Archive for the ‘germany’ Category
She’s 19 months as I write this but we had a doctor’s appointment just in time for her 18th month birthday so here’s her stats:
12.1 kg (~26.7 lbs.)
87.1 cms (34.3 inches)
I’ve officially been in Europe too long – I know my the family’s weights in kilograms, the weather in Celsius, and all children’s clothing is based on height in centimeters, so I know these too.
Spring/summer finally sprang into being in March and April was so beautiful overall. A complete 180 degree change from February which was non-stop gray. Little A loves to play in the backyard with her tricycle, on the swing, and with whatever else catches her fancy… rocks, her watering can, frisbee, balls. She points out every airplane or helicopter that flies overhead. First she hears it, then she looks, then she shows me or D.
So lately we spend most afternoons outside, and most weeknights too, when we get back from the day mother’s. Our apartment has quite a few children and I often invite them into our part of the yard to do the activity du jour. Today it was finger paint. One boy who is almost 3 came over and I was trying very hard to keep his fingers off his pants…
Little A still loves tomatoes and most other vegetables. She also like chicken (preferably dark meat if given the option), and lasagna, and ketchup. For dessert she likes strawberries and raspberries and yogurt. And she rarely says no to at least a bite of something chocolatey.
She talks in her own little language, and says about 5 intelligible words consistently. The bottle of milk she gets in the morning and at night is called “Bah”. She generally likes going to bed for naps and at night – she’s tired, we can completely understand and appreciate this.
So, what has happened since err, umm.. November? First place to look is at my photos folder, which, at the moment is in a terrible disarray. Sigh..
[… Scanning thumbnails … ] Right, Christmas, let’s start there. The holidays were fun, despite this being the second year that we stay in Europe for Christmas. It’s the hardest time of year to be expats, away from family and friends we love and miss. But hey, we had some crazy snow.
Me and Little A in the backyard.
Big D and Little A, my darlings:
At one point D tried to use electrical wire to pull her “sled” but this was slightly disastrous. We just pushed/pulled instead. Okay, fine, D pushed, I took pictures…
This is the first year that we bought a Christmas tree (and a mini tree and a wreath and ornaments and lights).
Little A visited Santa, at our gym, but sadly, there was no cardboard tree.
Christmas morning, with new boots from Grandma, and new toys.
It gave our spirits a boost when D’s parents came just after Christmas. They caught a cold on the plane (of course), and it made it’s way around to all of us during the following week, yuck!
So we stayed in… took naps, visited, cooked. Little A loved the attention, and the time with two of her important people. She was saying Grand-maman, though it sounded more like “Grah-MAMA!”
This photo says it all:
I’ve always liked September. It’s a good month. And since both the boy and the baby are Virgos, it has become an even bigger month.
This particular September though, is chasing D and me around in circles. Just one thing after another, you know how those things go. This post for example has been a draft for about a week now.
We spent a good part of D’s birthday at the new apartment, getting paint on old clothes, and the walls – Happy Birthday!
I didn’t suggest it though, he did, so it’s not so terrible. And we did do proper celebrating later.
We‘re moving moved Saturday (yesterday) if all goes well, and it went pretty well. One of our friends came over to help move the big stuff and my other friends watched baby A all day, which was a relief.
Baby A has been moody all day today, while we have been unloading/cleaning/discussing what to do with this and that. You would think she would be in heaven with so much lying around for her to inspect. But I guess it’s a little too much for her at the moment. She finally fell asleep just now for a nap. Right now D is at IKEA, getting random various things we need.
The kitchen, that we bought from the old owners, is our problem area right now. There is no hot water in there, and the faucet doesn’t properly shut off. On the oven, which was also part of the “deal” from the old owners, the temperature dial has no temperature indications anymore (we already decided we are buying a new oven/cooktop). On the bright side, the refrigerator that we bought new is very nice! Go figure.
Okay, back at it, while I still have a sleeping baby!
I thought we’d stay in this apartment until we left Europe, and then we’d have this story to tell over and over about how we lived, and even had our first born, all in this tiny 55 sq. meter (~590 sq. feet) apartment in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
Hah, we’ll keep that story to tell. And to the kids, how we biked to work everyday, uphill both ways. Hehe.
Finding a new place took a l-o-n-g time. Last month we finally found one that fit most of our (not so crazy) criteria, but I figured we wouldn’t get it, because we’ve been looking for forever with no luck… But then we got it. And the property manager was even nice and seemed to like our internationality. Crazy.
There was still some hesitation on our side because we were waiting on some news from work. In the end we took the risk and signed anyway, and what do you know, things at the office seem to be going the way we wanted. I’m stunned.
So I guess it’s really happening. Of course now that I know we are moving I’m getting a little sentimental about leaving this place. Not enough to want to stay cramped up in here any longer, but still.
And I just found out how old the building actually is. We knew it was old, you can tell just by looking at it:
But also, once in a while we see a tour, led by a man or woman with a cloak and a lantern, one of those historical deals, and they always stop in our courtyard and talk (I’m assuming) about the history of this apartment complex. It’s in German so we haven’t ever taken the tour, but this building is special or old or both. Anyway, I just found out, that the big numbers we mistook for old apartment numbers, these:
are actually the date for the building: 1873, fancy that!
We’ve been mentally preparing to pack, but not packing yet because, honestly, we don’t have space to pile boxes. The new place isn’t overly large but it is roughly double what we have now. I see at least one trip to IKEA in the near future.
It’s been hot here. Sweat in your underwear doing nothing hot. And since there is no air conditioning to be found (even in retail shops), we’ve been doing a lot of hiding in the shade. And eating watermelon.
Germany, in May, means lots of time off in the form of holidays, most of them being religious. I’m not sure if this was engineered, or just happened, but it’s rather ridiculous. We ended up having two 4-day weekends and one 3-day weekend within the span of a month.
During one of our long weekends, we went to London. It was our first time, and our first hotel trip with baby. It was amazing how much we packed (for her) for a short 3 night stay. Still, it worked out well and we really liked London. It was beautiful, the food was great (contrary to popular opinion), and there were lots of green spaces to visit. And our hotel had a doorman with a top hat! We managed to see a lot during our short stay, even with a baby-on-board, and I would definitely go back to see more.
Last week we returned from a big trip home to see family. Nine month-old Baby A got see alot of different family and friends for the first time. It feels like the trip was mostly that – time with family. D and I missed some of our old haunts, but hopefully next trip will be a little more relaxed. The flights were okay, all things considered. The plane home was the hardest, it was an overnight flight, and Baby A had a hard time falling/staying asleep. So none of us slept and then we had a 2 hour drive to get home, and the next three days were all out of whack. We found out around then that she is also teething again too. More fun! She has 8 teeth and is working on 1 or more molars now. Poor little petite.
PEKiP, otherwise known as “the naked baby playgroup”.
During one of Chicken Little’s first play dates, one of the mothers said she had enrolled her baby in a PEKiP class. Where in her words, the babies all get together naked on the floor and “go wild”. I must admit, my first reaction was in the range of “what?! why?!” I mean, they invented diapers for obvious and tidy reasons. I really like hanging out with this mom, but she fits more the “free spirit” parenting style category, whereas D and I are still solidly “by the book”.
But then we were finishing up our physical therapy sessions and the doctor said PEKiP would be good for little A. Even though she’s now advanced for her age, the doctor said “it’s good for her to see what the older babies do.” Two endorsements for PEKiP in less than 2 weeks, and one by a medical professional. Hmmm… Let’s try it.
We arrived with some trepidation (on my side) on Monday morning. I paid for the class and left the stroller at the door. Upstairs, the room was set up very similar to any childcare room. Exercise mats covering the whole floor, toys piled in one corner. There was a large plastic mat in the center of the room and some space heaters in the corner making the room quite warm. After we worked out that yes, I was the English speaker with the bad German, and said hello to everyone, we waited another 5 minutes and then the class began.
First off we get the babies naked and then each was given a beach ball to stand/lay over, stomach to the ball, and facing each other in a circle. The instructor said this was so the babies could see and touch each other as they wanted, and at a distance they felt comfortable. I’m not convinced babies this age really have the proper body-to-ball coordination, but okay. At this point I find out that the instructor has her own “baby”, a doll, that joins in on the activities too. Then we sing a song that goes “Guten Tag, something something, Guten Tag” and roll call’s all the mamas and babies in the room (oh yes, the doll has a name too).
Next up, the babies move over to a set of hexagonal-shaped platformed cushions, made of soft (waterproof) material and at varying heights. Perfect for climbing. The babies love this. I was happy that baby A got right in there. And then the instructor brought out two shallow tubs of plastic balls. Another hit.
Towards the end we put on diapers and held the babies in our arms to dip and sway for a song. Then we listened to other music on the floor and played with sheer, colorful scarves, while re-dressing the little ones.
I think 4 out of the 6 peed on the floor at some point during the 90 minute session. You wipe it up with your own towel, and then wash the area with some soap and water they provide. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined. All those baby cheeks were cute but I didn’t want to offend anyone by whipping out my camera, especially one our first day.
This class could be done fully clothed. So why naked? From what I have read, it is for better motor development and a more sensory experience. And just as valid a question, why not naked? Once you have everything waterproofed, a bunch of naked babies playing together sounds like fun (and it is).
More information about PEKiP can be found here.
Or perhaps more fitting:
Should we stay longer or should we go sooner?
I couldn’t count how many times we’ve asked this question. Or the number of tangents explored while trying to answer it.
We considered it carefully before baby A was born last September. Our original work contract and permit were finishing in April.
– Did we want to have our baby abroad?
– Could we handle birth classes and labor and delivery without speaking much of the native language?
Our other friends from Montreal that are also here had drove to Belgium, where they speak French, to have the baby there. And we wouldn’t have much help if we stayed here – no grandparents to babysit or cook us dinner or do laundry.
In the end we decided it made the most sense to stay – considering the excellent parental leave benefits in Germany, and the fact that securing jobs/insurance, a good doctor, a house, and a trans-Atlantic move, in such a short period of time was asking for trouble. Or at very least stress which didn’t seem worth it.
But here we are, April +1, and again, facing the same question. D takes his second month of parental leave this June (2 months fully paid for the father) and my year of leave finishes this September.
Are we ready to end this Expat adventure?
We both know that life doesn’t end with babies (I wasn’t as sure of this during the first two months post birth), but it does change (mostly for the better). And once this one, and who knows maybe another one, are in school, we won’t be wanting to traipse here and there all the time. Probably.
And I won’t even get into the job market/salary comparison/quality of living/culture/exchange-rate discussions here. Or of how sick we are of our small, worn out couch. Or about the growing pile of baby STUFF that keeps getting bigger by the month, stuff we’re probably going to want to ship with us wherever we go next.
I’m in discussions to maybe work part-time from home, which I think may be possible after September too, but we have other immediate concerns – space. We need a bigger apartment, with a child’s bedroom, but haven’t found one yet. In Germany you only need to give 3 months notice (no yearly leases), but still, do we do a small move now or just hold out for the big one?