Kindergarten, Already?!?

Mandatory first day of school photos!

Seriously, how is my little girl in kindergarten? Well for starters, kindergarten in Germany is actually preschool. In Germany, schooling is taken seriously. Before the age of 3, kids go to Kita (daycare) or a Tagesmutter (day mother) if their parents work or need child care. Kindergarten or preschool begins at 3. Once the child is 3 years old, they have to be accepted into a preschool somewhere within city limits and if you are lucky, near your home. At the age of 6, kids go to regular school. Oh, and homeschooling is illegal. (Crazy to think about in the time of Covid-19 where families in the US who have never thought of homeschooling before are potentially choosing that option to keep their kiddos safe).

Our town has a system where every child is given a Kinderbetreuungspass (childcare pass) number. Parents register their child into a childcare system and apply for different kindergartens. Carson was luckily accepted into a preschool near our home, about a 10 minute walk. Her best friend also goes to the same school.

So excited for her first day!

Carson started school back in August. What is different between the American schooling system and the German schooling system is a phase known as the “settling in” phase. From my experience as a teacher in the US, parents drop their children off at school on the first day of school in the morning and pick them up at the end of the school day. Yes, there are tears (by both parents and kiddos) but its more of a jump with both feet into the deep end approach. In Germany, its a weeks long process to get the children ready and comfortable with going to school a full day. More of a dip your toe in the water and gradually walk until the water gets deeper and deeper approach. By week two the water has reached your knee caps and by week three its at your waist.

Minnie backpack & bunny, she’s ready to go.

Just to give you an idea of what the “settling in” phase looks like, everyday week one, the parent and child experience the classroom for one hour. The child is allowed to explore and play while the parent sits off to the side. Throughout the “settling in” phase the parent is only to interact with the child if and when the child interacts with the parent. Week two, the child and parent go into the classroom for two hours. If the child seems comfortable, the parent leaves/waits outside for the last 15-30 minutes. The length of time is dependent on how comfortable the child is and whether the child can be comforted by an adult other then their parent. Week three, the child goes to school for about half a day. For Carson, this meant that she was dropped off in the morning and I picked her up right after lunch. Week four, the child goes to school for the entire day but the parent is a quick phone call away.

Yes, this is a long process. However, I found it particularly helpful. I do not speak German and Carson does not speak German. I am also very used to the American school system and knew very little to nothing of the German school system. It was nice to be in the classroom to experience circle time, play groups, toilet breaks, and interactions between Carson and classmates/teachers. Since her “settling in” phase was during a global pandemic, only one new parent/student combo were allowed in the classroom at a time (and with a mask, of course). In normal, non-pandemic times, 3-4 new students and their parents would be in the classroom at the same time.

Carson has been in kindergarten for about four months already! Wow, where has the time gone? After a month of Carson going to kindergarten regularly, I met with her teacher to check in on her progress. It was a 30 min parent/teacher conference where Carson’s teacher informed me that Carson loves all things school related, especially circle time and singing. She said that Carson has many friends and while they may not speak the same language it hasn’t stopped them from communicating and playing all day.

Carson prefers to walk to and from school. No more stroller. Such a big girl.
Ready to Potty Train

Toilet Training Time

Ready to Potty Train
Excited to start potty training!

Well, the time has finally come to toilet train our two year old (a newly turned 28 month old but who’s counting). I did my research, read the book “Potty Training in 3 Days” by Brandi Brucks, purchased 2 packs of underwear and gathered up the rewards (sticker charts, stickers, and M&Ms). Luckily we scored a Toilet Trainer Seat with Ladder from a friend because not all European toilets are the same shape and it didn’t fit on her toilet. We rolled up the living room rug and were ready for a 3 day staycation (not leaving the house for anything) as well as a 3 day electronic break (no phones or tv to really give the toilet training kiddo our full attention).

Ready to Toilet Train
Ready to toilet train: books, toilet trainer with ladder, potty training book, M&Ms and sticker chart.

The original plan was to start on a Saturday but because Germans are following CDC guidelines like wearing masks and practicing social distancing some regulations have been relaxed. I was able to go to Dusseldorf for a ladies night out, dinner and a movie. It was delightful…but also not fair to Jeff who would be toilet training by himself the first night while also taking care of Christopher. Not that he couldn’t do it, it just wouldn’t be fair. So, we started on a Sunday so both parents could be home the whole first day. Additionally, we were babysitting another kiddo that day.

Potty Training Help
Carson wanted to make sure her friend knew what to do on the toilet. Friends help each other out!

Day 1: The day began with Carson gathering all of her diapers and throwing them away. This way she knew that diapers were no longer an option. Initially she was interested in wearing “big girl underwear” and using the toilet but became frustrated with us constantly reminding her to tell us when she needed to use the toilet. Getting Carson to pause what she was doing and run to the toilet when she “felt the urge” took some time. We quickly went through 11 of the 12 pairs of Elsa & Minnie Mouse underwear. Around pair number 3, Carson would pee a little and say “WET”. We would run her to the toilet and she would finish. She definitely got the hang of getting to the toilet to pee by the end of the day. Number twos were a different story.

Day 2 &3: A complete blur…many successes, a few back slides and finally a number two on the toilet! I was starting to think it wouldn’t happen. According to the book, you don’t actually leave the house for 3 days but if things are going well, you are able to venture out for a little bit on day 4.

Day 4: We ventured out to the park, and for longer then the recommended 30 minutes. Needless to say, accidents happened. I only brought one extra pair of underwear so after she peed in the second pair she had to continue wearing them until we got home (not too long).

Day 5: We went back to the park. Carson told me she had to pee. After quickly ripping off her pants, she decided she didn’t want to pee in the park. She also didn’t want to put her pants back on.

Quick Pee Break
Trying to take care of business in the park.
Waving to the Choo Choo while pantsless.

Day 6-present day: No pee accidents! We try before we leave the house and again as soon as we come home. Even when we are out for long periods of time, Carson holds it in. She is also getting better with number twos. Only 2 number two accidents since Day 1. It seems like Carson picked it up pretty quickly. She has also been waking up dry from nap and night time. This afternoon I tempted the fates and let her take her nap in regular underwear, not the sleep underwear (pull-ups). No accidents! Fingers crossed her success story continues.

Diaper Cake

American Style Baby Shower

*This took place in early February, before social distancing.

Great news, I’m not the only pregnant lady in the friend group! One of Jeff’s coworkers is expecting in early March. Like in every culture, there are traditions around the arrival of babies and baby showers in Germany. For one, they don’t do baby showers.

The belief is that its bad luck to celebrate a baby who isn’t in the world yet. Instead of showering the mother or couple with gifts BEFORE the baby is born, they wait until AFTER. Then everyone, on their own terms, visit the new baby and parents at the house where the new mother serves her guests beverages and cake. Yes, you read that correctly…the NEW MOTHER serves beverages and cake to the guests, who come whenever they want! Um…no.

Luckily for us, she allowed us to throw her one classic “American Style” baby shower!

Since the couple decided not to share the baby’s gender, we decided on a Woodland Animal theme. We also decided against some of the traditional baby games (How big is mom’s belly, What’s in the Diaper? because one is degrading and makes the mom feel like cr@p and the other is just gross) and instead played Baby Jeopardy, Guess the Gummy Bears, and a Diaper Raffle.

Juice bar, liquor bar, critter cookie thank yous, and a diaper cake!
Even the food was woodland critter themed.

One of the things I love about our expat family is that we are all in different walks of life and are all from different places. Some attendees to the shower are grandparents and have done this sort of thing numerous times while others are young professionals and this was their first time attending a baby shower. Needless to say, a good time was had by all. Baby Jeopardy was a huge success with categories including Baby Animals, Disney Movies, Baby Trivia, Things Found up a Toddler’s Nose, and Baby Babble. All teams were given a dry erase marker and board to provide their answers. I’m happy to report that the new parents team won!

Baby Jeopardy
Baby Jeopardy
Baby Jeopardy

Our gift to the soon-to-be new parents was a diaper cake & grooming kit. This was my first time making a diaper cake and it won’t be my last. It was fairly easy once I had all the supplies.

Diaper Cake: complete with swaddles to cover the top and bottom tiers, baby rattle, crinkle toy, stroller book, and sock, bib, hat & mitten flowers on top.
Gratitude Log

Resolutions or Healthy Habits?

habit tracker
Habit tracker to keep me on track!

If you are anything like me, you look to each year as a fresh start. A way to fix or correct all of your bad habits from the previous year. Also, if you are anything like me, you have had the same new year’s resolutions since, well, I can’t remember….2015?🤷‍♀️ Its the end of January (now mid February) and I am just now jumping back on the blog. Clearly 2020 is off to a good start. 😉

This year I am writing down & sharing my goals, not resolutions, in hopes to keep them and build better habits. I’ve also created a calendar/daily tracker to help keep me motivated and on track. When an item has been completed, it gets crossed off! (Clearly this example hadn’t been used yet.) I have found that this system really works for me and keeps me accountable.

  • Up at 7am (or when alarm is set)
    • This is difficult for me. Carson naturally wakes up between 8 and 8:30 every morning. Pregnancy sleep (or non-sleep) and dark mornings make staying in bed seem extremely desirable. However, I am a morning person and once I am up, I am productive. If I wait until the end of the day, things don’t seem to happen. Jeff leaves for work around 7 so getting up at that time allows me to kiss him goodbye and have an hour of “me” time.
  • Exercise 30 min daily (gym or home)
    • Luckily for me, the gym has good coffee and free kinder care. Its also lucky for me that I have 2 good girlfriends that I meet up with almost every weekday at the gym for a little sweat session and a coffee chat. Jeff easily convinces me to join him at the gym on the weekends. Lately my gym workouts have consisted of a 35 min walk followed by a series of either arm or leg machines. It is much harder for me to get motivated to workout at home…but I’m trying.
  • Focus on blog (write & schedule, post weekly)
    • Obviously 2020 (aka January) was not off to a great start…as in, I didn’t blog once. I have some content scheduled but need to just focus and write it! Hopefully this post will be my turning point.
  • Read or listen to a book 30 min daily/Read 12 books this year
    • Not sure why it has taken so long but I have finally discovered Audible. Listening to a book has become part of my weekday morning routine. I listen when I make Carson’s breakfast and when we sit down to eat.
    • Between listening to and reading, I completed 5 books in January! (Educated, The Last Mrs. Parrish, The Silent Patient, Where the Crawdads Sing, & Little Fires Everywhere) February has been a little slower, as in I have only completed 2 books but I am working on my third (Such a Fun Age, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler and Before We Were Yours)
Jan-Feb Books 2019
January-February Books
  • Daily gratitude
    • Its important to take time to realize and list the things in your life you are grateful for. Every morning during breakfast, I write down 5 things I am grateful for, big and small. In minimizing all the extra cr@p around my house, I keep one calendar/agenda that holds everything: calendar, to do list, meal planning, gratitude log, etc which is what you see here.
Gratitude Log
Gratitude Log
  • Daily meditation
    • Not sure why it took so long but I just discovered the Calm App. It was originally downloaded when we returned from the US after Christmas and I needed a way to beat the awful jet lag (I had heard wonderful things about the bedtime stories). Within a week I had discovered the meditation part of the app and introduced it into my morning routine. I love the 10-15 minute meditation sessions! If you haven’t tried it…try it now!
Calm App
Calm App
  • Develop & stick to morning & night routine
    • Seriously, how did I make it into my 30s with never having a morning & night routine. I never made it a priority to wash my face, clean up toys/stuff, get dishes out of the sink…until now. Sticking to my routine and doing a few little things daily has made a huge impact on my happiness…especially when I wake up in the morning (to do my daily meditation). The house is picked up, dishes are in the dishwasher and clean, and I feel refreshed. I guess it just took my about 10+ more years then others in my age bracket.
  • Log food/eat more veggies
    • In the past few months, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say that I can eat whatever I want in whatever quantity because I am pregnant. If I do this too often, it will be impossible to get rid of the baby weight once baby 2 is born. Using Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix portioning, I have been consciously adding more fruits and veggies into my diet and less carbs (even through carbs are delicious, fast, and easy).
  • No phone/less screen time around Carson
    • This one has been exceptionally hard, especially since my US friends are up and on social media around the same time Carson is up from her midday nap.

Fingers crossed these healthy habits stick 🤞. Hopefully your 2020 resolutions and/or healthy habits stick too.

Friendly Traditions

Does anyone else have holiday traditions with your friends? I do! A few actually.

This years winning ornament! So excited to take this one home!

White Elephant Ornament Exchange: Every year a group of girlfriends gets together for a Cookie & White Elephant Ornament Exchange. Everyone brings a wrapped ornament that they would like to have on their tree (I did full on white elephant ornament one year. The tin angel is still talked about and hence, the rule about bringing a nice ornament…one you would like to have). All participants blindly choose a number and the games begin. The person who drew number one starts by choosing and unwrapping an ornament. The ornament is then displayed throughout the exchange. The next person can either steal the ornament or choose and unwrap one. Ornaments can only be stolen twice. If someone steals your ornament you have the option to steal another or unwrap a new one. The game ends with number one. They may either steal an ornament that is still in play or choose to keep the one they have.

All ornaments are still wrapped at the beginning of the game.
The little German guy holding the beer stein is my contribution this year. Here he is with his new friend in his new home.

Cookie Exchange: Love baking cookies but prefer an assortment to being stuck with only one kind? If yes, then the cookie exchange is for you! All participants bring 2 doz + cookies to the exchange. Holding empty Tupperware we walk around the table and grab 1-2 cookies from each batch until our containers are full.

My iced sugar cookie for this years exchange.
The cookie table 2019

It’s A Wonderful Life: Last but definitely not least, our friend group gets tickets to Its A Wonderful Life. A local theater plays the Christmas classic. Each year, we dress in our ugly Christmas sweaters and enjoy the showing. We hiss whenever Potter is on screen, sing Buffalo Girls, recite all the lines and of course ring a bell every time Clarence is on the screen.

Crew in 2017

Christmas Eve

Holiday Traditions, Part 2

Not sure about your family but in mine, we always take pictures in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Well, not everyone…more like me and my two cousins. The combination of family members in front of the tree changes from year to year but our cousin picture is always a constant.

Same cousins, same living room, different tree

We also have a fancy Christmas Eve dinner with everyone sitting around one table (remember, small family). In the past few years the tradition includes family members helping with various dishes like Glühwein (clearly our addition), salad, veggie, potato, etc. After dinner, we snack on an assortment of cookies, pop the holiday crackers/poppers, and play a family game. Before everyone heads their separate ways for the evening, we read “The Night Before Christmas”. Everyone reads one page as we pass the book around the table. Some years we even use silly voices.

In the top picture, notice the tree (also pictured previously) and the set table in the background.

Cookies for Santa

Holiday Traditions, Part 1

My family, the Dieter side, is small. Three sisters, three cousins, three second cousins…soon to be four, plus spouses/significant others. Our small family has been gathering for Christmas in Washington DC for as long as I can remember. And in the 30+ years we’ve been going to DC, we’ve created quite a few traditions.

One of those traditions is baking cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve day. Every year for the past 10 years, my cousin hosts our family for brunch and cookie making on December 24th. Each year my niece & nephew (officially second cousins) use the various stampers to cut out the cookie shapes and we all gather around to ice the cookies.

Cookies for Santa

I’ve always loved this tradition and hope in continues when Carson is old enough to participate.


It’s Christmas time in Europe which means the Christmas Markets are open for business and plentiful! And let me tell you, the Europeans LOVE their Christmas markets! Please enjoy this post of pictures (mostly Essen & Vienna).

Vienna, Austria (Wiener Weihnachtsmarkt)
Vienna has numerous Weihnachtsmarkts. This one at the Rathaus (city hall) was large and packed!)
Essen’s Weihnactsmarkt is canopied in lights. Gorgeous!
Lights, booths full of handcrafted goods, gingerbread hearts, and yummy food (of course this American was craving nachos…don’t worry, I had already enjoyed a Currywurst).
Don’t forget the Glühwein and Feuerzangenbowle (& Kinderpunsch)!
A few more from Vienna. Weihnachtsmarkt during the day & Carson’s first experience with cake.
Vienna is known for their cafes. This one did not disappoint.

Close Call, Lisbon

I’d like to blame it on pregnancy/mommy brain, but unfortunately this one is all on me. Jeff and I had scheduled one last “quick family trip” to Lisbon, Portugal before Carson and I headed back to the states for the holidays.

Our things were packed, we parked at the airport and were checking in when I suddenly realized I had forgotten our passports at the house. Since the flight was international, we wouldn’t be able to travel on just our Aufenthaltstitel (German residency card). As soon as we realized this, Jeff hopped out of the check-in process and headed straight for the car. The only thing that was on our side was that the plane was delayed by 40 minutes and there are many stretches of the Autobahn that don’t have speed limits.

No passports, a 45 minute anxious wait, and safely on the plane.

We made it! 45 minutes later, my knight in shining armor came racing through the terminal with passports in hand. Since we travel with a stroller, we were guided to the family security line and made it through security in under 5 minutes (for the record, that never happens). We were also flying out of the gate that is closest to the security lanes (again, never happens). We got to the gate just as they were calling preferred passengers and families! 🙌

Flying into Lisbon

Flying into Portugal was fantastic. The flight pattern takes you out over the ocean and back to land so you can watch the waves crash along the beautiful coastline then fly over the hilly coastal city with the red-roofed, white buildings…gorgeous. We landed around rush hour on a Thursday afternoon, so taking the train into the city was our best bet of getting to the hotel quickly. It’s also Jeff’s favorite way to travel.

Trolley, shopping street with Tuk-tuk, mosaic pathways, Bertrand book store

We stayed near the Marques de Pombal & Avenide de Liberdade so getting around the city by either walking or taking the train was quite easy. The only thing not easy were the hills and this pregnant mama! Oh, the hills.

Since it was a quick trip, we let our friends Kelsey and Adam lead the way. They had already been in Lisbon for a bit and it wasn’t their first time. They took us down the Avenide de Liberdade, past the colossal Starbucks, through the hilly streets to Bertrand book store. Established in 1732, it is the oldest operating book shop in the world. We then headed to my new favorite place, the TimeOut Market for lunch. It was glorious. So many different types of food to choose, fresh seafood, meat & cheese galore, and delicious pastels! (We went there multiple times on this very short trip).

TimeOut Market, Lisbon
Carmo Convent

Jeff and I also stumbled upon the Convento da Ordemdo Carmo (Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) a medieval church and convent that was completed in 1407 and destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 when the nave collapsed. There is also a museum in the back. Well worth the 5 Euros per person.

Arco da Rua Augusta, Ponte 25 de Abril, Jeff & sleepy Carson

Lisbon is one of the larger cities we’ve been to lately and since we didn’t schedule a lot of time there, we took a hop on/hop off city sightseeing bus tour. Well worth it! The tour picked up at the Marques de Pombal (near our hotel), took us all the way out to the Padrao dos Descobrimetos & the Torre de Belem, past the Praca do Comercio, up the Avenide de Liberdade, back to the Marques de Pombal.

Padrao dos Descobrimetos, Torre de Belem, beautiful church, Roman aqueduct, Parque Eduardo VII, Campo Pequeno, steel pedestrian bridge, tile

We also explored the city at night. Everything was beautifully lit and festive! I’ve heard great things about Lisbon during the warmer months but must say that we definitely enjoyed our time there in December.

Top left to bottom right: Carson sleeps through Europe with some Fado musicians, Jeff & Carson on bus tour, Jeff & Carson outside of colossal Starbucks, Carson chugging my coffee (empty cup), Anne at 21 weeks pregnant with Baby Grimm 2 at the Convento da Ordemdo Carmo, Anne on tour

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Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Completed Chicken Pot Pie Casserole (aka: Pure Deliciousness)!

When Carson was little and experiencing food for the first time, she loved it all. She would try just about anything and it was wonderful. Now, in her toddler years, she has become a super picky eater. She has already determined what she likes or doesn’t like before she tries it, I guess not unsimilar to some adults. In searching for a potluck friendly dish, I came across this Chicken Pot Pie Casserole recipe from the No Biggie food blog. Carson absolutely loves it and usually asks for “more”. Needless to say, this dish has become a staple in our household.

Below is the recipe, including my modifications because, well, Germany.


  • 1 can Pilsburry Grands Biscuits 8 biscuits (can’t find 8 so I use the can of 6)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small package frozen veggie mix: carrots, peas, corn, & green beans (I use a large package and add mushrooms)
  • 2 chicken breasts cooked and shredded (I cube the chicken before cooking and break it apart in the cooking process)
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth: adapt to your preference (this is non-existent in Germany, I create my own broth/cream mixture using chicken bullion)
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup (again, non-existent in Germany…see above)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook chicken & make cream sauce (chicken broth, Cream of Chicken Soup combo)
Cook frozen veggies (+ mushrooms)


  1. Preheat oven to 200 F (about 200 C)
  2. In a large sauce pan, cook the cubed chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove cooked chicken and set aside.
  3. Step added/adjusted to make chicken broth/cream sauce: In a small sauce pan on medium heat, add 8 oz cream, 4 oz of milk, chicken bullion (adjust to your liking), and a little bit of flour (about 1/4 cup). Whisk until all ingredients have combined. When concoction is bubbly, adjust heat to simmer and allow to thicken. Whisk in the chicken broth and the Cream of Chicken Soup. Let the sauce simmer for 1 minute to thicken. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. If following the extra “German” step, don’t add any salt as the chicken bullion is salty enough.
  4. In the same large sauce pan heat the butter on medium heat (use the fond for extra flavor). Add the frozen veggie mix (and mushrooms) to the pan. Saute until the veggies are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste (we add Tony Chachare’s Creole Seasoning and pepper for a little spice).
  5. Turn off heat and add the cooked chicken and cream sauce to the veggie mixture, stirring until the mixture is well combined.
  6. On a parchment lined baking sheet, bake the biscuits for half of the time listed on the can (about 7 minutes) for a “pre-bake”. Take them out of the oven.
  7. Pour the filling into a 9×9-inch baking dish. Top the filling with the biscuits (partially baked), flip them over top to bottom to ensure even baking on the other side. (I break the partially baked biscuits in half, place the baked side down into the mixture and leave the middle exposed on top.) Bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Coot for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Combine chicken & cream sauce to veggie mixture. Put in baking dish.
Partially baked biscuits broken in half and placed baked side down. Bake for 10 minutes then enjoy!

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