Friday, March 28, 2008

Errands and Toddlers

Gerard is in the U.S. right now. He went to D.C. for a meeting. Even though he's not in Los Angeles, I'm still kind of envious that he's in the U.S. at all. He brought an extra suitcase and is planning to bring back a ton of stuff. Thankfully, it's a short trip for him, but that means for now, I'm on my own with the kids.

Argh!!! Today is Friday and we're nearing the end of a two week spring break for the school kids here (actually, they probably still call it Easter break here). This also means that there have been no German classes for me, or any other extra things for Gerrit during these two weeks. Since Friday and Monday were also holidays here, I could not take Gerrit to his Tagesmutter on those days either. Even though I still have no German class today, I was planning to take Gerrit to his Tagesmutter this morning so I could do a few things.

First off, I need to run some errands- groceries, pharmacy, and a few things from their equivalent of Home Depot. It is so much easier to shop without BOTH kids. I think it's worse here, too, because the cashiers are super super fast. They can swipe products on all sides and get a price scan. Since you have to bag your own groceries here, people give you a hard time if you move slowly. I usually stand at one end and start literally "throwing" all the stuff back into the cart just to keep up with the cashier. Then I offload the groceries from the cart to the bags at the car. I also dislike having to load and unload the kids out of the car all the time for various trips like this. I can probably walk to the pharmacy and make that a side walking/outdoor trip for us together, but groceries are another story. It's just plain easier to drive to get them.

So yeah, I was happy that Gerrit would be with his Tagesmutter for a few hours today, and that I'd only have to tote Willem around with me. I knew the Tagesmutter had told me that I could start bringing Gerrit back to her today, but I figured I should call just to give her the heads up that I was still coming. We were ready to head out the door and I called. No answer. I called the cell phone and she answered. I said, "Ich bringe Gerrit heute, ja?" "Nein," she says. I'm a little shocked by this so I ask why. She tells me that she has taken her daughter to the doctor because she started coughing last night. When I phoned her cell, she was at the doctor's office. Okay, so now I'm a bit irritated because I figure that she could have called to let me know not to bring him. It's a good thing I actually hadn't left the house yet and thought to call her ahead of time. I don't know enough German, nor did I think it was the appropriate time to try to tell her that I'd like her to call me when she needs to cancel. I guess I thought it would have been sort of obvious.

It's taking Gerrit a long time to get comfortable with this new Tagesmutter, too. We started going to her when I started back at German. Gerrit only goes to her when I have German class (Mondays/Fridays). We had three German classes and then another two week break. Everytime I take Gerrit to her, he cries. Obviously this bothers me, particularly when he ran up to his last Tagesmutter and would wave goodbye to me. Now he's super clingy and doesn't want me to leave. I keep hoping he will come around to her soon, but with all these disruptions to our schedule, it certainly makes it tough. So... as Gerard would say, "It is what it is." But what it is IS frustrating.

So I'm nursing Willem right now before I head out to brave some of these errands with kids in tow.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter

Easter was a relaxing day for us. Gerard made pancakes in the morning and then we had a small easter egg hunt for Gerrit. We had painted (literally- no vinegar for egg dyeing) eggs earlier in the week. However, I didn't end up hiding the painted eggs. Instead, we used plastic eggs. I didn't want to stuff the eggs with tons of chocolate for a 2 year old, so I had a different idea. Inside each egg, Gerrit found a coin to put in his piggy bank and a piece of paper with a picture of someplace in the house where he could find the next egg. One picture was of a rocking chair and we told him to look at the rocking chair to find the next egg, etc. This continued until the last egg revealed the location of Gerrit's Easter basket as well as baskets for Gerard, Willem, and some treats for the pets. Though it was a bit slow getting started, Gerrit really got into it and seemed to enjoy himself. Think I'll keep the idea and try it again in the future. :)
"Oooh.... look mommy... there's an egg in the sink."
"Where do you think the next egg is, Gerrit?"

EASTER EGG HUNT VIDEOS
video videoThe boys find their baskets
Mmmm.... chocolate egg!
Mmm... doggy treats!
In the early afternoon we set off to Olympia Park for an Easter Celebration. There were all sorts of food stalls, mini foosball table, human foosball table, jumpy bouncers, a band, and people giving away chocolate and balloons. Gerrit was in heaven. The only problem was that it was so freakin cold and windy. At one point it actually snowed again so we decided that after being there for two hours we'd had enough.
Cool... Foosball!

OLYMPIA PARK VIDEOS
video video
Monday was also a holiday here, and we were lucky enough to find another fun family activity. An old steam train was riding people around Munich. We took the transit train to the stop where the steam train was being loaded. It was a bit of a fiasco to get there as several sections of certain train routes were actually closed due to the holiday. We did manage to arrive, however, and we were even in time to get good seats. Several people didn't even get a seat so we felt pretty lucky. Gerrit had a blast and despite having train rides all day, he still wanted "More!"
Off for a mighty adventure
Gerrit likes his new buggy board
Waiting for the train
Willem is alert and checking out the world
My tired boy

STEAM TRAIN VIDEOS

video video

Gerrit has been trying to help out around the house more and more, and I'm trying to encourage this behavior. Although sporadic in his desire to do some of these things, he helps bring things to and from the table and helps load and unload the dishwasher and washing machine. His favorite activity involves the dogs, though. He likes to help hold the leash on walks and feed them their meals. He tells them to sit, fills their food bowls and releases them by clapping his hands and saying, "Okay." But I have to laugh every time Gerrit tries out his dog commands on the rest of the family, too. The other day Gerrit wanted Gerard to come over and play with him so he called out to Gerard, "Daddy... come!" Then Gerrit pointed next to him and said, "Daddy... sit!" Gotta love it!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Videos

A Weekend Dog Walk
Willem Rolls Over
video video

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Castles and Swimming


"You know... for a little guy, you have some pretty cool
toys. Think I'll check out the view from down here."
Gerrit instructs Willem on proper "playmat" technique

I haven't written in ages so there's a lot to catch up on. First off, Willem got teeth shortly after he turned four months old. (He's now almost five months old.) He had been chewing his fists for several weeks and drooling a ton, but while Cathie was here visiting both bottom middle teeth popped through his gums. Now that they are growing more, you are just able to see them when he smiles sometimes. It changes the way his face looks. They are so cute, though. :)
Hard to believe there is a two year age difference between these boys.

Gerrit and I started a gymnastics class together. The class is loosely structured, which is nice since I have both boys with me.Fortunately, I just put Willem in the sling if he's awake and then I have my hands free. The teacher sets up mats and a few different apparatus. She demonstrates or says what she wants the kids to try and they are free to try it if they wish. The class is designed for age 2 to 4 so some kids just run around to let off steam for a while. A lot of the kids jump around and try things out. This week, Gerrit tried walking down and sliding down a platform on his belly and bottom. He had tremendous fun with that.
Making towers at the park

Gerrit is no closer to potty training than when we arrived, though truth be told, I haven't been pushing it. I figured I would be more serious about it once it started to warm up and I could let Gerrit run around in fewer layers of clothing. Still wondering if it will EVER warm up. It's basically been cold and snowing on and off since my mom came back in October, and now it is the end of March. Yikes! Well, last week Gerrit's new Tagsemutter made a point of telling me that the other child she watches who is a full year younger than Gerrit is already using the potty. I'm trying not to let it get to me but I took it to mean that she thought it was quite time that Gerrit was trained. Hmm... some Bavarian women seem rather insistent on telling you when they think you are doing something wrong with your child. For me, of course, this is always a problem as I'm forever second guessing myself as a parent. I'm sure this feeling never ends. :)

Since moving here I definitely have stroller envy. I dig seeing all these heavy duty yet semi compact baby carriages with fat wheels. Now I have baby carrier envy. We had dinner at Regina and Jason's house. She showed me a new carrier she bought and of course I had to try it out. Willem fell asleep in it straight away and I wanted to see how Gerrit would do on my back.
Gerrit enjoys the ride while mommy adjusts the carrier.
Ta Da! This was super comfy for both of us.
Gerrit tries out Liam's bobby car. (Bobby cars are super popular here)

On Monday, we had our German tutor. The money I'm making from my own tutoring job is used to turn around and pay for our German tutor. She is my German teacher at the adult school, but she also takes private students. While Gerard may dispute this, I think he is more advanced than me so I find the sessions a bit difficult. We also have both kids that we are trying to keep entertained, so my focus tends to be pulled in multiple directions making it harder to concentrate. Still, I keep reminding myself that it is better than nothing. Having said that, last Monday's lesson was really tough for me. It was supposed to have been review and though I know I had seen the stuff before in my German class, for the life of me, I could not remember how to do any of it. At one point, I was so frustrated I had to walk into the kitchen because I was afraid I might cry in front of them. Gerard seemed to be understanding what was going on, which of course made me feel even worse. When the instructor left, I sat down on the couch and tried to study some more while Gerard took Gerrit to bed. I also put cookies in the oven to bake before sitting down. Gerard came down some time later and asked me if I had remembered that I put cookies in the oven. Oh my gosh! I had completely forgotten about them. They were black and burned to a crisp. The kitchen and oven were smokey. At this point, I actually did start crying because that seemed like the final straw. (Have I mentioned how overly emotional I am these days?)

I am frustrated with German. I don't know enough vocabulary or grammar to actually make my own sentences and have a conversation with anyone. At this point, I'm trying to find common phrases that I might here in certain situations just to help get me by. I am frustrated with my lack of progress thus far, and while I know I have a ton of things on my plate right now, I am very disappointed in myself. I feel my motivation waning A LOT at this point, and I'm finding it even harder to make myself attempt German when I'm out and about. I'm still trying but my enthusiasm for it is definitely diminishing at this point. Still, I plug away slowly, hoping one day something I've learned will actually stick.
We went to a Street Fair in Freising
Gerrit Rides a Swan

Sophie is the daughter of our neighbors', Steffi & Markus. After the street fair, we had coffee at their house. I think these photos of Willem and Sophie are adorable!
Willem and Sophie
(Sophie is exactly one month older than Willem)
"Hehehe.... mom, the pretty girl is touching me.
Am I too young for a girlfriend?"

Willem had his first pool experience when we all trekked over to Neufun. Thank goodness Gerard was with us because I'm hot sure how I'd deal with both kids on my own. Gerrit loves the pool and I'd love to take him weekly, but if I can't find another mom to go with, I don't see how I take both kids at this point. The water seemed colder than usual but Gerrit didn't mind. Willem enjoyed the water, too, though he did get a bit chilly at the end so we moved to the baby pool. In the baby pool there is a small slide that Gerrit has avoided. Today he actually wanted to go on it so he climbed to the top and slid down again and again splashing into the water. It was great fun for Gerrit, until another little girl grabbed his headband and yanked it off his head. (Gerrit has tubes in his ears and he wears ear plugs and a headband every time we swim. Gerrit never used to like wearing them, but finally does so willingly.) I know the girl was probably curious about his headband and didn't understand why he had it on. Still, she yanked it so hard and so quickly that Gerrit's earplugs literally shot out of his ears. Poor Gerrit was completely shocked and started crying and pointing to his ear plugs. The girl's mother saw it but didn't say anything or do anything, and didn't have her daughter apologize. That really bugged me. If I knew more German, I'd have said something to both of them. I know that kids are kids and they will do things like that, but it doesn't mean you can't educate your kids after they do something inappropriate.
Willem's first swim!

We purchased a Castle Family Pass, which entitles us to unlimited entrance to ALL the castles of Bavaria for one year. This includes over 40 castles, so we figure it was a good deal. We decided to spend last weekend visiting one of the castles that was relatively close. Now each castle we've toured in Germany have been more like palaces or romantic style castles from Mad King Ludwig. While they are interesting in their own right, they are not exactly your "fighting man's castle" so we were thrilled to find one such castle in the medieval town of Landshut. Castle Trausnitz is located on a hill overlooking the town below. At one time, the castle shared the town's name (Landshut), which means "protector of the land." The castle was built in the 1200's. During the 1500's, Trausnitz was renovated and expanded, and the interior was furnished with several Renaissance paintings. Unfortunately, a fire in 1961 destroyed many of these paintings, though a few were restored.
Our budding photographer
All smiles!
The path to Trausnitz Castle
When Gerrit sees stairs, he has to go up them
The entrance to the exterior castle courtyard
A little snack and a great view
View of St. Martin Church from the Trausnitz' Tower Terrace
Willem slept through the tour

One noteable (and still very intact) piece of the castle is the Fools' Staircase. It is painted with life-size figures from the Italian Commedia dell'arte (Play of Professional Artists). This was a popular form of improv theater originitating in Italy and was quite popular throughout the 16th-18th centuries. The acts, based on situational themes such as adultery, jealous, love, etc., were performed outside by a group of 10 people. It is said that "The Fools' Staircase is the earliest and only pictorial record of this popular court entertainment."
Yes, that is an enema being plunged into the donkey.

It was amazing being able to drive 30 minutes from our home and see a piece of history from the 1200's. Of course, this is true throughout Europe. It's exciting to realize that we are surrounded by such history here, and I was once again reminded to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy these outings while we are here. A stone's throw from our house is something nearly 700 years old. We would never be able to experience something like that in the U.S. So there, I said something else nice about living in Germany. :P
"Wow... this place is like... even older than my dad!"A successful family outing
(The gate leading to the interior courtyard)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cathie's Visit

It's so hard to believe Cathie's visit has come and gone already. We had a great time while she was here. Though it would have been nice to be able to do more, even the little we did was pleasant. Here are some highlights of her visit here. In addition to our Hofbrauhaus meal, we also toured Munich, visiting the Deutsches Museum, Transportation Museum, and Olympia Park Tower. We had intended to walk around Olympia Park more, but the weather would not cooperate that day.
Glockenspiel in Marienplatz

Pictures from Transportation Museum:
Ahhh....the massage chairs! Two Euro for ten minutes
Gotta love the 1/2 liter size of chocolate milk
Larry, the Giant Snail in front of the Museum

Pictures from Olympia Park:Olympia TowerView from the Olympia Tower

Salzburg
-
Cathie, Willem, and I drove to Salzburg on Wedensday, while Gerard stayed home with Gerrit. They had a boy's day and went train spotting. The weather was supposed to be icky, but it turned out to be a pleasant day. It had just snowed and was still cold but the roads weren't icy so driving was fairly mild. We drove to Salzburg, about 2 1/2 hours drive from our place. We got a late start so it made for a longer day, but the trip was pleasant nonetheless. We stopped for a coffee along the way and Cathie bought a nifty little hat to keep her ears warm. Salzburg is a famous Austrian town with a magnificent Alpine setting. The "Old Town" area is known for its baroque architecture. Once in Salzburg, we took the cable car to the top of the Festung Hohensalzburg (High Salzburg Fortress). There, we walked around the old castle and took a ton of pictures of the surrounding Alps and the city below. The view was beautiful! Later, we walked around the Altstadt (Old Town), browsing the shops and bakeries. We even came across Mozart's birthplace during our walk. We ate dinner before heading back to Munich. It was a really lovely day with lovely company.
Driving to Salzburg
Atop the Festung Hohensalzburg
Shopping in Town
Mozart's Birth Place
Dachau-
After our pleasant Salzburg daytrip, Dachau was quite a contrast. It was such a humbling experience being there. Dachau was the first concentration camp in Germany and the one on which later camps were modeled. The camp was originally designed to house 250 people in each barrack, but at the end of the war it housed nearly 2,000 people in each. It was very hard to read about the Camp's history and walk among it. The tour tries to do a good job of showing you the history of the camp, as well as what it was like to be a prisoner there. Even still, I can not begin to imagine what it was like for prisoners, and I have even more difficulty understanding how people could treat others like that. Seeing it really is like something out of a horror film, but knowing that it is all true makes my knees shake and makes me sick to my stomach. The Wikipedia link and the Memorial Site below both provide additional information on the camp. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachau_concentration_camp
http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/englisch/content/index.htm
Inside Dachau- Roll Call Area
Restroom in one of the Barracks
Sleeping Area (This room is lined wall to wall with bunks)
Each gravel pit is a former barrack that housed prisoners
(See the picture below to give you an idea how massive this place was)
Barracks
Crematorium
Jewish Memorial
Now Cathie is gone and I find myself even more homesick these days. I miss my family and friends a lot, and I haven't really made many friends here. I also miss work and feeling like I am competent and capable at something. Right now I just feel very inadequate and incapable. I don't feel like a good cook, I don't feel like a good homemaker, and lately I'm beginning to feel like a bad mother. I don't feel like I belong in Germany. I feel very out of place here. Don't get me wrong. It has nothing to do with Germany itself. I just feel like *I'm* not adapting well.

We're all getting over being sick. Willem is now on the mend, but still seems somewhat congested. He is getting his first teeth right now. One of his bottom middle teeth has already popped through the gum and the other is visible under the gum. It's only a matter of time. Needless to say, he is fussy, drooly, and sometimes inconsolable. Hopefully, they will pop out soon and he will return to his cheery little self. The good news is that we finally have a passport for Willem. Woo Hoo! Looks like a visit home might be in order.