Here are the rest of the Top 15 of our 2015:
7. Throughout the year we had visits from family and friends who are like family. I love this. What can I say, it is great to share our home with people who travel all the way here to visit us. We don’t usually head out and do touristy things as a family so when guests come to visit we are often experiencing our city in new ways with them. It was great to have guests spread out through the year and we’re looking forward to seeing who drops by in 2016;)
8. Many care packages arrive with people who are on their way to see us, but some show up in the mail and catch us all off guard. It is wonderful to get tastes of home throughout the year.
9. In Germany grade school begins with the first grade and it is a big deal. Einschultag is a big celebration welcoming the new students to the school the Saturday before they begin. We were caught unaware and since Micah is our youngest we now know how it works. The people were dressed up like they were attending a wedding, we were wearing jeans- all 5 of us- but at least Micah was wearing a button down shirt., we also forgot his backpack. Luckily he was full of grace, or didn’t notice. We did however remember the Schultütte which is a giant cardboard cone filled with candy and gifts. He ended up receiving about 5 or 6 of them including one from some great neighbors who even bought him a new stuffed animal that he brought with each day of his first week. It is weird having all the kids in school, when did we get to this point in life?
10. We have only left Berlin city limits a handful of times in the last 18 months and one was our birthday present to each other. We decided to take a bus up to the Ostsee (Baltic Ocean) for the weekend in September. It was no longer peak season and was cold and windy, but it was a definite highlight for us all. Being Minnesotans who aren’t bothered by a little chilly wind, we rolled up our pants and waded in the water searching for shells and jelly fish, both of which we found many of. We ate fish sandwiches, enjoyed our first Danish ice cream, and strolled along the promenade with the kids. It was really a wonderful getaway weekend and we all hope to do it again.
11. We hosted a Thanksgiving dinner here for a family from our building and a Minnesotan man that Denny met this past year while wandering Berlin. It was nice to provide a taste of home to someone and to introduce an American holiday to others. We have already talked a couple of times about how to make it even better next year and for how many people could we possibly invite to our home.
12. A highlight for me was reading my first book in German that wasn’t a children’s book and that I could actually understand. For me, it is a celebration of just how far I have come linguistically since we arrived.
13. Christmas Eve was a wonderful day for us. We enjoyed dinner at our pastor’s home again this year with people from 6 different countries. We made our way home around eleven-ish and then I spent some time talking with my family in Florida. Our kids loved Christmas this year, it was mellow and relaxing. On Christmas night we had a couple guys over and played cards into the morning hours. A mellow Christmas was the perfect celebration for us.
14. For New Year’s Eve we had some friends over and they introduced us to the classic (short) film Dinner for One which could easily become our New Year’s tradition also. We had a table full of snacks including our first cream cheese wantons since we arrived here, although we have asked repeatedly no Asian food restaurants here serve them. The kids set off fireworks and at midnight Isaac went down to enjoy the craziness that welcomes in each New Year with Denny and our friends. I stayed up with Leah, who didn’t want to go down, and Micah who had fallen asleep and remained sleeping through the loud partying. We played a new card game with them and a neighbor until 3:30 in the morning and at 4 I finally had to go to bed. I don’t know if I have ever been very good at all-nighters, but I am worse now than I ever was before I am sure.
15.The ultimate highlight of last year came as a surprise last week as I was planning this post. As I searched through photos to share I came to the realization that Berlin is home. We live here. We have favorite cafes where the baristas know us, we have friends, we can communicate, we have made memories and we live here. We. Live. Here. We are not just surviving here, we are living life here- birthday parties, church retreats, coffees, football watching evenings, neighbors who drop by for “a cup of sugar”, kids learning to ride bike out front, life is happening and it is good. All the hard things of 2015, they would have happened no matter where we lived. All this life, these awesome points of 2015 happened here, they happened at home.
Bring it on 2016, I’m dreaming big for you. But I don’t know if you can top that.