Sunday, December 29, 2013

Seriously?!?

If you've been following my blog, you'll probably vaguely remember that back in April we bought a car. Later, in May we decided to utilize the freedom the car gave us and go on a short road trip. We chose to drive to the Eagles Nest right near the German/Austrian border because it was only a few hours away, and we figured it was an interesting spot historically. We didn't do a lot of planning for the trip, it was a bit spur of the moment, and we figured our handy smart phones would guide us where we needed to go. On the way there, it worked out great, the GPS worked wonderfully, the boys napped in the back seat, and we enjoyed the bavarian countryside immensely. After enjoying the view and a light meal at the Eagles Nest, we headed back home. We were surprised to see that our phones' GPS was guiding us through Austria to get back home (since we were coming from, and going to Germany) but didn't really think much of it. When we entered Austria, we saw some signs indicating we were on a toll road. We kept our eyes peeled for a toll booth, but never saw one, and when we reentered Germany a few minutes later, we figured we just hadn't been on the road long enough to come across a toll collection spot.

At the end of June we travelled home to the US for a few weeks. A few month later, in September, we received a letter from the Austrian government. The letter stated that we had been photographed, driving in Austria, without the proper toll sticker on our windshield, and that we needed to identify immediately whether we or someone else had been driving the car, if it was someone else, we needed to identify them. I complied right away, and indicated that it had been us personally driving the car on that date. I figured we in for a fine of 20, maybe 50 euros if they wanted to really stick it to us. Two weeks later we received a bill with a fine for…… 300 Euros (Approx. 420 USD)! Whaaaaat??? We thought their had to be some mistake. Seriously?! Who fines someone 300€ for driving in their country for only a few minutes?? Dylan took the bill to work and asked the advice of some colleagues. Not only were they not shocked, but they were sure there was nothing we could do or say to get out of this. They even called and spoke in German to them to confirm their suspicions.  Apparently the normal fine is 120€ but since we had missed the letter billing us that amount while we were gone in the US, we were now responsible for the whole 300€. We attempted to petition them to allow us to pay the smaller amount, since we had never received the initial letter, but to no avail.

Maybe I've been gone too long, and am remembering thing through rose colored glasses, but I just can't see this happening in the US. I've gotten my share of parking tickets, and late fees, etc, but I've never encountered something so ridiculous. And the fact that they're completely unwilling to hear any sort of excuse or sad story, it really caught me a little off guard. I'm sure we'll laugh about it someday... for now we're writing it off as all part of the experience of living in a foreign country.



James and David enjoying the view from the Eagles Nest

Friday, December 27, 2013

Motivation

I've been asked a few times recently what happened to my blog. I'm not sure. I've lost the motivation I guess. I waffle between feeling like no one reads, and then, what if everyone reads, and I'm over-sharing? Still, I know there are a few of you out that there that look for updates, so I'll try to do a better job, at least with pictures.

We had our second Christmas in Germany this week. Last year was our first Christmas here, but since the boys and I were home at the beginning of December we celebrated twice, and so our Christmas here was a bit of a non-event. This year, I knew if we were going to avoid feeling really lonely and homesick on Christmas, we were going to have to be purposeful about it, and really make it exciting for the kids. I think it was a success. We did lots of fun things leading up to Christmas like baking cookies, advent calendars, an advent wreath, and making gingerbread houses. Really the whole month of December was like one long Christmas celebration for us. Our families were really generous sending us Christmas presents both from the US and through Amazon, so we were very blessed with a full Christmas tree and lots of things to open Christmas morning. The boys are finally old enough to really understand what's going on with Christmas, and that was a real joy to experience.


Our Christmas tree surrounded by presents!!


James and David trying out their new "shaving kits"

video

This is pretty much how every present opened went. They were so excited and happy about everything!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Plums

Well, we survived the week without Dylan. I know it's really silly to even be concerned about just one week alone, but for us, it's uncommon, so it was a bit difficult, but nothing we couldn't handle!

One of the fun things we did while Dylan was gone was make jam. We have a plum tree in our backyard, and my experience with it last year was not very positive. We didn't realize the plums were ripe until they were quite ripe, and most of them had been infested with worms. I decided to give them a second chance this year, and I'm really glad I did! We caught the plums just at the right time before they got too ripe, and they're really tart and delicious. On Friday we picked enough to make a few big jars of plummy jam.

These pictures are the of the finished jar of jam, and James' peanut butter and jam sandwich!









Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Day 2

So far, so good. The boys went to sleep all on their own last night ,and tonight (after a bit of coaxing). It seems like the money jars are really working.

We're still missing Daddy. David cried quite a bit at bedtime tonight, and kept saying "Dadda come home now." But aside from that I think they were mostly happy and had a good day. We made a fall tree craft that I had seen on pinterest (cutting and gluing anyone?!), and we spent the afternoon at the playground with some friends, which was really nice.

I gave the boys each 5 coins this morning, totaling 16 cents. James asked if we could go to the store and buy something. I told him we could, but he would probably only be able to buy something like a carrot, or maybe a few grapes. He decided he'd rather save his money up until he has enough to buy a toy or a candy. I tried to take a picture of the boys showing off their new money jars, but they kept goofing around, so this is the best one I could get. At least you can tell how excited they are!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Home alone

Dylan is gone to conference this week, so the boys and I are home alone. He's only an hour away, but it it will be the longest we've ever been without him in Germany. I miss him a little bit already. There's something so comforting about knowing no matter what my day is like, at the end of the day he'll be there.

We've had a good time of it so far though.We had a very laid back, almost relaxing day. We did a little bit of shopping, an art project, some laundry, skyping, and some home made pizzas. We're trying something new for bedtime tonight. I always sit in the room with the boys while they go to sleep, but I remember something my mom did when my younger siblings were kids and it inspired an idea. I've told them if they stay in their beds by themselves until they fall asleep, I will give them some money in the morning that they can put into a jar and save up until they have enough to buy something. We're talking pennies, so it may as well be beans or buttons, but they don't know the difference, and they're excited about it, at least for now. We'll see how it goes!

I'm trying to put my free evening to somewhat good use. I discovered that I can watch German tv without being completely lost and am thinking it might be a good way for me to somewhat passively keep up on/improve my german skills. I subscribed to a 30 day trial of the German version of Netflix. There aren't a lot of options for goos shows, but they have all 7 seasons of the Gilmore girls, which is a show I knew and loved back in college. So far I've watched about 5 minutes of it. They talk really, really fast. I only know what's going on because I've watched the show before. I think I'll give it another 10 minutes, and if I still can't understand anything, switch to something else. Who knew that a characteristic that made a show zany and fun in my own language makes it's totally ridiculous when trying to understand it in a foreign language.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Alphabet Soup

With the colder, rainier weather we've been having lately, I decided we should have something hot for lunch today. I've been roasting a chicken every week, and then using the bones to make a yummy chicken stock, so I was inspired to make some kind of soup. The only problem is the kids won't really eat most soups, and when I'm home alone with them, I really don't have the energy to cook a big meal that only I will enjoy. Then I remember those canned soups I used to eat as a kid, like alphabet O's or chicken and stars, and I got inspired. We ran to the store for tiny alphabet pasta, cooked it up in some chicken broth, added some bread and a glass of milk, and called it lunch! (I promise my kids eat fruits and veggies pretty much exclusively for snacks, so they can afford the occasional carb heavy lunch)



David exclaimed it tastes like "punkin pie"!



James was equally enthused, but I couldn't get him to stop eating for long enough to really capture it.



There it is: home made, from scratch yumminess. It was better than the canned variety for sure!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Restaurant

Today I taught James how to make a cup of tea.

Then we played "restaurant". It's another rainy day here in Bavaria. ;-)




Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rainy Day

This morning we woke up to the rain storm that has been threatening all weekend. Luckily I had a number of ideas (thank you pinterest) in mind for just such a day. We made "cloud dough", sorted colored blocks, built block towers with increasing heights, did a "science experiment", and played soccer in the rain. Actually I didn't play soccer in the rain, but Dylan and the boys did, and they had a lot more fun doing it than I would have. Days like this make me feel much more favorable toward the approaching cold weather months.

I think my camera lense had a smudge on it all day, so these pictures are not great, but better than nothing I think!


James was very proud of his "speed sorting" skills.




Here he is showing off the perfectly sorted blocks.




All dressed up to go out in the rain. I've never seen pants particularly for playing in the rain in the US, but I think they're quite clever.



Watching the science experiment. We put colored water into two cups, and plain water in the middle and then watched paper towel strips transfer the colored water into the middle cup. The end result was equal levels of water in each cup and the water in the middle cup was green.



"cloud dough" this stuff was a lot of fun, just flour and oil, but it had a texture similar to wet sand that was great for playing with sand toys and forming into shapes, etc.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Belly laughs

I think little kids laughing, I mean really hard, belly laughs, might be one of the cutest things ever.

We were playing doctor today, and I was the sick patient. James was the doctor and David was the nurse. (this was probably brought on by the trip we took to the dr. for James' vaccination today). Anyway, David brought me some paper and a marker and told me I could color while I waited for the doctor. I was laying down holding the paper over my head, and did a very sloppy stick figure drawing of our family.

James came over and asked what everything in the picture was. I started to describe it. "This is Daddy, but he has really big feet, and there's me I have a really long tummy, Next is David, but he has one reeeaaaly long leg." I expected David to argue, but instead he started hopping around on one leg, and laughing hysterically. "And this is you James, it sort of looks like you have a beard" James laughed so hard and so hysterically, that I couldn't help myself. Before I knew what happened we were all three sitting on the floor laughing so hard we were crying. It doesn't sound funny in the telling, but when you find the right thing that your small kid really truly thinks is absolutely hilarious, their delight is pretty hard to contain, and it's pretty hard not to join in on the moment.

And just so I never forget, here's that picture. I'm pretty sure I have better drawings saved from when I was 5!



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Geburtstag!

Dylan's 31st birthday is tomorrow. We (James, David and I) decided to throw a surprise birthday party for him tonight. From the moment I told the boys we could surprise Daddy with a cake and presents, until the moment Dylan came home, the boys and I had so much fun! They helped me joyfully with all the necessary tasks. We went to 5 different stores to get everything we needed (man I miss Target!) and both boys were perfect angels, never budging from the stroller the entire time.

We're attempting to stick to a tight budget, so we didn't do anything too exciting, but we colored a happy birthday banner on computer paper, baked a cake, and blew up big balloons!

We made "American" hamburgers with french fries, and all together it was quite festive. Dylan promised that we really, actually surprised him, and it was one of the best birthday surprises he's ever had. As icing on the cake, Dylan's parents sent us a package that arrived today, much earlier than expected. Dylan got to enjoy some birthday hot tamales! It was very nearly a perfect day. James and David's faces as we hid away to jump out and surprise Daddy were absolutely priceless. I can't think of anyone I'd rather plan a birthday surprise with than my sweet little boys!!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

New friends

In January, a new little boy, J joined James' kindergarten. I met his mom fairly quickly, because we were both speaking English to James' teacher. They had moved to Germany a few months earlier from Mexico. It wasn't long before all of James' stories about school involved this little boy, and the rest is history. We've gotten together to let the boys play at least once a week, for the past several months, and over the school holidays we've been seeing them almost every day. James really enjoys his new friend, and J has a brother 6 months older than David, so the whole thing is really perfect. The four of them run around together and are totally crazy!

One of the coolest things about James' friendship with J is that they are both learning German together. J is a year older than James, and was forced to start speaking German in the kindergarten from day one since the kindergarten teachers speak no Spanish. James' German has come along quite a bit slower, but I think his friendship with J has motivated him to speak more. While he's a bit inhibited with German friends his age, or German adults, he has not problem rattling of whole sentences in German to his new best friend. He's come so far!

One of the cutest things with James' German is how he handles it when he doesn't know a word. Since there are so many German words that are similar to English, when in doubt, he conjugates an English word into German. For example, last week, he saw a movie at J's house, and exclaimed excitedly, "Cars! Ich habe Cars schon gewatched!" (I have cars already watched) Except, watched is not a German word. He then paused for a minute, and corrected himself "gesehen"(seen). Needless to say, he's come a long way from a few months ago when the most you could ever get out of him was some counting and a few colors.

I'm excited to see what the next school year has in store for James, and how capable he will be at speaking German by the time we leave.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'm back

Sorry for the long absence. Dylan's grandmother started doing poorly in June, and I didn't feel like blogging about that, but I had a hard time sitting down to write anything else.

We flew back to Colorado June 21st, and late that night Dylan's Grandma passed away. It was really providential getting to see her that last time, and I think it helped both Dylan and I process her passing, and be ok with it. That last evening with her, jet-lagged and every, is a precious memory that I know both Dylan and I will treasure forever.

When we got back from the US, I had a really hard time adjusting back to Germany. I don't like to be negative on the blog, so I decided to keep it to myself. It's not that everything was terrible, I just was homesick, and lonely, and a little sad.

Bavaria has their school summer break in August, so I'm having a nice vacation from my German classes, and James is home from kindergarten. James, David and I have really been enjoying the long, lazy days together. We've been reading lots of books, playing games, meeting friends in the playground, having tea time, and visiting a near by indoor pool. James and David are such good friends, and at the end of every day, no matter how mundane, James comments on what a "fun" day we've had. It's really rewarding being home with the boys and watching them grow and change.

We've been doing a daily devotional time, and both David and James have amazed me with their ability to memorize scripture! James quickly picks up the verses we're working on and can recite them perfectly after a week. David still doesn't quite speak in complete sentences, but he still manages to make a really good effort with the verses. Last week our verse was Job 42:2, and David recites it like this:

I know yowd (I know lord)
A-you aww powafoo (that you are all powerful)
An you a-do eeereyting you want (and that you can do everything that you want)

It's hard to really properly type out how exactly a toddler speaks, but just believe me, it's really adorable!

I think you're all caught up now, I'll be making an effort to post more regularly, and more pictures. At least as long as we're on vacation ;-)

Veggies

How to get your kids to eat veggies:

Step 1: In a blender mix garlic, lemon juice, avocado, yogurt, salt, pepper, parsley and buttermilk

Step 2: Chop up an assortment of "dipping" veggies (carrots, peppers, cucumber etc.)

Step 3: Set veggies and dip on the table.

Step 4: Watch your children gobble up veggies like they were candy!

We're really enjoying our summer vacation and I promise a longer update is coming. It's been way too long!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Our Saturday in photos


The beautiful summer sun from my spot under the trees watching the boy's play on the playground.

Playing at the playground!


Playing with water toys in the garden.

Such a ham!


"naptime" video



Building block towers

Gelato!

Even Daddy took a break from working for Gelato

The playground next to the gelato shop

"caterpillar" at the playground

Tree climbing at the beer garden!

It was a very full and very fun day! The sun hasn't been around very much lately, so we tried to really soak it all in while we could.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Autobahn

As a kid I would hear a lot about the Autobahn in Germany, the road with no speed limits. For a long time I thought it was one special stretch of road. I didn't realize it was actually just the name for the highway system in Germany. I certainly didn't imagine I would be driving on the autobahn almost every day. And yet, here I am.

Last week I decided to make the plunge and switch German classes from the class I had been taking downtown to one much closer to where we live. The stress of taking David on the train 45+ minutes both ways on the train 3 times a week, plus switching trains and waiting for 5-20 minutes each time on the crowded platform was just getting to be too much for me. It was a hard decision because I'm having to repeat a whole bunch of the material (a whole book actually) now that I've switched classes, but still I think it's worth it. Alone, I find riding the subway to be about 5x more relaxing than driving. However, with a (sometimes very grumpy) two year old in tow, I find driving to be at least 5x more relaxing! It's so nice to just be able to buckle him in and then more or less not worry about him the rest of the way home. He can't hurt or offend anyone, and he's unlikely to get hurt himself.

Now that I've switched courses, I drive to my course 3 times a week. It only takes about 15-20 minutes to get there, and it's a really easy drive. So far I really enjoy driving in Germany. The first day I drove further than supermarket, I noticed a few differences/adjustments I needed to make. I was honked at 3 times in my first half hour of driving around, and since have not been honked at once. Most of the honking was due to impatience. Now that I know that, I try to be skippier with my merging and turning, and I haven't had any more problems.

The drive to my German class doesn't include any "no speed limit" zones. But I have driven north and pretty quickly you're in one of those areas. I still only drive about 120-130 km's an hour. I've just never been very comfortable driving super fast. I do find it a bit odd when I'm going 130 km/hr (so like 80 miles/hour) in the middle lane and people are zipping past in the left lane going way, way faster. Not like one person either, everyone in that lane. That's not something I've experienced in the US!

I still haven't taken a picture of the car, but I have a good excuse. They've closed all the parking on our road, and we're having to park on a different block, so it's just not very easy to step out and snap a picture. Typically when I'm taking the car somewhere my arms are loaded full of things/children, I've just walked a few blocks carrying said things/children, and I'm just trying to get everything into the car as quickly as possible. So photos are not really the first thing on my mind. However, I still plan to try and get one as soon as possible ;-)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Random coffee shop conversations

Today I had a conversation with a quirky bavarian guy. I was sitting in a coffee shop drinking coffee and doing my meal planning for the week on my computer. The old man sitting next to me leaned over and said "hubbedy blobbedy bop?" To which I responded, "bitte" (excuse me) to which he responded, "wie bubbedy bloppity das?" To which I responded "noch ein mal, bittle" (one more time please) To which he finally said "Wie viel kostet das" (how much did that cost) pointing at my laptop. I responded and we went to on to have a sort of long funny conversation. My German has come a long way, but I still have a pretty hard time understanding the standard bavarian accent. Luckily, most people will at least try to speak "high German" when they realize you can't understand "Bayerish". I still had a difficult time understanding him, but he understood me ok, so it all kind of worked out. 

Our conversations went something like this:

me: "I'm not sure how much it would cost here, I bought it in America, for 1100$, so about 800€ or something, but of course all apple products are much cheaper in America"
him: "Oh, you're American, I thought maybe so from your accent"
me: Yep, I'm American.
him: "I was in America 2 years ago, in California, it was nice, but I think for living, here is much better"
me: "yeah, I can't really say, America is such a big place, and it's not all the same, here is very nice, but it's hard for me to say"
him: "no, I'm sure its nicer here, I will never forget the poor children on the bus in California (?), here is much better"
me: "maybe so, but American is not all the same, where I' come from is very different from California for example, when I visit California it all seems strange and different to me as well. But for me, living here is hard, because I don't speak the language very well, and my family is not here, and everything is new and different, so it's hard for me to say, we plan to go back to America in a few years though."
him: "Yeah, but you speak so well! And in a few years you will even speak perfect bavarian."
me: "haha, maybe, I learn German in the school, and the only teach us high german"
him: "yeah of course that's true, but you live here, in Garching?
me: "yes"
him: "then you will also learn bavarian."
him: a bunch of long stories and explanations that I only sort of understand
me: "yes, yes, I know what you mean, well I should get back to work"
him: "yes of course," gets up to leave, "well I wish you a very nice stay in Germany, bye bye"
me: "thank you, have a nice day, bye"

It's pretty simple looking back at it, but probably the longest conversation I've had in German with a complete stranger. As an American I can't imagine insisting to a foreigner that my country is way nicer to live in than there country, but it happens a lot here. People are just more blunt/honest I guess. In a weird way it doesn't feel impolite. It's not like their trying to start a fight with you or something, just, stating the facts the way they see them.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Croatia part 2

The time we spent in Croatia was really fun, and super relaxing compared to the trip getting there!! We spent the first day in Zagreb at the house of our friends, and then they drove us to the coast where their parents live, and we spent Saturday, Sunday and Monday there. Then Monday night we drove back to Zagreb, Tuesday Dylan gave a talk at Ticijana's lab, and on Wednesday we took the train back to Munich. We packed a lot of fun into those few days!!

Friday we walked all over Zagreb:

Chasing Pigeons in the square

Looking down at Zagreb

Eating "Zagreb's best cakes"(I swear James was there too!)

Saturday we drove to Fazana. On the way there we stopped for some frogs legs (delicious!) and after we arrived we played at a playground right at the seaside, ate a delicious lunch at Ticijana's parents house, and drove to Pula where we viewed a Roman colosseum, and stopped for beers in an awesome ancient square. It was all very cool.

Old Colosseum

Ice cream in an ancient square

and of course, beer!

Awesomness!

Sunday we visited Brijuni Island, which is wear President Tito of the former Yugoslavia had his summer home. We took a big tourist boat to get there, and then did a little train ride tour of the island. There are a bunch of animals on the island both native to the area, and some that were gifts to president Tito like an elephant and some zebras. The boys really enjoyed seeing that! After Brijuni Island we ate an amazing lunch at Orejano's parents' house and then went to another nearby town with a really cool harbor where we watched the sunset, and then wandered up these steep cobblestones roads to a cool old church, and enjoyed ice-cream next to the harbor.

The boat we took to Brijuni Island

Looking at the animals


Lunch

Sunset

On Monday we headed back to Zagreb, but we stopped at this cool old Castle place with an amazing view, and enjoyed a delicious Croatian meal on the way.


Awesome view

Croatian food!

On Tuesday Dylan gave a talk at the institute in Zagreb, and the boys and I hung out at a really cool playground. All in all the trip was super fun, and we'd love to go back!!





















Croatia part 1

Another reason for my lack of posting in April, was our first trip outside of Germany/Austria. We took the train to Croatia to visit some good friends that we had met back in Boulder. The trip was quite an adventure!

A few days before we were scheduled to leave for Croatia I lost my bank card (actually it was the second time I lost it, but who's counting). Of course I immediately went to the bank and put a freeze on the card and ordered up a new one, but beyond that I didn't put much though into it. Dylan and I have a shared account, and so he was able to get money for me, and I also still have my credit cards, etc. The morning we were supposed to leave for Croatia, I woke up and was preparing to print out our E-ticket, when it occurred to me that I had purchased the E-ticket with my bank card, and I was supposed to use my bank card as an ID with the ticket. As a matter of fact, the ticket clearly stated on it, that it would be invalid without the corresponding ID card listed (my bank card). This was a little stressful, but I figured it would be no problem to call up the train company, and have them issue me a new ticket, or change the required form of ID, or something. So I called up the German railway, I wasn't feeling particularly ambitious, so I asked for an English representative. They nicely transferred me, and then I heard this message in English "Thank you for your call, unfortunately no one is available to assist you at this time, please try back later... click". I tried this twice more before giving up on getting to speak to anyone in English. So now I'm trying to explain and resolve my problem in German (not that bad actually, my German skills are coming along!). The first person I speak to says that's no problem at all, but since it's an international trip, he'll transfer me to the international branch, after which, of course, the call gets dropped. The next person I spoke to basically told me I was completely out of luck and would need to buy a completely new train ticket. After such vastly different stories, I decided to try one more time. The third person I spoke to told me if I could get a letter from my bank saying that the card was lost, I should be fine, but she couldn't make any promises about that letter working outside of Germany. At this point I've spent over and hour making phone calls and am totally mentally exhausted. We decide to just get to the train station early, and try to find someone their who can give us a more concrete answer.

At this point I decided to finally go ahead and print out our ticket. Of course, our printer does not work. There is no ink or something, and while it will print a shadow of the ticket, it is not presentable. No problem. Dylan will ride down to work and print the ticket there. I search for "dbahn"(the German Rail company) in my emails, and forward the most recent email with an E-ticket attachment to Dylan to print off. When we get to train station Dylan spoke (in English) to one of the information attendants and she assures him that with the letter from the bank, all my other forms of ID and Dylan's bank card we will be fine, no problems! What a relief. Things just keep getting better as we get the train and realize that the "parent-child" seats that I have booked for us are a compartment of 6 seats with a sliding door that we have all to ourselves. We are finally able to start relaxing and enjoying our trip! After about a half hour the conductor comes by and we show her our ticket and explain to her the issue with our ID card. To which she responds that our ID card is no problem, however, the fact that our ticket is for Saturday (we were traveling on Thursday) was a very big problem, and if we can't produce a ticket for today, we will either have to buy a ticket to Salzburg, and then get out, or buy a new ticket to Croatia which will be very expensive since our initial ticket was a purchased with a special fare. The explanation for this predicament is quite simple, we had changed the dates of our ticket at some point, and had accidentally printed up the old, no longer valid ticket. Looking back on it it seems a little funny, and it's a good story. But at the time, you can not imagine how stressed I was. I was literally shaking and practically in tears. At first glance, I could think of no solution, but then it occurred to me that maybe if I could just show her the pdf of our legitimate ticket, she would give us some grace and allow us to stay on the train. Thankfully, we had purchased smart phones a few months earlier, and I was actually able to pull up the correct email and e-ticket on my phone. Once I zoomed in, she was able to scan the e-ticket off of my phone with her ticket scanner. Amazing! She warned us that this may not/probably would not be accepted as a valid ticket once we were out of Germany, but we had made it past the first hurdle, and decided to ride it out and see how the rest of the day would go.

The rest of the train ride was stressful, because I never knew exactly how things would go with our tickets, but it went about as well as could have been expected. In Austria, I explained the situation in German and showed him the pdf, he stared at the screen, and then us for a long time, mumbled something incomprehensible, and then left and didn't come back. In Slovenia the conductor spoke neither German nor English very well, but was very adamant that he needed a paper ticket to punch, and so our pdf was not sufficient. We finally offered him the invalid ticket for two days in the future, and he punched it and went away satisfied. In Croatia she barely glanced at our ticket, and told us everything was fine.

After 8.5 hours on the train we finally arrived in Zagreb, and right as we climbed out of the train there was Orejano, our friend from Boulder. What a relief to see a friendly face and know that we would not have to handle and more obstacles in the day! A few minutes later his wife, Ticijana came running up and swept us all into a big hug. You can't imagine how much it meant to finally be with friends, and just be able to relax and enjoy.


The boys in our train compartment. I'm so glad we had it, it made the ride much less stressful, and I don't think I could have handled one more stressful aspect on that particular day!

We have a car!

Yikes! My last post was over a month ago. I so did not mean to let it go that long. Thanks Lou for reminding me! We're not totally without excuses though, it's been a busy last month, and will probably require a few posts to describe.

In the beginning of April we finally got our drivers licenses back, which meant we could officially start our search for a used car. I assumed everything would get easier once we had the drivers licenses in hand, and just needed to find a suitable used car. Boy was I wrong!! We started our used car search at the local car dealership. We knew in general you would get a better deal from a private seller, but it sounded stressful to try and figure out everything on our own in a foreign country, so a dealer seemed like a better choice. Unfortunately, we did not have luck with dealerships. We went to a few dealerships in our town. The first one the guy was totally sleezy and dishonest seeming. We asked him about the warranty which dealerships are required to provide in Germany, and he told us it would cost a few hundred euro extra. That coupled with the fact that we found out we'd have to pay 20% extra than the listed price of the car for taxes, made the whole dealership option seem a lot less appealing. We still thought it might work out, and checked out a few other dealerships, but they were selling only very new used cars, and didn't have anything in our price range.

Once we gave up on buying a car at a dealership, we decided to try private seller. After a few scam emails, and tons of email inquiries that didn't receive a response, I started calling people up on the phone. I remember when we moved here people told us; "everyone in Germany speaks English" and "You'll have no trouble getting things done with limited knowledge of the language" Well, I have to say, that may be true as a tourist, or if you're willing to spend a lot of money on everything you do, but in day to day life, that is just not at all true! Not one person I called up about their used car spoke English. After a long run of frustrations and complications, we finally found a car that fit our specifications,was within our price range, and was being sold within Germany (for some reason a lot of people only wanted to sell their car for export). The seller of this car, while kind of sketchy seeming, was willing to deal with us in spite of our sub-par German.

At the end of the day, we ended up buying the car. But it was not easy! We dealt with all kinds of issues from the guy selling it, and then there was all the trouble of insuring and registering the car. However, in the end it has all been worth it. Dylan has gotten to work on the car which he's really enjoyed (from the get go it needed a new battery, oil change, and the drivers side window was not functional), and we have all really, really enjoyed driving it. We drove to bible study and church last weekend which made our Sunday about 100x more relaxing a pleasant. I got to drive to a friends house  yesterday that would have taken me over an hour by bus/train, but was only 13 minutes by car! We've also already made trips to Ikea and and grocery store. It's been so nice.

The car we ended up buying is a 2000 BMW 316 compact (when in Germany...) It's very sporty and cool, but still big enough for all four of us. All four of us are absolutely loving it!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Growing up- part 2

Well, it's taken me a little longer than I initially thought it would, but here's a post all about my sweet little stinker David! He's 2 years and 3 months now, and he is doing all kinds of new things!

He talks- his vocabulary is expanding more and more every day, and he's started putting together two and three word sentences. Some of his favorite phrases, are "No, you" (meaning he wants to be with you, not Daddy, James, the nursery lady, etc.), "mine!"(James insisted I include this lol), "choo (juice) now" (he can be a little bossy), "me,  show pweeeese".

He watches TV- This is a small milestone, but it means he and James enjoy sitting together and watch Busytown while I get a chance to get something done. I even get to shower alone sometimes now!

He's potty trained- We started potty training right before David turned two, and it was seriously so easy. It clicked within two days, and while they're have been a few accidents here and there, he's done a really good job. He hasn't worn diapers in the day or night in over a month!

He has an amazing memory- For a two year old, I think it's impressive. My brother-in-law and nephew were staying in our basement while they were visiting last August, now a couple of times a week he'll go to the basement door and knock on it and call for uncle "b-bwen". He also will tell you all the details of his trip to the doctor a couple months ago. "head, ouch, cah (car), doctah, ban ban, treat!" and apparently that experience was more pleasant than not, because now he's constantly asking to go to the dr. "tum, ow, doctah".

He's brave- he loves going down the super high slide at our local playground. The slide is so high that James is terrified of it and won't go down alone. A couple weeks ago we went to the playground, and after I went down the slide with James a few times, I told him he needed to do it himself if he wanted to keep going down. He was way too scared to go himself, so he asked David if he would go down with him, David was more than happy to comply, and the two of them went down the slide with James hanging on to David's waist, over and over. It was so cute, and David was so proud of himself helping his big brother out!

He adores James- it's so sweet. Not that they don't fight at all, but you can tell he really likes to be around James. Whenever David is home and James is at school, he'll ask me very frequently if it's time to go get James ("James, now?"). When he wakes up in the morning, James is the first one he goes looking for. He'll follow James around happily doing whatever he tells him, for as long as James is willing to play with him.

Undressing himself- He's all over this. It's not always such a good thing, since he's pretty much constantly taking off his clothes and running around the house in his underwear. I can't even tell you how many times I've had to answer the door holding a nearly-naked David!

James helped me write up this list. I think he's pretty proud of his little brother too! David can definitely be a handful, but he's a lot of fun, and it's really fun to watch him grow up and see his little personality develop.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Growing up - part 1

This post and the next one are specifically for those of you back home who are particularly interested in how James and David are changing, and who will enjoy hearing about mundane details in their little lives. So probably about three of you ;-) If your not interested, feel free to skip this one. It will probably include lots of shameless bragging, because I so proud of my little guys, it's kind of hard to contain it at times!

This post is dedicated to James, I promise to come back and talk about David in the next day or so. James is now 3 years and 10 months old. I can't believe how much he's changed in the last few months.  Some of his most recent accomplishments include:

Brushing his own teeth- A dentist came and visited James school about a month ago, and ever since he's been a total teeth brushing pro. He carefully scrubs every tooth, and even spits out the toothpaste and rinses afterwards!

Doing his own baths/showers- I still keep and eye on him in the bath, but he know how to run the water himself, wash himself, and get out and dry himself. It's so cute!

Sitting through 30+ minutes of a chapter book without pictures- not only can he do this, but he enjoys it. It's so fun to read to him!

Responding appropriately to strangers in public- A few months ago James would totally clam up anytime a stranger looked at or spoke to him, but he's really maturing. I was so impressed today, we were riding on the train together, and he dropped his water bottle. A gentleman sitting next to him picked it up for him. I expected him to take it shyly without thanking the man, but instead he took and said very clearly "Danke!" he didn't only realize that he needed to thank the man, but also that since we weren't at home he needed to speak German. This was unexpected for me because he rarely speaks any German to me at all.

Putting himself to bed- This one we're still working on, but yesterday I told him he's growing up now and needs to go lay in his bed by himself for a little while (usually Dylan or I lay with him until he falls asleep, which can be counterproductive), and he went ahead and did and went to sleep without any whining or getting up over and over, such a change from when we tried that 6 months ago.

Changing his clothes- He's fully capable of picking out his own clothes, and undressing and redressing himself.

Entertaining himself- He will seriously entertain himself (and David) for hours and hours coming up with little games to play, adventures to have, etc. It's really awesome. Yesterday they fought bears in the kitchen, and the day before that they went on a camping trip in the living room.

Getting up and getting his own breakfast- Nothing fancy, but on the weekends if Dylan, David and I are sleeping in, he'll go to the kitchen and get himself a bowl of cereal with milk, or a yogurt and banana, and then he'll entertain himself and let us keep sleeping. (this is a new development, I used to always have to wake him up, but for whatever reason he's shifted his schedule a little earlier in the last few weeks)

He's started to be so aware of things- 6 months ago he would tell me people were speaking english to him, that most definitely were not, but now he seems to have a real handle on what it means to be speaking english or german, or spanish (his best friend in Kindergarten is from Mexico). Today we were on the train, and a few seats away were some American women having a conversation. James leaned over to me and whispered, "Mommy, those ladies are speaking ENGLISH."

This list is by no means exhaustive, I'm sure I'll think of a million more things as soon as I post it, but that's probably enough for now. He's really just maturing so much, it's hard to even describe it in a blog post. He never ceases to amaze me!

I'll try to add more photos tomorrow, this one is him "cutting his own hair."






Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Break

I'm not sure exactly what I'm trying to say, so it might come out kind of muddled, but anyway...

This week and next are our Easter break. My class is cancelled, David's kinderpark is closed and James' Kindergarten is half staffed this week and closed next, so I decided to keep him home both weeks. Last year I totally dreaded these weeks of Easter break. The stores are closed a lot (Good Friday, Easter, Easter Monday). With the kids activities cancelled and not a lot of things to do, these times of "break" can feel really lonely and boring. This year however, is quite different. I am so thankful for two weeks off from my class. As much as I like learning German, it's nice to feel like I have a little time to relax, get things done around the house, and spend time with my boys.

Today, I also saw Easter break in a bit of a new light. When I have two weeks off before Christmas, I don't dread that. I fill the time with baking Christmas cookies, planning and wrapping gifts, watching Christmas movies, decorating for Christmas, etc. Why is Easter not like that? As a christian, Easter is equally if not more significant than Christmas. And yet, so far, in our family (Me, Dylan & the Kids), it passes each year, barely noted. We've done ham dinners, and the last few years an easter egg hunt with the kids, but overall, it has not been a holiday we've devoted a lot of time or attention to. Today I decided it's time for that to change. I want to start some Easter traditions as a family that will help point us toward the meaning of Easter. I want to make Easter decorations, and read stories, and watch movies about Easter. Thankfully, with two weeks off from school, I have time to make that happen. Today the boys and I watched a bible story video about the Easter story (not a very good one though, anyone have some suggestions?). James had so many questions for me, and I really enjoyed the chance to discuss with him what we believe and why. I didn't realize he was old enough to have so many questions and so much understanding.

I am so grateful for this time, and I am so looking forward to all the years of celebrating Easter that our family has ahead of us. I'm excited to come up with some traditions that we can look forward to every year, and to spend this time really considering the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and what it means in our lives. We are truly so blessed!

I am still looking for ideas for cool Easter traditions to start, so any of your have suggestions, please share them here or on my Facebook, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stomach flu ;-(

We've been hit by the stomach flu the last two weeks, so I haven't had a lot to post about. David got it first, and so I was home from class last week Tuesday and Thursday, then Friday he was finally better, and I woke up to a text message that my class was cancelled because the teacher was sick! Over the weekend, I was feeling pretty bad, and then Sunday night James woke up covered in vomit! Monday, James stayed home from school, but seemed better by the afternoon. Tuesday morning I got James up and ready for school, and just as I was preparing to send him out the door with Dylan, he threw up his whole breakfast. So I stayed home again from my class yesterday. Today everyone seems to finally be healthy, and hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to resume my class for Thursday and Friday. After Friday we all have two weeks off for Easter break. I'm hoping to find lots of fun stuff to do with the boys so we don't drive each other crazy sitting around the house all day. I'm also praying for good weather, as that always makes a big difference!

Today the weather is absolutely sunny and gorgeous, but it's supposed to be cold again tomorrow and for the foreseeable future.

Ok, sorry for such a boring post, I'll come up with something more interesting for the next one!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Success!?

On Monday we headed into the city with David for our third attempt at applying for our drivers licenses. We won't be completely sure until we actually have our German licenses in hand, but for now I'm calling this third trip a success! It took us an hour on the subway to get to this new Drivers license Amt (what is that called in English? Agency? It seems like all the government type things are called "Amt's"), much to our delight there was no line, and limited paperwork to fill out. The girl helping us spoke some English so we were able to complete the whole process in a kind of English/German conversation. The whole thing took about 20 minutes and 50€. Supposedly we will have be able to go pick up our new licenses in 5-6 weeks. I really can't wait! I think a car will make our lives to much easier for certain things. We attend a small group with our church, which we absolutely love, but the commute for us by train/foot is an hour and a half including 19 agonizing minutes of standing on the train platform because we miss our connection by a minute! With a car we'll be able to get to small group in less than a half hour, and we won't have to endure the end of the day, cranky, tired, David  on our trip home from church on Sunday nights!

My German class continues to go well. I feel like I'm really getting better at understanding German all the time, and I'm even able to make some complete sentences when I'm feeling really brave. This week I wrote numerous emails in German with only a tiny bit of help from google translate (for translating words I don't know, I've found google translate to be worthless for questions of grammar/sentence structure.) On Wednesday a gentleman from our church came over for dinner, and we spent a good 10-15 minutes having a conversation in German which was great. I'm trying to be more confident and just go for it with speaking, because when I do it's like I can feel my self getting better by the minute. It's one thing to know how to say stuff in your head, but you have to say it out loud a lot of times before it starts coming out the way you want it to. I still have a loooong way to go though. I tried to talk to the non-english speaking teacher at James' kindergarten this week, and I told her a gift we had given her was for "his baby" (sein Baby) instead of "your baby" (ihr Baby) sigh, it's not that I don't know the correct word, it's just in the moment I get all flustered and the wrong stuff comes out! The whole formal/informal thing always really messes me up. I know I'm not supposed to use informal with James' teachers, but I never practice the formal, so I end up using the completely wrong form! Luckily they're generally patient and forgiving, but still, it's frustrating. It gives me a little window into what things must be like for David.

Speaking of David, he's talking so much now. It's adorable. He still doesn't speak in sentences, but he'll string all these words together with lots of "filler" in between, kind of like a cross between grunting and saying um. Last week he fell at the Kinderpark (first big accident we've had, stressful!!) and cut his head open so one of his teachers drove us to the local Doctor. We were afraid he'd need stitches, but luckily just a few butterfly strips was sufficient. Anyway, now if you ask him about his head he'll say. Uh, uh, uh, head, uh, uh, uh, ouch, uh, uh, cah, uh, uh, uh, doctah, uh, uh, ban-ban (bandaid). I can't really give it justice in writing, but it's really adorable. Anyway, I can relate, I think that's kind of what I sound like in German, so I bet he's got all kinds of perfectly formed well thought out sentences floating around in his little head!

James continues to do well at kindergarten. A new boy started in the new year, and they've become fast friends. I'm really glad, because before that James mostly had only older, girl friends at school. His new friend is from Mexico and at the moment speaks no German or English, so they have no common language at all, but they still seem to love playing together! I'm not sure their friendship is the best for James' German development, but I'm really glad he has a friend, and the mother of his friend speaks English, so I've really enjoyed getting to know her! 

As long as I'm updating on everyone, I may as well do Dylan too! He's doing really well. Things seem to be ticking right along at work, which is great. He's working longish hours, but nothing ridiculous, and he still has lots of time for the kids, and they really enjoy him. James and David both come running to the door every evening when they hear Dylan's keys turn in the lock. 

We really can't complain about much these days, God is blessing us richly, and we are thankful for his presence in our lives!

Friday, February 15, 2013

What a difference a year makes

A year ago we had just arrived in Munich and were frantically trying to get everything sorted out to become residents here. We had to register with the police a few days after arriving, and had to apply for our residence permits (like our visa) a few weeks after arriving. With our limited German skills, this was all very intimidating and difficult. Filling out paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy is pretty unpleasant in your own country, in your own language, so being here really magnified that discomfort.

Yesterday Dylan and I went in to Munich to try and get German drivers licenses. While still not our favorite sort of thing to do by any means, it is so much easier now than just one short year ago! We joked about how last year we would ask people if they spoke english, and they would respond with something like "no, but have a seat, my colleague will be right with you" (in German) and then we would leave dejected, because we had only understood the "No".  I'm not sure that scenario exactly ever happened, but it's not too far off from reality. I can't even tell you how many phone calls I just ended up hanging up on the person because they didn't speak English, and I just didn't have the German skills to communicate anything at all! Now we're able to do most of our communication in some version of German, and I make phone calls all the time. It's not that we're fluent in German by any means, but we know enough to be able to accomplish basic tasks, and that makes life so much easier!

We didn't complete the process of switching our licenses yesterday, because we first had to get an official translation of our Colorado licenses done, and that takes a couple days. But I was able to call the DMV-equivalent and make sure I know what all we need to bring with us, and with any luck we'll be able to complete the process of Monday.

A year of living here hasn't just made communicating easier either. James is in kindergarten now, which means we don't have to take two kids with us every time we do errands, and that honestly makes things a lot easier. David has gotten so used to riding the U-bahn (subway) with me to and from class, that he's hardly any trouble at all so long as he's well fed and rested! Actually he's pretty adorable pointing out the window while we're above ground and naming all the things he sees. "Cah", "bus", "chrain", "Shnow"! He also loves to read books and scribble on paper, so we can get through a half hour on the train without too much trouble at all.

We're also starting to make friends, which makes a huge difference with how settled we feel in general. We've made some good friends through church, and with some of our neighbors and people from James' kindergarten, so it doesn't feel nearly as lonely as it did when we first moved here. I still don't feel even close to as settled, and at home as I felt in Boulder, but it's a lot better than it was. And I guess we lived in Boulder for 7 years, and Colorado our whole lives to get to feeling that well settled! I can really see how God's hand has been on us this last year, and I'm really thankful for how far he has brought us!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Break!

My German class + two little boys have been keeping me so busy, I haven't felt like I've had time to blog. This week I have the week off for Fasching (i.e.. Carnival, Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and all that stuff), so I'm finally getting a break! James still has Kindergarten Wednesday-Friday this week, so David and I are getting to spend lots of time together. It's been cold and snowy outside so most of our time spent together has been indoors. This bad weather reminds me once again how grateful I am for this apartment. A year ago we were still in the terrible blue apartment with the spiral staircase, and days spent inside because of cold weather were just miserable!

My German class has finally started to go pretty well. After about 2 weeks of tears, David decided he was totally happy in his little class, and he leaves me every morning without any fuss at all. I've even stopped sending him in pull-ups, and he'll use the toilet for his teachers. I find the class to move a little slower than would be my preference, but it's actually really good because it means I don't have to do a lot of studying at home, and I don't find myself having a hard time keeping up. I still do try to study at home, but helps to not feel like I have to or risk falling behind.

It's very interesting though, learning a new language. I probably speak the worst, or close to the worst of anyone in my class, my vocabulary isn't very good, and I'm just not that comfortable rattling off sentences. However, when it comes to being able to learn the material we're given, I'm definitely near the top of the class. I usually don't make a lot of mistakes on assignments and tests, and usually get the answers right when the teacher asks a question. Often my classmates don't really seem to understand at all what we're supposed to be learning. And yet, when they're relaxed and chatting with each other, they do really well. I'm hoping that in the long run, this will pay off for me, and I'll eventually be able to speak German fairly well, and have a good concept of the grammar rules. I also think I'll have an easier time taking the test at the end of the course, since in general I seem to have an easier time with tests and assignments. However, in the short run, my general ability to communicate is definitely not as good, and that can be frustrating.

We've made a big decision in the last few weeks. As much as we enjoy riding the subway everywhere and the freedoms that come with that, we really miss our car, and the freedom that comes with being able to drive wherever you want to go. We've decided to pursue buying a used car, with the idea that we can sell it in a few years when we leave without loosing too much money in the process. Tomorrow we're planning to head in to Munich to see about trading our drivers licenses for German ones. As Coloradan's, we're lucky that we get to just trade our licenses rather than having to endure expensive tests and driving classes that people from some states have to deal with.

We've been around the house a lot lately because of snow and cold weather, so we've been doing lots of "projects." Here are some pictures the boys playing with bath-tub paint and homemade play-doh!

Snow on the mailbox!

Bath paints

They had such a ball with this!

James requested orange and "teal" play-doh