when I lived in Germany, I read on Facebook that one of my friend's daughters was diagnosed with leukemia. It was a life-altering moment for me. I kept thinking of my friend; my heart breaking for her. That saying "Good things happen to good people" kept repeating in my head over and over again. My friend is one of the nicest, most giving and most positive women I have ever come across. I couldn't believe that she was handed this dreadful fate. I had the opportunity to teach with her for one year, and I ate lunch with her everyday. She was drama-free, free-spirited, and I loved her outlook on life. I remember thinking to myself many times when I was in her company, just how much she glowed and how her happiness radiated onto others.
When I found out this dreadful news, it really affected me. I thought non-stop of my friend, her daughter, her family, and the long year they would have. I thought about life, and how unfair it can be. I hugged my kids a lot closer, and thought to myself how unpredictable life can be.
My son came home from school one day and was very excited to tell me of a movie his teacher had shown them. It was about Ryan, a young boy, who wanted to change the world by raising money to built water wells in Africa. The boy was around 7 or 8, and he raised enough money to do this! Riley found a video on U-Tube about Ryan's Well, and after I watched it, he looked at me seriously and said, "I want to have a fundraiser." We had just found out about my friend's daughter days before, and the kids and Tim knew I was distraught. Riley didn't even know my friend's daughter, but he said, "Maybe we can raise money for her."
Riley went to the computer and wrote a letter from his heart, urging his school's student council to start a fundraiser for our friend. The response was huge. Riley's teacher was so impressed that Riley was influenced by the movie Ryan's Well, and Riley wanted to help someone in need, that she convinced both the student council teachers and the principal of Riley's school of Riley's idea for a fundraiser. Later that week, the student council agreed to have a bottle drive, with all proceeds to my friend's daughter.
In a matter of 2 months, Riley and his school managed to raise $900! It was amazing. On top of the bottle drive, they also had a bake sale. My husband's friends at his work also got on board, and Tim often came home with lots of bottles. My upstairs neighbor collected bottles. My daughter's first grade class helped to make and put up posters around the school. Everyone wanted to help; and none of them even knew who my friend was. People, literally, from all around the world, helped my friend since people from all around the world attended my kids' International School.
In Germany, the bottle deposits are 25 cents each, and with the Euro/Dollar exchange, it was to our advantage with the conversion. (We raised 600 euros, but with the conversion, it was $900). It was amazing to see a community of kids come together to help a little girl.
Back home in NY, many other fundraisers were being planned, and the whole community came together to help this great family that I think the world of, and so do many others. I think sometimes when these horrible events occur, you can see so much good come from it. In this case, it was how our community and friends helped a friend in need. It taught me that I have so much to give. Reading my friend's blog brought tears to my eyes each time I read it, but I was learning what really was important in life, through my friend's words, a world away. She wrote about how the simple things in life are what's important. It's the simple things that got their family through the chemo and the temporary move to Boston, where her daughter received her care.
My son wants to continue his fundraising ways, and this year, he's decided to raise money for childhood cancer. I'm helping him, by spreading the word on my facebook page. He's trying to think of other ways to raise money, so we'll see what he comes up with. I'm sure my daughter will come up with some ideas, as well.
If you would like to donate, visit the St. and search Riley's name. Another good friend of mine is organizing the event, in memory of her cousin, who died in his early 20's of leukemia. Another amazing friend, who puts in endless hours to make the St. Baldrick's event a success. This year, we hope to raise a $50,000 at the City Tavern in Saratoga Springs. Last year, almost $30,000 was raised. Simply amazing.

Is the Grass Greener?

Riley and Maggie, in front of their International School in September 2010. I LOVED being able to take them to school each morning, and pick them up each afternoon.
Last weekend, I went to a friend's house for a little dinner and wine. There were four of us girls at my friend's house. Three of the women I already knew, and the fourth was a woman I just met for the first time. I'll call her "H." H has recently resigned from her full-time job, and has decided that being a stay-at-home mom is the only option for her, since juggling work and motherhood was a bit challenging.
While we were talking to H about her decision, we all shook our heads and nodded. We could all relate to her. All of my friends are high achievers and really strive to be our best in both our professions and in motherhood. But at some point, something has to give. And, it ends up being our own needs. We put 100% in our work, 100% with our own children, and we try to give 100% with our husbands, and then what is left to give to ourselves? I'm lucky to give myself 50% of what I need. I dream of going to Yoga classes, but with my work schedule and my husband's work schedule, I just can't seem to leave my house in the evenings. I dream of a lot of things for myself, but these things are on the back burner, as I raise my kids and go to work.
H is a very happy person. Whenever I meet a stay-at-home mom, they always seem to be in limbo; never completely happy or satisfied doing what they are doing. I am always intrigued with stay-at-home moms, since I struggle with being in the category of working mom, and I always think to myself, "How lucky she is." Sometimes I think there's too much on my plate, and I just can't keep up with it all. My house is always a mess, I'm always rushing places, and I feel like I walk around all day with a "To-Do" list in my brain. But this girl, H, was ultimately and completely satisfied. My mouth dropped in awe as she told me that she is spending time working out and training for a triathlon. Her house is in order. She drives her kids to elementary school and preschool. She volunteers. She can have coffee with other friends in the daytime. In my head, I always thought to myself that "The Grass is always Greener," there will be things about working that I'll miss. And I agree with that to a certain degree. I will miss teaching; teaching is in my blood, and I feel like I just can do it naturally and without thought. But because I was a stay-at-home last year in Germany, I know how balanced and happy and "with it" I was. I had a clean apartment, dinners were planned, kids were dropped off at school and picked up, I volunteered, I had countless coffee mornings, and I was happy.
I'm happy now working, but it's a different happy. This balancing act is a challenge. But when I met H this weekend, it opened my eyes to how the grass actually might be greener over there in Stay-at-home-Land.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No more energy

A picture of Riley, 1 day old, with my friend, Judy, visiting at the hospital.

I attribute my job as a kindergarten teacher in helping me keep a youthful and energetic outlook on life. When you hang out with 5 and 6-year olds all day, it's hard to act like an "old lady." I dance, sing and act silly.
In the last year or so, I have felt my age, after a day in the classroom. I have the kind of job, where I never ever sit. I am always on my feet. I have 18 needy students in my class. Even during the non-structured times in my classroom, I'm tying shoes, settling disputes, getting next lesson's materials's just non-stop action. The only time I ever sit, is during my breaks, and I spend that time reading and responding to the many emails I get daily, and working on my computer with notes home, or getting homework ready. But mostly during my breaks, I savor the quietness of my classroom. Kindergarten is very active; we are busy all day!

When I come home from a day at work, I am mentally and physically exhausted. I notice that afterschool, I really can't hold a conversation: I'm THAT tired mentally. When I come home, I could go to bed and skip dinner, most nights. Unfortunately, when you have a husband who works until 7 most nights, and you have 2 hungry kids of your own, you can't be selfish. So, the meals I make are either leftovers from the weekend, or quick meals that require no thought.

When I worked in WA state as a first grade teacher, there was a teacher there I met that I absolutely adored. Her name was Judy Kutch, and she taught Kindergarten in my school. She had a piano in her classroom, she called everyone "honey" and "dear," and she was one of the most vibrant people I have ever met. And she was close to her 60's when I met her. She had the most energy of anyone I knew. We all marveled at her, because she was like no other person we ever met. Most people who didn't know her name called her "The Pickle Lady" (that's what my husband calls her too) because she always had jars of pickles to give to you. I was in my early 30's when I met her, and could hardly keep up with her, then. Now, at age 41, she would kick my butt.

I think of Judy Kutch often, when I walk to my car after a day of teaching. I wonder how she had all that energy, in her 50's or 60's. Maybe it was those pickles.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Am So Proud of Myself

Riley and Maggie last winter in Germany. Still, no snow in NY. Our ski mountain had to make their own!

Yesterday was my first day of ski lessons. I have to admit, on my drive to the mountain, I was very nervous. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to like skiing, because if I did, everyone in my family would be so happy. So if I hated it, skiing would be fun for everyone but me.
I tried skiing twice before. (Well, only once, because the second time I went, I drank beer in the lounge by myself and appointed myself the "official photographer)." The first time, was in high school, and I went last minute with a bunch of my friends. I remember going on the slopes, with these red pants I had- I didn't have snow pants, and my winter jacket that year was a winter jean jacket (do you remember them)? Yeah, I must had looked like a moron!! My first act of destruction was falling off the t-bar going up to the bunny slope on the first and only ride up. I thought it was funny that I fell off, so I laid in the snow, laughing, oblivious that I was supposed to quickly get out of the way to avoid the oncoming t-bars that were racing towards me. I think my friend threw herself on me and we both managed to get out of the way. Almost getting myself hurt, and haven't even skiied yet! Once on top of the "Bunny Slope" my friends gave me a 2-minute lesson on snowplowing, and they left me to go down the slope by myself. They cheered for me to join them at the bottom, as I tumbled by way down. Literally tumbling... I was like a bowling ball, ready to strike. I threw myself down the bunny slope like a lion. I was going so fast, forgetting the quick snowplowing lesson, and a bunch of little kids were my bowling pins, and I think I got a strike! They all fell down, as I crash in front of my friends who were waiting for me. Of course, they were all laughing, and to my horror, all the kids' parents that I crashed into were yelling at me. "You're too old to be on this slope!" So, that was my first experience skiing.
This time, I got myself a warm winter ski jacket, goggles, ski socks, ski hat and ski gloves. At least if I was going to suck, I would look good this time! When we got our boots on and I found my group outside (all the other moms and dads were who first-time skiers), I felt relaxed. I knew a couple of the moms in my group, and I knew if at least I sucked, I would have fun doing it. My ski teacher is a young college kid, who reminds me of someone that I would had hung out with if I were in college still. He was a total joker, so I knew I would feel comfortable with him. We started just walking in a circle with our skis on. Then we were given that famous snowplow lesson, and had to go down a very little hill. Skiing, this time, seemed easier, since it reminded me of rollerblading. We went up this other hill, and we had to get ourselves on this conveyor belt type thingy, which I had never seen before. Once we were up the hill, our teacher told us to practice going down, using snowplowing and turning. I felt like I did a good job, and my favorite part was when my teacher called me Lindsey Vaughn, because I was going down the hill, kind of fast. Yup, that was pretty cool. After our lesson, I was reunited with the kids and Tim and our best friends, who are also doing the lessons with us. I was shocked at how good Riley was. Maggie, on the other hand, was making me nervous. Every time she came tumbling down the hill, I thought for sure she was going to break something. Tim worked with her for a bit, and as I was sitting in the snow with my friend (it was over 40 degrees and I think we were making snow angels), I glanced up to see someone like Maggie coming down the hill, snowplowing. It wasn't until she was at the bottom that I could confirm that the girl was indeed my daughter, and I started cheering for her! I was so proud of her progress!
We had so much fun during our free ski time. The man working the top of the conveyor belt kept teasing me, "Oh, you are going to be so sore tomorrow." "Oh, you better get something to take tonight so you're not sore." He was kind of heckling me. So this morning, not one muscle sore! So I am so proud of myself for skiing well, and for not being sore.
When we got in the car last night, I saw the real big mountain (with the chairlift), and that looks scary. So, I really shouldn't be so braggy right now about my skiing, because I still haven't touched my skis on the actual real mountain!
But, I feel good about conquering something that I thought I would NEVER do again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Keeping Up with the Housework

It must be time to clean my house! It's Saturday, and that's what Saturdays are for. Doing laundry, vacuuming, and putting those piles away that have been piling up all during the week.

And guess what else gives me that little hint that I need to clean my house? It's 11 Am, and I have already killed 2 spiders. One was little, so I just killed it and was like "Whatever." But the second one was in Maggie's bedroom, crawling on the floor (and she has brown carpet, so you know when you see any insects on that rug, it must be huge). And it was the BIGGEST spider I have seen since I saw those big ones in Germany. Maybe my house is so messy and dirty, maybe it traveled with us from Germany...And now I'm obsessed with finding more spiders. I can't stop thinking about spiders.

Yup, time to clean my house.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Riley's Character Ed Award

After school today, Riley was so excited to tell me that he was awarded a Character Ed award for being Generous. His name was announced at today's school assembly, and even though I wasn't there, I can just picture his little surprised grin when his name was announced.
I just recently read a parenting article about the importance of modeling to your children the behaviors you want from them. I totally agree with this. I think if you want your children to have manners, you need to have manners yourself. It makes perfect sense.
I have known for some time that Riley is a generous boy. This past Christmas, he made sure to either buy gifts or make gifts for everyone who was included in our Christmas; all of our extended family. He was very thoughtful in doing this. Me??? I was frantically buying gifts on-line, since I didn't have the patience to shop in the malls. I complained a lot this past December about the shopping, the hassles that the holidays seem to bring. Since the Christmas shopping was falling on me this year (Tim just works too much), I was feeling the stress of getting all the perfect gifts for everyone. Meanwhile, my son was happily making gifts and wrapping them all himself. I certainly wasn't modeling any Generosity manners this past month. And last year, he organized a fundraiser for a friend's daughter who was battling cancer, and he managed to raise $900 in his German International School. He is always offering to help me clean, rake leaves and shoveling the driveway. Two years ago, Tim moved to Germany and we lived almost 6 months apart. Riley took his role as "man of the house" very seriously, and was a tremendous help during this time. I have to say, too, that my daughter is generous. While she's generous in a loud and boisterous way, Riley is generous in a quiet and soft-spoken way.
We did shop for others this season, adopting a family. So that was generous. I am a somewhat generous person, but I could be even more generous. My son naturally is generous, while I have to try to be...He is a role model for me; truly.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Child #2 sick now

I guess when you have 2 kids, and one of them gets sick, it's pretty probable that the second child will be sick as well. Maggie was sick during the Christmas Break, and now Riley is sick.
The kids take a school bus to the school I teach at. After I walked my students to their buses yesterday and greeted Riley and Maggie, I could tell in seconds that Riley was really sick. Last night, he coughed all night, as well as blowing his nose. When I woke up at 5:30 this morning and opened his door, I saw tissues all over the floor, his comforter was thrown to the end of the bed, and his face was puffy. This wasn't a "borderline" kind of day; I knew that he had to stay home. Quickly I wrote sub plans and contacted my favorite substitute teacher, who luckily wasn't already working.
I remember before I had kids, having a conversation with my good friend Susan, who I taught with in WA state. One time, Susan had to take a couple days off since one of her kids was sick. She later told me, secretly, that she enjoyed taking time off when the kids were sick. She got to nurse them back to health, but while they were resting, she was able to get things done around her house.
Riley is laying on the couch, watching TV, and resting. After I write, I plan on doing some housework, bake some gluten-free things, and do some reading. If I'm home, I might as well enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

And 6 Months later...

Today marks the anniversary of our 6 month return back to the United States. I wouldn't had even thought twice about this date and anniversary, but Riley made me think of this last night.
I was up late last night, since I've been on this schedule of going to bed late, and getting up later, because of Christmas Break. Last night, I knew I would have a difficult time going to sleep, so I watched TV, listened to the news, and did some things on the computer, as the rest of the family was nestled in their beds. About 10:00, Riley came down the stairs, with tears in his eyes. At first, I thought it was because he was sick. But he kept repeating, "I miss Germany. I miss Germany." My heart just broke upon looking at his little innocent face. I want so bad to fix this. What can I do, as his mom, to make him feel better, when I have the same feelings?
I asked him what he missed the most, and he simply said, "Everything." He continued to tell me he misses the trams (we all know that), his old school, his old friends, and living in the city. He misses the excitement of our lives, because that's what it was; exciting. We were always so excited. We went on one or two vacations a month. It was a "Good Life."
I admitted to him that I miss it too, but he already knows that. I admitted crying earlier that day when I was watching a reality TV show in which the woman on the show was visiting Paris. "I just kept looking at her and the streets and remembering how we were there, and how much fun we had there." I was honest with him and my feelings, and I found that we both started crying as we hugged. Riley is just 9 years old, but as a 9 year old boy, he knows so much about the world. He has been in 15 countries, all with its unique cultures, languages and customs. He has plans to visit Germany and his friends he met there when he is of high-school age, and he is challenging his German teacher to teach him more German, writing her a note last week, "Please challenge me. I plan on moving to Germany again and you need to teach me." Now, his teacher strictly speaks to him in German, which he prefers. His motivation to return back to Europe is impressive, and I don't think he will ever relent on this decision. But at this moment, as I'm hugging him, I honestly don't know what to say to him, because I miss it too, and it saddens me. I surprise myself and give him good advice. I tell him that he is aware of how big the world is, and how he has seen so much. How lucky he is, to do something that some people never get to do; to travel the world. I tell him to look at the positive. And since he knows how cool Europe is, I tell him, "I know someday you'll be back there. You already know where you want to go." I encourage him to keep skypping his 2 German friends, Mark and Karl. I tell him that I hope someday that you will be reunited with these friends. These friends are your connection to Germany. Stay in touch with these friends, and you will feel closer to Germany in this way. I also encourage him to keep up with his writing. Since 1st grade, Riley has been writing in a journal and since 2nd grade, a blog. Writing about your feelings will help too. He looks at me, still shaking, sad and upset. I just hug him again. I know we all feel helpless when our kids are sad, and there seems to be nothing we can do to help. This is one of those times. I actually feel my heart breaking as I look at his sad eyes and his quivering lips.
Riley sits at the computer and he writes to Mark and Karl, making an appointment to skype with them on Saturday. I tell Riley that I would love these friends to come visit us in New York. We talk about this for a bit, and I promise Riley that I will talk to his friends' parents, so see if this is a possiblity. I say good night to Riley, and as he slowly walks up the stairs, I feel so sad for him. He fell in love with our life there too. Riley and I are both waiting for this...this go away. When will we stop missing Germany and Europe so much? When will the hurt gradually go away? At Riley and Maggie's International School in Germany, I attended a class on returning to your country, after being an expat. Those speakers told me that it would take 6 months-1 year to fully feel happy. I also learned that when you return back to the same city you lived in, it is even more difficult. All of my expat friends that I met in Germany, are all new to the NY area.They may be experiencing NY as they did when we were in Germany; as a new and exciting adenture. So, we just, today, reached the 6 month point. It is obvious that Riley and I need more time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Vacation is over...

Maggie and Riley in New York City, December 26th, 2008

This Christmas vacation is nearly over. All in all, it was a nice, calm, vacation. The kids and I will go back to school, hopefully ready tomorrow.
Over the Christmas break, I have been reading a teaching book called "A Place For Wonder." My school librarian recommended it to me, telling me that she thought that I would enjoy it. After reading half the book, it makes me rethink how I teach Writing and Science, and I'm looking forward to incorporating some of these practices in my classroom. I have also discovered several kindergarten teacher blogs, and I am truly amazed at how much work they all put into keeping up their blogs and sharing their ideas. Of course, most of things on their blogs are teaching materials that you need to pay for to get, but nonetheless, there's still lots of ideas out there. I feel the creative juices, and I'm glad I had the break to get some of that energy back!
This is the first time in all my years being a teacher that I neglected to go into school during Christmas Break. If I were to make a guess, I would say about 60% of elementary teachers return to school, at some point during the vacation. We make copies, get centers ready, organize ourselves, and take down all the Christmas evidence that is still on our walls. Well, I wasn't able to get into school, since Maggie was sick, so I'm sure my first day back tomorrow will be a little overwhelming. But I really can't worry about it now, since I do have one day left of this vacation!
I'm going to spend today taking a walk with the kids and Toga, since it's sunny and fairly warm out. Maggie wrote some songs over the Christmas break, so she plans on performing them on her piano later this afternoon. It's the simple things today. The busy life will start again tomorrow. For today, I have one more day to just be.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year

A new year, 2012, is here. New Year's Eve has always been a big party night for me. But since having kids, the biggest party I have now is playing games all night so my kids stay up, and then we count down as we see the ball drop in Times Square. It is hard for me to say goodbye to 2011. 2011 was a magical, inspiring year for me, and I honestly don't know if any other year will or can be better.

Last year for New Year's Eve, we went to the square in our city of Dresden and watched a firework show. Then we walked throughout Dresden, taking the long way to take a tram back to our flat. I couldn't believe the craziness. People were letting fireworks EVERYWHERE. Many times, just barely missing us. They were being lit, and then flying down the street, not up in the sky. I actually become, at times, scared. In a country where people "follow the rules" and there's so much conformity, I was shocked at the crazy German people! They usually are a quiet breed of people; when you take buses, trams, or trains, everyone is so quiet, it used to drive me mad! And one time, I took Maggie to Abba Mania, and as I listened to the Abba songs that night, I was shocked that the German people sat in their seats for most of the concert. It was like we were at the opera; people watched in a sort of trance. So to see some crazy behavior, FINALLY, with all this emotion, was surprising to me. But I have to admit, as I walked through the artsy part of our city, there were moments I looked at Tim, and said, "Where are we??" I couldn't believe that fireworks were just going off all around us. When we arrived home later that night, we sat outside our balcony and watched all the fireworks going off. I told my kids that in all my 40 years of living, I have never seen so many fireworks. I felt so happy that night, even singing Katy Perry's "Firework" song to the people below. My kids reminded me of my singing last night. I guess that's what 3 glasses of sparkling wine will do to me.

Last night, it was a different picture. First of all, Maggie is sick, so we decided to stay home. We were invited to our best friend's house, but with Maggie sick, we decided to stay home. My husband fell asleep at 9 PM, only to wake up when Dick Clark's show came on. The kids and I played Wii games, we skypped with my sister, and then later with our best friends. We had a family talk about our dreams for 2012. We ate Chinese food, and opened our fortune cookies (which were eerily "right on". It was just a nice time.

This year, I don't really have any resolutions, because I don't really believe in starting all fresh. I think that life is a journey, so I think of it more as what did I learn in 2011 that I can apply to 2012? And because I learned SO much about myself and about the world, I feel the need to challenge myself in 2012. I have also loved writing, so I started this blog. I have decisions to make about what makes me happy about my career. Like I said in an earlier post, sometimes I think I'm ready to do something different related to teaching. As I explore these options, I need to not be afraid of change. 2012 will be a more difficult year for us, as a family. As my husband is starting up a local fab plant in our town, he is spending up to 14 hours at work, and it's only going to get worse, before it gets better. We know, as a family, that he needs to work these long hours. So, at the moment, my life seems very busy. Unlike last year, where I had so much time for myself. I wrote, I traveled, I spend lots of time with friends. Now, it's a much different landscape; I work, taking care of the kids afterschool, driving them to their activities, getting them ready for bed. Right now, the balance is not there. So as this year moves on, I hope to find that balance that I found in Germany, or at least, that feeling I had there. In the movie, "Eat, Pray, Love," Julie Roberts' character says to the man she falls in love with, "I'm afraid of falling in love with you because I am afraid of losing myself because I am so balanced right now." I just watched that movie for the first time a couple months ago, and when she said that I could totally relate. But instead of losing herself to a man, I'm afraid of losing myself to "Full-time Job Vs. A Mom." I don't want my job to have to interfere with me being a mom. How do we find that balance?? I guess that's my sort of, resolution. To find that balance. I think right now, with my husband's demanding job, it might take awhile to find it.
Here's to a Happy and Healthy 2012.