Tag Archives: school

Spring in Stuttgart

4 Apr

Hello again! I go from MIA for nearly a month to twice in a matter of days! Sheesh. I’m sorry about that. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve got something big in the pipeline- a project that’s been taking up a good bit of my time and that I’m really excited to share with all of you in the very near future. *And before some of you start jumping to (crazy) conclusions, nope, I’m definitely not pregnant, nor adding any living creature to the family 😉 But in all seriousness, it is a venture that I’m pretty damn pumped about and that I’m feeling so, so good about. I promise to share more in the coming weeks!

That being said, let’s consider this a photo dump post because we haven’t had one in a really long time! March was a really busy month around here- you already saw the Retro Classics Car Show and that we had Uncle Andy here to join us for the Bunkerhotel– but we also spent a heckuva lotta time welcoming spring, hanging out with friends, welcoming biergarten season back (hallelujah!), exploring new (to us) haunts in our city, etc.

So in completely random order, I present to you the, ‘Thomas Family Month in Pictures…’ (*warning: it’s alot, like alot alot. 😉 )

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New pants, vintage boots ❤

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The 70s called- they want their look back. Never.

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You know a carwash is the bomb.com when you have to take a picture.

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Thumbs up for new house shoes at school!

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One pup took the other pup’s treat. Can you guess which is which? Ha!

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Afterschool Tea Parties ❤

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When you’re still in a funk from yesterday, but you have to walk the city…1. Ear buds in so no one will talk to you – > No explaining that you don’t speak German. 2. Sunglasses on so no eye contact. 3. Ball cap on to erase any doubt that you’re American. Ha!

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(German) Breakfast of Champions

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Tulip Trees are my favorites ❤ (And Redbuds…)

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Sunrise from my side of the bed…

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Nothing better than homemade frozen yogurt pops after school!

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Slumber Parties ❤

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When you don’t know if it’s because you just got out of school for the day, or if it’s that it’s finally feeling like spring, or if it’s that the sun is out for the fourth (!) day in a row…You’re just…THANKFUL.

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Saturday morning farmers market ❤

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When you see one of these in your mailbox, it’s a great day. When you see 5…It’s like freakin’ Christmas! Bring on the packages!

Sunday afternoon at the Stuttgart Planetarium. Neve’s first such experience- she LOVED it.

Another Sunday afternoon at the local biergarten with friends…

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Pretty impressed with myself for creating this Stuttgart skyline…

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Beauty and the Beast in 3D ❤

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She loved this outfit she picked all by herself ❤

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Stuttgart Opera House

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New Palace

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Whew! I warned you it was alot! Ha! Thanks for sticking it out with me. I promise I’m going to try to do better this month. For now, I’m going to try to contain my excitement as my mom gets here in 36 hours!! Total last minute surprise trip just in time for my birthday this weekend (and Easter the following) and I simply can’t think of a better gift than having her here. In many ways, it’s been a very challenging season for my whole family (will elaborate on that in due time…), so having her here for just a couple weeks is a really good thing for me…and for her. Can. Not. Wait. ❤

Fall has Arrived!

18 Sep

Greetings from Stuttgart, where the weather has finally started to resemble more of what we know and love for this time of year! I kid you not, it wasn’t until just a couple days ago that we didn’t have a heat index of 90*+. In mid September?! Every time we’ve been here in the fall- including last year when we didn’t even unpack our shorts when we arrived in mid-August!- the temps are already dropping steadily, mornings and nights warrant a jacket and the leaves have tinges of yellows and oranges on their edges…I think Mother Nature felt like she owed us one this year for giving us the never ending spring (we were in fleeces for Memorial Day!), knowing that this southern family needed some decent hot weather! Ha! And she was right- I haven’t minded one bit- bring on the sweat and sunshine! Yep, this has been me ;):

And speaking of sunshine, the downside of German fall? With it comes the rain. Endless, constant dreary. Blech. Today is the perfect example- we went to bed with it raining, woke up to it raining, and it’s still raining now. Hasn’t let up NOT EVEN ONCE. Guess I’ll need to think about getting out my sun lamp 😉

Anyhoo, I guess what I’ve said before holds true- when I go weeks between blog posts, it must mean we’ve been having too much fun- and we have! So I thought this would be a good time to share some pics ❤thumb_img_1243_1024

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One of our all time favorite festivals is Pumpkin Fest. It happens every September in Ludwigsburg, a suburb of Stuttgart, and lasts for almost two months, which means that we normally hit it up at least a couple times. Some of you probably remember my posting about it last year (and also back in 2010 for those of you who have been with us from the start!), but if not, be sure to search for past posts 🙂 There are so many things that make Pumpkin Fest so neat. For starters, it sits on the most beautiful palace grounds and surrounding park. Seriously- you’ve never seen such green grass, such bright flowers and such majestic trees. Second, it’s super family friendly with an entire section of the park designed for kids. Third, you just can’t beat the pumpkin cuisine! And I’m not talking froo froo lattes either- I mean real, top notch food made using pumpkins and gourds! Jambalaya, ravioli, pumpkin fries, squash flatbreads…And yep, pumpkin beer and wine. Duh.

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You’ve also never seen so many pumpkins and gourds! This festival has the world record for the most pumpkins in one place, and it holds the contest for the World’s Largest Pumpkin. (It’s something like 650lbs. and taller than me!)

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In Rapunzel’s tower…

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Look who we ran into! And just in time for the kids’ park! They loved this boat ride through the forest.

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Last week had two pretty cool events. First, we threw an end of summer BBQ for our tribe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: being here, in this situation, would be so much different- so much more challenging, not to mention just plain sadder!- without these people. Together, all of our families make up one big family of friendship, of love, of support, of comfort…Love getting to share this extended family with my folks, too. Wish I had more pictures to share from a super fun night, but we were all too busy ‘feeling American’- eating pulled pork (yep, my dad can even do killer pig in the oven! Ha!), laughing and watching football, complete with American commercials! It’s the little things ❤

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The other big milestone was that our girl started her last year of preschool! Holy cow, how is that even possible?! It feels like just yesterday we were walking into Ms. Lori’s class at Bethany UMC, Neve with a backpack bigger than she was and this mama with tears in her eyes. Oh how she’s grown in just these last few years and oh what a trailblazer she’s becoming.

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When you’re trying to read along on the Kindle, but your Poppy gets distracted…

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View from our bed. I absofrigginlutely love living in the heart of a huge city.

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What this southern girl does with leftover pulled pork…

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If everyone could say a quick prayer for my girl, Dulcie. She’s been having some pretty serious health issues this last week and we’d sure appreciate as many prayers as we can get!

And finally, this weekend marks the ‘end of Fest Season,’ which meant that we celebrated the only way possible- going to not one, but two, fests! (Still not sure how they figure the ‘end’ as they’re in the process of setting up the next one as I type, but who am I to question a good thing…Ha!) Nothing better than being outside all day long surrounded by pretty scenery, artists, crafters, games and deliciousness!

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Gerber Fest, just out of our front door…

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Y’all, this girl was a ROCKSTAR at the rock climbing wall! Seriously, John and I were so shocked and so proud. She made it all the way to the top completely unassisted AND with the wall tilted in at the top! Need to find her a gym stat!

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Perfect space for a fest, right?

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She was as fearless here as on the rock wall! All the way across the lake- going fast!- all by herself!

And there you have it- a glimpse into our last two weeks of fun, of saying goodbye to summer, of taking care of sweet Dulcie, of enjoying the life that’s filling our walls (still so nice to have my parents here for a couple more weeks), and of looking forward to all that’s still to come. Speaking of which, on Thursday, we’re headed to Munich to meet friends for Oktoberfest! And no worries, zillions of pictures to come! 😉

Hope everyone has a great week!

Grab Your Costumes!

10 Feb

Because it’s Fasching! Well technically, it ended yesterday, but I had to wait to get pictures of our princess in her Tuesday Best!

Dating back to the Middle Ages, the celebration of Karneval- or Fasching- the European relative of Mardi Gras — is a time for eating, drinking and merriment before the solemn days of Lent. It traditionally begins on Epiphany (January 6) and ends at midnight just before Ash Wednesday. It’s for this reason that Germans- as well as many other Europeans- consider this a ‘Fifth Season’ of the year. 🙂

This colorful festival takes place 52 days before Easter, generally ending with a bang- food, music, dancing and parades- on Shrove Tuesday. Karneval is celebrated throughout Germany, the three most popular versions being Karneval in the Rhineland region, Fasching in Southern Germany and Fastenacht in Baden Würrtemberg.

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The word Fasching dates back to the 13th century and is derived from the Germanic word vaschanc or vaschang, in modern German: Fastenschank = the last serving of alcoholic beverages before Lent. In olden times the 40-day Lenten period of FASTing was strictly observed. People refrained from drinking alcohol or eating meat, milk products and eggs.

Narrentreffen in Elzach

The undisputed capital of Karneval is Cologne, followed by Dusseldorf and Mainz (where we lived this past spring.) In the months leading up to the season, Karneval Clubs (yes, they’re a real thing and apparently big business!) hold meetings to discuss upcoming performances, costumes, parades and float designs. Imagine rivals for NYC’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but put them in various cities throughout the country! WOW!

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While the celebrations have plenty of religious ties, they actually go back even further to pagan times, and originated as a way of driving out the evil spirits of winter and encouraging the coming of spring and good crops. This helps to explain the difference in costumes when compared to things like Mardi Gras. Costumes have evolved around themes of dark ghosts representing the cold season contrasted by the bright, colorful spirits of spring. Scary, ugly masks are still worn to scare away the cold, hard winter. These traditional themes symbolize the eager anticipation of the growing season, a time farmers and consumers long for.

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Karneval: "Jecken" feiern am Rhein

In the Middle Ages, Karneval gave the people a break from the tightly structured class system, as they were able to hide their social background behind imaginative masks and costumes. Poor people were able to mix with all other levels of society and share fun with them. In those days, people would dress up as knights, damsels and even priests, as a way of making fun of them. In a similar way, people these days sometimes wear masks to make fun of well-known politicians or celebrities.

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Traditional Carnival In Hesse And Rhine Area

So this week has been yet another reason that we’re so glad we chose to live smack dab int he middle of the city. Food vendors have lined the streets for block after block, the smells of donuts, gluhwein (you didn’t think it was only for Christmas, did you?!), spiced nuts, beer and pretzels wafting through the air like little olfactory gems…Huge music stages were set up in every surrounding park, their nightly bands still going strong and lulling us to sleep at night…And folks of all ages can be seen at any time of the day dressed in their most elaborate, snazzy costumes. Such a fun thing to be a part of! Speaking of which…

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Neve’s school celebrated Fasching, too! We walked in the door there yesterday morning and were whisked away to a private Karneval celebration! Decorations that the students had been making for the last couple weeks hung from the ceiling and the walls…Traditional festive music was playing over the sound system and festival snacks were lined up on the counters…Best of all, all the kids got to wear their favorite costumes for the day and have their faces painted. There were princesses, fairy godmothers, super heroes, ninjas, ladybugs…Neve was SO excited!

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It’s not often you get to walk to school with Royalty ❤

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I asked for one more picture and she started telling me how to do it. Imagine that! Ha!

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Hate I couldn’t get a picture of her face paint when it was first done and even this picture doesn’t do it justice! It was so good from what I could tell when I picked her up! This is her ‘scary mask face.’ 😉

And as if this week couldn’t get any more fun, John surprised his girls with a quick trip to Paris this coming weekend for Valentine’s Day! WOOHOO! It’s been years since we’ve been there- our last time together was in 2006 and my last time was a girly weekend with my mom in 2010- and Neve has been waiting to see the Eiffel Tower. The icing on the heart-shaped cake? We’re taking her to Disneyland (in Paris) on Saturday, but she doesn’t know it yet. ❤

Changes Up Ahead!

28 Jan

I’ve been wanting to write this post for nearly two weeks now, but wanted to make sure all our ducks were in a row before I spilled the beans. And no, that’s not it. Shame on you for even going there! 😉

Neve’s changing schools! Starting Monday, she will officially be a student of the Evangelisiche Kindertagesstätte! And the best part? It’s less than two blocks from our house! We’ve played on their playground before!

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So, this is something we’ve thought about for a good while now. We considered putting her in German preschool from the day we arrived, but not knowing where we’d end up living, how long it would take on a wait list, etc., we ultimately decided that a German Immersion program through the American base could be the best of all worlds and help with smoothing the transitions.

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Rewind to the first day of school back in September. That’s her school in the background.

Now I won’t say that the fall semester was seamless, but it was good. There were alot of changes, alot of school things to get used to (of course, when you come from such an awesome program that we did!), plenty of settling into things…But along the way, Neve made some great little friends, I met some cool moms and we became friends with her awesome teacher, Ms. Rachel.

Fast forward to the holidays and Ms. Rachel tells us that her fiance has been offered a three month position- he’s an attorney- in the States and that they’ll be leaving after the Christmas break. Best part of the news? They’ll be back by May and looking forward to hanging out again! 🙂 Worst part? She won’t be back at the school. 😦 Obviously we were so bummed- Neve especially- but were confident that the school would make the transition to a new lead teacher as smooth as possible, starting with bringing in the replacement during Rachel’s last week at school. Except that didn’t happen. And then a week went by, and then another. Still no new teacher, but a whole long slew of substitutes and new faces. Less German being learned, less consistency day to day…and no gameplan from the school for rectifying the situation. No communication period, really.

Well, it just so happened that our neighbors had toured a kindergarten just after Christmas and loved it. So Neve and I checked it out, too, a few weeks back and had the same good feelings. Most German kindis keep waiting lists 1-3 years long, so we knew we’d need to get on a list if we even wanted the option at some point. Guess who called last Friday to say that we had a spot if we wanted it? YEP! The same day John and I reached our ropes’ ends with the current school situation, they called with the news! Once again, the Universe had a plan all along and worked it out in perfect timing. We knew the decision had been made for us.

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How cute is this alleyway? I’m standing on our road looking down toward the school. If I were to turn to the left, I could see our building just one block away.

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Just a closer view…

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This gives you a better idea of how close we’re talking. Same spot I was standing in for the first picture, just looking back toward the house.

How totally awesome is that? To get to walk to school every day! I, for one, am beyond pumped to forego the twice daily 30-minute drives to and from school, battling horrible traffic and crazy weather!

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Last 30 minute drive home! WOOHOO!

But more importantly, we’re really excited for the German kindergarten experience. This school is so warm and inviting. It’s not the newest, not the most modern, not the fanciest, but it’s warm and it feels good. There’s one big central room with a tree (yes, a real one!) going up the middle and it’s canopy going out over the room. Cubbies line the walls, along with snow boot racks, musical instruments and lots of kids’ artwork. In the center, under the canopy is a big circle of little chairs surrounding a big, fluffy rug and lots of books. That’s where they start their days. Branching off from this room are smaller rooms with different purposes- the ‘Home’ room with dolls, kitchen sets, tool benches and reading nooks, the Art room with drying racks and supply shelves galore, the ‘Engineering’ section with blocks, legos, pulleys, etc., the Puzzle corner, and then the kitchen where lunch is catered every day from the organic co-op. Outside, a huge playground- yep, right in the middle of the city. I could tell that Neve felt good from the moment we walked in and as soon as we left, she asked, ‘When can I start going there every day?’ *YES*

Kindergarten (literally “children’s garden”) is both a German word and a German invention. The kindergarten pre-school educational philosophy has been widely adopted around the world, so it’s somewhat ironic to discover that kindergarten in Germany is not usually part of the state-supported school system, even though about 85 % of German youngsters 3-5 years old attend voluntary community and church-supported kindergartens. School officially starts with the 1st grade at age 6. So the term is used for preschool, as well as kindergarten itself. 

Here in Germany, the purpose of kindergarten is different than it is in the US. Very little, if any, attention is given to reading, writing, math…The focus is on developing and maturing the child socially rather than academically. They feel that the children have their whole lives to read and write and sit for extended periods- that this early childhood stage can be better spent becoming the little people they’re meant to be. They encourage exploration, curiosity, trial and error, decision making, social interactions and discovery. They work to build self-confidence, independence and ‘real world’ abilities- Neve’s class will be taking the subway once each week, as well as the public bus. (Yes, that gives me a tinge of a stomach pit, but it’s OK…)  They will also be gardening, painting (their art section is fabulous!) building forts (yes, with real tools), helping to prepare some meals, and always going outside (as the Germans say, ‘there’s no bad weather, only bad attire.’)…

So yeah, overall we are super excited to watch as Neve (hopefully) grows in ways we’ve never seen before- for her to really start to spread her wings. We’re also pumped to hear her German truly take off now that she’ll be immersed in it every day, but building on a great foundation from the last 5 months. Yes, our Type A, American personalities have most definitely made it a challenging decision, but it’s one that we’re confident in having made the best one given all the variables. (That sounded so nerdy, I know. But hey, it’s us 😉 ).  We will definitely continue, just as we always have, working on things at home- writing her alphabet (she can writer her name perfectly now!), reading books, building her English vocabulary, counting…Afterall, we’ll be back in the States at some point and our girl has to be ready for that, too! Wish us luck!

I’ll leave you with a couple shots from today’s swim lessons, taken right before I watched her jump into the deep end all by herself, bounce of the bottom and swim a few feet to the side. I was beaming. ❤

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Last Weekend in the Hotel!

25 Sep

Happy Friday, everybody! We are especially pumped for the weekend because…it’s our last one in this hotel! BAZINGA! It’s so crazy to think that by this time next week, we will be in our new house, with a kitchen, with a yard, with our own stuff…That’s right- our stuff has arrived! ALL of it! We got the call on Wednesday that both of our shipments are here and awaiting delivery! How awesome is that? We knew our smaller shipment would arrive within our first month (it landed in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, but obviously, we had nowhere for them to deliver), but the larger main one was scheduled for mid-October, so it’s been like Christmas came early since we got the good news! Ha! So our timeline for next week is: walkthrough of the property late Tuesday afternoon and key pickup, delivery of the smaller shipment and of the washer and dryer on Wednesday, then the big shipment delivered on Thursday along with Internet hook up. And yes, that means there’s going to be a major Ikea run somewhere in all that jazz 😉

Yep, all 300+ Americans in this hotel get to share this set...

Yep, all 300+ Americans in this hotel get to share this set…

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been here five weeks. I suppose that things have just stayed so crazy busy that it’s made the time fly by in so many ways. Despite being in this tiny hotel room and working out various hiccups practically every day, it’s amazing how much of a routine we’ve already established in such a short period of time- how settled we actually feel amid the chaos. I think I said it once before, but there’s a familiarity about Stuttgart for us and being here this time- knowing that it’s ‘permanent’- has changed our whole perspectives. We feel as though we’re part of the group, not just on the outside looking in- not in limbo trying to decide if we want to be part of the group. There’s a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together, we’re all going through the same things…’ and that’s nice. Even here at the Marriott, there are so many families experiencing the same challenges and changes that we are- several whom we’ve grown close to over these last few weeks and who I see us only growing our friendships over these next three years. Yeah, I have a hunch we’re going to like it here. ❤

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This is a random house next to a Greek restaurant we’ve been going to. I just love it.

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Speaking of friendships, the distance is definitely hard- for all of us. We’re all missing everyone back at home. I was just talking to my mom about this yesterday, in fact. I just can’t imagine what people must’ve gone though just ten years ago- before the age of technology and cell phones and Facetime…We are so fortunate to talk to our loved ones any time we want to and to ‘see’ their faces. That bridge helps the distance so immensely. For example, these two:

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Gabbing like the best friends that they are!

We Love Care Packages!

We Love Care Packages!

So this last week has been particularly good. Neve has really gotten into the swing of her new school. She loves her new teachers, Ms. Rachel and Ms. Erin, and to be honest, so do I. Ms. Erin is from North Carolina and has her masters degree from Chapel Hill. She’s super creative and nerdy in a perfect way, just like we like! Ms. Erin is also an American, but has grown up here as part of the military family. Both speak English and German in equally perfect portions and the kids seem to be thriving. After two weeks, Neve knows at least 10 German words and talks about her time at school constantly. Always a good sign! And she’s made several little friends who she also tells us all about, so that just warms my heart.

In front of school...

In front of school…

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We’ve had our third week of ‘gymnastics’- I use quotes only because it’s more of a tumbling class with lots of mats and energy- but she’s loving it nonetheless. It’s perfect for burning off energy, learning to use her body, and meeting even more friends.

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Once a month, the bases here offer a ‘Parents Night Out’ on a Friday night. They open one of the schools and parents can drop their kids there to eat dinner with their little friends (still divided into age groups, of course) and then play games, watch movies, etc. It was such a nice break for all three of us! Neve had a blast and John and I treated ourselves to a nice meal downtown where we just talked and laughed and enjoyed. Then we all got to sleep in the next morning! Win-win! They also offer one Saturday a month for ‘Parents Day Out,’ so we haven’t tried that yet (weekends are kinda our time as a trio), but it’s nice to know that it’s an option.

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Two particularly awesome things have happened this week- I’ve made two new girlfriends! And the good kind that felt that ‘click’ from the get go. I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret. I know that many of you are social butterflies and you probably have no trouble meeting and making new friends, but this is an area that I’ve always found a bit tricky, believe it or not. I’m an odd bird in that I’m very comfortable in groups and I have no problem talking with strangers, being animated and loud and energetic. To a point. But I’m also very much an introvert in many ways- I often feel awkward and at a loss when it comes to making acquaintances into friends, I’m sometimes lazy when it comes to putting myself into situations to meet new friends, and then I’m not always the best at carving out the time to nurture and grow friendships…I don’t know why, but I just run out of time and life gets in the way. Oh, and I love my alone time, too! In other words, I’d much rather come home and put on my PJs rather than go to happy hour 9 times out of 10! Ha! And jokes aside, my preference has always been to have a handful of girlfriends whom I genuinely love and would do anything for and to feel that in return- rather than to be the girl with tons and tons of ‘just friends.’ (And yes, I know that some of you are blessed to have lots of girlfriends in both of these categories and just know that I think you have mad skills!)

That being said, coming here means that I’ve left behind my handful and I knew that it would take some effort once or I’d be one lonely girl! So one of my personal goals was that I would work on this area of my person because it’s something I’ve long wanted to be better at. I would make a point to put myself out there, to be a little uncomfortable if it meant that something good might come of it, to trust the process…And I’m happy to say that the Universe has brought two awesome women into my life just in the last seven days! Well, I actually ‘met’ both of them online- one through an expat page that I follow and another through a mutual friend back in Charleston (small world, right?!), so we’ve been in communication for a while, but we finally got to meet face to face this week. And both meetings went swimmingly! The best part is that they both have daughters close to Neve’s age. In fact, as I type, Neve is napping after a busy morning coffee/lunch/play date with her newest friend ❤

Cheers to new friends!

Silly faces. Cheers to new friends!

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Goddess sent us some Ponies in our care package. They’re ALL the rage. Yes, they even accompany us to lunch.

So yeah, it’s been a good week! And to top it all off? Fall TV is back, which means that our SlingBox is filling up and we’re feeling even more like ‘normal!’ Big plans for the weekend- headed downtown for dinner tonight with our new above-mentioned friends (they’re from Summerville!) and Sunday we’re headed back to Pumpkin Fest one last time before it’s over. I hope all of you had a great week! Talk soon!

A Day of Firsts! And a New Car…

15 Sep

Hey, y’all! So today is feeling pretty significant- like this book that we’ve started writing is actually starting now- like we’re past the Prologue and all the dedications…I say this because it’s a day of firsts. It’s Neve’s first day of school, it’s John’s first real day of work, it’s the first day we’ve had two cars and aren’t dealing with drop offs and pick ups, it’s the first day we’re not dealing with a rental car whatsoever, it’s the first day I’ve gotten to put on my workout clothes and head to the gym as soon as I woke up just old times (I may or may not be twirling around my room singing, ‘The hiiiilllllls are alive with the sound of muuuuuusic…’)…And we’ve just gotten back from our first trip that was a huge success! So yep, it’s a pretty good day here in Stuttgart!

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So before I get into our trip, let’s just look at the cuteness that was Neve this morning headed to her first day at school! Try to look past the hotel room that is resembling a hoarder’s bedroom. As for clothes, we’re having to make do with what we’ve got as, once again, I didn’t pack correctly. Who knew the highs would be in the 50s by early September?! Jeez. She was pretty excited, though. And a bit nervous. She’s had 4 days as a drop-off at school since we got here, along with one meet-the-teacher (and classmates and their parents) last week, which I definitely think helps her to feel more at ease. It’s tough being in a new school with new teachers (especially when you had such fabulous ones back at home!) and making new friends…Neve is like her Mama, though, and is a creature of habit. She does her best with routine and certainty. So I really think that getting back into the school groove will be just what she needs- what all of us need. Her teachers seem lovely, sweet and very qualified. Her classmates and their parents are great from what we can tell. The school itself is warm and inviting. Fingers crossed!

We had a fantastic weekend away. Thursday morning, we flew from Stuttgart to Zurich, Switzerland to Gothenburg, Sweden. Gothenburg is Sweden’s second largest city, fifth largest in all of Scandinavia. It has a great feel to it- very modern, very active and with a younger feel, probably because of all the universities there. It has the COOLEST playground we’ve ever seen. Neve was in love. We also liked the area because it reminded us of home- it looks ALOT like Washington state- pine trees, rocks, grey skies…

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Gothenburg is also home to Volvo’s main factory and production facility. How in the world did you guys end up building a car all the way in Sweden, you ask? Well, we first made the decision that we wanted a third row vehicle for our time here- mainly to make things as easy as possible when we have guests. (Caravanning, finding parking, etc. in Europe is a nightmare, so riding together was a must.) We then researched our options, knowing that we needed a European make so that it could be easily maintained and serviced while we’re here. The Volvo XC90 won by a landslide on so many scales- size, comfort, gas mileage, maintenance needs…The challenge came with the fact that this year’s model is brand new, first of its kind and not available yet at dealerships. In other words, you can only order them through your dealership, but then wait 5-6 months for delivery. In Europe, the wait is about 3 months…Unless you pick it up yourself. So there you have it 🙂

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Picking up the car at Volvo was the NEATEST experience! You arrive to the headquarters and are seated with coffee while you wait on your representative to come go over everything with you.

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Volvo Headquarters

Then he escorts you to a pair of glass doors- the Delivery Hall- and leaves you to go get your vehicle. A few minutes later, a garage door opens and in rolls your new 4-wheeled baby.

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As soon as you walk through the doors- you’re presented with ‘the box.’ 🙂

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You spend the next hour or so going over everything about the car in perfect detail. He teaches you everything you could possibly need to know and then some! Now y’all know I’m a Jeep girl, through and through. I’ve owned 4 of them- the last one being my favorite car EVER. So I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous that I wouldn’t love this baby as much as all her predecessors, even if I had chosen absolutely every single feature she has! But y’all- she’s AMAZING. I’m in love. She’s gorgeous on the outside (John laughs because I do still think that a Jeep Grand Cherokee is just a smidge prettier), way gorgeous on the inside (like I’ve never seen a prettier interior), she drives smoothly and effortlessly, and she meets every single one of our needs. What a relief!

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You’d be amazed at how many people pick up their cars from the factory! Seriously. By the time we were wrapping up, there were 2 other vehicles sharing the Delivery Hall with us and a showroom full of folks waiting for their turns! We were lucky in that two other American couples had, like us, the first available appointments of the day (imagine that, overachieving Americans), so we made some new friends. Volvo invited all of us to stay for lunch and then to take a tour of the factory, which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen- a real life ‘How It’s Made!’

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And with that, we bid Volvo and our newfound friends Adieu and started the 4 hour drive south to Denmark…Stay tuned tomorrow for the second half of our trip- Copenhagen and Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Lots of fun was had!

Oh, but before I go- John’s car! Last week, he also lucked up and found exactly what he’d been looking for! It’s a small 2007 BMW with lots of pep, perfect for getting him to and from work. It’s a manual, though, which meant that he’s even learned to drive a stick shift! I’m beaming with pride at my teaching abilities 🙂 Nah, I’m really proud of him- and amazed at how few times he’s stalled!

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