Saturday, January 26, 2008

Oma & Opa Arrive

"Hangin' with my Bro"

Things have been a bit crazy here lately... good crazy, though. Gerard's parents arrived on the 17th and we've been having a lovely visit ever since. Before they got here, I thought my head would explode. I'm *still* unpacking boxes and in fact, just finished putting the attic guest room in order the day before they arrived. Walking the dogs has been much better since their arrival, though... thank goodness.
Jake & Niki on a morning walk

My German class ended Monday and does not start again until the end of February. Conveniently, this all coincides with mom and dad's visit, so any side trips we want to take won't need to be arranged around class schedules. Unfortunately, the end of my German class also means that I no longer have a Tagesmutter for Gerrit. Gerrit's Tagesmutter has become pregnant again and she no longer wishes to watch him as she thinks it will be too difficult during her pregnancy. So... this means that I'm out a Tagesmutter and need to find another one before the end of February, which may prove to be difficult considering she was the ONLY one available when I contracted her. Although I'm excited for her, I'm also sad and disappointed that Gerrit will lose her because he really loves going to there and is so very comfortable with her. It was so nice to drop Gerrit off and have him run inside and wave goodbye to me instead of screaming and holding onto my leg.
"Ain't I the cutest?"

Okay... so I attempted a trial run to the airport the night before mom and dad's arrival. I thought this would help me keep any panic attacks at bay and successfully retrieve them from the airport. Well, as you can probably guess, these things never work out for me. The last time I spoke with Gerard's folks they said they would get a cab to the house. I felt guilty about this and really wanted to be sure I was there when they got off the plane. I tried calling them to say I'd pick them up, but I never got through. Even though I had not been able to confirm that I would get them, I figured that if I was there right when they arrived, I would be sure to catch them. Since their flight was scheduled to land early in the morning, I woke up several times throughout the night to check their flight status. Unfortunately, during one of my trips downstairs to the computer I tripped over my feet and slipped down the stairs. I quickly grabbed the rail with my right hand to help catch my fall, but squished my middle finger in the process. Thankfully I wasn't holding any kids AND I didn't land on my tail bone, but I *did* manage to get a gnarly bruise on my backside, left wrist, and my middle finger. (Guess I won't be flipping anyone off any time soon.) When I actually arrived at the airport, the board said their flight had arrived - apparently it had not been updated on the website. However, since I was there shortly after their plane landed I was sure that I hadn't missed them. After waiting nearly 40 minutes, a bad feeling began to grow and I was pretty sure I *HAD* indeed missed them. I phoned our neighbors and asked that they keep an eye out for my in-laws. Turns out they while I was waiting for them at the airport, Gerald & Johanna had caught a cab and were waiting for me at the house. They got their bags and made it through customs in no time, and we literally missed each other by minutes. Joy... just the first impression you want to give your in-laws when they fly across the ocean to visit you in a foreign country. Thankfully, my neighbors were very kind and invited them in for coffee so they wouldn't have to stand in the cold. My in-laws were really easy going about the whole thing, but I felt terrible.
Safe in Oma's arms
"My Opa is an excellent burper!"

Gerrit had been very upset the first week that Gerard was away and woke up from naps crying for "Daddy." Every time he heard the dogs bark or scurry to the door he would think that Gerard was coming home and would run to the door calling, "Daddy." And every time we got in the car, poor Gerrit would ask if he were getting daddy from work. I know that he will get used to Gerard being away now and again but this time was particularly hard on Gerrit, so I was had yet another reason to be grateful for mom and dad's arrival.
Thank Goodness for Grandmas!
Getting better acquainted

In spite of my earlier "airport fiasco," we've been settling in nicely since then. The first few days were spent adjusting to the time change, so lots of eating and sleeping were involved. :) We checked out an international church in Munich with an English service. Later, we had dinner with some long-time friends of Gerard's folks (Jerry and Ellen). Jerry is here on sabbatical from Harvard, and is splitting his time between Munich and Geneva. We have also spent a ton of time walking- walking all over town and even taking the dogs for a walk in the woods near Garching.
Our stroll in the forest
Gerrit later fell asleep in his pouch on my back

Gerard arrived home on my birthday, and I've been "milking" my birthday celebration ever since. So far I've had two birthday dinners- one at a Mexican restaurant in Munich (that's a complete oxymoron, by the way) and the other at our local Indian restaurant here in Neufarhn. We also figured out that several museums are free during the last hour of the day so we took a quick walk through the Deutsches Museum before our Munich dinner. Yesterday, we took Gerrit swimming and I even managed to get Oma to try out the water slide. The boys are having a ball with mom and dad. Willem smiles at them incessantly, and Gerrit loves having his Oma and Opa here. When he wakes up, he remembers they are here, asks for them, and then greets them each morning with an "uninvited" visit to their room. :)
Waiting for daddy
This is a picture of Gerard when he was little.
I think that Gerrit looks a lot like his daddy,
especially in this next airport picture.
Gerrit definitely has a van Belle face.
Happy Homecoming!In front of the Deutches Museum
"Look, Mom, I'm flying!"

Since Gerard has finally adjusted back to GMT+1 time, we have started making more substantial plans for Oma and Opa's trip. Hopefully this means there will be exciting things to share in future blogs... other than Opa and I fighting over who gets the bathroom first. :)
"So like I was saying..."
"Hey, are you listening to me?
I have very important things to say"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Day

My Day:
Gerrit woke up at 9:40 today. We went over to Liesel and Martin's for dinner last night and stayed later than I expected, so Gerrit and I were up super late last night. We got up, ate breakfast, I nursed Willem, got everyone dressed and then each child had a blowout so I had to redress them. Willem wanted to nurse again so I did. Went through our entire house and emptied all the Restmulle (icky black trash), Gelber Sacks (Recycled Packing Materials), and cleaned litter box, etc. It was now getting close to lunchtime so I fed Gerrit and guess what... Willem wanted to nurse AGAIN. By this time it's 1pm and I decide to take the dogs out to let them run around. Now Gerard has been driving them to the edge of town and letting them run off-leash, which sounds easy, right? Not so, with the kids.

It takes me 20 minutes to get myself and the kids rugged up in the proper attire to be outside in the cold. I load everyone into the car and we head off. Wanting Gerrit to get some exercise too, I decide to forego the stroller. Gerrit and I will walk, Willem will be in the baby bjorn and the dogs will run off-leash. It takes me 20 minutes to get settled once there... with gloves, hat, settling Willem into the bjorn, etc. and everyone gets out of the car. It has been icky and rainy the last few days so of course it's muddy... in fact, muddier than I expected. The dogs are thrilled and immediately run about. Gerrit promptly falls in the mud and while I'm helping him up, Niki decides to find some deer crap or whatever and rubs herself all over it. Ick! Even though it's normally a quiet area with little traffic, about six cars come through and each time I have to wrangle dogs and kids together to be sure they are safe. As I called them over to me one time, Niki thought I wanted to play and jumped up showering me with mud. Gerrit now decides he doesn't want to walk and wants to be carried instead. He literally throws himself down on the ground and lays there waiting for me to retrieve him. I would have left him there and let him watch me walk a bit away from him, but I was worried about more car traffic. My feet are squelching through the mud and as I get everyone back into the car, Gerrit promptly puts his muddy shoes all over the backseat before I have a chance to clean them off. By the end of it, all of us, including the car needed a bath. It was after 3pm when I got back and Willem was screaming to bed fed again. After nursing him, I was wiped and still needed to bathe dogs and us. This was one of those days where nothing got accomplished.... except keeping my sanity. :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gerard's First Trip to Chile

Well, Gerard left Tuesday for his first trip to Chile. This is the first time he's left me for any longer than an all day trip since arriving in Germany. It's been two days so far (Gerard's parents arrive on the 18th) and we're surviving.... only barely, but we we're still here.

I had a second panic attack on my way home from taking Gerard to the airport Tuesday. I knew I probably shouldn't have agreed to take him to the airport and drive home. First off, I've never really driven at night here, and my night vision is not good to begin with. I've also only driven home from the airport once before, and that was with Gerard in the car to help navigate. Granted, we have a GPS, but it doesn't help you avoid missing the exit if you can't see the exit at night. And that's just what happened to me.

Gerard left the car and I started home. The GPS told me to stay right but go left, which I couldn't really understand until I realized there was a fork in the road- only I realized it too late. Okay, no problem. The GPS will just recalculate my route and tell me what to do next, right? It tells me to turn around and I see this roundabout so I figure I can do just that.... only I accidentally got off one turn shy of a complete 180 on the roundabout. Sigh... okay, GPS will surely recalculate AGAIN and tell me where to go. In the meantime, I've gotten off the roundabout (still somewhere in the airport) in an area where only buses and taxis are supposed to be. I drive slowly along this road that takes me to a parking lot. Everyone is giving me dirty looks because I am obviously not a taxi or bus. There is nowhere to park so I literally drive in circles trying to find the exit to get back on a road. I can not exit the way I came in because it was a one way road. I begin looking for other exit points, but as my stress level has started to increase my memory goes out the window. I literally cannot remember which signs mean "No Entry" or "One Way" and this means I can't figure out how to get out. Okay, I say... I'll just call Gerard's cell and confirm the signs with him. I keep second guessing myself, so I'll just get some confirmation. Then I realize that Gerard has left his cell phone for his folks, and he put another SIM card in his PDA, but I do not have that number programmed into my cell. So no way to get a hold of him. There is no place to park so I just circle. I'm terrified to go any direction for fear that I'll see headlights coming at me from the other direction. The GPS is of no help at this point because I'm now off the main road and it doesn't know where I *CAN* and *CAN'T* LEGALLY drive, so it just keeps telling me to turn left. I'm freaked out about having the kids in the car and now my heart is racing. At this point, I begin to panic. My heart literally feels like it's going to pop out of my chest and I feel dizzy. Now it's completely dark and I feel stranded. Sounds like a little thing, I'm sure, but now I'm in a full blown panic attack that I can't control.

After circling for five minutes, I see a taxi leave and I follow it, figuring the taxi will obviously head out the correct way. I drive until I hit a major road and the GPS kicks in again. I'm on the Autobahn (with no speed limit, by the way), it's dark as can be, and I'm white knuckle clutched to the wheel, hoping that I don't black out while driving and cause a wreck. Obviously, I made it home. I told Gerard about it and he said, "So don't you feel good that you did something that you were uncomfortable with and accomplished it?" My reply- "No, I am just grateful that I didn't pass out while driving and kill myself and our kids in the process." Lesson Learned- When I'm out of my comfort zone, listen to my inner voice and just know my limits. Yes, I want to overcome some of these obstacles, but I don't need to attempt these things for the first time, alone in the car with my kids.

So... before Gerard left I decided to try making chocolate zucchini brownies. Some of you will say, "Eww... sick" but zucchini bread is yummy, and when I saw a recipe for zucchini brownies I thought I'd give it a whirl. My intention was to sneak the zucchini in and offer the brownies to Gerard and Gerrit to see if they would eat them. I tasted them ahead of time and I thought they were yummy. They'd be excellent as a brownie sundae. Okay, so now some of you are probably saying what I did at first- "Isn't the "little" amount of zucchini you add going to be outweighed by the fact that it's a chocolate brownie? Aren't you defeating the purpose of eating a healthy vegetable if you have to put it in something unhealthy?" Ah, yes, a point well taken. However, seeing as how Gerard would eat the brownie, or cookie, or ice cream or whatever ANYWAY, I figure adding some sort of veggie has to improve the nutritional value at least a little bit, right? At any rate, Gerard saw my printed recipe before I had a chance to offer the brownies to him, so his attitude was already tainted. He ate about five bites, and although he admitted that he probably wouldn't know there was any zucchini in them, he also said he prefers a box mix over these. Rats! So... guess who ended up eating the ENTIRE lot of chocolate zucchini brownies? Hmm... in the end, probably not as healthy a move as I had intended.

Gerrit is always fussier when Gerard is away, and it's been tough getting both kids down at night. Gerrit wants to be cuddled and doesn't really want Willem around, and Willem wants to be held or screams bloody murder. Letting Willem scream means Gerrit won't go to sleep anyhow, which totally defeats the purpose. Ah well, things will get easier. I keep reminding myself of that.

Tonight I tried to do too many things at once. Put Gerrit in bath and put Willem in his little bathtub (outside of tub and in his clothes) so he could watch Gerrit, while I rushed to put fresh sheets on our bed. I had a feeling that what happened next might happen, but I was hoping it wouldn't. Thought Willem would be a bit entertained by his brother long enough for me to finish this- since he screams lately whenever he's awake and put down. I heard Willem fuss and cry (typical, so I didn't think too much of it). I could see both boys from my room and all looked fine so I figured he was just upset and wanted to be held. I returned to the bathroom to find that Gerrit had decided that since Willem was in his bath, he obviously needed one- so Gerrit had poured a cup full of water from his own bath into Willem's bath. Willem's pants were soaked and he was pissed. Obviously... I would be, too. Poor kid. I had to laugh, though. Alright, bad mommy moment, I know.
All fresh and clean
Sporting our fashionable robes

I have German tomorrow after a long holiday break. I don't really remember anything, so I think the class will be tough. Having said that, something slightly interesting happened yesterday. Gerard spoke with me shortly after arriving in Santiago and said, "You didn't teach me any Spanish before I came here." I was going to reply with the standard phrase everyone entering a foreign country should know how to say, "Where is the bathroom?" My intention was to say, "¿Dónde está el baño?" But what actually started to come out of my mouth was, "Wo ist die Toilette?" Hmm... even though it's a little thing, maybe that's progress after all.

And now... a short video clip for our dear friend, David Ciardi.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Here are the Christmas videos I had posted on UTube earlier. I took them off UTube but I've posted them here for anyone still interested.

These videos are from the week leading up to Christmas.

The first one is of Gerrit Showing off Willem.
The second is in front of our house, showing us getting ready to brave the cold weather.
The third shows us at a Christmas Market at Munich airport.
The last one shows Grandma's Christmas Village in the our kitchen window.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

So there are some people who say they're bad in the kitchen... and then there are those of us who are truly bad in the kitchen. A week or so before Christmas I tried to make fudge and had a horrible incident where there was chocolate all over my kitchen- I won't go into detail. Fortunately, a second attempt yielded slightly better results.

You know, I largely feel I am taking on a completely new career right now. I finally felt like I was "getting" the whole teaching thing. Trying to be "domestic" and take care of things on the home front is all new to me. Whereas those people who chose to be home from the beginning of their marriages may have struggled at first, they seem to have it down now. I am experiencing this at nearly 34, feeling as though I never learned how to do any of this stuff before. I do feel very inept at times. Now Gerard would likely say that I'm being too hard on myself... my cooking not being that bad, etc... but I beg to differ. Sure, I can follow a recipe (although even here they don't always come out these days), but to me real cooking is being able to look in the kitchen cupboards and assemble a meal based on random ingredients and spices you have. That, is definitely not me. Yet another goal for me while I'm here. My list of things to work on while here is never-ending.
A view of our house with some light snow
Our street
A little neighborhood park near our houseGerrit rugged up for the weather
Willem rugged up for the weather
And when you leave the warm sleeping sack to
brave the cold on the outside... this is what you have
to look forward to. Poor Willem looks like the
Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters
(Anyone else remember that?)

Christmas was a lazy, relaxing day. We stayed in our PJ's the entire day and vegged out, slowly opening gifts and stopping to admire or play with them as we went. Since Gerrit isn't at the age just yet where he feels a need to rip something open, shove it aside, and grab for the next toy, we thought we'd savor this time by letting him examine and play with things AS he opened them. This made for a LONG day opening gifts. We went so slowly that we didn't finished until well after lunch. Actually, I rather enjoyed that. Apparently, I've been told by many parents that this is likely the last year that will happen, and that when their kids were much less able to contain themselves once turning three.
Mommy and Gerrit play with a new Christmas toy.
(Remember that women like men who can
cook, and all the world's best chefs are men!)
Daddy makes sure Gerrit also remains
firmly connected to more "manly" activities
Although Gerrit's getting really good at assembling
train tracks, I think this time daddy helped a bit. :)
"I'm an expert with fish toys.
See... Willem... here's what you do..."
Mommy's very unfashionable but very warm winter hat

Gerard had the 26th off as well so we decided to go to the Deutches Museum, a large science and technical museum in Munich. The place was enormous and each display was quite impressive. Having Gerrit with us meant we only really focused on the trains, airplanes and kid area. The train display was enormous. The pictures I posted don't really do it justice, and Gerrit was in absolute HEAVEN.
Trains...Planes...and Automobiles!
(the firetruck in the kids' play area)Willem waits patiently while we get rugged
up and ready to brave the cold again

We made it back to the public swimming pool one evening- the first time I've been in the pool since having Willem. Of course Gerrit had a blast and tried out his first water slide. We rode with him, and he loved it and kept saying, "More."
Fun in the Water
Gerrit's First Water Slide
Willem slept while we splashed

New Years was spent with a few friends and their children. We had a burrito bar set up and a few small boxes of fireworks. We assigned 7pm as the designated kids' midnight, popped champagne and sparkling cider, and went out to shoot some fireworks. The home fireworks kits here are NOTHING like I'm used to in California. They were downright amazing here! First off, there are few places in California you can even still shoot off your own fireworks and for the last several years I've only seen big public displays. The kits we bought here shot the fireworks a couple hundred feet in the air before exploding in color. It was incredible! We actually were a bit freaked out by how close it was to the house so we only shot one of our boxes that had 15 or so right after the other and left the other two boxes. Then we let the kids use sparklers. Everyone left by 9pm and Gerard fell asleep at 10pm putting Gerrit down for the night.

At midnight, the noise and light started. Seriously... for a good 45 minutes you could see a ton of fireworks being shot in the air- HOME displays- being shot high in the air for all to see. The smoke in the sky was so thick from all the fireworks. The dogs were going crazy, but Gerrit and Willem slept through the entire thing. I've never seen anything like it. It was AMAZING!!! Guess people don't care about shooting things close to their house. The next day there was firework remnants, packages, etc. literally all over the sidewalks and streets throughout the town. Firework litter. I wish I had photos of it. If this is what the home displays are like in small towns, I can only imagine the hoopla in the city.

Gerrit is still cautious with the stuff he has learned might pose potential hazards for him, but he
doesn't always know what things may be potential hazards. Here is our latest dilemna. He has learned to open the front door and enjoys running out toward the street. We've taken to locking the deadbolt now, which you need a key to open so that's a bit of a pain. Obviously Gerrit's safety far outweighs the inconvenience, however.

Gerrit amazes me every day with how he takes in new things. He is starting to use fuller sentences and pick up new words, which means we have to be much more careful now. He loves putting together his train tracks, working on puzzles, and reading books. He is now starting to mimic some of the things we say when he attempts to read. He likes to try new things but is still somewhat cautious. He says, "I did it!" whenever he does something new and exciting. He is at such a fun age and I'm truly enjoying him.

My sister-in-law said that a New Year's resolution of mine should be to try something that scares me every day and then blog about it. Hmm... pretty much everything right now scares me so I sorta feel I'm already doing that. But... I will try to attempt several new things each week. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but this year I'm trying to take things more in stride, stress less (yes, I know that's a big one for me right there), and just continue to work on this crazy language while I enjoy my time here and my kids. This is a positive experience (even though I may not always feel that way) and I will regret it if I don't try to make the most of my time here. So there... I have goals.

Okay, so rather than go on and on (as we all know very well that I can do so well), I think I'll stop and post some more pictures and videos for you to enjoy. Here's to posting a bit more often with more exciting and positive things to write. :)
Gerrit with his favorite male (aside from his dog, Jake, of course)
Gerrit with his favorite female, Ella
"I think she may actually finally be warming up to me, mom!"

Bosom Buddies!
Clearly past our bedtimeStarting off the new year with a family
walk on a very brisk afternoon
All tuckered out.
Gerrit didn't even make it through the story.

Videos: Touchdown & Gerrit's Famous Banana-Eating Technique