Monday, April 28, 2014

15 Things: A Countdown

We're heading to the states in 15 days.

Here are the things that I'm thinking about.

1. I don't think I can get in amazing shape in 15 days. I was feeling pretty good about my chances when it was 21, even 19 days. But 15? I don't think I'll be as toned and tight and sculpted as I hoped. What a disappointment.

2. I do think I should start packing.

3. Chick-fil-a.
No!
Wendy's.
No no.
Chick-fil-a.
Waaaait.
BOTH.
Chick-fil-a nuggets and fries. Wendy's frosty. Big decision, the whole "what to eat in the Atlanta airport immediately after we land".

4. I can probably get into halfway decent shape in 15 days if I do some sort of sugar detox or something. But why?

5. Cloth diapering has been awesome for us. But it is not travel friendly. I don't have room in my suitcase for those fluffy dipes. Plus, there's Target. So...disposables it is!

6. I am worried that Olive will think she's been abandoned. We've never left her for this long.

7. I am worried that Olive will be so excited upon our return, she'll pee all over everything.

8. I decided I shouldn't start packing. The better plan is to pack hardly anything so that a massive shopping trip is necessary. Mmm, yes.

9. I realize I'm breaking a social media cardinal rule by sharing when we'll be out of town. But I also realize we live in a military community and our military neighbors will be keeping an eye on our house. So I wouldn't mess with that.

10. Mexican food. Sushi. Waffle House. Chick-fil-a. In no particular order, but all equally essential.

11. Things I'm concerned about: 1) traffic. We don't have it where we live. I am not looking forward to Atlanta traffic. 2) Flying with a baby. I'm just really really nervous about it. 3) Jetlag. With a baby.

12. Friends.

13. Family.

14. Oh my goodness. Nail salons. I cannot wait to get a (few) good mani/pedi. In a salon. With a massage chair. Baby with the grandparents. See you in an hour 3 hours.

15. Mostly, I'm just thrilled for this opportunity to get back "home" for a little bit. It's Z's first time back since we've been in Germany...almost 2 years. It will be Zoe's first (of hopefully many) trip to her Oma and Opa's and Mimi and Poppy's houses. We'll get to see old friends and spend tons of time with our families. We'll be together as a little family. I just can't wait. Yeah, there's a certain level of anxiety involved. But I think it will be a good, relaxing, refreshing time for us. And I am oh so excited.

Bonus 16. It occurs to me that with all of the food-focusing we'll be doing while we're home, I should really wait until we come back to Germany to get in shape. So that's definitely what I'll do. Probably. Either way, I think I'm off the hook for the next 15 days. What a relief.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Keepin' it real

I woke up this morning (really really early, ZOE) and was overwhelmed and mildly horrified to realize I'M ALREADY DOING IT WRONG.

Did not get the memo about Easter outfits and family photos. Already looking into who to reprimand for this oversight.

While perusing social media I was bombarded with picture after picture of sweet babies in precious Easter outfits, smiling in front of their Easter baskets. Most of these babes even had shoes on. CUTE shoes. Easter shoes. Easter shoes to match their Easter outfits. COORDINATING HOLIDAY OUTFITS.

Not only this, but friends (with and without children) were all posting beautiful family pictures...everyone dressed nicely, looking great. Some families even had (here it is again) COORDINATING HOLIDAY OUTFITS. Or at least coordinating colors. Which, to me, is the same thing.

Sigh.

And I'm all over here like "Zoe doesn't really needs pants today, right? I mean, I'm just going to have to take them off every time she needs a diaper change and then put them back ON again and that's just...well, it's a lot to ask."

And really, it's not the cute pictures and sweet outfits that I'm a little bit bitter about. It's the fact that in all of these pictures (save for my fellow Germany-residing friends), it looks WARM. And sunny. I can almost FEEL the warmth coming through the pictures. And then I go outside and have to knock the ice out of Olive's water bowl. How am I supposed to put Zoe in a cute little dress when there is FROST on the ground? I can't handle this.

Secondly, church for us looked like watching Andy Stanley's sermon online from our couch. So, yeah...all dressed up and nowhere to go is really just a huge waste of all dressed up, so I avoid it. A family picture would have been me in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, Z in jeans in a tshirt, and Zoe in a plain white onesie with pink pants. Just kidding, she didn't have pants on. Don't get carried away.

Thank goodness Zoe's Oma sent an Easter basket in the mail, because otherwise...that wouldn't have happened either. Here's the thing, I am one of the 5 people in the world who actually LIKE Marshmallow Peeps, but I'm not going to go out and buy them for myself (or for Zoe's Easter basket which, consequently, turns out to be for me). I have my dignity (she says as she finishes off the bag of jelly beans).

But the great news is twofold:

1. Easter is still a glorious day full of joy and celebration, even (or especially?) without cute outfits or a big family get-together or Easter baskets and candy-filled eggs. He is Risen. This news is the same regardless of how the day is celebrated. I'm thrilled about this. And relieved.

2. Zoe is so young. I can rally next year. Easter outfit, here we come. Or at least, you know, pants.

But seriously, I loved seeing all of those pictures. I wore my thumb out "liking" photos of friends and family, smiling, dressed-up, looking so...warm. I love that social media helps keep us stay connected to so many people we love while we're so far away from them. Especially on holidays, which are always hard.

Happy Easter, friends. A day late, but really, isn't it always appropriate to celebrate this? I think so.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Her Namesake

Naming our little girl turned out to be a little bit challenging...for me. Z was set on Zoe from the beginning, but I was texting him alternate suggestions basically up until she was born. Now that she's here, I can't imagine her as anything OTHER than a Zoe and I'm so glad we stuck with it. Zoe Marie. Zoe is all hers. But Marie she shares with her great-great grandmother on my mom's side.

We were very purposeful about choosing a family name, particularly from my mom's side, for two reasons.

1. Since Zoe gets the Landis last name, we wanted part of her name to come from my family...

2. and we specifically wanted to pull from my mom's side in order to honor my grandmother, my only living grandparent. She's 93 years old and she's amazing. Zoe is her first great-grandchild and that's a pretty big deal...telling my grandmother that we were pregnant was something that was incredibly meaningful to me. She's a wonderful grandmother and I'm so thrilled that she is now a great-grandmother and that we were able to give her that "great" title.

Anyways, we recently got a letter from my sweet grandmother and it contains precious details about my great-grandmother Marie that I previously did not know but that I am so excited to one to share with Zoe when we explain to her how we chose her name.

My grandmother writes:
"I am so honored to have you name Zoe after my mom...I hope by a miracle Zoe receives some of my mom's faith, her hope and her charity."

She goes on to say how over 400 people attended her mother's calling hours during a horrific storm 2 days before Christmas in Erie, Pennsylvania. This woman was loved and valued. She talks about how her mother was the first neighbor to welcome an Italian family to an all-German neighborhood, how she shared products from her garden, and how hard she worked until the day she died.

She also says: "she was gorgeous, witty, a great cook, loved to fish for frogs, took us camping every summer..."

Wow. Doesn't she sound wonderful? Hospitable. Kind. Generous. Hard-working. Adventurous. Strong.

I am thrilled to learn these details about my great-grandmother (who I never knew) and even more thrilled to hear how lovely she was. Zoe comes from a strong line of women on my mom's side...starting with my great-grandmother Marie, followed by my grandmother and then my mom, Zoe's grandmother. We hope and pray she too will develop these solid, wonderful traits.

The letter ends with this, possibly my favorite part: "she was fearless in the storms, the reptiles and the dark."

Zoe Marie, we hope you will live up to your namesake... a woman of faith, hope and charity. Fearless in the storms...the reptiles...and the dark.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

(A really long) Birthday Recap (with pictures)

You know how I feel about birthdays.

They should be big and fun and the celebration should last AT LEAST a week.

Yesterday was my 28th birthday. I feel like I'm about 22...definitely not old enough to be a married adult, DEFINITELY not old enough to have a little baby. Probably old enough to have a dog, but the jury is still out on that one. Olive can stay, I suppose. But definitely old enough to drink. That's important.

Aren't birthdays weird? On the one hand it's like YAY! It's my birthday! and on the other hand it's like whoa...it's my birthday. How did this happen again? And then you have those thoughts like, 10 years ago I was 18. And in 10 years I'll be 38. And it kind of trips you out for a second. Then you text your girlfriends and lament about how much closer to 30 you're getting and anyone who is over 30 rolls their eyes at you like shut up, you're not THAT old. Then you start having discussions about anti-aging eye cream and stuff. And muse over the benefits of daily sunscreen application. I mean, this is maturity, right? When you finally reach the age where you understand the need for daily sunscreen and you actually have the desire to follow through on this good habit because OHMYGOSH are those crow's feet?! No no, the lighting in here is just bad.

Wow. I really got on a roll there and this was not where I intended to go. (But seriously guys, wear sunscreen.)

So. Birthdays.

Z is particularly amazing at celebrating birthdays. Exhibit A: this morning he looks at me and says "HEY! Happy day-after-birthday!". He's good.

This year for my birthday he planned a little weekend getaway down in the Bavarian Alps in a town called Oberammergau. We stayed at a family-owned hotel that also had it's own brewery and Zach surprised me with a big fancy room (we always stay at decent places, but this was a really nice hotel and that was such a birthday treat). This was also our first trip with Miss Zoe, so it was a trial run of sorts...to see how she would do (and probably how we would do). She was just wonderful. Slept like a champion. Stuck to her schedule. No major issues. Have baby, will travel.

Of course you have to make adjustments when you travel with a baby, but hey, flexibility is the new normal over here. Z made reservations at the fancy hotel restaurant one night for the "official birthday dinner" (yes, that's a thing)...and you might be wondering how in the world do you have a nice dinner out with a 10-week-old baby? I'll tell you how. You make the reservation for 5:30pm. Europeans eat dinner LATE, my friends. So we were the only people in the restaurant, which made it way less stressful to have sweet Zoe with us since we weren't worried about her potentially disturbing anyone else. PLUS we had the complete attention of the wait staff AND it felt super exclusive to have the place to ourselves. Silver lining, folks. We were finishing our dessert right as the first "normal" diners were arriving and we were back in our room just in time for Zoe's bath and last meal before her bedtime. Then it was a movie on the iPad for me and Z and that was the night. DELIGHTFUL. Also, we agreed that it was one of the best meals we've had in Germany (yummo)...and Zoe was a champ (huge sigh of relief).

We deemed the weekend a great success and had lots of fun together. It's nice to get away from everyday life and the normal distractions and have undivided "us" time ... we needed that. I'm including some pictures from our weekend away (aka birthday celebration weekend extravaganza) at the end of this post.

Another trip highlight: we stopped in Nuremberg on the way home for a special treat. A Dunkin Donuts store opened up there in February. Forgo the birthday cake...just get me some chocolate sprinkle-covered donuts. Amen. It's not that I ate donuts all that often in the states, but believe you me, when good-ol' American donuts are not readily available to you, they suddenly become highly desirable. And almost necessary for survival. My mouth is watering as I type this. It was a birthday miracle.

My actual birthDAY was uneventful...peaceful and quiet, just the way I like it. (Although Zoe did have her 2-month checkup which meant her first round of immunizations and I was a nervous wreck all day. She was so happy and so smiley and I was DREADING seeing her in pain and worried about having a cranky, feverish little one afterwards. But she did great. Minimal crying. So far, no major issues. She's a tough one, our Zoe.)

Z came home early with flowers and made a yummy dinner for us. I ate savored my last donut (sigh). It was a day full of love and celebration and normalcy... and at one point, as I held a super-smiley little Zoe in my arms, I got a smidge teary thinking about my first birthday as a mom and I squeezed that little one extra tight and thought, "this is really the best birthday ever".

Our little traveler

View from our hotel


Family shot

Breakfast with this guy
 

The brewery bar

View from our balcony

 

Strolling past our hotel



The top balcony was ours















Zoe adores her daddy

And I adore this face

Schloss Linderhof

Restaurant to ourselves...at 5:30pm

My birthday date

Ettal Abbey...Established 1330. The monks run their own brewery.

Happy traveler

Me and my girl

I can hardly stand this. Cute little bunny.

Hallelujah.

My favorite birthday message

This little face...I laugh every time I see this picture.


I love when her eyes smile.

Sweetie


I got lots of fun Zoe-faces for my birthday. It was the greatest.







Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Lens

Today I realized that the lens through which I view my daily life has changed. Drastically. I looked around at my house and thought "Hey...pretty good."

And then it hit me that my "pretty good" today would have been "appalling" 68 days ago, before Zoe joined us.

There's a pile of laundry on the couch, mostly folded.
Pre-Zoe: OH MY GOSH. How hard is it to fold the laundry and take it upstairs?! Just kidding, there has never been a pile of laundry on my couch before.  
Present day: Look at you go! Clean clothes. And some of them are folded?! Get outta here. You're amazing.

The vacuum cleaner is sitting in the middle of the living room.
Pre-Zoe: You brought the vacuum upstairs. Now vacuum and return it to it's storage spot downstairs.
Present day: YOU BROUGHT THE VACUUM UPSTAIRS! *confetti cannon* That's halfway there, so you get 50% credit and that equals (squints hard at the ceiling, mentally calculating)...2 THIN MINTS!!

A stack of thank-you notes sits on the arm of my chair, halfway addressed, halfway stamped (with Kwanzaa and Christmas stamps, sigh)
Pre-Zoe: Save those stamps for next year. Go get new stamps. Maybe some "spring" stamps. Or just those USA flag stamps would be fine too. Do this today. Put all notes in the mail.
Present day: Holy cow, I've finished writing thank-you notes. FULL CREDIT! If I mail them in the next week, EXTRA CREDIT! (I wish I had more Kwanza stamps...that would save me a trip inside the post office)
*turns out I'm pretty sure I mailed one note without an address on it. Woops. That will come back to me, because I DID remember to put a return address on it. So, I'll put that in the "win" category.*

My breakfast bowl and coffee mug are still sitting on the end-table beside me...at 11 am, a good 4 hours after I ate and drank from them.
Pre-Zoe: HAHAHA, I would never be awake at 7am.
Present day: Look at you go! You ate breakfast. AND finished your coffee before noon without reheating it in the microwave 4 times...and forgetting it in the microwave for a 2 hour stretch. Today is a good day!

So that's what life looks like over here these days...and I kind of love it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Woops and Thanks

First of all, THANK YOU. I have received so many emails and messages with a TON of easy, freezable, crockpot-able, yummy-sounding meals and I am SO grateful and SO excited to try these out. WE WILL SURVIVE AFTER ALL! I'll do my best to let you know how it goes.

Secondly, WOOPS. When I originally posted the previous cry for help, I included the wrong email address. I mean, it was the right email address for someone, just not me. The email should have been armythere (at) gmail dot com and I posted armythereYET. That's my bad. Some lovely person named Melissa was getting all kinds of meal planning help and sending friendly emails back to people saying "I'm not the intended recipient" etc. etc. Sorry about that, Melissa. It seems that baby brain is a real thing. But also, you're welcome. Maybe you needed some new dinner ideas. And finally, I really want to know why your email address is armythereyet. We could be friends. Great minds...

Anyways, I have since edited the post and included the correct email address. Most of you either figured it out on your own or emailed my personal address or sent me a Facebook message. I'm so glad your brains are functioning at a higher level than mine. Turns out sleep deprivation is rough on the brain function.

And now I'm off to tend to the child-who-has-decided-to-stop-taking-naps. You've never seen a baby fight to keep her eyes open like Zoe does. So it makes my days decidedly less productive, in terms of getting things done around the house, cooking, showering, etc. She's awake and she wants to be held. And I'm pretty happy to comply, especially because this not-sleeping-during-the-day thing is leading to 7 and 8 hour stretches of sleep at night (hallelujah). Plus, she's pretty cute so I can't be too grumpy about the new "no naps" policy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

This is where you help me

ATY Readers: This is it. A cry for help.

But first, a guilt trip.

Here I am, a brand-new, first-time mom. I'm adjusting to the hormones. The lack of sleep. The recent time-change in Germany (we sprang...sprung...we springed forward this past weekend. Difficult to lose that hour of sleep in normal circumstances, but with a newborn? THE HARDEST THING EVER). Far far faaaaaaar away from "home" and family and my mom.

All of this and I'm still expected to make dinner. Cruel world!

When Zoe was born, we had meals from friends for the first few weeks. Amazing. Always bring families with new babies meals. It is one of the greatest gifts.

Then my mom was here and she planned and cooked meals for 3 weeks PLUS stocked our freezer to the brim with additional meals for after she left. There is really nothing better than opening up that freezer and defrosting dinner. It requires no thinking or planning on my part. And very little shopping/preparation. I just heat that dish up, add one of those microwave steam-fresh bag of veggies and BAM! Dinner...and sometimes even lunch for Z the next day. Glorious.

So now those freezer meals are starting to dwindle and with each container I pull out for another dinner I'm all "ohmygosh WHAT WILL WE EAT WHEN THERE ARE NO MORE CONTAINERS?!"

And now we're here. Crying for crockpot help. Because I realize that I have to start doing things like "meal-planning" or else we're living on Cheerios (which is totally fine with me, but you know, there's Zach...). So what I'm going to do is start relying heavily on my crockpot and my freezer to take the pain and suffering out of dinnertime every day. I'll use the weekend (when Z is around to help with Zoe) to plan or prep meals for the week and meals for the freezer. The idea is simple, healthy meals that freeze well and/or are crockpot friendly.

Look, I know about Pinterest. And Google. And I could spend all day looking up meal plans and recipes and whatnot. But again, baby Zoe. So that's hard. ALSO, I can only stand to see so many "sausage and peppers" meals. EVERY SINGLE freezer or crockpot meal plan list I've seen has a "sausage and peppers" meal. Is it really that good or is that just giving up?

What I'm looking for are tried and true recipes that freeze well or crockpot well. Or both. Freezer to crockpot is really ideal, don't you think? But I won't be too picky. So will you guys send me your favorites? And let's be honest here, if it has ingredients like "fresh bay leaves" or "mint pulled from your garden 2 hours ago" I'm going to have to pass.

Shoot me an email at armythere (at) gmail dot com OR my personal email OR Facebook message me OR comment on this post.

We thank you in advance. Zach particularly thanks you in advance. Because he doesn't love Cheerios the way that I do. Does anyone, really?