Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Fun 2012

Christmas 2012 has come and gone. PJ's second Christmas; for him, this time it was a lot more fun and about one million times more active. For me? I was mostly in bed - except when I dragged my sick self to my in-laws - with strep throat. Blah.

Anywho - turns out that we need to start a little earlier than Christmas itself because I forgot to share the pictures and story of when we got our Christmas tree. We drove to a Christmas farm close to our small town. There were a lot of pre-cut trees, but the largest sign said "Cut Your Own!". As soon as he saw that, the Mr. said to me, "Did you bring your saw?"

As in, there is no way that my husband would have a saw or - you know - use it.

Well, me either but I totally took advantage of the silliness the entire time we were there. My saw. Hilarious.

I was the only person impressed by the Santa. 
PJ LOVED playing "where's PJ?" among the maze of Christmas trees. 

Can this child be any more beautiful. Really.

He wasn't a big fan on the snow. 

The Mr. and I are pragmatic and we played "Where's PJ?" far longer than it took us to pick out our tree. When PJ got sick of the game, the cold, and the snow, we threw the tree into the car and went home to put it together. You'll see it later in the pictures.

Yeah, so back to Christmas. Just like last year, we first had Christmas Eve, aka "German Christmas" at my in-laws. To be frank, I had no voice, was on antibotics for strep throat, and my body hurt almost every time I moved - I just wanted to be at home in my bed with tea and soup. But it was Christmas so I sucked it up and ventured out of the house. Considering how awful I felt, it was an overall nice evening.

As usual the evening started with a shared dinner and then we opened gifts together. PJ made out like a bandit as to be expected for the first grandchild, right?
My father-in-law
Uncle Handsome
Me! That's me! Back in red. 

A ridiculously handsome group of Steinbachs.
PJ wasn't too thrilled with dinner - who wants to sit still when there are rooms to explore? - but he was all over gift opening. Especially nice, big ones:

"For me? Sweet. How do I open this thing?"

"What could it be? What could it be?"
"A bike!!! I've got wheels!!!"

 The bike came from S-Squared and Uncle Handsome. PJ loves it.
The bike is a pedal-less bike that is rather common over here. They essentially make training-wheels pointless since the children learn to balance before they get a bike with pedals. To see the other kids riding around on these things, they can really fly.  PJ is still a tiny tick too small for his bike, so he graciously permitted his uncle to roll him around the living room.

The gifts just kept coming; PJ even got a cooking apron from Oma. 
Since I was so sick, we skipped the arm wrestling tradition at the Mr's house and went home early. Boy was I grateful to climb into my bed. What one doesn't do for her family?

The next day was American Christmas and we enjoyed a slow, gentle day, just the three of us. It was wonderful. I still felt bad but at least I had something of a voice. While PJ is more or less sleeping through the night these days, he is waking up very early. On Christmas he was up at 5 am and we were eating an early snack by 5:30.

Yes, we all ate cookies for our early snack. Go ahead and judge.
They were awesome.
Then a diaper change was in order so the boys went upstairs while I got the gifts, music, candles and lights ready. I have to say, it was beautiful. The candles were on the shelves around the walls of the room and the light was beautiful.

Our little tree.

The Steinbach clan. I personally think PJ is rocking that
chocolate mustache.

All in all it took us about three hours to open and put together all the gifts. Santa brought PJ a wooden train track system. It has bridges and tunnels and the whole 9 yards. We had to simplify it a bit and he played with it for a long time.

For the record: I got books and was stoked.

After real breakfast and a shared nap time, we needed to get out of the house. This year Christmas day was about 50 some degrees Fahrenheit - so we played football (soccer) in front of our home.


Then seasame crusted salmon with sweet potatoes and a salad for dinner - which I made and it. was. awesome. - and a slow wrap up to a wonderful day.

Merry Christmas readers - did you make it this far? If you did, may I please ask you to take a moment and be grateful for your life and send up a prayer/thought for the families in Newtown? Thanks.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I'm struggling, people. Struggling. I guess this is the time to dance.


My favorite part is around 0:10 when PJ pauses to catch the beat. The beat in my life changed over the weekend; I'm going to need some time to catch onto the new one. When I've picked up the beat enough to start grooving again, maybe I'll share what's going on in my own little dance. Frankly, I'm not sure what my own dancefloor is built upon right now.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Because I Can

I just sat with my little boy and nursed him to sleep. Then I held him. Sang to him. Whispered my hopes and my dreams for him into his tiny ear. Things like, "I hope you know your dreams and have the strength to follow them.", "I hope you always know and give love.", and "I hope I am here to share this wonderful adventure of life with you for a very long time."

And now, "I hope that you always enjoy safety at school."

Or more clearly said, "I hope I never send you to school and instead of learning or building friendships or making gingerbread houses, you are shot and killed."

And, "I hope I never send you to school and you watch your best friend die."

This is not about gun control. This is not about universal health care services and availability. This is not about stopping the gap as it widens between those that Have and those that Have Not. This is not about getting to know the people we live next to. This is not about limiting video games and movies that are violent just to be violent.

This is about massacre prevention. This is about the too-many-to-count people who have died in vain, in places like schools, movie theaters, restuarants, malls, places of worship across the United States of America. This is about not allowing these children to have died in vain. Look at those ages.

Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine F. Hsu, 6
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison N. Wyatt, 6
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Rachel Davino, 29
Look at those ages. Twice.
And before you continue reading, take a moment and look at their faces. Look at their faces

Those children should be getting rocked by their parents.They should be getting held. They should be getting sang to. They should be listening to hopes and dreams as they enter their little ears.

And their parents. Their parents should be rocking their children. Holding their children. Singing to their children. Whispering their hopes and dreams into their childrens' little ears.

But they aren't. And they never will. Ever again.

That is not just 'not okay', that is wrong. It is time to have an open discourse about what is obviously, fundamentally wrong with modern American society. It is time to grieve, to pray, and to change.

Before I laid PJ down onto his bed, I closed my eyes and I prayed. I prayed for those children that will never be rocked, held, sang or whispered to ever again. I prayed for those parents that will never rock, hold, sing, or whisper to their children again. I prayed for the teachers. Those heros.

And then I prayed for real change. Like child abuse, this is a mountain I am willing to bleed on, die on. Because I'm tired of watching my society pretend what is going on isn't more than a series of 'mental ill' individuals doing something that is 'not okay'.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving, I may have mentioned a few times, is my super favorite holiday (best description of how I feel each year is in this blog entry). We were lucky enough to host Thanksgiving 2012 in our new home with a collection of friends: Professor's family; my fabulous stay-at-home mom's family; and a new friend and her son. All told, we were 12 people, 5 of them children.

Man, it was loud, active, and so much fun!

Two families work for German companies and took the day off; the other two work for the US Army and had the day off anyway. So, we actually got to celebrate ON Thanksgiving Day which somehow makes it feel even more 'real' for me. We need to take advantage of it while we can; once PJ starts school (and assuming we are still here), that most likely won't be as possible any more.

Anywho, preparations started the day before and PJ played a nice role. He wasn't a big fan of his apron but he did like tasting everything being prepared.

Then early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, I got the fresh turkey ready. The year I went super simple: butter, salt, butter, garlic, and that's about it. With our new oven in our new kitchen, it was a breeze. In fact, the turkey was finished faster than we could have anticipated.

I'll be really humble here and admit it was the best turkey I have ever made. I make a mean turkey.

It still took too long for PJ, who demanded a snack before all of our friends arrived for the feast.

Finally the turkey was ready, our guests were around, the kids were jumping off the sofa, and Funny Man took up the honor of carving the bird.
Seriously - that is an awesome bird.

Funny Man may have been a little nervous.

Until he totally got into it. 
Then we were finally ready to feast. And feast we did! Each family brought one or two or even more side dishes. All of them were fabulous.

And then we played....

And then we ate some more.

And then played some more.

And then our day came to a slow end. As the following picture shows, I was relaxed, content, and already looking forward to next year.

I will be the first to admit that I'm not the best cook, but I truly enjoy preparing, sharing, and enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. Because I still "want PJ to grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, knowing that it is a special day for him as a key aspect of one of his two cultures. I want him to look forward to the special day just like I did and to trust that it will come, that family and friends will come, that thanks will be shared. I want him not to believe in a fairy tale about Indians but to learn to stop for a moment - hopefully more often than just once a year - to give thanks because he is indeed a very lucky boy. " - From Thanksgiving 2011


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Special Day 2012

My special day was just a few days ago. First, I - wait, I mean, we - opened my gifts.

PJ getting into the action. 

PJ taking over the action.

For the record I got two books from my favorite chick lit German author; a lasagna dish; a brownie dish; and a casserole dish. Like the handheld vacuum from 2009, I was excited about them all. Food! Baking! Yummies!

After breakfast and gifts, we headed over to Speyer. Adorableness happened in the first five minutes.

You know its adorable.

Our first stop was at the Speyer SeaLife, a sort of massive aquarium. When we arrived PJ was given a shark hat. He was less than impressed so I put it on. It was my birthday after all.

I'm pretty sure I rock this hat. 
PJ was immediately smitten with the fish, especially since the exhibits were remarkably clever. For instance, the exhibit below actually included small fish that looked massive through the half-circle of thick glass that magnified each fish.

But the most impressive exhibit was definitely the floor to ceiling windows into a pond-sized aquarium that had mirrors on both sides. THAT was the absolute, hands down best one. PJ thought so too.

Our second step was a relaxed dinner in a traditional-ish beer hall. I'm using the term 'relaxed' in parent terms here. Afterwards, we managed to snap a quick family picture.

There we are: the Steinbach clan. 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Time is Precious - Is It Time To Walk Away?

Last week I got a shock: Pickles and Onions' blog storage space was totally filled. To continue our little blog here - and include pictures - we'd have to pay a monthly fee. It isn't a lot of money but it changes the set-up and raised the question, "Do I want to continue writing this blog, however humble the cost?"

Honestly, reader, I needed to think about it for a little while before coming to a decision. Life has changed since I started Pickles and Onions, Life in the Steinbach clan. I have an awesome but rather time and emotion consuming little man. I'm happily married and that, naturally, takes time and effort. I have lovely friends ... okay, that hasn't changed that much, but finding time to enjoy their company has. I'm finally getting back into the jogging groove after a too long break (three years, but who's counting?). I also have my American family and I want to have time to enjoy who they are and who they are becoming. Oh, yeah, and I still work full-time in the corporate world.

Then there is that whole sleep thing too. Sleep takes time too. And I am very happy to commit all the time I can to that whenever I can.

In other words: Time is precious. So, so very precious. Writing a blog also requires time and, lets be frank here, I haven't been taking the time to do a good job. Recently I've been sticking with okay: throwing some pictures into an entry; weaving a rather weak story around them; and signing off with 'xo'. Less than inspiring stuff, if you ask me.

My family is the most important part of my life, but, really, I didn't mean to turn this blog into a picture gallery. I've meant to write entries that share my thoughts and experiences as well as a glimpse into wonderful world we inhabit with our little man. Which is where the issue of time comes up. Where do I want to dedicate my time - because I can't and won't try to do everything. Already I played with the idea of getting this thing printed and walking away from a good run.

So, when faced with the requirement of suddenly paying a humble free for the ability to continue to this blog, the question of stopping became evermore present. I thought about it; the Mr. and I talked about it; and...well, here is my decision:

Pickles and Onions will continue. With pictures. And a whole lot less pressure on yours truly.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Out with the Old Part 2

A few weeks ago I shared some pictures of our ongoing patio project. The Garden Goddess continues to work miracles; yesterday she cut the strange shaped stones to fill in the gaps that were still there. Today PJ took advantage of another warm spell and a brand new patio to play football (soccer).

I don't know about you but those last few seconds are a.) proof that this kid is a natural in front of a camera b.) a little astonishing because - hello? - PJ is 16 months old, not 20 and/or c.) by far the most adorable three seconds of film I've ever gotten of him.

What do you think?


Monday, November 19, 2012

St Martin's Parade!

This year was my - cough - I mean, PJ's first Saint Martin's parade. It was totally rad!

It started with a shared dinner with new friends who also happen to live in our same little town. The mom and I met on the playground when we had first moved to Schwetzingen. Meeting her was like taking a nice sip of an excellent wine (her) right after having taking a swig of vinegar wine (the other moms that stopped talking to me when I told them I was 'already' working). Our little guys are about the same age but couldn't be more different.

Her little guy is a quiet watcher. He walks along the outside of the group, checking out the dynamics and options. Only then does he his move towards a toy or a person that interests him. He isn't one for conflicts and tends to hand over or move away from whatever toy another child finds interesting. Lets call him Watcher.

PJ is, um, the opposite. He dives right on in...he may not know what he is diving into, but he is right in the center. And he is the guy who is helping himself to everyone else's toys.

It isn't always easy to be Watcher when PJ is around but over the past couple of months, he has gotten a bit tougher, a bit stronger, and he has even learned to 'schmipf' (scold) with PJ from time to time. Even with all that, buddies they are and I hope buddies they will stay. Cause the mommies and the daddies get along...and how often does that happen?

After dinner, we got all bundled up, grabbed our lanterns, and headed out the door towards the castle. The Watcher was a bit smoother with his paper lantern than PJ who took the more energetic "slam against the ground" method before losing interest.

PJ with his lantern. 

Our new friends!

At the castle hundreds of people gathered together to parade through the castle garden. We were led through the dark by a brass band. From the far back we could watch the dancing lanterns weave and pop through the flowers and the trees towards the castle itself. When we finally caught up, we joined the crowd in a massive, closed circle. In the middle of the circle pranced a large dark horse with a knight - who later became St. Martin - dressed as we imagine a knight from biblical times would be dressed, including a massive cloak. 

All those little lights are lanterns! All the way to the castle (building on the left).

Its a long walk and PJ has little legs.

Apparently there was a bit of a play in which a St. Martin on his horse offered part of his cloak to a poor, cold beggar. I missed all of that because a band was playing and PJ and I were busy dancing in the back.

After the beggar had his cloak and the knight morphed into St. Martin, the crowd slowly meandered towards the castle doors. There each child got a croissant-like thing. I'm not sure what that is suppose to represent but I'm pretty sure PJ thought it was super yummy.

Pickle, PJ, Watcher, and Watcher's Mommy

To close out the night both families went to a temporary ice skating ring set up on the platz in front of the castle and enjoyed a hot wine or beer.

PJ with his buddy.

Then we slowly walked back home, all of us tired but satisfied.

It was an awesome night. I'm looking forward to our second year!

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