September 19, 2014

Hohenzollern Castle

Photo credit: Wikipedia
I'm a bit behind on writing about our adventures, and I apologize for that! We have still been doing so much, but with moving in to our permanent place, getting settled and the craziness that is my children's sleep schedules, there hasn't been much time for writing!

But I didn't want to miss out on this one.

This is Hohenzollern Castle (Burg Hohenzollern). We visited this castle a couple of months ago when we were still living in the hotel. About an hour south from us, it was an easy drive, one that I am looking forward to doing again. The Hohenzollern castle was the home of the future Emperors of Germany of the same name, as well as the future King of Prussia (who built the third castle, seen above).

This was our first castle visit here in Germany, and I'm not going to lie, it was pretty majestic. The castle can be seen well before you reach it, as it sits atop a pretty high hill. The views from the top are amazing, and every direction you look there is another spectacular view. Very little of the inside of the castle can be seen on the tour (we were only able to see a handful of rooms) but the outside grounds themselves are worth the visit.


Germany has more castles than we can count, but they are a common interest for both me & M. There is something so surreal about seeing how people like this lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Our history in the United States is so small, but being able to visit landmarks like this is pretty amazing.

If you are ever in the Stuttgart area, the Hohenzollern castle is definitely a must see. The hike to the top is long & steep, but if you don't feel like make the walk (we didn't) or have small kids (like us) then the shuttle is worth the few Euro. There is a restaurant at the top, within the castle, as well as a beer garden in the courtyard (of course). There are plenty of areas to sit and enjoy the scenery as well.

We can't wait to go back!


September 18, 2014

Sleepless Nights

Two.

Do I need to say more? Because it's kicking my ass. Hard. In a way that I was neither prepared for or really able to navigate through. My sweet, loveable blue-eyed baby boy has turned into some sort of possessed monster. And good lord, I'm not sure how to deal with this.

The main culprit has been sleep in our household. Because of our move, Max never really got on a good schedule, and right when sleep associations were setting in, we were all over the place. This has caused some issues that we are working on dealing with (another post in the works for this one) and hopefully, within the next month, we can be on a good path.

Lucas, on the other hand, has been a mystery. Prior to moving to Germany, Lucas was, while not a PERFECT sleeper, had gotten into a good routine. Bedtime was breeze; every night at 8pm he went down without a fuss or a peep. Even after transitioning to his toddler bed, we rarely had issue with him getting out of bed prior to falling asleep, and never had issue with him getting up in the middle of the night. He would often sleep until around 7, and in my book, eleven hours of sleep was a success (he was/is also still napping 2-3 hours during the afternoon).

Cue the move. Late nights in a hotel room. Falling asleep whenever he could because of lack of routine (despite best efforts to get him on one) and a HUGE, massive change in time difference. We started off well -- having two rooms in a hotel made a big difference, because we could put him in "his" room while we were still able to stay up. But three hotels and a new home in less than two months has to be confusing for the kid, and as soon we got to our permanent living arrangements, all hell sort of broke loose. Epic battles at bed time. Massive tears. A sudden separation anxiety that still means we are sitting next to his bed at bedtime, because it's the only way he will fall asleep (an improvement from us being in bed WITH him).


Around the same time as the sleep issues surfaced, we started seeing some behavioral issues. The behavioral problems mostly stemmed from an extreme case of hyperactivity, followed by all that comes with it -- an inability to focus on one task for very long, not listening, more energy late at night than is normal for anybody. The initial thought was that maybe he had an early case of ADHD. He fit the bill, mostly, and while I know that toddlers are a handful, the things that he was doing were (and still are) above and beyond the norm for "the terrible twos." I made an appointment for his pediatrician to talk about it, but unfortunately we can't get in for a couple of weeks.

But then I did some research, and I found this article. I also talked with a friend on twitter who is dealing with some behavioral issues of her own with her son. And then it all made sense. OF COURSE his sleep issues would cause behavioral issues. That makes sense, doesn't it? When you don't get consistent GOOD sleep, you start to act a little crazy, don't you? I would imagine (and have witnessed) that it would be multiplied in a toddler.

To give you an idea of what we have been dealing with, Lucas will fight sleep until about 10 or 11 pm at night. Going to sleep on his own is no longer a thing, and he is up just about every single night in the middle of the  night. We resorted to the use of small amounts of melatonin last week, and even then, it might be a couple of hours before he finally falls asleep (and it doesn't keep him from getting up in the middle of the night). He's regularly up around 5am -- sometimes early -- and two nights ago was up at ONE AM and had no intention of going back to sleep. When he does sleep, he tosses and turns, so even when he is asleep, it's not QUALITY sleep. Some nights he only sleeps seven or eight hours, which for you & I is a good nights sleep, but for a two year old, not so much.

So our next step is -- I don't know. The pediatrician, definitely, and I'm hoping that we can get him in before October, because let me tell you -- a toddler that doesn't sleep paired with a baby that doesn't sleep, paired with a husband who is gone makes for some very, very, LONG nights in my house these days. I'm hoping that there is a simple fix to all of this, that doesn't require medicating my toddler for very long. We never wanted an ADHD diagnosis, and while I wait for the doctor appointment, i'm researching other options and ways to deal. Wearing this kid out doesn't work. I could run him ragged all day long (and I often do) and it doesn't make him sleep any better.

Any of you deal with anything like this? What were your results? Ways you coped or handled the situation? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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 ...