KathyBou’s Blog

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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

No more living like Harry Potter

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I don’t know if it will be the last time that we sleep under the stairs, but I’m kinda thinking the odds of it happening again are slim.

Written by Kat

September 19, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Fun, Life, Travel

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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!

Written by Kat

September 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Definitely summer

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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.

Outside Harrod's

Looking at The Thames

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.

Written by Kat

July 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

Should we stay or should we go?

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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?

Written by Kat

April 19, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore

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A bookstore in a church.  An 800 year old Dominican church.  I wanted to see it.

And it happens to be nearby in Maastricht, The Netherlands, which we drive to often because it has an English movie theater  and an Argentinian steak house.  For some reason I still hadn’t seen it even though we’ve walked very near it at least a few times.  D and his sister stumbled upon it last September and in January we found it again.  It’s only a block off the city plaza:

The building itself isn’t so very big, but it is tall, so the designers created space upward.  The nave of the old church now holds three levels of steel bookshelves and aisles, all without changing the original building structure.   Its conversion to a bookstore makes for an interesting mix of old and new:

There is a cafe and a children’s book section at the back.   I was happy to find a selection of English books.

I did a little reading and it turns out this building hasn’t served as a church for a long time.  For anyone who hasn’t seen so much of Europe – there are so many churches that it’s not so crazy that they aren’t all being used.  It was busy on the Saturday afternoon we visited so I’m guessing business is good.  If the building isn’t being used for its original purpose, a place filled with people and books isn’t such a bad fate.

Written by Kat

March 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

Posted in Books, Fun, Travel

Tagged with , ,

January 11, 2010

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Oh where to begin?

I’ve had so many things that I’ve thought about writing about in the past few weeks but geez, it’s not easy to find time.  I have time during the day, but not so many minutes consecutively, the past week anyway.  And I’ve been cleaning and doing extra vacation laundry along with the usual baby routine.

The usual baby routine is a bit misleading to say because well, if something happens for 3 days in a row, it seems like a new routine, but the truth is, things change really fast regarding what she doing, how she reacts, what she is interested in.  Some things stay the same – the usual routine does involve D and I feeding, entertaining, playing, and giggling with her, and alternately, trying to do none of the above when she wakes us up at 2:30 a.m.

We had a great Christmas at home.  It was low key and fun.  Then we went and had a great time with D’s parents in France.  We were in the 15ème arrondissement of Paris, near Gare Montparnasse.  It’s mostly residential there, and we mostly stayed in and visited, and ate, and rested.  We searched around until we found a nice grocery and a good place to buy bread (baguettes!!).  The apartment was awesome – two bedrooms, two baths.. clean, big kitchen..  The only thing I can think of to add would be a bigger tv and a hot tub.

It’s been cold around here, and snowing, and not warming up at all.  Which I’m fairly sure is abnormal for this part of Germany.  I’m fairly sure it’s abnormal because I didn’t see anything like this in the last two years (not much reference I know), but also because they really aren’t cleaning the streets here, or the sidewalks.  I had to push the stroller through 3 inches of smooshy, dirty snow most of the way to baby A’s doctor’s appointment this afternoon.  Yech!  And I forgot my gloves (brilliant!).

Our little sack of potatoes was exactly 7.00 kg today (or 15.4 lbs) and turned 4 months old yesterday – go Baby A!  She also woke up at 3 a.m. last night when I coughed and didn’t go back to sleep for the next 2 hours. Yay-ehh..

I’m throwing this theme-less post up because it’s late and I’m tired.  Pictures next time! Happy 2010!

Written by Kat

January 11, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Christmas in Germany,

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New Year’s in Paris.

That is the latest plan for the holidays, and maybe the 4 or 5th iteration of  this year’s Christmas agenda.  We don’t have all the details yet;  D and his mother are working on this.   As far as I know, the tickets are bought but the hotel/apartment is not yet secured.   Our parents are very anxious to see their first grandbaby, thus all the last minute changes and drastic measures.

Notre Dame de Paris, last September

We picked Paris because of the non-stop flights there from Quebec, and well, it’s a nice place to visit. And it’s only a 4 hour drive for us.  We’ll mostly be skipping the Parisian restaurants this year, so we need to get a place with a kitchen so we can cook and eat together.

As such, I’ve been trying to get baby A to enjoy walking around with me in the Ergo baby carrier, in hopes we can use it for this trip.  Up to recently she wasn’t having it AT all, but she’s a better size for it now, and is tolerating it more and more.

It’s not as good as being back to see everyone but we are excited!

Written by Kat

December 13, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Report of Birth Abroad

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This week we made the trek to the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt to submit the paperwork to get little A’s USA citizenship and passport.   We, the baby and both parents, had to be present, along with a bunch of forms.  When I called to schedule our appointment, the next opening was 2 weeks out, and they sent us a checklist of documents to have ready:

  • Application for Consular Report of Birth
  • Child’s German Birth Certificate
  • Parents’ passports
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Divorce decree/Death certificate, if applicable
  • If the child’s father is a U.S. citizen who is not listed on the birth certificate, an affidavit of parentage form, if applicable
  • Evidence documents that establish the US parent’s physical presence in the U.S. before the child’s birth (school transcripts, wage statements, bills, etc…)
  • Cash or credit card, $170 USD
  • Passport application
  • Two identical passport photographs
  • A self-addressed, German Registered Mail envelope with €3.60 in stamps
  • Social security card application

Rounding up all the documentation we needed was straightforward, though it did take a few trips at the post office to get the prepaid registered mailing envelope with the correct labels and postage. Getting the passport photo was the hardest part, but that was mostly because we first tried to do it ourselves.  We didn’t try this to save money but rather to save a trip with baby to a photographer.   Who knew getting a clear shot of a newborn, with both ears showing, against a white background with no shadows could take so much effort.  We ended up at the photo shop finally, with I’d wager, one of the least polite people we’ve met since we moved here.  Grunting, scowling, impatient, sarcastic… wow.   He did get the job done though, so we were relieved anyway.

So on Wednesday morning we got up extra early and headed to Frankfurt.  Traveling with the baby is still a daunting prospect for us, so we were not exactly thrilled by the idea of a 2.5 hr drive x2, followed by who knows what, once we arrived.

The time at the consulate turned out fine.  After we got through security, we received a ticket that was almost immediately called. Our paperwork was complete so we only had to pay, and then to wait again to see an officer.  He looked at the baby, reviewed the forms again and then got us both to sign in front of him.  We stopped by the Federal benefits desk to drop off the social security number application, and then headed home again.

One less to-do!

Written by Kat

October 23, 2009 at 10:27 am

Weekend, 36 weeks

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Friday, August 7th:

It’s 5 a.m.  I’m eating cereal because it’s more appealing than trying to go back to bed.

D’s and my sleep schedule are all out of whack because we’ve been working nights for the past two weeks.  Today he had to catch an early flight, so yes, attempting to sleep last night remained mostly just an attempt for both of us.  To clarify, since my last post said I was on leave – D’s work has been official, whereas my time, at least last week, was divided between wrapping up a few work things and studying for my German driver’s license test.  Oh, and time hunting for used cars online, pondering baby names, and  making frequent trips to the bathroom.

Will having a baby, instead of a project, being the source of  sleep schedule chaos really be so different?

It worked out perfectly we were back here Friday, because I got mail!  Books from Amazon.co.uk AND my dear mother packed up and shipped us a box of things we didn’t have time to buy state side:

Saturday, August 8th:

Busy with car shopping, cleaning, and watching season 5 of The Office.  And again I didn’t get around to finishing the post.

Anyone else find car shopping exhausting?

Three times now we’ve had cars that have gotten sold before we could either see them for the first time, or before we could return to the dealership for a test drive.

And so far the German car buying experience is much different than the US – you know, where you almost cannot leave the lot without a new vehicle, and if you do happen to escape you will get friendly (overbearing) calls from the sales person for the next 3 weeks.  Here, we’ve had to go find a sales person and then sometimes reschedule to come back so they can have the car prepared for a test drive, and when we’ve arrived to a lot near quitting time (2 p.m. on Saturday), they reminded us of this fact at least 3 times.  Yep, I think it’s safe to guess they don’t get paid on commission.

Sunday, August 9th:

We’re traveling again today.  We should be back in town on Wednesday night so I can go to my weekly midwife appointment on Thursday.  At the appointment last Thursday we filled out the hospital’s preregistration forms and did a CTG, short for cardiotocography, which is equipment they use to measure the fetal heartbeat and any contractions I may be having.  The monitor creates a graph that resembles a seismograph.  So far I’ve not seen what a contraction looks like so I guess I’m not having them too much yet, but the baby’s heartbeat does vary, which we’ve been told is good and normal and corresponding to being asleep or awake.

Written by Kat

August 9, 2009 at 9:53 am

Another castle, Bückeburg

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D and I were both working in Bückeburg for a few days in May.  D spends ALOT of time there lately for work, but since we both were there together, we took a little time one morning to see the castle.

So now that I’ve learned burg is German for castle I’m expecting every city ending with a -burg to have an associated castle.  I’ve been told by one of my German coworkers that this is not entirely true.  And that sometimes the burgs have been destroyed.  Bückeburg at least, fits the pattern. Here are some photos:

The burg, view 1

The burg, view 1

The burg, view 2

The burg, view 2

Waving hello

Waving hello

Modeling the baby bump

Modeling the baby bump

Friday morning market

Friday morning market

Written by Kat

July 12, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Fun, germany, Travel