Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Cheer

We had a really wonderful Christmas this year even though for the second year in a row it was NOT a white Christmas!  I thought for sure that we would have white Christmases living in Germany plus we've had so much snow the past month that it was going to be a surety!  And it wasn't.  Maybe next year.

This year a few weeks before Christmas I was cleaning and organizing my sewing space and discovered some cross-stitch ornaments that were my moms.  She brought them with her last summer when she visited because she didn't want them on the tree anymore but still wanted to keep them in some way.  So this is what I came up with: an ornaments wall hanging with the cross-stitch pieces in the center.  She opened it Christmas Eve and Jeff said she nearly cried.  That's the reaction I like!!!

The kids had the whole week before Christmas off from school and so I saved a few activities for this last week to enjoy.  First on everyone's list was the gingerbread house!  Abby and William were pretty good helpers in making the gingerbread.  And trying to eat it too.

This was the end of day 1 of house making.  I ran out of dough for the roof since I made four of them and wasn't about to make another huge batch.  Next year we'll have to do a batch and a half.  Using graham crackers saved the day but that's definitely a thatched roof.  We left them like this overnight to make sure they stayed together.

And they survived!!  So the next day was decorating!

And I didn't take a picture of the finished products.  I would now except that they've been nibbled on already . . . 

Chopper took a few days off from work and spent a lot of time like this!  William is a great cuddler.

And then just like that it was Christmas Eve!  The kids have wanted to just stay home and play all the time so no more Christmas markets and there aren't really Christmas lights here like there are in the states.  But that just means that when we start traveling again the kids can't complain about it too much!  I insisted on Christmas pictures in front of the tree and they complied sort've.

We had tacos as usual and a candlelit dinner and then gave the kids zonked out (ok we gave them Melatonin to help that process).

Christmas morning was great.  We started the tradition early on of taking turns opening presents and I like that so much better than the free for all (sorry mom and dad).  It also gives us to time to make sure they know which ones are from family. This year we gave the kids each a few dollars to make purchases at the school holiday store.  It was just small, inexpensive items but they were each really really good about thinking about each other and then keeping their gifts hidden until they got home from school and we could wrap them and get them under the tree.  They honestly did really well for each other and Megan particularly was excited about the items she had gotten for Abby and William.  Then on Christmas morning when the kids opened those gifts they all, unprompted, expressed excitement and gratitude to each other for them!  It was a wonderful, loving moment and my favorite gift this year.  

The other gifts that were a success were a marble run and doll things for Abby and Megan's 18-inch dolls.  And William of course go cool legos that he wanted put together immediately.  Not a single child expressed disappointment over Christmas -- Abby did remark on not getting a rainbow cotton candy machine BUT not in a negative way.

This girl loved the makeup kit from Grandma Gasser and is already practicing.  Poor girl, I can't help her because I can't do it myself!

Megan has really gotten into dolls - a few years later than I thought she would.  She loves them because everything is so tiny.  I might just be enjoying it all a little too much myself!!!

The marble run has been fun for everyone!!

It's hard to believe that this year is over.  It's gone by so fast.  We've done a lot this year but I think are also just settling into life in general.  We're ok with not going somewhere every single weekend but we've got some great trips and fun visitors planned for this upcoming year.  We are happy and healthy progressing each in our own way and together as a family and it's a lot to be grateful for.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Season

Well today we are exactly one week away from Christmas.  It's crazy how fast time flies (I think I say that a lot).  So catching up . . . 

The stores around here start selling Christmas items early, just like the states.  William in particular was very excited about Christmas coming and putting up the tree.  We told him we would after Thanksgiving.  So on Thanksgiving Day, we invited some German neighbors over for dinner.  The daughter, Anne, is German-American and goes to the base high school.  Her mom is German (Austrian we found out actually) and her step-dad as well.  She's been babysitting for us for a while and is a sweet girl.  We had a really wonderful dinner with them and got to know the parents better, but as soon as William was finished with dinner he hopped down from his chair and said "let's put up the tree now!"  We did wait a little longer though . . . maybe a few hours.

We also were able to go that weekend to see Coco -- the yearly Disney/Pixar Thanksgiving weekend movie.  They didn't play the Frozen short that everyone has been complaining about and I can't decide that if that was good or bad!

There's a new music teacher at school this year (and an art teacher who actually has the kids do art projects!) and she had the kids do a Christmas concert!  All the kids sang on the same night but with their whole grade.  Megan was the most nervous and Chopper walked her up but she approached the teacher on her own to be put on a back row and she did great!  William didn't want anyone to go up with him and he was very animated in his singing and dancing.  He loves to dance and sometimes requests music for that purpose.  His dancing is hilarious too!

The pictures aren't the best but I have to document this outfit.  His teacher asked them to wear red, white, and green and dress nice.  He screamed and cried for 15 minutes because he didn't have red or green pants and that's what his teacher told him to wear.  I finally had to leave and then he came to me with his church pants and tie (the white shirt was ok of course) and requested help.  When we got there, the first thing he did was ask his teacher if he looked ok!  He takes their rules and direction literally and seriously and gives me grief when my interpretation doesn't match up with his understanding.

Since this picture Abby has lost her two teeth on either side of the front teeth and kind've looks like a rabbit.  A very adorable rabbit.

Abby on stage.

Where's Megan?  Singing!!!

This December so far we have had a ton of snow.  Unfortunately, it warms up enough that it melts pretty quickly and we haven't had enough to play in.  We did get one day with a delay start to school though and that's always fun.  Falling snow is really one of the most beautiful things out there though.

We haven't done as many Christmas markets this year.  It's kind've nice because while we do love them, we don't feel compelled to go go go to every one that we can.  This year we started with Regensburg where there are three markets.

The kids were actually excited!

My favorite markets are the ones with arts and crafts booths from individuals rather than commercialized goods.  But there's also lights, kinderpunsch, and food.  And we love Regensburg so it was fun to walk around to the different markets as well.

William's favorite is bratwurst/hotdogs.

Many of the bigger markets have rides for the kids.  We let the kids do the carousel and it was a fast one!  It was hard to get good pictures but that's William in the helicopter.

 And Megan on the giraffe.

And Abby in the train 

Kinderpunsch!  I found a recipe online and made some for book club this month and it turned out good.  Basically it's apple cider but the best ones have different flavors added in.  And most recipes in Germany add hibiscus tea for color and flavor.

The last market we went to was at the Thurn and Taxis Palace.  It was a Romantic market (time period not hearts and love) and it was wonderful.  Chopper says it's one of his favorites.

It was super cold so we spent a lot of time around the fires!

They had rides as well.

Sankt Niklaus was there and asking the kids questions.  If they got it right they got giant chocolate Santa Clauses and if not, oranges and nuts.  We didn't really realize this and when I told him the kids only spoke English he just handed the chocolate!  They were thrilled -- I felt kind've bad because they really didn't need that!

This year without kids I've been able to chaperone for things and went with William's class on a movie field trip.  We say "The Star" which is the Nativity story (kind've odd for public school).  We had a good time together and it was fun to meet his friends.

On December 7th we celebrated 15 years!!!  Another benefit of all the kids in school?  We took a day date to Bayreuth and explored their Christmas market and went to a museum about Wagner that the kids would have hated!  It was a great day!!
Listening to Wagner's operas

His library -- the books where his stories came from.  I'd love to dig up the German legends he used: Tristan and Isolde, Valkyrie, etc. 

Outside Wanfried -- Wagner was a big friend of King Ludwig of Bavaria but not a great guy and basically was broke all the time and looking for sponsors.  He eventually ended up in Bayreuth to build his opera house and died there.

Eating dessert before lunch!

I had to throw a Jane Austen tea party this month for friends to celebrate her birthday (December 16).  The kids really enjoyed the leftovers!

Just this past weekend we went to a market at Schloss Wildenreuth.  It was pretty small but I think one of my favorites.  There were several performers: a juggler who did knives and fire, an amazing storyteller, brass band, camel rides.  It was great for kids. 

The juggler

Pimpernella Pumpelsack.  When I told her the kids didn't speak German she declared in English "but I am international!!"  They pulled magic stones (marbles) from her bag.  She said William's said to dance whenever he felt like it and Abby's would tell her stories that she could go into like a fantasy.  How in the world she managed to nail the kids' personalities I have no idea.  She was animated and fantastic!

Listening to what the magic stones were telling her.

Then she played the accordion and told the kids a story (that part was in German).

 We were able to explore the castle a little bit and went down into the cellars and some ground floor rooms.

They had quite a bit more snow than we've got and the kids loved just playing in it for a while.

Modern features -- walk out basement!

Interesting sculptures.

The band

Sankt Niklaus

It was cold but the kids were running and playing so their scarves all came off and I wore them all and was quite cozy!  The cold's not bad when you're dressed for it!

Now the kids are off of school and we've been baking gingerbread this morning.  We're off to the store to get more eggs for the frosting  and we've got games and movies and decorating planned for a great week before Christmas!!