Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gerard's Birthday

Family Photo
I was super tired this morning. I think the energy I felt a few days ago is finally fading as Willem's sleep schedule is pretty much completely backwards. Try as I might to keep him awake throughout the day, he just falls right back asleep, only to awake at night and want to interact a bit and eat and eat and eat. We also had our first bout of jealousy with Gerrit last night. When Willem awoke needing changing and feeding, he was screamed so loud it woke up Gerrit. Then Gerrit wanted to cuddle and didn't understand why I had the baby instead of him. Gerrit wanted me to hold him and he wanted to play with my hair, but the baby was in the way. He was not a happy camper and started to push the baby away. I had Gerard hold Willem for a bit while I cuddled with Gerrit until he was drowsy enough not to notice. Needless to say, I was super tired today, and when Gerrit went down for a nap today, I went right down with him. Thank goodness for mom. While I was sleeping she continued to empty boxes. We still haven't found the kitchen cutlery and seem to be missing a few other things here and there. Hopefully they turn up before too long.

I have to say that this time around I'm not nearly as paranoid as I was with Gerrit. For example, with Gerrit I was paranoid about nursing and kept meticulous records of when he ate and how much he ate. I weighed him all the time to be sure he was getting enough food. The midwife brought over a scale for me to use with Willem, but I haven't touched it. In fact, I have yet to mark down a single feeding session. I'm not sure that I feel more confident this time around, as much as I feel like Gerrit still needs attention, which doesn't allow me to spend time being paranoid about too many things.

Today was Gerard's birthday so while Gerard worked this morning, we decorated the house with crepe paper, balloons, and a Happy Birthday sign. Gerrit and I sponge painted a card for Gerard and traced Gerrit's and Willem's hands inside. Willem has super long fingers and big hands, and he seems really long to me in comparison to Gerrit. When I look at pictures of Gerrit as a baby, though, you can definitely see the resemblance. It's amazing how similar and yet how different Willem and Gerrit were at birth.
Willem (almost one week old)

When Gerard arrived home, we presented him with his card and birthday gifts. Mom got him a pen desk set with his name engraved, and I bought him a small barbecue. We left our barbecue in the U.S. and Gerard has been itching to barbecue since we got here. You should have seen me trying to buy this thing. The German sales associates gave me all these funny looks because I was buying a barbecue at this time of year. They had already put the barbecues away in the back of the store, and they had to uncover them for me to decide which one I wanted. Thankfully, Gerard liked his present, and I didn't have to return it.
"Look what we did for Daddy's Birthday."
Daddy's Card and Birthday Presents

We then went to Real and Toys R Us. Mom wanted to see what a grocery store looked like here. Real is more like a Target or Walmart with groceries and a fairly wide selection of items, so it's actually not truly representative of the smaller markets found in the villages. I now have to take her to a grocery store here in Neufahrn for comparison. At Toys R Us mom got Gerrit a belated birthday gift, Thomas the Train. He has a wooden train set now and absolutely loves it. I think he'll really enjoy Thomas because he is actually electric and can run on his own, in addition to making noise.

We dropped off groceries and headed to Neufun, the local indoor swimming pool. Mom, Gerard, and Gerrit enjoyed themselves in the water while Willem and I looked on from the side. This evening Gerard tried out his barbecue by making some steaks for dinner. We finished off the evening by making chocolate brownies. Not terribly exciting, but I think Gerard had a good birthday.
Fun at the PoolLearning how to kick in the water
Gerrit helps daddy barbecue steak for dinner.
Birthday Brownie

Gerrit now asks to "Hold, Hold" his baby, but he doesn't want to do so for very long. It's actually quite cute. He talks to the baby and plays with Willem's hair, then laughs because he thinks his hair is so soft and ticklish. We are also now just starting to introduce the concept of "pooping in the toilet" to Gerrit. He has been fairly interested in the toilet and in the U.S. enjoyed flushing it so we're now taking it one step further. Without pushing the issue, we ask Gerrit if he wants to put his poop in the toilet. Then when he's had a BM in his diaper, we change him, and get him excited about taking his diaper to the bathroom to empty its contents in the toilet. It's all a big production to get him into the idea. We drop it in, say goodbye and flush it down. Then we wash and dry hands. The only problem is that the diaper contents always end up leaving skid marks on the poop shelf. Sigh... oh well, at least we can examine it before it goes down the drain. :)
Snuggling After Dinner

Gerrit has been afraid of bugs since we arrived in Germany. When we were in Garching we would often take the dogs and whole family on walks in the early evening out to a field. Gnats would often fly in and around Gerrit's face, and he would scream and swat at them. Now, whenever he sees any type of bug, especially a fly, he screams and runs away. Two mini stories with this. I realize Gerrit is quite upset during these episodes, but I actually find them quite amusing and can't help but laugh. At music class last Friday, Gerrit was playing with the scarves the teacher passed out. (I should preface this by saying that he hasn't been that enthusiastic about waving the scarves to begin with, and I had finally gotten him to enjoy it a bit.) The scarf was on the floor and he went to pick it up but saw a black speck on it. He screamed "Fly, Fly" and ran off. It was just a piece of lint, but Gerrit wanted nothing to do with the scarf at that point. My mom also bought Gerrit a Ninja Turtle book that has buttons you press for sound effects while you read. The book is about science fiction alien flies, and there is a button to press for a fly buzzing around. Gerrit is okay looking at the book, but when it comes to pressing this button he refuses, and if anyone else presses it he runs off screaming, "No, no." Again, I know it's all too traumatic for him, but I also think it's really funny. No, I don't torture him and press the button anyway... but I can honestly say I'm tempted.

Spoiled American (Vicki's Thoughts)

Here I am in Germany. It's been a week and a half. I miss home more than I thought I would. Today was Gerard's birthday so we decorated, Stephanie got him a BBQ. She had to buy the floor model because they were putting them all away, it is practically snowing here, after all. You can put the man in Germany but you can't take all the Southern California out of the man. We had great BBQ steaks on the grill tonight. We went to the public pool which is actually quite nice. It stays open year round so I can imagine when it's below freezing with 2 feet of the snow on the ground, you can put on your bathing suit and visit the pool!

Tomorrow we are planning a day trip somewhere although the forecast is cloudy and rainy. We went to the Toys R Us here and got Gerrit a late birthday gift, Thomas the train set. He loves trains. It's hard to believe the baby is already a week old tomorrow. A week ago at this time we were packing up for the hospital. I have to give Stephanie credit though, we went to this big market today and I didn't know what was what, couldn't find diet drinks, except for coke. Even the sugar is not what you would think, they have flavored, some for baking, etc. It must take twice as long to shop, between figuring out what things are and how much they cost.

No T.V. is really getting to me now. I have been watching a DVD every night on the little DVD player. Until we finish unpacking everything there are limited movies to pick from (except for kid stuff). Apparently the 32 in TV will be here on November 6. I realize how really spoiled I am. You can't even wash your clothes every day here, it is too wasteful and there is no room in the washing machine anyway. Will be glad to be back in the land of plenty . I'm proud to be an American, spoiled as can be! Later......

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday in Munich

Willem's first outing meant keeping
him warm and wrapped inside my coat

Headed into Munich this afternoon, after getting the "okay" from the midwife that Willem and I were healthy enough for such an outing. We had hoped to show mom around town a bit and do a few museums, but the day didn't turn out the way we had hoped. First off, there has been a train strike in recent weeks and there have been several days where the train lines have been running on very limited service. Today may have been one of those days because it seemed to take an extremely long time for the trains to arrive in Neufahrn today and to get into town. I know that Sundays schedule is a bit different, but I think this was more than that because everything took much much longer to get into town than usual. I always say we live out in the sticks, and boy, today it really REALLY felt like it, too.
Gerrit and Gerard playing on the train ride.

Leaving the house today took forever. I wasn't prepared with a bag like I usually am, so I had to repack various items for both boys now, including diapers, changes of clothes, warm hats & jackets, and some food & toys for Gerrit. Then I decided I wanted to try wearing Willem in the sling or wrap, but since I have been only using these things with Gerrit lately, it took a bit of work to figure out how to use them with a newborn. I'm sure it will come back to me in time, but today it seemed to take forever to leave the house. Thank goodness mom was here to help. I have no clue at this point how I'd navigate such an outing with the two boys myself.
Halloween Costume Shop in the Train Station (Interesting, considering they don't really celebrate Halloween)

When we finally got to Marienplatz I felt like I needed to feed Willem so we sat down and ate a late lunch/early dinner near the Glockenspiel (a huge clock tower that chimes with figures that dance around a few times a day). Mom finally got a more traditional German meal that she actually liked- bratwurst and mashed potatoes. After eating, we went to a Teddy Bear/Toy Museum for Gerrit. By then, Gerrit was about done for the day and didn't seem too interested, so we headed home.
In front of the Rathaus & Glockenspiel
Gerrit finds the trains at the Toy Museum

Gerrit loves having his grandma here to play with. She makes him laugh all the time, and I really enjoy seeing them interact. Gerrit's vocabulary seems to continue coming along nicely. He is definitely imitating a lot of words and trying to communicate his ideas more through language. He still babbles quite a bit, but each day there are more and more real words in the mix. His latest phrase is, "I'm gonna get you" as he chases the dogs around to tickle them.
Gerrit loves his grandma.

Mom's Take on German Housekeeping? (by Vicki)

Well weekend is coming to a close. We got out today and went into Munich. The train ride took longer than usual apparently because of a weird Sunday Schedule. No stores are open, so people were walking around window shopping. A few cafes were open for food. There was even a upscale store that was open for customers to look (not allowed to buy on Sunday, you have to come back for that). We went into a German toy museum with 10 flights of stairs (little tiny spiral staircase), you had to wait for the people coming up to go down and vice-versa, but the toys were really neat. Tomorrow we will get back to work on unpacking.
Hauptbahnhof Station
O.K. here are my complaints about German housekeeping. The washing machines are really tiny. You can only fit a set of sheets in one, forget a real blanket. It takes on hour and 48 minutes to wash and another 2 hours to dry. It takes all day to do two tiny loads of laundry! Needless to say I have been doing laundry constantly since I got here. Also the vacuum cleaner will not suck up dog hair, so we had to put the rugs away for now. The light switch plates here are big square things, not switches like we have. The public restrooms are cool, you have to pay but there have attendants and nice separate sinks. The one in Munich town square had showers, make up tables and separate sinks and mirrors. Felt like a spa. That's all for today...catch you soon....

Friday, October 26, 2007

First Nights Home

Coming home from hospital
I finally got out of the hospital at 2pm today. I had wanted to leave the same day Willem was born but Gerard thought it best that I stay overnight. The delivery at the hospital was pretty good, but the maternity services left something to be desired.

Labor and Delivery Positives:

Midwives were very attentive and willing to give you what you wanted when you wanted it. They offered suggestions but also tried their best to cater to your own wishes. They were set up for both anesthesia and other medical interventions if desired or necessary, but were very pro-natural child birth. They had tubs and birthing balls, mats, squat bars, music, aroma therapy, etc. When it came time to deliver, they were they were attentive and gentle, and extremely encouraging throughout the entire process. The doctors basically checked on you minimally and then stood on the side watching during delivery just to be sure everything went smoothly. After the delivery, the baby was immediately placed on my chest and left there for as long as I wanted before they did any tests (all in front of me). The birth process here seemed calmer and much less traumatic for both baby and me than it seems it was with Gerrit (and Gerrit's delivery wasn't bad).

Maternity Ward Issues:

There was no toilet paper, a tiny hand towel to use in the shower, and I constantly had to ask for things I needed without being asked if I needed anything. I realize this may be the usual way of handling things in Germany, but I guess I was hoping for a bit more attention. Most of the meals I was given consisted of crusty bread and cheese, which under normal circumstances wouldn't have been that bad, but considering I just gave birth, blocking my bowels up with cheese did not sound appealing. When I asked for some juice, I was told that I could not have any because it was not "breakfast time." There were a few other bizarre things (particular to giving birth so they probably don't need to be elaborated on) that put me off a bit about the maternity care, so I was definitely ready to come home after a day there. I was told I could stay for several days or a week if I wanted, but honestly I'm wondering how many people would actually want to stay under those conditions.

Thursday night was our first night at home, and it went fairly smooth. Gerrit and the dogs were mildly interested in Willem. They are all adjusting to their new household, but none seem to be paying much attention to Willem right now. Willem slept for several hours but was up throughout the night nursing every two hours.
My Three Boys
Took Gerrit to the Tagesmutter this morning and mom stayed with Willem while I went to German Class. I know, I know... I just wanted to get out for a few hours. The gals in class were checking me out trying to decide whether or not I looked a bit slimmer, but didn't want to bring up the topic. I think they probably assumed that if I was in class, I couldn't possibly have had the baby. When they found out I gave birth on Wednesday, they were shocked I was at home already. I actually feel pretty good, all considering... much more energy than I had after Gerrit's birth. Hopefully that feeling will continue to last a bit longer. Spent the afternoon unloading a few more boxes with mom, and then mom, Gerrit, and I went to music class while Gerard stayed with Willem. This evening we all went out for dinner at a Tex Mex restaurant that we've been meaning to try near our home. Mom ordered a jalapeno enchilada, which turned out to be more like a crepe stuffed with ricotta and smothered in bolognese sauce. (Guess that's Tex Mex German Style.) Gerrit was super cute. At first he was upset when we put Willem in his stroller, but later Gerrit decided it was too much fun to help push the baby in the stroller.
After a late night, we all slept in this morning and had a leisurely breakfast. Mom and I unpacked boxes in the boys' room, while Gerard broke down boxes for recycling. My midwife came by this afternoon to check on us, and she says everything looks good. She even mentioned that the baby looked a bit "overdone" because he was more wrinkly than he would otherwise be. She said he looked healthy, though, and sounded good. I had forgotten how often diapers need to be changed at this stage. Thank goodness mom is here. All in all, I think everything is going pretty well. In fact, we all went to dinner with the midwife (Regina) and her family at a nearby Italian restaurant. The food was good and so was the company.
Tomorrow we plan to head into Munich to do a little sightseeing.
Gerrit and William watching Backyardigans while waiting for dinner.
Grandma and Her Boys

German Food? (Vicki's Culinary Experience)

So far my experience here has been exciting, the colors here are very autumn like and pretty. The town is quaint with little trails to walk around on, lots of industrial looking things around. The baby is great, seems to like being held a lot so far. Gerrit is taking it all in stride. I think that the hospital did well in the delivery department, but staying overnight was like being in a bad hotel. No toilet paper, shampoo or soap. The food definitely left a lot to be desired. We had hard rolls and cheese slices, tea and coffee for breakfast and dinner. The lunches are the big meals and there was a decent one (rice and meat/gravy) the day we left, but by that time one of Steph's friends had brought McDonalds to the rescue. Am missing my husband's food more than I thought I would. I am lucky to have him to cook for me. We still have a lot to unpack and it is quickly coming back to me how Stephanie likes to over think every placement of furniture and move it over and over again. Yikes! Give me strength!

Am hoping to get out and see a few things soon, but things are going very well here, think I'll relax with a glass of wine now. Over and out....Vicki

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mom's Delivery Details (Vicki's Play-by-Play)

Well, another van Belle enters the world! Stephanie had a long labor once again this time, and tried not to have an epidural. I think she was much happier after the epidural and although it took 12 hours to get to 5 cm, after the midwife broke her water she dilated to 10 in 45 minutes. Thank goodness for drugs. It was a very quiet gentle birth and the baby was very alert and barely cried at all. I think he looks like Gerrit when he was born, but time will tell. I’m sure more gory details will be forthcoming from Stephanie, but it was great and she was great. The timing couldn’t have been much better, since we got the main furniture set up just in time for labor. I am spending the night with Steph at the hospital tonight and we should be going home tomorrow. That’s all folks!!

Better (1 Week) Late Than Never

Willem Stephen van Belle
Born 10/24/2007
8:16 a.m.
21 ½ inches long (54 centimeters)
7.6 pounds (3470 grams)

As predicted, contractions started on Tuesday, Oct. 23rd, just as our cargo was being brought in the house. At first, they were very far apart and fairly manageable so I continued to unload boxes and run up and down stairs trying to encourage things along. Around 12:30 contractions increased to every 30 minutes and by 5pm they were every 6-8 minutes. I took a warm bath and waited for the contractions to get to 5-6 minutes apart lasting anywhere between 45-60 seconds. We headed to the hospital at 10pm dropping Gerrit off at Liesel and Martin’s house.

Waiting for cargo to arrive on Tuesday morning.
Gerrit takes after his mommy and loves the phone.

Rocking Gerrit to sleep through contractions.

I was HOPING that I’d be a bit further along than I was, but of course, I was only 2 centimeters dilated when we arrived at the hospital. Walked around for a few hours and took another bath at the hospital but only progressed to three centimeters. I know that I tend to dilate really slowly so I kept asking the midwife if they would consider breaking my water hoping things would progress faster. She was in no hurry to do so, explaining that second babies tend to come faster anyway. By 4 centimeters it was about 2 a.m. and I was not a happy camper. There was a woman next door literally SCREAMING for over 5 hours in hard labor, and I kept looking at Gerard and my mom saying, “I can NOT do what she’s doing.” I finally opted for an epidural. Just as with Gerrit, it only took on my right side, and I could still feel contractions on the left side of my body. At least it was better than nothing. They started oxytocin and after an hour I progressed to 5 centimeters. They turned up the oxytocin and I really started feeling contractions on the left side. I asked for some more medication in the epidural to help with this, but the midwife said I would still feel pain even with the epidural if I was progressing quickly. When they checked me they said I was 10 centimeters and there was no point in getting any more medication because I’d be pushing soon. During that last 45 minutes, I dilated from 5-10 centimeters. No wonder it hurt so bad!

Struggling though contractions.

When I finally began to push it was quite gentle. The midwife did an EXCELLENT job easing the head out. It was nothing like Gerrit’s delivery, where he literally shot out of me, head, shoulder, hand, and umbilical cord all together. Willem’s delivery was actually quite surreal because this time I was able to see the head come out slowly, and then the rest of his body ease itself out afterward. It was amazing!

Immediately after delivery. Note how
happy Willem is to be entering this world.

A proud Papa

A Proud Grandma

The midwife I had throughout the night did not speak much English at all but was very nice. However, the midwife I had for delivery was wonderful and spoke very good English. The doctor literally came in for a few minutes to watch the delivery and then left again. In Germany, there is a law requiring a midwife be present at all deliveries, but a doctor is not REQUIRED to be there. This means that even with C-Sections, a midwife needs to be present with the doctor (even though the doctor will be doing all the cutting). I found this interesting. At any rate, the midwife we had at the end was fantastic and made me feel very comfortable. She put up with my incessant questioning, and that’s always a feat in and of itself.

So another successful delivery… Yeah! I am a bit disappointed with myself for not being able to last through the whole thing without an epidural, but I guess my pain tolerance just isn’t up to par. Willem is very alert and attempts to nurse well already. I hope that helps speed things along for me in the milk department.

Gerrit had a grand time with Liesel and Gerard brought him to meet Willem this evening. He was somewhat interested in the baby but much more interested in having grandma chase and tickle him. Gerrit is spending the night with daddy tonight while grandma, Willem, and I stay overnight in the hospital. I am hoping to leave sometime tomorrow, though I’ve been told I can stay for several days if I want.

By the way, for those of you wondering… at the urging of my midwife, I did end up opting for the enema. No, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I’m not sure it was needed.

When Gerard asked to take a picture of this,
the midwife at first thought he actually wanted
a picture of her "inserting" the enema. You
should have seen the look she gave him.

Very tired now and heading to bed. Will likely need to wake in a few hours to try nursing Willem again. I will post this tomorrow when I get home from the hospital, along with frequent updates for you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And So it Begins....

Well, the cargo has arrived today and (as predicted) with all the running up and down the stairs unloading things, I have started having contractions. They have been getting steadily closer together and stronger throughout the day, but not quite strong enough to head to the hospital yet. I am getting things in order, though, just in case. Currently, they are six to eight minutes apart lasting about 45 seconds... but not always consistently. Just thought I'd keep you all in the loop. More later. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mom's First Post

Well I am finally here. The house is very nice, but many stairs to navigate. Should be interesting when all the furniture gets here and ALL the rooms start being used. Right now they are essentially camping in the living room, but once all the rooms are set up, look out! The town here is really quaint. Stephanie looks ready to explode. I am hoping when she goes to the doctor Monday they will agree to hurry things along a little bit. Ideally once the furniture is here, the baby needs to come. If the furniture shows up tomorrow evening, we will be very busy moving things in and setting things up. If that doesn't scare the baby out, I don't know what will! It was snowing this a.m. when I got here and it was really nice. Hope it snows again before I have to come home.

Mom's Arrival Brings Snow (& German Schooling 101)

"You talkin' to me?"
Had lunch with Destene this afternoon. We went to Seidel's, our favorite local bakery. The owner is planning to move to Florida this early in the new year. They have wanted to start another cafe over there for years and are finally getting the opportunity. The owner, Irena, speaks very good English and has been a huge help in providing information for us. We have talked about keeping in touch when she leaves so we can check up on each other. I would like that very much so I hope it works out.

Irena talked a lot about her concerns about the school system here with respect to her kids. In the fourth grade, the kids take a test here to determine which school track they will continue with- academic or more vocational. Personally, I think that is a little young to label kids, and it seems to put a lot of pressure on them. Then again, the U.S. education system is not all it's cracked up to be either, so I guess it's all relative. In case you're interested, I've included a more extensive breakdown of the school system at the end of this post.

Went to dinner this evening at a local pub in town. There was a welcome meeting for parents of the Bavarian School and other parents new to the area. It was a nice way to make some new connections and finally be able to see some of the children of the parents I've already met. The downside is that I smelled of smoke when I left. In fact, the smoke was so thick in the front part of the pub that you could actually see it.

Mom leaves tomorrow to come here, and I'm really excited. I hope the baby actually arrives shortly after she does. Although I love visiting, I don't wan to waste all her time here without having another grandson for her to help with. After all, that's the primary reason she is coming.
Frightening Family Resemblance???

Update on Crazy Dog Lady:
Apparently, CDL actually filed a complaint and Francoise received a legal notice, to which she had to prepare a written response after consulting her lawyer. I think at this point, it either continues or just dies, depending on who reads the response and how seriously they take it. I suppose there could be fines involved, but at this point, I'm just not sure yet. Per CDL's complaints, the notice lists various dates and times that our dogs supposedly barked (with little notations stating if the barks were continuous or with "little interruption.") Most of the dates state continuous barking for multiple hours. I
nteresting enough, some of the dates she mentions are way off. One of the dates/times is actually at a time when Gerard and I have photographic time-stamped proof that we are out of the house walking our dogs in the forest for several hours. The downside is her complaints occur BEFORE we started documenting our own evidence via a video camera and audio. We were able to record the dogs while we were away and see how much barking, if any, was actually taking place. Of the several days of recording, there was ONE occasion where a dog 'woofed' for less than a minute, but that was it. Now, CDL basically states that whenever we were gone, our dogs barked incessantly. But I have to say that I find that REALLY hard to believe considering all the evidence we have to the contrary. Am I to believe that the dogs barked incessantly every day before we started recording, and then somehow KNEW we were recording so they stopped??? I highly doubt it. I think mostly she just waited to see when we left the house, began documenting barks, and thought there would be little we could do about it because we were away and would have no proof. Francoise mentioned that she and CDL have had disputes over various other things, so maybe this is CDL's way of "getting back at Francoise" in one way or another. The whole thing just floors me.


We all got up early this morning to discover snow. Yes, actual snow. I am really glad that I bought some warm socks, gloves, hats, and jackets for Gerrit and me because we definitely needed them. We picked mom up at the airport and have had a really pleasant day. Gerrit absolutely LOVES having his grandma here. He laughs and plays with her, and it's really comforting to know she'll be here when the baby comes.... well, hopefully, anyway. She will be here for three weeks so I really hope I'm not STILL pregnant when she leaves.

Waiting for Grandma to arrive
A Happy Reunion

Mom brought a little fireman's costume and we went to a Halloween Party sponsored by the International Women's Association here in Munich. It included games, food, and a costume parade. It was cute. Gerrit didn't really "get it," but he did enjoy seeing all of the other kids in costumes. One of the gal's I am taking German class with was also there with her husband and daughter.

Throwing rings around candy at the Halloween Festival

Isabella & Gerrit

This evening we all went for a little walk in field near the plaza in town. Still no contractions, but both mom and Gerard tell me I look really uncomfortable when I walk. I think it's because I'm waddling A LOT. I'm MUCH bigger in the front than I was with Gerrit, and this baby is already much bigger than Gerrit was when he was born. I have another doctor's appointment tomorrow, and this time I'm hoping they will give me a time line for when they may consider inducing me. I'd rather not deliver a huge baby AND well... I'd rather not be uncomfortable for any longer than I have to be.

Gerard calls this my "pygmy hat"

Although I am actually pushing my tummy out here,
this is still proof that I AM as big as I say. At least
this time Theo can't claim that my bottom is bigger
than my belly and that the baby is growing out of my A**.

German School System

The German education system is different in many ways from the ones in Anglo-Saxon countries, but it produces high- performing students. Although education is a function of the federal states, and there are differences from state to state, some generalizations are possible.

Among the charges is that it is decided too early, after completion of the 4th grade, whether a child is bound for the universities, and hence for the more prestigious and better paying careers. This rule has been modified somewhat, and it is theoretically possible for a high achieving student to get back on the university track at a later stage. This is not a frequent occurrence though.

Children in Germany start school at the age of 6, and from grades 1 through 4 attend elementary school (Grundschule), where the subjects taught are the same for all. Then, after the 4th grade, they are separated according to their academic ability and attend one of three different kinds of schools: Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium.

The Hauptschule (grades 5-9 in most German states) teaches the same subjects as the Realschule and Gymnasium, but at a slower pace and with some vocational-oriented courses. It leads to part-time enrollment in a vocational school combined with apprenticeship training until the age of 18.

The Realschule (grades 5-10 in most states) leads to part-time vocational schools and higher vocational schools. It is now possible for students with high academic achievement at the Realschule to switch to a Gymnasium on graduation.

The Gymnasium (grades 5-13 in most states) leads to a degree called the Abitur and prepares students for university study or for a dual academic and vocational credential. The most common education tracks offered by the standard Gymnasium are classical language, modern language, and mathematics-natural science.

Grundschule teachers recommend their students to a particular school based on such things as academic achievement, self confidence and ability to work independently. However, in most states, parents have the final say as to which school their child attends following the fourth grade.

The Gesamtschule, or comprehensive school, is a more recent development and is only found in some of the states. It takes the place of both the Hauptschule and Realschule and arose out of the egalitarian movements in the 1960s. It enrolls students of all ability levels in the 5th through the 10th grades. Students who satisfactorily complete the Gesamtschule through the 9th grade receive the Hauptschule certificate, while those who satisfactorily complete schooling through the 10th grade receive the Realschule certificate.

No matter what kind of school a student attends, he/she must complete at least nine years of education. A student dropping out of a Gymnasium, for example, must enroll in a Realschule or Hauptschule until nine years have been completed.

Beyond the Haupschule and Realschule lies the Berufsschule, combining part-time academic study and apprenticeship. The successful completion of an apprenticeship program leads to certification in a particular trade or field of work. These schools differ from the other ones mentioned in that control rests not with the local and regional school authorities, but with the federal government, industry and the trade unions.

German children only attend school in the morning. There is no provision for serving lunch. There is a lot more homework, heavy emphasis on the "three R's" and very few extracurricular activities.

A free higher education could lie beyond a German Abitur. No tuition is charged at Germany's hundred or so institutes of higher learning, but students must prove through examinations that they are qualified.

There are several varieties of university-level schools. The classical universities, in the tradition of Alexander von Humboldt, provide a broad general education and students usually attend them for six and one-half years. The Technical Universities (Technische Hochschulen) are more aimed at training students for specific careers and are usually attended for four and one-half years. There are also Hochschulen for art and music.

The whole German education system, including the universities, is available at no charge to the children of bona fide expatriates. The catch, of course, is that the classes are conducted in German, which is usually all right for school beginners but becomes more and more of a problem as the children get older.