Ketchup: The Past Four Months + the Future in 1000 Words (or More)

Practicing our Spiderman skills in Croatia

Practicing our Spiderman skills in Croatia

So now that I’m back in the saddle, I thought I’d try to close the distance between where I left you and where we are now.

I’d like (you) to think I’ve been nothing but a good student for the past four months, but I’m a terrible liar. While it’s true I always did my best to complete my homework, it’s equally as true that I played hookey a good bit during my studies. In between the worksheets and flashcards, our little family has had plenty of adventures near and far, both exceptional and everyday.

Ready for the recap?

In no particular order..

Multicoolty, a blog that compiles stories about expats living in Germany, featured me in May, though I wrote my thoughts way back in January. Check out what I had to say and a silly old picture I dug up from our first trip to Berlin here.

Cologne

Köln (Cologne)

My husband gave me a fantastic birthday gift this year – two days alone (ALONE!!) in Köln (Cologne). This was before language lessons had started, so it was a blissful quiet time to do whatever I fancied whenever I pleased.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Keukenhof Gardens with Kids

The biggest boy exploring the tulips with me at Keukenhof in the Netherlands.

To ease my disappointment over last year’s pathetic lack of tulips at Keukenhof in the Netherlands, I took my oldest son on a quick trip for a better look. We took the overnight train up to Amsterdam, bussed over to Keukenhof to gawk at the fields of tulips, made our way back to Amsterdam, scarfed down a pancake dinner, and caught the night train back home. Whew! And yes, it was actually fun, and yes, he was a champ on the overnight trains. I would definitely do it again!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro

Flying away in Zadar, Croatia.

Several days after our up-and-back Netherlands trip, the five of us flew to Croatia for ten days. During our trip, we stayed in Zadar, Dubrovnik, and Split. We also drove through a bit of Bosnia and took a day trip to Montenegro. One of the most fun moments of the trip was meeting SJ of Chasing the Donkey and her family!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Mexican Food in Germany

The taco truck!

While we didn’t find any Mexican food in Croatia (and opted out of another fantastic dinner at Los Pilones in Amsterdam in favor of a pancake feast), we have been going gangbusters at the Holy Taco Shack taco truck. We took our American-expat-in-Luxembourg friends there a few weeks ago. They’re just as salsa-crazed as we are, and they gave the burritos two thumbs up. Now, if I could just get the taco truck to deliver…

Thrifty Travel Mama | potty trainingThis little champ has kicked daytime diapers and now only uses a nappy at night and during his nap. We did the same thing with all three boys – an awful, torturous, bodily-fluid-soaked potty training boot camp for a weekend followed by the shock and awe of daytime dryness.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Picking Strawberries in Germany with KidsStrawberry season came earlier this year, and we hit the fields several times. We made many of our favorite recipes from last year including strawberry fruit leather, strawberry syrup, and strawberry shortcakes.

Those strawberry shortcakes were made with coconut cream for me as I went dairy-free at the beginning of the year and have kept it up except for a four-week break while we traveled to Croatia. P.s. – I miss cheese and there is NO substitute that even comes close..

Thrifty Travel Mama | Losing TeethOur oldest little adventurer has lost enough teeth to officially apply for Jack-o-Lantern status, and the tooth fairy is flat broke. This photo is a few months old. He’s now missing three teeth on top, and two on the bottom!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Riding a LaufradThe youngest learned to ride a bike without pedals (Laufrad). And now we are losing sleep over his daredevil ways that now are ON WHEELS. Yikes.

Can you guess why we called it the poo hike?

Can you guess why we called it the poo hike?

As soon as the thermometer sailed over the 12C mark, we flexed our hiking muscles. In between our travels, we’ve been able to do a handful of hikes, including one we affectionately call the poo hike and one insane 15km trek with four kids and nearly no complaining. Kilimanjaro, here we come!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking in the Alps with kids

Back in the Alps!

And, speaking of hiking, we (okay, mainly me) became obsessed with the Alps after our excursion to Schilthorn last summer. Last weekend, we took our first summer hike near Engelberg, and we’ve got more ideas for Swiss outings than there are Saturdays before the snow falls again.

Due to an insane amount of planning and the wonderful generosity of friends, I managed a week of solo parenting (single parents, I know this is wimpy – hats off to you!) while my husband went off to Milan for a conference.. and to look for a new job.

 

The last point brings me to a big change coming for our family…

We have decided that Doc Sci won’t be renewing his employment contract here in Germany when it ends later this year. Professionally, he needs to move on; unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an opportunity to do that where we currently live.

Where will we end up? Only God knows, but most likely, we’ll move back in the US, though we may consider something in Europe if the circumstances are right. This is a decision we have wrestled with for months. We love so many things about living in Europe; it will not be easy to leave our life here behind. But, ultimately, we both know our days in this city are numbered. Sigh.

And, if you will forgive me for throwing one.more.thing your way, I’ve decided to change the boys’ nicknames here. When I started this blog, I never dreamed that anyone would read it, let alone the hundreds that do. I also never thought I’d be writing for nearly four years. In that time, the boys have painfully outgrown their silly pseudonyms.

This also may be a good time to explain why I use nicknames. Yes, there’s the usual safety concerns, but really, it’s a matter of respect for me. My kids aren’t old enough to know that I write about our life on the internet (heck, they don’t even know what the internet is). As such, they have no say in the things I post.

When they are older, they may not wish to have their faces and names plastered all over this space for public viewing. So, until the day when we can have a conversation about their wishes, I’ll respect the option of anonymity by using nicknames.

But then, there’s the matter of what to call them. I thought Small, Medium, and Large was good enough for me, basic… but boring. I tried it in German, but I just can’t call my kid Gross (large).

I’m still keeping it simple, but I’m steering in the ABC direction. The boys will now go by the first three letters of the Pilot’s Alphabet that is commonly used in the travel industry – Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. Plus, these names are actually spot on when it comes to their personalities, Creepy!

I’m seriously over my 1,000 word target, and that’s about all the changes and updates I can handle. If you have a blog, post a link (or three) below with exciting news, fantastic trips, handy DIYs, or winning lotto numbers. I’ve love to catch up with you, too!

Now, tell me, which of our adventures above would you like to read about first?Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

 

35 Tips to Help Your Family Pack Lighter for Air Travel

Thrifty Travel Mama | 35 Tips to Help Your Family Pack Lighter for Air TravelOne of the main objections parents have to traveling with their kids is all the c.r.a.p. they feel they must bring along.  Four fifty-pound bags, three car seats, one double stroller, four backpacks, and two carry-on suitcases later, you’re exhausted… and you haven’t even left yet.

But, my friends, it really doesn’t have to be this way.

You can travel lighter and smarter, even with kids in tow.  Sure, you’ll have to make sacrifices (you can’t bring your snazzy cardigan collection, sorry), but I guarantee the tips below will lighten the load on your shoulders… and in your luggage.

Whether you’re a travel newb or a packing pro, read on to get your hot little hands on 35 tips for traveling with your family using only carry-on luggage.

What (Not) To Wear

1. Don’t pack options.  I love having multiple clothing options just like any other gal out there, but these are luxuries one can’t afford when packing light.  Allow two shirts per person.  Two long sleeve and two short sleeve for winter.  Two short sleeve and two tank tops for summer.  One long sleeve, two short sleeve, and one tank top for spring and fall.  You get the idea.

2. Babies can claim an exception.  If you’ve got an infant who is still in the poop-explosion phase (God bless you),  allow a double clothing allowance.  Those two extra onesies and baby legs won’t make much of a dent in your available space.

3. Pick a color scheme.  For our boys, I gravitate toward black, blue, or grey.  Choose items that can be mixed and matched.  Both short sleeve shirts should be able to go with both long sleeve shirts.  For the adults, this means sticking with brown or black depending on what shoes you plan to wear.  Select your belt, scarf, hat, gloves, accessories, and clothing to match a color scheme that includes brown or black and two or three other highlights.  But no matter what colors you choose, I highly suggest you…

4. Avoid extremes – no red or white items.  If you need to do laundry, you don’t want to waste your time with multiple loads.  Eliminating red and white means you can wash most of your clothes together in cold water without fear of turning your favorite white t-shirt a bright shade of bubblegum.

5. Think in layers.  For winter, this helps reduce the bulk of what you need to pack.  Items such as thermal underwear are typically thin, light, and extremely useful when you don’t know how cold it will be at your destination.  They can also double as pajamas in a pinch.  A nice sweater can be worn under a jacket for more insulation or dress up your jeans for dinner with friends.  For summer, layers add versatility to your traveling wardrobe.  For great examples of making multiple outifts out of only a few pieces, see here.

If fashion is not your forte and you’re having trouble coming up with multiple outfits out of so few pieces, check out this post by blogger Bridgette Raes or the One Suitcase series from Outfit Posts.

6. Pare down the pants.  Bring only one extra pair of jeans (wear the other on the flight).  Seriously, do this even for kids.  You can spot clean denim after the kids hit the hay or just let it go (as long as you’re not expected someplace fancy).

7. (Slightly) Over pack underwear.  For knickers and socks, I usually squish as many pairs as I can.  Find slivers of space in suitcase corners, next to lumpy toiletries, and inside shoes.  I’m not advocating a let-it-all-hang-out-and-bring-your-entire-sock-collection mentality, but it sure is nice not to be washing underwear every third day.  My rule – five socks and five undies, max.

8. Take advantage of laundry facilities.  If you’ll have access to a washing machine during your trip, plan to use it.  Don’t take six outfits for a seven day trip.  Take two of everything except undergarments and wash when necessary.

9. Go for low maintenance.  All clothing items should be easy to launder (no ironing or dry clean only pieces).

10. Earn extra points for double duty items.  Try to vary what you pack – for example, select one dressy pair of jeans that can be worn to restaurants and other photo-worthy occasions.  Choose a comfy pair to wear on the plane and everywhere else.  Or, instead of going with a sweater, opt for a cardigan that can dress up a tank top or be layered over long sleeves if you’re chilly.

11. Take the shoe challenge.  Evaluate your activities, events, and obligations during your travels.  Bring as few pairs of shoes as possible.  Do you have to pack boots AND flats?  Could you get away with only pair of shoes per child?  Pack first for comfort, then for style.  You don’t have room for a gazillion options (see #1) when you don’t check luggage.

Thrifty Travel Mama | 35 Tips to Help Your Family Pack Lighter for Air Travel

Does your bed ever look like this the day before you depart? No? Really?  Oh, okay, mine neither…

Powder Room Essentials

12. Clear things up in the bathroom.  I put all toiletries in clear plastic quart/liter zip-top plastic bags.  I’ll admit I do love a cute cosmetic case, but the bulky fabric, zippers, and handles take up precious space.  With this system, I’m able to make separate bags with liquids for security inspection, solid shower items (bar soap, razors, face cloths, shower cap), oral hygiene, makeup, prescriptions and vitamins, etc.

13. Simplify shower needs.  Instead of a separate brand of body wash for each person, consider using castile soap instead.  This amazing liquid can be used for washing bodies, clothes, and teeth (really!).  Bring one bar of solid shampoo that everyone can share and a small bottle of conditioner.  For facial cleansing, use disposable cloths that will free up some room on the return.

14. Streamline your make up.  Once you’ve chosen a color scheme (see clothing above), match your cosmetics to your outfits.  Do you really need a rainbow of eye shadow while traveling?  Several weeks before you leave, try using only a cream-to-powder foundation, concealer, dual duty cream blush & lip stain, one eyeshadow palette, a brown or black eyeliner, mascara, and one lip stick, gloss, or balm.

15. Shrink your hair styling needs.  Most hotels and even many vacation rentals offer complimentary hair dryers.  But, maybe you prefer to use a model that you can test drive before you travel or you have curly hair like me and need a diffuser.  What to do?  Shop for a miniature model.  Features to consider.. does the hair dryer fold in half?  Is it dual voltage for international travel?  Mini flat irons, curling irons, and hair brushes are also available.

Baby on Board

16. Use disposable diapers.  I cloth diaper part of the time, but never when I travel.  Why?  Because the paper nappies occupy space on the outbound journey that will be emptied and then subsequently used for supermarket souvenirs and other trinkets on the return.

Expert tip: Keep track of your child’s diaper usage for several weeks prior to the trip so you can make an accurate count of just how many diapers you’ll need.  Round up or add one extra per day (two for infants) in case of accidents and emergencies.

17. Rethink the diaper bag.  If you’re flying with carry-on luggage only, do you really need a fully-stocked diaper bag?  Instead, I prefer to use a diaper changing wallet with a small case of wipes, a few diapers, and a trial-size tube of diaper rash cream.  Need a change of clothes?  They’re right there in your suitcase.

18. Ditch the pack & play and high chair.  Unless you’re going to a remote location, you should be able to find accommodations with baby items.  It’s worth it not to schlep your Graco across country (or the ocean!), even if you have to pay a nominal fee.  If you really must have your own travel cot, test drive a pop-up tent like the Kidco Peapod or if you have a small baby, use the bassinet that goes with your stroller.  For high chairs, I like my Sack’n Seat.

19. Determine whether or not your destination is stroller-friendly.  Google it, ask a local mama blogger, or post questions on TripAdvisor.  Many cities overseas are NOT stroller-friendly (Prague, Seoul, Italy, and Bulgaria to name a few) because the curbs are steep, elevators are rare, and stairs abound.  If you won’t use it, don’t bring it.  Consider a backpack carrier instead.  If you prefer to have a stroller for use in the airport, go with a cheap umbrella model.

Read: Tips for Planning a Travel Itinerary with Kids

20. Shell out for a stroller and/or car seat bag.  We own an old school Phil & Teds double stroller that I bought second-hand on ebay.  A few months into love at first push, I invested in a pricey travel cover.  It killed me to pay so much for what seemed like an unnecessary item especially since the stroller was used.  But that concoction of black canvas and Velcro has earned its keep.  With careful packing, Doc Sci is able to fit the stroller, doubles seat, rain cover, and sleeping bag in there.  If you don’t need a rain cover or sleeping bag, you can sneak in a few bulky items like sweaters or scarves (shhh!).  The same goes for a car seat bag.  If you’re not using the car seat on the airplane, try squeezing a dozen or more diapers in the bum space.

21. Talk ’em down.  Look for rental car deals that include a car seat, or negotiate a deal with your preferred company’s customer service center over the phone so you don’t have to bring your own.  If your child doesn’t need to use a car seat in flight, you’ll save yourself a headache by borrowing or renting one at your destination (and if you do bring your own, it could be lost or delayed which means you’ll be stranded at the airport…).

Kiddos and Tots in Tow

22. Children carry their own weight.  As soon as your son or daughter is able (for my boys this was around the age of 2), invest in a small backpack so he or she can take their own toys.  If the toy doesn’t fit in the backpack or it’s too heavy, it stays home.

23. Allot each child a toy quota.  It also helps to have a round number so that favorite play items don’t get left in your hotel or vacation rental.  For instance, I usually allow the boys to take five small toys and two books each.  When it’s time to pack up to head home and I only see four Matchbox cars in their bag, I know we’re missing something.

24. Leave special stuff behind.  You might have to bring the teddy bear that accompanies your baby girl to bed every night, but insist on leaving collectable, valuable, expensive, and one-of-a-kind toys at home.

Read: Jet Lag Tips for Families

25. Keep them separated.  If your airline (hello, easyJet) won’t allow a personal item and a piece of hand luggage, you’ll need to get creative in dividing up the space.  Use large (gallon) zip-top plastic bags for kids’ toys.  Offer a pile of sharpie markers, and let them go to town decorating their bag. Then fill the bags with a few toys and books, the only rules being that the bag must lay flat and close easily.  These zip packs can be slipped into outer suitcase pockets for easy access during the flight.

Everything Electric

26. Consolidate gadgets.  Leave the laptop at home.  Instead, pack a tablet or netbook loaded with games and media.  Use it to watch movies, listen to music, read books, and check your email (be sure to confirm that you’ll have wifi at your destination).  Besides, unplugging from all those devices will help you focus on the experience instead of Facebook.

27. Power everything in one go.  Nothing puts a damper on your packing practices like a gigantic bag of chargers and adapters.  Consider investing in products that will recharge two or more of your electronic items.

28. Go paperless.  Use apps, websites, and online programs such as Google maps, Tripit, Evernote, and Dropbox to store your vacation notes, travel itineraries, photos, and copies of important documents such as your passport.  Take advantage of mobile boarding pass programs if they’re offered.

Supplies

29. Bring on the suds.  If you aren’t staying with friends or family and plan to do laundry, stash a few scoops of powdered detergent or a small bottle of castile soap (see #?).  Dryers are not standard in many parts of the world, so it’s a good idea to find room for a compact clothesline if you’re traveling internationally.

30. Beg and borrow (but please, don’t steal).  If you’re visiting a family, this is usually easy.  Take a look at your packing list and make a note of anything (really, anything!) you think your hosts would be willing to share or provide.  I get that you might feel a tad bit uncomfortable asking for face wash from the in-laws, consider phrasing your request like this… “We usually bring our own (toothpaste / iPad charger / kids Tylenol /etc), but we are trying to pack as light as possible in order to spend less time at the airport and more time with you.  Would you mind if we borrowed/used these items during our visit?”

31. Get specific with hotels or holiday apartments.  I’ve also used a similar conversational approach to the one above with vacation rental owners.  “I have a silly question for you… do you provide dish soap, a kitchen sponge, and dishwashing detergent in your flat?  Normally we bring a small amount of these items just in case.  But we have to pack very light for this trip, so I’d rather not put them in the luggage if you already have them available.”  Don’t be shy.  This email/phone call could save you a chunk of space.

Logistics

32. Fold clothes into small squares.  Make narrow, neat folds in your shirts (watch this video if you need a refresher) and then fold the final product in half and make a pile of very small, evenly sized squares or rectangles.  Jeans, pants and sweaters need special attention (click here for some suggestions regarding technique), but the idea is the same.  Make every item of clothing prim, proper, and as tiny as possible.  I know others prefer rolling their clothes, but I find that folding works best for me.

33. Wear your heaviest, bulkiest, biggest pieces.  Coats and boots travel on your person, never in your luggage.

Expert tip: No one will weigh or check your coat.  What you put in your pockets is up to you… I’ve stashed everything from books to chocolate bar souvenirs in my winter jacket. 

34. Don’t overlook petty cash.  Leave room in your budget to buy what you might need but can’t stuff in your suitcase.  Chances are you don’t need as much as you think you do; you might surprise yourself with how little you can live with for a few days!  But if the diaper supply runs dry or your son uses his shirt as a permanent marker canvas or you receive a surprise invitation to a fancy dinner while on holiday, ask a local for the best place to buy what you’re after and consider the shopping trip part of the whole travel experience.

Practice Makes Perfect

35. Take notes.  These tips come from years of traveling as a single person, then as a married couple, and finally as a family of five.  These things work for us.  In time, you’ll discover what hints are most helpful for you, what advice does or simply doesn’t work for your family, and what luggage sacrifices you are or aren’t willing to make.  Jot down observations in your travel journal, and remember that practice really does makes perfect.

Which of these tips will you try during your travels this holiday season?  What would you add to the list?

Signature-Marigold

Full disclosure… At this time, I do not use affiliate links.  If I’ve included a link, it’s because I’ve personally used and liked the product, or it’s on my wish list.  I have not been compensated in any way by any company for this post.

Photo credit

Disposable Baby Diapers in Germany

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - DiapersSeveral weeks ago, I gave you a snapshot of the options for jarred baby food in Germany.  But eventually all that food is going to come out the other end, and you might want to be in the know about what kind of products we have here to cover your (baby’s) bum.

In short, the two main disposable diaper options in Germany are Pampers and generic store brands.  I have never seen Huggies diapers (only a strange, stray box of DRY wipes), nor do we have Luvs or Seventh Generation.IMG_0107 copyThe diapers are sized similarly, but the weight ranges are in kilograms.  Whatever US diaper size your baby wears (1,2,3,4,5,6) will most likely be the same in Germany.  IMG_0101 copyIMG_0102 copyIMG_0103 copyIMG_0099 copyIMG_0106 copyAs for cost, I did a quick comparison of the German Pampers prices with the American Pampers prices on diapers.com, no sales or coupons.  When you convert euros to dollars, the diapers work out to be about the same price in both countries.

If you’re looking to save some money, the generic disposable diapers at dm are actually of decent quality.  Grocery stores like Lidl and Aldi also sell store brand diapers, but I would only use these in a pinch except for the Lidl pullups which are similar in quality to the dm ones.IMG_0100 copyWe used Pampers diapers for all three boys (including Big Foot who was born here in Germany) when they were newborns, and then switched to generic diapers once they hit size 3 (except for when we used cloth diapers which I really, really miss).  On any given day, you can find dm diapers on Big Foot’s bum, and we have personally used the dm pullups as well.  IMG_0093 copyIMG_0095 copyIMG_0096 copySpeaking of pullups, the options for underwear-style diapers are the dm ones I mentioned and Pampers Easy-Ups.  For older children, DryNites are also available.IMG_0098 copyIMG_0091 copyIMG_0105 copyFor those that want to go a more environmentally friendly route, dm also sells chlorine-free diapers.  They are cheaper than Pampers and a little more expensive than the generic dm brand.IMG_0109 copyAnd, for summer and trips to the pool, dm sells their own brand of swim diapers.  I haven’t seen any Pampers swim diapers, but they may be lurking in large grocery stores that I rarely visit.IMG_0097 copyThough we have less choice than in America, I think this actually makes diapering decisions easier.  I’ll take three decent options over fifteen mediocre ones any day.

Have you tried disposable diapers in Germany or elsewhere outside the US?  What was your experience?Signature-Marigold

Oktoberfest Pull-Ups

If the saying goes, “It’s always five o’clock somewhere,” then can it also be said, “It’s always Oktoberfest somewhere?”

No?

Well, whatever.  It’s still Oktoberfest here.  At least when it comes to fashionable pull-ups, that is.

DESIGN EDITION pull-ups. Whoa.

I had to chuckle when I saw these Bavarian knickers at the drugstore.  I’ve never seen any special designs on diapers here, let alone pull-ups.  And Oktoberfest isn’t even a big deal in our area.

Bavarian toilet training fashion.

You gotta love the little dirndls and lederhosen adorning these disposable skivvies.  But my son’s favorite part?  The extra large pretzel splashed across the butt.  No need to write, “Juicy.”  A picture’s worth more than even one word.

Soft pretzel backsides make these pull-ups a little too cool.

Cheers!

Free Baby Stuff for Mamas in Germany

Two of the things I miss the most about living in the US are free samples and coupons.  It’s not that they’re nonexistent in Germany; it’s just that they’re so rare they might as well be.

So you can imagine that I was quite excited to stumble across this post which contains links to all sorts of freebies for pregnant ladies and new mamas.  I wasn’t able to sign up for all of them, but I have been really pleased with what I have received.

All the baby coupons I have received thus far!

Here’s a rundown…

Hands down, the best goodies have come from dm’s babybonus program.  If you don’t know dm, it’s the German version of CVS or Walgreens.  This store offers your normal drugstore fare plus a great selection of baby items including clothing.  Each location has a changing table in it with complimentary wipes and diapers.  I haven’t seen parent-oriented service like that anywhere else in Germany save IKEA.

I love that dm has two different welcome packets – one for when you’re pregnant and the other for after the baby has arrived.

Items received from the dm pregnancy welcome packet (Willkommens-Paket zur Schwangerschaft):

  • 10% off your purchase, no minimum
  • A full size tube (150ml) of massage cream for prego bellies
  • A coupon book with savings on diapers, wipes, and other baby products as well as toiletries and pregnancy items (valid for more than 6 months)

dm babybonus welcome packet.

Items received from the dm babybonus welcome packet:

  • Soft rattle toy
  • Orthodontic pacifier
  • Samples of moisturizer and body lotion for mama
  • Sample of dm’s diaper rash cream for baby
  • Another (thicker) coupon book with similar savings to the pregnancy one (also valid for more than 6 months)

The next best box came from real,-.  You can read about how I love real,- here.  I first received a letter confirming my enrollment in their familymanager program that included only two coupons, one for baby gear and one for baby clothing.  I was a bit disappointed until I found a surprise from real,- in my mailbox right after Big Foot was born.

Box from real,-.

Items received from the familymanager Hallo Baby welcome packet:

  • Samples of Pampers wipes and one diaper
  • Purple Pampers baby socks
  • An iron-on logo to decorate a baby onesie and provide free advertising for real,- (ha!)
  • A lotion sample for mama
  • A coupon book with in-store savings on baby and household items (valid for more than 3 months)

Though I tend to frequent dm more, Müller is another great drugstore that also sells office supplies, department store perfume, toys, and entertainment media (CDs, DVDs, electronic games, etc).  I can attest that their Mein Baby program is well worth the five minutes it takes to sign up.  Though I wasn’t given any free samples, one could argue the contents were quite a bit more valuable.

Super thick coupon book from Müller.

Items received from Müller’s Mein Baby mailing:

  • Coupon for €5 off €20 (not limited to baby items and no expiration date)
  • The biggest coupon book I’ve ever seen in Germany with savings on pregnancy, baby, household, and family items as well as toys (valid for more than 6 months)

Honorable mention: Pampers Village The website states that if you sign up, you will receive coupons, newsletters, and a free box with items in it from the maternity ward where you give birth.  I never did receive the box, but perhaps the fact that I didn’t actually end up on the maternity ward after Big Foot was born had a little something to do with that.  However, I did receive coupons, and I successfully stacked a manufacturer’s coupon and a dm coupon when purchasing Pampers diapers.  Score!

If you’re actually signing up for all these freebies, I’d recommend skipping the registration for HiPP’s Mein Baby Club I only received a sticker to hang in the window of a car I don’t own and a coupon for 20 euros toward an account for the baby.  I thought that was rather generous… until I read the fine print.  In order to claim the money, I had to appear in person at the bank to verify all my information as well as the baby’s.  I understand that the company would like to know to whom they are giving their money (and that nothing is ever really free), but what new mama has time for an extra trip to the bank of all places??

Anyhow, it’s been great fun to sorta kinda coupon again.  I’ll take all the savings I can get!  If you’d like additional links to baby freebies in Germany, check out this blogger’s list.   Meanwhile, I’ll keep checking my mailbox for more money-saving goodies!

Diary of a Potty Training Mama – Part II

Day 4 – Looking for a new normal.

I’m still in the trenches fighting for freedom from diapers.  I’ve got poop on my pants (not my own, mind you) but a smile on my face.  It’s working!

We’re past the boot camp phase; we’re no longer pumping Screech full of liquids and watching him volley them back to us bucket in hand.  It’s now time to make notes of every time he drinks, how much he drinks, when he puts his presents in the potty, if he misses and puts the presents on the floor instead, and any other data mildly of interest.

Why do we make a log of such personal details?  We’re looking for patterns in order to establish a new schedule.  Things such as I most likely have 45 minutes between the first drink of milk at breakfast and the first trip to the potty to cram laundry in the washer, dump food in the crockpot, shove breakfast down my own piehole or any other task requiring me to focus my attention somewhere other than little boy parts.

I need to know how many trips to the potty usually occur between lunch and the time I need to strap the little man in the stroller and jog on over to pick up T-Rex from school.  I need to know whether there are fewer trips to the potty in the morning or in the afternoon, so I can schedule play dates and make sure I don’t go totally nuts fighting this out.

And how is Screech doing in all this?  Absolutely fan-spankin’-tastic.  All liquids yesterday and today (so far) have made it into the blue IKEA plastic, at least half of the time on his own initiative.  As for the solids?  Well, we’re working on it.

Every day brings us closer to bye bye Pampers, hello Hanes.  God help us, I think we’re gonna make it!

Diary of a Potty Training Mama

Day 1 – Boot Camp.

Am I really doing this again?  Potty training was one of the most agonizing times during T-Rex’s toddlerhood.  And now, here I am, right in the thick of it again with Screech.

I know, I know.  You’re thinking, “Wait, isn’t he like not even two yet?  Isn’t that too early?”  Maybe.  It all depends on the child and culture and life circumstances.

Doc Sci and I decided to give it a go with T-Rex at 19 months.  To be honest, I completely expected it to fail.  I simply wanted to say that I tried when I had the chance before Screech was born.  Instead, it worked.  Brilliantly.  I won’t say it was a miracle or that he learned overnight.  But, oh heavens I was glad not to have to change (or buy diapers for) two boys.

Now we are at it again.  With our Bulgaria trip behind us and no immediate travel plans for the next month or so, it’s time.  Screech has been interested in “pee pee” for quite some time now.  So, why do I dread it?  It’s just so.. well, boring.

We do the naked $80 method: the child runs around naked for a weekend and the $80 is to get your carpets cleaned.  I actually think this is going to be way easier in Germany.  For starters, we don’t have carpet that can’t be rolled up and put away.  Also, it’s totally acceptable for children to pee almost anywhere outdoors.  Score for saving $80!

Sunday brought some really awful rainstorms.  In fact, I saw my first severe weather advisory since moving here.  Since we all had no choice but to stay inside, Doc Sci and I decided to go for it.  Off went the diaper, in went the liquids, out came the pee.  Lots and lots of pee.  Every 5-10 minutes.  I’m pretty sure it’s not in line with German green standards to be going through multiple rolls of paper towels and toilet paper in one day.

We must have hit the timing nail on the head.  By the afternoon, Screech was already starting to realize what was going on.  In fact, several times, he stopped playing, walked over to the potty, sat down, and went.  That’s HUGE.  For Day 1, I couldn’t ask for more.

The biggest annoyance for me is having to follow my son around, potty in hand, keeping an eye on you-know-what, ready at any moment to catch what’s coming.  Thank goodness my boys still take a long afternoon nap and go to bed at 730pm.  Otherwise, I might go stark raving mad.  I know this isn’t the way it’s going to be forever; but a few days of this could give even the biggest home body a case of cabin fever.

I did so much research the first time I potty trained.  This time, I haven’t even so much as consulted Google.  I feel so out of practice, but the reality is I have so little time.  I’m simply hoping that my memory, my husband’s help, and the example of the cool older brother T-Rex will all work in Screech’s favor, and we’ll have this one in the bag ASAP.

For now, things are going well.  Screech looks genuinely excited and proud when he has a success.  I love that he is satisfied simply with our smiles and high fives as reward.  And I’m thankful to encourage him in this way.  Every day, a little bit more progress.  A little bit more freedom.

Or so I hope!

Marvel: real,- SWEET

Last Friday, I went to the Walmart of Germany called real,-.  I had to take a tram to the suburbs, but it was worth it.  You may have noticed in my post about paying cash for groceries that I found cheddar cheese and unpopped popcorn.  I found them – and a lot more – at real,-.  Since we’re all about travel here, I’ll give you a quick (free!!) tour.

This place sold everything from bedding to tires, toys, bikes, appliances, sports gear, and food.  Doc Sci sent me there with only an hour to spend.  Uh, that was not enough to cover it, and I was most definitely late getting home.

The vacuums are super tiny and more expensive than I thought they’d be.  I didn’t see any uprights – they all were the drag behind you type.  I’m pretty sure you get a rinky dink floor attachment with it but you could double the price by buying a real spiffy, as-big-as-the-canister attachment.

Itty bitty vacuums - with souped up attachments sold separately.

And then there are the bags.  Miles and miles of vacuum bag options.  Who knew there were that many kinds of vacuums in Germany?

Vacuum bags

And because vacuums cost so much, people here use brooms/dustpans/mops.  As such, real,- had an entire aisle devoted to these mainstays.

Broom/Dustpan aisle

The irons (also pricey) came with these things called steam stations.  I could not figure out what in the world they were for.  Does anyone know?

Irons with steam stations

In case you are fond of all the mystery meat sold here and you would like to slice it just so, you can purchase your very own deli meat slicer.  No home is complete without one, dontchaknow.

Your own personal deli meat slicer

While there are many options for hot pots (that’s electric tea kettle for you Americans), I only saw one with variable temperature.  But who cares?  One exists!  I am married to a tea snob who has to make his green, white, and red tea at a certain temperature.  It’s kind of ridiculous, but now that I am used to it, I can’t drink anything but black or herbal tea when it’s made with boiling water.  It really does burn the tea.  In America, we had one of these.  Doc Sci will be glad to know there is a euro-substitute.

Variable-temp hot pot

A washing machine!  A CHEAP washing machine!  We have hookups in our new flat for a washer (we have a new flat!).  With all the bum cover washing I do, I think it is worth it.

Cheapo washer

My friend in Estonia alerted me to the fact that ziplocs are not a European kitchen staple.  She was right.  Everyone has reusable containers.  I even saw a banana-shaped banana container.  Well, because what else would you put in a banana-shaped container but a banana?

Containers galore

Yesterday, I enlightened you all to the world of PUKY bikes.  Here are the cheap knock-offs, some with pedals and some without.

Knock-off PUKY bikes

And now to the food.  Ahhhh I am hungry already.  The first aisle I came to was the chocolate aisle.  Yes, there is a whole aisle (with a display running down the middle so it’s really more than just one) devoted to just chocolate.  The picture below is of half of it.  I stood in the very middle to take the picture.


HALF of the chocolate aisle

The baby aisle wasn’t so impressive.  They carry the same as other stores, nothing too exciting.  What I did find hilarious, however, was that it was right next to the wine aisle.


The baby aisle.. right next to the wine aisle.

I posted earlier about how I could not find frozen chicken breast.  Not that our freezer is big enough to hold it, but still.  I found it!

Frozen chicken breast - pretty cheap too!

I have been a big fan of Stephanie O’Dea’s crockpot recipes.  I am going through withdrawls without my crock here.  I have seen some on ebay and might break down and buy one.  What does this have to do with the picture below?  Stephanie does gluten-free recipes.  I could not believe the huge selection of gluten-free products.

Huge selection of gluten-free products

Because real,- is SWEET, they had an American section.  I find it seriously silly what they carry.  What I want to know is, are these products here because the expats actually buy these things?  Or are these products here because that’s what Germans THINK Americans want to buy?  I’m totally okay without my Crisco, Pop-Tarts,  Hellmann’s, and Jolly Time.  Hershey’s Syrup?  Well, it would take a lot for this thrifty mama to pay €6 for it.

The American section

I found BEANS!!! The bags are tiny but I will have to live with that.  Beans are, as you know, the magical fruit.  Fruit I can live without, magic I cannot.

Beans!

And last, but not least, we have a TEARPAD sighting folks!  Well, I’m pretty sure it’s a tearpad.  I didn’t take one because I don’t eat mayo.  Not even one slimy slather.  I am picky, I know.  Thanks, real,-!  You have given me more hope that Germany will one day resort to couponing.

Tearpads!

Did you like the tour?  Would you like more (free!!) tours?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Marvel: How Long Does Laundry Take?

Drying diapers in the skylight sun

I am a cloth-diapering mama.  Not because I’m a drippy hippie silly; it’s because I’m thrifty!  I use BumGenius and FuzziBunz because I want babysitters and husbands to change diapers too.  Both of those brands are almost as easy as disposables.

Since I already owned a set of cloth, I brought them with me to Germany.  I think most things through, however this one just jumped off the list and ran away.  How in the world am I going to find the right detergent?  Well, really, just how in Germany am I going to find it?  And hello, no one owns a top-loading washer here.

Seven years ago, I lived in Russia.  I think it totally ruined my idea of living in Europe.  You couldn’t get much there that was remotely American and what you could get was terribly expensive and exhaustingly hard to find.  Miraculously, the first day, I found Ecover!  Hurrah!  However, figuring out the front-loading issue was not so simple.

I armed myself with some tips from Americans with front-loaders and my trusty dictionary.  I programmed what I thought was a cold cycle with pre-wash and extra rinse.  No angry beeps so I guess this is a good thing.  After that cycle ended (almost 1 1/2 hours later…), I pushed the buttons for a super hot cycle with pre-wash and extra rinse.  I saw a button for “stain.”  Ah, this should be good for stinky dirty nappies.  Apparently not – only angry beeping and flashing German error messages.  Okay, forget the stain thingamajiggit.  How about super extra licious fast spinning to get all the water out before hang drying?  Also verboten!

After almost four hours of soaking, washing, spinning, I had clean dipes.  Yes, that’s FOUR hours PER load.  Looks like I’ll be hanging out in the laundry basement.  Do you think they’d mind if I left some toys down there?  Snacks?

What’s your biggest laundry challenge?  How often do you have to do laundry each week?