Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I'll Take It.

We moved into a new apartment.  It is an inexpensive 2 bedroom place, and we like it so far.  It is almost twice the size of our apartment in Berlin and 1/2 the cost, so that alone makes me happy.  My most favorite part of the apartment is the patio off of our bedroom.  We have this nice set of 2 chairs and a matching table that was a wedding present from one of Andy's brother's and it makes it the perfect spot for sitting and drinking coffee in the morning. 

This was the view of the tree behind our building just after we moved in.  

Here it is from underneath, out our back door. 

It isn't much, and there really is no way that I"m ever going to actually be able to sit on my veranda while drinking coffee and leisurely reading the Huffington Post on ANY day really, but I'll take it.   






Sunday, October 28, 2012

Our New Library

We LOVED our library in Cleveland. I mean LOVED it like we went there ALL The time.  It was soo great, and not only because of our favorite librarian Mr. Henry (who also happened to be our next-door neighbor and a very interesting amazing human being).  The library here had a whole lot to live up to and I'd already begun gathering library recommendations before we were eligible for our cards.  

So far so good, if only because it has a PIRATE SHIP in the kids' reading area!  


The girls had a great time climbing in and out of the port holes.  

Then this completely magical thing happened: Annika sat down to look at a book for 5 whole minutes.  It was Ah-MAZE-Ing!  Naturally her typically quiet sister spent the whole 5 minutes alternating between screams of "Annika" and "HELP", but you can't have it all.  

I was seriously impressed with the library and the huge selection of kids' books.  The true test will come the next time we go back and attempt a story time.  Annika has a history of actually being thrown out of story times in the past for her inability to sit and listen, so we'll see how it goes.  


We LOVE Fall in Indiana

We signed the lease for our apartment on a Wednesday, and on Friday I took off with the girls to go to my brother's house.  Yes, I did leave Andy to finish the moving stuff by himself.  To be fair, you need to know that it was most assuredly easier for Andy to put a set of bunk beds together without little ones about AND my cousin and his wife who live in San Francisco were passing through and I REALLY wanted to see them. OH yeah, and did I mention that I hadn't seen my brother in a year and a half AND I hadn't even met my brand new niece who's almost 6 months old yet?  

We took the girls to another pumpkin patch farm that also had loads of activities for the kids to check out.  Here are my girls with their cousin on the pretend horse.  Annika was busy roping some plastic cattle.  

Mayzie was pretty psyched to drive the tractor, despite her complete inability to figure out the pedals.  (I blame the Laufrad!)  

Annika enjoyed pretend horses of all sorts.  

Look at those cute cousins getting ready to go in the corn maze.  Please do note the short short corn too.  I was told it was because of the drought they had this year, and yes, I know that the fact that corn height is a common topic of conversation makes it very very apparent that we are back in the Midwest.  Please also check out my niece's awesome face in this photo.  That is one excited kid!

Here goes Mayzie in the corn maze.  This was the easier one of two (yes 2 corn mazes), but it was fun.  They had buckets all over the maze with different seeds in them.  If you collected all the different seeds, you got a prize at the end.  

My little piggies. 


Mayzie was completely obsessed with the Esel, and kept running over screaming "Esel! Esel!"  It was then that I realized that she should probably learn the English names for animals too.  Oops.  

We got to go on a REAL hay ride (AH AH ACHOO), and the girls really liked it.  Here are all the big girls with us that day: Mayzie, Annika, Avery (the neighbor), & Emma (our niece).  

My brother has 2 dogs that are extremely kid friendly, but none more so than Ms. Gracie the Weimaraner.  Perhaps it is her German breeding, but Mayzie LOVES that dog and I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual. 

I was having soo much fun catching up with everyone, that I sadly forgot to take pictures of everyone.  Does that ever happen to you?  I swear that some of the best days are only documented in my mind.  I did snap this adorable picture of my cousin's wife Corinne.  She even managed to pull her eyes away from a football game to smile for me, though Annika wasn't having it (as usual).  

I even found out that Corinne is a regular reader of the blog!  We love you princess Corinne, and are looking forward to seeing you again whenever we can make that happen.  Thanks for stopping by Indiana and enjoying your very first fall experience with us.  (Editor's note: Corinne is from FL, currently lives in northern California, and had never actually experienced my most favorite of seasons.  We had a great time showing her the best of what Autumn has to offer.)  

We had a beautiful drive home on Sunday through a splendor of fall fireworks, and despite Andy's best efforts, we returned to an apartment full of boxes.  Apparently it takes a really long time to put together bunk beds by flashlight and closet light, even for such a smart and talented man like Andy.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hanging at Nana's House

My in-laws live out in the middle of no-where, which also happens to only be a 20 minute drive to the center of the city here.  It is a really beautiful piece of land, and they are even lucky enough to live next to some of their best friends.  We were lucky enough that they stored our things in their formerly empty basement for the entire time we were gone.  That really saved us some dough and made us much more flexible when we were deciding where we wanted to come back to in the states.  We were unbelievably lucky that they let us stay with them while we waited for the Chicago news, and even before that, the entire month when Andy was here working and I was still in Germany with the girls.  Yeah, I know...they're awesome!  We had a great time while we stayed with them and got over our jet-lag.  

Here are the girls exploring an outcropping on Nana & Papaw's land.  Perhaps one of them will become a geologist?  

Papaw had a mini-4-wheeler that Annika LOVED driving around their property.  Mayzie was a much better passenger, though that didn't stop her from trying to drive on her own.  

Here they are checking out the pumpkin loot from the previous day's excursion. 

This is the same Nana & Papaw that took us to Tropical Islands when they came to Berlin to visit and watched the girls so we could go on an overnight date in the city too.  They are soo great!  We're extremely grateful for their unwavering support of our entire family and shining example of how a relationship grows and changes over time to become stronger and better.  We love you guys!  Thanks for letting us hang out, and we look forward to many many more days of hanging out to come.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Daywear?

I recently got to go shopping all. by. my. self.  I know you're jealous.  So I went to a discount store in the area, because one of the things I seriously missed the most about America was the cheap clothes shopping.  Not that I even really like clothes shopping, but it was at least time for me to have a pair of jeans that didn't give me a muffin top while at the same time showing my butt crack when I bent over to pick up my  daughter.  Yeah, I'm not that white trash y'all!  Anyway, I was browsing the aisles, because I COULD, and I came across this: 

Can you read the sign?  

Yeah, it says "Daywear."  

Soo many thoughts, so many thoughts.  A few to share: 

1. What in the world IS daywear anyway?  Is that a real word and/or category of clothing?  

2. Who is wearing this during the day?  

3. Possible part-time jobs of the sales associate that placed this: brothel owner, prostitute, newlywed. 

4. Is this the new style here and I've been abroad for so long that I don't know it yet?  

5. Rachel and Joshua's first date when his parents come home...her lie has become a reality.  (If you don't get the Friends reference, don't worry.  I'm pretty sure it dates me anyway.)

I didn't shop that rack...at least not to wear during the day or in view of anyone other than my husband.  I'm just not that kind of girl.

  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Patch Fun

One of the first things we did with the girls when we came back to the states, was to get out and enjoy some good old Indiana Fall Fun.  #1 on my list of very Fall things to do, is to take the kids to a pumpkin patch.  

This farm actually had some other fun things for the kids to play on, including these HUGE wheel things that the kids could roll up and down these PVC pipe railings.  The girls raced each other, though Annika was decidedly faster.  To be fair, I'm pretty sure she has a better grasp on the concept of momentum.  

We took a hay-less wagon ride out to the pumpkin patch, and the girls were allowed to pick out any pumpkin they wanted as long as they could carry it.  Mayzie preferred to sit on hers. 

There was a hay maze, which seemed to be more of a hay tunnel to get to the maze.  Mayzie liked hiding inside, but thankfully came out without too much coaxing AND/OR mama having to come retrieve her.  

The farm also had a really great slide in the middle of a corn maze.  The slide was made out of the same material as the tubes on rails, and the girls spent a VERY looong time going up the stairs and down the slide.  Naturally, I was too busy playing to actually take any pictures.  

After the slide, the girls rode the "ponies" in the corral.  Though, as you can see in the picture, Mayzie is also having trouble with this whole gravity thing too.  

It was a really fun day out and about, and I HIGHLY recommend sunshine and loads of fresh air for getting over jet lag.  

Side Note: I do promise to get Mayzie help with gravity and momentum, especially since I was so bad at physics myself!  
















Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thinking of Amy

I've been thinking of my friend Amy all the way down in Auckland, New Zealand living the ex-pat life for a year with her ever so busy surgeon husband and 3 rambunctious boys.  You can read their family blog HERE.  They've been hunkered down with sickness for a while, but she always has such a great attitude to accompany her sometimes completely outrageous stories.  

When I saw this at the store, these little buggers HAD to come home with me.**


I don't remember dishwasher detergent being the scent of a country before, and I honestly half expected it to smell like sheep and volcanoes at first.  (I am still being reintroduced to American ideas of what things should smell like!)

One thing is for sure though: every time I pull out that package and see the word New Zealand printed there, I think of Amy and her sunny attitude and sweet smile.  I think of her wild and crazy stories and wish we were actually closer to be able to share a nice bottle of wine and chat for a while.

Hang in there Amy!!  You're a rock star Mama!  

**I am not in any way being compensated by this company, but I can attest that it does indeed get my dishes clean in the dishwasher.   

Monday, October 22, 2012

Toto, I don't think we're in Berlin anymore.

Ok, so we didn't move back to Kansas...but I'll take any chance I can to reference my favorite movie.

If you know me, then you know that I flew home awaiting news on a job in Chicago that I really really really really really wanted.  I didn't get it.  (I had big dreams of moving close to one of my favorite bloggers and becoming real life BFFs <sigh>.)  I found out on a Monday afternoon that I didn't get it, and that Wednesday we were signing our lease and moving the first of our stuff into our new apartment here.  

We're back home again in Indiana, which is a new experience all together for us as well.  While we did move back to my husband's hometown, we have never lived here as a family.  So after an entire year abroad away from almost everyone and everything we knew, we're now living closer to my husband's half of the family than we have ever been.  Adjusting to having family around all the time should not be a problem; I've been craving more extended family time for at least the past 5 years.  We're adjusting to reverse culture shock from Berlin to the USA, and an extra added bonus shock of "holy crap we're not living in a city anymore!"  I think Andy put it best when he said that we were moving from a place where we had to choose between a myriad of fun things to do every weekend to a place where we have to really seek out our own fun most of the time.  So far, finding fun hasn't been an issue, especially since we came home just in time for hay ride/pumpkin patch/corn maze season.

I'm already gathering stories.
Here are 3 Short ones for your laughing pleasure:

1. While chatting with a delivery man at my mother-in-laws house one day, I mentioned that I was jet-lagged.  He turned to me and said (in a VERY thick southern-ish accent), "Aww yeah, me and my buddies was real jet-lagged this one time when we took a 5 day trip to Vegas.  Whew, I liked to've never slept enough after that."  Yeah dude, totally the same.

2.  When the guys came to install our internet, I mentioned to the guy that we'd just moved here from Berlin. He asked, "Like Berlin, Indiana?"
I said, "No, no, like Berlin, Germany."
He said, "Oh WOW.  I've never been out of the country, but I'd sure like to go.  Well, we been to Florida once, so that's kinda like another country."
--Funny enough, I actually agree with him a little bit on this point, though I'm pretty sure we weren't thinking of the same reasons.

3.  I went to Target recently to purchase some plastic plates and bowls for the girls.  While standing in the aisle staring at the selection available, I almost had a full-on stomping meltdown when every single style available was completely and utterly gendered.  There were pink owls, blue monkeys, princesses, cars, etc ad nauseous (editor's note: intentional misspelling).  Why why WHY must the stupid plastic plates be GENDERED?!?!?!  I don't get it.  Of course, we went with sets of both owls AND monkeys, but seriously, who thinks that we need to be reinforcing gender stereotypes on our dinner plates?  I had a similar problem picking out band-aids, and ended up going with clear ones.  I'm thinking this might be a ridiculous social scientist thing, but I was NOT leaving that store with princess band-aids!

So we're slowly but surely making our way into a life here in Indiana, and I think things are going to be great once we get everything all set up and aren't living in boxes anymore.  I'm going to attempt to NOT turn into that lady who always talks about how much better things are in Europe, while at the same time forcing my kids to speak German at home with me.  It should be fun.  Stick around as our journey continues.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Giant Kite Festival!


I had been seeing these advertisements all over the city, and I just couldn't wait to take the girls to the Giant Kite Festival at one of the coolest parks in all of Berlin: Tempelhof.  It was our next to last weekend in Berlin, so I was certainly going to try to get out and enjoy every last bit of the city that I could.  


Our former babysitter arrived in Berlin 2 weeks before we headed home to start a year abroad as an au pair.  She spent her day off with us at the festival, and hopefully even had a little bit of fun running around the city with us.  She got her first taste of German festival culture, and I got an extra pair of eyes to watch my wild and crazy girls in a crowded fun festival.  Win-Win for sure.  


These kites were truly GIANT and impressive.  Here is Annika standing in the middle of the former airport's runway.  Briefly, for you history buffs: Tempelhof was the site of the Luftbruecke where the US and England thwarted communist expansion and saved a bunch of German lives.  It is a really interesting and complicated historical space, as part of the building still standing was designed by a Nazi-architect.  Oh that complicated German history....but I digress...

It was a VERY windy day, and we were lucky to come when we did.  About a 1/2 hour after we arrived, 3/4 of the kites had to be taken down because it was just too windy.  

Here's a shot of the old airport from a distance.

Those were some BIG kites.  It was hard to actually get a scale shot of them, since they were up there competing with the clouds and all, but trust me, they were HUGE.  

Quite honestly, I think Mayzie had more fun blowing bubbles and later eating sausages than she did actually seeing the kites up in the air. 


Annika found this fun bungee runner thing to do for FREE. She had fun, despite the fact that she didn't weigh enough to actually do it without help.  

We took the train home and got there just in time to vegetate and make dinner.  It was yet another fun day out in the city, and I know I won't soon forget it.  That of course includes the 2 mom's with strollers behind us in line who YELLED at the people getting on the elevator in front of us because they could have just as easily used the escalator, AND when I got to yell at the sausage vendor for serving people behind us before we got ours.  I know Tali was impressed by my assertive German, though I already knew that it wasn't going  to translate well at home. 

One small note to finish: We left our dearest Tali back in Berlin as an au pair with one of our favorite families.  I felt like I was leaving my friend and kid there at the same time.  I LOVE that girl and I'm sooo jealous that my friend gets to keep her for a whole year!!  


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Apfelfest: Adventures in Oranienburg

One of the excursions we took in our last month was up to an Apple Festival in Oranienburg, just north of city.  I'd only ever been up there to check out the concentration camp in the neighborhood, but Andy and the girls had been once before with Annika's class for a fieldtrip to Germendorf.  Lucky for us, we could take the same train from our usual station straight up through the city and to the town to meet up with our friends.  This was a really special day out for us, and I hope that the pictures do justice to what was a really brilliant day.  

Here is Herbert with his kids checking the map to see where we actually needed to walk to in order to find the castle where the festival was happening.  Annika seemed to think that the back side of the map was just as exciting.  

 We arrived just in time to catch the sword fight and dragon's entrance.  Did I mention that it was a medieval apple festival at a castle?  Annika really liked when the dragon breathed fire and then stuck his tongue out at the audience.  

Naturally, there was also hippy bubble blowing.  


Then the kids got to ride this cool spinning thing.


 We did actually drink some fresh pressed apple cider too.  

Annika really wanted to practice her archery skills.  She's been wanting to ever since she saw Brave, but I thankfully convinced her keep her non-existent skills a secret for now.  

There was a replica Viking ship that you could pay to take a ride around a pond on, but our kids had more fun playing on the little pier and with the dead fish in the water.  

We spent some time exploring the beautiful castle gardens, though we really only saw the parts with playgrounds...as to be expected.  

I'm pretty sure we convinced our friend Saba to NEVER have children.  She was an excellent sport about the whole day though.  (Side note: Saba, I miss you and our coffee/cake talks so much!)

When Annika passed out and Mayzie was too tired to walk, Hanna and Oscar took turns pushing them around in the stroller.  

 There was much sibling love on the train ride home, and I'm pretty sure we were ALL exhausted.  

We had such a great time with our friends at the Apfelfest, and it was a beautiful day.  I'm a little sad that I didn't get a video of the weirdest music I had ever heard in my life.  It was like medieval bagpipe death metal rock in German, and our mouths were hanging open for a full minute of their opening song.

This whole day was Herbert's idea.  He wanted to take Saba and I out to see a bit of the non-city part of Brandenburg.  He was an amazing tour guide, even carrying my children on his shoulders and teaching them marching tunes.  His kids only speak German and mine speak some German but mostly English, so it was fun to watch them all become fast friends without language for the most part.  Annika and Hanna spent half of the train ride up chasing each other around the car and giggling up a storm, while Oscar told me all about his favorite subjects in school.  It was a lovely day that I will never ever forget, with great friends and not nearly enough time.  Isn't that always the way the best days are though?    

Monday, October 8, 2012

Coming Home

I am very happy to report that the only horrible thing to happen to us 3 girls on the journey home was the dauntingly long itinerary that the airline put us through to save us $650 per ticket. After a very stressful week of goodbyes and packing in Berlin, the first leg of our journey took us only as far as London. We were EXTREMELY lucky to be able to have friends in Berlin to both haul all of our stuff away and to bring us to the airport with all of our bags. The luck continued at the airport when the lady who checked us in was able to check our bags all the way through to our final destination--mostly. The short flight to London from Berlin was a breeze, and we used the oh so generously shared English pounds from our friends to take a taxi. Annika managed to squeal "everybody speaks En-ga-lish" at least 10 times by the time we got to our hotel room. We have a cousin who lives in London, but he and his new husband were home in the states visiting. Instead of our British cousins, we got to see our Floridian cousin who had just arrived in London that morning for a visit. It was so great to see a friendly face at the end of a long day, and I was seriously grateful for the hugs from my now gigantic ex-marine of a cousin.

Our wake-up call came at 4am London time, and we caught a taxi at 5am from the hotel to check-in for our 7:30am flight from London to Chicago. The flight was pretty empty, but our tickets were still messed up. The gate agent adjusted our seats so that I was actually sitting WITH my children AND upgraded us to Economy-Plus. I suspect the upgrade had something to do with either feeling sorry for me or giving my children extra room so that they'd kick the seat in front of them less--maybe both. The 8 hour & 40 minute flight wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected, and my children were extraordinarily well-behaved, especially for a 2 and 4 year old. It could have had something to do with the magic sleepy travel gum that my friend gave me for them--bless that magic gum!! They both slept for a least half of the trip, though it still eluded me despite my best efforts and a complete lack of any movies that I actually had any interest in seeing.

We arrived in Chicago and breezed through immigration--finally able to take the shorter line after a year of non-EU long lines. We collected our bags from the carousel, and just as I started to wonder how in the world I was going to push a cart loaded with 4 giant suitcases AND a stroller filled with 2 kids and a car seat, a man working for the airport walked up to me and asked if I needed help. We all 4 skipped to the front of the line at customs and jogged over to re-check our bags in no time. That man seriously saved my butt! We made it through airport security for the 3rd time in 2 days one WD-40 can less (I swear I had no idea it was wrapped up in my rain cover in the stroller pocket and it had made it through 2 other screenings).

Naturally, our last and shortest flight from Chicago to Louisville was delayed and moved gates 3 times. I was unphase-able at that point though. The 53 minute flight was a little turbulent, but Annika kept yelling "Wee, it tickles my belly!". She also thought it was funny to say "We're going to crash," though I was surely not the only passenger to NOT see the humor in those words.

We were the last ones off the plane, and we then had to go to the back of the line to wait for our gate checked stroller. When we finally emerged from the security area to Nana's friendly face, there were hugs all around! <3<3<3<3

The girls stayed awake the whole 2 hour drive back from the airport. We made it home in one piece.

About 10 minutes away from the door, Andy called to see if maybe I could possibly meet him at his company's big dinner they were having to close a 4 day conference and celebrate 35 years of being in business. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have said no, but on the side of yes was the fact that I already had people to watch the kids, that I had a once-worn party dress hanging in the closet, and that I hadn't seen my husband in a month. I did look rather stunning when I arrived, especially surrounded by people wearing khakis and polo shirts. Unintentional first impressions are usually the easiest to make, so hopefully I didn't say anything too ridiculous in my jet-lagged exhaustion.

That was our journey home. We're here staying at Andy's parents' house temporarily, until we get organized for the next step. We're very much looking forward to getting out of the business of liminal living.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Things I Will Miss

-Walking down the street past a bakery filled with fresh Brötchen, belegtes Baguettes, and some type of cake covered in a seasonal fruit (currently sliced plums).

-My gym's indoor swimming pool filled to capacity with old people exercising to the greatest hits of the 1960s as remixed by Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch's DJ.

-Sitting at a large table full of adolescents who ALL already speak more languages than I ever will, yet somehow they think I am smart because I happen to speak the language they are all required to learn.

-RELIABLE and mostly GREAT PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION!!!!!! (I haven't driven for a whole year, & I am not looking forward to being required to do so all the time again.)

The many many friends we have made here in Berlin!!

















You know who you are.

-Bus stops with empty bags, crumpled jeans & an equally disheveled looking sweatshirt, coffee mug, & ashtray.

-Sitting next to old men reading symphonic music on the train.

I feel like I could list a million other shoulder shrugging Berliner moments stolen throughout our time here, and these things all happened to me in one day.  That's Berlin!  Though I'm anxious to see what kind of reverse culture shock we're going to get at home just like our friend who writes at Baby Takes Berlin, and how much the previously familiar will now be strange.

The tips of the trees are beginning to change color here as the Autumn sets in here.  The seasons have turned all the way back around again, and we're headed home very soon.  The all consuming packing and cleaning have taken over my life between sad goodbye hugs and tears I can't quite hold back.  Even Mayzie has noticed that big changes are afoot...mostly only because all her toys have been packed I think.  The time has come for all the very-last-times, and I'm very slooooowly coming to grips with the fact that this year is actually over.  1.5 days left in Berlin and then 1.5 days of travel to get back to the Midwest on the Mommy Martyr Maker travel itinerary...or at least that's what we're referring to it as right now.  We'll see how it goes.

Don't worry, I still have a few adventures from Berlin to write about; I just don't think I'm going to get to them until we're back stateside.  I'm guessing if you are reading this, that you probably completely understand that I'll be a little busy between now & then.

The last word from me while still in Berlin, is that YES I'm most assuredly planning to keep writing on this blog.  We are most definitely midwesterners in our hearts, but we're a little bit Berliner now too.  Besides, I'll be back soon Berlin, our romance is not finished.  :-)

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