20 April 2012

OMG, Hilarious!!

I need to tell you all something that happened on our way home from this place. Before I begin let me just remind you it was a long day and I was tired.

We stopped in McDonalds (don't judge) for a quick dinner. My husband wanted me to order for everyone. I do so and the guy pretends not to hear me. Really, I didn't believe this. I was speaking very loudly after the first attempt. So, what do I do? Absolutely refuse to speak German to him. Cheeseburger=Cheeseburger. By the time we get to the window I am busting up laughing at my behavior. We pay and are instructed to go to the next window. While waiting my oldest says, 'Mom, be careful. They smell fear.' WTF? Where in the world did this come from. So, at the next window I was again laughing. These people probably think I'm a fruit!!

18 April 2012

What Are These Guys Thinking?!?!

Sorry, no wordless Wednesday. I need words today. What are these guys thinking? Everyday I see these people and freak out. At least the first 3 days :)

16 April 2012

NINJAGO!


Have you not heard of Ninjago? Really? You must not have little boys running around your house. Well, they are these little Asian lego guys that spin on these top-like things. And like most brands that want to suck parents dry of their $$ there is also some sort of card game that goes with it. Don't forget to buy: weapons, more little people, more cards, booster packs, a plastic 'ring', the carrying case and who knows what else. It's very similar to the recent fad of Bakugan. Yes, I have stopped caring about this stuff. Legos are freaking expensive!

Friday night we decided to go to Legoland on Saturday. Both my boys are thoroughly enthralled with Ninjago, so I knew this would be a homerun. And it was. The actual Ninjago area was less than impressive. It just wasn't as great as the website led me to believe. There was one ride for kids 120 cm and above, and a playground. Thankfully the little person was happy at the playground while I took the giant on the ride.

Let me give you a little hint about having a lot of kids. Getting things done takes forever. For.Ever. Because of this we were only able to get through half the park. It really worked out well. My husband took the oldest on some rides while I hung out with the little people. Everyone got to do what they wanted. My youngest son is 4 and about 100 cms. There was only a handful of rides that he couldn't go on. He was totally ok with this until he couldn't go on the dragon roller coaster. A trip back to the Ninjago playground solved the hurt. Ahh redirection. It's nice while it still works :)

By far the best part of the park was the Hipp Baby Center. Hipp is a brand of baby stuff similar to Huggies; except Hipp has food too. Ok. Firstly, it's right at  a large playground. The center has lots of windows so you can see your family while you feed your baby. Anything that you might need for a baby they sell: food, nappies, wipes, bottles, spoons, etc. There was a comfortable, warm nursing area too. I was so thankful to find this. The baby and I are quietly nursing for a while and then the unexpected happened. The attendant came and asked if I needed anything and if I wanted a cup of still tea. What? Actual customer service. I didn't even buy anything. I wished I had liked still tea just to take advantage of the hospitality. As the mother of a baby I was thankful that there was a place we could go while my family still got to enjoy the park.

If you go:
Legoland Deutschland
Wilhelm-Maybach-strasse, 89312 Günzburg, Bayern, Deutschland (just past Ulm)
Open until 4 Nov, 10-6, some days have later times
Tickets are 38E for adults and 34E for kids 3-11
Season passes are 59E. There is a deal where you get 4 for the price of 3. Adults/kids are the same    price.
You can bring food and drinks in. Meals in the park will be expensive.
Shop early. Don't wait. Once the rides close (1hr early) the store is a mad house.

15 April 2012

Language School


During March  I was able to take German classes at the Heidelberger Paedagogium. It was a refreshing experience. I thought I would walk in to a bunch of English speakers. However, this was far from the reality. There was one Australian and the other 10ish were from Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Chile, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, Italy and Estonia. We divided ourselves into Spanish speakers and then everyone else. For the most part I sat with the Turkish guy. In German, we talked about the NBA. A lot. It was so nice to be able to speak to and understand people that I would normally not be able to communicate with.

Germans capitalize nouns. All of them. Don't they know this is weird? We're cruising along learning different forms of the present tense, the different articles, lots of vocab, split verbs and then the big whammy: some verbs have more than one form. What? So confusing, at first. The only thing about being in a class like this was that there wasn't as much conversation as needed. My solution: there are a couple guys at work that I speak mostly in German to. One happens to the the computer tech, and he's unforgiving. Ich habe eine probleme. (not clue it that is spelled right)

Before I took this class I bought a copy of  The Hunchback of Notre Dame byVictor Hugo. I gave myself until we move back to the US to be able to read it. Now, we're going home a lot sooner than I planned/would like. Must do tomorrow: sign up for the next round of classes that begin next week!!

08 April 2012

Viernheim - Yang Yang

I was able to do the near impossible: get my husband out to a Chinese restaurant. We went to Yang-Yang in Viernheim. It's a bit of a drive, but the food is okay. I had been there once before on my lunch break and it was packed with GIs. I suppose it's b/c Chinese is basically the same in both countries. I like this place b/c it has one of those grills where you chose your own food to be cooked. You can choose all the veggies to be stir-fried with out the noodles! I seriously doubt real Chinese people use spaghetti.

You can either order off the menu ( a little pricey), or have the buffet to include the grill. We've already covered spaghetti, but the veggies were frozen! I had expected fresh. The rest had typical stuff: rice, noodles, meat dishes with sauce, egg rolls, fries and chicken wings. I had always assumed that the latter was always to appease unappreciating American pallets. There seem to be German ones as well. I had stir fried veggies, an egg roll and wonton soup. All were very good choices!

If you go:
Yang-Yang
Schwetzinger Straße 7
68519 Viernheim
 
Lunch Buffet: 7, 90 E
Dinner Buffet: 13, 90E
Menu prices are 10-15 E pp + drinks
 
 

29 March 2012

Are you a Bread Person?

When I lived in the US I could never eat a piece of bread and live a happy life. And then I moved here. There are bakeries on every corner. I'll have to remember to bring a camera to take a few snaps for ya'll. Anyway, I love to get loaves of bread at the bakery, but I'm not sure how to keep them the freshest at home until it's all eaten. I found this at Real.
It's just a simple ceramic pot with holes for breathing. It's also dishwasher safe. Have you used something like this? Do you have any advise for keeping bread fresh? Please help!!! Thanks, you rock!

24 March 2012

A to Z

A is for age: 29 
B is for breakfast today: Half a grapefruit
C is for currently craving: A good glass of wine. Yum.
D is for dinner tonight: Hot dogs and mac n cheese. Classic American.
E is for favorite type of exercise: Cycling. It's definitely time to get back to spin class. 
F is for an irrational fear: Snakes. About 3 months after we bought our house we found a baby copperhead near the patio. I was seriously ready to pack up and move on base.
G is for gross food: Well, the healthier that you eat the less I 'like' the processed junk that were once staples. Like hot dogs and mac n cheese.
H is for hometown: Lake Charles, Louisiana, USA
I is for something important: Being the person I want to be and not the person other people tell me I should be. 
J is for current favourite jam: There is this catchy Portuguese song all over the radio here. And Godsmack, Drowning Pool and Metallic. There is a possibility that I have already scarred my children.
K is for kids: Yes, 3. They are 9, 4 and 6 months. They each are so different, sweet and present different challenges.
L is for current location: At home in Heidelberg, Germany. 
M is for the most recent way you spent money: Today I bought a few things for my 9 y o's bday party next weekend :)
N is for something you need: I need to figure out this mid-life crisis thing.
O is for occupation: Depends on who’s asking :) Wife, mother and in a few days I will once again be working in logistics.  
P is for pet peeve:  When someone gives you their word and then lets you down. When others judge you because you've made choices that are contray to theirs.
Q is for a quote: Work smarter not harder.
R is for random fact about you: I have a black belt in Tae kwan do. 
S is for favourite healthy snack: Almonds
T is for favourite treat: Starbucks with friends.
U is for something that makes you unique: I think I have a great sense of direction. Driving somewhere new with my husband is just painful. 
V is for favourite vegetable: Green beans, hands down.
W is for today’s workout: A nice leisurely bike ride.
X is for X-rays you’ve had: I broke my finger once. 
Y is for yesterday’s highlight: Girls' night! 
Z is for your time zone: At this very second it is Central European time (GMT +1). In about 3 hours it will be Central European Summer Time (GMT + 2).

21 March 2012

Wordless Wednesdays: A Smooth Ride

Heidelberg Zoo

Wow. It seems that we have been crazy busy for these last few weeks. Mostly good stuff! Last week we found ourselves with an afternoon of unscheduled time. What to do? The Heidelberg Zoo! We've visited before, years ago, and I remember it being small and cozy. This go round it was still small and cozy, but the exhibits (most) have English. Let me give you the details first:

If you go:
Heidelberg Zoo
Tiergartenstraße 3
69120 Heidelberg
(well marked with signage from A656 and the downtown area. near the University hospital)

Opening Hours:
March: 9-1800
April-September 9-1900
October 9-1800
November-February 9-1700
open 365 days a year

Prices:
Adults 8.20, kids (3-18) 4.10, Family with 1 adult and up to 4 kids 14.40, Family with 2 adults and up to 4 kids 22.60.
Yearly passes for a family with 2 adults and all kids up to 18 is 82 Euros.

It can be insanely difficult to get a large family moving, so we got there at about 3 pm. Since it was so late I knew that we wouldn't get to enjoy the zoo as much as I wanted for the amt of money it cost. The only recourse: buying a year pass. We will definitely get our money's worth out of it. I envision lazy afternoon bike rides that end at the zoo, seeing the animals and a long time at the playground. :) If you're traveling by car there is plenty of parking across the street and a parkhaus is being built for zoo visitors.
On the right side of the entrance is a bear and wolf area. European fashion to have one before you enter the zoo? I've seen this in Tennessee too. Unfortunately the bears didn't get the memo to smile as I was unable to get a good pic of them. I thought it was cute to have red foxes in there too. I think there was a family of 4 living there. Inside there are typical zooish animals: zebra, elephants, seals, monkeys, turtles, cats, birds, donkeys. I have to say that my favorites were these guys:
Aren't they super cute? I'm convinced I'm going to have a farm later in life. Maybe not! Anyway, the zoo is easy to traverse, and is sure to bring smiles to your faces. Seriously, my husband was talking to the turkey. And then my 4 year old thought he was too. Absolutely hilarious. I wish I had a video of it.

In the park there is a Fody's that didn't look like it served much in the way of food, but maybe they will when it is warmer. I saw snacks, drinks and a little waffle station. I would say that there are three play areas, and all of them are large and serve as nice pit stops. We got there late so most of the animals were going inside before we were ready to leave. My kids happily stayed on the playground for about 45 minutes until the zoo closed. We're looking forward to enjoying the zoo in this sunshine!!

11 March 2012

A Brief Look

Geez, I didn't realize how long I had been away from here. My normal medium-full schedule has been in overdrive these last couple weeks. My family has been unbelievably busy. Life changing decisions have been made. I'm going all in. I hope it doesn't blow up in my face. Here are a few of my observations of late:

-Work conference + beautiful ski resort = more fun than work!
- It's nice to know that you are not forgotten and someone thins of you. I was in my office a couple days ago and found an entire case of wine a coworker bought for me. How thoughtful! She even remembered what type I like.
- I so look forward to the days that I can leave my kids without feeling guilt.
- I really hate moving. Especially when I really love where I live.
- I know a woman who has (for 8 years) held my DREAM job. I tried to play it cool and not ask a million questions; I didn't want to seem too eager to pick her brain.
-Everyday I am reminded how socially awkward I am. Yes, it is painful.
-Everyone looks better with a faux mustache. :)
-Because you wanted to know: I did not get into an argument with my husband's boss.
-Now is the time to be the person you want to be.
-The super put together mom who has a perfect family does not see herself this way and fears judgement as much as I do. Interesting.
-When lost do not just get on the Autobahn. Seriously, who does this? Men.
-^This made us miss the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
-2012 will be epic!!!!!

10 March 2012

Mardi Gras!

Happy late Mardi Gras to my Louisiana and US readers! Also known as Fat Tuesday, Fasching, Carnival and Pancake Day. I guess Mardi Gras started as a fest day before the fasting of Lent begins. To me it means having a party! We usually have a BBQ with friends (and family depending on where we are living) and have a good time just hanging out. In Louisiana we would have a huge BBQ on the parade route, and just hang out all day. Yes, a day long party. Don't forget the parties before hand too. We always have a King Cake, but this year I didn't want to make one. Instead I thought I'd make fleur de lis sugar cookies. What happens when you eyeball the baking powder? Have a look for yourself:
They were more like Martin Men than cookies.I had wax paper on top; that's why it looks weird.

We were fortunately able to celebrate Pancake Day with our British friends. From what I understand they make pancakes - aka crepes - for dinner and dessert. When they are cooking them you have to use one hand to flip it. Some people make a sport of trying to get them on the ceiling. I wish I had a camera to take a snap of my friend's husband doing this! He tried to hide the mistakes from us, but we caught him! It was a great evening spent with English speaking families from all over the world.

20 February 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GEORGE!

Today in the USA we celebrate George Washington's birthday. In my state we also celebrate Abraham Lincoln; I think most states celebrate both. ( I don't really get this difference, but you can read about it here )  Here's the rundown: George's bday is Feb 22, Abe's bday is Feb 12, so we celebrate with a federal holiday on the third Monday in February.

Every year around this time is National Engineers Week. George Washington is regarded as the first engineer because of his work on the C & O Canal ( connecting the Chesapeake Bay and Ohio River parallel to the difficult to navigate Potomac River) and his survey work. Universities all over the country hold hands on experiments and projects in middle and high schools. There is even an event in Stuttgart sponsored by IBM, Diamler and Bosch.

Engineering touches every part of your life: streets, sidewalks, water drainage systems, buildings, cup holders, medical instruments, paper clips, electrical wiring, chemical waste, and so much more. When I was in college my father in law claimed that 'We don't need engineers in Maine." How comical!

As a parent there are so many things that I want to do differently than my parents; however, I was raised well and appreciate all that my parents did and did not do for me. One thing I want to be is encouraging to my kids. If they say they want to do something I want to help them do that. I want them to have a myriad of experiences and then they can chose what interests them most.

When I was a little girl I remember being yelled at for taking apart my fathers radio. You bet I made sure to put it back together correctly. I've taken apart watches, cameras, a VCR (who remembers those?), I wired my HS auditorium when I was a junior. In the 7th grade I had a teacher that told me that my mind worked differently than the other students. Being different in middle school is no fun and it took me a long time to realize that was a compliment. Embarrassing confession: I was a Mathalete. It was fun though.

How can you get young children interested in engineering? Blocks! When they are bigger you can build structures with popsicle sticks too. Reading is so important too. Remember when you were getting ready for the SAT and for literacy they told you to read? When kids get around 4-5 you have to figure out what kids want to read. We read kids encyclopedias for bed time stories for the oldest and the youngest son likes story books.

I don't think that learning is ever done, so I feel it is really important to have an ongoing dialogue. When we went to Koenigstuhl we went to see the mechanical parts of the Bergbahn.  Answer all their (sometime annoying) questions. If you don't know then google it together. I make almost all of my household cleaners with my kids. I have to explain to them why I add each ingredient and what its purpose is. I also cook with them frequently. Last year when my son turned 8 we did a 'Mad Scientist' party. Best. Party. Ever.

For older kids, did you know you can sup-up Nerf guns? Oh yes. Rockets can be made out of 2 liter soda bottles. Alka-Seltzer is your friend. First Lego League has a robotics competition every year for kids from all over the world. Every year there is cement canoe races in New Orleans sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The other societies have similar competitions.

Here are some professional organizations that have student chapters and also offer scholarships:
National Society of Professional Engineers*
American Society of Mechanical Engineers*
American Society of Civil Engineers
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Society of Women Engineers*
Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (Association of German Engineers)
*these are my professional associations. I did receive scholarships from ASME, SWE, and W R Grace

I would love to know how you teach your children about science! What are your favorite things to do with your kids? Are there favorite places you like to bring them to learn about?

17 February 2012

OMG, This is Real!

Found on leavenworth.org. This is about as bad as that print ad for Montana tourism. FYI, Leavenworth is not only a jail/city in Kansas it is also a Bavarian themed town in Washington.

12 February 2012

Kitchen Experiments

We live in a 24/7 connected time. Have you ever tried to 'unplug'? I did, sort of, but not on purpose. I may have forgotten to pay the phone bill - but I'll admit to nothing - so I didn't have the internet and phone for a few days. A few weeks ago my Facebook app decided not to work. This was all a blessing in disguise. It was nice not being on my laptop 4 times a day to see what other people are doing. Wouldn't it be nicer to have an actual conversation with people? When asked I did feel the need to warn my German friend that smartphone use can get out of control if you let it. Just so you know I went YEARS with out a computer at home. I only bought one for Skype :)

I really want to tell you about a kitchen adventure I had last week. I am from Louisiana, but I love living in Germany. Both places have great cuisine (to me at least). This is about the only time of year that I miss Louisiana beyond belief. It's Mardi Gras season. I miss the large family gatherings, the parades, the parties, the King Cake and just the fun atmosphere. So, I decided we needed gumbo and potato salad.

German potato salad is found in many different varieties. You kinda have to taste them all to find the one you like best. Every region has their own flavor. I personally do not like mayonnaise, so most are out for me. I LOVE the Swabian oil and vinegar type. There is this cafe in Mannheim that I go to in the summer just for my favorite lunch: potato salad and diet coke.

I wanted a recipe that was from a real German home cook instead of a book. I've tried 3 or 4, but no dice. I found one I liked at huettenhilfe.de. Check out the original.

Swabian Potato Salad
1 kg waxy potatoes
2 onions
½ l broth (veg, beef, chicken...)
½ bunch chives
3 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon mustard, more to taste
salt and fresh ground pepper

Wash the potatoes, cover with cold water and boil. Don't over cook! You want them to hold their shape, mostly. Peel when cool - very easy. Slice to about 1/8-1/4 inch. Chop the chives and toss those in too. You'll want a small chop on the onion.
 
Next, warm up the broth. 1/2 liter is 2 cups. Pour that over your potatoes and onions. In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour in with the potatoes. you just want to combine it all. Don't stir more than you have to and not hard. Fold it in like you would whipped cream.
 It will be very wet, and it needs time to rest. The flavors will develop with time. At least half an hour. This (like gumbo) is almost better on the second day. Serve at room temp.
 
 
This is how I changed it up a bit:
-I used about 3 pounds of potatoes, and had left overs for days!
-I used about half a white onion, but purple would give it a good flavor and look cool too.
-I tried veg broth and it definitely had a celery taste. Chicken would work.
- Cut the oil down to about 1/3 and used olive.
- This time I tried white wine vinegar, but I think apple cider vinegar would be better.
- I am not a fan of plain German mustard, so I had to find the American type.
- Cayenne!!


While this recipe didn't give the flavor I remember it was a really good try. With the substitutions I mentioned earlier I think it will be a winner. Although, I don't think you can really ever 'ruin'  a potato salad. Recipes are only a lose blueprint; make it your own!

02 February 2012

Having a Baby in Germany, Part II

This is the first of a two part series on my experiences with child birth in a foreign country. I promise to not give too many details.

I feel that I received good care during my pregnancy. The care that I received, or did not receive, at the hospital was less than what I expected. We have lived here for a number of years, and only once before had I had a bad experience with German health care. Looking back, I think it was more the unfavorable diagnosis I got than the doctor.

If you remember my baby was breech so I was going to be induced. What I expected was to be induced, have the baby around the afternoon. I am so grateful for short labors! I had an induction in the US with my first child. This is how it happened: got the medicine at 6, water broke at 10, baby at 2 pm. This is about what I expected. For all you Americans: Have you ever heard of an induction not working? Me either, until I moved here. For two days I was given drugs, had contractions and nothing happened. On the second day I walked 7 miles (I have a good pedometer) while having contractions. All in my back. Seriously, if you have never experienced this you do not want to. Ever. Pain is one thing, but to not get anything in return is absurd. And hell.

One the second morning my dr can to see me. Nothing was happening, so we decided to try a different drug. The plan was that if nothing happened by noon then we would not continue. I did not want to put my child in danger or to make her come if she was not ready. In the US doctors make decisions, period. They outrank nurses and midwives, every time. Imagine my surprise when he came in and told me that the midwife would not allow this. WTF? My dr, midwife and the other one (what business did she even have there?) all came in to discuss what was not going to happen. Her reasoning was that the baby’s head was not engaged. Of course not, I was being induced 2 weeks early. Then the dr and midwife proceeded to argue. Nice.

I wanted to be induced b/c 1) I was already there and had a whole day of painful contractions 2) my labors are really short; if it happened at home there would be no way for me to make it to a hospital in time for the birth 3) my kids’ father was there to be with the older two while I was in the hospital 4) if he was not there then my kids would have had to go to foster care 5) at this point it was safe to induce. I do not for one second think that Dr Lauk would have wanted to induce if it was not safe. I felt that he also had the baby’s well-being in mind.

After the arguing stopped I had the choice of 1) go home and have to put my boys in foster care or 2) try a more conservative approach and if it didn’t work I would still have to stay at the hospital. At this point I remember my dr telling me “Mrs Cunrod, I can assure you that no one in this room is concerned at all about your other children.” I started to cry and could not believe that they wanted me to choose between my boys and the unborn baby. What happened to taking care of me? Why were my needs not being met? How could putting me through this kind of stress be good for the baby? I did not expect them to care about my kids, but I did expect them to care about me. Why was I not important to my health care providers?

I chose to stay. I was in pain. I walked 7 miles (11km), in pain. Nothing. I think that I was crying for most of the time that I was at that hospital. One the third day my dr came and I was at 1 cm. I was not going to take anymore drugs and I was not going to stay any longer. Until my water broke. Thank God.

Labor started after about an hour and a half, and she came 37 minutes later. Too fast. Neither the baby daddy nor the mid wife listened when I was telling them she was coming. The dr walked in about 5 minutes later. After she was here I remember thinking thank God that it was over and the boys would be fine.

We got a tour of the placenta. After this I was thankful I chose engineering over nursing in college. :) I was holding her on my chest and she was so tiny: 8 pounds, 20 inches long and absolutely perfect. I had waited 8 years for her. How was I ever upset for getting prego? She was planned, just not by me. She had the cutest chubby cheeks and spikey hair (still does too). All was right in the world. For an hour or two.

I know I promised a 2 part series, but the postpartem care that I did not recieve is worth its own post.

30 January 2012

Having a Baby in Germany, Part I

This is the first of a two part series on my experiences with child birth in a foreign country. I promise to not give too many details.

Having a baby, you would think is pretty much the same in every country. This was not my experience. First, I need you to see the most gorgeous little girl ever here. She was my third, and I wasn't exactly over the moon to be expecting again. Alas, I am completely in love now.

As far as OB care goes I was very happy. I chose the doctor that I had heard the most about. In Mannheim. In Heidelberg. Personal reference is best. I saw Dr. Lauk, whose office is only a stone's throw away from that water tower up there. (Be advised that his website is 90% correct English, but him and at least one of his staff speak impeccable English) You can also find him here, although I would caution you against reading this page's FAQs while pregnant. It may induce uncontrollable crying while at work. Interesting though.

Let me give you a bit of my history: 1st child born early b/c of preeclampsia, 2nd baby born late and almost 10 pounds. Not a good track record. Because of situation 1 I  had about 6-7 ultrasounds (and they still had the sex wrong). This, to me, was a lot! Baby 2 I had the normal American ultrasounds: one to confirm the pregnancy and one at 20 weeks to see things like the lungs and the heart chambers. This is about the most a 'normal' pregnancy would get in the US. He had a lot of breathing problems when he was born though.

In the spirit of honesty, I was very angry to find out I was pregnant this go around. I was alone and finally getting my career back on track too (infinitely more difficult than I ever imagined). Who would want to bring a child into an already bad situation? So, I was about 12 weeks when I went to see my doctor. I felt comfortable almost immediately . They did a urine test - for a whole lot more than a bladder infection - and the normal weight/blood pressure check. This actually surprised me - they put me in an office to meet him before the exam. Why was this strange? We went over my medical history then he did the normal well woman exam minus the breast exam (also strange). He gave me an abdominal ultrasound.

This is where it gets weird. He said he wanted to see me back in 3 weeks. I assumed this was b/c I tried to pretend that it wasn't happening and my mental state was just not good. The next time I was there the same thing: ultrasound and see you in 3 weeks. On my third visit I decided that I should inquire about this strangeness. He told me that anything less was just not enough. I thought this was great. I have an -un-American appreciation for conservative health care.

Fast forward to the fall: my stubborn child was breech. OMG, I was so scarred. I remember sitting in his office in mental overload. On that day I had also gotten some really bad news about my son's genetic vision loss. After everything that happened to me in 2011 I could not take anymore. I was terrified about this child having issues too. I desperately wanted something to go right for me.

Now, I had heard that German doctors do not deliver babies, midwives do. As you can see here that is not true for this guy.  To say that I was terrified of having another child with potential problems was an understatement. When he was trying to explain to me how the birth would happen I remember watching him, but not hearing him. I did make him promise that he would be there for me when it was time. He did this without any hesitation. I literally could not think, so it took a couple days for the barrage of questions to flood my mind. He had given me his handy number and told me to call if I needed to talk. I called and still only felt a fraction better. Being told on Friday that you would be birthing a breech baby on Monday is a LONG time to be inside your own head. However, I trusted my physician, and this made me feel good about a less than ideal situation.

23 January 2012

Fake It Till You Make It - Language Edition

Fake it till you make it. Good motto, no? Who needs to know anyway? This is what I tell myself about speaking German. I can understand like 65% of what I hear, but am terrified to make it come out. I must sound like a 5 year old. Reading is even more difficult, but definitely getting easier. :) I thought I'd share a few strategies I use in learning a foreign language:

1. Listen. German radio has a lot of talking and the news/traffic reports. I listen at the office and in the car (I can always switch to Drowning Pool when necessary). I've gotten very good at the traffic: Stau=bad traffic Stuttgart=Stau Got it? In 2010 I was working in the office that all incoming personnel, family members and local national workers had to go through to get base access. A few people assumed I could speak German - no way! I also got good at saying 'Right index finger, Left index finger. Sign here, there are three copies.'

2. Read. Yes, as much as possible. My choice is children's books. I want my kids to learn German too. Kids books are simple, and familiar. My favorite right now is Der Gruffalo. It's so much fun to read in either language. I find books very cheap at the library sales, the second hand stores and Flohmarkts (both the normal ones and ones for kids). Sometimes we trade with friends too. At the librar I've found books with German on one side and English on the other (Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

3. Magazines. Celebrity mags are great, but I always feel a little guilty buying them. These are good b/c the captions are just snippets, small bits of info at a time. I also like the little newspaper like mags for women. I forgot the name of the one in the US, you know it's like a buck or two and there is always a fad diet on the front. Yes, that one. There is a German version too. Not so much the diet part, but it has lots of recipes, fashion and feel good stories. I usually don't read everything, just what catches my eye (the same with English mags).

4. Bulletin Boards. Lots of stores and gathering place have boards that people can sell or post things they are looking for. Handwriting is still handwriting, but there are always print outs too. If I don't have time to figure everything out I will just snap a pic and look at home when I have more time. I've found flohmarkts, and classes for the kids this way.

5. German Textbooks. I bought about 3-4 language programs. None are great, but they give you a heads up. I prefer ones with a cd b/c pronunciation is hard! I also have a few vocabulary books. Rosetta Stone is available to AKO users - only service members and DOD employees. Mission Europe is fun too.

6. Forcing yourself in uncomfortable situations. Would you say something in an awkward silence. Absolutely! If I would say something in English, then I should say the same thing in German. I've been ignored and answered in English. Not so good for self confidence, but at least an attempt was made. I also love to shop for produce at farm stores. German, at least a little, is a must here. I have been know to mix English/French/German all together. I've even used sign language - this brought enormous amounts of laughter from my ex husband.

7. Dictionary. I have one, but prefer the free translator app. It's great while you're out, but is only useful for small blocks of text.

8. Language schools. I took a couple classes at the Viernheim VHS (Die Volkshochschule-night school) a few years ago. These are fabulous for the price, extremely reasonable. I think a 6 or 8 week class, 2 nights a week is about 60 Euro. I believe all or most cities have a VHS. There are more expensive and intensive schools: Goethe Institute, Berlitz, F + U Academy, Heidelberger Paedagogium. There are plenty others. If you want more info let me know.

I believe this is about all. What are you doing? To those of you that have mastered a second language what advise can you give to the rest of us?

21 January 2012

Das Ausberger Kasperle

Das Augsburger Kasperle is coming to Heidelberg! No, I have not seen the show. I  believe it to be a little puppet show. They check out their website for pics, but it didn't work well with my machine.

Tomorrow they will be in Schwetzingen at the Messplatz. Show times are 11 and 3pm. Then they are moving to the Heidelberg Messplatz from 23 - 29 January. Shows are at 3 pm everyday and 11 on Sunday.

Ticket pricing are a little in question. Their site says that kids day is 5 Euro and on family days adults pay child admission prices. Hopefully I can walk over there and find out for sure. If you go give us all a review!

Dining Out with the Mums

Tonight I had the chance to go out to dinner with a group of mom friends. I have just one question: How do German restaurants stay in business? In America you go in, eat, then leave and someone else will take your place. In Germany they love long leisurely meals with great conversation. This is wonderful unless you 1) have children or 2) have to get home to your children. Maybe going out to dinner is more of an occasion here than my typical 'I don't want to cook, meet you at restaurant X after work.'

I've had to ask for our food to be brought, and you always have to ask for the check. A few months ago I had gotten a rather large group of people together for a steak dinner. We sat there for like 4 hours. It was very enjoyable; we took up 2 of their tables. Our bill was a couple hundred Euros, but surely they need to sell more to sustain a business.

Tonight, there was 6 tables and one take out that I saw (we were the only party more than two). I was there from 7:45 to 11 pm. I was early for the reservation, so I walked around a bit. I passed Asian and Italian restaurants and a bar/restaurant in a very nice hotel. None of these establishments had patrons. On a Friday night. On the way back to the tram I walked the same route. You guessed it: only a handful of people at the Sushi bar. I don't think they had a deluge of customers while I was at the Indian place.

So, my question is: How do German restaurants stay in business???? If you know something that I don't please tell me! What is a dining out experience like where you live?

13 January 2012

2012 Pfenning Bazaar

*****UPDATE:  Mannheim Pfenning Bazaar will be at the Rosengarten on Feb 2-4. The hours will be Feb 2 10-1800, Feb 3 11-1800, and Feb 4 10-1400. Happy Shopping!*****


Every year the German American Women's Club sponsors the Pfenning (Penny) Bazaar. Its basically one huge yard sale. I mean huge. The club takes the donations to fund various projects. I know they do a lot with kids.

Before we go any further, I know that there is one in the Rosengarten in Mannheim (also across the street from the Water Tower). I can't seem to find any info on it though. Even though the bases in Mannheim are rapidly closing I believe that the club is intact and will have a sale. It was always mostly German women anyway. If you have any info on them please let me know.

The sale in Heidelberg will be Feb 23-25 (11-1800, 10-1800, 10-1400). The collection days will be Feb 18, 9-1500, and Feb 20 from 10-1400. This year they are taking donations of clothing, home textiles, linen, curtains, shoes, jewellery, toys, hats, scarves, gloves, belts, books, records, CDs, DVDs and Videos. They are NOT taking electric appliances, porcelain dishes, tableware, glass ware, vases, bathroom rugs, flatware and cutlery, plastic/wooden items, flower pots, winter sport clothing, pictures/paintings, home decoration items, quiltsbaskets, baby carriage/umbrella strollers, furniture, computers and monthly magazines.

Let's talk about the good stuff. If you like the weekend markets then you should like this one. There is so much stuff in one place it is almost overwhelming. The prices are reasonable; just remember it is a charitable organization. If you volunteer to go help sort everything out then they will let you shop before you leave. Big discounts too.  Be prepared to dig for your treasures.

If you go:
Internationale Gesamtschule (IGH), Baden-Badener Straße 14
Entrance: Erlenweg, 69126 Heidelberg Hasenleiser

This is the school that is used as the start hall of the annual Heidelberg Volksmarch. It is behind Nachrichten Kassern, where the American clinic is located.

Donations accepted:  Feb 18, 9-1500, and Feb 20 from 10-1400
Sale dates: Feb 23-25 (11-1800, 10-1800, 10-1400)

Let me know what you find!!

12 January 2012

German Health Care

Being affiliated with the American military means that my family receives our health care from the American clinic on base. Most of the time when you need a specialist you will see a German doctor. This can be intimidating if you don’t speak the language, but I feel comfortable with them. To paint a broad stroke German health care is a lot more conservative than American care. What does this mean?

In July 2010 my son fell at a playground. It was obvious he had a head injury. He was not put in an ambulance and taken to the nearest hospital; instead he was sent via helicopter with a doctor on board instead of first responders. This would have been great except it took them an hour and 45 minutes to finally get him there.

At the kinder klinik they told me he had a very bad concussion. He wasn’t even three, and I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it or not. He finally woke up a few hours later. I’m pretty sure that I was saying the Rosary the whole time. As a mother I do not want my children to hurt, ever. I assumed they would give him acetaminophen (Tylenol). They gave him NOTHING! The explanation was that they wanted to see his behavior without medicine. I appreciate their point of view, but nothing at all? Poor little guy!!

Other differences, that I have personally experienced, are that hospital stays are generally longer, the food is better, not all gynecologists give you something to cover with and, the biggest one, is that the doctors take their time at your appointment and listen to you. (This is just my experience! I am not a fan of Army health care.) I don’t know if that is necessarily a German thing, or that I just really liked my OB doc. He made me feel very comfortable and indulged my lists of questions. But, he did laugh when I asked what to do if they baby came at home. :)

My oldest son has a vision loss. We waited months to see the person we were told was the best in all of Germany for this sort of thing. It took hours and many, many tests to get a diagnosis. This doctor sat with me and explained what was happening and what would happen in the future. He answered my questions and continued with things I hadn’t even thought of. I appreciated that the time I had was mine and I was not rushed.

This is truly funny: twice I was asked where I was from and both doctors knew my city in Louisiana. Random.

One last thing, if a German doc tells you that they do not speak English well they probably speak better than most Americans. Only once have I been at an appt and the doc did not speak English. I am comfortable enough with German that it wasn’t a problem. All he wanted to talk about was New Orleans.

What have your experiences been like? Do you have any advice for the rest of us?

09 January 2012

Year End Financial Wrap Up

Do you make new year resolutions? Do you keep them? I don't make resolutions per se but I set goals for myself and constantly reevaluate them. I believe that you should set goals that are almost out of reach. Here is an example: While in high school/college I was a waitress at a Waffle House in an industrial area. When I was 19 I was in college, financing a car and living in my very own apartment. At the start of a midweek graveyard shift I told my very financially motivated boss that I was going to make enough money that night to pay my car insurance. When I told him it was $190 he laughed. That evening I worked hard and made about $100. Completely unheard of for a midweek shift. I was very proud of myself, and I have been making goals like this ever since.

My goals for 2011 were to get out of debt, start investing (took way to long!) and to save $50K in liquid savings. Completely unrealistic since I make around $31K at my primary job. The Hubster makes a few thousand more. (I'm catching up though.) This is a huge change in lifestyle because we almost lost out house in 2010. I will never let myself run out of savings again! Here is how I did:

Bills
I paid off my car in Nov 2010. I was amazing to get the title in January
Paid off the last $1500 in student loans
Paid credit card 1 off at about $1200
Paid credit card 2 off at $3200
Paid $1500 towards signature loan (not paying off early on purpose)
Repaid a government debit of $3000
Paid $1500 towards the funeral of a family member
Total Bills paid:$11900

Savings
Savings acct 1: $2200
CD: $1000
Savings acct 2: $5250
IRA 1: $7500
IRA 2: $4000
Savings acct 3: $9000
Total Savings: $28,950

Earnings
My income: $30, 577
His income: $35,000
Total Income:$65,577*We do get $1035 in rental income, but the mortgage is $1300/month. It doesn't feel like income. I wish we wouldn't have bought. Sigh.

So, $65,577 in income and $40,850 (bills paid + savings) not spent on junk we don't need. That would mean we used 62% of our income wisely. This is amazing! I am beyond proud of myself. It is so difficult to make this lifestyle change. Big difference. (Those numbers don't even seem real)

Goals for 2012:
Continue to work towards $50K in liquid savings
Continue to save for retirement at 35%
Buy a new car (that $9K is earmarked for this)
Fully fund the Roth IRA with supplemental income
Start a new investment account

I wouldn't be shocked if this doesn't happen. We are flying out two family members this summer, hopefully taking a Scandinavian vacation, going to Disney Paris, taking a trip to Pisa and Rome and we'll going skiing once in Garmisch and a couple times in the Black Forrest. We'll also do as much as possible in the Rhein-Neckar area too. Maybe my ideas are too lofty. Humm. How did you do on your goals?

08 January 2012

Its Pronounced How?

Recently I found out that I had been pronouncing a few words incorrectly. For YEARS! How is it  that no one bothered to correct me before now? Of all people it was the ticket taker for the boat ride in Luisenpark. It was 'erwachsene'. An adult. It should sound something like 'err vaxs e nay'.*

I knew this one though! As an American I would say Euro as 'Eur-O'. Right? Not so much. Germans pronounce the 'eu' as 'oy'. So Euro becomes 'Oy-ro'. Americans can stick out here like a sore thumb, so I try my best to have good pronunciation. The same way I try not to sound like I just walked out of the bayou.

I've know about the 'eu' thing for forever, so imagine my surprise when I learned that 'Feudenheim' does not sound like 'feud-enheim'. I still can't figure out how I've lived here for so many years and just can't even say the neighborhood name right. I have so much to learn.

06 January 2012

Real

I hate going to Walmart in the States. However, I did love it while they were here. They had better quality items than the original. Alas, the Walmarts here closed in 2006. I've heard rumors why but I'm not sure. There was one in the Vogelstange neighborhood of Mannheim. Now it is a Real (Re Al). Real is similar to the old Walmarts but not identical. There were Reals here and Walmart. All three of the old Walmarts (that I knew of) in this area are now Real stores.

In search of a birthday present for my favorite 1 year old we headed to Real. It is a normal Hypermarket.  Food on one side, shoes, bikes, toys clothes and house/office items. What do they say about not going to a grocery store hungry?

I was able to find a few things that other expat bloggers seem to have trouble with. Things like marshmallows, marshmallow fluff (what do people do with that stuff?), pop tarts, maple syrup.
Baby formula is cheaper here.
The 'American' shelf: mayo, mustard, spray cheese, BBQ sauce, hot sauce, beef jerky, powder mac in cheese (almost 3 Euros a box!!) and tomato soup. A good representation of America? I think not. Check out those prices!! Don't forget it is more expensive in Euro than Dollar!
You do know that Bisquick is really just flour, baking powder salt and shortening, right?

As much as I detest Walmart I really enjoy Real. It's so easy to go and pick up a few groceries and a pack of Legos for my kid.

Holiday In the Sun

One of the greatest joys of working for the government is that you don't always get to chose when you take your holiday. We're staring down at the end of February. I'm guessing it'll be either the Canary Islands or Northern Africa. So, to my European readers: Do you have any suggestions or tips for us? Thanks!!

03 January 2012

New Year's Traditions

In the Southern US on New Year's Day it is tradition to have cabbage and black eye peas. It is supposed to bring you money and good luck. Since I don't believe in superstitions or luck I cook it because it's just what we do. I think that you should make traditions your own and they should mean what you want them to mean to your family.

On the 1st I made a pork roast, rice and gravy and smothered cabbage. I skipped the beans, because lets face it, that is already a lot of food and my kids aren't going to eat it anyway. I will make them soon to have with the roast leftovers. 'Smothering' is a southern way of cooking slowly and with lots of onions. Warning: I kinda burnt the cabbage tonight. I usually get about 8 servings from a medium head of cabbage.

I started with a little bit pork belly. I cut it up and cooked it for a few minutes while I sliced the onion.

I used two onions. I threw them in and cooked for a bit while I was wrestling the cabbage. Slice it up, but too small, it will cook down a lot.  Once the cabbage is in just put the lid on and turn it down to a low medium heat.
Ready? Et Voila!
I would have cooked it down a lot more but I forgot to turn the heat down and the bottom burned. It should take about 45 minutes to one hour or until your happy with the crunch. Don't forget the Tony Chachere. Can I blame this on Mommy Brain? Tony's is a great all purpose seasoning that has cayenne as the base. I use this on all my meat, salad and fresh veg/fruit. (I do not use this exclusively like some people) Enjoy!!! If you try this let me know if you like it.

02 January 2012

Goodbye Normann

Today we are saying tschuss to Normann. We my will miss him, but I'm happy to get house back in order.

01 January 2012

Happy Neu Jahr!!!

Here is a huge AUF WIEDERSEHEN TO 2011!!!! I hope that 2012 brings blessings to you all, and something to go easy for me. Be safe!
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