Our Virtual Schooling Experience at a Preschool Level

IMG_3125At the beginning of February Colton had his first official day of preschool…6 weeks later he went for the last day of his first quarter. In those short 6 weeks Colton flourished. He grew up so much, was so excited for each school day (seriously- non-school days were a definite struggle for him), and his development really took off.

Let me start with this, we would have tried to put Colton in a preschool program regardless of any issues he may or may not have had. Colton is a very high energy kid and I wanted him to be “exposed” to a classroom setting of some sort before he was thrust into Kindergarten. Colton has had a speech delay, not in a nonverbal sense, but in an understanding words delay. So, after completing the testing, he was enrolled in our “district” preschool program.

So, Colton LOVED preschool. He would come home with the biggest smile, he was learning so much, he made quite a few friends, experienced significant changes in his speech, and, most importantly, he had something that was “just Colton”. It’s been “Colton and Andrew” was so long and as many of us know, we need things that are just for us as well. That was preschool for Colton. He thrived.

When Coronavirus really started to spike and we started to see the changes coming down for places closing, I got a little worried about school. Afterall, Colton was in preschool and, while it was through the district and for a speech delay, I didn’t know how “important” it would be considered in the grand scheme of things. There are children with much larger needs and problems, my kid just needed a little shove/help from someone who wasn’t mom/dad/understood him as he was.

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His teachers have been absolutely incredible throughout this entire process. They very quickly emailed all of us parents, letting us know that they were working the problem and trying to figure out what they were going to do to continue working. The “district” did not foresee the preschool continuing on when they made the google classroom plan, so the teachers quickly workshopped a different platform that, actually ended up being a much better option for the younger kids.

They created incredible Digital Learning Plans that made it really easy for parents to incorporate into the day to day lives of children and they were very calm and patient throughout the entirety of the 2 ½ months of this digital learning. They recognized that they only saw the students for a limited time a day, that many had older (or younger) siblings at home that needed their own care, that this is a very different time right now. They’ve been great.

And, I’ll be honest, Digital Learning hasn’t been all that bad. Sure, I’ve ranted and raved about it at times when the focus level was low, or Andrew wasn’t letting Colton get things done, or when things got frustrating with technology, BUT on the whole it hasn’t been bad. It also hasn’t been school though either.

I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, more of my concern with Colton in so far as preschool was concerned was introducing him to a classroom setting, a teacher, a different place that he had to listen, behave, and learn. I wanted to have a little “soft” introduction to the idea of school before Kindergarten hit and he was in it “for real”.

This wasn’t it. Sure, he had weekly video chats with his two teachers (one speech, one preschool), and we had countless activities that his teachers would give feedback with (mostly positive stuff that you would expect), but it wasn’t the classroom. It was mommy’s desk with little brother screaming/playing/running in the background, and daddy working at his desk on the other side of the room. It was chaotic and it became a family affair, rather than the Colton show.

Overall Colton has really excelled in this new wave of schooling. He has adjusted remarkably well and has slid back in terms of speech or education, but he knows it hasn’t been at school. He’s been bummed about not being able to ride his little school bus, see his friends, or play on the playground. Every morning he wakes up asking if today is the day he will go back to school.

And, with about two weeks left in the “school” year (I used quotes as the teaching stopped a week or so before the proper end of the school year), he checked out. He was done. No interest in any of the activities or meetings whatsoever. It became akin to pulling teeth to have him sit down and focus on the work that he needed to do for any longer than 10 minutes. I think he just had enough with the situation, with not being able to do these things in person, and having to share all of that with little brother. (And, in all honesty I was surprised it took him as long as it did to get fed up)

And for me? Well, I have an entirely newfound respect for preschool teachers.

I’ve always respected teachers (hell I want to be one), BUT you forget how much stuff you aren’t born knowing. You forget how much you had to learn and while there are some things that parents can teach (and I have been teaching those things), in Colton’s case, he needed that shove from an outside source.

Anyways, all this to say, Digital Learning has not been a breeze, but we’ve honestly had it easy. I don’t work at the moment, we have access to a computer, to the internet, to the materials that are needed to do the various activities. And we only have one child in preschool. It’s been much harder for many others that I know, talk to, and follow. Nor has it necessarily been a positive experience for our kids. Here’s to hoping we have a few workable solutions for the 2020-2021 school year.

Raising Readers

It’s no secret that I am a massive reader. I devour books the way people devour food. I spend most of my time reading and it is my dream that my kids read books as well. I don’t expect them to read like I do, but I would hope that they turn into little bookworms in their own ways. I’ve noticed over the past year, they both have been turning to books more and more and it is something that I’ve gotten comments on in the past when others see that.

First, the importance of reading.

Reading has such an impact on our lives in ways that we don’t even realize. Reading is a form education and escapism, a way of gaining new insight and knowledge on a vast amount of topics from a vast amount of voices. As human beings we read in some form every single day, whether that is reading a book, a news article, a blog post (are you reading this post?), or even a caption on social media. And with those words, knowledge is conveyed to us. Knowledge about the person who wrote them, knowledge from the words themselves, knowledge in our reaction and understanding of them.

Basically, reading is important beyond just being able to actually read signs, directions, and other things. Even if the only reading you do is reading directions, or Instagram captions, it still has an effect on your life.

Of course, I prefer to read books. For me personally reading is a form of education and escapism. I learn from everything that I read (even just the light and fluffy novel, even if I’ve just learned that I don’t like what I just read, there is always something to be gained) and I truly love to just curl up with a good book in the afternoon and read till the late evening.

Anyways, all that aside now, let’s talk about how my little boys are starting to turn into little readers. Now, they are too young to actually be able to read the words on the pages (that’s coming though), but they love to a)be read to and b) flip through the books they have themselves and tell us what is on the pages. We’ve started to slowly introduce the longer chapter books to Colton (our older son, a few months shy of 4 years old), starting with Winnie the Pooh.

One of the top reasons why I think they are starting to get much more interested in books is that they see Mommy reading. Kids watch the adults that are around them, especially parents, for cues. They pay attention to what we do and what we say and they model some of their behaviors off of ours. For some reason, when I am sitting and reading a book, the boys are reasonably well behaved (allowing me to actually read the book) and often times they will pick up a book and sit with it as well.

Another reason I think they are starting to get more into it, is that if they want to read, we will stop everything and read. Everything stops if they want to pick up a book and read it. We will read whatever, whenever and always give it our full attention.

There are two reasons in regards to buying books that I think has helped. The first being that if we are out and about at the library or at a store that carries books, the boys can each pick one book out for themselves. We will usually always buy them a book if they want it (as long as we don’t already have it at home, at which point I will usually see if they want a different book). This may not have always worked our in our personal favor (those noisy sound books are obnoxious), but it still encourages them to continue reading and shows them how great books can be. The second reason is they have full control over the books that they want (again as long as we don’t already have it). If it is age appropriate, then they can pick the book that they want. I find that just by simply encouraging them to read what they want, makes them more likely to pick a book up. I’m sure this will play a much larger role later on in their lives when they are actually reading. At the present though, it means we have a lot of Paw Patrol and Dinosaur books in our home.

Honestly, what it comes down to is just offering books to your children. Showing them that reading is enjoyable and allowing them to explore books and reading in their own little ways. If they are given the freedom to read what and when they want (aside from bedtime, but that’s going to be a later battle I feel like- Colton is already trying that), it encourages them to want to read.

Travel/Hiking/Getting Out With Kids

I’ve been getting a couple of questions, getting some comments, and hearing remarks from other families about how great it is when you have kids that are “easy” travelers, love to be outside, don’t mind walking/hiking. Most of these are in a tone of surprise, some have further questions, and I have heard a couple people say that they wouldn’t travel as much because they do have kids.

Let me say this, in the grand scheme of things traveling with kids is easy.

That’s putting it lightly. It’s obviously not “easy” and it is a little bit more complicated than if it was just you or you and your significant other, but it is definitely not as hard as people seem to think it is. Kids are not a reason not to travel. Let me say that again- kids are not a reason not to travel. In fact, they are a really good reason to travel.

This is going to be a post in two parts, the first talking about how we started and managed to travel/hike/get out with our two boys and the second will touch on the good reason about traveling with your kids.

When we had Colton we did a fair amount of day trips, getting out on the weekend and exploring our area. We did two long distance trips a year, one to see family and the other to a new location every year (both of which we drove to). We also did one long haul flight when he was a little over a year and a half.

Honestly, there has been no special secret to traveling with him, or with Andrew. We’ve just done it.

Has he had meltdowns? Yes, in fact he had the worst meltdown in a Dunkin Donuts in Berlin. Did it suck? Yes. Did people stare? Eh kind of (as much as they ever have in any other circumstance). Did it end? Yes. Did we quickly finish our food and head out, yes. It wasn’t an end to the trip, it didn’t change our enjoyment of the trip overall and it definitely didn’t change our minds to traveling in the future.

Yes, on the whole we have relatively easy going, up for anything kids, BUT I’ve found that kids are willing to go along on a good amount of things if you are wiling to take them. We do a variety of things on our vacations, some things with the kids in mind (Tiergarten in Berlin), some things with Mom and Dad involved (Mozart’s Birthplace in Salzburg). We make sure that we combine things throughout the day of kid friendly and mom/dad. We make sure that meals are as close to the same time when we are out as when we are home.

I’ve also found, specifically when it comes to hiking, being active, and being outside (also just being away from screens), kids follow their parents lead. Lately Colton, currently 3 ½ years old, has taking to walking almost 90% of our hikes. We recently did a “light/mild” hike through some Castle Ruins. We ended up walking almost 2 ½ miles that day and he walked almost all of that.

We’ve had some really long days while traveling. Walking, riding various forms of public transport, and while we’ve had moments of meltdowns (to be expected either way), they’ve both adapted really well to this sort of go, go, go. If anything I think they enjoy it, seeing all sorts of different, new things. They nap when they need to whether that is in a little umbrella stroller or on our shoulders and are generally really good on the fly.

Our weekly walks (once or twice a week) go about 1 ¾ mile and he walks all of it without being asked to be carried. Even Andrew at 2 years old is walking a good amount of these walks we do. We have always been outdoorsy, always chosen to walk a lot, hike, be outside as much as possible and I think that is a lot of why our kids are that way as well.

Basically what I’m saying (if this makes any sense), is to just go with it. Get out, experience the world, have a positive mindset about it and your kids will follow that. They model their behavior off of you as their guide, so if you are open to these new experiences, so are they.

Quickly I want to touch on WHY traveling is so good and important for our children. The first is that it teaches them a level of independence. Of learning how to handle new environments, new places, and new experiences. It also shows them that there are other places in our world. The world is a wide and wonderous place full of different people, cultures, and traditions. I think it is incredibly important to teach and show our children as many of these as possible. Our children should know more than what they grow up in, they should know of the world and if you can do that for them in some way, that is invaluable towards their future and their lives. I can touch on this in a separate post if you’d like.

And that is how/why we travel with our kids. Ultimately it comes down to just doing it. If you are wondering how to travel with your kids, more practical tips/or things that we take with us, let me know below and I’ll talk about that in another post!

Motherhood and You

Motherhood is all consuming, a never-ending cycle of care, but don’t let it consume you. Don’t simply become “mom”, don’t lose yourself, who you are, in caring for your children. Don’t cling to them as they start to grow up and grow away. Being a mom may be the most important hat you wear, or title you receive, (however you want to think of that), but it is not solely who/what you are.

All too often, starting almost immediately after birth, we become consumed by being a mom. By taking care of a little human being that depends solely on us for EVERYTHING (daunting, so daunting), by trying to be everything for this little being, and all too often we lose who we are in the process. We become so wrapped up in that “mom” role that we don’t take care of ourselves (a post for another day), we don’t take care of our significant other, we don’t take care of our friendships.

These things start to fall to the wayside, and it isn’t until we are a couple years in (or longer for some) that we realize that we don’t know who we are anymore. We have become a mom, the greatest blessing of all, but we’ve lost who we are in the process.

This is a normal thing that just about everyone experiences to varying levels. That isn’t to say that we can’t get back to who we are, or avoid this entirely, I’m just saying that this is a normal thing to go through. In fact, even the most prepared parents (the ones who swear that parenthood won’t change them) go through a level of this. It’s a natural instinct when we have a child that our world changes to revolve around this baby and it’s a very sweet time in our lives (postpartum depression/anxiety/and other issues aside). That doesn’t mean that it lasts forever. Our children will grow, they will mature, they will become independent and need us as parents less and less. That change is why it is important not to lose who you are when you become a parent.

How do we handle this? How do we allow motherhood/parenthood to take over our lives, and still maintain who we are?

Little things. What do you like to do in your free time? What did you like to do before you became a parent to relax?

Did you like to exercise? Find a gym that has childcare. Have your significant other take over the parenting duties for a few hours while you hit up a workout.

Did you like to read, write, watch TV, YouTube, etc.? Great! Naptime and after Bedtime are great opportunities to do these! (In fact, I squeeze a lot of my reading time during naptime and after the kids go to bed).

Did you like to shop or explore new areas? Perfect, you can do that with baby OR if you want baby free time, have your significant other or family watch the baby while you get a little break.

The main takeaway from this is not to have time away from your child, although that is needed too, but to find time within your day to do what works for YOU. What makes YOU happy. So much of motherhood is spent tending to others (and not just your own children, being a mom turns you into everyone’s mom) and it is easy to lose ourselves in that. So so easy to be swept away taking care of everyone and everything else.

If that is what fills you up and makes you happy, perfect! Do more of that. BUT don’t forget to take a little breath for yourself.

Big things. Find time for you and your significant other to have a little time together at the very least once a month. Take care of that relationship or it will fall to the wayside. Check in with each other throughout the day, send that sweet little text. Have a moment while the baby is napping. Hire a babysitter when baby is a little older to get much needed date nights in (no matter what those actually look like).

Everyone says that one day your children will go up and leave and then what will be left is you and your significant other. This is true, but what is more important is the example that you are setting for your children. From the get-go, our children learn from us. They see what a stable relationship and family looks like from us, so water your own marriage and your children will see how to water their own (when that time comes).

Make sure that you and your spouse are on the same page as situations arise so that you can be a cohesive unit. Parenthood can help your marriage thrive and grow into new heights, or it can fall to the wayside. More than likely it will ebb and flow between both (again, completely natural), but the continual watering will help everything stay on a balance to continue to go towards success and happiness.

Ultimately, motherhood is a phase of life. For those of us who are mom’s (in any form) it is an all-encompassing blessing. It never ends and takes a lot of who we are. BUT it doesn’t have to be solely who we are. We were somebody before we were “mom” and while being mom takes precedence, don’t say goodbye to who you are. She is still there, and she should be able to shine as well.

Lately Loving – Media May 2019

Good morning! I wanted to take a little bit of time this morning and talk about some of the things that I am loving lately. I am going to keep this to strictly multimedia (books/tv/movies/music) as I will still be doing my full quarterly favorites. I don’t want to overload you with all of my favorite things, but rather I’ve stumbled on a couple of things over the past month or so that I’ve really loved in those categories that I want to share.

So, we’ll start with Books (as always) :

I’ve recently read two books that I’ve really truly enjoyed, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Two VERY different styles and genre’s, but both really really enjoyable.

Hillbilly Elegy shines a light on the Appalachian way of life, what it was like growing up with that and how he found himself becoming the man he is today. He approaches this novel in a very frank manner (he wholeheartedly acknowledges that he is what would be considered an above average individual) and shines a light on some problems that aren’t typically talked about or are rather glazed over. He doesn’t offer solutions, but rather talks about different options and what we could try to do to help. I appreciate his insight and the fact that he acknowledged and balanced both sides of the equation in this novel.

I’ve been in quite the memoir mood of late and have two more on my list to read, Becoming by Michelle Obama and To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins.

Crazy Rich Asians went the completely opposite direction, depicting a story of an Asian family that has riches the rest of the world can’t even dare to dream of. It tells the story of a young woman trying (and fumbling) to navigate her way being introduced to her boyfriend’s family. His family happens to just be one of the oldest, wealthiest families in Singapore (think- members of the government and royalty owing fealty to them-wealthy) and also the strictest in terms of marriage and relationships. We follow several characters in their heads and their lives as they all come to terms to what wealth really means. It is a lighthearted novel that is just really easy to read (I read the 500+ pages in a little over 3 days!) and would be the perfect read for a summer vacation. It is part of a trilogy that I fully plan on continuing.

Next up on the list, TV:

I don’t really watch a lot of TV, but I have been starting to for a series that I’ve been putting together for my other blog (thecosybookshoppe.com). I’ve been working through a couple of shows and plan on starting a couple here in the next couple weeks.

The first show I’ve been watching is Strike. This is a British produced mystery/crime tv show based off of the Cormoran Strike series written by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). I really enjoyed the book series and the TV show was not a letdown. In fact, I almost prefer the TV show to the books. It’s the perfect balance.

We’ve also been working our way through The Ranch on Netflix, which I have to say has very much surprised me. I enjoy a good show that somewhat comments on current issues in a comedic, light hearted way. The Ranch balances out current issues, with family drama, friend drama, work drama and everything else that comes with a Sitcom. We are on the second “season” (or part as Netflix says) and have been having a good chuckle here and there.

Finally, I’ve been watching A Discovery of Witches…again. I think I actually talked about this in my 1stQuarter favorites, but it is finally coming out on American TV, which means I can purchase it through iTunes, which means that I’ve been watching every episode as it comes out. I’ve been loving watching it again and seeing the characters that I’ve loved from the book come to life in front of me. This is one of those series that I don’t think will ever get old for me (similar to Harry Potter).

I do plan on watching a couple of shows coming up: You, Game of Thrones (season 7- we are behind), and a couple of documentaries on Netflix. I’ll probably share more of those as my end of quarter wrap up.

Third up, Movies:

Next would be Movies, but we haven’t really watched any lately. Most of the movies we watch are animated for the kids, but even those have been sparse. Send me your movie recommendations because we need some!!

And finally, Music:

Oh boy. Another category that I am kind of lacking in. I’ve still been all over the alternative scene, replaying Billie Eilish’s album over and over and over again. I’ve also been loving listening to Muse’s most recent album, Dean Lewis, and Charlie Cunningham. I get really off and on with new music and I think right now I’m just savoring the music that I’m loving, rather than hearing all of the new stuff. I will say though; I wasn’t the biggest fan of Taylor Swift’s new song <gasp>. It was ok, but nothing that I would go absolutely crazy over.

Some Mommy Picks:

I am going to include some mommy picks in here, because my kids have FINALLY found a show that they love more than Paw Patrol. It’s a miracle! They have recently fallen in love with a show on Netflix called DinoTrux. It’s exactly what it sounds like, Dinosaurs in the forms of different types of trucks (a T-Rex as a crane or digger, Triceratops as a bull dozer, etc. ) and they have just been having a blast watching that. They also love the Boss Baby show and surprisingly they enjoy Teletubbies too (which Netflix has brought back from whatever vault that was in).

And that about wraps up what I’ve been loving lately! What have you been loving lately in the multimedia category? Let me know below!

April In {Not So Much} Travel

Good morning! It is the end of the month, which means that I will be wrapping up the travel that we did throughout the month. The only problem is that we didn’t do too much travel, which then led me to want to touch on something a little different (but still related) in this wrap up post. I’ll start with the travel/cultural events that we did experience and then touch on the rest.

Real quick, before we get into April- I wanted to touch on what we did the last weekend in March. I said in my previous Month in Travel that I would, so here we go. The last weekend in March we headed over the Walhalla (Valhalla) for the day. It was such a beautiful spot to spend the afternoon, and my only regret was that we didn’t have a little picnic while we were there. There is a little bit of park area where you can play, eat, and soak up sunshine. The temple itself is really beautiful with the interior containing busts of famous Germans and the exterior being very reminiscent of Roman temples.

We only traveled twice this month, the first being just me and the boys for a day and the second being a family weekend away.

With Easter being this month, the Germans have Easter Markets just about everywhere. I’ve been wanting to make sure that I attend/participate in as many cultural events as we can while we are here. I have always wanted to learn, understand, and absorb the culture of this area and others that we visit. The first experience we had was the Fasching Parade, and now we had the chance to attend an Easter Market. Markets are a very big thing here (from Farmers Markets all the way to large Christmas Markets, you can pretty much find one every week) and are an opportunity for small, home businesses to show off and sell their wares and for people like me to buy them (obviously…).

I also decided to go to the market during the week, hoping that it would be slightly less busy (I was right), which meant that it would be the first bigger, more crowded event,  that I would do with both boys by myself. I was a little apprehensive, but all went well and we had a blast! We attended the Easter Market in Nuremburg which was one of the bigger markets in our area. There was a wide variety of vendors, from mugs/plates/kitchen goods to clothing, to jewelry. There was also a variety of food carts and drink options.

4661331643373811845_IMG_2023.jpgThe second travel trip that we took was to The Netherlands for, basically, the Tulip Blooms. This was an absolutely incredible trip and one that I will remember for a long time yet.It was such a good little get away and was just what we needed to finish out the month. I’ve got a post coming up this week detailing our trip, so keep an eye out for that. A little spoiler/sneak peek was that we absolutely loved this trip (everyone did, including the husband), and it was so incredibly beautiful from the flowers, the location, and the weather. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

 

What I wanted to touch on in this post is the reality of our month. While it was, on the whole, a good month, we did have a couple of rough spots. The beginning of the month was the first time that my husband was actually going through his first rotation of his new job and we didn’t know what that would truly entail until we went through it. We also are still in our hotel, which can be a trial sometimes and my patience, positive attitude, and just general mental health was tested a couple of times this month. While I’ve had a positive outlook from the get go, and have, for the most part maintained that positive outlook, that doesn’t mean it has always been sunshine and rainbows, or as exciting as trips every weekend.

I want you to know that while I post all of these exciting trips that we have taken and will take in the future doesn’t mean that we don’t also have down time. Not every month, or long weekend will be spent away. We will have just as many weekends at home, or staying local, and those are just as fun, just as important as all the trips that we will take.

I want you to know that we are not taking our time here for granted, and that while we intend on traveling as much and as far wide as we can, we are also going to be spending time at home (whenever we get a home). Not every month will be as exciting as these first few, but every month will have something.

So that was our April. Not so much travel, but still just as fun as previous months. We are still loving being here and are finding this new area to be incredible. That “honeymoon” phase of a new place has not worn off, but rather has grown in a way. All that is missing is a home, which will hopefully be rectified in the coming months!

Travel Favorites

Good morning! It’s been no secret that we’ve been doing a fair amount of travelling over the past month or two. Whether we are just taking a day trip to somewhere nearby, or a long weekend a little further away, we’ve been out and about A LOT. This is something that we are really enjoying and, while we are still learning the in’s and out’s, I’ve quickly narrowed down some of the “non necessity” things that we actually use and are practical for us. This morning I’ve compiled some of these into a list for you. Some of these things are important, other are more personal preference.

As with all of my posts, some of these favorites are common sense and things you’ve already been using, but some maybe not. Also- some of these are kid related, so just a heads up.

Favorite #1 (The Most Obvious of them all): Trip Advisor

6905943742080302898_IMG_1096.jpgOk, we are starting of with the obvious. Everyone knows and uses Trip Advisor, but it’s really been a wonderful tool for us. We’ve found some really good hidden gems of places on the app and at times it’s been the only thing we could get to work and show us what’s around. I don’t think I really need to say anything further about Trip Advisor as it’s the most popularJ

Favorite #2: Comfortable (but Fashionable) Shoes

637494542946733218_IMG_1097.jpgWe are just going to keep up with the obvious here, with a pair of sneakers. When we moved here I came with my Under Armour workout sneakers. I love these sneakers, but I”ll be honest- they didn’t really work with most of the clothes that I wear. They go with the screenprint tee’s and such, but not with the sweaters that I typically wear in winter/spring. I looked around for a little bit across three brands: Puma, Adiddas, and Superga’s. I found shoe’s that I liked with all three brands, but I finally settled on a pair of Grey Puma Sneakers and I’ve loved them ever since. They are a great pair of walking shoes that let me get away with wearing them with Sweaters and they look like sneakers without looking like sneakers. I don’t know, I think it works…

Favorite #3: A Small (but stylish) Bag

IMG_9585Ok, so still obvious, at this point they may all just be obvious ones. I talked about this new bag in my quarterly favorites, but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more. When we prepped for the move I had purchased an inexpensive bag that I could use for travel, didn’t care much about it getting scuffed or scratched, but still looked nice. I didn’t want to take one of my nicer “designer” hand bags and worry constantly that it was getting damaged while we were traveling. Admittedly, a shoulder tote bag was not the *BEST* option while you are traveling, but I hadn’t really researched any of the backpack purses at that time. Now, the first couple of weekends while we were here we were doing long day trips and that shoulder bag started to get really uncomfortable. So, I looked around to find a smaller “backpack purse”. I was going in between practical and stylish with a Michael Kors/Coach/Kate Spade OR a Fjallraven Kanken Backpack. I ended up settling on this Michael Kors backpack as I felt it was just more of what I wanted. It is the absolute perfect size for our family, fitting the diaper clutch, cups, and snacks for the boys, along with my wallet and a book or notebook (if I’m being generous) without feeling really heavy. It sits comfortably both on my shoulders and back. My only complaint is that it has a drawstring with a magnetic enclosure, which makes me a little wary, but I just shuffle things around so that everything is secure. Either way, if you are a mom with older children that still needs to carry quite a bit (but not enough for a diaper bag) a small backpack is the way to go. And honestly, if you are a traveler at all, a backpack is a better option and a more comfortable option than a purse.

Favorite #4: Rain Jacket/Jacket

IMG_9770 2.jpgSo, Europe is rainy…it rains A LOT. We knew we were going to need rain jackets and we look around constantly for jackets that we liked. We picked up thick waterproof jackets before we came over and those have been perfect for the winter time here. They are perfect for layering underneath and have just enough to keep us dry when those rains hit. I wore this jacket everyday of our Berlin weekend and felt more than warm enough and dry as a bone under it. I’ve also picked up a light weather jacket for Spring/Summer when it is a warm rain. Again waterproof and I can still fit a long sleeve shirt under it for when fall comes.

Fun packing tip- when you are packing a jacket with a hood, the jacket is designed to roll up and fit into the hood. Seems rather obvious but I had never heard of it until the sales associate showed me when I bought mine.

Favorite #5: Camera

IMG_6739.jpgOk, we are getting to the expensive part of this post. The truly expensive part. I LOVE photography. I love taking pictures, sharing pictures, using photo’s as a way to commemorate our time. So much so, that sometimes I drive my husband a little crazy with the amount of pictures I take and the amount of times we have to stop to take a picture. It’s just who I am and how I choose to remember things. Now, your phone has a decent enough camera. You can take some good pictures with it and there are times that I just pull my phone out and get the picture that I want. BUT it honestly doesn’t replace an actual camera. Now, I use a camera for both photo’s and video’s and will use a different camera for different things (for the record I have this one and another DSLR style camera that I would eventually like to sell and replace). For travel, I only take my Canon G7X. You’ve probably heard of this camera before and it is totally worth the hype and the price. It is a really good camera and is very user friendly.

Favorite #6: For the Kids

I am just going to lump a couple of things in this category together as they are all pretty obvious, and related to kids. -4631477505359057470_IMG_0746.jpgThe first thing is I would recommend an umbrella stroller, unless you are at a zoo/park/somewhere that offers the carts. Umbrella strollers get a lot of “crap” talk, but when your 3 year old is tired (or your very heavy 22 month old) having something that is not your arms/shoulders to let them fall asleep in is such a blessing. It’s also a little bit of fun for the two kids to push each other. We are actually going to purchase a second one (we only have one at this time). IMG_6734.jpgMy second favorite is The Dover Little Activity Books. We purchased a set of these prior to our Germany flight and our kids loved doing the little sticker activities. They aren’t big, take up practically no space, and come with everything you need for about 30-40 minutes of quiet. So easy to just throw in your bag and pull out when you need to stop and eat or have a longer train ride or whenever you need just a bit of peace.

And that’s it! Do you have any particular travel favorites? Let me know below as we are still definitely learning what we like and what works for us.

 

A Little Post About Friendship Groups/Tribes/Villages/Whatever You Want To Call It

I originally titled this blog post “I Don’t Have a Group, and That’s OK” and while that is the overall narrative of my post I felt like it did a disservice to the friendships that I am forming and do have, the people that I would consider a friend “group”…so I adjusted it J

How many times have you heard “Find Your Tribe” or, “My Mom Group”, or really anything along the lines of find your people? I’m betting it’s a lot. Our society is hyper focused on grouping people together. It’s nothing new, it’s always been something that we’ve done whether it be in a positive or negative light. Since social media has become such a large part of our lives it has become even more prominent. You’ve got your followers, your circle of people in your corner of the internet. You find “influencers” talking about how great their tribe is. You find salesman talking about how you can join their team, so great to be part of a team, yada yada yada.

They speak about these teams/groups/villages/whatever you want to call them as if they need to be large numbers. As if you need to surround yourself with many people, all who have your back and all that you would call your friend.

But do you really need that large amount? Do you really need them all to be local?

***Let me say this first- I do believe that it takes a village at times. I do believe that having friends nearby, in your area is essential. I believe that you should always have one or two people in your area that you can count on. If anything, just for your sanity. ***

I don’t think so. I personally don’t want to have a large friend group. I have a select amount of friends (and I don’t say that in a snobbish way AT ALL) that I talk to quite a bit. These are people that I would call in a pinch, that I can tell anything to, that I can count on at any point in time. It is a very SMALL amount. I don’t consider it a group as we are all different and my friendships with each person are different (but the same), but they are my friends. I cherish their friendships and hold them close.

That’s not to say I am not a friendly person. I’ll say hello and have a conversation with almost anyone. I’m talking about friendship, true friendship- that is what I limit. To me, and I think to most people, it doesn’t matter if you know 50 people, if you can’t talk to them, confide in them, trust them, then it doesn’t help.

That may be a harsh way of putting things, but in this I am blunt. Maybe that’s because I’ve people assume that I am not friendly or don’t have a lot of friends. Maybe it’s because I constantly see people bending over backwards to make (and call) everyone they meet friends. I find that that popularity contest that we all felt in Highschool is still VERY prevalent in adulthood.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it is better to focus on quality rather than quantity. That’s what I do and what I would encourage you to do as well.

A Week In Our Life

Good morning! We’ve semi settled into our lives here in Germany and, while we don’t have a house as of yet, we do have a bit of a routine to our weeks. I didn’t want to do a morning or evening (or even Day In The Life) routine as it is bound to change when we get a house and I can do much more before the boys wake up, but I did want to share a little insight into what our week looks like.

We try to get out of the hotel at least 3-4 mornings during the week. The weekends are spent outside the hotel as well, either exploring somewhere new or running errands that need done. I find that the biggest thing for our boys right now is being out and about. In the hotel they don’t really have access to all of their toys, are limited to what activities they can do, how loud they can be, etc. and tend to get stir crazy really quickly. Thankfully the community here has quite a few options, and we have found places to go. I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible for you 🙂

One of the things that we keep in mind is that 4 day weekends typically (but by no means always) fall on a Friday-Monday schedule. When I was trying to break our week down, I purposefully kept Friday-Monday open with MY schedule (of writing and chores) so that I don’t feel so cramped when we go travelling on long weekends. It seems a little crazy (and maybe it is) as what I do can be so flexible, but in my mind if I have my own schedule for getting things done, it makes everything a little smoother. And then everything actually gets done. Some of our long weekends fall on a Thursday-Sunday or Saturday-Tuesday and we just adjust and make it work.

Our Basic Layout is: M/F unscheduled time, T/W Playgroup, Th Library. Read on for the specifics J

Monday:

IMG_6250Monday’s are fairly wide open, we usually head out for a walk to our little park down the road and spend about an hour or two walking/playing/soaking up some sunshine. When it is raining/snowing/can’t head outside, we will hop in the car and head over to some of the stores to walk around. Basically Monday morning is an unscheduled morning that we try to spend out and about. During the boys afternoon nap I’ll tidy and do some reading.IMG_2870

 

 

Tuesday:

Tuesday mornings are spent at playgroup. The boys have LOVED going to playgroup since the first day we went and I love that they get a chance to play with a whole bunch of toys (that we didn’t even have in our actual home), play with other kids, and run/scream as much as

 

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they want. It’s a great way to burn some energy of AND help them develop in ways that they haven’t been able to before now. It’s also nice for me to be able to get to talk to other adults and just relax for a minute. During the boys afternoon nap I generally work on writing and blogging things. I check emails, write or schedule blog posts, review my stats, etc. I basically consider it a “working afternoon”

 

 

 

Wednesday:

Another playgroup morning. After playgroup we will usually run to the grocery store or shopping store to pick up anything that we need. We also typically get lunch out and just have a little mid week treat. During naptime I have another “working afternoon”.

Thursday:

Thursday mornings might be my favorite morning of the whole week. It is storytime/library morning. It’s a little bit of a later start than Tuesday and Wednesday, and it involves soaking up books. What more could you ask for? Colton is starting to really get into books and reading and will finally sit still for story time, so this has become a fun morning for him. It’s a good balance to the two previous mornings of running around with loads of energy. Andrew is a bit more hit and miss with story time (just due to his age and the fact that he’d rather be running right now, he will get there eventually J), but he loves the coloring after the stories. We also usually pick out some books to take home and read, both for the boys and myself. During naptime I usually handle anything that I hadn’t gotten to on Tuesday or Wednesday. This is also when I just do some personal/life admin, journal, handle any paperwork that needs to be handled, etc. I am hopeful that once we get a house and I start working on my actual podcast, that this will be a podcast recording day.

Friday:

Friday is the only weekday that we stay at the hotel. We will try and head down for the community breakfast in the mornings, or I’ll make something special in our room, and then we come back up for a morning of snuggles and cartoons. I find that we do need to have one day where we aren’t doing anything to just relax and not be going all the time. It helps the boys and myself. If the weather is nice, we may head out for a walk, but on the whole we just try to take it easy. This follows during naptime as I will do a little tidying/life admin and then read.

So that is a little bit about what our weeks look like! This is something that won’t really change when we get a house, like my morning/evening routines will change. I still am struggling a little bit with having the newfound free time that I have, but I am slowly starting to get used to the idea of filling what I fill and being able to have a little freedom with the rest. When we get a house and I am able to actually have a full SAHM routine, I’ll talk about how my day is structured/mornings and such in more detail.

 

 

 

 

Hotel Living With Two Toddlers

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about something that I’ve referenced before, but felt deserved it’s own blog post and that is living in a hotel with two {very active} toddlers.

One of the things that we knew ahead of our move was that we were going to be in a hotel for quite some time. This wasn’t a breaker for us, just something that we tried to prepare for ahead of time as best we can. Knowledge is power and preparation is key for this type of situation. We weren’t really able to prepare the boys though and honestly we didn’t know what we were actually walking into with our room set up.

I’ll start by saying that we are lucky. At this point we actually have a little one bedroom/one bath apartment style set up, with separate living room and bedroom areas. This allows us to have our own “space” separate from everything else when we need a little breather (which does happen). I don’t want to trivialize what this has been like at this point, but I do feel like it is important to acknowledge that we have had a better option than some of the other families.

We have two very active, very loud little boys. They love to run, wrestle, and create as much noise as possible. We’ve never had a problem with this and have generally let them explore and create and play as they want to (realistically, within reason so no one gets hurt or anything). They thrive on being able to have the room to run in circles or sing a song or heck, even just play with their own toys.

We packed several of their toys in their luggage and have purchased a couple of items, but the vast majority of their toys are still in transit with the rest of our household goods and we wont get any of them until we get a house. So they get a little bored playing with the same games and toys (which I realize may make them sound incredibly spoiled which they are not, but boredom is a factor at times here).

I think the hardest thing for the boys has been that they can’t just play as they please. We are trying very hard to keep our noise level down as best we can (considering we are at the top floor of our little building) and while I know that at times kids will just kids and others will be understanding, I also want to be understanding towards them. I know that not everyone wants to hear the pitter patter (or elephant thuds) of feet across their ceiling during the day. When they will, I encourage the boys to sit and draw/color, read a book (sort of), or watch a movie/tv show that they like to watch. They do get to wander around and be active, just in a quieter way.

The biggest help has been getting out as much as we can. We try to leave the apartment 3-4 weekdays in the mornings, whether its just going to a café or shops or going to a play group, and then we are out and about on the weekends. I try to leave one day to have a cosy day at home just to break up all the out and about stuff and to give them a bit of a break. I find that by doing this, they aren’t as “hyped up” on the days that we are in the hotel apartment and are more likely to take it easy.

Our boys are quite resilient and aside from a few rough days here and there have been doing remarkably well, but it’s not all sunshine and daisies. They do fight (A LOT), we do run into issues of noise (although most of that is just us being extra aware that we share walls) and sleep and there have been a couple of moments that we have just needed a little 10 minute break. I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t just wanted to scream at moments. It hasn’t been “easy”, but with everything that we are experiencing, the memories that we are making, and this opportunity that we’ve been given has made it all worthwhile.