Tag Archives: family

Parenting American Teens in Germany

Or the Worst Mother’s Day Ever

Sunday was Mother’s Day. Happy belated Mother’s Day by the way. On Friday, my daughter called me from the grocery store to ask if we had certain items in stock. I wasn’t sure what she was up to, but I suspected that it had something to do with Mother’s Day. My daughter loves to cook and bake, so I assumed that a treat was forthcoming for Mother’s Day.

On Saturday evening my daughter decided at the last-minute that she wanted to see a movie with her friend and her friend’s mother. I said Okay. My daughter then calls me while she is at the movies to ask if she could stay the night at her friends house. I said sure, but don’t forget that tomorrow is Mother’s Day and have her mom call me after the movie is over. I fell asleep before I received the phone call from her friend’s mother.

I had been working hard all week on my final essays and projects for my British Lit and Shakespeare courses, so when Sunday finally arrived, I decided to sleep in until 10. I had already discovered that my daughter planned to make brunch after I heard her tell her father not to make reservations at our favorite gasthaus. I woke up, excited at the idea of omelettes, pastries, yogurt, and fresh fruit.

I checked my phone. The mother had never called. I tried calling her, but received no answer. I figured that she was probably bringing my daughter home.

At 1130 we got THE call. The one that every parent fears. The MPs called to tell us that our daughter was in the Nurnberg hospital. WHAT?!?!

She had been picked up by the Polizei at the bahnhof. She was unresponsive for two minutes as the Polizei tried to wake her up.

We rushed to the hospital (just over an hour away). When we arrived, she was sleeping in the waiting room.

The Doctor gave us her blood test. Her blood alcohol level was 1.4 when she arrived at 930 am and 1.2 two hours later. Her last drink was at 4am.

In case you are wondering how a 16-year-old can go clubbing, I should probably tell you that the legal drinking age in Germany is 16. Crazy right?

She had no idea where her coat, purse, and cell phone went. She assumed that her “friends”–who left her at the bahnhof–were in possession of her stuff, but she could not remember. She remembers getting separated from them at the Nurnberg station and then finding a Polizei for help. The Polizei gave her a train ticket to get home. She got on the wrong train. So then she gets off a few stations later and sits on a bench to wait for the next train going back to Nurnberg. This is where she passed out. A Polizei found her and called the paramedics.

Nurnberg is a known party spot for Americans and Germans. There are numerous clubs, fights, and deaths. THis is where most young soldiers (and apparently dependent teens) find trouble.

We have warned her numerous times to stay away. We have told her how dangerous it is and that the consequences for my husband are severe. Like most teens, she ignored us.

We spent the next 2 hours trying to locate her belongings. After a hopeless search, we headed off to find food and take our errant teenager home.

Long lectures, yelling, crying, and more lectures and yelling ensued. It was a long ride home.

At 530pm, her friends finally decided to bring her belongings–which contained her Passport Visa, military ID, and SS card–to the MP station so that someone would know that she was missing. Her “friends” waited almost 12 hours before notifying ANYONE that my daughter had gone missing!

I sat on my patio and watched a young mother play with her little girl. My heart ached for myself and for that mom who has no idea that in just 12 years that sweet little girl will break her heart.

Parenting is hard. Parenting teenagers is torture. Parenting teenagers in Germany is a nightmare.

So here I am, remembering the sweetest little girl that was once my daughter and every  time I think about it, my eyes begin to fill with tears.

I am so very grateful that my daughter was not raped or murdered.

She will rue the day she lied to us and went to clubbing. How do you punish a modern teen? Take away ALL social media, electronics, and friends. If I had it my way, I’d lock her in her room until she turns 18.

Do you have any teen parenting related horror stories to share? Please feel free to comment below!

Time Is Not Fair!

It’s the time of year when I start to reminisce about the days when my kids were little. Their birthdays are coming up soon and they will be 17 and 15 years old. My daughter will be off to college in a year and a half! It seems unfair that time drags when you are young, but seems to speed up once you have children.

My Long-Time Obsession with Office Supplies

When I was a little girl, I used to look at and play with all of the cool stuff on and in my mom’s desk. She had a long metal ruler that flexed, some kind of long horsehair brush (I think it was used for dusting out the typewriter), a beige heavy metal stapler with a matching tape dispenser, and cool ledgers, and a desk pad.

I lover pens and mechanical pencils. I sat in awe as I stared at all of the different types of paper clips. I punched holes with three different types of hole punchers into any scraps of paper that I could find. I used those paper hole reinforcements–you know those little circles with a hole in the center–as eyes on my notebook covers.

I even played with her rubber cement! It was the coolest thing ever! I also loved her big, heavy, silver scissors. I have no idea what brand they were, but they were beautiful and fun to use. She even had a tiny pair of scissors in her desk that I loved to use.

I also loved her filing cabinet. There was something magical about the way the files were organized. I loved that you could run your finger down all of those File tabs until you found what you were looking for. Organization at its peak.

Everything was so grown-up and sophisticated. I wanted to work in an office someday, or have a job where I got to use all that really cool stuff.

1980s Office Supplies
1980s Office Supplies

Today I am grown up. My obsession with office supplies has not waned one bit. The only difference is that instead of them being magical, they are practical and useful. They are tools. However, I still get excited about purchasing them. I appreciate quality tools. Moreover, I enjoy organization.

Today I received my first good quality stapler and tape dispenser. My Swingline 747 stapler is beautiful, sleek, heavy, and works better than any stapler I have ever owned.  I just used it for the first time to staple a 20-page journal article and the Swingline staple went through like a knife through butter. No jamming. No hang-ups. I am in love. Now I cannot wait to fill my tape dispenser and use it for the first time!

I had forgotten about my youthful fascination with my mom’s office supplies.  Using that stapler seemed to bring it all back to me. In fact, I think I will give her a call now.  Just to say thanks for never yelling at me whenever I would play with her office supplies. If not for her, I would not be the quirky, weird person that I am today.  Thanks mom. I love you for that.

A Christmas Lesson and a New Family Tradition

This year we had a very tight budget for Christmas spending.  The Department of Defence lowered our overseas cost of living by 50%, I have yet to secure employment, and we are recuperating losses from repairs on our rental property in Colorado.  I did my best to get at least a few things that each child wanted as well ensuring that we had all of our usual Christmas goodies.

When you live on a military base overseas, the prices at the Commissary (DeCa grocery store) are rather high.  Our tiny little ham was $32–and it was the only one that was not already expired. Things like baker’s chocolate, sugar, and flour that we would normally get a tt a great price were also inflated.

I could have spent more on Christmas gifts if we hadn’t gone to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nurnberg, but I felt that it would be fun to experience one of the world-famous Christmas Markets.  Too often we live in an area that has amazing things to see, but we end up never doing them because there’s always that little voice that says “we can do it next year.”  It is my experience that the next year comes, and we still haven’t gone and then before we realize it–we are moving again.  I have been looking forward to the Christkindlesmarkt ever since we found out that we had orders to Germany, so I was not about to let this opportunity pass.  I’m glad that we spent the money on such a special trip!

This year, my son was greatly disappointed with his gifts.  He wanted Fifa 14, but it was not available at the Post Exchange (PX). He also wanted Minecraft online, but I didn’t know about it.  The other item that my son really wanted was a pair of $80 Euro shoes (after exchange & bank fees that comes out to about $105). The kids asked for sweaters as well. So I gave my son Fifa 13, two very nice sweaters, a nice Timex watch with an alarm and two time zones, and my husband’s old smart phone with minutes and some data. From my parents he received a $50 gift card to Amazon.  Personally, I would love to have that gift card!

Off and on through the day he asked for Minecraft after finding out that he couldn’t buy the online game through Amazon.  After telling him nicely that he could ask his sister to cash out some of his amazon gift card when she gets paid on the 5th of January, he got upset and said he shouldn’t have to wait that long.

My children are blessed, and they don’t even realize it.  I grew up with very little.  I remember eating lots of ground beef, tuna casserole, and soups.  We were not dirt poor, but we certainly were not middle class. We lived in Santa Ana, California–a known gang zone.  I had to take the bus or walk just about everywhere. We had junk cars that were often breaking down. I never asked for much because I grew up with these 6 words: “we don’t have money for that.”  If I had a pair of L.A. Gear shoes–they were the previous years’ model and we purchased them at the swap meet. I don’t think my mother would have ever purchased a $30 pair of shoes for us girls.  Our shoes came from Payless. Our clothes were purchased at K-Mart. I didn’t complain. I was grateful for every gift that I received, and if I didn’t like it, I pretended to love it. I still remember the year that I received the Prince “1999” album and the Cyndi Lauper “She’s So Unusual” album. I cherished those records for years!

I was so angry and hurt by my son’s attitude that I went up to my room to be alone with memories of him as a little boy.  An idea sparked.

I came downstairs about two hours before dinner with two large storage boxes full of family photos.  I called the kids to the dining table and had them sit down with me.  We went through the photos together.  We visited Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings, and impromptu snap shots.  The kids had a great time looking through all of the wonderful memories.  I did too. Thomas said to me later that night, “mom, I’m sorry. Thanks for all of the awesome gifts you gave me when I was a kid. I really do like the Fifa 13 game, and my sweaters. How did you know that I needed a watch?” I just smiled. Told him you are welcome and that it was a tradition in my family to get your first “grown-up” watch for Christmas when you are a freshman in high school. He asked me to help him set up the second time zone for Colorado. It was a good lesson for him, and a reminder to me–I have done well in providing a better life for my kids.

I also discovered a new Christmas tradition–looking through old photos before dinner on Christmas Day.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!

~~Angelique Stevens

It’s a Family Tradition!

Family holiday traditions have a way of growing, changing, and melding with the addition of each new family member.  My husband and I celebrated Christmas with very different traditions before we got married, but have melded the best of both our families and added our own flair to our celebration.  I love that no two families are identical in their celebration traditions.  After viewing the blog and ornaments at Patience Brewster, a designer of unique Christmas ornament and gifts, I was inspired to share my favorite holiday traditions.

It’s Not Black Friday—It’s Christmas Friday!

As soon as Halloween passed, I could hardly wait to play Christmas music and put up all of the Christmas decorations.  When I was a child, my mom would sometimes decorate the weekend before Thanksgiving, but my husband did not want to see anything having to do with Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  I compromised by decorating the house with fall wreaths, garlands, linens, and other miscellaneous decor.  The rule stands: No Christmas until after the Turkey has been consumed! While everyone else is running ragged trying to get the best Christmas deals on black Friday, we stay home and decorate the house for Christmas. We call it Christmas Friday.

It’s a Wonderful Life

After all of the decorations have been strategically placed, we all gather around the TV to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  This has not always been a tradition.  My husband is a funny creature.  The Saint Nicolas party always put him in the mood for Christmas. It was sort of like a marker to him that he should now be feeling joyful and excited no matter what stress existed, whether it be financial, work, or family related.  When we moved far from family, I just could not seem to get him into the holiday spirit.  Then one night, about a week before Christmas, we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the Turner Classic Movie Channel.  He said, “I love this movie. It always puts me in the holiday mood.” I bought the DVD at the after Christmas sale. Now we watch this film every year on Christmas Friday.

Trimming the Tree

Because my husband comes from a very large family, his parents began a tradition of celebrating Saint Nicolas Day every year with all of the family members—the guest list was comprised of grandparents; first, second, and third aunts, uncles and cousins; and close family friends.  After my husband and I were married, guests also included my parents and my sister. Saint Nicolas Day marked the kick-off to the Christmas season.  Gifts usually included Christmas ornaments or decorations.

Though we moved far away from the family, we kept the tradition of giving an ornament to each of our children for Saint Nicolas day.  We also buy one new ornament that represents a family milestone or a favorite memory.  Even the puppies are represented on our Christmas tree!  Our tree may not be color coordinated or worthy of a formal gathering, but each ornament has a story to tell.  Every year we enjoy homemade hot cocoa, my family sugar cookies, and listen to Christmas songs while each member of the family hangs his or her ornament. More often than not, an ornament will spark a memory and the owner will share their memory with the rest of the family.

Christmas Eve Birthday Party

Though Christmas Eve is not technically Jesus’ birthday, this is the day our family celebrates His birth.  Every year we make a small birthday cake—and yes “Happy Birthday Jesus” is written on the top.  After we eat our cake, each family member writes a personal note to Jesus and puts it in His stocking—this is our gift to Him.  The note remains in the stocking until the next year. When we hang His stocking, each person reads his or her note—it’s a private thing, so we have never forced the kids to read it a aloud. My notes usually consist of thanksgiving for the blessings of that year and prayers for the New Year.  Afterward, we read Christ’s birth story.

When I was a kid, I used to sit in front of the tree and shake my gifts on Christmas Eve. I was just too excited! Of course, we had a rule: no shaking the gifts! But seriously, who didn’t shake them when they were kids?  Because I still have that urge to open gifts before Christmas morning, we started the PJ gift tradition.  Everyone in the family gets brand new pajamas and slippers—and if needed, a new robe.  Besides, what is a birthday party without gifts?

After the PJs have been opened, we all change into our new PJs and then sit together on the sofa.  We read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and sing “Up On the Roof Top” and “Here Comes Santa Clause.”

 The Christmas Cookie
Louisiana Sugar Cookies
Louisiana Sugar Cookies

My family always made Louisiana Sugar Cookies that are rolled into a ball and then flattened on the cookie sheet with a decorative glass, while my husband’s family always made sugar cookies that are rolled and cut with cookie cutters.  His favorite part of making cookies as a kid was decorating them.  Though I prefer my family’s cookies, we did make the cut cookies when our kids were little because my husband loved decorating them with the kids. Funny that my kids enjoyed decorating the cookies, but favored mine for eating…

Christmas Morning

When I was a child, I would wake my little sister up and exclaim, “It’s Christmas!”  My parents had to practically pull me out of bed any other day of the year, but on Christmas morning, I would wake up somewhere between 5 and 6 am.  We would rush into the living room to make sure that Santa had come. After scoping out the presents, we would run and jump into our parent’s bed and yell, “Santa was here! It’s Christmas!”  To which they would reply, “Okay, Okay.” They would groggily head to the living room and watch as we opened our stockings.  We would then have to wait for the coffee to brew before we could open the presents.

I’m pretty sure this scene is familiar to most families. However, I am still the one who wakes up first on Christmas morning. I start the coffee. Then I take the scones (made on Christmas Eve) and the jam to the coffee table. I sneak back into bed and wait for the kids.

In our house, the dogs get to open their gifts first. Their stockings are full of treats, and Santa always wraps a huge bone for them.

The Christmas Feast

Whether you eat tamales, lasagna, prime rib, turkey, duck, lamb, or ham—the Christmas feast is probably one of the most important aspects of the Christmas traditions.  My grandmother always brought her homemade fruitcake and fudge.  We ate ham prepared with pineapple and clove, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and brown-and-serve dinner rolls.  Dessert included cookies, pumpkin pie, fudge, and of course, grandma’s fruitcake. My husband’s favorite feast as a child was the Saint Nicolas party spread. This traditional feast included tamales (brought by an uncle’s sister-in-law,) pickled and creamed herring, Cool Orange Salad, Tomato aspic, and glazed ham along with traditional sides such as candied yams, and stuffing.  Eggnog was of course a treat in both our families.

Rum Balls And Fudge
Rum Balls And Fudge

In order to fit in all of our favorite foods, we serve hors d’oeuvres starting at about 10am through the afternoon.  We serve pickled and creamed herring, an olive and pickle platter as well as a veggie platter, Cool Orange Salad (only I use lime Jell-O for Christmas so it’s Cool Green Salad), my homemade creamy eggnog, Fudge, rum balls, and my Louisiana sugar cookies.

The star of Christmas dinner is a ham ornamented with pineapple and cloves, then coated in a pineapple and brown sugar glaze. The side dishes include salad, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, broccoli, and fresh baked dinner rolls.  For dessert, we serve apple pie, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie.  I know that’s a lot of pie, but who doesn’t love pie for breakfast the next day?

 New Traditions

Now that we are living in Germany, we have added a couple of new things to our Christmas Traditions.  We learned how to make certain traditional German Christmas cookies, and we enjoyed it so much that I will include them from now on. We are also adding Stollen to our menu as well as Gluhwein (hot, spiced wine).  I am certain there will be many more additions to our Christmas traditions over the years, and that is the beauty of traditions—they grow and change over the years, but are always special.


I hope you have enjoyed exploring our family Christmas traditions.  Do you have any family traditions that you have kept or changed over the years? I’d love to hear about them!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your families!