August 27, 2014

Transitioning

Internet, we have a home.

An actual place to call ours for the foreseeable future & our time here in Germany.

We moved in about three weeks ago, and it's been a whirlwind ever since. We received our unaccompanied baggage (a small shipment of stuff that was the first to arrive) the day we accepted the unit, complete with items that were supposed to be in our household goods shipment and missing crib parts (nooooooo!) My car finally arrived after being missing for quite some time, but only after phone calls, complaints, and a lot of fuss, and not without it's fair share of damage. Our household goods arrived last Thursday and MOSTLY went well, until the very end when we realized my husbands two game consoles (including his brand new XBox), a bunch of blu-ray DVD's and pretty much every electronic cable we owned were the only things missing. Since our crates were sealed at our house when everything was packed up, and those were the only two boxes missing, it was easy to put two and two together and we realized the packers had essentially boxed it up and walked it to their vehicles. Asshats. But we have waded our way through; after a lot of searching and navigating German hardware stores we found parts that work for the crib well enough. The damage to my car is hardly noticeable, and probably not noticeable to those who don't see it every day, but we will file a claim & get it fixed regardless. And the HHG, well, it could have been a lot worse. We are grateful for that.

Our living situation was not our ideal situation that we were hoping for, but in true Williams' family tradition, we are making the best of it with no complaints. Living off-post was not an option for us, due to availability within a certain time frame after we arrived, but we were able to wait a bit and get a place that we really liked. We have a nice, newly renovated and spacious three bedroom stairwell apartment, with a good combination of American and German amenities. We live about 30 minutes away from the main post where my husband works, but it's quiet and residential only, which means we don't have the hustle and bustle of Army life. Did I mention the views of gorgeous vineyards out our back windows? It's quiet, and so far drama free, which I'm happy with, and we have had a warm welcome from some of our neighbors. We have gone into sort of a redecorating mode, and have bought a ton of new furniture, but are still in need of some things. Once I get everything in place, I will be happy to share photos for those that are interested.

We are all, for the most part, adjusting. Max could care less, as long as someone is paying attention to him, and he seems to be sleeping better now that he is in a crib. Can we get an AMEN for that one? It's still brutal at times, and he's still not a good sleeper, but every night seems to be a little better than the one before. I look forward to the day when he sleeps longer than five hours at a time. Part of the problem is that there was never an opportunity to start getting him on a schedule. Just when he hit the age where a routine would set it, we packed up and moved. Now that we are where we will be staying for the next couple of years, I have been diligent about working towards a normal routine with him. Some days it's a wash, others he does really well. Bedtime is now consistently at 8pm and we work on getting 2-3 solid naps a day. He didn't fall into a schedule as easy as Lucas did, but come hell or high water, we will get him there. My copy of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" is eagerly awaiting a chance for me to have more than five minutes of reading time.

Lucas -- poor sweet Lucas. He has had a much harder time than anybody. His routine was rocked to hell and back when we moved, and for a child that was a ROUTINE baby from day one, this has been exceptionally hard for him. For six weeks, while we were living in three different hotels, it was "keep him up until he passes out because getting him to go to sleep at 8pm while we are all still here in the room" was really our only option. On top of that, he was sleeping with either me, my husband, or my mom when she was here visiting, something he got used to very quickly. Then we moved again, into our permanent place, but still without any of our things. Bedtime and nap time has been a challenge, with some nights resulting in over two hours of screaming and crying while we try to get him down, and almost always ending with him coming into our room in the wee hours of the  night. He does not want to be alone. At all. Ever. Not even for five minutes, which is hard to watch from my notoriously "happy to play alone" child. But the kicker is that even when we are around other kids, he wants nothing to do with them, when normally he would be all over the chance to be with other little people. It's rough, and I know it's just a phase; slowly but surely we are making progress (I was able to get him to sleep last night by sitting in the hallway with the door open so he could see me as opposed to actually being IN bed with him, and when he woke up at 3am I got him back to sleep in his own bed vs ours) but I know we still have a long road ahead of us. Two is hard enough without everything he has been through in a short amount of time.

Other than that, it feels like we have been here forever now. I am struggling to meet people, which is completely my own fault (damn you, social anxiety) and having two kids who nap on completely different schedules aids in this, which means we are in the house for a good part of the day. But -- we will get there, and the loneliness will eventually give way to hopefully some great friendships.

So there we have it. A not so quick update as to how things are going. Labor day is this weekend, and we are still trying to decide where we want to go and what we want to do, but you know it will be fabulous and I can't wait to share!

Cheers!

August 4, 2014

Strasbourg, France

First off, I am so behind in blogging. I have about three posts from other places we have visited, but I just haven't had a chance to write about them yet. We are getting out and seeing so much, and I am so excited to to share it all with you. I have created a separate page where I will be listing links to all of our travels. If you are curious, you can see it on the left. Obviously, it's a little bare right now, but I cannot wait to fill it up!

Secondly, I HAVE PHOTOSHOP again! I broke down and got the newest version for this new laptop. So hopefully I can present you all with some much better (aka prettier) photos of our journeys.

Ok. Strasbourg. As in, FRANCE YOU GUYS. France! My mom came down for the weekend, and we all desperately needed to get out of the hotel. We are only an hour and a half from the Germany/France border, and Strasbourg is not much farther, so we got up early and headed out. It turned out to be a gorgeous day, with so many surprises. It's a nice combination of French & German influence. There is a gorgeous little river that runs around the town center, which led us to some beautiful scenery and a great little restaurant where we grabbed lunch. There was shopping. There was wine. There even champagne, and later there was ice cream. It was a great and a great introduction to France.

The highlight of the trip to Strasbourg is the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg. An unbelievably spectacular Cathedral whose construction began almost 1,000 years ago, and took over 400 years to complete, it it obviously the highlight of any trip to Strasbourg. The detail is immaculate and the overall experience is incredibly breathtaking. Just outside the Cathedral was a small area where kids were playing in the small water fountains. It took no time for my kids to be stripped down, running through the water spray, and all I could think about when I was looking at our scenery was how are we here? How is this just another Saturday for us?



Can we just talk about how breathtaking that is? Those are my kids, at the base of that Cathedral. Like it's no big deal. This has probably been one of the coolest things we have done yet since being here, and we could have easily explored more of the city before we headed back. I truly was in love; the French culture speaks to my soul more than any other. And let's be honest -- the language is just a tad easier than German (thank you, high school French classes for not making me feel like a total goob!) and overall, a little prettier to listen to (no hard feelings for my German-speaking friends!) But overall, I can't wait to go back, and it's giving me the craving to go explore as much as France as possible while we are here.

Next to the Cathedral was the Palace Rohan, an equally gorgeous (although not quite as elaborate) landmark in the city. We weren't able to walk through (not that we tried) but it made for a nice backdrop as well. The homes along the river were adorable and full of history, and we were all itching to get inside ANY of them to check them out, while dreaming of what it would have been like to live there. It wasn't the most kid-friendly experience, but both boys did wonderful while also managing to nap in the stroller (heaven!) and the water play was definitely a great end to a dreamy day. I can't wait to go back and explore the area more! And eat more food. And drink more champagne ...




July 26, 2014

Hotel Living


In just a few short days, we will be hitting five weeks since we moved out of our quaint little house in North Carolina and moved into a hotel. As I type this, I am sitting in the third hotel during that time frame -- one in NC and our second one here in Germany. You guys, I'm done.

The good new is that we were finally offered housing. We will go check out the two units today and make our decision, and then it's just a matter of getting IN to the unit as well as getting rental furniture from housing until our stuff arrives at the end of August. The hotel we are in now is significantly better, since I now have a small kitchen and have been able to prepare meals. Prior to that, we were in a hotel out on the economy (versus being on-post like we are now) due to no availability at the on-post hotel, and we were crammed into two small normal hotel rooms that opened up into each other. I am incredibly grateful that my mom brought a toaster and a crockpot when she met us there, as it allowed some flexibility in making food in the room. I had to get creative at time, but I will let you know you CAN make a cheese quesadilla for your toddler with nothing but a hair dryer. Just saying.

This has been particularly challenging for the boys as well. Although we are getting closer and closer to Lucas's normal schedule, it was a bit hairy there in the beginning, with bedtime often being "whenever he passes the hell out." Having a bedroom that we can actually shut the door to helps, and he is adjusting a little more back to normal every day. I make an effort to be back from errands or being out and about exploring by naptime, which also helps in the transition.

Max, on the other hand, is a whole different story. He refuses -- REFUSES -- the pack & play, which leaves only one other option for us -- bed sharing. These beds are small, so unfortunately M & I have split parental sleeping duties. I'm with Max on the pull-out couch & he's in with Lucas in the normal bed. Bed sharing makes us both incredibly nervous, especially with two of us in there (my husband is a HEAVY sleeper, too) so it's easier with just one. But I will admit -- our unaccompanied goods show up early next week, and the crib is in there. I CANNOT WAIT to get him adjusted to sleeping there. It's so long over due for our family, but we have done what we can to make the best of the situation. Everyone is at least sleeping, even if it's not the most ideal of locations for us.

We are also limited on places to play, although it's a much better situation here than it was at the previous location. There is a small playground here at the hotel, and as always, plenty of walking to do. I am looking forward to getting into our new home and meeting some other individuals, preferably ones with kids Lucas's age. He thrives when he has play buddies, and I know he is missing having friends around. We are all taking hits being in the hotel, but I worry that he is taking the biggest one.

Regardless, though, there is an end in sight. I can't wait to get settled, and to have this feel a little more like HOME and a little less like a totally chaotic vacation.

July 23, 2014

Freinsheim, Germany

Last Thursday, my mom & I decided to meet up for the day so that we could hang out and she could see the grandbabies. Since she is about three hours away from where we are now, we decided that meeting in the middle was best, since we were just seeing each other for the day. We consulted the list of places to visit, picked a spot, and headed out on our way.

We had decided on Freinsheim, Germany, because it was exactly in the middle of the both of us. It's a small city, but the appeal is that is has the original Roman wall still surrounding the inner part of the city.


Within the city itself are beautiful homes, hidden walkways and an overall gorgeous landscape. From what I read, they have a wine festival once a year, although we did not make it for that. I would imagine that it would have been much busier & more places been open had there been something going on, but alas it was just us and a tour bus full of elderly women who were in town visiting for the day.

We didn't spend a ton of time there, as the town itself is only 5,000 people, but we did manage to order lunch (although not very well). In Stuttgart, quite a few Germans speak very good English, but because we were farther out and more in the "middle of nowhere" we had some language barrier issues, despite Google Translate helping me out the best the little app could. Also? HUGE GLASSES OF WINE. Like, half a bottle each. I like their way of thinking.


Upon our walk, we found a beautiful garden that was gated off. An older gentleman saw us peeking over & taking photos, so he invited us in. Turns out he was the owner. My mom & Lucas took a nice stroll through the garden while I stayed behind with the stroller & Max. I have noticed in my short time here that a lot of Germans take a good deal amount of pride in their gardens & landscaping. It is some of the most beautiful gardens (both flower & vegetable!) that I have ever seen. Having an older, historic home helps a great deal, I am sure, in creating such a beautiful landscape, but I am constantly in awe at how much work goes into keeping gardens looking as amazing as they do.

It was a hot day, so my mom managed to find some ice cream for Lucas, and the older woman ooh'ed and ahh'ed over the boys (seriously. German's love my kids. I can't understand what they are saying, but we are constantly getting stopped so people can look and smile at the boys. It's hilarious.) but they definitely get a great deal of attention. On the way out, we found another little restaurant where we got MORE ice cream (grandma's are the best!) and then we parted ways. It was a sweet little trip, and I'm glad to have spent the day with my mom, while also getting out of town and out of the hotel for a little while. It was a gorgeous little place, and we will have to plan better to hit that wine festival next time, right mom??!