Sunday, September 30, 2007


So as I'm posting this, my mother-in-law is on the phone with Gerard. Gerard put her on the phone with me so she could respond to my "enema" post. She said that when she was an intern, they used to refer to enemas as "High, Hot, and a Helluva Lot." Joy! Now that image is burned in my brain.

We spent Saturday morning at this crazy flea market where you can buy children's clothes. Regina and Jason told us about it, and even offered to take us there with them. I think I was expecting something very different than what I actually experienced. First, I thought it would be held outside with several booths where you can walk in and out and see what kinds of things you want... more like a swap meet. What I saw was a giant room of tables containing different types of kids' clothes. The people were very cut-throat, too. Forget the niceties. They were all lined up well before it opened, then charged in and grabbed and grabbed stuffing whatever they thought they wanted into their bags. Most people brought their own large bags purchased from IKEA to stuff things into. It was absolutely crazy. You had no time to browse. If you thought you wanted it, you were better off grabbing it and then looking it over in a corner. I am also still clueless about how they do sizing here. I assume at least that clothing like pants/shirts is based on centimeter height, though I'm not even sure how tall Gerrit is now. I sent Gerard and Gerrit to a corner while I ran around the room grabbing things. I would then throw them at Gerard and ask him to hold them up to Gerrit to see how they fit. If they fit, we kept them. If not, I'd return them after dumping off another load. The whole thing was over and done with in no more than 45 minutes. All in all, it was a great way to get "nice" used kids' clothes at a great deal. Since they don't really have second-hand clothing stores here, this is the way it's done. I spent 57 Euro but got an amazing assortment of warm shirts, sweaters, hats, and mittens. I even got two snowsuits and a pair of snow boots for Gerrit. In two weeks there is supposed to be something similar for kid toys.
Inside the Flea Market
Regina and I with all our lootGerrit & William (Regina's 3 year old)

In the afternoon, we drove to a giant baby superstore called Baby Welt (like a Babies R Us). We hoped to find a double stroller there. I am very picky about what I want, though, and we didn't find it. I want a double stroller that will accommodate an infant snap-in car seat. This is not a popular item here, probably because most people walk everywhere. Instead, they actually have tons of buggy contraptions where the kids actually lay down that attach to the stroller. I may have to have my mom get it for me from the States and "gate check" it when she comes out here to visit.
Sunday morning Gerard got up and took the dogs for a walk. Jake (our $75 easy going pound pup) keeps finding these furry balled up things and brings them to us. We think they are hedge hogs. We haven't been able to see what body parts are hidden when they curl up, and since we've only seen them balled up, we can only assume that's what they are. At least we've been told that hedge hogs hang out in areas that are not polluted, so I guess that says something positive about where we're living. Jake usually finds them in fields when they are playing, but the other day, he found a smaller one in our backyard. Niki (our $1200 neurotic pure bred Carolina Dog), on the other hand, likes to spend her time rolling around in whatever feces she happens to discover. This morning she found a nice steamy pile of something nasty and immediately rolled in it. The consequence for such an action was to be given a bath immediately upon arriving home, and of course, she absolutely hates baths.Early this afternoon we actually took the train into town and went to Oktoberfest. Again, not at all what I was expecting. It was much more family oriented than I thought it would be. I expected it to just be several giant tents serving beer and food inside. Instead, it was more like a giant carnival with games and rides and tents scattered throughout. Gerrit went on a carousel ride and a train an loved it. We were advised to go on a Sunday because "all the Bavarians are at church and all the tourists are still hung over from the night before." It was still extremely crowded, though, so I can only imagine how packed it is at night. This was the first time we took the train from Neufahrn into Munich. I actually think it's a bit far for Gerrit to stay settled. Thankfully he enjoys looking out the train window, but he still got antsy after a bit. I can only imagine what it will be like trying to do this with two kids. Hopefully Gerrit will become a little more patient in the coming months. Yes, wishful thinking, I know.
Inside a Beer Hall/Tent
Gerrit loves the Choo Choo
Waiting for the S-Bahn

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bizarre Enema Dreams

Can I just say how much I dig the poop shelf in the toilet? I get a kick out of the whole concept. Gerard, on the other hand, finds it quite disturbing (which I find completely entertaining).

I had my second German class this morning. I feel like a complete idiot in class. I know that learning "conversational" language (I see this as Gerrit's language develops, too) is best accessed in short chunks or by learning sentences. However, this is completely counter-intuitive to the way adults learn... or at least the way *I* WANT to learn. I want rules and structure. I want to understand the language structure first or at the same time, which is not the way we're being taught. Yes, I know that getting the syntax and grammatical structure is not the best way to learn immediately, anyway. But I am personally fighting the urge to pull my hair out and stomp my feet because I want to understand it NOW NOW NOW. I definitely think taking this course AND living in Germany for a bit will help me empathize with my second language students in the U.S. It's nothing like taking a foreign language class in high school or college, where you can still speak your native tongue once you leave the class each day. Instead, I am inundated with German (all still jibberish to me now), and I am now the minority. While I feel I do a decent job teaching ELL students, I am definitely able to now empathize and access the kids on an entirely different level. I'm hoping this will prove valuable when I return to teaching in the U.S.

After class I went to a bakery for coffee and attended a monthly meeting of parents from the Bavarian International School. I got to know a few women and spent a good portion of the time listening to them complain about their childrens' teachers. As a teacher, I felt a bit defensive because I know how hard I work, and I know that many parents don't see the effort that goes into real teaching. However, I also found myself wondering how BIS actually manages the different needs of all these international students coming with varying abilities and different curricula. I wonder what type of curriculum BIS actually follows. It must be extremely difficult to teach in an environment like that because not only do you have your highs and lows in each class, but also several non-native speakers coming from completely different education systems. I think I'll tag along next week when one of these gals picks up their kids. That way I can check out the school for myself. Who knows... perhaps after the baby comes I can volunteer a bit of time there, so I can get out of the house now and then and still fulfill my need to "teach" kids.

I had my second meeting with the midwife today. Regina checked the heartbeat and felt the baby's position. She told me that the heart rate is starting to slow down, which is indicative of an imminent arrival. I asked how soon she thought that might be, and she said within one to three weeks. She felt the head position and said that he has already moved fairly low, another indicator of his arrival. It's scary and exciting at the same time. I'm not sure which feeling wins out at this point, though.
Regina feeling the position of the baby.

I can tell I'm getting nervous about the birth, too, because I keep having anxiety dreams. Now let me preface this by saying that I often have vivid bizarre dreams that seem really far fetched. When I awake, I realize how crazy they are. But when I'm dreaming them, they seem completely real to me. For example, before I got married I had recurring dreams of this giant Pterodactyl flying overhead and pooping on me right before walking down the aisle. I can remember being really upset because the bird droppings were bright green and I thought, "If they were white, at least they might not stand out so much." Yeah, yeah, I know... weird. But I am a worrier, and anyone who really knows me, knows that's what I do.

So.... this means I of course had a dream last night about none other than.... an enema. You remember that I told you that the midwife has been encouraging me to have one. I didn't have this done with Gerrit. In fact, I have never had an enema so the idea disturbs me a bit. Now, I realize they probably aren't that bad and in fact, some people may feel they are quite "refreshing." But since it is new to me, well... did I mention I'm a worrier? Anyhow, in my dream the doctor gives me an enema and tells me to hold it in for ten minutes. Of course I'm in agony waiting because well... when something goes up there, it wants to come out, right? So I'm trying to hold it in and the doctor says, "Just to be safe, for good measure let's stitch up your rectum." Now I realize this will never happen, but in my dream it did. So I tell Regina this dream and ask for detailed information about what to expect from an enema here.... explicit details. Gerard is, of course, shaking his head the entire time, but well... again, anyone who knows me knows this is how I operate. Regina drew me a picture of "said" item, which I've included. I was not going to post this picture, but Gerard encouraged me to do so claiming that this is what people have grown to love and expect from me. Well, we shall see.
Regina's "illustration"

Tomorrow we are going to a flea market for some kids' clothes. I've been told they do not have second hand clothing shops here so this is the closest thing I will find. I am hoping to get a snow suit, rain suit, and snow boots for Gerrit.
William (Regina's 3 year old son) & Gerrit

Back On-Line

Family Photo
Woo Hoo! We're back online. We now have phone and internet set up so I can post and talk to people more regularly. YAH!!! I will send an email with the contact info. If for some you don't receive it, let me know. So here's what has happened this week.


I spent the morning putting together various pieces of IKEA furniture and playing with Gerrit. We now have a wardrobe for our guest room (hint, hint). I had a lunch date with Liesel and her three kids. I really like Liesel, and it’s nice to know someone else that feels a bit like I do about things right now… unsettled, apprehensive, but wanting to be supportive. I feel a bit of a kindred spirit there. It’s also just amazing to see her handle her kids. I’m in awe of how calm she always remains. She has a six year old son and two year old twins (a son and daughter). I’m wondering how I’m going to handle two and she’s handling three during this whole move.

Of course we had our nightly visit to the IKEA to get a few more things. I finally had my first exchange in German. It’s only taken me what…. three weeks to do that? I finally remembered enough German to not only ask if the person spoke English, but to also say that I don’t speak German, and then go on to ask in German “Where is….” and then point to the item in the catalog I was looking for. Yes, I know it’s a really lame accomplishment, but right now it’s all about baby steps for me. I’ve been really klutzy and extremely forgetful during this pregnancy, so finally being able to remember any German whatsoever is a big step for me.

Building an IKEA changing table. It's finally too much
for me to bend down and change Gerrit on the bed.


Today, I’ve been pissed all day. It’s one of those days, really. Perhaps it’s partially pregnancy related mixed in with the move. In either case, I’ve just been really down and pissy today. First off, we still have no cell phone plan. Instead, we have a handy phone that has prepaid minutes on it we’ve been using out of desperation. The problem is that I’m having a heck of a time calling out on this phone. If I actually had to get a hold of Gerard in an emergency, I would be hard pressed to do so, as it seems hit or miss if my calls ever go through, despite always dialing the same number.

Secondly, today is trash day… well, for at least one of the recycling/trash collections. Remember that there are three days that get picked up- black waste trash (non-recyclables), yellow trash (plastics, containers, cans, etc.), and brown trash (biological recyclable materials). Paper and glass you take to bins located throughout the city. Today was brown trash day, but I couldn’t figure out where our brown bins are located. We are supposed to share the brown and black bins with the entire building, but our landlady never told us where they were kept. They only come every two weeks, so keeping this trash for a month does not appeal to me. The smell will become overwhelming. We have also tried to get outdoor trashcans to house this stuff until the pick up days, but it appears as though people don’t actually use such trash cans so we’ve been unable to purchase any so far. Third, we still haven’t received our licenses so I can’t drive. So now you say, well take the train or walk. That sounds easier than it is right now. I did some of that in Garching and even here in Neufahrn, but at this stage in the pregnancy, carrying the extra 40 pounds as I push Gerrit around or carry him definitely takes its toll. My feet and ankles are almost always swollen now after walking or standing for any length of time. I do try to get out now and then, but mostly it’s been rainy and icky so I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors trying to entertain Gerrit. I feel trapped waiting for Gerard to get home so he can help with Gerrit and we can run errands.

Running errands seems like a constant need for me and a constant source of annoyance to Gerard. Again, I’m nesting so I am forever making “to do” lists- buy appliances, get lighting (currently only wires sticking out of the walls and ceilings here), cleaning supplies, wardrobes (no closets), etc. The employees at IKEA have commented to Gerard that we are there everyday. Another huge source of agitation for me is the fact that Gerard insisted we sell many of our lighting, fans, and small appliances, etc. back home at our garage sale rather than storing them in our shed until we return. I understand that either way we would have to purchase new items here since many things were not compatible. But I do not see a need to sell things back home when we could have stored them, only to turn around and have to buy them again once we return… particularly when we’ve had to fork out so much money to buy new things here that we won’t be able to take back with us.

Buying Lights from OBI.

I’m also irritated that we have yet to get a regular phone or internet connection. I know it takes time, but it’s still an annoyance to me. I like being able to stay in contact with people, even if only through email. I think I may have located an internet café nearby, but it’s a bit of trek to get there and I’m not sure about bringing Gerrit with me. Needless to say, right now I’m still feeling quite isolated, which only contributes to my overall negative mindset. I’m trying to be positive overall, but some days are just worse than others. On those days, every thing no matter how “little” seems to be a BIG deal to me.

When Gerard finally called today, I asked him to call Destene (the gal I met from German class). Since I couldn’t seem to get through to her on the handy phone, I wanted him to have her call me back. Destene and I agreed to explore around a bit before she had to pick her kids up from school. We found the internet cafes but didn’t actually go in to see how much it cost, library, Mother Center, and English Nursery School. I did go into the nursery school to inquire about their classes. As I suspected, it is set up very similarly to the one in Garching, which isn’t exactly developmentally appropriate for Gerrit. To make matters worse, not only is the curriculum at each place is similar, the school here in Neufahrn does not separate by age, so kids are anywhere from 2 to 6 in each class. Hmm… not impressed. I think out of desperation I may send Gerrit to something like this only if I have to while I’m German class. Otherwise, I’m still searching and will also try out some play groups. I will check out the German kinder care group (I think this may be a preschool program for 2-3 year olds) and a Tagesmutter (Day Mother- like in home day care) for the days I’m in class myself. Perhaps the Day Mother will take both kids, as that has been another problem I’m discovering.

I stopped at Destene’s house to post something earlier today. She showed me around her house, including her storage room. An entire wall in her storage room contains shelving from ceiling to floor of pantry items – dry goods, canned goods, toothpaste, soap, etc. She brought everything over from the U.S. that she thought she might want to have while here and might be unable to get in Germany. My mouth literally dropped open and I began salivating. I saw things I’ve already included on my “wish list” of comfort foods, yet my list became three times larger after viewing her pantry. A few of these items can be found at some grocery stores in their international food section, but you have to pay SIX EURO for an item that would normally cost you 88 CENTS in the U.S. Yes, yes, I know there are some things here that may be just as good, but there is something to be said for your comfort foods, especially now. So here you go…. Anyone planning to send care packages or visit us anytime soon… this is what we would like:

Cereals- Cheerios (tons for Gerrit), Rice/Corn Chex, Life, Honey Nut Cheerios, Peanut Butter Crunch.

Crackers/Cookies- Goldfish “Baby” Crackers (tons for Gerrit), Graham Crackers, Oreos

Various Baking items: chocolate chips, Bisquick, brown sugar, Crisco

Muffin Mixes- Blueberry, Banana Bread

Dried Bread Crumbs

Boxed Mixes- Cake Mix & Frostings, Brownie Mix, Cookie Mix

Sauces- Worcestershire Sauce, Chinese Marinade

Condensed Soups- Various “Cream of” chicken, mushroom, celery, onion

Lipton’s Dry Soup Mixes (for marinades)- Beefy Onion, Cheesy Garlic, etc. (any & all are welcome)

Enchilada Sauce/Taco Seasoning

Kraft Mac & Cheese

Chili Con Carne (Dennisons or Hormel)

Oatmeal (Regular Cook & Serve AND Maple/Brown Sugar Instant packages)

Boxed Pancake Mix & Syrup (Aunt Jemima, Log Cabin, or Mrs. Butterworth)

Instant Puddings (vanilla & chocolate)

Gerber Toddler Meals- especially spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, etc.

Toothpaste (Arm & Hammer Tartar Control – NOT peroxide)

Antipersperant (Arm & Hammer)

Okay, so tomorrow the phone man is scheduled to come again, and Friday the DSL connection is supposed to be set up. I’m hoping this time they actually show up. I think being able to contact people via email or skype will go a LONG WAY in maintaining my sanity.

I still don’t “get” the lot of Bavarian Rules that seem to be “understood” by Bavarians but aren’t actually written down anywhere. It makes it difficult to determine what is actually a German Law or just a local Bavarian Way. Such as… washing your own car. This is not done. At first I thought this was just a law among the list of unacceptable things to do on a Sunday (no lawn mowing, no vacuuming, no hammering, etc). It appears, however, that you are NEVER supposed to wash your own car in a driveway or on the street. Instead, you must take it to a car wash. I also thought that you were not supposed to put out your laundry ONLY on Sundays. I have since been informed that in Bavaria, you are never supposed to hang out your laundry. I have no clue how people actually get their clothes dry here considering several people do not actually have dryers. Now perhaps you can find communities of younger people who don’t necessarily adhere to these rules, but I’ve been informed that if your neighbors are older Bavarians, it will be very frowned upon and you won’t be making many friends if you do these things. Bizarre!

I met another valuable resource today. Her name is Abbie and she’s sort of the head of the English-speaking welcoming committee here. The Bavarian International School established a committee for their students’ parents. This committee has since expanded to include non-BIS families new to the community. Their purpose is to support families and provide information such as local doctors, emergency numbers, parent/child support groups. They also organize a few events for meeting people. Abbie is from the U.K. and has a six year old who attends BIS and a five month old at home with her.

Now that we have a phone I spent part of the afternoon trying to contact doctors. My first priority is a pediatrician. Tonight we have dinner with Kaspar’s dad, step-mom, and brothers. Gerard tells me that Christoph is like a slightly older version of Kaspar so this oughtta be a hoot.

Just got back from Christoph & Susana’s house. As stated, Gerard’s assessment of Christoph is pretty accurate. We had a pleasant evening and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Their boys, Mangus & Rafael look like mini versions of Kaspar with a little Susana mixed in. Gerrit very much enjoyed their company, and I think the boys got a kick out of having Gerrit there, too. Maybe we’ll be able to get together from time to time.

Rafael & Magnus (mini Kaspars)
Susana & Rafael
Gerrit & Magnus

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Midwives & German Classes

While I write this, Gerrit is currently pushing around the birthing ball that the midwife let me borrow. He’s running with the ball screaming like a banshee as he tears through the house until the ball hits a wall and he falls. No tearful screaming yet, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Still no internet connection. The phone line is supposed to be connected on Thursday, which means our DSL line can theoretically be set up Friday. That means we can use skype again and I can post regularly and check email. We’ll see how this all pans out. Remember that last Friday all this was supposed to happen as well. Again, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

Sunday Evening
We met with the midwife, Regina, at 3pm. She is a young gal (about 28) with a husband (Jason) and nearly 3 year old son (William). She’s also expecting their second child around Christmas. The two children played while Jason, Regina, Gerard, and I got acquainted. Regina had enough foresight to anticipate some of my questions and was somewhat prepared for the likes of me when I arrived. She had created a list of over-the-counter medicines suitable for Gerrit and a newborn, in case I needed to stock up but didn’t know what to get. I was extremely appreciative of this. I had brought a decent supply of the meds we use regularly so that it would allow me time to decipher comparable meds here, but Regina’s list will save me a lot of time. She also gave me important local information, including hospitals and other emergency service numbers.

We discussed hospital protocol a bit, too. She informed me that should I get an epidural here, it would be a walking epidural. I remember inquiring about walking epidurals in the U.S. but was told that was not possible, at least in the hospital where I delivered Gerrit. Regina encouraged me to get an enema. Hmm… I’m not so sure on this one. This is not standard in the U.S., but it is relatively common in German (though I’ve been told they won’t "push" this on me). Regina claims that if I have similar issues as with Gerrit in that I do not dilate quickly enough, having an enema will help in this department. I’m still considering it, but an enema doesn’t sound all that pleasant to me. I suppose child birth in general isn’t all that pleasant, but why add one more feeling of discomfort to the mix?

Regina and Jason were extremely generous with their time and furnishings. First, they invited us to eat dinner with them. Later, Regina asked how I was doing in the new house with no furniture. I told her we were doing well considering we had few amenities in the house, but that I felt a bit like a turtle flipped on its back struggling to turn over every time I tried to get up from the blow up air mattress. She immediately offered us a sofa bed and an adult-sized table until our furniture arrived. Gerard and Jason loaded the items into their mini-van and they drove them to our house while Regina and I continued our conversation. All in all, it was quite a pleasant evening and I was completely astounded at how kind and supportive they both were. Gerard and I are supposed to look through a book she gave us and decide on some labor positions we want to practice for our next session.

We started the morning walking to the VHS (similar to a community adult school, offering various courses in music, fitness, language, vocational training, etc.). A German Language course for beginners started tonight and I wanted to be sure I was enrolled. We were informed that the night class would not take place as there was only one other person who had signed up for it. A minimum of five people are needed to keep a class open. I was encouraged to take the morning class from 10:00-11:30. Incidentally, the time was 9:30 a.m. when all this was being discussed. We agreed that I would attend the first class and Gerard would discuss a potential alternative work schedule for Mondays and Fridays while this course is in session (through December). If all goes well and his work schedule allows for this, I will officially register for the course on Wednesday.

Although there are ten people listed on the roster, only six of us were there today- all women, mostly stay-at-home haus fraus who followed their husbands job here. Of course I was lost for the most part. I think I am by far the newest person to the area and likely the one student who truly has NO GERMAN whatsoever. It seems that most people can understand or even speak a little bit, while I literally know nothing. Although it’s intimidating, at least I can only improve from here. I’ve done my homework for the week and although I think I got everything correct, I have no clue what I was really trying to learn. Book work is always easier than conversation and trying to remember how to ask or respond to questions.

I had coffee with two other students after class. One gal is named Debbie and is from Great Britain, and the other gal is named Destene, from South Carolina. Destene and I continued to talk a bit after coffee, and she told me a bit about herself. Her husband works for BMW, and they have three kids who attend the Bavarian International School. Her two girls are 10 and 8, and her youngest is a 6 year old boy. They intend to be here for three years and return to the States. She seems very nice so perhaps we’ll get together from time to time, despite the age gap between our kids.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I've been out of an internet connection since we moved to the new house so no posts until now. Here's what we've been up to this weekend.


We woke up super early to go to the new house. We were supposed to be there at 8 am because the phone guy was supposed to come connect our phone line between 8 and 11:30 a.m. We sat around most of the day on the floor, and helped Gerrit play with some of the toys we had shipped air freight. He seemed to enjoy himself, mostly because it was something different for him. The phone guy never showed so we called and were told that he'd come sometime before 1pm. One o'clock came and went with no sign of any phone technician. Gerard went to work for some meetings and Gerrit and I were confined to the house waiting. At 3pm I got a call from the company claiming that the technician said he would be arriving. At 4:30 another call to let me know that they couldn't get a hold of the technician and that they would try again on Monday to see what happened. He explained that their company had sub-contracted to another company, who sub-contracted it to an individual contractor. Hmm... bizarre. No phone connection also meant no DSL connection. ARGH!! At least our appliances arrived - fridge, washer, and dryer. For an extra 35 euro, the owner delivered, hooked up, and even somewhat explained (as best he could in German) how to use the washer and dryer. YEAH!!! Progress.
I also met the neighbors and their dog- another female. Niki and the neighbor's dog bark incessantly at each other. Their tails are wagging so I think they would be okay if they were able to get to know each other outside their respective yards. We'll see if we can set that up at some point. The neighbors only speak German so for now, communication is quite difficult. Hopefully, if I take classes and get even a little German things will improve on that front.


New fridge means we can finally buy more milk. Gerard dropped me off at the Real while he went to Media Markt to buy a microwave, toaster, and coffee maker. At Real, l filled two shopping carts (major excess by European standards)- one of basic food items to start our kitchen (including 10 liter cartons of milk), and one of basic kitchen, laundry, bathroom, and cleaning supplies. More shopping after lunch to get a few more items from OBI and IKEA. Tonight is the start of Oktoberfest (lasting for two weeks) so we saw a ton of people in lederhosen. We met up with one of Gerard's colleagues, his wife, and their two boys for dinner at a beer garden in Garching. Perhaps we'll be able to actually go into Munich sometime in the next two weeks and experience the REAL OKTOBERFEST. Gerrit went down early and we spent the evening watching movies on the DVD player. An eventful but less exciting day.
Playing at the park near the beer garden.
Incidentally, German house means "German toilet." You know, the ones you've heard about with the little shelf so you can examine your waste before you flush it. Very bizarre, but right up my alley. It's difficult to imagine without a picture. I thought about taking a photo of a Baby Ruth candy bar in the toilet but didn't have time to go to the store. Instead, you get one of Gerrit's toys to demonstrate this toilet feature.
We awoke to find a note stating that the phone guy came by at 10:30 Saturday but no one was home. Right.... because that wasn't our scheduled time. Sigh! We're now at Francoise's cleaning up the place before she gets home tomorrow, so for now I am able to post this entry. Later this afternoon we meet up with the midwife and I 'll be sure to let you know how that goes when I get a chance. :-)
Camped out in our living room.
Breakfast at our kid-sized table (borrowed from our land lady)
YEAH... Toast!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Doggy IBS

We tried out the English preschool in Garching again today. I'm not sure how much Gerrit gets out of it at this point, as it's a bit above his level. Nonetheless, he still enjoys some of the activities so we'll see if we want continue when we move to Neufahrn. I suppose it all depends on what is available there, and I still can't get a solid answer regarding that. Will have to do more research.
Painting a snail at preschool.
Earlier this evening we ventured out to a second hand appliance store and were successful at purchasing a washer, dryer, and fridge with freezer. The kitchen at the Neufahrn house has a tiny fridge and no freezer, so we thought a second one would come in very handy... particularly when I've had to go out and buy milk literally every other day since being here. Milk is not sold in large containers here. Carlos used to say that in Germany milk is seen much more as a condiment than as a beverage, which I believe is actually true. I haven't seen milk offered many places as a beverage - only really in coffee, tea, or cocoa. We're big milk drinkers, and back home we went through roughly two gallons per week. We would buy one gallon lowfat for us and one whole for Gerrit. By the end of the week we might even be pinching a bit of Gerrit's milk. Here milk is sold in liter containers, which means it takes 3.8 containers to equal 1 gallon. This means we need about 8 milk containers per week. Our current fridge can only accomodate two milks, so it will be nice to have a second fridge. I know that people shop here much more often rather than buying large quanitites as we do in the U.S., but I get tired of having to go to the market daily.

Gerard now wants a big flat screen T.V., but I'm trying to convince him to purchase a cheaper box T.V. My attitude is that I don't want to spend a ton of money unless we can bring it back to the U.S. when we return. Hence, the second hand store for our other appliances. What can I say... I'm cheap. If something less expensive does roughly the same job as a pricier brand name item, I'm all for sacrificing the name to save some money. Next I'll be looking for a good second hand baby/children's clothing store.
Our (literally) daily trip to IKEA.

We will likely be moving to our house either tomorrow or Saturday. Francoise has offered to let us borrow a table and chairs and some linens for now. She took me upstairs to the guest studio to show me where some of these things are kept. When we walked into the studio, to my horror there was dog poop scattered in about 10 piles all over the room. I was mortified! Here is Gerard's boss, essentially, who has been kind enough to let us stay here with our pets, who has had to fight her neighbor and deal with the police because of us- and now our dogs go and defecate all over her house. OH MY GAWD!!! I immediately cleaned up the mess and scrubbed her floor, but the whole time I'm thinking to myself, "How could my dogs have done this? This doesn't make any sense." And then... I remembered...

...Monday we had left for part of the day to run some errands, as usual. This was before we started crating Niki and Jake. We had a bag of groceries on the floor- mostly cans, but also some dry goods. When we came home, we found a pile of torn papers and cartons scattered around the floor. The dogs had gotten into the grocery bag and eaten an entire box of wheat crackers, two packages of cookies, and a box of cheesy butter crackers. They also managed to tear into their dog food bag (also on the floor) and eat the entire contents. When we got home, I looked for any sign of "Doggy Irritable Bowel Syndrome," and was surprised to see none. Well, this all makes sense to me now. My dogs' stomachs were clearly not as hearty as I thought. They must have been ashamed of what they had done because they chose to do "their business" in the most remote part of the house, unfortunately leaving it undiscovered for several days. Argh!!! Francoise was super cool about the whole thing, but it's definitely not the kind of impression you want to leave on your husband's new supervisor.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Recycling 101

Gerrit loves to operate any sort of vehicle.
And he doesn't differentiate real vehicles from pretend ones.

Jumped out of bed this morning to head over the the Neufarhn house and wait for our air shipment to arrive. We expected to have to wait around for several hours, but amazingly, it was already there. When we opened the container with some of Gerrit's toys, it was like Christmas for him. He was especially excited to see his bead maze and Elmo submarine. It was yucky day again today so while Gerrit was playing with some of his toys, I read about recycling in Germany (a bit different than the U.S.).

German Recycling 101:
There is no clear cut paper and plastic separation. It's much more rule driven that that. Not bad, just a bit confusing to keep it all straight at this point. There are several different levels of sorting- Biotonne, Gelber Sack, Grune Tonne, Restmulltonne.

- Biotonne is a brown bin emptied every other week for biodegradables (vegetable/fruit clippings, cooked food, kitchen paper, grass/foliage, or anything else you would put in a compost).

- Gelber Sack is a plastic yellow sack for various random items that contain a special recycling symbol on the package (plastic, Styrofoam, milk/yoghurt cartons, and aluminum foil). These are also picked up every other week.

- Grune Tonne is a green or blue bin that is emptied every once or twice a month (depending on your village) and is meant for paper, carton boxes, newspapers, etc. I’m not sure how exactly how Grune Tonne items and some Gelber Sack items differ.

- Restmulltonne is a grey or black bin where you throw everything else. This includes all the diapers, sanitary napkins, and any other icky things that you can’t recycle. Of course this is also the most expensive container and you are charged by the size container you use. The size container varies, as does the frequency it is picked up.

Additionally, there are large bins around town that are collection sites for various paper or plastic items as well as glass (individually sorted by color- white, brown, and green glass). I guess if your neighborhood has a collection bin for paper or plastic, you can deposit the items there and cut down on your Grune Tonne and Gelder Sack items. Are you as confused as I am yet? Fortunately, a friend let us borrow this handy little booklet that shows pictures of the various bins and actually gives you an itemized list of garbage items and their various receptacles.

The itemized alphabetical list of "where to put your
trash." There are five more pages just like this one.

Now apparently this is slightly different in every city, so I will have to figure out what it is in Neufahrn. With two children still in diapers, I can tell we will have a lot of "black" trash and will likely have to pay more. Also, they only pick up black trash once a month. Yeah... dirty diapers for a whole month. We'll need some sort of garbage collection bin to be kept outside to help keep the odor at bay. I'm also thinking of investing in this diaper genie type contraption that rolls and seals each individual diaper as you collect them, making them look like a giant diaper sausage as you go. I think this should help with odor and collection as I transfer them outside and wait for the monthly trash collection.

The police came again tonight. Even though our dogs have not been barking, the police were following up on the CDL’s previous complaint. When she complained, the police looked up the names of the tenants living in the house but couldn’t find them registered with the city. Francoise had not registered with Garching because as an ESO employee, she is not required to do so. ESO employees hold semi-diplomatic job status which means they are exempt from many of these things. This is the same thing Gerard and I dealt with when trying to get mobil phones. They wanted the paperwork proving we had registered with the city, and when we showed them the ESO letter stating we didn’t have to do so, they did not acknowledge it. Since the police couldn’t find a record of Francoise’s registration, they returned to the house to investigate. Now she will have to follow up in writing through ESO, the police, and the city regarding all of this. Even though it’s not exactly our fault this is causing her more inconvenience, I still feel bad about it. If it were not for our dogs and CDL’s complaint, none of this would be happening to her. I fear we may be wearing out our welcome at this point. Our plan is to move to the Neufahrn house this weekend. I’d like to still keep ourselves in Francoise’s good graces so I’m thinking we need to pack up here.

Oh yeah, we also heard a bit more about Crazy Dog Lady's claim that our dogs were barking all day. Apparently, she admitted to having her little dog outside and when the dogs began to bark back and forth with each other, she tried to intervene. She went up to Francoise's back window and began yelling at them to be quiet, which of course made them continue to bark. I guess other neighbors heard this going on and joined her, staring at the window where the dogs were. I can especially see my neurotic Niki barking during this entire episode. Duh! If some stranger had been standing at her window yelling at her dog, I'm sure her dog would have barked until they stopped. Gerard seems confused by her. "I don't get it," he says. "Isn't she a dog person?" "Ah, but Gerard, she's a "little dog" person, and they are a whole different breed unto themselves."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What do you mean I need a doctor's note if I'm sick?...

Gerrit thinks daddy's work shoes are
much more interesting than his own.

This morning was a mad dash to get everyone up, showered, dressed, breakfast, and dogs walked so we could try out the English preschool in Garching. Gerrit had refused to sleep at a decent hour the night before so the morning was more chaotic than I would have liked. The school runs just in the morning from 8:30-12:30. When we arrived, everyone was dropping their kids off for the day. There are only 6 - 8 kids attending in his age range (2-3 year olds), and Gerrit is by far the youngest at just under 2. I was a bit worried about Gerrit's obvious age difference this morning and wondered how he would handle the routine. This school seems extremely structured. In fact, probably more so than it ought to be for 2 -3 year olds. Thankfully, I had one of those days where a super obnoxious child there made my child look fabulous by comparison.

The school seems really academic for the young age it teaches. It's preschool, not kinder, and for two year olds with short attention spans, it's a tough day. I would have liked to see a bit more exploratory learning, language development, and learning through play going on for the little ones. I Perhaps it was just today's lesson as it was a rainy day. We'll have to go back and compare multiple days before making a major judgement. Even so, I still like Gerrit to interact with other kids, and if I can't find an english-speaking playgroup, he will likely continue hear one or two mornings per week. I will also look for a german playgroup or something he can do, too.

Their day went something like this:
8:30-9:00 Free-play while parents dropped off kids, said goodbyes, etc.
9:00-9:30 Lessons on the days of the week, months of year,
and alphabet.
9:30-9:45 Storytime with today's theme (Spiders)
9:45-10:15 Morning snack time and free-play
10:15-10:45 More lessons on alphabet, phonics, and sounds.
10:45-11:00 Worksheet activity on alphabet (Gerrit was given
Aa with an apple to color). This was followed by a
little free-play until all had finished coloring
Music and movement (including some songs related to today's theme)
11:30-11:40 Craft on today's theme (We used glue and glitter to make a spider web)
11:40-12:00 Second morning snack and free-play
12:00-12:30 Normally they would go outside but since it was
raining we had more music and movement inside.

Gerard had dropped us off and met us at 12:30 to drive us home so we could all have lunch together. I wasn't about to walk that far again with Gerrit after yesterday's fiasco. Even though Gerrit was really tired, he fought going down after lunch. When he finally did, Gerrit and I both had a long and much needed nap.

Gerard met up with an insurance agent after work (personal liability, dog liability, renters' and life insurance) while I *tried* to cook dinner. I'm not a very good cook to begin with, and learning what ingredients are called here, and how they may be packaged or used differently is quite the experience. It's always a gamble as to how meals will actually turn out as I never really know what I actually bought at the store. I'm learning, but it takes time. For example, tomato paste comes in a tube (like a giant toothpaste tube). Diced tomatoes come in a cardboard carton, and tomato soup comes I've only managed to find as a package in dry form. Tonight's dinner, which was supposed to be salisbury steak and rice, ended up looking more like camp food goulash. The hamburger patty mixture ended up too loose to hold it's form so I eventually gave up and just browned everything crumbled up in the pan. Far from gourmet. It looked more like dog food, but at least it tasted good.
Gerrit and his favorite dog, Niki.

We broke down and bought another futon from IKEA. Although we have an air mattress arriving tomorrow in our air shipment, Gerard has decided that he doesn't want to sleep on it until our furniture arrives. Oh well, 150 euros later and at least we'll have a second futon for multiple guests (hint hint). On the way to IKEA, Gerard mentioned that he discovered something peculiar at work. If he calls in sick more than three days in a row, he needs to provide a doctor's note. Any teachers reading this, doesn't this sound familiar? I started laughing and told him that is the same policy that LCUSD holds. He always thought that policy was absurd so I find it hilarious that he now has to deal with it, himself. "Ah, welcome to Germany," I told Gerard. "Haven't you realized there are a ton more rules here? Just wait until they start making you pay for your own copy paper or ink cartridges."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Second Obstetric Appt.

So far there have been no further incidents with the Crazy Dog Lady, although that's also because each time we've left the house over the past few days, we have crated the dogs. Incidentally, I was advised not to mention to anyone here about crating the dogs as the Germans might consider that inhumane. Francoise's boyfriend is now back home having been away for the weekend. He apparently had words with the neighbor. Crazy Dog Lady claimed that she documented our dogs barking for 6 hours straight, and dogs are only permitted to bark for 30 minutes a day. Hmm... this is news to me. When I was told of this "law" before, I was under the impression it was stating that your dogs cannot bark more than 30 minutes straight. Apparently, CDL has been documenting any little peep from the dogs and must be counting each as several minutes at a time. Sigh... this law is bizarre.

We were told our container would arrive in Rotterdam on October 7th. At that point, it has to clear customs and then be shipped by land to us. Not sure if it will go by rail or truck, but I don't expect to see it for at least a week of so after that, so hopefully by mid-October we'll have furniture for our house. In the meantime, we are considering moving in this weekend even without furniture.
A page out of Gerrit's "My First Things That Go" Book.
This is how our furniture is being shipped across the Atlantic.

Spent the morning playing with Gerrit. After lunch, we walked into the center of Garching to look around. I walked to the English preschool I contacted to touch base with the owner one last time. She again said that on days I was willing to stay and help out, she would not charge me. If Gerrit gets up in time, we may go there tomorrow morning. The class for Gerrit's age group is from 8:30-12pm Tuesday and Thursday. By the time I got home, however, I was in a bit of pain. Only a few blocks after leaving, Gerrit decided that he didn't want to walk anymore. This meant I carried him in the sling with the backpack (diaper bag) on my back. Gerard had taken the car with the stroller still in the back so Gerrit had to hoof it or be carried. I also made the mistake of wearing nicer shoes rather than my sneakers. I had been told that no one in Europe actually wears sneakers, even with all the walking they do. Big mistake on my part! At eight months pregnant I had way too much weight on me and walked for too long. Of course my feet and ankles are all swollen now, so I've put them up hoping that will help. Must take it easy until the baby comes.

I still find myself missing teaching and wondering about my colleagues in La Canada. I'm sure they've all been busy with Back to School Night preparation, Beginning of the Year Assessments, and setting Early Bird/Late Bird schedules. Those things I do not envy, but I do miss being in the classroom each day and the camaraderie I felt with my colleagues. To combat that feeling a little, I'm trying to focus on things I can get involved in out here to start making connections.

This next part contains "girl" information. If you are male and/or do not wish to read about my gynecologist visit, please skip the rest of this post.

I had my second visit with the gynecologist this afternoon. Routine things- urine sample, fetal heartbeat, blood pressure, weight, and iron test. The doctor then called me in to check my Mutter Mund (literal translation is Mother Mouth), referring to the uterine opening or cervix. One notable difference in the exams I've had here and in the States is how much I am asked to disrobe. In the U.S. each time I had a pelvic exam, I was asked to disrobe from the waist down and then handed one of those paper sheets to cover myself. Here, they don't even bother with that. I am asked to lie on a table, leave my shoes on, and pull my pants down to my knees while the doctor checks me. Makes everything faster and more efficient. The funny thing is that Gerrit gets to sit on the table on me or next to me, and Gerard is sitting across from me the entire time. Not so strange when you really think about it, but I think an eyebrow would have been raised about having my son sitting on me during a pelvic exam in the U.S. During the pelvic exam the doctor also checked for any bacterial infections and looked at the PH balance to be sure she didn't detect any amniotic fluid. So far, so good. She told me that the head is down and the cervix has started to soften but is still closed, so she expects to see me at least one more time before delivery. She wants to do another ultrasound at that time. My next appointment is set for October 1st, two weeks from today.

I sit here each visit for about ten minutes
while they monitor the baby's heart rate.

Gerrit maneuvered himself into a comfortable
sleeping position while we waited.

I didn't realize that Gerard even took this picture. Yes, this is
"the exam." The funny thing is that even though Gerrit looks
a bit freaked out, he's just been jabbering away with me.