Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thank you for the votes!

Thank you so much for all your support!  I just checked the Circle of Mom's Top 25 Expat Mom Blogs website and I am still in the running.  Also, thank you dear reader who nominated this blog.  I was seeking to find out how my little blog ended up in the competition and apparently one of my dear readers nominated it. Thank you!

Remember, you can vote once each day for my blog, Lady Expat.  Voting ends June 6th. Click the thumbs up sign next to my name through the link below.

Also, please become a fan on Facebook.  Click here to do so.  Thank you so much!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why I love Holland America Cruise Line

May 2008, Olympia, Greece.  Behind us, is the Noordam
Almost exactly 3 years ago, my husband and I decided to take the trip of a lifetime. We saved up over $8,000 to fly to Europe and take a 10-night cruise on Holland America Cruise Line. This would be our first and what we thought only time to visit Europe before having children. The week before we left for our luxury vacation, my husband was interviewed for the job in Germany. I also was unfairly punished at my job for "talking" too much. Imagine that! Funny thing was, they said I did a great job and was quick to get my work done but I needed to stay in my cube like a prisoner. Okay, I added the prisoner part. But that's how I felt, trapped. Anyway, our cruise gave us time to think about the possibilities of me looking for another job where I could socialize and do something I truly loved doing. I mean you only live once, right? Might as well spend the majority of your time doing something you enjoy and are appreciated for. 

Back to the cruise. In 2008, we saved up big bucks to fly to Rome and take a Mediterranean cruise. Our ship was beautiful. We paid for an ocean view because that was all we could afford at the time. The service was outstanding. We were celebrating our 5-years of marriage a little early (our anniversary is in January) and having a great time. One joke we heard from several older couples were, "is this your honeymoon?" When we said no, they said, "haven't you heard the old saying, Holland America is for newly wed or nearly dead." We thought that was kind of funny as there were not very many younger couples. But we enjoyed the older crowd and didn't mind going to breakfast and seeing people well-dressed. It beat another cruise line we went on where people came to breakfast in a bathrobe! But the real reason I now really love Holland America is because we have been upgraded, for FREE to a Deluxe Veranda Suite! Oh yes, a HUGE room with a large balcony. Thank you so much Holland America! This time we did splurge for a balcony cabin, which they call Veranda Suite (Approximately 283 sq. ft. including verandah).  However, the Deluxe is over twice as big (Approximately 575 sq. ft. including verandah).  This cabin comes with a lot of perks, including special breakfast dining with other suite guests, High Tea in suite, special lounge, complimentary laundry, pressing and dry cleaning throughout your cruise, and more.  I am just overwhelmed with gratitude!!  God and Holland America provide.

A little more background to our situation.  A week ago Holland America sent an offer to upgrade us for $349 per person. After examining our budget we decided we just couldn't do it. We already are spending more than normal to get the balcony in the first place.  Although we were both very torn because of all the extras, including space you get for our little guy to play in.  Today I received an email from them with this wonderful news. Oh and did I mention, I have the best travel agent, ever?! I do recommend using a cruise agent when you cruise. If you are looking for one, contact mine, her name is Cathy, click on her name and you can go to her website with her contact information.  Thank you Cathy for all your help as well!!

Here are my top 10 reasons I love Holland America, in no particular order:

1. Outstanding Service
2. People are dressed up for dinner, i.e. no shorts in the dinning room
3. High Tea - everyone should experience high tea at least once
4. Clean ship
5. Fun games to play and great prizes at the end of the cruise
6. Wonderful food
7. Comfortable beds
8. Peaceful and quiet nights - many of the older cruises go to bed early so the top decks are practically empty at night
9. Conservative guests
10. They gave us a wonderful and free upgrade! This could be partly because we are past guests. Loyalty is important to companies.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Don't Eat Poop!

Everyone Poops (My Body Science Series)We bought my almost 2 year old son a few potty books.  One is Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi.  Toward the end of the book it talks about everyone eats so everyone poops.  Well, last night at dinner he looked at the beans on his plate and said, "don't eat poop!"  My husband and I looked at eat other and said, "that's right, we don't eat poop!"  He may have thought the beans looked like poop because he wouldn't touch them and he usually likes beans. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Amusement Park in Germany

Last weekend my family finally visited our first amusement park in Germany.  We went to Holiday Park.  We had a great time.  There were several rides that my almost 2 year old could ride and plenty of rides for older children and grown-ups.  It was like a mini Disney World for Germany.  They had German cartoon characters dressed up to meet the children and get pictures with them.  They had a log ride and a few bigger roller coasters for children 8 and up.  There was an indoor playroom with a slide and soft mats for younger kids to play if the weather was good.  It was for kids 0-5.  There were also some playgrounds within the park.  

We ate lunch at one of the restaurants and the food was pretty good.  Thankfully you can bring your own food in so we brought some snacks and water bottles with us.  There are a lot of amusement parks and theme parks in Germany and we hope to try another one soon.  

The only thing I did not like about Holiday Park was one ride which I thought was going to be a boat ride.  My husband and I were thinking of the ride at Disney World in Orlando where they play "It's a Small World."  Well, this was not a boat ride but a haunted seat ride.  It went through the dungeons of castles, providing us a visual history of various ways of torturing and killing people, think of a "live" torture museum.  There were also robotic people dressed up as prostitutes, drunks, etc.  We had no idea that it would be like this.  It was truly a very different cultural experience.  It was quite scary and I kept trying to cover my young son's eyes because the ride and sites were quite scary and even freaked me out.  Needless to say, we will not be going in the dungeon again if we go back.  My husband and I both felt horrible for taking our son on that ride.  Thankfully, he made it out and didn't seem to be too scared. If you visit a theme park in another country be aware that not every ride will be what you expect.  

Other than that it was a nice park to spend the day.  Very stroller friendly and plenty of families and young people were there enjoying the rides.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Please Vote!

Dear Readers,

Lady Expat has been nominated to the Top 25 Expat Moms list on Circle of Moms! Please take a minute and vote for Lady Expat blog to help move it to the top of the list -
You can vote once a day until June 6, 2011. Thanks for your support!

Yours Truly,

Friday, May 6, 2011

Addicted to Amazon

This is a confession post.  After reviewing my budget today, I try and update quarterly but simply got a little behind, I noticed a frequent trend.  Amazon purchases galore!  I am addicted to Amazon!  I'm not talking about the Amazon Rainforest here, I'm talking about one of the most addicting (at least for me) websites there is., where you can buy almost anything - all from the comfort of your home.  Ahhh. Not to mention they send your purchases to your house where it's like Christmas every time you receive a package.

A little background.  My husband and I have an allowance each month.  We both get a certain amount of money to spend however we choose.  In all honestly, I sadly have gone WAY over mine!  You see, I am actually a very frugal person, but lately with the US Dollar declining and the Euro rising, a simple meal out can cost anywhere from $35-$50 after the conversion.  When we lived in America anything over $20 was a luxury to us.  Now we sometimes put it in the back of our head as just an additional expense to living overseas and so we raised our food budget, for example at the beginning of the year.  Anyway, after making some investments last week and realizing that our savings is not as high as I had hoped and predicted, I decided I needed to sit down and see how I could cut back.  Food is really not an option for us, as we tend to buy organic when we can and we don't have the luxury of coupons like people do in the States.  Also food in general is just more expensive here.  We can eat out less, which is a new goal for us.  Maybe just once or twice a week rather than three to four (sometimes more) times. I say less because honestly we enjoy eating out and right now I don't see us cutting that out completely.  We've been there and have done that.  We both took our lunches almost everyday for 2 years, shared one car, and did a lot of other crazy things to get out of debt several years ago. 

Now back to my point about Amazon.  As I'm trying to reground myself and focus on what my goals truly are (i.e. a nice 4-5 bedroom, 3 bath home when we move back to the States), I am looking for corners to cut.  That is why when I started categorizing each expense and saw 40 purchases from Amazon since December 21st, yes, 40, I kind of freaked out.  Granted many of these purchases are not just for me but are for my son, a few for my husband, and some gifts.  From clothes, to dozens of books, to educational materials, I am truly addicted.  I never thought of myself as an addict before.  But I truly am.  I had over 100 items in the "save for later" section of the shopping cart.  I even made a $30 purchase last night.  Because you know once you spend money there you have to spend enough to get free shipping.  To break my addition I deleted all but 4 items in the save for later cart.  One is a book for my mother-in-law, one is a cookbook for me (I'm waiting on this purchase since I recently bought a few cookbooks), and the other two are early to read books for my almost 2 year old, which I'm holding off on since he's just now starting to read a few words and will probably wait until Christmas to get those for him.

So here is my plan, I am going to closely monitor my purchases from Amazon. I will try not to spend free time browsing the website looking at possible buys.  And I am going to ask my husband to hold me more accountable.  He is the nicest man alive and never gives me grief about anything I buy.  But like I said, for the most part I am pretty frugal and try and save when possible, and am pretty good at managing money.  Which is why I caught this problem now and not 6 months from now.  But I also need support from my friends and readers.  I want to know, is anyone else addicted or has been addicted to Amazon or another shopping website?  If so, how are you dealing with it?  I'd like to think I'm not alone.  =)

Monday, May 2, 2011

You Don't Have to Yell at Your Kids

Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six YearsAre you tired of yelling at your kids?  If so, read this book.  Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood, by Jim Fay and Charles Fay, Ph.D. is a wonderful parenting book.  This book is geared for parents of children from birth to age 6.  They have other books if your child is older and you want to try the love and logic approach.  However, if you start young, you will save yourself a lot of grief later on. 

My son is almost 2 and I have been researching and reading parenting books like crazy.  A few months ago he started the "terrible two's" and having fits of rage.  This was very frustrating and my natural tendency is to yell at him to stop that..  But that's not how I wanted to parent.  Which is why I set out to find other ways.  Can I be a parent who speaks softly to my child?  Will my child listen if I don't raise my voice?  I will be honest, this approach was not the most natural for me.  I grew up in a home where yelling was the norm.  I didn't like it and yet it is so easy to go back to how you were raised.  However, after some practice, not yelling becomes very easy.

I love how the love and logic approach works.  No more yelling, no more repeating yourself.  One of the first steps to this approach is making deposits in your child's life by giving them lots of choices.  This way they gain healthy control over their lives and learn to think for themselves.  The choices you give them do not hurt anyone else, are choices you approve of, and can be fun.  Such as, "would you like to go to the park or stay home and play."  "Would you like milk or water to drink for lunch?"

When you need your child to do something, such as clean up their toys, give them one chance.  If they choose not to obey, then there is an age-appropriate consequence.  First show your child empathy by stating something like "how sad" or "bummer" then state the the consequence. Such as, "feel free to pick up the toys you want to keep."   Then the toys that your child doesn't pick up, you take their toys away and say, "how sad, how would you like to pay for your toys?"  If they need help deciding offer some suggestions.  Then they earn back their toys by helping you with chores.  Obviously, this example is for older toddler/preschooler, but you can start teaching your child how to pick up their toys early on by helping them and gradually letting them do it by themselves. Then once you are consistent with the consequences you will naturally eliminate many of the problems you are having.  What kid wants their toys taken away?  If they don't care or don't want to earn them back then get rid of them.  Also by only asking once and giving them one chance you are preparing them for the real world.  Most of life you only get one chance.  If you take your eyes off the road for a few seconds to look at your phone and a tire in the road comes flying at you, you may have lost your chance to safely get out of the way.  The police officer who pulls you over for speeding usually will not give you a warning but will write you a ticket, and so on.

If your child whines or yells at you, simply teach them that you do not listen to whining or yelling and will listen to them when their voice is as calm as yours.  Then ignore their behavior until they use a calm voice like yours. This also teaches your child self-control.  Because honestly, who enjoys hearing a person whine?

You do not have to yell or raise your voice to get your child's attention.  Using a soft voice works wonders. Not losing your temper makes parenting a lot easier.  And you know what?  Your child will listen.  I have been using the methods in this book for a about a month and it is amazing how well it is working on my 22 month old.  If you want to learn more, read this book.  It is probably one of my favorite parenting books. Simple to use, loving, it builds responsibility in your child, and it works! 

While this book is not a Christian book, one verse in the Bible kept coming to mind when I was reading about keeping calm when dealing with my child.

Proverbs 15:1 (NIV) - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
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