Things I learned this winter
It’s that time of year again. A solstice is around the corner and I’m reflecting on the season that’s coming to a close. While I pride myself on being a “winter person” I’m not sure I’m a Germany Winter person! The winters here aren’t as magical as they are in upstate NY. In fact, they are kind of depressing and just gross enough that you can’t do anything fun! In upstate NY there might be 4 feet of snow on the ground, but the roads were clear, the sun was out, and there was sledding to be done and Target trips to be made! In Germany the winters are dreary and too cold to be outside but with no snow. Depressed yet? Well lucky for us it is almost Spring!
But we all know that just because the calendar says it’s spring, it doesn’t mean the weather has to cooperate. So here’s to positive thinking and lots of praying that the sun WILL come out tomorrow!
Just like I did for the fall and summer, I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned this winter. A few lighthearted tips that helped me out and some personal stuff that hits deep. The goal is to share a little about myself and maybe in the process give you a tidbit to take with you!
LIBRARY DAY IS GOOD FOR ME AND THE KIDS
Every Tuesday we go to the library on base. It has become part of our routine. At first it was a way to kill time before Maddie’s gymnastics class. And when that ended, we kept it up! I like the routine and the activity that fills the time between school and dinner. To be honest, we typically eat dinner out on Tuesdays now just to make life easier… and the kids love it! There’s the obvious reason why I love taking the kids to the library every week - to instill a love of reading in them. This has always been a priority in our family. Reading is something the kids see Seth and I do often and it is something we do every day for them. Henry loves books and ever since he was a toddler he would even sleep with them! Maddie doesn’t love them quite as much but she does like stories. Each week we get new books to read at bedtime or we get old favorites that we have to read again!
I also use the library as a way to refresh my week. I started checking out a new cookbook each week. Sometimes I keep it for 2 weeks if I like it a lot! This has been an easy way to get me out of my dinner-rut and make new dishes for the family. Yes there is Pinterest and blogs and Instagram feeds full of recipes but frankly it can be very overwhelming. Part of me prefers a traditional cookbook that I can sit at the table with. I keep it propped up at the stove and learn new techniques, ingredient combinations, and flavor pallets! It’s been quite fun for me!
So far my favorites have been The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime, Plated: Weeknight Dinners, Weekend Feasts, and Everything in Between by Carta Diem and Skinnytaste: Fast and Slow.
Marie Kondo has entered our lives. She brings with her the realization that our lives are full of too much junk! I’ve always been somewhere between a nostalgic hoarder and a wanna-be minimalist. I like the stuff with personal meaning, but I have a lot of it! I never read her book, and I watched exactly one episode so I can’t pretend to preach her beliefs. But I do have some of my own. I like the idea of keeping joy and letting go of the rest. I have had this epiphany when it comes to clothes, gifts, and even people. I have no apologies for what I keep and what I don’t. And I hope you don’t either. The privilege of adulthood allows us to make these kinds of choices. Simplicity doesn’t have to be a lifestyle, but it should be a mantra when finding and keeping joy. Yes, some things and some relationships are worth the hard work and extra effort. Losing weight and achieving health is hard work. It requires pushing through and battling pain. But it also results in joy. Marriage is rarely a perfect bed of roses, but it is worth it when love and respect is mutual. But I also believe that as an adult we can also decide when a relationship or commitment is more draining and hurtful than it is rewarding. And we need to give ourselves permission to recognize that and do something to change it.
Relationships should be mutually joyful. It shouldn’t be daunting or exhausting to maintain. Friendships require effort but when the effort is mutual, the rewards are life changing! We have choices in our lives. We choose the event, the person, the task - and we also choose how we interpret, react and receive. Somethings are thurst upon us without a choice - but how we receive it is our choice!
One small thing I changed was cleaning the house. I find joy in having a clean house, but not being the one that cleaned all the time. So we hired a housekeeper that comes twice a month to do the deep clean. It removes the burden from my to-do list and frees up my time to do other things that mean more to me. No regrets and no shame in this choice!
PARENTING IS A SKILL YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING TO DO
Last night at dinner I said to Seth to watch out for small bones in the chicken. I had found one in the gravy I scooped up from the pan and there were some overlooked bones that made it to the plate. Henry picked up on this and asked what chicken bones were. He asked if they were bones made of chicken. I think in his mind he was picturing dog bones that dogs get for treats. Henry has been into the human body lately so I thought it would be a quick conversation. No, I said, it is the bones from the skeleton of a chicken. He seemed confused as he was processing this. Then he asked why we had skeletons. We addressed the question and then he said he had a dog bone before and liked it. (It was those Scooby Doo dog bone shaped cookies). I then realized that we never really had the talk about where meat comes from. We have visited lots of farms and talked about eggs and milk. We routinely talk about vegetables and fruit and how they grow and even have picked several baskets of fruit ourselves. But we never talked about how chicken nuggets make it to the dinner table. The conversation stopped at the bones and I began to wonder how to approach this topic without being too graphic and scary!
That night I called my parents and asked their advice. How do you approach this subject without freaking the kids out! My dad said he handled it by letting me learn about it in school! That’s not a bad idea…
But Henry is a special child with a curious mind. And I know I’m going to have to talk to him about this at some point! Does anyone have any tips? Things that worked? I’d love some parenting advice about this!
I LOVE JAZZ MUSIC
We are proud owners of an Amazon Alexa. She’s wonderful! She listens to me every time! Henry and Maddie also like giving her requests: such as “play Let It Go” and what is the capital of Bosnia. (Can you guess which kid asks what question?) I use Alexa to get news briefings and to play music. I’ve decided that I prefer jazz. When I ask Alexa to play “relaxing jazz music” I get the best playlists! It’s a nice background sound for when I am working by myself at home or even when the kids are playing. It keeps the tv off and I think even the kids like it. Henry will even request it for me!
40 ISN’T SO BAD!
Yep, I turned the big four-zero a week or so ago! And it didn’t arrive with devastating results! I feel about the same but with a greater urgency to get back in shape. I don’t feel wiser but I do feel like I’ve entered some club for adults! I don’t feel more “adult” but my dad says that really never comes. I enjoyed the fuss made over the milestone and the fun gifts I received with the 40 theme! I don’t particularly feel old but it’s fun to make old jokes with my 40-year old friends. It’s hard to believe but also really kind of fun!
What I read this winter:
Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah. This came as a recommendation from a friend. And I love recommended books because they rarely disappoint! If someone I love takes the time to talk about a book, you know it is going to be good! This was the debut novel for the author and it gets a standing ovation from me. It’s a story about a woman experiencing loss and mortality who encounters a girl who believes she is an alien sent to earth to witness 5 miracles. The story takes us through new and old relationships and what we will ultimately do for love. It’s a beautiful story and an easy read. If you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for free through the Kindle Unlimited program!
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. My step-mom gave me this book for Christmas and for some reason I waited until February to read it! It is an incredible story! It is based off the true story of Holocaust surviver Lale who was designated to be the man who tattooed the numbers on incoming prisoners to Auschwitz. We hear his horrors and and how he survived. It is a true testament to the power of the human spirit and that love and kindness and dignity can survive the most horrific circumstances.
What I listened to this winter:
Becoming by Michelle Obama. Without getting into anything political, this book is so good. The Audible version is read by Michelle Obama which add another layer of authenticity to the story. She is poetic, honest, real and raw. This is her story - not a political piece meant to stir up controversy. This is about her journey as a girl, an African-American, a daughter, a student, a professional, a mother, a wife, and eventually as the First Lady of the United States. It is heart-felt and full of powerful messages and lessons. It is such a good book!
What I’m reading now:
The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler. I just started this book last night. It’s a bit out of the genre of books I normally read but I haven’t had a good thriller in a while! I’ll let you know how it goes!