Thursday, January 7, 2021

Christmas in lockdown


Since December 16th we have been in our second lockdown here in Germany. Similar to the first one in March, we suspected beforehand it might happen but then it still seemed to be announced very last minute. I wasn't really meeting up with people anyway due to Covid-19 restrictions, although I had planned to meet a friend in her garden for a mulled wine and another friend for a playdate. Both had to be cancelled once the official lockdown started. Since then hubby and I have been at home with Mini most of the time. We get as much as possible delivered to us. We only leave the house for walks or to go to the playground. Life can feel quite repetitve at times! Like I mentioned in this post I was determined to make Christmas special despite being in lockdown.

This was our fist Christmas away from both of our familes and the first one where Mini, who is now almost 3, had a basic understanding of what was going on. It actually feels a bit surreal being on the "other side" of the experience. There is a certain amount of responsibilty in making sure that Santa's presents arrive, are hidden and then are wrapped and under the tree on time! At one stage in December I realised that Mini knew all about Santa and presents but didn't know about the birth of Christ! We didn't have her baptised but I still have been trying to teach her a basic understanding about God and the Catholic faith. Luckily I had a nativity book which we read. The next day she told me her doll was called "Baby Jesus". I couldn't help laughing when I heard her say "Baby Jesus, do you want to build a snowman?"

A women I knew was collecting stuff to bring to a local womens shelter and when she mentioned there was a 2 year old there at the moment, I was able to use it as an opportunity to go through some of Mini's old toys and clothes and ask her to help pick out some things I could give to the little girl who didn't have as much. I'm trying to raise her to be grateful for what she has and also be charitable to others. Apart from that I also tried get into the Christmas spirt as much as possible myself! We decorated the tree (although that was put up already in November), we baked cookies, read wintery stories and sang and danced along to Christmas songs as often as possible.

We celebrated both Christmas eve (which is the main day here in Germany) and Christmas day (which I'm more used being the main day coming from Ireland). It ended up being a really nice Christmas. We didn't have to fall in line with anyone else's schedule or timings, so that made the day very relaxed for one. We opened presents, wore out Christmas pjs and watched movies. We weren't able to get a turkey delieverd unforuntaltey so we had roast chicken but it was very tasty anyway! I also found a jar of sweet mincemeat so was able to bake my favourite Christmas dessert, mince tart!

I also celebrated a birthday myself over Christmas. It was a little disappointing, I'm not going to lie. Last year I had been able to meet a bunch of close friends and go for birthday brunch and this year I wasn't able to meet anyone due to the pandemic. We had a cake though and I drank my favourite wine so that was still nice. Hopefilly next year I'll be able to have a much bigger celebration!
I'd love to hear from my readers, how was your Christmas?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Quote of the day #MicroblogMonday


Recently I came across this quote by civil rights activist, Maya Angelou;

I've learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel
.

During my time on this Earth I would like to make a positive impact even if only in small ways. I often don't have the exact right words in the moment, but I like to think my friends and family know that I am there for them when needed. Even when thousands of miles away.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Christmas markets cancelled #MicroblogMonday


So now the Coronavirus is taking away our Christmas markets. I understand of course why the people in charge deem it necessary to cancel this year with the increasing Covid cases but I can't help feeling disappointed about it. In general, I'm not a big fan of Winter, but one of my favourite things about living in Germany was always the Christmas markets. They are just so pretty and magical.

Getting together during the Christmas month with friends over a Glüwein (mulled wine) was such a nice tradition. I loved the cute markets themselves, the lovely decorations, the delcious smells and just the happy atmosphone. Our local market used to have an ice skating rink too which was lots of fun. I guess we are just going to have to come up with other ways to make Christmas this year special.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Autumn during the time of Covid


And just like that, October is here. Without traveling or celebrating big events, it can feel like the days blurr into weeks and the weeks into months. We had a lovely long Summer here in Germany which was wonderful, but it was almost like someone turned off a switch and suddenly the temperature dropped ten degrees and started getting rainy and windy! Autumn is usually my favourite season but since we are still experiencing a pandemic, I have been a little worried about what this Autumn/Winter will be like.

Facebook and Google photo memories show me pictures from what I was doing this time the past few years, so already I have been reminded about a fun family holiday to the Black Forest five years ago, and going partying to Octoberfest seven years ago. When I see things like that, I choose to focus on the positive memories rather than the disappointment that we can't do things like that for the forseeable future (or until there's a safe vaccine?). I recently came across this article from The Guardian on how Norwegians stay optimistic during their extremely long dark Winter season. Check it out if you have a few minutes.

It's all about changing your mindset and reframing how you look at things: "People who see stressful events as “challenges”, with an opportunity to learn and adapt, tend to cope much better than those who focus more on the threatening aspects – like the possibility of failure, embarrassment or illness."

I already found this approach very helpful when I was going through years of infertility. Instead of letting myself dwell on what I didn't have (a child / a body able to conceive and carry a baby by to term without medical assitance..) and comparing myself to others, I would try to focus on what I did have (a loving husband, supportive family, good friends..). It helped me move forward on the particularly dark days.

There have been many advantages to being able to work from home for sure, but the main disadvantage I find is that you can feel quite lonely and isolated at times. The house feels errily quiet unless I turn on music or radio in the background. I was able to take advantage of the lovely weather to meet up with friends outdoors the past few months in a way that would still keep us all safe from catching or spreading Covid. However, now that it's a lot colder and Germany is experiencing a second wave, trying to have some semblance of social life will be a real challenge. It's going to end up being partly a choice between mental and physical health risks. If I'm not able to meet friends for a long time, it could lead to me feeling depressed, but any potential get together could involve us risking catching the virus which I obviously want to avoid.

I guess we need to look at this time as a challenge and do our best to find the joy in the little moments. Another line from the article above which resonated with me was: "We might recognise, for instance, that it’s a time for baking comfort food or cosy evenings curled up under a blanket in front of a box set – practising a little bit of the Norwegian koselig." Now, who doesn't like the sound of that?

Friday, August 28, 2020

Staycation


Typically I try to save my holidays from work up in order to go on trips back to Ireland. This August I had some time off planned and initially it felt rather sad strange not to be travelling due to the pandemic. We had thought about the idea of going somwhere within Germany but hubby had a Covid-19 scare (negative thankfully) and we didn't get around to planing anything. So we ended up having a two week statcation instead and.. it was great!

It was refreshing not to have the stress that comes along with travel actually. The planning, packing, unpacking, train and/or car journeys. I've heard that a lot of holiday spots around Germany have been extra packed lately as everyone has the same idea which carries a higher Covid-19 risk. The past few months have been so busy that I hadn't seen some of my close friends here since before the pandemic so I decided to use this free time to arrange meetups - some with kids and some without (having my hubby finally available for more minding was great!).

We also filled up our days with some nice family trips too - going to feed the ducks, picnics in the park, getting ice cream, walks in the woods, spending time at lakes. Lots of cycling and time outdoors basically which was good for the soul. Having a break from work deadlines and stress is always welcome too, of course!

Here are a few random pictures from my camera roll.

How have you been spending your Summer?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Feeling the distance


It is over ten years since I moved to southern Germany. Life has, for the most part, been good. There are many advantages to living in Germany. Of course there are times when I miss Ireland, although it is mainly the people there I miss the most. I think back nostalgically on my memories of growing up in Dublin. However, I am settled here now and Germany feels like my home.

It has always given me great comfort knowing that if I ever want to go back to Ireland for a vist, I could. Flights usually cost anything from around 80€ to 350€ return depending on whether you book last minute or whether it's peak season. Between travelling to the airport, the flight and getting to my family home in Ireland, it takes around eight hours in total.

Flying back to Ireland for every event I am invited to there of course isn't possible (unfortunately!) but over the years I have been able to make it over roughly 3 times a year. Friends and family have also visited me here which has been lovely, and between the various visits back and forth and the help of technology to keep in touch (whatsapp, skype/google hangout, phonecalls), Ireland hasn't felt all that far away.


However, now with the current Coronavirus pandemic, all that has changed. Suddenly Ireland may as well be as far away as Australia, because that's how it feels. I am still in touch with family and many friends but it's frustrating and even heartbreaking at times not knowing when it will be safe to tavel again. Other expat friends I have spoken to here feel the same way. I have been comforting myself with the thought that once there is a vaccine widely available (maybe by next Summer?), we will plan a really long trip to Ireland to try to make up for all the missed moments now.

Totally unrelated to the pandemic, my father has put our family home on the market. He had been talking about it for a several years so I did have lots of time to get used to the idea but there is something really sad about the thought of not being able to stay there when I do eventually make it back to Ireland..

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Life during a pandemic

It's been almost three months since my last Coronavirus post which goes to show you just rare it is to have a moment to blog these days! During this time I feel like I have experienced the full range of emotions but these are some that stick out...

Anxiety

Initially hubby and I both felt very anxious about the situation - how could you not? We worried about our loved ones getting sick and were upset hearing about all the people worldwide who had lost someone- or even several people to the disease. Being an expat living in Germany I now feel even more isolated. Before the pandemic, Ireland was still "only" a plane ride away if need be, whereas now I have no idea when I will be able to see my family again. I would love if it could be this year at some stage but I am struggling with the decision because I don't want to put myself or others at risk of infection if I were to fly over there.

In the early days of the lockdown, I had a recurring fear about my husband and I both getting sick and having to go to hospital and I worried about what would happen to our daughter in that case. There was also a time when my Dad had potential exposure to Covid-19 and I was convinced that he had it and I felt really worried until he was in the clear. I had heard horrific stories about people dying alone in hospital devoid of any visitors. Thankfully, my loved ones haven't been affected by Covid-19 and Ireland and Germany are managing to flatten the curve. This has helped with my anxiety over time.

Stress

The first month or two was extremely stressful as we were adjusting to life during the lockdown. For me the hardest aspect has been trying to keep up with my job without having any childcare. Initially husband and I were both working from home and we were able to take turns minding our daughter while the other one worked, even if it meant working in the evenings or at the weekend. I found it really difficult at times to focus on my assignments with all the distractions and my productivity was suffering though.

Later on my husband was required to be physically present at work, initially only on certain days but then later full time making things more challenging for me. So my days would generally be spent working and only taking breaks to help mind my daughter or do housework. Barely any time to ever unwind for a moments. Hubby and I had a lot of arguments as is probably to be expected when you have two people who are extra stressed! I remember hearing that in China once lockdown was lifted there was a spike in people considering divorce and I could understand why! We mainly argued over things such as the division of labour and what we could or couldn't do due to Coronavirus. Anyway, thankfully hubby and I are communicating and getting on MUCH better lately.


This graphic is just tongue-in-cheek by the way, I realize there are many people who have less free time during Coronavirus times, not just parents- for instance health care and other essential workers. It's just when I see so many suggestions on social media about how to use all "the extra free time" on projects such as de-cluttering your house or learning foreign languages, I can't help thinking how different that is from my house at the moment. I don't mean it as a complaint, having my daughter at home more is wonderful, it is just also difficult at times when I don't have any opportunities to do things for myself such as exercising. I have decided that I'm not going to feel guilty about the extra screen time my daughter is being exposed to, because sometimes it's the only way I can find a moment to prepare food for us or just sit on the couch and switch off after a long day. I will say, that Mini and I both love the movie Frozen two and Netflix's Boss Baby tv series!

Lonely

There have been times where I've felt lonely and isolated. During the first six weeks, the only people I saw were my husband, daughter and strangers out walking. Thankfully there were some Zoom calls organized with friends which did help but I barely had time to attend them since I was already so busy juggling everything. And then, once people were allowed to meet up outside at a social distance, we still couldn't do that much - we don't have a car and were too nervous to use car sharing, travelling using public transport was advised against and I was having some issues with my bike so I still wasn't able to see most of my friends. Even if it were possible to get together, I found that many people were still too nervous to meet even once it was permitted. That's still how it is actually. I did manage to meet a few friends individually over the past few weeks thankfully but it was been lonely and isolating at times. My daughter is great but you miss adult conversation..

Appreciation

It hasn't all been bad though. Since I haven't had to be anywhere by certain times, we have been able to move at a slower pace. I don't have that crazy rush in the mornings trying to get myself and Mini ready to leave the house early to bring her to daycare and go to the office. I realize now that I used to over plan my life a lot in order to maximize my time but that didn't leave Mini with enough moments to just have "free play". For instance I had signed her up for a gymnastics class but I think that she's too young to get much out of it and she's actually much happier with simple things such as going for a walk or playing with mud in the garden! We also feel very grateful to have each other and that none of our loved ones have gotten sick.

Resourceful

Since we were trying to avoid going to the supermarket as much as possible we would try to only shop once and get enough to last us for 2-3 weeks. This meant having to meal plan and use up items in our cupboards. We have been cooking much more often which has been a nice side effect. My husband even started baking bread.

Initially the playgrounds were closed in Germany. Devoid of play groups or other structured activities, I had to come up with lots of crafts and imaginative play we could do at home. It has been fun teaching Mini to paint and baking with her.

Gratitude

I guess this is similar to the appreciation post. Being able to spend this extra time with Mini has been something that I will always treasure. Her general development has come on in leaps and bounds and I do think the extra individual attention has helped her. Her English language skills have now overtaken her German which has been nice for me to see.

It has been such a strange time in general. At this stage, several months in, many people are getting frustrated with the restrictions. I can completely understand that and of course it is a very difficult situation. However, I also know for the sake of those in the high risk groups who are in danger of becoming seriously ill if they catch the virus, it is a bad idea to let ourselves become too complacent at this stage.


One positive aspect I notice is that without the distractions of a busy social schedule, I get the impression people have been being given an opportunity to examine everything around them and think about what new world we want to build after all this is over. Instead of just "going back to normal", let's create a better society for everyone! The coronavirus has been a tradegy for humans, no doubt about that, but there have been many positive effects on the environment which I hope could lead to real action against Climate Change for one. I also fully support the peaceful protests for racial equality and against police brutality that have been happening around the world and hope we will continue to fight against injustice until all lives are valued.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Mini turned two

It's goes to show how busy life has been that I'm two months late writing this! Here's a link back to Mini's one year update . Year one to two was really all about her becoming her own person and her personality shining through.

Over the last few months Mini's talking and development has come a long way. Now she usually repeats new words after we say them to her and she has a great memory. There are still quite a few words and sounds that she can't pronounce properly but we have learnt from context what she is trying to say. We are able to have little conversations now which is fun! For instance, sometimes if a toy is broken, she might say "Dada fix it!". When doorbell rings she'll say "doorbell - delivery man". We've been getting a lot of stuff delivered since the Coronavirus isolation started haha. Then if I ask what's in the box, she might answer "food".


She definitely knows her own mind and can be very determined. She has strong opinions about what she wants to wear some days. I usually let her wear what she wants, within reason. Like if she insists on wearing a "party dress" but it's a cold day, then I'll just make sure to put on a long sleeved top underneath and leggings/tights. She has one doll who's her favourite and she brings her everywhere. She calls her "Dee-doll". It's very sweet.

She loves music and sings along to nursery rhymes now. She enjoys imaginary play do we'll play games such as doctor where we pretend her toys are sick or we have teddy bear picnics. Reading is also still a favourite activity and she will patiently listen to the story now instead of always turning the pages herself.

She is currently transitioning from one nap to no naps but it seems to be a very long process! Some days she flat out refuses to nap so then we bring her to bed early. The danger is when she doesn't nap but then falls asleep too early. There was one day she was out for the count at 5.15pm already so I brought her to bed then. However she ended up waking up for the day at 3.15am which wasn't so great as you can imagine! So now we try to keep her awake till 7pm on those days she skips the nap. When she does nap, sometimes she can sleep for up to three hours which is quite handy when I'm working from home. On those days she then stays up late and doesn't go to sleep for the night till around 10pm.

I was worried about how the current situation would affect her but she has taken it in her stride. I think she's enjoying not going to daycare and having more attention from us. She sometimes asks about the "Kita" (German daycare) and I just say that it's closed and on holidays for a few weeks and she accepts that. When the weather is nice we try to spend some time in the garden or go for a walk around the block.

During one of our walks recently she saw two little girls from our neighbourhood playing and she ran over to them before I could stop her, longing to join in. One of the girls then shouted "Abstand halten!" (keep back) to her. Of course the other girl was right, we are meant to keep kids apart but I couldn't help feeling a bit sad for Mini who is too young to understand.


Lately it can be real struggle for my husband and I trying to juggle home office and looking after Mini and the household. She's ending up having more screentime than we would like and our house could badly do with a good clean. However we are making the most of it as best we can. She's such a fun and sweet person and I feel so grateful having her in our lives.