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??!

July 21, 2014

Max -- Six Month Update

With all the crazy the past couple of months, poor Max got left behind on his updates. I think the last I did was three months -- I had every intention of doing one at four, and then again at five, but here we are, creeping in at six months.

It's hard to believe that this kid is six months old already.

Max is the happiest baby I have ever seen, but at the same time knows what he wants, and when he wants it. He will go zero to sixty in no time at all, which is a huge change from his big brother. There's no waiting around to make a bottle in the middle of the night - when he's up, and he's hungry, you better be ready..

He is also completely different from his brother in the sleeping department as well. Max basically hates sleep. He is a champion cat-napper, and his naps during the day typically last around 30 minutes. It's maddening. Finding a spot that he is comfortable in is key to his napping success, and being in a hotel room the past two weeks has made this difficult. Our only options are the pack & play, which we purposely kept him in while we were still in NC, knowing this would be his sleep option once we got here, and our bed. Guess which won?

Not the pack & play.

We have taken to bed-sharing which, with Lucas, I was admittedly against. While it works for some (and I am not knocking it at all. Do what works for you!) it was not something that we wanted to do. And honestly didn't HAVE to do. Lucas didn't sleep through the night until 13 months, but he was still a good sleeper. I could put him down still awake and he would fall asleep on his own. He took routine naps, at the same time every days, for 2-3 hours each. At night, while he was still waking up to eat, he would essentially dream eat through the entire thing & go back down with zero problem. He set his own schedule essentially from the day he was born, and we have never gone back.

Cue the complete opposite with Max. He will not fall asleep unless you are holding him. He hates the pack & play which means he sleeps with us in the bed (and in reality, means he sleeps with me while my poor, sweet husband curls up with our toddler in the other bed). When he wakes up at night, he is AWAKE, which means he cries -- loudly -- and getting him back to sleep even after being fed is a challenge. Even at six months old, he will not sleep longer than three -- MAYBE FOUR -- hours at night, which means we are still up 2-3 times.

During the day, we also struggle. While Lucas was (and still is) a very independent baby, Max doesn't seem to be following suit. The poor kid hates being put down, and will cry after about five minutes of being anywhere but in somebody's arms (usually mine). In order to get things done, I have to put him down, which means I spend a good part of the day listening to him whine & cry. It's frustrating for all of us. His mommy attachment is at epic levels, meaning he won't even let M hold him unless I am present. Which means leaving the room, let alone the house (or the hotel in our case right now) without him leads to the kid acting like you are hurting him. I have never heard a baby scream the way he does. It makes me feel awful for my husband, who gets frustrated because despite his best efforts, their solo relationship doesn't seem to be getting any better UNLESS I am around. This means I haven't had more than a couple minutes alone in about, oh, six weeks. I'm not quite sure where my level of sanity is these days, but it's low. It amazing how two babies can be so completely different, but Max is hands down the harder & more difficult one of the two. I was always so grateful that Lucas was as incredibly easy as he was -- but of course we would have the complete opposite with number two.

But when it comes down to it, he is still such a sweet, sweet baby. He has the greatest smile, and the sweetest laugh. He give large, slobbery open mouth kisses (and gets quite excited about doing so!), snuggles better than any baby, and makes us all laugh on a daily basis. He is OBSESSED with his big brother, and if Lucas is in the room, nobody else matters. I love seeing their relationship blossom the way it has been in the past month or so, and I cannot wait until they are older and great friends. Nobody can make Max laugh the way Lucas can. It's sweet & endearing. He also still remains quite a large, chunky baby. He has been in 9 month clothing for quite some time now, and we are dipping into the 12 month clothes on occasion. While I haven't taken him in for his six-month checkup yet, I do know that he is tipping the scale around 22 pounds, and that he teeters between the 98th percentile and off the charts completely. I love every single one of his not-so-little rolls. We just began solids within the last couple of days, and it looks like we are going the baby-led-weaning route with him again. We have tried both puree's -- which he wasn't a fan of -- and whole food -- which he went to town on -- so we will continue to experiment with what works best for him.

I do hope that things improve in the coming months, specifically in the sleep department. I make it through the days as it, but I can't imagine what a full night sleep will feel like. But all in all, he is a sweet, adorable baby boy. This is such a fun age, and I cannot wait to see what comes!

July 8, 2014

Germany -- One Week

It's hard to believe that we have been here for one week already. Time really is going quick, but at the same time, feels like it is moving so slow (thank you, hotel living). M started inprocessing today, which means that work will start soon, and we can start getting on a more normal schedule. The time change has messed with everyone, the kids taking it pretty hard and Max taking it the hardest. Being in a hotel makes adjusting especially difficult, since having any sort of schedule is rough. Lucas, especially, thrives on a schedule, so not having one has been a bit of a rough go for the poor kid. On top of that, both caught some wicked colds, so we are dealing with the pitifulness that comes with that, as well as everything else. But aside from it all, we are making the best of it and getting through the day. I have done more walking in the past week than I have done in some time, and I foresee Germany being very good for my waistline (my FitBit thanks me!) We have also drank more beer and wine in the past week (my husband more than myself!) than we have in quite a while. Counter-productive, I'm sure!

I have to tell you, first off, that Germany is a very beautiful country. It hasn't even been a full week yet and I am in love with the greenery, the quaint little villages and towns, the vineyards that line the hills and red roofs from homes that dot everything in between. The villages are small, and in most cases that we have seen, the Church Steeple is the tallest point in all of them. It's a simplicity that you don't see back in the states, and a much more casual way of living. Mixed in with the simplicity and history, you were reminded of modern times -- I am in LOVE with how Germany embraces alternate fuel sources -- wind mills & solar panel fields everywhere. It was amazing!

I have to admit that I am starting to get a little overwhelmed with all of it. Not with being here, necessarily -- we WANT to be here and wouldn't trade it for anything -- but the language barrier is a tad frustrating, and embarrassing. I have picked up a couple phrases and words here or there, and most people in our area speak English, but I hate to admit I hate asking them to so that I can understand. I will admit, there have been a couple dicey menu choices. I personally am on a mission to learn as much as I can. I feel that it will make my personal experience here that much better. We truly want the full experience in living here, which means learning the language as well. This is a large priority for me (and hopefully my husband) and I am grateful that we bought some "learning to speak German" discs before we left AND BROUGHT THEM in our suitcases! But all in all, people have been so kind to us. I think, overall. Germany has a reputation of not being very friendly. I have found that people don't smile at you when you are walking down the street, and they would rather barrel into you on the sidewalk if you don't get out of THEIR way instead of moving themselves. If you say hi, they won't say hi back when out in public. But one-on-one? Incredibly kind and helpful. At least what we have seen so far.

We are still figuring out the housing situation. Things are so up in the air, and from what we were told today, it looks like we will have no choice but to live on post. This is not our ideal situation -- again, we want the FULL experience in being here, which for us means living off-post -- but we are complete "make the best of any situation" type of people. I will drive off post every day with the kids if it means shopping on the economy, exploring, finding new parks and small cafe's to hang out in. I really cannot express how excited we are to take it all in. We want to leave here with zero regrets -- this means living as un-American as possible.

Over the weekend, we loaded up the family and headed to Trier, which is the city my Mom lives in. It was nice to get out of the hotel for a couple of days and enjoy a little more space, as well as see the area my mom has called home for the past year. Trier itself was beautiful. It was nice to see my mom's place while also getting to see another setting for a couple of days. Driving into the city, the hills are filled with vineyards for as far as you can see. The Mosell River winds through the city, which happens to be the oldest in Germany. The Dom, a Roman Catholic church that dates back to Roman times, is home to the Holy Tunic, a garment with a recorded history back to the 12th century, in Catholic tradition said to be the robe Jesus was wearing when he died. There is a huge Roman history within the city, including one of the most well-preserved Roman city gates (the Porta Nigra). Just a few blocks from my moms home, there are exposed ruins that were found during the excavation for a new building. It's an amazing city with some amazing history, and we barely scratched the surface during our time. I cannot wait to get back and visit again, and see all that we can before my mom moves to the Rammstein area at the end of the year.

July 4, 2014

Germany -- the First Few Days

Well ... we made it! We are officially in Germany.

We are just starting our third day here, and it seems a little surreal that all of this is happening. Our flight here was long. Approximately nine hours. But both boys did amazing. I mean truly better than I think either of us could have hoped. We had very little sleep, but I'll take good behavior over everything else.

We were greeted by three guys from the new unit, who helped us get out of the airport with all of our luggage and set us on the right path. We immediately went to start the inprocessing, followed by a quick stop at the (very small) commissary to grab a couple essentials, then to the hotel to check in. M was then whisked back to post to sign into his new unit, and we all came back and took extremely long naps. My mom greeted us at the hotel, and has been staying with us while we get our feet on the ground. The kids are loving grandma time, and we are loving having family here with us!

Things are a little overwhelming right now, but we are loving every minute of it. I need to seriously start learning some German, because while everybody here also speaks English, I feel like a jerk for not knowing more. We are without a vehicle, but the new unit has been MORE than helpful in picking us up, getting us to where we need to be, offering assistance, checking in and essentially, just being amazing. We really could not have asked for a more welcoming group of people, and with the demands that will be coming with M's new job, it's clear that the rest of us will be well taken care of -- family is important to this unit, a nice change from our previous assignment.

After a day of rest and trying to force ourselves onto a new scheduled, we headed into downtown Stuttgart our first full day here. Since we have no vehicle for the time being, the train is our only mode of transportation (aside from our feet!) so we braved the system, managed to NOT get lost, and headed into town. We spent a good part of the afternoon just walking around, exploring, finding some amazing places, getting sun, drinking beer (BEER GARDENS EVERYWHERE), eating amazing food and in general, soaking in our new environment. I have to give my mom & my husband credit, because they are not afraid to explore and are more than willing to take some chances. It's nice having them a long because I tend to be a little more reserved, but immersing ourselves fully into this culture is the only way we will get the most out of it, so from day one we decided that is what we are going to do. Lucas already knows his first German word and I have a feeling that kid will pick up the language quicker than the rest of us will!

All in all, while overwhelming and exhausting, this has been a great adventure so far. We are so excited to see and do new things, and are eager to get out and explore as much as possible. Having a vehicle here will make things that much easier, but it's the train system for us for now until we can do more outside the city. I cannot wait to share things with y'all. Also, please ignore the glaring (hopefully not a crack) dirt on my camera. Obviously I need to get my lens cleaned. Should be interesting finding a place.

Until then!