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Personal Notes

Yesterday was not poor Dane’s day.  All week long he looks forward to Tuesdays.  Soccer day.  The hours between school and soccer practice are almost unbearable, the boy has no concept of time.  Timers, clocks, stickers-on-clocks, nothing works.  He must ask me every 1-to-5 minutes;

“Is it time?”
“Can we go now?”
“How much longer?”  It drives me crazy, and makes me wish for more soccer days in a week.  Thankfully, as spring gets closer, more soccer days will be possible. I’m counting down the days, or would if I knew what day would be The Magic Day that soccer is more than one day a week.

Yesterday we got to soccer with barely a minute a spare, I kicked him out of the car to run into the school and get his sports clothes & shoes while I went to park the van.  I go to open my door and see a very sad little boy standing there staring at me:

“Run, Dane! Run!” I yell, but he keeps standing there looking utterly dejected. I slowly notice he has no turnbeutel (sportbag) in his hands.  No shoes. No shorts.

“Oh no, is the door locked?” and he nodded his head even sadder than before, if that was possible.  Here’s the thing, one of the hardest things for me to adapt to in Germany is the concept of a shoe for every occasion.  I mean this is fine for me, in fact, I strongly encourage this for me.  I loooooooove shoes.  But for a six-year-old growing boy?  It’s an exercise in futility and expense.  Still, we choose to live here, we must adapt.

Dane has a go-to-school shoe.  When he gets to school he changes to hausschuhe (house shoes, or slippers).  He also has rainboots at school for muddy/rainy days or snowboots for snowy days.  He also keeps turnschuhe (or sportshoes) at school for the 3-times a week sports class.  This caused some confusion at the beginning of this year, during the transition from warm & sunny to cold & rainy.  Because on cold & rainy days sport is in the gym, and then you must have indoor sportshoes. Shoes never worn outside and shoes with white soles.  So he had two different pairs of sportshoes at school, just in case. All of this is uber-logical but it really, really hurts the old pocketbook and challenges a mom with multiple kids with ever-growing feet.

Dane’s feet just grew.  He is down to one pair of sportshoes, snowboots, and one pair of hauschuhe.  That’s it.  No extra’s, no spares.  Its almost spring, I will stock up then.  It does mean his school sportshoes are also his after-school soccer shoes and they are kept at school.  We do not have an extra pair at home, or an extra pair only for soccer.  So when that door was locked unexpectedly yesterday, he had no sportshoes and playing soccer in snowboots is not okay.  Yesterday Dane missed out on soccer.  His favorite day of the week.  The day of the week he looks forward to all week.  My heart broke just a little.

Thankfully today is horseback riding day.  His new second favorite day of the week.  I am fervently trying to convince him to ride a pony.  He insists he is an awesome horse rider (he did it once!) and I just need to give him the reins and he will run & run with Carmen.  I am a little nervous about this afternoon and his overconfidence.  I did find out this morning what is wrong with the ponies:

“They are too hairy.”


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At the end of 3rd grade, we moved to America.  To California, to be precise.  Before that I had spend only 6 months in America, and I knew little-to-no English.  My memories of those first months are all visual. I wonder if that is what my kids remember from our first year in Germany?

I did get to try ESL (English as a Second Language) but either I was a really fast learner, or I didn’t fit in with the other kids.  After one session I was left to my own devices in a muted classroom.  No one else spoke Dutch, the rest all spoke Spanish, Vietnamese or Cambodian.  I was in San Jose, California.  A mecca for immigrants in the 70′s, and still at the top of the list of US cities with most immigrants.  Just not a lot of Dutch immigrants.

I don’t remember feeling too lonely or isolated. I do remember the day I met my best friend.  Jill walked into the classroom, new kid on the block, a couple months after I did.  My teacher, a fantastic man, Mr. Plummer, sat Jill next to me.  Whether it was because we were both new, or as it later turned out exact clones, I don’t know.  I do know we were immediate friends, inseparable until my dad’s job took us back to Holland two years later.

Some friendship are meant to be.  They stand the test of time and separation.  I moved back & forth between California and Holland into my teenage years, finally settling in the California bay area.  Jill finally settled in Santa Cruz, California, her mother changed jobs frequently as well.  We stayed in touch.  And as I got my drivers license I spent many hours driving that dangerous Highway 17 between Santa Cruz & Los Altos.  I love Jill.  I love the beach.  I love the crazy, crunchy-granola-ess that is Santa Cruz. What a fabulous place to spend your teenage years.

When Soren came along unexpectedly in 1990, Jill stood by my side.  Later she stood up as Soren’s Godmother and he was ring-bearer in her & Mitra’s wedding.  Then she left me.  She moved to the East Coast, leaving me behind with a big hole.  The next 20 years had both of us moving a lot. Me with the military as I became an army wife, her as an attaché’s wife as Mitra joined the State Department.

In September they moved to Paris.  Six-hours-from-me Paris.  I did a happy dance and talked to her for hours.  We were back, baby!  The weekend before Christmas, Jill, Mitra and 15-year-old Ella (named Elizabeth after me, my middle name is Elizabeth) came for their first visit.  I hadn’t seem them since Cole & Ella were both still in strollers.  Nothing had changed.  We picked up right were we left off, and reveled in our happiness.

Mitra & Dave followed close behind, marveling at the fact that there are two of us.  Two of us who get stressed when we are late, even if it’s only a minute.  Two of us that are compelled to pick up every shoe & jacket.  Two of us that worry if a child is out of sight for just a second.  We both wear glasses now, we both have night guards.  Time may have moved on, but we grew & changed even more the same in that time.

The two of us picked up our families, and our mothers (and my dad), and took Stuttgart by storm.  We led our group 11 through crowded Christmas markets to the best booths, to the best glühwein and the ice skating rink.  We exhausted our parents, and even Mitra, and they all found a warm, cozy bar to fill up in.  Jill & I kept the kids herded, and entertained, never missing a beat in catching up.

She left two days before Christmas, but I didn’t feel a loss.  I know we are barely separated, and I will see her again in no time.  Next time in Paris!  I had been feeling so lost with all my friends leaving.  And God opened up a door, threw it wide open, and led my bestest friend back in.

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I frequently get little notes from readers, friends, colleagues; “Wow! I love that picture!” or “Great picture today!” Like most moms, I take a LOT of pictures. Like most moms, I keep my fingers & toes crossed there is one good one in the bunch.  Sometimes, no matter how many pictures I snapped, or how long I kept fingers & toes crossed, there is not one good photo in the bunch.

We are in the prime of Fall over here (Black Forest, Germany).  It is absolutely spectacular and breathtaking.  For weeks I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect spot to take gorgeous Fall photo’s of my kids.  I needed the light to be just right, because I am just a mom, I can’t create magic light with a fancy set-up and I needed the trees to be in their full autumn glory. Yesterday was the day.

Under protest I packed all three little ones up into the van, nobody wanted to go hike around a farmers field so I could get my perfect photo.  I bribed.  Shoot me, it’s wrong, but I was willing to pay for a perfect photo.  It’s rare I get all three on a perfect day, with perfect light, and perfect trees.  I was willing to pay.

I want to take a moment here and comment on farmers fields.  There is a reason farmers wear sturdy, plastic, boots.  This lush, beautiful, green field was, in reality, ankle-to-knee deep mud.  When  you walk on it & look down, it’s not so much green as brown.  That green?  Total optical illusion. I haven’t figured out yet how they do it. I also haven’t figured out how to clean my favorite walking clogs, or three pairs of tennis shoes whose owners blame all the mud on me.

Remember where I said I was willing to pay, after 200 shots, a lot of hollering, screaming, running away, weird faces, upside down bodies, sideway bodies, magical flip kicks and posing only by the daughter, I gave up.  No paying happened. This is the best photo of the bunch.  I told you our trees are stunning right now.


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My Oma

by Toiny Westberry 9 October 2013
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Every time I see my Oma again, I burst into tears.  I steel myself before. I tell myself to be brave. I tell myself to be strong, none of it works.  I see her and I melt. It is just love.  It is my guilt at being so far. It is my sadness at how […]

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Tess’ First Day

by Toiny Westberry 11 September 2013
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Yesterday is a blur. It was Tess’ first day in secondary school.  Unlike American school with elementary, middle & high school, German schools have Grundschule (elementary school) and secondary school.  There are 3-4 different types of secondary schools, and honestly I’m still learning the difference between each.  Tess started the Realschule, the middle-of-the road school […]

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Pièces de Monnaie

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by Toiny Westberry 28 August 2013
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Before I start babbling about how fantastic my vacation was, and it was so, so fantastic, I’m putting in one little disclaimer: it was a roadtrip with kids. It was not perfect. However, from now on, it will sound perfect and be perfect in my memory. For the first time we went on vacation. A […]

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Adorable Dentist

by Toiny Westberry 14 August 2013
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There’s my beautiful girl with her beautiful purple teeth!  I miss her.  She has a best friend, it’s summer, and they are either at Becca’s or squirreled away in her room making Littlest Pet Shop videos.  I’ve been loving how happy she is, how adorable those videos are, and then, yesterday, I suddenly realized I’ve […]

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One of those phone calls

by Toiny Westberry 24 July 2013
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As you open this newsletter, I’m in my VW bus driving my dad to France.  I know, I know, poor me.  But I’m dreading it all the same.  This past week has been such an incredible whirlwind, I think life always is, but this week has been extra whirlwind-y. It started with one of those phone […]

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