April 15, 2012

A letter to sweet, sweet Lorelai.

Lorelai, my looking-like-you're-much-older-than-five-years-old Lorelai.

You watch too much tv.  It’s clearly my fault, as I’m the one who controls your television consumption.  I don’t let you watch a lot, but I forget you are a sponge.  Until you start to regurgitate infomercials.  “Mom, the lumowallet is no match for a truck or car – we NEED that!  It ‘patects’ your phone so nothing can destroy it.”
You’ve started sharing a room with Emerson since we arrived in Germany.  I’m so surprised at how well it’s going.  You are  in a single bed, while Emerson is still in a crib.  When I put her to bed, she sometimes cries as I walk out.  I can hear you from the hallway “don’t worry little sissy, Lorelai is here.  I’m going to patect you.” You promptly sing one of her favorite songs and the room falls quiet.  When you wake up, you escape without waking her and are so proud, you can’t even stand yourself and run immediately into the room to tell me.
Your favorite book is your preschooler’s Bible.  You ask me to read it to you every night.  I’m pretty sure we have read it in its entirety twice already.
You say you can’t wait to homeschool.  I’m pretty sure that’s because I told you homeschoolers do a lot of field trips.  That’s okay, though.  If that’s what I have to do to ensure success, I’m all for it. 
You have lost one tooth and are anxiously awaiting two more to get loose and fall out, since you have “shark teeth” (see picture).  Those little baby teeth need to get out of the way, they’re cramping the style of your adult teeth. 

You are THIS close to riding your bike without training wheels.  As soon as we get back from Germany, mommy is taking them off.  Your balance is pretty great, you just need a little more confidence.
I started reading a book called Parenting with Love and Logic.  I am amazed at how much this has changed our relationship with one another.  You are a strong-willed child, but no book I’ve read (and I’ve read many) has helped me with really learning how to relate to you – not just “deal” with you.  This book is changing my parenting style immensely.  I’m quite positive it’s also decreasing my anxiety level with you as well.  This is now going to be my go-to book when anyone with any age child talks to me about parenting.  Seriously – it’s great.
You are always alert and ready to learn.  Everything is a new adventure that is SO exciting to you! Whether it be a new color dum dum you’ve never had, to a new coloring game on my ipod, to a large building with a unique roof-line, you are so excited to see it, and you let everyone know.  I wish I had the zest for life that you do – wish I went into EVERY experience with the same attitude you have.

I’m learning a lot from you!!


April 14, 2012

Lidl and Lorelai

Took my first trip, alone, to the German grocery store for milk.  I came home empty-handed.  Either they don’t refrigerate their milk, or they only come in a litre size, only one kind, and may or may not look like it reads “buttermilk.”  I probably need a little German handbook before I go back.  Somehow, coffee and chocolate are universal, though.  I didn’t need to read German to know what those were!  Oh well, it was a nice, kid-free, five minute stroll.
Tonight, Lorelai broke down and said she didn’t like it here.  She wants to go home and see her North Carolina friends.  I’m sure it was a mixture of her being tired, hungry (she refused dinner – which was pizza – seriously!?) and she hasn’t played with another kid besides her sister since we got here.  She said that nothing looked like home.  I’m trying to see it from her point of view.  I know what she’s saying.  Everything is different here.  She’s sharing a room with her sister, they’re both in new beds, we are staying in an apartment, rather than a house, and we haven’t had regular playdates like we do at home.  So, aside from the Lego Museum we plan on hitting this week, my goal is to get with some friends of friends to let the girls have a playdate with English-speaking children.  I really hope that helps!!
Those of you who have been stationed in another country, or visited for a long period of time, I’m assuming this is typical?  Will a playdate help?

April 13, 2012

Having a German Moment

JD’s apartment is just a few hundred yards from the gate on post here.  I took the girls for a walk in the stroller and got nervous as we arrived at the gate.  I realized the gate guards were German.  The probably all are, but they were all standing around, laughing and speaking German.  It might be ridiculous, but I get nervous that they’re going to ask me something in German and I won’t be able to answer.  Why it doesn’t occur to me that they probably ALL speak English because nearly 100% of the soldiers entering and exiting post speak English, I don’t know?
Of course, the gate guard spoke English to the girls and me, so I tried to respond by speaking to him in German.  All I said was “danke,” but when he replied with “Bitte sin, tschüs” I nearly jumped up and clicked my heels!!
As I sit here and type this, I realize it sounds rather dumb to be excited over saying “thank you,” and hearing “you’re welcome, bye” in return, but it gave me a little encouragement that it’s okay for me to attempt speaking to them in German.
I had four years of French in high school and, to this day, could probably understand a great deal of it, as well as probably toss around enough words to get myself through the country.  But I have never actually spoken to another French person beside my French teacher.  It was all conversational, staged and practiced with other French students.  So, there was no worry about getting it wrong and sounding like a doofus.
Am I 14 or 34, seriously!?  This is silly.  JD and I talk about how Lorelai has always been the type of kid to not do anything until she knows she can ace it.  Like walking – she held off until almost 16 months, but her first steps were nearly as steady as her steps three months later.  I swear she practiced it in her crib when we weren’t watching.  She also wants to practice things on her own at home before she’s comfortable to do them out in public – such as hitting a ball off a tee with a bat.  Maybe she “gets it” from me?  I don’t know if that is innate, or learned behavior, but I see it in myself now.
Lorelai is currently on the back porch, yelling down to the German delivery driver “danke, bitte” then yelling back at me “mommy, is that right?  What does that mean?”   So, maybe she doesn’t practice everything before trying it out in public.  I need to take some notes.


April 12, 2012

Tell me, what does German food taste like???

These blog updates are terribly out of order, but you get the jist....

Since arriving in Germany, I’ve had four meals.  First was Taco Bell, then Subway, then an Ikea hotdog (that doesn’t count. If anything, it’s Swedish) and empanadas from “Ramon’s.”  I still have yet to eat a single German meal.  Unless you count the Johnsonville bratwursts my dear friends Shannon and Jeff fed us while we were in DC. 
Here are some pictures of the girls.  They are happy (as am I) to be with Daddy, but Lorelai won’t stop talking about going back to North Carolina to see her friends.

It is WAY cute to watch her talk to little German kids.  She’ll say “hi,” then “are you from a different country?”  When they don’t respond to her, she tries the little German she knows.  “Tschüs, auf wiedersehen, danke, guten morgen” (that is bye, see you later, thank you and good morning, respectively).  But kids don’t care.  Running and laughing require no words.
Emerson is blissfully unaware.  She is speaking a great deal, but pretty sure she has no idea there are different languages.
Speaking of Emerson, she turned two yesterday!  I can hardly believe it.  The “drive-by” delivery we had with her seems not so distant.  I know, that is cliché, but it’s how it feels.  She is growing up so fast.  She is Little Miss Independent.  Doesn’t want to be carried; wants to walk everywhere – even up flights and flights of stairs.  She has been eating independently for a long time now, and does a pretty great job of sitting in a big-girl chair rather than a high chair, here recently.  She typically speaks in complete sentences, which really blows my mind.  I’m pretty sure Lorelai was doing the same thing at this age, but Lorelai was also a foot taller and looked like she should be speaking like that.  Emerson is still so tiny (even though she is in the 90th percentile for her age in height) to me, so her communication skills continue to amaze me.  She is counting to 13, sings her ABCs, as well as a myriad of other songs.  I often call her and Lorelai, Pete and Repeat, for obvious reasons.
She uses her manners often and at the right times.  Please, thank you, you’re welcome and excuse me are music to my ears.  Now, we will work on mastering “yes, sir and no, ma’am” like her sister.
If I would just let the poor girl potty train, she’d be over the moon excited!  She asks to go potty every day, but I didn’t want to be in the throes of potty training during an international flight, so I decided we’d try in Germany instead.  Note to self; get potty seat. German toilets can hold an entire two-year-old.
She is so caring, too.  A little German boy was playing on the floor in Ikea the other day, but she must have thought he fell.  She went over, put her tiny little hand on his shoulder (he was probably 6 or 7) and said “are you okay, little baby?” She patted his head nicely and said, “okay, I be right back. I get your mommy.”  It was so precious.  I’m not sure if he or his mother spoke English, but they both smiled lovingly at her as she “ran” away.
Speaking of running - she runs with her right arm tucked in to her side and her left arm swinging back and forth, as if to gain momentum.  She likes to spin “like a princess” and dance like her sister.  She loves to cuddle with you, sleep with a “blank-a-let” and when you sing to her, she likes you to be her personal DJ.  If you start singing a song, she’ll stop you a few words in and say “no, no, no, no….sing another song.” So you start another one and the cycle continues…
We love her so much and can often be found just staring at her, soaking in her adorableness.   With these two girls, we are so blessed beyond measure!


April 11, 2012

IKEA - Rachel's newest obsession

I’ve never been to an Ikea.  Have you?  If not, you might be missing out.  I’m not sure why everything is so affordable, but I love it.  There is childcare, which is BRILLIANT.  We didn’t use it because we were going to take a “quick trip” through.  Our "quick trip" lasted a few hours.  And we blew through most of the store.  It’s just THAT big.  Thankfully, there are also little play areas for the kiddos throughout, so they were entertained most of the way through. 
It was fun to go through and see so many things that reminded me of my friends.  I kept saying things like “Michelle has those plates, cups, bowls and plasticware for her kids!” or “Kate has that towel hanger.” 

Most of the furniture is pretty modern (or European, I just consider it modern/contemporary) so it wouldn’t really fit in our décor, but my mind was going a million miles a minute thinking about all the things I could do to certain simple pieces to DIY/spruce it up to fit our style.  I could get into some trouble in that store.  Good thing the closest one to us in North Carolina is two hours away!
There’s also a hotdog bar after you get through the checkout.  That’s no mistake.  The woman person who thought of that was clearly the same person who thought of the childcare.  You’re famished after your voyage through the lovely halls of Ikea, and you need sustenance.  I’ll have to admit that their hotdogs themselves are no competition to Sam’s Club.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get your butt to Sam’s asap.  They’re amazing.  I digress.  The hotdogs are decent, but their toppings – OH their toppings.  I am a ketchup and mustard kinda girl, but when in Rome…. (or Wurzberg, as it were).  I put on ketchup, “special sauce” which seemed something like a creamy kind of less-tangy mustard, French fried onion bits and pickles.  Instead of relish, these amazing peeps use pickles that I could eat by the handful.  They were delish. 

Those of you who think I’m a good twenty years behind the times, having never been to an Ikea, tell me – are all Ikeas the same?


April 10, 2012

Germans; per Rachel

Germans must be smaller than us.  Shorter and thinner.  Their light switches are so stinkin’ low.  Emerson is having a field-day with it.  Their beds are short, their sinks are short, and their counters come up to my waist.  Are they really that short? 

As for being thinner, I’m basing this solely on the bathtub in JD’s apartment.  I couldn’t decide which was worse – being accosted by the hose on the shower head, or being cuddled, from behind, by the shower curtain during my entire shower!  Am I really that much bigger!?  I thought Germans were stout?  Or is that just their beer?
Also – do they not get bugs here?  I haven’t seen a house yet (where we are) with screens on the windows??  I have had the windows open every day and not a single pesky fly.  Now that I say that, the tides will change, I’m sure.  It’s just very interesting to me.  And pollen – there must not be any.  If you have a black car, it stays black.  For reals, man.  It’s crazy!

Everyone here wears infinity scarves.  I'm not kidding.  Everyone.  Like women, men, toddlers even!  I'm feeling very pressured to get one!  Anyone else want one?  It's all the rage here!  Place your orders now - I can probably fit quite a few in my luggage!

Germans seem to be big on giving suckers to kids who are whiny, acting up, or crying.  Not that MINE would ever be the recipients of said suckers, but if they were ever acting up, I would imagine they'd bribe them.  Several times.  In several different places.  Humpf.

 They have the BEST salad dressing....anyone know what it is?  Because I keep forgetting to ask.  It's like a vinegary, sugary, lemony, deliciousness and I need some in a bottle.  ASAP.

I've also noticed how tolerant Germans are of children.  It's amazing and such a breath of fresh air.  If we are in the mall and the girls are lolly gagging, running back and forth, cutting people off, they just smile, walk around them, or even wait patiently for them to figure out where they want to go.  Even German teenagers are patient with them.  Then, 20 minutes later, we walk into the PX (American military store) and people are impatient, rude and pushy.  I'm sure Germans have their moments, but for the most part, I've felt more comfortable with the girls around them than with all the Americans.

Speaking of children....we were at the mall today, hanging out near the water fountain display.  A woman told her child, who couldn't have been any older than four years old, to stay where he was, she was going to go into one of the stores.  Of course, I am guessing this is what she said, as I couldn't understand her.  But, she left her son and went shopping.  He sat by the fountain, quietly eating his banana and didn't move.  For 15 minutes!!!!!!!  I couldn't decide which was more unbelievable - the fact that the kid didn't hardly move for 15 minutes or the fact that she could feel completely comfortable with his safety being away from him for that long.   Totally different world over here!


April 9, 2012

Autobahn or Awesomebahn?

There are some things I’m learning very quickly about Germany that are, in fact, much different than the states. 

First of all, these drivers – OH THESE DRIVERS!!!  How I love these drivers. 

The Autobahn is a term I have heard numerous times over the years.  I pictured a Nascar race track, crazy amounts of people everywhere, zooming in and out of one another, barely escaping deathly accidents, and lots of horns-a-blazin.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The autobahn is Germany’s term for a specific type highway.  Yes, you can basically go as fast as you’d like.  There are speed limits in heavily trafficked areas, but for the most part, nothing is posted and everyone goes fast.  So it’s a little weird to be going 140 kmh (84 mph) and have a Lamborghini fly past you like you are literally standing still. 

Where I’ve been so far has only been a two-lane autobahn.  You only pass on the left.  Can you imagine that?  I’m pretty sure that’s the intent with the law back in the states, but here?  Here, everyone actually follows that rule.  If you are in the left lane, you’d better be passing someone.  And if someone comes in your rear-view, get over!!  But I’ve heard very few horns, I’ve seen not ONE accident, and I don’t even know what a police (polizei) car looks like!

This is what the girls think about the autobahn...


April 8, 2012

Germany thus far

I have only been out of the country a couple of times and I felt like those countries looked, smelled and sounded differently than America.  I guess Mexico can’t count, as we stayed in a resort on the ocean.  It smelled of sea salt, fresh ocean breeze, margaritas and enchiladas.  It sounded like a mariachi band was following me around.  Or maybe they were. 

London, well, that was 15 years ago and I was staying in a 5-star hotel, preparing to dance in the New Year’s day parade.  It most likely smelled like the Hard Rock Café next door, and sounded like fireworks and party horns.  

Aside from all that, I still expected to step off the plane in Germany and have a completely different experience.  I’m not sure if I expected it to smell like beer and pretzels (darn you, Epcot Center), but it didn’t.  It smells like….nothing!?  ha  The landscape seriously looks like Kansas in the foreground and Tennessee in the background.  The construction I’ve seen thus far is just pretty typical old, city-like, boxy buildings.  But so far, I like it.

Of course, the picture of the Kansas/Tennessee landscape wouldn't upload, but here are the ones that did...

Fresh markets on every corner....even in the mall!!

They use SO many letters for their words here!  

Ahhh...the smell of fresh bread.  Anyone with Celiac disease or any type of gluten-intolerance would HATE this place!


April 7, 2012

Now boarding: flight never-thought-you'd-board to Ramstein.

The flight itself was delayed a few hours due to the catering crew not being ready.  The two-hour wait wasn't as bad as it could have been.  Although, that didn't put us on the plane until 1am.  The girls were AWESOME, though.  I mean, they usually are in bed, passed out by 8pm.  They were rockstars and did very little complaining. 

When we got on the plane, our seats were good and bad.  Good because they were very close to the restroom.  I hate to go to the restroom and leave my children.  And bad because we were the third to last row.  It was a double-decker plane with 100 rows.  Or maybe not that many, but it sure felt like it.  Dragging Emerson's carseat through the aisles was the worst.  Lorelai was up ahead, running into people trying to find our row.  Emerson was stopping every two feet to bat her eyelashes, flirt or ask someone for a sucker.  Then I was behind her with the carseat up in the air, trying not to knock everyone's heads off.  

Our flight attendant was nice and helpful.  There were 100 empty seats on the plane, and I made sure to mention my whiny kids to anyone who came by to sit around us.  Many changed their minds quickly.  We finally got settled in, Emerson in her carseat (at least for takeoff), Lorelai next to her, and me across the aisle.  There were tvs on the headrests of every seat, so that was nice.  What wasn't nice is that they had video of the runway from a camera mounted under the belly of the plane.  Talk about nasty motion sickness.  Blech.
After takeoff, I noticed all the seasoned travelers assuming the position.  Many had already sprawled out onto the open seats and fallen asleep.  The lady behind us was traveling with her 5 and 7 year olds.  When I turned around, she was already asleep on the seats, curled up with her youngest, and her oldest was on the floor, racked out, covered in blankets.  That family slept the ENTIRE flight.  Even through Emerson’s screams – I’ll get to that in a minute.

So, I did my best to get the kids situated while I had a chance.  I had Emerson lying next to me, on the next two seats.  Lorelai was extremely uncomfortable sleeping in her seat, so she was flipping around crazily, and you could tell she was miserable.  When I stood up to get her comfortable, I turned around and noticed Emerson had taken a nose-dive off the row of seats and had landed on her belly on my backpack.  Her head was on the floor, her legs shooting straight up in the air.  She was still asleep.  As much as I wanted to leave her there and snap a picture, I figured that would be frowned upon. 

So, in the end, Lorelai ended up sprawled out on the seats and I was sitting with Emerson in my lap.  The poor kid couldn’t get comfortable.  She was hot. She was cold.  She flipped.  She flopped.  Then she’d fall asleep for a few minutes and wake up screaming that she was “scaaaaared!  There’s a kitty cat getting me!”  I’m pretty sure I got a few winks of sleep in the 8 hour flight.  And by a few winks, I mean like maybe 10 minutes.
It was long.  It was painful.  And by the end, I was wondering if maybe a C-17 would have been a better way to go.  We’ll see on the return flight, if I end up getting a C-17, maybe I can compare and I’ll feel differently.
So, aside from the sleepless flight and Emerson peeing through her nighttime diaper, we made it safe and sound.  
I was told jet lag lasted two solid days.  They.  Weren’t.  Kidding.

How Emerson kept busy in the airport...color wonders
 How Lorelai kept busy - being as far away from Emerson as possible, playing her little magnetic fishy game (thank you, Dollar Store!!!)
 Emerson, ready to party on the plane - this was at about 1:00am
 Lorelai, DONE partying. 
 Ahhh.........to sleep, flat out.....until 11:00am the next day.....that's jet lag for ya.


April 6, 2012

Outr trek to Germany was a long one...

I found a space-a flight to Germany on Saturday night out of Washington DC, and it was the ONLY flight to Germany I had seen in over 10 days.  I had no other option but to make it work.  This flight was going to be a commercial flight, contracted by the military, through a commercial airline, that would have flight attendants, movies, food, etc.  YAY!!!  Although, I had packed for a flight on a C-17; lots of food, drinks, blankets, movies, etc.  I was also going to be able to carry much more on the C-17 than a commercial flight, so Thursday night I went to bed late after repacking our suitcases for this new flight.

Upon waking up Friday morning, I tried my best to “hop to” and get everything done and packed in the car for our six hour drive to DC.  My goal was to leave by 9am.  By 8:30, there was a knock on the door.  I was nowhere near ready to go, let alone have a visitor.  I peeked out the window.  It was my adorable, sweet friend and neighbor, Beth.  I opened the door as she walked in, kicked off her shoes and said to me “all right, what still needs to be done?  I’m ready.”  It took a few minutes for me to get over the weird asking-her-to-do-something-for-me feeling, but I did.  I could not have made it out the door by 9:30, like we did, without her help.  Seconds before she had arrived, I had considered just waiting until the afternoon to take off.  So glad I didn’t.  (thank you, Beth – I can’t say that enough)
I had been Negative Nancy the whole day prior, trying to be “realistic” about how the drive and flight were going to go. Emerson is a horrible traveler, Lorelai was bound to have to stop for a potty break the second Emerson fell asleep.  The weather would be bad, and so on and so on.  It wasn’t until I stopped thinking of all the real-world possible scenarios, and started praying that I’d have a flexible attitude and happy heart that it all calmed down for me.  The drive to DC was actually pleasant.  The girls got along, for the most part, and watched movies or we rolled down the windows and sang loudly.  Upon arriving in DC, the girls were definitely ready to get out and shake off the sillies.  Good thing we were at Shannon’s and Jeff’s house.  They have three daughters; 5, 3 and 4 months. We haven’t seen them since right after Charlotte was born, but Lorelai and Emerson acted as though they saw them yesterday.  They quickly got down to princess business and started dressing up and destroying their toy room. 

Shannon made cupcakes and had little presents for Emerson’s birthday.  We had a little birthday party, and that was SO appreciated.  Jeff grilled us some bratwursts for dinner, and the girls played until we had to force them to go to bed.  I am still not sure how Natalie, Amelia and Lorelai slept in the same bedroom that night without a peep.  Must have been worn out!  The next morning, we did a little Easter egg hunt at their church and had lunch before nap time.  We ordered pizza and finished packing the car back up just in time for us to take off to the airport.
Shannon and Jeff live about an hour from the airport, Shannon rode with us so she could take the van back to her house while we’re gone.  My bad attitude resumed as I thought of all the things that could go wrong.  Shannon was quick to put me in my place and bring my blood pressure back down.
I’ll cover all my space-a  experiences in a separate blog, but just as packing the day before with Beth, I couldn’t have gotten through the lines and into security without Shannon’s help.  I’m so grateful!  Although, she’d probably tell you that I was more of a handful than the girls were!
Sure, there were lines, delays and hiccups along the way, but those had nothing to do with the fact that I was flying space-a, it was because we flew internationally.  It was, by no means, my favorite trip, but we got here for $48.03.  How often can you say that!?  I bet no couponer has ever boasted an estimated savings of $3,950!

The egg hunt was separated by ages, so I had to stay with Emerson, therefore only got pictures of her.  She barely collected any eggs.  She would open them, take the candy and drop the egg.  Smart kid!

 Cupcakes that our friend, Shannon, made for Emerson's birthday - she did more than I did!  whoops

 In the car, on the way to DC - she was so excited, thought we were in Germany already .... that gave me a clue as to how hard the next 48 hours were going to be!  ha ha

Minus Charlotte, here are the youngest to oldest; Emerson, Amelia, Lorelai and Natalie.