Sunday, February 23, 2014

Setting the System

Back in January when everyone was sharing inspirational new-year, new-start, new-you posts, I came across this article about the difference between setting a goal and using a system. It was not earth-shattering for me at the time, and I even scoffed a little, thinking that there is not a lot of difference between the two. The idea kept floating around in the back of my mind, however, and I finally decided to try it out.

My first system-setting guinea pig was budgeting. I have to admit that for most of last year, I did not pay a lot of attention to our family budget, even though I have a rockin' budgeting program. I just knew that we had "enough" and checked the accounts occasionally to make sure everything was okay. I knew I wanted to do better this year, so the goal became: Make and keep a budget. There. It is written. I have overcome the "A goal not written is only a wish" problem. But the goal will not keep itself. So I added the system: Update the budget every Wednesday. This seemed doable. We get paid every other Wednesday (boy, do I hate that system... would much rather be on the 1st and 15th...) so the timing was right, and Wednesday is the day that I am the least pulled in a million directions.

Well guess what: It worked. I set up that system in the second week of January and have checked the budget every Wednesday since. I even look forward to it because I know that it is quick and painless, and it helps me stay on track with my goal and check something good off my ever-growing, never-ending to-do list. I know that I cannot set up a system for everything all at once. Life is too unpredictable, and I don't want to set myself up for failure. But I have added a couple of small things to my system over the last few weeks. So far, so good. Then last week, I had this nagging feeling that I should try to blog again. Ugh. I am not good at it. It takes too much time. I want to include too much. No one cares. Nope, there it was again - the idea that I should blog about our time here. Fine. How to do it? I added it to my system. Blog once a month, on the last Sunday of the month, a quick rundown of what we have been up to. No pressure. Not perfect. And look - here I am. I have been sick in bed all weekend, but I couldn't end the night without writing an entry. No apologizing about how long it has been (2 years, yikes!). No promises going forward. I'm not even adding pictures (though you know I have them!). I'm just going to try to keep with my system, adjust here and there, and see what happens.

So what have we been up to this new year? Here is a rundown:

January


  • Church starts at 9:00. Boo. I think they gave me a Sunday calling at the end of last year knowing I would need it to get me there every week.
  • I turned 40. Another boo.
  • Jonah and Noah got to spend a weekend in Switzerland with the Boy Scouts at the Klondike Derby. It was good, cold fun.
  • Vienna started attending American school. There were lots of reasons we switched from German school, but we are all happier now and it has been a smooth transition.

February


  • Elijah competed in the Pinewood Derby. He came in 7th out of 18. Not too shabby! It was our last of 8 derbys - Jonah and Noah overlapped one year.
  • We spent President's Day weekend in Trier, the oldest city in Germany, which has Roman beginnings and ruins to match. Stopped at Ramstein PX on the way home for lunch.
  • Elijah is participating in Robotics Club. Each grade only does it for about a month each year, and he looks forward to it every time.
  • Sickness here and there. Jonah and Noah have both missed several days of school. Noah woke up one day with the most swollen neck I have ever seen, but only on one side. It was strep, and rather amusing. Should have taken a picture! I was struck with something this weekend, but my sore throat has gone away, so I am pretty sure I avoided strep.
  • Still no snow. We had a couple of flakes, but no snow all winter long. Very sad. Not ready for spring.


There! That is about it! I think I can handle this, though I think I will change my system to the first Sunday of every month so I can write about the complete month before. How can you incorporate systems into your goal setting?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Frohe Weihnachten aus Deutschland!

Merry Christmas from Germany!

It has been many years since we have celebrated with just our little crew. In Yuma, we would typically go to Tom’s parents’ for Christmas Eve dinner and presents, enjoy Santa’s offerings Christmas morning, and then head to my parents’ for Christmas Day festivities. This year, we were smaller in number, both of people and presents, but enjoyed our Christmas just the same.

After my last post about Garmisch, I got a little discouraged because most of the photos did not show up. I am going to try something different this time, but if it doesn’t work, I may throw in the blogging towel for good. Or ask my husband to come up with a solution. Yeah, that might be better.

Here are albums for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Click to see the full album, and there should be a caption for each picture. Cross your fingers that it works!


Frohe Weihnachten to You and Yours!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Last weekend we took our first overnight family trip since being in Germany. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is located southeast of Stuttgart in Bavaria, just this side of the Austrian border on the edge of the Alps. Yeah – The Alps. Cool, huh? It started as two separate towns (you can guess the names) that were forced to join together in 1935 by Adolf Hitler in preparation for the 1936 Olympic Winter Games. People usually just refer to it as “Garmisch,” which probably gets the Partenkircheners’ collective goat but is a lot easier to say. One of our kids called it “Garnish,” and that seems to have stuck with us.

Even though the kids had Friday off from school, we had to wait till Tom was done with work, so we didn’t get on the road till almost 5:00. It was a beautiful three-hour drive. Well, I take that back. It was a beautiful two-hour drive (my turn) followed by a white-knuckled, dark-narrow-windy-road, we-should-have-changed-the-windshield-wipers-before-it-started-pouring, are-we-supposed-to-be-in-Austria? one-hour drive (Tom’s turn). But all is well that ends well, and we arrived in one piece. We stayed at Hostel 2962, which we thought was a random name but turns out to refer to the elevation in meters of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, which is south of Garmisch and directly on the Austria/Germany border. Though this hostel has many individual rooms and shared bathrooms, we stayed in the Apartment, at the very tippy top of the place. We had several rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen all to ourselves. The d├ęcor was quite unique and impressed the kids. There was the master bedroom with bricks and arches…
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The sitting room with mountain peaks and birds…
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The kitchen with a sun light…
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And this space…
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There is great debate about whether this is a snow cave or a tidal wave. Snow cave makes more sense given the surroundings, but it sure looks like a breaking wave, and they had fun surfing underneath it. Jonah took one look at it and decided to sleep in what I would describe as a mudroom with a bed.
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It was late and pouring rain when we got there, so we stayed in. Noah actually came down with a fever, so it took a while to get him settled down to sleep. By then, Tom was exhausted and went to bed and Jonah was curled up with a book, so the younger two and I played Skip-Bo and had hot chocolate before I tucked them into their snow cave beds.

I have to mention at this point that the thing the kids were looking forward to the most on this trip was seeing snow. Even though we keep telling them that pretty soon they will have more snow than they can shake a stick at, they couldn’t wait to see the stuff. We haven’t been in snow since we left Maryland seven years ago, which means that Vienna has never seen snow, Noah only vaguely remembers it, and Elijah definitely doesn’t remember as he was just a baby then. The forecast called for precipitation, leaning more toward snow the closer we got to the day, so they were psyched.

Morning came, and there was a lot of rain, but no snow. However, Noah’s Eskimo Senses were tingling…
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…and Tom and I were determined to have a fun family day, even if it meant getting a little wet or staying inside more than we hoped. As we got packed up and ready to check out, we could see from our windows that the tops of the nearby mountains were turning white, but we were below the snow line. We had no real plan for the day, other than to drive around and see what we could see. A short drive found us at the Olympic Ski Stadium. The ski jump was rebuilt in 2007, but the stadium itself is mostly unchanged from when it was built.
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We walked through the stadium, but it was wet and downright cold. We hadn’t had rain at home for a while, so Vienna was at least enjoying using her new umbrella and thrift store boots to jump through all the puddles, and the boys were decked out in their winter attire.
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We decided to get some lunch and then come back to take a gondola ride up the mountain. It was still raining, and the kids were coming to terms with the fact that we might not be seeing snow this trip. I had read about a famous restaurant where they have dancers like you might remember from National Lampoon’s European Vacation, but without the fistfight. So we found our way to Gasthof Frauendorfer and settled in for a Bavarian lunch. Four orders of chicken nuggets with fries (notice the “Garnish”)…
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One slaughter plate (don’t ask)…
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potato soup with bread (not pictured – it smelled so good I dove right in), and drinks all around…
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Alas, there were no dancers, but the atmosphere and our waitress were very nice and the food was good.
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Noah came down with a fever while we were waiting for our food, so Tom walked to the nearest Apotheke to get some medicine.
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Apparently the Germans make good medicine, because he was perking up by the time we finished our meal. It had been raining the whole time we were inside, and we had almost decided to start making our way home, but when we came out of the restaurant, we found a gorgeous site: The rain had gone, the air had cleared, and the mountains were full of fresh snow.
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We walked down historic, ancient Ludwigstrasse, with its fantastic murals, inns, shops, and parish church.
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Vienna stopped to admire some miniature umbrellas in a store window – “Just like mine!”
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With Noah feeling better and the weather improving, we went back to the Stadium. Here is a before and after of a view from the parking lot…
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We bought tickets for the 2-person, covered gondolas. Guess who got to be my partner!
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I have only been on a ski lift once before (see this post), and both times it amazed me how far they travel, both horizontally and vertically. From the base, we could only see a short rise before the gondola line went out of sight. Over the next fifteen to twenty minutes, we climbed up and up away from the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and into a new world. The green forest began to be dotted with white, and it fun to be with Vienna as she realized that this was SNOW!
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She had no fear of being so high up above the ground, even though I gripped the sides tightly a few times, especially when we hit the bumps and began to swing a little. 2011-10-07 Garmisch 0902011-10-07 Garmisch 095
As the elevation increased, the landscape became more monochrome – the sky grayed and the ground was covered in white. Beautiful!
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The boys were waiting for us at the top, anxious to get in the snow. I had to capture the historic first snowball.
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They threw, they fell, they laughed, they played as we made our way over the hill. It felt like we had the mountain to ourselves as hardly anyone else was outside.
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When everyone was nice and cold, we went into the restaurant for some hot chocolate. I wish I had a picture of that, because it was goo-ood. It was then that the younger two, who hadn’t donned gloves, realized how much it can hurt when cold fingers warm up. Ouch! After tracking down an MIA camera (not mine, BTW) we headed back out and were fortunate to run into a German couple who took a family picture for us. I call it, “Hey, look – proof I was there!”
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We worked our way back to the lift station – is that what it is called? – and had a little more play time. The kids really enjoyed themselves. Noah even said he thinks snow is his “natural element.”
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I often forget that my camera (a Nikon D90 DSLR) can take video, but luckily I remembered to capture a few minutes before we left. You don’t want to miss Elijah catching a snowball in the face!


To make matters worse for him, he suffered a slight wardrobe malfunction.2011-10-07 Garmisch 154
We got the pants hitched up and got back into our gondolas. Some more pretty views of the ride down, and my lift partner…
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Here is a shot of the map showing where we went. (I know you probably don’t care, but I thought it was interesting.)
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After that, we headed home! The dip into Austria was not so bad this time – daylight and no rain.
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I believe that this picture I took from the road is of the Zugspite, but I won’t be offended if someone corrects me.
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We did make one minor pit-stop on the way home. You see, just inside the German border is a castle that I have dreamt of seeing for as long as I can remember. Though we didn’t have time on this trip to stop and take a full tour, my adorable husband wanted to make sure that I at least got to lay my eyes on Mad King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein. He may have regretted that decision for a moment, because as we were following the signs to the parking lot below it, I got a glimpse of My Castle through the trees, and my, um, overwhelming reaction almost caused him to crash.

So here it is, as close as I could get to it. For now.
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