Friday, November 30, 2007

Croup and Panic Attack

I have been meaning to post this whole week but Gerrit came down with croup and we've had a bad three days. Two nights ago Gerrit had a fever of 103.5 and was miserable. Between feedings for Willem, Gerrit crying and a 3 am cool bath to try to bring down Gerrit's fever, in addition to Gerard needing some extra TLC because he pulled a muscle in his back, I was pretty exhausted myself. Gerrit is finally on the mend, as is Gerard... I think.

Well, throughout the week I've been an emotional wreck of highs and lows about being here, motherhood, etc. It's probably partially due to hormones, but a few nights ago I thought I was literally having some sort of panic or anxiety attack. I've never had anything like it but I felt like I was paralyzed with fear and couldn't do anything. It wasn't even a huge thing that triggered it, either. It happened when I went out for a few things at the store on Wednesday night. I stopped by the pharmacy to get Gerard some pain meds and Gerrit some eucalpytus oil to help him breathe better. I had a terrible time communicating with the pharmacist but finally got what I needed. Not having the language really does a number on your self-esteem. At least in the U.S. I feel fairly educated. Here I am downright illiterate. It's a horrible feeling. Even though I'm taking classes, the pace is super slow (still fast for me) and I'm not really getting enough out of them to be able to communicate with anyone. I then went to a new grocery store a few blocks from our house. The cashier tried asking me something in German and I had NO CLUE what she was saying to me. She didn't even bother when she realized I didn't speak German. I loaded the groceries in the car and then it happened. My heart started racing and I felt like I couldn't move. I was afraid to drive home the three blocks to our house, I was afraid to move. I thought I was going to have to call Gerard to walk over and drive me home. I have never felt that way before and it really scared me. When I finally got home, I was all weepy.

Today I've been trying to be more enthusiastic about things. I've basically determined that I will never be to the point I'd like to be when it comes to speaking German... not right now and not with all I have going on with the kids and all that I want to do. I will continue taking my German classes and try to add to my German a bit more... some active learning and some passive. I figure I can get kids' CD's from the local library and listen to kids' music with Gerrit so I'm hearing German more often in the house. I also will try to find a German kids' television program for Gerrit and I to watch. Maybe I can learn a few elementary words and phrases that way. I will try to more actively use the German software program we have and maybe get some German teach/yourself tapes. I will try to learn at least a few new words or phrases that I can use regularly each week. This is my goal.... now let's hope that 1. it helps and 2. I can stick with it. If I didn't have kids I'd take an accelerated German language course several days per week, but I don't have the time, money, or energy to invest in that right now so I'm going to have to convince myself that it's okay to be illiterate at this point. Even if it's not at the pace or level I would like, I am still making some progress... no matter how slight it may seem.

So having said that, my new focus while here is to embrace the chaos in my life right now and try to use it to grow. I have to accept that I am not going to be the best hausfrau and just go with the flow. We'll survive even when I burn the food and can't keep the house as tidy as the "got it all together" hausfraus I've met here. Okay... so I'm going to enjoy Gerrit and Willem and set a schedule of activities for us to enjoy throughout the week, and try to find some weekend excursions and traveling that Gerard and I can do with the boys. Enjoying our time together as a family will try to be my main focus and yes, I'll still try to do all the house chores and what not, but that will not be my priority. I figure if my time here is limited I will try hard to embrace it and enjoy it because it will be unlikely we'll get this opportunity again.

See... now doesn't that sound fairly healthy of me? Yeah, that's how I feel today. Tomorrow I'll probably have an emotional break down again. I'm sure to any mother who has gone through major hormonal changes after pregnancy I sound perfectly normal, but I probably sound like a nut job to the rest of you with my many mood swings. Ah well... I will try to come back and read this post often when I'm feeling out of sorts to ground myself and refocus.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Apologies to Stay-at-Home Moms... Your Job is (bleeping) Tough

"Being a big brother is a big responsibility.
I have to rock my bebe when he cries...
and he cries a lot!"

Spent Saturday making food for our Belated Thanksgiving feast with a few "BMW" families/other ex-pats. It was a really pleasant evening. Gerrit had a great time playing with all the older kids and showing off his brother. I looked over to see all the kids surrounding Willem staring, as Gerrit was rocking him and jibber jabbering about his new "Bebe." It was super cute. He also adores Destene's girls and continued to run up to them and yell, "Fly" as he jumped into their arms. By the time we got home, he was worn out.

The three other families we had supper with were all from South Carolina- very southern (religious, well-mannered, friendly, extremely hospitable, and all good cooks and homemakers). That last one really irks me because I'm so "non-domestic" and I'm so inept when it comes to cooking and keeping house. I don't particularly like doing it and I'm not good at it. Maybe I can learn something from these women while out here.

I also realized that I had a bias I didn't realize I had before. I never thought I looked down on homemakers, but somehow when confronted with the idea for myself, I freaked out. Okay, so why is that? Somehow I felt it was okay for "other people" but not me??? How messed up is that? Now I think it's because I somehow (without even realizing it) felt that if you chose to stay home, you were choosing less for your life or couldn't do anything else. Yet these women are all intelligent, articulate, educated women who chose to stay home for their families. So I feel I owe them a huge apology for the preconceived ideas I had about them just because they were "at home." It's comparable to all the people who claim that "People who "can" DO and people who "can't" TEACH" (As if it takes no skill to teach). That is a proclamation I have had to dispute to some with my chosen profession and basically, I realized that I kind of had the same attitude about stay-at-home types. As if it takes no skill to stay home.... WRONG. Being home is freakin HARD work. I knew that before, but I didn't really *KNOW* that until now- now that I'm living it, if you get my drift. Anyway, I can honestly say that this is a lesson I needed to learn (without even knowing I needed to learn it)... and I think I only would have gained this experience by being in Germany right now. So... score one for Munich.

Family Portrait (Check out the "mom" hairdo)
Willem (now 1 month old) in big brother Gerrit's lap
The Turkey Craft. Gerrit ended up discovering marshmallows
and after eating most of his, he was unable to complete his turkey.

Destene's Daughter Loved Holding Willem
All tuckered out

Warning: This next paragraph focuses on potty talk. Not the interesting kind, the parent kind. The kind that only parents would likely appreciate. Consider yourself warned.

Had a lovely brunch Sunday morning at a nearby bakery. I know I'm a "mom" now because two things simply thrilled me today. One, Willem has started showing signs of a smile on his own. Two, Gerrit said he wanted to put his poopy in the potty and say "Bye, Bye." We have just started discussing the potty with him and have started to associate diaper contents with the potty. Gerrit is not a kid who dislikes having an icky full diaper. He doesn't let you know if he's wet or poopy and will be content to sit in a dirty diaper all day if you let him. We thought we would encourage "icky diaper recognition" with the following: When Gerrit has a BM, we've been taking him over to the potty and dumping the diaper contents into the bowl. Then we let him flush it, say goodbye, and wash his hands. The hope was that he would begin to recognize when he had a BM and then start to know the feeling before he actually did it. When he came up to us in the bakery and took us to the bathroom to show us the toilet and say, "Poo Poo in potty" it was a HUGE STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!! Maybe sometime in the next several months I'll only have to change ONE kid's diaper instead of two. :)
Headed to Brunch
"I like to help mommy push the stroller."
Daddy & Willem
"All Aboard!"

Friday, November 23, 2007

More German Logic

So I don't understand some of the "logic" here. Okay, so the pediatrician told me to give Gerrit flouride pills because Germans don't put flouride in their water like they do in the U.S. Okay, so why not just give him flouride toothpaste like adults use? "No, no," he says. "Kids swallow toothpaste instead of spitting it out and you don't want him to swallow flouride toothpaste." Hmm... so does anyone else see the irrational logic here?

Do you ever feel like you go through life just faking it?

Do you ever feel like you're going through life just winging it? I used to feel like this all the time working at La Canada Elementary. I always felt like all the teachers had their acts together but I was just faking it most of the time, hoping no one would really notice I had no clue what I was doing. So... yeah... just winging it through life. I am especially feeling that way while here in Germany. Each day brings a sensory overload of events that I try to process... poorly. Behind the wheel of the car I'm always freaking out wondering if I really have the "right of way" or if I'll inadvertently cause an accident. In the kitchen I'm always trying to unlock the mystery of the German oven, constantly checking my food to see if it's overdone, or still raw in the middle. Grocery trips are another mystery... what is this called, what does that do, do they have such an item, and my goodness... what on earth do I do with this? On the rare occasion I try to ask for a specific cut of beef at the butcher, who knows what I will actually receive. Pharmacy/Apotheke trips are the same thing. Shoe sizes and clothing stores... who knows how they really do the sizing. Every time I think I start to "get it" there's something that doesn't quite apply. Understanding German etiquette and when I've offended someone or not done something I "should" have done.... and trying to understand anyone with my very limited German language skills always sounds like the teacher in the "Charlie Brown" shows. I'm sure I sound just as muffled to them as they do to me. Then there's just the whole trying to adapt to my current life as a stay-at-home Hausfrau rather than working mom. I don't consider myself a very "domestic" person so I feel like a fish out of water every day. Oh yeah, and we still haven't unpacked and I have a newborn. Am I really an adult when I feel like a kid myself? Am I really responsible for two young kids? Am *I* really supposed to be setting an example for someone else? When did all of that happen? I keep thinking I'll forget WIllem in the house while I'm taking Gerrit to his Tagesmutter, or forget to pick up a kid or accidentally leave Willem downstairs when I head up to bed. I'm trying, but it's a miracle that I haven't accidentally killed myself or one of my kids in this whole process. So yeah... each day I feel like I'm winging it through my life, faking it, and hoping that no one will really catch on that I have no clue what I'm really doing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Turkey Day!

Ahhh... a few moments of peace and quiet to write this. Gerard has taken Gerrit with him to run an errand and Willem is sleeping for a few moments. Today I got nothing accomplished... again. At 5pm I was still in my PJ's. I had dressed Gerrit and managed to fold a load of laundry (that was all wrinkled because it had been washed three days ago). In fact, now it's folded but still not put away. I did the dishes that had been sitting in the sink for four days. Gerrit and I played a bit today and read some books, but I didn't get any more boxes unpacked. Mostly, I felt like an utter because Willem kept feeding throughout the day. Nursing makes me really tired, too. All I want to do is sleep, but obviously Gerrit makes that a bit difficult. The house has yet to be cleaned and I never did take Gerrit outside today. Yes, I feel like a bad wife and mother. I'm exhausted. I'm sleep deprived and physically very tired, but at night I have insomnia. I think it's because it's my only "me" time during the day. Now I should be doing chores during this time or unpacking more boxes, but I don't want to do any of that. I just want to veg out, watch movies, read, etc. Gerard has been giving me an earful about coming to bed so I don't get sick. I know he's right, but I just want some down time for me.

Tonight I had one of those scary mommy moments. We had finished dinner and Gerrit was ready to get out of his booster chair. I was burping Willem on my shoulder and was headed toward Gerrit to help him down when it happened. Gerrit tried to stand up in his booster and then slipped and flipped over face down- his noggin heading directly for the floor. I lunged forward to catch Gerrit's shirt and help ease him down- there was no way I could actually help him avoid the fall altogether. While I was lunging toward Gerrit with my left hand, the baby also lunged with me and I almost dropped him. Phew.... fortunately, poor Willem almost got whiplash. All survived, although Gerrit was quite upset.

This morning we went to a playgroup and spent the early afternoon with Liesel and her kids. I've decided that I need a morning activity each day to help me make adequate progress in getting out of the house each day. I realize I still have a newborn (under a month old even), but if I don't get at least "try" to get a jump start on the day, I can end up in still in my PJ's late in the afternoon with little to nothing accomplished except nursing Willem and feeding and playing inside with Gerrit. Even if I come home and get nothing else done during the day except a few hours out in the morning, I will feel as though Gerrit has gotten some outdoor time and that's some progress made.

Tonight was a complete disaster with dinner. It's Thanksgiving. We didn't have a traditional dinner as we are planning to do that on Saturday with some other American couples from my German class. Instead, Gerrit and I made a cute little turkey craft for Gerard, and I made a mushy card for Gerard telling him some reasons I am thankful for having in my life (really trying to get out of my "pissy" mood and back to focusing on the positives right now). I had also planned a very simple dinner and a chocolate cake for us to enjoy later this evening. It all started out fine, but then somehow it just went awry. Now I am normally pretty bad in the kitchen, but tonight was exceptionally awful. I had planned some swedish meatball type things with a gravy, potatoes, and veggie - Right up Gerard's alley (minus the veggie). So the meatballs and gravy came out fine.... for the most part... and that's what I was most worried about. Somehow I completely fouled up the easiest thing in the world- mashed potatoes. I ended up accidentally pouring in too much liquid and ended up with potato mush (more like cream of wheat), and when I was adding salt the lid popped off the salt shaker and a bunch of salt poured into the potatoes. So... now I had extremely salty cream of wheat potato mush. Lovely. Oh well, Gerard and Gerrit were still kind enough to eat a bit of it. Ah well, I guess they were showing that they were at least thankful for my efforts. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Missing California Weather

Our backyard after a light snow.

Yes, yes, I know I haven't posted in ages. Things have definitely moved to a snail's pace now that Willem is more demanding, Gerard is back at work, and mom has left. It's much harder to get anything done on any given day. I keep planning to continue unpacking boxes, but that has failed to happen each day. I need to just focus on unpacking one or two a day. At least that would be some progress. Right now I feel I'm at a standstill. I don't want Gerard's parents to arrive in January and have us still have boxes all over the house. Not to mention we really need to find the rest of the hardware for the futon so we can finally put it together. It seems that the movers packed the pieces separately (why, I will never know), and we have yet to be able to find all the parts and/or put it together.


After some mishaps trying to catch the bus this evening (with two kids and no stroller available it was mighty difficult to make it to the bus stop on time), Gerrit, Willem, and I finally managed to take the bus to Garching and meet Gerard at his work tonight. Francoise had arranged for a get together after work welcoming Gerard and our new son. It was very nice, and we were given some nice gifts.


Had my doctor's appointment with the Chief Surgeon at the hospital where I delivered. He had wanted to see me before I met with my regular gynecologist for my six week check up (still three weeks away). If you ask me, he just wanted to charge my insurance. Okay, so I get in to his room and I was a little put off by how they examined me. Again, I know they do things differently here but I still found it a bit bizarre. I actually had to ask what to do because I didn't see a changing room or any robes or sheets, and he and his associate never left the room so I wanted to be sure I was actually "supposed to" disrobe. I was told to disrobe (right in front of everyone in the room) and then walk over to his examination chair (not a table, but a big chair with stirrup-like things on the ends). I was not given a robe or sheet or even one of those little cheap plastic/paper type things they give you in the gynecologist's office in the U.S. to put over myself. No, just wandering around this room with everything hanging out while he examined me and then proceeded to have a conversation with me afterward. It was all so very strange.
My big (sleepy) boy at Chinese
restaurant we tried out for dinner.
Gerard, Gerrit and I got haircuts today. Gerard's turned out fine, but Gerrit and I literally had our hair hacked off. Gerrit looks like he can join the U.S. Marines and I have a "mom haircut." I asked for a few inches cut off (straight only- no layering). Every time I get my haircut (even in the U.S.) the stylists always want to layer my hair. I think it's because there is a lot of it and it just hangs there heavy and lifeless. I do not care if it's heavy and lifeless. With a toddler and an infant heavy and lifeless is what I can do. I need WAY low maintenance because I don't have time to style my hair and layering requires blow drying and styling to look good. Bleh... she didn't listen and now I have shorter hair with lots of layers. And it looks awful... I have a soccer mom haircut. I'll post pictures when I get around to photographing myself.
MMMM.... egg & tortilla wraps are my favorite breakfast treat!
Regina came by to check on Willem's umbilical cord again. Ever since it fell off, it has been bleeding ever so slightly. We were advised not to give him a water bath again until it heals completely. We need to keep the area really dry and try to avoid infection. So far, so good. It's taking a lot longer to heal than I would like, but Regina just says that he has a very deep belly button and it wasn't completely dried out inside there when the cord fell off. She also says that the problem with really deep belly buttons is that they take longer to dry out. She has given me a powder to absorb moisture. I clean his belly button each day and then put the powder on it. Hopefully, it will be completely healed in a week or so and then Willem can go back to enjoying warm water baths. I finally relented today and pumped a bit to take the edge off. Willem has been gagging and gasping, choking, and sometimes even crying when he nurses, particularly if it's been a while between feedings. Whereas with Gerrit I was always concerned that I didn't have enough milk, Willem is a completely different story. It appears I have an adequate milk supply since he's gaining weight well. However, I have a very strong let down and Willem is getting a lot of milk all at once which is quite forceful. It also makes him extremely gassy so I have to nurse him more upright, burp him often, and feed him more often so the milk supply doesn't build up too much between feedings. If he goes too long between nursing sessions and I have the pump available, I've been pumping a bit out at first so that it's not as hard on Willem. Poor kid.

So in German class today I was nursing Willem and he was a bit fussy and pulled away. I looked down and saw what I thought was a hair from my head attached to my breast blocking his nursing access. I tried to remove it and then realized it wasn't a hair at all. Instead it was a fine stream of breastmilk shooting at Willem's face. He wasn't even drinking and it was spraying at him. Poor guy. No wonder he's always choking. If I had something shooting at the back of my throat, I'd be pretty unhappy too (smart a** comments here can be kept to themselves).
Gerrit reminisces and shows Willem the joys of infant toys.

Had a doctor's appointment this afternoon with a dermatologist. Back in L.A. I had a mole removed right before leaving for Germany. The doctor emailed me out here to let me know the cells were benign but the biopsy showed some atypical cell structure and she advises me to have it completely excised with even more cut off to be sure they got all the surrounding cells. Since I didn't bring any paperwork from this doctor with me out here and I had this procedure done literally days before leaving for Germany, this makes things just a bit more difficult. The doctor here wants a pathology report from the doctor in L.A. so I will have to have medical releases signed and either faxed over or sent as hard copies (I'm hoping faxes will be sufficient). The doctor here doesn't want to cut anything more off until she received records from my previous doctor. Sigh... when I called to make the appointment and explained what I wanted they did not tell me they needed my previous records (I guess I should have known). My appointment was a 4pm today and by the time I finally saw the doctor it was 5:30. I had Gerard leave work early to help me with the kids, then waited an hour and half with two kids just to be told to make another appointment later. Argh.. frustration.

The silver lining in this whole experience is that after the appointment we decided to go have Sushi nearby. It was expensive and not as good as "A Float Sushi" back in Pasadena, but it was good. At least I don't have to take my iodine pill today since I had adequate fish intake. Yeah, so Gerrit, Willem, and I have to take all sorts of pills here that we wouldn't have to take in the U.S. First off, both boys need to take flouride pills because they do not add flouride to the water supply like they do in the U.S. Willem gets the added bonus of taking Vitamin D supplements (no Vitamin D milk here). I'm not exactly sure why the vitamin D is necessary but I speculate it's because of the long dark icky winters. Anyhow, all kids here are supposed to take Vitamin D for the first two years of their life. Then I'm supposed to be taking iodine (no iodized salt here) so that I can pass this along to Willem via my breastmilk. Hmm... this one really puzzles me. When I inquired about this, the pediatrician told me that people in Bavaria don't eat enough fish and they don't get enough iodine. I think that's a bit of a cop out since you can get fish at any store here and we are eating just as much fish here as we did in the U.S., which is typically once a week. At any rate, I figure my sushi gave me more than adequate iodine intake tonight.
Willem crashes out after a meal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Winter Tires

Behold! Gerard's Flat Screen FINALLY arrived!
A very giddy Gerrit pointed to the T.V. and yelled out...
"Oooh... Fish!" (His request for Finding Nemo)
This evening we drove into Munich to meet up with one of Gerard's former colleagues, Babar, at the Arc. The Arc is a pub that shows American Football, and Gerard has been itching to go there. We met up with Babar for dinner and drinks and watched a couple hours of a game. Babar and I chatted a bit and he asked what things I liked about being in Germany. I have to say that was a very difficult question for me to answer. I'm sure part of it has to do with the language barrier. I also think if I was visiting here, I would come up with many more things than I would now living here. Not sure why that is... maybe because as a tourist you experience much more of a honeymoon period, where everything is rosy and exciting. Here is what I came up with:

The hospital birthing experience (more holistic- less pushy and invasive)
Midwives who come to your home after delivery (all covered by insurance)
Most of the people I've met here have been fairly nice

I realize my list could be much longer, but I'm still working through my own issues about the matter, and I think it will take time to truly appreciate my surroundings. Right now, with a new baby and sleep deprivation, I just really miss the familiarity of friends and family back home.
Gerard and Babar

I actually drove myself around today for the first time since being here. I'm having difficulties with the signs (obviously different than what I'm used to seeing) and understanding when to give way, but at least it's progress. I've been afraid to drive and then I wasn't able to until we got our licenses forwarded anyhow (remember I lost my wallet the week before leaving L.A.). Anyhow, progress was made.
I took Gerrit to his Tagesmutter, then took myself to class, grocery store, picked up Gerrit, and came home. Later I was even brave enough to drive to Garching and pick Gerard up from work this evening. Short jaunts, but nonetheless it was adventurous enough for me. Now I need to learn how to drive in snow. I also found out we need to get winter tires for our car (another big expense, bleh).

This morning I also had Willem with me in German class for the first time. The Tagesmutter is not interested in having Willem with her until he's at least 3 months old so that means taking him with me to German class. The instructor and other students all said it would be fine to bring the baby along, but I still feel a bit uneasy about it. It all started out just fine this morning. Willem needed a bit of nursing, but I was still able to participate. Of course Willem was gulping rather loudly (as usual), but thankfully no one seemed to mind... too much. Then it happened... the giant bum explosion that told me a diaper change was in order. I thought... Okay, I'll just finish nursing him and wait til the end of class to change him. It's only another 30 minutes. Willem can wait. Then I felt the warm moist goop leaking from his diaper, through his pants and onto my hand. Okay, wait no more. I excused myself from class, changed Willem and clothes completely, then finished nursing him so as not to disturb any other students. By the time I came back to class, I had about 5 minutes left. Oh well, Friday is another day. At least I got an hour of German in, which is better than nothing.
"What? What did I do?"


Very, very tired today. Willem was up most of the night either eating or crying. I've gotten nothing accomplished today except feeding and changing myself, Gerrit, and Willem. I need a nap.
My cute little devil seems like such an angel
Gerrit & Jake

Gerard took the afternoon off, which allowed us to drop Gerrit off at Regina's while we went to the Real looking for long underwear and winter shoes. We also made an appointment to get winter tires. It's going to cost us 600 Euro. That's like $1,000!!! Isn't that nuts?!?!?! Bleh, when I said expensive, I still didn't think it would be THAT much. Ouch!! It snowed today, though, so we need the tires soon. I was told that if you get into an accident and you have the wrong tires on your car, the insurance company won't pay. With me behind the wheel, I don't want to take that chance so we better cough up the money and get it done.

Willem is three weeks old today. He's now up to 9 1/2 pounds and seems to be eating fairly well, even though it's not on the schedule I would like. He's still young, though, so there is hope I will sleep better in the next few months.
Willem (3 weeks old today)"Mom says I'm growing fast"

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mom's Final Week in Germany

Crazy Dog Lady Resolution:
The Crazy Dog Lady issue finally resolved itself. Francoise emailed Gerard to say that after German officials received her letter detailing some discrepancies in Frau CDL's list of complaints, as well as noting other long-time disputes between Francoise and CDL, they have decided not to pursue it any further. YEAH!!! SCORE ONE for the Dog People... ZERO for the "Crazy Little Dog Frau who Hates Foreigners." The whole thing seemed really childish, and I didn't want her to have the satisfaction of winning this dispute, so I am of course greatly satisfied with this outcome.
Gerrit loves caressing Willem's hair

Annoying Gerardisms:
It's not gonna happen
Expectation Management
Gerard Standard Time
End of Discussion
Truly, you lead a persecuted life
Asked and Answered

Use Your Words
It's just the cost of doing business
It is what it is

Telling Gerard Where to Put his "Gerardisms"

I woke up with grand plans today. I woke up expecting to get the kids ready and head into Munich to buy my mom's souvenirs. We were to take the train into town and hit some of the souvenir shops around Marienplatz and the Hofbrauhaus, and enjoy a leisurely lunch. I meant to have a nice little visit today with her doing some of these things while Gerard was at work. And well... my plans went awry. Since having Willem I have been craving a ton of milk and cheese and well... not drinking enough juice or eating enough fiber... and well... yeah, let's just say I spent the day a bit... incapacitated. The entire day was taken up in this way, so my plans were foiled. Instead we spent the day here, and mom listened to me complain about my "problems" the entire day.

Willem at 2 Weeks
(My, how they change so soon)
"I'm the big brother now!"

It was bleeping cold today. The wind was what truly made it unbearable. Bleh! I truly wonder how I will survive the winter. We spent the day unloading boxes and the evening driving into Munich to get mom's souvenirs. We literally ran all over downtown Munich trying to find just what she wanted while we left Gerard with two screaming boys in the car. After stopping for a few groceries we ate dinner at the the mini-mall that has a Subway. Ah yes, a sandwich with soft bread and real mayo. It was heavenly.

All our kids napping (Jake, Niki, Gerrit, Willem)

Spent the morning at English Playgroup and then stopped by Liesel's for lunch. Liesel's daughter, Ella, finally seems to be taking a bit of a shine to Gerrit. I think she is beginning to feel a bit protective over him. The boys spent most of the morning chasing each other around the sofa. Gerrit adores Ella and Thomas, and it’s really nice to see him play with them.

Regina came by to demonstrate post-partum exercises
Another Food Coma

This afternoon we went to a St. Martin's Festival in Ismaning with Liesel, Martin, and their kids. St. Martin’s Day is officially on November 11, but many schools celebrated it today. A bit of history about St. Martin’s Day.

St. Martin was a Roman soldier living approximately 316-397. He later became a monk and eventually the Bishop of Tours. There are many legends about his life. The most famous is when he cut is cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. Another legend is when he tried to hide because he didn’t want to become Bishop. The story is that he hid in a stall in a barn, but a flock of geese made a lot of noise and gave away his hiding place. The goose is now a symbol of St. Martin. Many people eat goose to celebrate, and kids make sugar cookies shaped like geese as part of the festivities.

To celebrate, kids walk around the streets, after dark, carrying decorated paper lanterns with candles inside. Often a man dressed as St. Martin rides on a horse in front of the procession. They parade around singing songs about St. Martin and their lanterns. In some parts of Germany, they even go door to door doing this (A bit like trick-or-treating, they are rewarded for their singing and the beauty of their lanterns, with sweets and other goodies).

Okay, so in Ismaning they had a little celebration at the kindergarten, consisting of a small animal circus, food and drinks, and the lantern procession. The circus was kind of fun for Gerrit. There were all sorts of small animal acts, including cats, penguins, ducks, mice, dogs, and chickens. The trainer mostly had his cats jumping through things or over things to get to food, which made me question whether or not he had actually fed the cats at all during the day. It seemed like he took good care of the pets, but it also seemed like he must have purposely withheld food from them so they would perform. During the lantern procession, we were all freezing. It was very cold and extremely windy. I will definitely need warmer clothes in order to survive this winter.

Thomas, Samuel, Ella, Gerrit in the Lantern Procession

Mom leaves super early tomorrow morning. I had actually hoped to go out sightseeing on her last day here, but it was snowing so we spent her final day here working a bit around the house one last time. We made a substantial dent in the boxes. We opened all the boxes, but there are still quite a few in the garage and office that need to be emptied. She has been a huge help and I am really sad to see her go. I truly appreciate all she’s done while here, but beyond that I will also really miss spending time with her and being able to see her everyday. It seems like this last three weeks have really flown by, and I am disappointed that it will be so long before I can see her again. I know I will be counting the days and using Skype often to keep in touch in between.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Final Days in Germany (By Vicki)

Well, my time here in Germany is almost over. We had a good week, but started it by twisting my back out of shape. I guess the box was too heavy for an old lady to lift. I have spent the week in pain, having a hard time sleeping at night. We went to an Indian restaurant this week and it was really good. It was like being back in America. I could read the menu and everything. I am coming back with about 100 pictures for my album. The baby has grown a lot in the last 2 1/2 weeks! I will miss the kids and Stephanie a lot, but will be happy to see my family back home and get back to work. I didn't realize it was such a part of my identity.

It has rained more than days than not and actually snowed a little today. We went to a St. Martin's Celebration today for kids, with some looney German guy. He had animals in his act and it looked like he starved his cats so they would jump over rats and birds, and through fire to get food! Then we went out in freezing cold weather to traipse around with the kids, carrying lanterns, singing some German song. I was freezing my buns off! Poor Stephanie, she will not be handling the cold here very well. It will take a half hour just to get ready to leave the house! I'm glad I will be home in the sunshine.

Got souvenirs for my family. Gerard took us to Munich and Steph and I ran (literally) in the cold to find what I wanted (overpriced of course). We did pass the famous Hofbrauhaus, which is a bunch of beer drinking (don't like beer) tourists sitting at long tables, listening to German music. Would have been nice if we weren't racing to get back to a screaming infant left in the car with poor Gerard.

Tomorrow we will work on the house some more before I leave. My flight is really early Sunday. I am hoping my back doesn't go crazy on the long flight. I have a new found appreciation for how much we take for granted in the U.S. , no wonder all the Europeans think Americans are wasteful. They have to wear the same clothes without washing them for a week and keep smelly trash in the house for a month! If nothing else, Germany will toughen up Stephanie.

That's all folks! I will comment on Steph's blog in the future.. Bye...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Stephanie, the African Queen (Another field report by Vicki)

The week has been eventful, as you can tell by Steph's blog. Enjoyed the castle trip. Still having a hard time with the laundry situation here. I call it the "neverending washing machine"!!! I don't know what Stephanie will do when I leave, it's a full time job for one person. Also, there are some interesting new methods of mothering apparently. Stephanie has taken to wearing some huge piece of cloth (looks like something in Africa) in which she wraps the baby. It takes her 10 minutes by herself to situate the baby, which includes the initial wrap and then many adjustments thereafter. If I help it can be done in 5. You will notice the thing in pictures. I am wondering if she will do her housework with the baby wrapped up like that. Wait, what am I thinking? Housework is sort of a dirty word to Stephanie. The baby likes to be held when he is not eating, so between a toddler who needs constant supervision and a baby that has to be attached to you 24-7, not sure what housework will get done. At least she has an excuse. The baby is gulping right now as Stephanie is feeding him. Certainly getting plenty of nourishment. He sounds like he can't breathe. We will try tomorrow to find some souvenirs for me to take home. Later...

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Bundling up for some outdoor time.

Well, it's been several days since writing. We've been keeping busy with unpacking and trying to do a few things that show mom around a bit before she has to leave. I love that she's willing to help so much with unpacking but I'd like her to see at least a few of the sites before she goes.

"Crazy Dog Lady" Update

Unfortunately, I have nothing new to report regarding the Crazy Dog Lady. No news is not necessarily good news... it's just "no news." The latest was that Francoise had received a written complaint that she had to respond to (with her lawyer), and some official would review it after receiving it. I guess they'd decide at that point if the complaint was valid and if fines are to be assessed. We gave Francoise the video/audio evidence we had of "non-barks" as well as the time and date-stamped pictures of all of us (dogs included) walking in the woods during the entire time of one of her complaints. Hopefully that lends credence to our claims and doubt to the validity of CDL's complaints. I'll let you know how things finally resolve.


Today is Halloween in the U.S. I'm really bummed that Gerrit won't get to participate in trick-or-treating this year since this is the first year he might actually understand a bit about what is going on. Oh well, guess we'll have some new traditions/celebrations when we come back to the U.S.

Today we decided to take a day trip to Mad King Ludwig's Castle, near the Bavarian Alps close to the Austrian border. King Ludwig was quite eccentric and believed to have struggled with homosexuality throughout his life. Near the end of his life he was deposed (removed from power by the government). Mystery surrounds his death, which was ruled as a suicidal drowning, but many speculate he was murdered. Below is a link to his biography which I found quite interesting.

Neuschwanstein Castle from the road
In the horse-drawn carriage ride up to the castle
"Hey, whaddya know. My baby is in there."
The view from near the castle entrance

Neuschwanstein Castle is said to be the model that Walt Disney used when creating his Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Check out the comparison.
Neuschwanstein Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle

We purchased tickets for a castle tour and the bus ride up to the castle itself, but we encountered some difficulties. We waited for the bus and it seemed to take forever. We finally decided to get some food nearby, thinking we would catch the next bus up. None of us had eaten lunch and Gerrit was getting fussy. We figured we would catch the next bus up to the castle, but it turned out that there was no "next bus." While we were eating, the last bus left. Oh well, plan B. We found a horse-drawn carriage that took us to the castle. Took a bit longer, but Gerrit enjoyed it and kept calling for the "Neigh" whenever he would see the horse. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a tour inside the castle, but viewing the castle up close was pretty spectacular in and of itself. I found a link of someone else who visited the castle and took pictures inside. It is attached if you're interested.

All in all, it was a good day trip, although it was REALLY cold. Thank goodness we were bundled up. It took us much longer to drive home because of the impending holiday. Several people were taking extended weekends and traffic was horrible.

Today is All Saint's Day. Bavaria is predominantly Catholic, and I was told that even more holidays are celebrated here than in other German states. The school kids get the entire week off, which means my German class was also canceled for this week. That's kind of nice considering I have a newborn. Since today was a holiday and everything was closed, we decided to spend most of the day working around the house, unpacking boxes. We've now managed to unpack just over half of the boxes. I'm hopeful that we can get through almost all of them before mom leaves.
The movers actually packed some of my food.
As full as my pantry is, it still doesn't come close
to rivaling Destene's stock from back home.
Still need brownie mix :)
I didn't have German Class today as we had the whole week off for All Saint's Day. We still took Gerrit to his Tagesmutter, which allowed mom and I to work on the house for a few hours without a toddler running around. We've gone through all the boxes in the house (except the office) and are now beginning to pull boxes in that were left in the garage. I can't BELIEVE we have this much stuff.

This evening, we went into Munich and met up with a former colleague of mine. Chris is out here visiting her son, Jace, in Prague. Jace is spending a semester at film school in Prague before returning to school at UC Santa Barbara. They were kind enough to schedule a visit to Munich for a couple of days to see the sites and visit with me. It was REALLY nice to see Chris. I've been really homesick and seeing a familiar face helped me feel a bit less isolated. Our time together was very short, but I very much enjoyed it nonetheless. Yeah, my first non-family visitor. I could use a lot more visitors, and now there is actually room for people to come visit (hint, hint).

Coming home on the train tonight, Gerard used Gerrit to flirt with a ton of cute girls. Gerrit would sit on his knee and wave and say, "Bye Bye" to cute girls (Gerard would point out, of course). Oh the things you can get away with when you have a little kid. Under normal circumstances, women would have probably thought Gerard was a freak, but having dogs and children to use as a guise is always a great advantage. Incidentally, while mom and I were sitting waiting for the train we, too, were approached... by an old man looking down at Willem lovingly. He asked how old Willem was and when I responded that he was just ten days old, the man gestured with his hands to "Hold him close" (implying this time goes by quickly and they grow up fast). It was actually very sweet, but I found it entertaining to note the age difference of the "interested parties."
Stephanie, Chris, Jace
Chris, Steph, Willem & Gerrit

Spent the day unpacking some more. It's a never-ending cycle. Late this afternoon we took mom into Freising. We had hoped to get there before the shops closed and allow her to shop for souvenirs, but since most stores actually close at 4pm on Saturday, there wasn't much use. It was just as well considering we weren't able to find any tacky souvenir shops anyhow. Instead, we went window shopping and walked around town looking at all the bear statues. On our way out of town we drove by Weihenstephan, which claims to be the oldest brewery in the world. Seemed interesting enough - might be something to check out without the kids at some point.

"Yes, that is my son... picking the bear's nose."
Gerrit follows any sort of tracks. "Choo Choo"
"I'm flying!"

We spent the evening playing Scrabble and making cookies. I still can't figure out the baking thing here. The brownies I made for Gerard's birthday and the cake I made for Gerrit's birthday both turned out fine, but each time I've tried to make cookies they turn out more muffin-like than cookie-like. It's so strange.

We gave Willem his first water bath tonight. He really enjoyed it, but Gerrit didn't seem to notice his brother. He is so into his own bath time that he is almost oblivious to life around him.

Finally... an apology to Niki. Remember my Doggy IBS post about Niki pooping all over Francoise's house? Well, I believe I was wrong. I now think the cat was the true culprit. At the time, I remember thinking that the "evidence" looked too small to be left by Niki, but considering she had eaten all that junk food and the cat had apparently been using the litter box, I thought it must obviously be Niki. Well, the cat has now taken to pooping on things in the house, including my mother's head (well, almost... very near it while she was sleeping last night). Sigh... I can't figure out why she's doing this. If anyone knows anything about cat psychology, let me know. She also uses the litter box, so it's not like she doesn't know where it is or refuses it altogether. Any suggestions with this one?

A lazy, napping day with some light unpacking. Today I actually craved crepes instead of fat buttermilk pancakes for the first time since being here. I don't even like pancakes back in the U.S. but we've had them at least two or three times a week since being in Germany. But today... crepes were on my agenda. After a few mishaps trying to make them, I was fairly successful. Perhaps this will be a turning point in my acceptance of being here? I wouldn't hold my breath, but it's a start.

Mom's stay is two-thirds over, and I'm getting sad about her departure. For the past few days she has been talking about missing home and saying that she can't wait to get home.
I'm trying not to take it too personally, but it still saddens me. This is the longest and furthest she's ever been from home. I'm sure she is probably enjoying her time here, but also likely misses the familiarity of home. I can definitely relate to that feeling. Still, it's been really nice having her here, and it's been comforting to have an "experienced mother" here to ease my mind about the little stuff. I know I've done this before and that for all intensive purposes *I* am experienced mother myself, but sometimes it's just nice to have your own mom around to bring you back to reality when you start freaking out because your fragile newborn did or didn't do something you expected, or you're convinced has something wrong with him. She's a grounding force.
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