Kindergarten Art: The Tobacco and Alcohol Edition

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - KindergartenI know today is election day.  It’s one of the few days of the year I am 110% happy that I do not live in the US.   I just can’t handle all the rhetoric and only slightly sophisticated “you’re dumb” rigamarole.

Unless you live under a rock – and sometimes I try hard to be present in that state – you’re probably noticed a constant stream of “never ever”s leading up to this day, both from people’s mouths and from campaign machines.  “Never ever”s such as, “never ever will I vote for this guy again,” or “that guy could never ever make our country better.”

Golly gee willikers.

It is our American duty to vote though, so unless extenuating circumstances apply hopefully you have cast your vote one way or the other already.  So then, let’s focus on another “never ever,” as in “never ever would a child in the US use alcohol and tobacco products for art projects.”

Yep, seriously.  I can’t believe I’m going there.  I often have to remind myself that I couldn’t make this stuff up, even if I tried.

Last summer, the kindergarten that both of my boys currently attend put a box in the lobby with a big sign on it asking parents to donate packaging materials such as boxes, containers, paper towel rolls, etc.  The children could then use these items for artistic endeavors.

The parents did indeed donate, though perhaps they went a little above and beyond the call for materials.  Among the items were packages associated with alcohol and tobacco.  And then the teachers made the things available for student use.

Hey, it’s all recyclable… and therefore good for the environment to reuse such materials… right?

Let’s just say it’s a good thing that these kindergartens don’t teach the children to read.

The absolutely awesomely amazing trash truck, by T-Rex.

I’ll never forget the day T-Rex brought home this amazing mixed media design.  It’s a trash truck (and you totallyknew that, right?  right!).  He was mighty proud of his creation, and so was I.  Only upon a closer look did I realize that he had fashioned the trash part of the truck from two tobacco canisters!

Wait, whaaaaaaat is that thing made of?

The best part?  The generous donor had even left a few wiggly scraps of the stuff inside!

How thoughtful.  Really.

T-Rex eagerly showed me how he constructed the driver of the vehicle.  He put several wooden dowels on two wine bottle corks and hot glued the whole dude together.  And the project was definitely not complete without a beer bottle cap to act as the garbage release mechanism.

He used those exact words.

Okay, maybe not.

But those exact materials, for sure.  All I could think as he’s showing me (other than, awww shucks son, what an imagination you have!) is that this project would never ever in a million years have been put together in any institution involving children in the United States of America.

My T-Rex in the workshop taking a break from the hot glue gun.

Well, without a lawsuit, that is.

And shall we talk about how this innovative piece was put together?  Why, it would be rather impossible without the use of power tools.  A drill, a saw, and a hot glue gun had everything to do with the making of the Müllwagen.  I’m absolutely certain that the teacher was right.there.with.him.the.WHOLE.time.  Yeah, you betcha.

Anybody see a teacher around..? Anybody..?

Now, T-Rex is four, almost five.  Perhaps I’m just underestimating the power tool skills of a preschooler.  But Screech was TWO and had been at kindergarten a whole THREE days when he brought this pop art beauty home.

Art according to Screech.

A lively composition using beer bottle caps (some rusty, some fresh) and hot glue if I do say so myself.  Standard materials and equipment for a two year-old, obviously.  Again, there couldn’t be a doubt in my mind that Screech had constant, closer-than-white-on-rice supervision.

It’s too bad having another baby zapped 2/3 of my German skills, because I would LOVE to hear what the teachers have to say in defense of these materials.  I’m sure the philosophy on allowing 2 to 5 year-olds to use power tools would be equally as entertaining.

So, today, as you are entertained (or repulsed) by the unfolding of America’s choice, remember this: “never ever”s may be come “some day”s… perhaps even sooner than you think.

Where in the World Will Thrifty Travel Mama Live Next?

Talk about living in the moment.  It’s hard not to do that when your life is full of as much uncertainty as mine.  On the one hand, it’s very frustrating; on the other hand, it’s very freeing.

Doc Sci is doing research at the university here in our city.  He started last September on an eight month contract which was renewed for another six months.  His current contract ends on November 30, and it won’t be renewed due to a lack of funding.

We’re glad about this in a way (the current boss hasn’t been the easiest), but we hope it is possible to stay in Germany.  We’ve been graciously given some leads on research positions here as well as a few back in the US.

Where will we go?  Only God knows.

One thing that I do know though is that we have to move.  Our apartment has already been re-rented, so even if we stay, we have to find somewhere else to live.  Finding housing in my corner of Germany is quite a feat, especially on such short notice.  Again about that God thing, we’ll be praying because we know it works.

So while we jet set off to a new location for a holiday and a conference (more on that to come), we’ll be considering what the desires of our hearts are and then asking God to line those up with His plans for us.

Stay tuned, we’ll have some kind of news in only a few weeks!


Image source

Trash Talk

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - TrashMy one-year anniversary of living in Germany is coming up fast.  And, can you believe it, I haven’t even told you about my trash yet?

Roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders, whatever.  Trash is big here.

At our old apartment in the US, I tried to recycle.  I really did.  But I pretty much gave up after I saw the apartment complex maintenance men taking whatever didn’t fit in the large bins and shoving it in the trash compactor.  What a waste.   Uh, like literally.

Here in Germany, peeps obey the rules.  And when peeps don’t, the other peeps get hoppin’ mad.  And, because they’re German, they’ve no problem telling you. exactly. how. they. feel.

A typical sight on trash day.. dark gray bins are restmülltonne (everything else), brown bins are bio (compost), green bins are paper (and paper products).

First things first.  Paper.  It’s easy.  It goes in a bin by itself.  But “paper” doesn’t just include discarded scribbles by T-Rex.  Any packaging, grocery bags, egg cartons, pizza boxes, etc made of paper should hop, skip, and jump their way into the Papier bin.

A pfand station at Aldi.

Next easiest – plastic bottles.  I’ve previously told you about pfand, Germany’s way of getting rid of litter by charging a deposit on plastic (and sometimes glass) bottles.  Often, it’s 25 cents, and you get it back when you return the bottle.  Almost all plastic bottles have a pfand.  If they don’t, they go in the yellow bag (below).

Glass receptacles.

Working our way up… Glass.  All glass has to be sorted by color (white/clear, green, or brown), and deposited in special bins in the neighborhood.  But, keep in mind that you can only do this during work hours on work days, which is when I do just about everything else in my life.  No little boys want to stand around while their mama sorts glass!  Needless to say, my glass goes out like once every six weeks.

Just in case you weren’t sure.. No loud, crash/bang/boom noises outside working hours!!

The two most confusing bins/categories for me are the yellow bag (gelbesack) and the “everything else” trash (restmülltonne).  To my knowledge, all packaging with a European recycling logo goes into the yellow bag.  Unless it’s paper.  I think.  And then the yellow bags go into their own dumpster (or just piled by the side of the road on trash day).

The ginormous trash/recycling bins for our building.

It’s a good thing I live in a big building with a ton of internationals.  No one really expects us to get the yellow bag contents right (and I have seen some people just put all their trash in the yellow bags!).  If you live in a normal, nice building and you get distracted by two boys under the age of four screaming at the top of their lungs and oops! accidentally put the wrong thing in the yellow bag, expect the garbage men to leave the smelly thing right where you put it.  What’s more, they’ll slap an angry red sticker on there that says you-big-dunce-you-can’t-you-read-the-sign-and-sort-your-trash-correctly on it.  That’s a direct translation.  Totally.

The attempt at getting the international building to put the right stuff in the right bin. Yeah. Good luck with that.

The restmülltonne is the bin where everything else goes.  Wait, not everything else.  I’m getting ahead of myself.

Batteries get recycled at grocery stores.  CDs get recycled at the library.  And, how could I forget the bio trash?

Any animal or vegetable remains (peels, skin, egg shells and the like) get separated out into a brown bio bin.  Not all buildings do this since apparently it costs more.  Our building definitely does not do this.  But, the first place we lived required it.  My main beef (ha!) with this is the seriously annoying amount of fruit flies and gnats that take up residence in your kitchen.  Icky sticky.

Okay, NOW I think we’ve covered all the separating.  Emphasis on I think.  Exhausting isn’t it?  Whoever would have thought trash would be so.. complicated?

For a more comprehensive article on the subject, check this out.  And, note that the various areas of Germany do the trash sort thing differently.

Tick Tock Time Change

Man-o-man-o-man I hate time changes.  Not only do they make everything a bit wonky for a week or so due to lack of sleep (even during the so-called “gain an hour” change).  But, they really mess with your kids too.

My normally-very-tired-after-kindergarten T-Rex decided not to take a nap today.  I usually lay down with him so I can sneak in a nap while he falls asleep.  Huffy and annoyed after almost 40 minutes (the norm is 20), I left the room to (ahem) blog.  I came back and what was that child doing?  Dressing up in my pj’s and reading his daddy’s Bible.  Then he wanted to put some paper around his juice cup like he was some kind of Starbucks regular.  And then he jumped in the empty bathtub.  With the yuppie cup.  Oh MY.

As if lack of normal, regular sleep weren’t enough, let’s compound this even further.  The US changed their clocks two weeks ago.  Germany changed theirs yesterday.

p.s. – My dad lives in Arizona.  Arizona doesn’t change their clocks at all.  I’m still not sure what time it is there.

Doc Sci and I usually try to ease the boys into the change by starting four days before the dreaded Sunday and moving their schedule 15 min increments.  But, I have to tell you that the first time we tried this (when T-Rex was a wee lil’ babe), we did the 15 min increments in the wrong direction and had him TWO hours off his normal routine.  Oh yeah, we are total geniuses.

But, this year, we completely 100% forgot to do our smarty little advance moves.  Again, genius at work.

The boys did rather well this year if I do say so myself.  Ha, who am I kidding?  It hasn’t even been 24 hrs.  The jury is still totally on lunch break.

And then there’s that ferocious, non-naptaking T-Rex.  He would nap if he knew what was good for him.  He doesn’t realize him not sleeping means Mama doesn’t sleep which means she turns into some kind of kooked up zombie woman.  No good, T-Rex.  Close them eyes.

Well, maybe zombie isn’t the right term.  I seem to be leaning in the hillbilly direction.  I am so not politically correct with these kind of terms.  Is “hillbilly” ok?  Is “white trash” better or worse?  I may be reading too many pages of The Help at once.

Hey, the apples were part of an elaborate counterweight system, thankyouverymuch.

Luckily, I’m pretty sure Germans don’t know anything about either term.  So I cay say I’s from da stix today and nobody done gone a know what I’m a meanin’.  But Germans do know a half-crazed American when they see one.  That’d be me today.  Pushing a stroller packed with more produce and pasta than a pretzel-scarfing toddler.

Since I’ve had enough you-are-the-most-ridiculous-thing-I-have-ever-seen looks today, I’m sitting at home dreading the moment I have to go out again.  You see, our beloved Red is up on blocks (she got ‘er a shard a glass stuck all up in her rubber, done popped da’ tube, ‘n rendered her useless).  You never knew how country I could be, did you?

I never knew how much I loved Phil & Teds until I had to settle for Eddie Bauer for a day.

Now I’m daydreaming about a nap and wishing on a ? that someone would cure my sleep deprivation and bloodshot eyes with Starbucks.  T-Rex is just rubbing it in with his homemade java jacket.  Double shot, no whip, more foam, half-caff, extra this, none of that, low-fat, skinny, tall, and syrupy.

Oh please, oh please, oh please.

Bring me home a rubber donut with a bent valve on the side for my Red and you’ll be my new best friend.  For life.

Packing Up

Thrifty Travel Mama |Expat Life - Making The MoveLook around the rooms of your house.  Do you love what you see?  If not, in this instance consider yourself lucky.  If you do, how much do you love it?  Would you give it all away if someone needed or wanted it more than you?

I’ve heard sermons on the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-29) for years.  The pastor always seems careful to point out that Jesus isn’t actually asking us to give everything away.  But what if He really does ask you to do that?  Yikes.  Then we realize how much we actually love our stuff.

I wouldn’t consider myself materialistic in any sense of the word.  But packing up our life to move to another continent made me realize just how much I was attached to my junk and how much I really didn’t want to part with it.  I also realized how much I was keeping “just because.”  I threw away so much trash, and I gave away so many things that I never used or needed.  In the end, I was kind of horrified at how much we had accumulated and eventually purged.

Ask yourself, why am I keeping this?  Do I use it?  Do I really need it?  Does someone I know own this?  Could I borrow it?  Would I pay to store it?  If I didn’t see it for one year, two years, five years, would I miss it?

What about you?  If you had to move yourself, your family, your life in only eight, 50-lb bags, what would you bring?  What is most important to you?  What do you treasure?

Packing Up

Organizing and Packing Suitcases