Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tis the Season

We spent Thanksgiving with 2 other families from our Ward.  It was nice to have someone to share the holiday with...and it was even nicer to split up the cooking responsibilities!  After we ate we decided to drive to Heidelberg and see the Christmas Market there.  It was our first one of the season and I was so excited to introduce my family to the magic of a German Christmas Market.  Heidelberg is a beautiful city and the Market there was impressive.  It was divided into three or four big sections, which were all along a pedestrian shopping walkway.  Super fun...but for the kids it was a bit long.  And of course our 'determined' little Violet refused to wear a coat most of the night.  I kept thinking she would eventually get cold enough and want to put it on...but instead she just got grouchier and grouchier...all the while insisting that she was fine.  In these situations, I have to tell myself that she will make a very strong, confidant adult one day.  She did finally agree to wear the coat, but she went a good while without it. It was a really fun night and a great kick-off for the Christmas Season.

The kids always look forward to the carousels that are at many of the Christmas Markets...

In Germany we celebrate the 4 Advents of Christmas, or the 4 Sundays before Christmas.  On the 1st Advent, my Aunt Gabi set up an exhibit in her village's Christmas Market.  The theme this year was a Christmas in the Erzgebirge.  The Erzgebirge are a region in East Germany where all of my mom and dad's families originally came from.  It is also where many German Christmas traditions originated.  Growing up, these were the decorations that I knew.  And I have such warm feelings when I see them.   My mom's dad, Opi, was an amazing woodworker.  He built many of the Christmas Pyramids, and as a kid I always marveled at how he was able to do that with just one hand (he lost the other hand in WWII).  He had incredible talent.  More than most people can say with both hands in full use ;).  Gabi had several of Opi's masterpieces on display, as well as many other traditional German decorations.  And she has a real knack for decorating.  It was beautiful and very cozy.  We arrived with our kids (again, Violet refused a coat).  It was kinda nuts bringing them in that exhibit with so many breakable things around.  After getting some dinner for them and letting them see St. Nikolaus, Nate and I took them back to Gabi's house and put them to bed.  Once they were in bed, I went back to the Christmas Market and hung out with Gabi, my Aunt Sonny, and my cousin Kirstin.  It was so fun just to be there by myself and be able to relax and chat with them.  I thought so much about my Omi and Opi that night.  They would have loved to be there.  Although I'm sure they were.

I just love to see all the other children so bundled up.  And then there is my daughter in the middle, looking so homeless.  

We got a little dusting of snow one morning in early December.  This is the most we have seen all winter here in Germany.  It has been a very mild winter.

We were all excited about the festive nutella we found at Globus.

Isla started sitting in the high chair around the beginning of December (almost 7 months)

She also started crawling around that time

We loved our little Charlie Brown tree this year.  And it hardly shed any needles, ever!

The kids were spoiled this year...Star Wars Lego Advent Calendar, and Kinder Egg Calendar

On December 6th, Germans celebrate St. Nikolaus Day.  St. Nikolaus comes and fills the kids' boots with goodies.  It is a fun tradition that I always did in my family growing up, and I will for sure continue it with my kids.

Made my own Advent Wreath this year and I loved how it turned out (you light another candle each Sunday before Christmas and sit around telling Christmas stories and eating goodies)...

In Germany you will rarely find a house with built-in closets.  And that means no pantry or coat closet either.  So I have been having a hard time fitting everything in my small kitchen!  I finally found a hutch on a yardsale shortly before Christmas.  For 100 Euro and a little paint, I was super happy with the result!  (this picture is still missing some hardware)

Our tree was so light weight, that Sawyer and Nathan were able to carry it in with no problem.  I think Sawyer was pretty excited to help his daddy with this one.

Our own village's Christmas Market...small and quaint and close-by-->perfect for our kids

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fitting In

We are trying to 'fit in' culturally while we are here in Germany, by participating in as many German holidays and events as we can.  On November 11th Germany celebrates St. Martins Day  (wikipedia it if you are interested in the details).  But basically what happens is all the kids make lanterns in school and then they gather together in the evening and follow a Roman Soldier on horseback around the village with their lanterns.  At the end they are all given a Martins' Pretzel and we drink Kinderpunsch (kinda like cider) and enjoy a big bonfire.  So we were gone most of that day taking pictures but we had heard that we could just show up in the village that evening and participate.  Unfortunately, our kids aren't in school (aka, didn't make their own lanterns), and we ran out of time to try and buy one.  So Nate jimmy rigged some contraption using a stick, a flashlight, and a HUGE chinese lantern which he ended up ripping in half to make smaller.  It was definitely the most WT lantern in the parade...possibly of all time.  Also our children were completely grouchy during the whole walk.  And we were literally the last ones in the line because we had to keep stopping to help one of our grouchy kids.  The poor policemen at the end of the line had to keep waiting on us before they could proceed.  It was awful.  Next year we will be better prepared.  We will bring well-rested children who are bundled up nice and warm and have appropriately sized and functioning lanterns.  In the end, though, the kids were happy with their pretzel and enjoyed the bonfire.  Until the next tantrum ensued.  Such is life...

Sawyer was actually pretty happy with this flashlight lantern...not so much once the 'green ghost' was added...

So a little while later we were coming home from a walk on a Saturday and we saw a note on our door about the village 'Schlachfest' that was going on that night.  Literally translated it means 'Slaughter Festival', lol.  But really it's all about 'hog killing'.  So pretty much you just get together and eat a bunch of meat...and other traditional German foods.  I'll be honest, we stuck with Bratwurst and opted not to try the Liver Dumplings and Bloodwurst.  Although my mom told me later that Liver Dumplings are actually really yummy ;)  (i'll take your word for it, mom! :) )

The kids were happy with their Brats and Fanta...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Cute Kids

Back in November I took some pictures of the kids outside in our backyard.  I'm not the best photographer, by any means, but I love how they turned out.  Mostly because of how stinkin cute they are...I'm always amazed that they are mine :)

(*I can't remember or find where I posted Isla's 6 month stats--but we had her appointment around this time so I will put them here.  Ht 25.98 in (37%), Wt 14.33 lbs (8%), HC 16.54 in (22%))

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lichtenberg Castle and Family Pics

Lichtenberg Castle is only about 20 min from our house.  We love it.  It's mostly castle ruins, but there is a little playground for the kids there and even a youth hostel and restaurant.  We decided to take Christmas Card pictures there this year.  Our friends, the Barons, took them for us.  We were so lucky to find friends like the Barons so quickly and easily.  They are in our ward, have been here the same amount of time as us, and will be here for 3 years as well.  We both have 3 kids, about the same ages.  Our kids LOVE their boys.  They are best buds already.

Sawyer and his friend, Austin...two peas in a pod

Me and Mandy with our babies