Griffin is 18 months old

Apple with his pasta, why not? Happy one and a half year birthday to you Griffy :) #dinner #18months

I think with the excitement of his one and a half year birthday Griffin can't help but look forward to being that much closer to 2 and therefore is celebrating with plenty of "no!", full body tantrums, smacking Mom in the face while saying "no!" (for extra emphasis), and shaking his head "no!" whenever possible. Oh dear...

Interspersed between finding his new voice Griffy is hilarious, heart crushingly cute, cuddly, very interested in other people, and super excited about many things including anything that moves on legs (dogs! cats! beetles!), putting on big sister Bird's shirts and dresses (yellow is a favorite color), mixing all his foods (see photo above), climbing any and everything (heart attack for me), picking and smelling flowers, turning shoes into cars and trains, and playing peek-a-boo which has turned into a game of a very screamy mis-timed "Ooooo!!" to which we jump and look as surprised as possible and give him all sorts of enjoyment.

We love you little Griffin. Wonderful precious heart stealing boy.
Hopefully tomorrow we can do a proper half year birthday, assuming we'll all be in the mood for it ;o)

Love and hugs from Germany,

Monday Studio Night

Up late but so much fun :) #painting #illustration #birds #flowers #garden

I squeezed in an hour of studying for my driver's license test than got right to painting. I've forgotten how long it can take to carefully fill in delicate lines with color. So fun...and with the iPad it's even better! I watched "Life in a day" documentary - LOVE! So fascinating, inspiring, sad, hopeful, etc. Look for it on Netflix and enjoy. I also finished up the rest of "Chemerical" - documentary on a family who goes 3 months without chemicals in their home.

Happy Tuesday!
Hugs from Germany,

ps - Thank you to my lovely friends for your encouragement about our progress with life means a lot to me. I'm so happy we're up for this challenge even if it's stretching us in very uncomfortable ways much of the time! Today I managed to bike downtown with Griffin to pick up a package that had unfortunately required a signature and we managed really well. We even picked up some groceries (like the bike wasn't heavy enough haha!). We nearly got creamed by a rude Italian guy in a fancy convertible sports car who barely stopped in time as we were (legally) crossing the street and he was attempting to turn right. He yelled at us and laid on his horn. I of course looked at him and yelled right back. Griffin was growling and waving his arms around. Too much. I had to laugh after shaking off the idea that we were nearly hit by a car! You'll find assholes no matter what part of the world you're in. ;)

Fitting in

Nest bench #aachen #germany

I'm trying.

I suppose we could sit at home and drive each other crazy and slowly venture out once we have better language skills and understanding of how things work here. But I can't. It's not in my nature to just hang out...I crave variety, something new every day, finding out what's over that hill, stumbling on treasures from a spontaneous outing. And besides, our kids are HIGH energy, life engaging little folks just like us, and they seem to like adventures too. After a full day at home we're all ready to run for the door, even if just for a walk in the rain.

Splash! #rain #play #aachen #germany

But it's hard sometimes.

I know lots of words in German so far. I do the grocery shopping mostly and manage our farmshare ordering so I know what all the fruits and veggies and grains etc are called. I interact with Bird's school and the parents and teachers. Day to day life and my own curiosity led me to learn colors and numbers how to order from the bakery, make purchases at garden centers and hardware stores :o) I've figured out how to bid on and buy items (toys!) on German Ebay and manage paying for them with our German bank account. I can translate everything that comes over email and type into Google translate program what comes in the mail (tedious but it works).

Real life connecting is challenging though! I feel like an outsider just about all the time. And we are really. Outsiders. We've never been in this place, and it's uncomfortable.

Aqua Fit with the German ladies was fun :) #aachen #germany #pool

But trying to fit in. I joined an Aqua Fit class that meets at a beautiful public pool in the center of the city. Marble, tile, mahogany, stained glass. Just gorgeous. And open to all! The class is filled with similar aged ladies who are pretty fit. I totally dreaded going however. The whole way there I self-talked. "It's okay, if you don't like it you can cancel..." etc. etc. I realize how little I enjoy being the center of attention. And that's what happens when you are the only one who doesn't speak the language and the teacher feels compelled to help you understand what they're doing. I would much rather have submerged myself under the water's surface with a straw for breathing and stay there the whole of the class than feel like I am inconveniencing the instructor.

But I will keep going. I need the exercise!! And I was invited out for a drink by a couple of ladies afterward. Nice right? I unfortunately didn't take them up on it. I was totally nervous about riding my bike home in the dark UPHILL ALL THE WAY, and couldn't imagine doing it after having a beer and it being even later. I'm a scaredy cat. Boo hoo. Next week I promise. The ride home wasn't awful except for getting a tiny bit lost and having my chain fall off in the middle of a busy intersection. ;o)

Trying a gym class

I also signed Bird up for an afternoon gymnastics class. Unfortunately it didn't go quite as expected. Does the picture above say gymnastics to you?? It was a terribly crazy day to start and this was just another twist. Griffy had slept fitfully since 3am, then I had to strap him in the ergo carrier on my chest to keep him from screaming (teething!) until nearly 9am. We walked Bird to school then walked to baby swim class. This has been a good sort of "putting myself out there" experience so far. It's something we can walk to which is always fabulous. There is another (very nice) mom from kindergarten in the group with her son who is Griffin's age. And Griffin loves the water so much that it was enough to get him out of his funk and bring back the cheer. When we got home after class I got Griffy a nap, Jared showed up (he needed the car in the morning for driver's license practice driving), we drove him back to work, drove back home, walked over to get Bird, hung out at the park trying to continue to make new friends, drove to the "gymnastics" class in a busy part of town, then got a text from Jared saying he had a last minute meeting lasting till 6:30. So we put ourselves out there once more and asked a local mom and her kids where to go. We ended up walking to and hanging out at a park we'd never been to before (top image in my post) and I got to teach Bird how to deal with aggressive boys on the slide. Because at the end of a challenging day this Mama does not put up with rude bully boys harassing my daughter. And Bird totally did not get pushed around because she stood up for herself. So empowering. Then it was off to get Jared, with two kids crashed in the backseat, starving for dinner. Which thankfully had cooked in the crockpot all day and was waiting for us when we finally got home.

I'm sure it would be easier to just do this.

Cozy boy #germanshorthairpointer #dog #owl #plush

But the hardest part of the week was the "back to school" night at Bird's kindergarten. I sat through an hour and a half of presentation and discussion all in German, with which I understood zero. The first part was actually okay. It was all the parents/teachers/principal in the big room and they were overviewing something having to do with a grant and fundraising. But then we moved to smaller groups into our kids classrooms and it was really obvious in our little group of 10 that I was the only one sitting there like a lump on a log, not contributing, understanding, participating. I actually had to hold back the tears. I guess I had expected one of the teachers to help me out with translation at least a little bit. I interrupted twice to ask about things like why do I have to sign this paper? What does this permission slip mean, etc. I could feel the other parents glancing at me and occasionally giving a "feel sorry for you" look. One of the dads came over afterward and told me (they all seem to speak fairly decent English!) a few things from the meeting which I really appreciated.

Then when I went to leave I realized it was raining. I shoved my bag under my jacket and ran home, feeling pretty pathetic that I forgot an umbrella in Germany where it rains so frequently.

Jared was kind and helpful when I got home. He suggested we find a German language class for me sooner than later. It's just something I need to get by here. I think I was most frustrated by the fact that back in the states I was so involved in Bird's school. I knew everything about her daily life. In this situation I have no clue what they do at school for the most part. I have to just hope and trust in the school and Bird's teachers and what she tells me in her 4 year old descriptions. I 'm trying to be okay with that.

Hugs from Germany,

Why I like Mondays

Off for a picnic #aachen #germany #wurmtal #summer

We had a super lovely weekend. It started in a way on Thursday when I pushed through an insurmountable wall of cranky fighting unhappy kiddos and managed to pack a picnic and get everyone in the car. We picked up Jared and went to the forest. It was like day and night. An easy dinner at a tree stump picnic table, playing chase and hide and seek, picking wild blackberries.

Wild blackberries! #wurmtal #aachen #germany #summer #berries

Friday sort of flew by. I tried a new technique with Griffin. Instead of heading out after taking Bird to school we just played here. He took a snooze around noon and was able to make it to the evening without as much drama. Phew! I can only take so much. Last week was punctuated with it and I was tired of being on that rollercoaster. Jared and I were able to have a lovely evening watching a movie with prosecco and popcorn. We've been reading the Harry Potter series books (yes, aren't we the last to do so!) and it's so exciting to watch the movies again.

Popcorn, prosecco, and Potter :) We finally are reading the HP series and it's so fun to watch the movies again.

And I was able to get going on an illustration that will eventually be a printed tea towel. It feels really great to be moving along on a simple project that won't take weeks and weeks to complete. I had to start somewhere and this seems like a good place. Afterward if all goes well with Spoonflower printing, stocking my shop, etc., I'd love to put together a tea towel calendar for 2013. Good idea??

I was able to chip away a bit more despite the million distractions tonight. #illustration #drawing

Off to pick up Bird!

Oh! Yes, quickly, why I like Mondays: I'm fresh from the weekend usually which is great, but also because Monday has become my STUDIO NIGHT. Jared gets both kiddos to bed and I can get started on work early and without distraction. It has quickly become my favorite night of the week :o)

Can't wait to share more about all that.

Hugs from Germany,

Ps: Here are some sunny shots from the morning.

It's lovely at the park #aachen #germany #yellow #flowers #shoes

My neighbors grow gorgeous stripey dahlias. #flowers #dahlia #aachen #germany #summer

Off to school, no training wheels or help from mom! #biggirl #bike

Bird is riding her bike all by herself!!! I'm so proud of her :o) :o)

Last week

I started this post last week and even though it's not much I can't bear to trash it...sometimes things like waking babies, door bells ringing, etc etc happen and I end up with these half posts. 

Better that than nothing :o) Here's from last week:

Sunset from the studio #aachen #germany #sunset #sky #clouds

When my mom was here last weekend she corrected me (as moms do) that Griffin was not turning 18mths on the 17th of August, but just 17 months. Uh huh, that's right, yes, do the math Devon. He seems like such a mature 17 month old I guess I just assumed he a month older :o) So I deleted the post about his one and a half year birthday and we will just celebrate that next month.

This week we've had super warm (awesome!) weather and today it is starting to feel chilly again. There are sprinklings of leaves across the lawn from the first appearance of Fall. It starts early here. Figures!

We were able to get to a local spring (actually 7 springs that come up together, so neat) and cool off a bit. No matter how hot the air temp, you can count of absolutely freezing your footsies in that water! It's refreshing to say the least.

Jared and Griffy cooling off :) #stream #aachen #germany #summer

Stream slug #stream #aachen #germany

I'm trying to find a balance with our new routine and it's been challenging. Griffin is down to one nap, early in the day. And with less sleep he has been pretty cranky. He's also got a little cold which doesn't help.

Bird is doing well with kindergarten (aka preschool) and has been happy to go in the mornings.

I'm starting a new project that I'll share pictures of next post. It's been awesome to have a little more time at night (which is what happens when your kids don't sleep much or at all during the day!) and I've been able to get in the creative groove more often.

More soon, xo

Official Residents

Official residents #aachen #germany

This morning Griffin and I met up with Heidi who is part of a wonderful twosome of ladies who assist with relocation details for newly arrived expats. Jared's work set us up with them when he first came over here last September. Heidi is a totally lovely international wonder, a grandma, and extremely detail oriented. Perfect fit for us :o)

We picked up our official residency cards! We are HERE now.

I was thinking just yesterday about when I'll feel like this is home. I know it took a few years to feel that way in San Jose. I think having kids puts you on a fast track. I'm normally a bit shy, slow to change, very very slow to put myself out there. A creeper. But with kids and being in a different country where so many things have had to be dealt with I've had to put my brave face on quite a bit.

Yesterday after preschool pick up we three headed across to the local playground and found ourselves surrounded by Bird's school friends. We are an oddity. English speakers. But kids are just amazing you know. Parents hang back, unsure of how to communicate with the language barrier. But kids don't care. You got sand toys? Can I use that shovel? My name is "____", this is my brother, he is 1. Etc, etc. All in German of course, but simple conversation and plenty of hand gestures :o) It was pretty wonderful. A welcome of sorts.

I let Griffin play in the fountains after picking up our cards. It's been a beautiful few days here!!

Trying to splash me :) #fountain #aachen #germany

With the sun out and afternoons free (no naps from Bird anymore!!) we've been playing outside a lot. I had an idea to tape paper on the wall and let them have at it with paints and tools. It was such a blast. And it quickly turned into a rendition of "I Ain't Gonna Paint No More". Thankfully it all came off in the tub.

Painting outside #kidart

Thoroughly enjoying herself, hope it's really washable #purple girl #painting

A mix of "look at me" & "I have to pee" #purple #paint

Thoroughly scrubbed

And this is how Phylo hangs out while we're playing. Goofy dog.

How Phylo dog hangs out #germanshorthairpointer #dog

Have a great day!
Hugs, Devon

Peaceful Pond Morning

Morning at the pond #aachen #germany #pond

Feeling like Summer here :o) Definitely cooler than California but the sun is out, the sky is clear, and it's near 70 degrees. I'll take it!

Bird is doing the summer session of preschool and it's been been going pretty well. There are only a handful of kids in the classrooms so it's very quiet and she much prefers this type of environment. Who actually likes chaos? I know I don't. And it has rained very little for the past few days so they're going outside for play more often. I was surprised to find that if it rains they stay indoors the whole time, not okay...this may become an issue later on.

But so with Bird at school for the morning Griffin and I are left to do our own thing. This morning we biked to a local pond by an apple orchard. Phylo trotted along with us - happy dog! Griffin is really really into water so I have to hang onto him near every second but it was worth it.

I spy our ride #elektra #bike #aachen #germany #pond

Pond flora #aachen #germany #pond

Pond flowers #yellow #flower

Spot the Phylo dog in his element :) #germanshorthairpointer

Mmmm wild peppermint


We sat on a quilt and tossed pieces of apple to the ducks. Blew bubbles (another trick, besides food, for getting Griffin to stick around) and walked around the pond looking for frogs. Griffin is really fun to explore with. He is very curious, observant, and really takes in what you want to show him. So it's a joy to point out birds, flowers, tadpoles, etc, etc. and "converse" with him about them. He'll say "hmm?" I'll say "ant." He'll say "oh." Then on to the next thing. Pretty cute. He was pretty into sniffing the wild peppermint and Phylo was in high heaven with all the scents of pond life. He occasionally remembered he supposed to hunt ducks and would get a bit nutty but would soon forget once something interesting caught his nose (sheep poop).

Hugs from Germany,
Devon :o)

Marvelous Metz

Metz, France

We took a couple of days off last week and headed for my parents house (~3hrs away). We had originally planned on finding a "cabin in the woods by a lake or river" or "quaint French beach house on the coast" but it proved to be pretty difficult to do. In the end, we had a pretty fabulous four days of vacation. Seeing my parents, getting out for an evening just me & Jared, hiking in the Eifel forest region, and exploring the town of Metz in France.

#eifel #germany #yellow #flowers

The Eifel is a really neat densely forested area not super far from us. So nice for getting away and being in nature. We realized it was the first time we had actually hiked together as a family of four! We found & munched on wild strawberries & blackberries, got stung by nettles (poor Jared!), made it up to a good look out point and had a picnic, and just kept encouraging Bird & Griffin to keep going. Haha, that took up a lot of our hiking time.

Top of a hill in the #eifel #germany

Griffin & Bird really enjoy my parents house. My mom has it stocked with toys & books and they just go nuts with the big open spaces. Our homes here in Germany are so much bigger than they were in the states!

Our crazy kids love my parent's house

My mom and I enjoy walking Phylo at night after Jared and I have put kiddos to bed. It's been gorgeous most evenings. My parents home is surrounded by farms and the wheat is in the middle of being harvested. I love seeing the changes every time we visit.

#schwedelbach #germany #moonrise

On Friday we drove to Metz, France. Our tactic with kids is to drive directly to a playground that we find the night before using google maps satellite :o) It's the best way to get their energy out before we do something that's not so fun for them. The first thing we saw was the Moselle River. SO PRETTY! It was a beautiful day in general and the river was sparkling, full of swans and fish, and a few people wading in with fishing poles. Containers full of colorful flowers line the railings and bridges.

We ended up not actually finding a playground where we thought there was (!!) but were happily surprised by an empty mini-golf course.

Mini golf #metz #france

The cathedral in Metz was so amazing. Huge and mesmerizing. Because it was a sunny day the color streaming through the stained glass windows was fantastic. Griffin tried out all the chairs he could while Bird crashed for a few minutes in the stroller.

#metz #cathedral #france

#metz #cathedral #france

#chagall #metz #france #cathedral

Griffin loves trying all the chairs #metz #france #cathedral

We found a gorgeous garden in front of the opera house. It was so inspiring. I really could have spent hours there :o)

Magical garden #metz #france

Blooms #metz #france

On Saturday we did a little flea marketing with my parents. That afternoon we all took naps - even me, the most resistant to napping! Then out for some time to enjoy the sun (which you know by now is something not to take for granted here!!) with some bike riding, hay bale "rolling", and later out for Thai food with just Jared (thank you to my mom).

Sunday we hit the road with a really really packed car. We picked up more treasures in France and Phylo barely had any space ;o) We stopped on the way home for a picnic in a field and got to stretch our legs.

Bike for two #bike

Those hay bales are heavy! #hay #farm

Headed home. Spot the Phylo dog :) #roadtrip #germanshorthairpointer #dog

Painterly clouds #sky #clouds #germany

Bird and Griffin have been playing "sleeping games" lately. They're ridiculously cute. Our little guy is so easy going for his big sister it's amazing. When we got home from traveling Jared and I got swept up in cleaning, laundry, etc. while kiddos chilled out in the living room. I took this picture after Bird had convinced Griffy to lay on a bed she'd made him, then tucked him in, and was "reading" him a book. Love!

She made him a bed, tucked him in, and is reading him a story. #love #sisterandbrother

Thanks for reading this long picture filled post! :o) I'm hoping to get back in the blogging routine again. Especially with living here and all these amazing places we're visiting. It seems a shame not to document it all! Hope you have a lovely rest of the week.

Hugs from Germany :o)

The three month check up

Following Phylo dog in the rain #germanshorthairpointer #dog #aachen #germany Hello hello! I've had friends bugging me to get back to it with the blogging. I'll start slowly but consider this my re-entry :o)

Germany life is going okay. Ups & downs. I have nothing to compare it to really as it is a completely new experience for us. But I'm reserving judgement until I've been here awhile. It has been very rainy lately...this "sun girl" is definitely weather challenged!

Nancy, France #nancy #france #reflection In newsy news, Bird turned FOUR on Friday. Hooray for 4!! We had a lovely long weekend with my parents in Kaiserslautern and did some traveling & thrifty shopping (the best kind) in parts of Germany & France. Bird helped make cupcakes and we did singing & presents & celebration with just our little family and my parents. It was very different from birthdays past but totally enjoyable. Sometimes low key is okay.

Good morning! I'm 4 today Birthday treats Nancy, France #nancy #france #villamajorelle Jared and I celebrated TWELVE years of marriage yesterday. Woot! We actually celebrated last Thursday night with a yummy French dinner out while my parents babysat.

Dinner for two ☺ #celebration Phylo dog turned 7. It's hard to believe really. He's still such a puppy in many ways. I think he loves it here (when it's not raining and he misses his walk). He gets to be off leash for walks so he's getting much more exercise than I could give him in California. He also loves the house I think. It's roomy and there's lots of cozy places for lounging :o)

Phylo has claimed this spot #germanshorthairpointer #dog My studio. We moved all the tables to the window wall for the light and also to block off the door (3 stories down!). #studio #attic #cozy I've been setting up my studio. It's such a great space. I'm the luckiest girl. Bird has started a few days a week of "kindergarten" (they call it that here but it's really preschool). So far so good. She's iffy about it some mornings but I think she's going to ease in and enjoy it. The best part is that we can walk. Yep, just 5 minutes walk. That's totally life changing. And good too, because we still have just one car. Our van is still in CA DMV limbo. Ugh.

Kinder. Back at it. I want to do what they're doing! Griffin is our Griffybear, almost 15mths old...he's teething hardcore these days and keeping us up at night. Painful. Like 2-4am not sleeping. Or wide awake at 3:45am. Nutty. He and Bird share a room so it can be complicated. But I remember this phase with Bird. Teething is hard for our kids. And for us. It will pass eventually... He's still such a sweetie. He's starting to say lots more words. Books, car, thank you, this, dog, tons of animal sounds. He wants to be a big boy so badly. We have him out of his high chair and he climbs by himself into a Stokke like chair with no straps. He wants real sandwiches he can hold in his little mitts. No cut up pieces for him, no thank you.

Tantrum. Hates being told no :) And what am I planning for my time? A mix of everything. Being mom, squeezing in art & textiles whenever possible, trying to take better care of myself. This is a big adjustment and I'm trying to not apply too much pressure to myself. I've been thrilled to have this beautiful space at the tippity top of the house (3 stories up, like a treehouse!) and have lots of little projects lined up. Painting a pair of mid-century side tables discarded on the street (why thank you!), revamping old lighting finds, framing up artworks. On my desk are fresh illustrations ready to be painted. And after our trip to Nancy, France, my head is spinning with ideas for textile designs.

Painted background. All for now, night! :) #watercolor #painting #rabbit #flowers #blue I'm on Instagram every day...I need to get better about Twitter, and only very occasionally check facebook. But I'd love to see you on Instagram and if you want to keep up with me and what we're doing that's the best place to be. My Instagram name is devonholzwarth.

#poppies #aachen #germany Outside the cathedral #aachen #germany Hugs from Germany!

On the way out

Packing up the #vintage #fiestaware #dishes

10 days left till the big move.

We've painted the house
found a property manager
found renters
installed gutters
fixed the landscaping & watering issues
sold/given away much of our stuff
rehomed our cat Sanguine
sold Jared's car
set myself up with great art materials until our stuff arrives in Europe
purchased an indoor swing for our kiddos (!)
bought our tickets & reserved a spot for Phylo
sold our Bob stroller and got a used double
secured temporary housing
started searching for a house to rent
cancelled magazine subscriptions
scheduled the packers/movers for next Wed/Thurs
ordered our last Amazon items (replacement pedometer Griffy flushed down the toilet)
planned a trip to Nice, France for 3 weeks after we get to Germany (!!)
removed everything from the walls & patched
rehomed large art & sold the huge tv
reupholstered my favorite chairs
taken every one to the dentist
stocked up on probiotics
researched German language teaching programs
scheduled monthly maintenance with landscaping service
scheduled painters to finish woodwork painting after we're gone
etc etc

Still so much left to do...lots of walls & trim to paint, mulch to lay, prepping for packers.

We're going to be so tired of working we'll be so excited to go.

I'm easing my anxiety about the whole thing by telling myself it's a long vacation. That way it feels temporary and fun and gives me a sense of adventure about the whole deal. Everything's mental, and everything is about attitude. I'm trying to keep mine upbeat and positive. I mean, how lucky are we to have this opportunity?

Hugs, Devon

ps: I'm on Instagram almost every day - my name on the site is "devonholzwarth". However, once we're over in Germany there will be a lapse in my iPhone use since I'll need to get a new European phone contract. I'll keep in touch via my macbook as best as possible :o)

Auf wiedersehen!