Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Room with a View

I am taking forever to get pictures of the house set up.  Mainly because hanging up shelves and frames is a giant pain here since the walls are cement.  Cement walls have their perks, don't misunderstand me.  I love how quiet cement houses are compared to squeaky wooden ones.  There's always that added benefit of not being flammable.  However, when it comes to hammering in nails, forget about it.  You need special nails or you have to use screws for everything.  Long story to excuse my lack of pictures of the house since getting our furniture.  That said, here is my kitchen.

My favorite part of the kitchen (that as you may remember is too small for the amount of cooking I do and little people that hang on me while I do that cooking) is this big window with a beautiful view.  On that hill over there, we have two horses I see almost daily that I have nicknamed Jack and Jill.
Our house is at the top of the village which both causes me to fear snow/ice and affords me a terrific view!
My happy, adorable cooking buddy.  Don't tell anybody I put the Bumbo on the counter.  It's our little secret, okay?

Since this photo, we have put up some storage in the pantry, and I have been able to make more counter space available.  It really is very doable to cook for 8 in here.  What's not doable is to have a child unloading the dishwasher while I try to cook with a couple little ones underfoot.  It gets a little hairy then.
I am just trying to be a "glass half full" kind of person instead of my regular "glass half empty" self.  I have taken the speech Mother gave Meg in Little Women to heart, my favorite line being, "Go out more, keep cheerful as well as busy, for you are the sunshine-maker of the family, and if you get dismal there is no fair weather."  I sort of stink at this, of course, but I am starting over and trying my best each day.  Genna was crying about missing her friends and her "other life" and Hannah misses our "warm house with carpet."  It reminded me that there is nothing to be done about the things we miss, but we must press on and make a home and life for ourselves here.  And I must be the leader in making sunshine for our family in this not so sunny land.  So, Yea! for my beautiful window and my wonderful view!  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Out of Sorts

This is kind of how we've all been feeling since the big move.  Drew's been losing his temper. Genevieve's been crying over missing her friends and being lonely.  Judah's kicked it up a notch with his two year old tantrums.  Bobby stopped sleeping through the night and got a cough he can't shake, but has otherwise been happy.  Hannah and Isaac have seemed normalish, but I think they just hide it better.  Brian's got big adjustments at work to deal with.  I have been drowning in boxes, to do lists, the children's issues, my own loneliness, learning my way around, cultural and language frustrations, and trying to feel settled.  I know from prior experience though that it takes a good six months to feel settled and normal.  The house still feels foreign, even though I am not getting lost in the house anymore.  If you are moving or just moved for the first time to a whole new area, whether it be an overseas move or not, just give yourself six months.  I hated New York for six months, and then I loved it.  I hated Germany before for six months, and I cried my eyes out when we left it.  I hated Maryland/DC for that long, and, again, cried my eyes out when we left.  I'm used to it, but it doesn't make it any easier.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

Oompa Loompa or gumdrop? You decide.

This is a shout out to our Maryland neighbor who gave us all kinds of hand-me-downs for Judah after I had given her son all Drew's hand-me-downs.  I had never seen the sleep sacks with legs before.  Her son was in love with his sleep sack and so they went hunting for bigger sizes.  I've never been a huge sleep sack person.  I have used them, especially as a transition out of the swaddle blanket (Woombie,) or when it just gets really cold, and they won't keep blankets on.  We tried this one out because, and I'm embarrassed to say this, his room doesn't have a heater like the rest.  Now we, of course, leave the door open a bit, and the boys' room is connected with a radiator.  This has been fine so far, but on chillier evenings I like to put this on Judah to make sure he's toasty warm.  Enter Oompa Loompa.

I call him an Oompa Loompa, but (and the theme continues) Brian likes to call him a gumdrop.  As it has gone with his name, the kids all pick which nickname to call him between the two options.  What is it with this one in particular that makes Mom and Dad disagree on what to call him?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sibling Helpers

We have a sort of buddy system in our house.  However, many books on large families recommend having permanent buddies, and I don't like that idea.  I can see it's benefits for sure.  The little one gets used to letting his older buddy help him, and the older one gets to know what makes his/her little buddy tick.  The problem that I see is that bonds and favoritisms develop that might not have otherwise done so.  I want to give all my children the best shot at having good relationships with all of their siblings as possible.  There are going to be siblings that naturally get along better or naturally fight all the time, but I don't have to set them up for it.  I want us to be a team.  The other downside to having the same assigned buddy all the time is that someone gets the raw end of the deal, because, let's face it, not all babies and toddlers are alike.  Some are sweet as can be and some run into the street every chance they get or refuse to allow anyone to put their shoes on.

My solution is to include our buddy rotation on our chore chart rotation.  The laundry person for the day is on Bobby duty.  The floor person is on Judah duty.  The dish person is on Drew.  If you are on Drew duty, let's say, you get to help him with breakfast if I am busy with someone else.  You would sit next to him in the van and help him get buckled in.  You'd hold his hand if we were out.  You may be called upon to read to him,  play with him or brush his teeth before bed.  You should also check to see if he did his chores and remind him to do so.  That last one needs some work.  I usually end up doing that one.

It's mostly the same for Judah, but he doesn't have any chores except to help the floor person clean up his toys and put diapers in the trash.  He needs help with getting his shoes and coat on right now and that is a huge thing since I have to get Bobby in his carseat.  Judah's fighting these things right now so I try to have some kind of snack to bribe him with so he will not demand, "Mommy do it!"

If you are on Bobby duty, your main jobs would be to entertain him if I need to do something and he is unhappy (Rarely happens, folks!  This guy's a gem!) and to keep him awake in the car if I need him not to waste his nap in the car.  He's that easy one that everyone wants to be on his duty until they want to read in the car and I need him awake.  Nobody likes that job, but I still say it's better than helping Drew get sick in a bucket because he's carsick...AGAIN.

I do not require diaper changes because I pay the kids a small fee for those on a need basis.  I usually just do it unless I can't for some reason.  I am not trying to shirk all my jobs; I'm just trying to teach love and responsibility.

That's how our system works around here.  I like it because it spreads the work out and everyone gets to learn the tricks of how to get Judah to get in the carseat without a fit.  Well, at least that's the goal.

Apparently, Daddy's teaching him to spit in the bidet.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Reading Aloud

I don't know how much I've shared on my blog about how our family feels about reading.  I firmly believe that reading aloud to your kids teaches them more than I could ever teach otherwise.  It teaches them language, colors, numbers, and letters from the very beginning of their life.  I read aloud to my babies as soon as the fog clears after they are born (about two weeks,) and I do this every time I put them down for a nap or bedtime.  That is about 5 or 6 times a day.  I usually read poetry to them when they are too young to look at a book and then we graduate to board books.  I think it helps them learn to talk earlier and gives them a better vocabulary.  So far all the kids except for Drew have been early talkers and had a great vocabulary.  Drew, as a baby, would fuss and thrash around during our story time/bed time routine.  I did it anyway, but he kind of refused to participate until he was around a year or so.  

I like to move the kids to chapter books as soon as they are able to listen and understand most of it without the pictures for help.  The oldest three moved pretty young to chapter books like Junie B. Jones and the Magic Tree House books.  Drew (now age 4) has been slower because he has trouble following the story sometimes.  There's been a lot of trial chapter books that I decided after reading them to him that he wasn't quite ready.  We'd wait a while and then try again.  I have read a few Magic Tree House books to him, as well as Sir Lancelot the Great from the Knights' Tale series and an abridged Wizard of Oz book.  He liked those and was able to follow most of the story.  I read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to him just before we moved.  He needs lots of breaks with picture books though in between days of reading the chapter books.  I plan to get more of the Knights' Tale series for him at the library.

One thing that really helps with their listening skills is to listen to books on tape in the car.  Drew is just recently began really enjoying listening to those.  He even liked Where the Red Fern Grows, but he especially enjoys Hank the Cowdog books on tape.

As the oldest three (now 11, 9, and 7 years old) learned to read, we didn't stop reading to them.  It kind of happened on accident.  Neither I nor my husband were read to after we could read our own chapter books.  I hadn't heard yet of the amazing Read Aloud Revival.  We just had always done it.  Bedtimes and naptimes always included a book.  Over the years kids have been grouped together in different ways depending on their level.  Currently, dad reads to the oldest three (many times Bobby gets to hang out and listen too,) while I read to Drew and Judah a book of Drew's choice and then Judah chooses a short book for me to read to him in his own room.  Then I go get Bobby and read to him in his rocking chair before putting him down.  It takes a while in this season of our life.  We also say family prayers before all the reading begins.  Sometimes the littles get to join in those, but many times dinner and chores took too long, and they are ready for bed.  Those times, I pray with the little ones before or after reading to them.  The fact that the whole bedtime routine takes a long time doesn't usually bother me because reading to them is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend time with them.  I'm not one to do a ton of playing with the kids, especially since they have each other to play with now.  I love to teach them and read to them.  I guess homeschooling was my destiny after all, even though I resisted it at first.

Brian gets to read to the big kids books that he loves.  He is reading Lord of the Rings for the second time all the way through the trilogy because Isaac wasn't old enough for it the first time around.  He usually ends the book with a late night watching of the movies together (not all in one night!)  On nights he is home late or can't read to them, I read from one of our school books that we read during the school day.  They do not care at all because they just love to be read to while they draw.  Right now we are reading Genevieve Foster's Augustus Caesar's World which is written as an enjoyable story.  So it is a good one for evenings.

Reading aloud to your older children teaches them about places, history, language, art, and the list goes on and on and on.  My children's favorite part of homeschool is our read aloud time.  We cycle through books on art history, history, science, and Shakespeare during that time.  Last year, I had to read during Judah's morning nap and have Drew play alone in his room in order to make it happen.  The boys were too noisy.  This year they've been able to play in the same room quietly (mostly) while we read.  

Our family is reading alot, especially if you count all the time the three oldest read to themselves.  We have even started reading aloud in the van when we are altogether for a trip or just going to Mass on Sunday, although it is a challenge for me to read loud enough for everyone to hear me.  Who knew our Ford 12 passenger would have loud road noise?  :)  I keep three or so books in there so I can pick up whatever I am feeling like reading at the time.  Right now we have Famous Men of Greece, The Story of the Church, and Catholic Shrines and Pilgrimages in Central and Eastern Europe in the van.  On top of all that, Brian and I have made a resolution to read to each other after the kids go to bed as often as possible.  We read CS Lewis' The Great Divorce and now we are reading Lilith by George MacDonald.

All this is to say, Go read aloud to your children!  You won't regret it!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Local Christmas Market

We went to all these Christmas markets that took hours to get to and from and which one did the kids like the best?  The local one that was a 20 minute train ride into the city took first place in their hearts.  Hannah and Genevieve were able to use some of their German when we decided to let them start ordering for us, and I thought of questions for Hannah to ask people.

Never too old for a car ride?
We had some pretty tasty Bratwurst, Dampfnudeln, Gluhwein, Heisse Schokolad, Pom Frits, and I tried a frikadelle for the first time.  A frikadelle is almost like a meatloaf patty that they put on Brotchen.  It's probably not something I'll order again, but it was alright.

As it got dark, it grew very cold and near one group of stalls there was a nice warm fire by which we warmed ourselves.

The girls are pointing at all their friends and family in the USA.  Notice the sign!

The train ride home was warm and toasty after a cold day in the city.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Strasbourg Not So Christmas Market

Tuesday we got right back in the car and van to head to Strasbourg, France.  It was supposed to be one of the few places still doing a Christmas market for the whole week.  However, when we arrived well after it should have been underway we found it suspicious that none of the stalls were open yet.  They were all boarded up.  As we walked around looking for signs that we weren't crazy and there really was supposed to be a Christmas market there, we saw people taking down some of the stalls.  All the signs (and online) said it still was going until the new year, but I guess they decided to close up several days early.

Here's the closed up carousel.
Sooo, change of plans.  We wandered the streets of Strasbourg looking at the Christmas decorations and trying to find a place to eat.  We stopped at a bakery to get the kids a little snack until we could find a restaurant.  They had giant brioche gingerbread men that my kids loved.

Very pretty style of buildings
For our late lunch we ate flammkuchen, an emmentaler cheese (a kind of swiss) salad, and gluhwein to warm us up.
And, of course, a beautiful cathedral is in almost every big city in Europe.

Famous and old clock in the cathedral

Good news though, the carousel did eventually open and Drew got his promised ride.

Does it get any better than those cheeks (Bobby's, not mine!) and a cathedral in the same picture?