I See You

I see you. You, the mom putting out the picture of happiness. Radiating happiness. The mom that everyone thinks has her sh*t together. The mom who seemingly does it all. Mrs. Cleaver, caring for her husband, children, and home.

The mom who is the look of happy perfection and yet is crying out inside.

I see you. You, the mom crying silently in the car on the way home. The mom crying to herself, exhausted from being the one thread that holds everything together. The mom who gives until she has nothing left to give because she has no other choice.

The mom who wants so desperately to be there for everyone else, to be that happy bubbly person that she knows she is, but loses sight of her own needs in the process.

I see you. I see you because I am you.

It’s a hard thing to share. I’m the kind of person who loves to be that “light in the darkness”. I love to live a life full of happiness, who doesn’t? I love to lift others help, help them find those little positive moments, to be that person who is there for them when they need it. I don’t like to focus on the hard times, or talk about how the past month was a tough one, when I am now feeling better and things are looking up. I don’t want to bring those times up (aside from the random in the moment posting about them), because I don’t want to return to them. I don’t want to bring that back into my headspace, but if we don’t then we won’t learn for the next time. If we don’t share, others won’t know. I think it is equally important to share when times are good and when times are…well not so good.

Life is full of ups and downs for everyone and it is important to remember that even the people who look like they have their sh*t together still have their hard days too.

I also feel a lot of guilt when talking about what “hard times” looks like to me. I know that I am incredibly blessed to be able to stay home with my children, to have a roof over my head, to have food on my table, to not have to overly stress about our budget (although we do have one), to not have to worry about every little thing. I recognize that I am incredibly blessed to be able to travel with my family, show our kids the world beyond our town. I’m blessed to have a loving and caring husband (or partner if that’s your case), who will help our whenever and however he can.

I know that I am incredibly blessed in this life (although that doesn’t negate the hard work that I put in and have put in), but that doesn’t mean that I do not have hard times. Hard times look different to everyone, just like anything else in life. It is important not to downplay or minimize someone else’s hart times just because they look different than ours.

In August, my hard times specifically related to being mentally over exhausted. Our July and August have been non stop on the “doing things”, “people” and “noise” fronts and I just couldn’t catch a break to have an hour or two to myself. We talk about self-care (something I will be talking about this month) and how important it is, but sometimes we forget. I preach it, but wasn’t getting a chance to take my own advice. It’s a season of life and this past month has taught me a couple of things.

Also, in this time period, my husband’s work picked up quite a bit, he was in and out a little bit more (and had a long trip at the start of the month) and our boys reacted to that. Andrew became extremely clingy (to be expected), freaking out if I disappeared from his site for more than a minute. Again, a season of life and something that we are working on with him.

I say all this now, share all this now, because I’ve been really bad at sharing it in the moment. I hit a patch of about a week when I just retreated. Outwardly I was still that same person, but when we weren’t around others I hid inside. I carried on as best I could, but often times would end up crying at night, from being so tired, so worn thin. Feeling like the worn thread holding a piece of rope together.

I didn’t share in the moment for two reasons, both of which have been stated here. I don’t like feeling like this- no one does. I don’t want to bring myself down even more and bring others down. I also felt that guild and shame. I didn’t want to put my “not so important” problems above others who have what I would consider “real problems” (which, as I’ve stated above is utterly ridiculous). I retreated so far that I really just didn’t want to talk at all.

I don’t know what actually pulled me out to be honest. I cried. A lot. I wrote in my journal. A lot. I tried to “unpack” the things that were really bothering me. What was really getting me into this low spot. And, if I really think about it, it was probably a combination of things that just happened at the same time and reminded me of the good things. Then, I focused on those good things and over the process of a couple days started to feel better.

So, what’s the point of this whole post? It’s basically just me saying I see you. I see you, in the happy times, in the hard times and all the times in between. I see you and I want to help you. Tell me, talk to me; talk it out, write it out, cry it out, whatever you need to do.

Breaking Bad Habits

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those bad habits; the one’s that creep in when you are at a low point, or stressed, or too busy to really pay attention. Maybe it’s food, maybe it’s stress, maybe it’s your thoughts, whatever it is, they are the habits that can be hardest to break (and keep broken).

I’ve definitely succumbed to some bad habits lately. My food has not been the best between vacationing and the busy day to day that our month has been. My thinking has definitely hit some low points that have been hard to dig out of. My sleeping and exercising, hell my phone use, it’s kind of all started to add up to a whole lot of…bad habits and mess. I’ve been feeling like I need to…get my s*it back together and the best place to start that is…by breaking all those bad habits I’ve let back into my life.

I know I can’t be alone in this whole “life is hard, bad habits abound, I want to pull myself back together” phase, so I figured I would share a few blog posts on how I get myself out of a vicious funk and back on to my track. I’m going to do a post dedicated on breaking bad habits, getting organized (to include my routines which are new with a new house J), incorporating some self-care for busy schedules, and a look see into my rest of the year plans/goals. A little re center in time for Autumn to strike, right? I figured with school starting up for many of us (students and parents alike), now’s as good a time as any to…get our s*it back together.

So, how do we do this? We start with breaking the bad habits. Depending on what these habits are will dictate what your steps are. Let’s start by talking about our bad habits…

For me, the biggest bad habit that has really come back is my eating. I’ll admit I’ve been frequenting the junk food (chips and popcorn especially) and over the past two months I’ve probably had more soda than I’ve had collectively in the past year. It’s been a mess. I’m not going to go on and on about food, but basically it plays such a vital role in both our physical and mental wellbeing. When we are not nourishing our body properly, we can’t be expected to be at our best.

The second biggest bad habit that I’ve let really back in is my thoughts. We’ve had a…month. It hasn’t been BAD, nothing has really gone truly wrong, it was just harder than we expected coming back from vacation and jumping straight back into life. I don’t really want to talk about it, or complain about it (because it could have been much worse), but I’ll simply say that it was a little tougher than expected. And to be honest, at some points I reveled in that negativity a little too much. I constantly waged a battle with how I was feeling, and what I was actually thinking and wanting to feel. Perspective can be a b*tch basically. I hate to admit how many days I let those negative thoughts win and became a do nothing for the day. I’ll talk more about all of this (and our month) later.

So, we’ve figured out what our bad habits are (hopefully you’ve acknowledged yours in the comments). This is the most important. Once we pinpoint what the bad habits are, we can pinpoint where they come from and how to break them.

The next step is to figure out what kind of habit breaker are you, cold turkey or slowly back away. These are both fairly straightforward, cold turkey being stopping completely and slowly backing away meaning slowly cutting back on whatever those habits are.

For me, and like many others, I bounce back and forth. If it’s a food habit, I have to cut cold turkey, but most other things I ease out of slowly. In fact, most of the times if I have a bad food habit and cut it out, everything else seems to right itself in time (see how much of a role food plays?).

So, starting yesterday, Sunday August 25, 2019 the only junk food that is in my house is pre popped popcorn and any home baked goods that I choose to make. For me, if I don’t see it, I don’t want it. If it’s in my house, chances are it’ll get eaten. Now, you may be thinking that that is a random date to start making changes on, and it is in a way. Because you don’t want to wait for the start of a new month, or the start of a new year, or any other start. JUST START.

That’s the third step. Once you know what to do, do it! Don’t wait for any timeline, because when that timeline comes around chance are, you won’t do it. If you are in the mindset now of breaking those bad habits (and chances are if you’re thinking about this or reading this, then you are), then now is the time to start. Starting is easy!

If it’s a food thing, get rid of whatever. If it’s a thought thing, start tracking what you are grateful for every day. If it’s a stress thing, implement stress relieving techniques (my favorite is yoga or any form of exercise). Start journaling, write down the process, your thoughts, your feelings.

The final step to breaking a bad habit is to stick with it. Let’s be honest, the first week is easy. You are riding on that “I’ve got this” high and you feel great. The second week is relatively easy, you’ve still got that feeling going. It’s the third week. The third week those habits start to try and creep back in. DON’T LET THEM. If you make it through the third week without those bad habits, it only takes through the end of the fourth week before they are broken. Stick with it! Don’t get to week three and cave in to whatever it is. Stay strong and remember that you are strong enough to get through anything. Breaking those bad habits won’t break you and you’ll feel better on the other side.

So, what bad habit are you ready to break?

Feeling Settled

Ah…home. We are home at last and home for a while…at least until next month. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be home. To be in our home, with our furniture, our bed, our kitchen. In fact, it feels so good it has me reflecting back to how I’ve actually felt over the past few months. That and our new neighbors and I have been discussing the overseas move process (they have just recently arrived).

Regardless of how you move, where you move, when you move, doing an overseas move is tough. And honestly, the hardest part is that everyone on the outside looking in tells you how great it is, what an opportunity, you must be so thrilled, etc. While that is true and is the correct assumption in most cases, most people on the outside overlook the actually move portion. We (myself included) all focus on “OMG you are going to live in Europe, that’s so awesome! You’ll get to see all these things, you’ll get to do so much, such a great opportunity” and yet there is also the whole concept of experiencing culture shock, upheaval of your routine, time difference, being apart from family and friends, looking for a home in a foreign country, not even to begin to mention the amount of time it takes for your household goods to come.

We’ve been lucky, I’ll not deny that. I feel like my outlook and my attitude has really been a game changer (notes for future moves!), along with the fact that we weren’t staying in a standard hotel room, but a hotel 1-bedroom apartment. We’ve also done a bunch of traveling (as much as we reasonably could and then some), BUT I’m not going to try and tell you that this has been a walk in the park. And honestly, I think the thing that I struggled with the most was not having a home. Not having our things. Not having that “we’re settled” feeling.

When you don’t have that home base, that place that you know you are going back to, your own bed, your own furniture, it makes a world of difference in your psyche.

I’ve come to realize that having the home feeling, the home comforts is important. It doesn’t have to be a lot, it can be one or two things, it can simply be a place, but we all need to have that feeling. I’ve heard a lot about “home is who you’re with, not where you are” and yes there is a large amount of that is true. We had our little family and that was a lot, but still, there is something to be said for having YOUR OWN PLACE. Somewhere that is yours. Somewhere that you can have your own belongings, deal with your own food, clean in the way you’d like to clean (whether it’s doing it yourself, hiring someone, whatever).

So, we are finally getting that feeling of being settled. Of having our home. Of being able to cook full meals, clean every day, spread out the way we want to, let the boys carry on how they want to, and just generally relax. While our home isn’t fully done, we are still waiting on all of the wall décor (another story for another day), it feels like home. I feel like I can breathe. We’ve been doing playdates, figuring out our routines, trying to see how everything fits together, and just overall enjoying our time.

While we may not be traveling this month, or until the end of next month (hopefully!), there is a certain level of bliss of “just being able to stay home”.

Life in Europe – 6 Months In

How has it already been 6 months? 6 months ago, we were being driven to the airport by our family, working our way through multiple security checkpoints, two different airplanes, a long layover and two flights to arrive in Germany and start our international living. We had no idea what would come or how our lives would change, but we were ready for that adventure.

It’s safe to say that 6 months in, this move has been nothing short of an adventure. We’ve made the most of almost 5 months of hotel living, made the most of learning the culture (still learning!), attempting to begin to learn the language (have a long way to go on this one), and are homing in on what travel looks like for our family. We’ve almost finally gotten settled in our house, made some new friends, and are embracing that “European” lifestyle.

When we got off that plane we jumped right in to our new adventure, choosing to travel as much as we could – 7 countries already!- and be out of our hotel, and later house, as possible. This isn’t a place that we wanted to choose to stay home, as we would normally, but one where we wanted to experience everything possible.

I figured something that would be fun today, 6 months in, would be to reflect on some of the things that I’ve learned or that have surprised me at this stage of our move. Living in Germany is just similar enough to our westernized culture, but still different enough that there is a little shock to the system of moving here. I will say though; I don’t think I really experienced a true “culture shock” until I tried to do a full grocery shop on the local economy. I’m getting better and better the more I go, but those first couple trips were rough.

Before we get into the “surprises”, I just quickly want to say that I didn’t entirely expect how beautiful it is here. It is absolutely gorgeous just about anywhere you go and we cannot get enough of getting outside and exploring even just the little towns near us. The area is full of country roads, with little towns, and fields of crops all around. The agriculture scene is huge in our area and we also have a fair share of animals around as well. We love it here and can’t stress that enough.

To start this off, we are going to chat about Water Closets…or restrooms. Yep, something I don’t typically talk about, but it’s a bodily function and something we all need. You pay to use public restrooms here. Not necessarily all of them (for example a lot of stores and restaurants will often times have a restroom for the guests), but if you stop at a service stop off the Autobahn chances are you’ll have to pay the .70Euro charge to use the restroom. The nice thing is, at least for the service stations, you pay the .70 and you’ll get a .50Euro voucher to use in the station itself. The bathrooms are also very well maintained, so I don’t mind paying the slight fee for them.

*I will say- the one exception to the “paying for the bathroom” bit is changing rooms. A lot of service stations will have an entirely separate room for changing babies that can be used free of charge. Don’t think you can get away with using it as an adult, often times they are locked so an attendant is needed, or they don’t have a toilet, just the changing station. But also, just don’t be that person. From a mom, please don’t be that person.*

Another thing that is, I think, unique to Europe is the no rush eating out. When you go out to eat here, the emphasis is placed on company and quality of time spent at the restaurant, rather than hurrying you through the ordering and eating process. Often times dinner lasts several hours, and you only see your waiter intermittently to serve you the food and drinks. It’s a very relaxed feel and you could sit at your table for as long as you’d like. It’s something we have gotten used to very quickly and something that we really actually enjoy. You get a chance to enjoy your meal, your company, and it just makes it so much more pleasant. I don’t know how we are going to go back to the states and back to being rushed through our meals.

Also- in regard to eating out, be prepared to pay for water and to find that in most cases ordering alcohol is cheaper than water (or even soda in some cases)! The beer is, obviously, very good here, and sometimes even getting a glass of wine or prosecco can be less costly than having a bottle of water. Also, at your typical German restaurants expect to find meat and potato’s to be the brunt of your menu and dining experience. One final dining experience, your portion size will be quite large. While we were in the hotel, when dining in the hotel restaurant, often times I would simply order the main meat portion, no side and they would put together a miniscule side salad for me (because they thought there was no way I was only eating a giant portion of Wiener Schnitzel).

It’s a real blast to eat out here because of the experience (and the food IS delicious), but just be aware of what you are really getting yourself into J

In Europe, Germany especially from what I’ve been seeing and hearing in travelling, there is a high emphasis on recycling and taking care of our planet. Germany is actually a very very clean place. You don’t see a lot of litter about, trash cans are cleared out frequently, and you can tell that it is very well maintained. The cleanliness aside, Germany is very focused on sustainability and what is best for our planet and environment. A perfect example of this is the windmills, solar panel farms, and recycling program. We recycle EVERYTHING. Just about the only bits that go into the trash are food waste and Kleenex/dirty paper towels (rare in our house) and such. There isn’t a lot that actually goes in to the trash and subsequently the trash only gets picked up twice a month! Think about that for a minute. We have a total of 5 recycling bins (that’s what our family uses the most of, some families can have upwards of 7 or more if need be) and we run to our sort center every couple weeks. It’s been a real good lesson in learning what we may be don’t need to waste and where we can do better in our own home with re-usable goods.

Europe is very much a family friendly, outside adventure style country. There are a lot of walking areas, parks and pools for full families are in an abundance, and everyone, in Germany in particular, have really loved the kids. There is always some sort of a hike, cruise, bike, athletic event going on in the good weather and even if there isn’t something going on, there are plenty of places that you can explore outdoors for yourself. I’ve been really surprised at not only how many there are, but how many are actually family friendly and have activities for old and young alike. We’ve found so many options that we can do with the kids, where they can also be kids instead of being told to shush all the time.

Something else that Germany in particular is famous for is its festivals. There is a festival of some sort always going on it seems, and they celebrate everything from the German American partnerships, to religious holidays, to random just because days, to Octoberfest (in September). The festivals are great ways to jump right in to their culture as food and alcohol are a big part of life out here (not the only part, just a big one). The festivals will be anything from a little food festival with different vendors, to full on carnivals with rides, food, drinks, and music. It all depends, and it is quite a lot. We’ve loved the couple that we have attended and look forward to going to many over the next couple years.

I know there are so many other bits that I want to touch on, but I think I’ll have to save those for another post! In our short 6 months here, we’ve already managed to do so much, and we still have so much more that we want to do.

Out of Office

I think it is important to know when we need a little break. I think it is also important to know when quality takes a little bit of a hit over quantity. And third, it is important to make sure that we make the time for those in our real life, our friends, our families and ourselves.

While I’ve definitely found the balance on my time in regards to time away from the computer and phone, but I’ve been lacking in the other two above sentences.

Side note: I’ve been feeling a little…restless. Which is odd as we’ve been go, go, go with moving in to the house (and that has been exhausting in its own form). I have so much that I want to write, want to share, want to talk about , and yet I don’t have many words. I want to make sure that the posts that are going up, the things that I am sharing are well written and are worth sharing. I feel like I’ve had some good posts, but equally have had some duds that weren’t what I had hoped for.

All of this to basically say I am going to be taking the next couple weeks off of posting. The timing of this is perfect as we are gearing up to head out on our first long family vacation in Europe! I am super excited about this trip as it’s basically my dream vacation. I’ve planned the itinerary from start to finish, we have everything booked, and I am definitely looking forward to having a great time over the next couple weeks.

I have a handful of blog posts that I am planning on for August/September between our house, our travel, and some everyday/conversation observations, but I’ve realized over the past couple weeks that taking these breaks from time to time are really good, both for me as a writer/blogger and you as a reader.

Moving forward, when we have our long family vacations, I won’t be doing blog posts while we are gone. While I mostly pre schedule these posts, there is still an amount of work that goes on on the day and following days in regards to the posts.

And while I love writing, I love sharing, and have such a passion for it, we all need a breather every once in a while. It gives us a chance to have a fresh set of eyes and maybe some fresh ideas when we come back in. Also, oftentimes when we are feeling in a bit of a rough, taking a step back can help us naturally come back to what we love.

So, look for me on Social Media to follow along as our family travels to parts of the United Kingdom and stay tuned when I come back in just a few short weeks to share all of the exciting things with you!

A Cuppa Cosy Adventure: Raw Milk Pasteurization

Recently we got the chance to stop and get fresh milk. We live in the rural countryside of Germany and the farmlands are everywhere. There are a couple spots somewhat near to us that offer these milk vending machines where you can get fresh milk. Not only is seeing this happen up close, it’s such a fun experience to use the vending machine, and then look around at the other goodies offered. In our area a liter of fresh milk was 1 Euro, 10 fresh eggs (from that morning!) we’re 3.50 Euro, apple chips were 2.50 Euro, and a jar of honey was 5 Euro. You are able to either bring your own milk bottles or purchase from them (I think to purchase was about 2 Euro, plus the Euro to fill them up). We had a fun little time filling our jars (we recycled 3 from our store-bought milk), saying high to the cows, and just generally looking at the different offerings and set up.

Super cool, right?!

One catch, it is Raw Milk. And by saying Raw Milk, what I mean is Unpasteurized Milk.

There isn’t really anything inherently wrong with raw milk, you can certainly drink it if you would like to, and in some cases it may actually taste better than store bought milk. BUT it basically hasn’t been “purified” of any bacteria or diseases that the cow may have or may have consumed prior to being milked. Again, each person is able to make the decision as to what they wanted to do, but for us, with our children being the main milk consumers in our house, I definitely wanted to pasteurize it before it was consumed.

A chance for another adventure for us!

Luckily enough, pasteurizing milk is something that you can do at home and is easy enough to do. At its core, pasteurization is simply heating the milk to a certain temperature for a certain amount of time and stirring. A lot of stirring. Once I realized just how simple and straightforward this was, I became all for it.

Monday morning, I pulled out my pot, using one of the thicker bottomed ones that already has a pretty good nonstick bottom (and that holds heat very well), grabbed a thermometer, and got to work. I used the low temp pasteurization method, which involves heating the milk to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and keeping it at that heat for 30 continuous minutes. If it falls below the 145 then you will need to start the 30 minutes over again. I erred on the side of caution, both not trusting my thermometer entirely and wanting to be extra safe, and tended to let my milk drift a little on the upward end of 145-150.

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LOVED involving both boys in this process. It takes quite a bit of time at the stove, so fun to pick them up and have them watch or take a turn stirring 🙂

You will need to continue stirring the milk throughout the entire process as it will stick, scorch, and lump up if you do not. This means that if you choose to do this, you will need to have at minimum an uninterrupted hour of time. To do my 3 liters of milk (done 1 liter and then 2 liters), it took me about 2 ½ hours total time. Once the 30 minutes were up, the milk is then transferred from pot to a clean (sanitized) container for chilling and consumption. I think for the next round I will get a few larger pitchers or glass jars that are specifically for milk. You will definitely want to use a funnel as well to get from pot to container.

-6120453172414164475_IMG_5483Once all three were full I put them in the fridge to cool down so the boys could drink it. I ended up filling about 2.75 liters of milk (some splashed and such) and labeled each bottle with the batch info and date for my own knowledge. It took about 6 hours or so until it was cooled to drinking temps in our fridge.

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In terms of taste- neither myself nor my husband noticed any difference. We did a comparison between a store-bought jar and our home pasteurized and while they didn’t taste identical, there wasn’t a super noticeable difference either. Most store-bought milk goes through the high temp pasteurization which already gives it slightly cooked taste (not overly so and we’ve all adjusted to that taste/don’t even notice it) and ours tasted fine when compared to it.

So, would I do it again? Absolutely! It was one of those really fun adventures and things to do with the kids (they were involved ever so slightly), and you can’t get any better than fresh milk. I’m curious though, after reading about what all it entails…would YOU do it? Let me know down below!

No Camera’s Allowed

It’s no secret we’ve been doing A LOT of travel over these past few months and that is not something that will be changing anytime soon. It’s also no secret that I’m a major camera/picture junkie. I LOVE taking pictures.  I’ve always got my camera out from everyday little moments (seriously, my older son just looked so cute playing with a baseball bat in the store), to bigger vacation moments (this scene was just dreamy!). I’m one of THOSE people. I love having all of the memories to look back on, little snippets of our day to day to have for memories. This is especially heightened when we travel.

I’ve been able to capture photo’s at almost every place that we’ve traveled (every place’s exterior at least), but I have noticed that there are some locations that will not allow camera’s or photos. The most memorable were Neuschwanstein/Hohenschwangau, Berchtesgaden Salt Mines, Mozart’s Birthplace, and Salzburg Cathedral doesn’t encourage them. Each place has their own vast reasons as to why and I am not here to talk about the reasons (frankly I can guess, but just respected their rules).

With that though, it got me thinking. Every time I pick up my camera I pull myself ever so slightly out of the moment. Every time I go to take a picture of a place, rather than just take a minute in that place, I pull myself away. Yes, I’ve got a beautiful picture to hang in my home, to remind me of the wonderful places we’ve been, but I also have then taken a few minutes out of our time there (just for one single picture, not for all of them), to take the picture rather than simply enjoy the scenery.

I’ve been pretty good at balancing pictures and being in the moment at every place that we’ve traveled, but in places where “No Camera Allowed” is displayed, I honestly get a little thrill out of it. A chance to just look, to not feel the need to capture everything I want (which is A LOT). I am able to focus more on what I’m looking at, take a little more time at each point in a tour, and while I don’t know if the enjoyment level is really any more or less (as like I’ve said I love taking pictures) it’s definitely different.

I’ve even noted this in my everyday. As I said, I’m always taking pictures in our everyday. Our kids are actually picking up on that, and will say cheese at any time or even pose sometimes haha. I love seeing what we were up to at various times of our weeks and it’s really funny to look back on. I’ve been trying to get better over the past year or two about just taking a step back from being like that, for a similar reason than the one’s I’ve stated above.

Now, let me make something clear…this picture bit has really nothing to do with Social Media or with Blogging. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember. Always wanting to capture moments in pictures and in words, rather just being in the moment. This is nothing new to me. Social Media and my Blog has given me a way to share that with others, but it is not the root of what I am talking about.

I also want to be clear that I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. I think that it is great and I fully plan on continuing on being that crazy picture person, BUT I definitely have enjoyed a bit of a reprieve every now and again and I think I need to do that more.

Looking through the lense or viewfinder can be incredible and you can see things and people in different ways, but It doesn’t really compare to just putting the camera down and being present at that moment. So here’s to less camera time and more in person/in the moment time.