Missing America

We have made it to the 6 month mark! We are slowly but surely settling in to our new lifestyle and are adjusting to the German ways.

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(Like living in a snow globe)

There are some things we love about Germany and some things we miss about the US. So here is a list of a few things we truly miss about the good old United States of America:

  1. Target- This one is pretty self-explanatory for all the Target lovers out there. I miss having a huge store that has everything there from food to diapers to clothes. Somewhere I can just stroll around in and do one stop shopping. There are a few places like that here but it just isn’t the same as my favorite Target.
  2. Parking Lots- Speaking of big stores, I also miss the big parking lots. Parking is at a premium here. So when there is a parking lot (or more likely a parking garage), the parking space is tiny. I have 2 kiddos that I have to get in and out of the car with one in an infant car seat. I need some space! I miss you American parking lots!!
  3. Drive-Thru- Specifically I need a Starbucks drive-thru. I am not much of a fast food eater so that doesn’t impact me but I would love, love, LOVE to get some caffeine via a drive thru. Particularly right now with a newborn (aka Midnight Crib Raver) and a toddler, it would be awesome for someone to hand me some hot caffeine directly into my car while the 2 of them are strapped down in their car seats. Oh well. At least we are saving some money by not buying as many $5 drinks. Ha!img_0921                                              (Kinder Eggs make everything better)
  4. Ice- I know I have mentioned this one before in previous blogs but it is worth mentioning again. They don’t serve ice in drinks here. I still find it strange and every once in a while you just want a super cold drink over ice.
  5. IPA Beers- This one is from Gavin. Germany has great beer don’t get us wrong but they are not into IPA beers. We aren’t being depraved here of awesome beer opportunities but Gavin would love a few IPAs in the mix.
  6. You- Most of all we miss our friends and family. It is fun being on a new adventure but we also miss all of the good times with all of you.img_6148                                                              (The fun continues)

E Arrives

Baby #2 has arrived! Ok most of you know this because it has been over a month but hey time flies when you are having fun. Some of you are probably wondering how giving birth went….German style!

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My first birth experience was a little traumatic. This time around, I was looking forward to having everything a little more organized and hopefully a lot more calm. We had a set date and we knew it was going to be another c-section so that takes out some of the guessing. However, giving birth in Germany is a bit different compared to the US so lets dive in.

First, I talked about this before but we had to pay everything BEFORE the birth due to our private insurance. We had to pay the hospital’s chief physician (even though he wasn’t going to be doing the procedure), the hospital itself and the anesthesiologist. Here is where it gets shady. I had to pay the anesthesiologist in CASH the day before the scheduled surgery. On the positive side, you get to meet the doctor the day before and discuss everything. This gave me the opportunity to explain the complications I had last time so that we could hopefully avoid those issues with this birth. During this meeting I also found out that blood is apparently VERY expensive (this is probably true everywhere but no one tells the patient). The doctor made a point to explain to me that they would give me blood if I needed it but it would be an absolute final option due to the price. That makes you feel good right before a big surgery. Ha!

Day of the surgery, we showed up early and walked up to labor and delivery. The operating room is actually on the unit and is set up just for c-section procedures. Everything started on time and went well. Well…better than last time. I was able to be awake for E’s birth and she got to do some skin to skin with me right after birth. That was a win for me and was all I wanted. There were some complications and they did end up putting me under (more anesthesia) to complete the procedure but I wasn’t intubated or anything so again I think that is a win.

After some time in the recovery room, they then moved us to our room on the mother baby unit. It was about noon and I was starving since I didn’t eat since dinner the night before. They finally bring in lunch and it was this:

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Yeah that is boiled potatoes and eggs. I am not a huge fan of hard boiled eggs so potatoes it was for lunch. Luckily I was warned about the food and had brought some snacks.

Speaking of food, it was interesting to adapt to the traditional German food during a time when you just want comfort food. For breakfast and dinner, it is common to have bread, deli meats and cheese. There is usually fruit and yogurt available in the morning and in the evening there is something similar to potato salad. Everything is cold. Lunch is the warm meal of the day and you were able to order what you would like. Breakfast and dinner was available buffet style and your lunch was left on a tray with your name on it down the hallway in a “dining room”. The nurses strongly pushed for everyone to be up and walking as much as possible after birth and I think this food set up was used to force people to get moving. On the day of surgery, the nurses did bring me all of my meals. I was up and walking that night so the next day no one brought me my breakfast. Nothing was said to me it was just assumed that since I had been up and walking in my room that I would then walk to the dining room. Don’t you worry I figured it out quick. No one can keep me from food!

I am up, walking, and finding my food all within 24hrs of having major abdominal surgery, which means PAIN! Our cultural training coach had warned me about pain control in Germany with regards to childbirth. Her exact words were “you must be in pain to be a good mother”. This is the straight truth. The hospital only offered Ibuprofen (seriously Advil) for pain control. In the US after my first surgery, I had an on-Q pump (pain pump that offers local anesthetic to the surgical site) for 48 hours, which basically made the area numb. I also had Tylenol with codeine and stronger Ibuprofen (stronger than regular dose). Back to Germany, Ibuprofen only and they gave me a stronger dose of Ibuprofen for only the first 2 days. Then they only offered the regular dose (you know how the bottle of Advil says take 2 pills every few hours). Not cool Germany. Not cool!

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(Worth the pain!)

Oh and they give you all of your pills for the day at once (at least at this hospital). I got a little pill box that was labeled breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening. They would fill it up at night for the next day and you were in charge of remembering to take everything. I would typically see a nurse 2 times a day (at shift change) when they were doing their rounds. The rest of the time I was cared for by certified midwives who would check on the baby and I throughout the day and answer the call bell. They would take the vitals and do the everyday stuff.

I also had a special guest come and visit me during my stay: a physical therapist! The day after my surgery a nice physical therapist came to provide me instruction on how to get in and out of bed after abdominal surgery and to help me walk around. I was already up and sitting in a chair when he arrived and I had been walking around (to scavenge for food) so I got discharged pretty quickly. Apparently, every person who has a c-section is provided physical therapy. You know I loved that!

Popular topic: How long did you stay in the hospital? With our first kiddo, we were discharged from the hospital at the 72 hour mark which is how long you are required to stay by law (and how long your insurance will pay for it unless there are special circumstances). Here in Germany, we gave birth on Thursday morning and discharged Monday afternoon by my request. The nurses wanted me to stay until Thursday because most women who have c-sections stay 7-10 days. In Germany, the birth is billed as a single procedure. So it doesn’t matter if you stay 3 days or 10 days the bill is the same to your insurance and there is no pressure to get the patient out the door. This allows mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding, who need more time to recover, or just need more support before they take on the mom role full time to stay in the hospital longer. Mom is happy and baby is happy. This was actually really nice. There is no pressure to get out of the hospital and everything seems less stressful. Everyone gets to follow the timeline that works for them.

Overall, we were pleased with our experience. The skill and knowledge of the staff in Germany was on par with their counterparts in the US. The system here is set up to be more supportive of mother and baby and allow more time for recovery. I am glad, however, that this was not our first child or our first c-section experience. The cultural differences and the communication issues would have been more overwhelming/upsetting if we had no idea what we were doing (like we were with the first kiddo). We came home with a happy and healthy baby girl and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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St. Martin’s Day

On November 11th we celebrated Veterans Day but also for the first time we participated in St. Martin’s day here in Germany. St. Martin was a Roman Soldier who became baptized as an adult and became a monk and eventually a bishop. He was known for his quiet life and considered a friend of children and patron for the poor. St. Martin’s day is always celebrated on November 11th and is considered the end of harvest/start of winter. It is also considered the unofficial start of the Christmas Holiday season.

St. Martin’s day is fun for the children as it is tradition for the kiddos to parade in the street carrying lanterns being led by a man on horseback dressed as St. Martin. At the end of the parade is a bonfire and music. Basically it is a big party.

Let’s start with this lantern. Two weeks before St. Martin’s day all the parents were invited to O’s school to make lanterns for the parade. Picture this: 10 children (3 years old and younger) and all their parents put into a small room around a very low child size table. I am 8 months pregnant and getting down to the floor is near impossible. The gathering time was the end of the day so O of course thought I was coming to pick him up, not participate in craft time (despite us talking about it for several days before). He is not impressed by crafts and wants to leave immediately. Once everyone is gathered, the teachers start explaining how to decorate the lanterns and put them together. Of course they are explaining this all in German and my German skills are still terrible. The 2 teachers who speak English aren’t there for this event and the only other parent I know there speaks Italian and some English. So we have a cranky toddler who wants to go home, a very pregnant mom who can barely reach the table, limited understanding of the instructions and lanterns and tissue paper as far as the eye can see. Needless to say…hot mess express! O ended up tearing up some tissue paper and gluing it to his lamp after much debate and we ended up leaving early (to avoid a major meltdown), which is a No-No in German culture. You are expected to come exactly at the time invited and should leave at the time that the event is indicated to end. So if you are invited to something and it says from 3-4pm then you are expected to arrive at 3pm (not a minute later) and stay until 4 pm. I think I got away with it because I was 8 months pregnant but the teachers made sure to announce to the rest of the group why we were leaving early.

We headed home covered in glue but I felt good that O had tried to make his lantern including tearing up paper and using some toddler scissors. Well a few days later I see the other lanterns the parents and children had made. Apparently, it is ok for parents to basically build the lanterns for their kids at this age. The parents had made super fancy looking lanterns with names cut out in tissue paper and one had a forest theme with finely decorated leaves. Then there was ours…. And well it looks like a 2 year old put it together. The teachers called it “shabby chic”.

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On St. Martin’s day, everyone gathered at the school with their lanterns and lantern sticks (a stick with a little battery powered light at the end). Side Note: Apparently they used to use little tea candles in the paper lanterns, so the joke was that no St. Martin’s day is complete until you have a parent stomping out a lantern on fire while a child is crying near by. The children were given this big pastry called Stutenkerl. It is kind of like a sweet bread that looks like a gingerbread man. O LOVED this and it fueled him for the long walk.

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(O with lantern, stick and bread in mouth. Ha!)

O’s school group walked down to a local park where other schools in the area had gathered and then everyone as a large group paraded down the street to meet at a large school yard/open space. This was actually a rather large parade and the police had blocked the roads to allow everyone to pass.

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At the end of the parade in the large open space was a bon fire, music and more food (mostly pretzels). O danced and didn’t want to leave. St. Martin’s day success! We really enjoyed this celebration and look forward to participating next year.

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Flying with a Toddler- Carry on Bag

Before we start let me make something very clear, I am NO EXPERT on flying with a toddler. We have taken some pretty big trips with our little one and have somehow survived so I am simply sharing some ideas that worked for us. You know your little one best so go with your gut. I am hoping to simply throw out some ideas to inspire you on how to survive being trapped in a metal tube with a small ball of energy. Good luck!

The Bag

Whenever we fly I give up on the traditional diaper bag. Instead, I change it out for this Under Armour duffel bag.

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The reason is that with the duffel bag you can easily slide this under the seat in front of you and during the flight it has a much wider opening to try to get things out. This particular duffel bag also has a side pocket that can be used to stick your smelly/dirty shoes. We use this (in combination with the Arm & Hammer diaper bags) to keep used diapers in until we can find a trash can without stinking up the whole plane.

The Essentials

Of course, you need to pack the diapers, wipes, and changing pad. I also add some cleaning items. The most important to me are the Wet Ones wipes for cleaning hands after being through the dirty airport, some Kleenex and I have recently added travel Clorox wipes. I used to be the person that thought people were crazy when they got on the plane and wiped down their entire seat, the arm rests, the window and the tray table. However, earlier this year Hubby brought home some terrible plague virus that he picked up at the airport on a business trip. It was horrible! We could not get rid of it. Ever since then I have sworn to clean the arm rests and tray tables and we haven’t picked up another cold (at least not yet). The Clorox wipes are totally up to you but are for sure in our bag. You will also notice in the picture below the Arm & Hammer diaper bags that were mentioned earlier. They come with a handy dispenser thing but we just carry them around in the roll.

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You will notice in the duffel bag picture some gallon size Ziploc bags. These are always stuffed into our carry on bag. These are for the blow outs (either end), soaking spills or whatever thing my child comes up with to destroy his clothes (or ours) and make them stink terribly. It is just a quick solution to pack away wet smelly things until you escape the metal tube (remember that air is just re-circulated around the plane and no one wants to smell that). I also stash these in our diaper bag at home for the same reasons.

That reminds me. Always pack a spare pair of clothes for the kiddo and for you. You don’t want to sit in a spit up soaked shirt for 2 hrs (or more) and neither does the kiddo.

Food

Ok you have the bag, diapers, clothes and cleaning essentials to get you through the flight now what are you going to do with the kiddo to keep them occupied and satisfied. Food! You are not going to force feed your kiddo but hell has no fury like a hungry toddler. So stock up. I love the small snack size Ziploc bags. It allows me to pack a bunch of options without taking up a ton of space. My usual go-to’s are Goldfish Crackers (aka toddler crack), pretzels, Chex Mix, carrots, granola bars and food packets. I also pick up other fruit in the airport once we get through security. Is this the best food options? No. But this isn’t about maintaining the perfect diet for your toddler. This is about surviving! You can go back to the all-natural organic food once you land.

Lets talk food packets. I am referring to the little packets of blended foods that you can pick up at most stores. There are a million different brands so just go with what your toddler likes. These packets are considered liquids.   In order to get through security you must follow the liquids rules which means each passenger is allowed 1 quart size bag with liquids inside with each container inside this bag must be less than 3.5 ounces. So when you are buying your food packet for travel pay attention to the size. The picture below shows a “big food packet” and then the 2 packets to the right are allowable sizes for the airport.

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I can typically get 6 packets into one quart size bag.

We also take a snack cup with a lid and a small sippy cup with a lid to prevent spillage during the flight. We also take along a reusable water bottle (we like the Camelback ones with a straw) and fill that up once on the other side of security.

Entertainment

Well it has been 20 minutes into the flight, you have already had a diaper change and the kiddo is done eating. What do you do next? Time to pull out some games/toys.

As we are getting ready for a trip, I always start looking at the dollar areas at the store. They always have some cheap toys that can be entertaining for a short period of time (of course be careful that these toys are age appropriate). You also won’t feel guilty if the dollar toy gets lost or left behind on the plane. That is where I picked up the Slinky and travel size Mr. Potato Head.

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A co-worker of mine suggested the idea of wrapping up these little toys in tissue paper. We have tried this for several trips and it is Genius!! Having the kiddo unwrap the toys gets you a couple extra minutes of entertainment and every minute counts. Don’t go too crazy on these. I just get a few toys and I reuse them a lot of times for future travel. I keep travel toys stored in a box at home so they only come out during travel time. It keeps them new and exciting for the kiddo.

I also bring some usual toys from home. My son loves the dragon puppet so it comes with us most of the time (plus super easy to pack) and he is also into flash cards right now. So those have been added to the mix.

A standard go-to is always the coloring books and crayons. However, I have a best kept secret…. Triangular crayons!! These are amazing! I have seen these sold at Target but I just bought ours online on Amazon. I have only seen ones made by Crayola. Triangular crayons were created to actually help kids learn how to hold a crayon properly as they are transitioning to learning to write letters. That is great but you know what makes them even better… they don’t roll! I’m not saying they are never going to fall off the tray table but I am saying these crayons will reduce your number of reps of bending down to pick up crayons off the floor. I love them! Everyone should own them. Go out and buy them now. You need them in your life!

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I have started getting crafty (not like Martha Stewart but I own a glue gun now). I made this fun little toy out of a puff snack container and some pom-poms (more than is shown in the picture). Quick and easy to make and our kiddo loved this on the flight to Hawaii. He was about 18 months then and has since outgrown it but since it cost about $1 to make I am not too worried about it being tossed out. You can also do a smaller slit and use coins or poker chips (depending on your kiddos age).

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Quiet books made of felt are also a great item. Google or look on Pinterest and you will find a million ideas of small felt quiet book pages to make. We have a quiet book but to be honest I bought it off of Etsy. I said I own a glue gun. I didn’t say it wasn’t collecting dust.

Ok final item and probably the most controversial, the iPad. When my kiddo was really small we didn’t bring this along but as he has gotten older it is an absolute must for us. We have some great educational apps but we have also downloaded some cartoons and movies to keep him occupied. There is no shame when you are trapped in a plane. Remember this and repeat this to yourself over and over if needed.

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We also bought these Kidz Gear headphones to use with iPad. You might be numb to the sound of Paw Patrol in the background but those sitting around you might be annoyed so go ahead and get a pair. They are nice in that they are super adjustable so they fit our little guys head but they also fit my head if needed. They have a noise control so even if your kiddo cranks up the sound on the iPad he won’t blow out his eardrums. We also bought a splitter so that his headphones can attach and so can ours if we are watching a show together. A little warning with headphones, they take practice. Before our first flight when we planned to use these, we had the kiddo practice putting them on and wearing them at the house. He was kind of freaked out originally by having headphones on his head but once he realized he had to wear them to hear the sound then he was fine and would wear them a little longer each time.

That’s all for now. If you need any more ideas shoot me a message. I have a couple other tricks up my sleeve but this blog is already too long. Hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget… I am no expert so no guarantees that this will work with your kiddo. I am sure that I have also angered the travel gods so look for a blog on dealing with meltdowns on a plane in the future. Happy Travels!

Driving Germany

Ah Autobahn how I love thee! My husband and I have both successfully passed our German driving course so I thought I would chat a little about driving in Germany. First, not everyone has to take a German driving course to get a driver’s license in Germany. In fact, our Colorado Driver’s license is accepted as a direct transfer here in Germany. You can go into the German “DMV” and just trade them out. However, the military requires that all active duty military, staff (including contractors) and their families take the written test. It is a 3 hour class followed by a written exam and you actually need to study before hand because German road signs can be tricky (mainly because the words are in German. Duh!). I am actually really glad we had to take the course because it gave me a much better understanding of the rules of the road here and I feel much safer.

Ok that stuff is boring. Let’s get to the entertainment. Fun German Road signs:

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Ok I just had to get it out of the way. A$$fart signs everywhere!

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This one isn’t a sign but a streetlight marking. If you see this painted on a streetlight what it means is that this particular streetlight is not left on all night. So it may be turned off at like 9 or 10 pm. If you park under this streetlight overnight you are expected to leave your parking lights on all night to make up for the no streetlight. Cars with European specifications can do this but US spec cars are not made to have the lights on all night so don’t park under these streetlights at night!

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Parking on the curb is permitted. I feel like this sign should just be everywhere because parking on the curb is the norm around here.

rough-road

Ok here is my junior high humor again. I saw this sign and I was like why is a bra laying down in the road? That is not a bra but a rough road sign.

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This sign just cracks me up. In the manual it states that this is posted in “areas where there is danger of the vehicle leaving the road and entering a body of water”. Um, what?? Like does the road lead directly into the lake or is this an area where your GPS is going to say “drive straight” but really that’s a river not a road. Apparently it has happened enough that there is a sign.

Ok final one.

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This is my favorite one. To me it looks like a Minion wearing a party hat. It actually means that this road has priority but only at this intersection so the other cars are supposed to yield to those on this road. Boring! Much more fun to think about Minions having a party.

All in all, German rules of the road are very straight-forward and easy to understand. The American system is way more complicated and has even funnier signs.

The big difference with driving in Germany is that EVERYONE follows the rules. Ok let’s say 99% because there is always that one guy, the tourists, and the Americans that are always bending the rules. This is more of a cultural thing but it makes driving on the roads really nice here. Everyone follows the rules and so you know what to expect. It also creates this very smooth flow of traffic particularly on the Autobahn. You are expected to move over for people merging. The whole “zipper rule” (you let one car in to the lane to merge and then the next car merges behind you like when 2 lanes are becoming one) is law so you are required to be nice and let someone in which in turns allows the traffic to keep moving. You NEVER pass on the right and slow traffic keeps right. No Colorado road blocks here (read 1 car is passing another car at 1 mph faster than car being passed resulting in back up of cars for a mile or 1 car sitting in left lane going 10 mph below the speed limit preventing anyone from getting past).

You do have to watch out for fast cars. Germans love their sports cars and since there is no speed limit on sections of the Autobahn they like to go really fast. They can sneak up on you quickly if you are not paying attention. On the flip side, it’s like going to an auto show everyday. There is always some really nice, fancy, and super expensive sports car zooming by me everyday. Fun to watch!

1st Check Up

Two weeks after arriving in Germany, we had our first check up with our German OB-GYN. I was very lucky in that hubby had a co-worker here in Germany who just had their first child last year. They had already done all the legwork to tell me about the best doctors and hospitals in town and were more than happy to share their info. The doctor they recommended is actually an American who studied in the US and then transitioned to Germany 15 years ago with her husband. She obviously is fluent in English and because of that she is very popular with expats and American military here in Wiesbaden (the base does not have its own OB-GYN so all military use the community services). It was very comforting to have someone who knows the US and the German systems and ideals very well and is able to communicate effectively with us and help guide us through the system.

Let’s talk about the first appointment. Don’t worry there will be no gross details in here. I am simply going to compare my US experience with the German experience. Everyone can safely read on.

We arrive at our first appointment and had to fill out some paperwork. We have private insurance, which is very uncommon in Germany. Almost everyone here has some form of the German universal health care plan. So for private insurance holders the plan is simple. The doctor’s office and the hospital simply bill you directly. You are in charge of paying the bill and then the insurance company reimburses you. The hospital and the doctor’s office do not get involved with attempting to get money from your insurance. Now initially this kind of seems like a bad deal. I don’t want to have to pay and then wait for the insurance company to pay me back and true it is not the most convenient. On the other hand with my experience working in the health care field, this plan is actually brilliant. Our hospitals and doctors offices in the US employ a whole division of workers whose sole job is to attempt to bill and collect money from insurance companies. They have to call these companies frequently and haggle for pricing and approval. They spend hours filing and refilling paperwork in order to get very minimal payment back from insurance providers. Here in Germany they have to employ very few people in their billing department. Someone has to send out the bill to the German Health Plan but the German Health plan always pays the hospital and there is no arguing over what is what. They don’t bill private insurance companies so this saves an enormous amount of time, energy and money. In turn, this keeps the bills low for all parties so medical services are much cheaper here and of the same quality.

Ok paperwork done. We get called back into the Doctor’s office and we walk into this big L shaped room. In the front part of the room is the doctor’s desk where she has us sit and we talk so she can get to know us. Yep we sat down and chatted with the doctor with no rush to get to the point and out the door. After we got to know each other, it was time to get an ultrasound done. The doctor had us just walk around the corner of the room and there was an exam table with an ultrasound machine. The doctor had me hop up and then SHE PERFORMED the ultrasound. In the US, we had to make a special appointment if we were due for an ultrasound and an ultrasound technician or other professional would perform the ultrasound and then the doctor would just read the results. Here the doctor just performed it all and all in one room. Boom! Done! I was also informed that here in Germany and most of Europe they do ultrasounds at almost every appointment. They see no harm in the ultrasound waves and feel seeing and examining the child at each appointment is important.

The next thing she had us do was what she called a “stress test” but it was more of a heart monitor for the baby. They strap it around your belly and then have you sit for 15-20 minutes while they monitor the baby’s movements and heart rate. I had a similar device placed on me while I was in labor in the US with our first child but it was never used before being in active labor. This device can also detect if your starting to have any Braxton Hicks Contractions (practice contractions) or if it seems your body is preparing for labor which is why they do this at every visit during your final trimester here in Germany. Everything looked good! This little girl is a mover. She never sits still in there. I hope that isn’t a warning for our future!

Ok then at the end, the doctor wanted to get some blood work done. Yikes! I was not worried about getting poked with a needle but worried about finding some outpatient lab to go get my lab work done. In the US, I would have to make an additional trip over to the hospital to the outpatient clinic and wait for what seemed like an eternity to get my blood work done. Have no fears! The assistant who checked me in and checked my weight, blood pressure, etc. she is also the lab tech! They drew my blood right there in the clinic and I didn’t have to travel anywhere else. It was amazing!

In the end, my first appointment was about 45-60 minutes. Everything was completed in the office. It was a great experience.

Quick Update: I wrote this blog a bit ago but never got around to posting it. We have been to several appointments now all with the same routine as mentioned above. We have had an ultrasound at every appointment though we do not get a 3D ultrasound but that’s a fair trade. We received our first bill in the mail it was 89 euros (just about $100) per visit. That is the total cost with lab, ultrasound, etc. at a “no insurance” rate since we have private insurance (so our insurance will be reimbursing us of course). In comparison, I just paid my final bills from my last doctor’s appointment in the US. The fiscal year had just restarted so I had to pay toward my deductible, which meant I had to pay $110 for lab fees and $140 for the ultrasound. The actual bill was much higher that was just my portion. Final point: Medical care in the United States is ridiculously expensive for no apparent reason.

One Month

We have officially been here for a full month. We are still in the thick of transitioning and things have been a little slow. Moving in the month of August is bad timing. August is a very popular month for people to take vacation (holiday) so things that would normally take a short amount of time to complete (like having a handy man come to the house) is taking us twice as long as everyone is out on vacation. However, we have had some amazing support from our relocation assistant and she has been able to help us through all the chaos.

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(Empty house waiting for our things to arrive)

We have moved into our home and our stuff arrived 3 weeks ago. We are still getting things out of boxes but we are slowly getting there. We were able to set up our internet which is why we are back to blogging! I think our downsizing worked out well as all of our furniture fits into the house nicely. However, we did not downsize our clothing and books enough. There is minimal storage (most houses do not have built in closets) so we have already filled most storage areas and still have 2 boxes of clothes to go! IKEA is becoming a frequent trip.

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(View from the Kitchen as our stuff arrives)

The other hurdle we are dealing with is the language barrier. We didn’t think it would be so hard since most people here speak English but we have found our nemesis: the automated computer answering service. Most people do speak English but when you call places such as the cable company you have to talk to that silly automated machine first. You know the one that says “Press 1 for customer service, press 2 for billing”, etc. Of course this is all in German and there is no “Press 1 for German, Press 2 for English” option like we have in the US for English and Spanish. The technique that I have been using is keep pressing 1. I attempted pressing 0 for operator but that didn’t work out so pressing 1 is my go to. It has worked out so far with the cable company. When that doesn’t work what I have done is sent an email to the company and that email usually gets passed around until someone who speaks English gets ahold of it and calls me back. Not the most efficient method but that has worked too. Which brings me to the word of the month: “Patience”.

Patience is a virtue we have been working on hard this month. We are “Type A” people who like to get things done. We make a list and start checking things off as quickly as we can to reach our final goal. Well that hasn’t happened the way we planned at all. Things are getting done but just not at the pace we want it to get done and are used to it being done. We are learning that things move slower and that is ok. We need to take a deep breath and take it all in.

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(Taking it all in)

On the positive side, we are in our new house, we have connections to the outside world and we are slowly settling in. I assume that as soon as we finally feel unpacked and ready baby #2 will arrive to throw everything back into chaos. That is what makes this an adventure though right! Off we go….

Leasing a House

We have found a home and have been going through the leasing process. It is a bit different here in Germany and we are lucky to have a relocation company that is helping us through everything including translating all the documents to English so we know what we are signing. I have mentioned before how you have to apply for a house that is available and then you wait to see if the landlords like you or not. It is a rather competitive market and we lost our first house option due to that (not everyone is excited to rent to Americans). However, we did make it through the process to our second house and have the keys in hand! All we need now is for our furniture and all those goodies to arrive so we can move in. Can’t wait to get out of this hotel!

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I thought I would share a couple of comments that were added to the lease by our relocation company to make sure us crazy Americans followed all the rules.

  1. To avoid mold and damage in the house, it is appropriate to air the home 3-4 times a day for 10 minutes each. If you are not home all day then you should air the home in the morning and in the evening for at least 15 minutes each time. They went into very specific details about this. Like the windows must be fully open for the entire 10 minutes. This is expected to be done year round which means wide open windows in winter. This is mentioned 8 times in the agreement. 8 times! This is apparently very serious business.
  2. Renovations: If you get a home with freshly painted walls and redone floors then it is expected that you will paint the walls and refinish the floors before you move out. This means every single room. You have to be careful with this a bit as our home was listed as completely refinished but the walls were not painted so we had to make sure to document this so that we don’t have to paint the walls when we move out.
  3. “Carpets, blankets, bed rugs, furniture etc. are only allowed to be cleaned outside between Mondays and Saturdays at the designated area, but not between the hours of 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 7a.m.”
  4. “It is not allowed to leave items, particularly bikes, baby carriages etc. in yards, in hallways, staircases and drying rooms unless otherwise specified.” So you can’t leave the kiddos bike out in the backyard. It must be put away and not in the hallway.
  5. “On Sundays and public holidays it is not allowed to hang laundry outside. It is not allowed to hang laundry in front of the windows or on balconies facing the street”
  6. “The main entrance to the house / apartment block must be kept locked between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and between 2 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Sundays and public holidays.” The relocation agent also made a point to tell us both locks (the regular door lock and security lock) must be locked.
  7. “A “period of quiet” is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. (This is a legal regulation in Germany and has to be followed). If the tenant listens to music or uses any other mechanical devices (e.g. washing machine) it must be ensured that no other tenant is disturbed.”

That is it for our quirky new house rules. I think we can manage to follow those though I do think keeping the kiddos quiet from 1-3pm might be a little rough but that might just be our new nap time.

The recycling system here is also INSANE. If recycling was an Olympic sport then all Germans would get a gold medal. But that is a story for another day.

We’ll keep you posted when we can finally move in!

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First Week

To celebrate our first complete week in Germany I present to you a Top Ten list of things we learned. The good, the bad and the awkward.

  1. You have to pay to pee. If you are at a public location such as the park, train station, etc. then you better have some spare change if you have to tinkle. We had a heads up on this procedure from our adventures in England but it is still surprising to any American that you would have to pay to pee. As a pregnant woman, you better believe I have an entire change purse fully loaded and at the ready.
  2. The first German word I learned was Ausfahrt (insert giggles here). The word Ausfahrt means exit. It is absolutely everywhere. Follow the Ausfahrt signs to get out of the parking garage, exit the Autobahn, etc. Now maybe I have the humor of a junior high boy but come on! You know that word looks like a$$fart. I mean seriously! How can you not giggle a little every time you see a giant sign that says Ausfahrt. Hilarious and helpful word to know.
  3. Amusement Rides are dangerous (sort of). We ventured to a fair down by the river that was for younger children. They had the traditional fair food (cotton candy, giant pretzels, slushies, etc.) but when it came to the children’s ride everything changed. One of the rides was children riding in a crate down a track that looks like it was made to transfer boxes out of a truck. No guard rails in case they fell off the sides. I must say they all seemed very happy though. The bounce house was also there but there is no net or walls on the side. Instead parents kind of gather on all sides and its your duty to protect any child that may fall your way from making it to the ground. O LOVED this. IMG_0607And then the mother of all craziness: climbing beer crates. With this activity there is a harness and an automatic belay, so not super dangerous it just looks terrifying. They start standing on like 3 crates and then once the child gets their balance they are handed another crate and they must add it to the stack and then climb up. They get rather high. It looks very challenging and from a physical therapy perspective looks like a great high level balance activity. The overall goal is to get to the top and ring a bell. In all of these rides, no one got hurt it just was a little shocking to see because there is NO WAY any of this would happen in America. In the end though, everyone was having fun and that is all that matters.IMG_0613
  4. Eggs are not refrigerated. I looked all over the grocery store to find some eggs until I finally realized they are not in the refrigerated section. They are sitting on the regular shelves like a box of cereal. Still taste good!
  5. No such thing as a free bag. Europe has started an initiative to get rid of the plastic bags that you get everywhere you go. They started this recently (a year or so ago) so when you go to the grocery store you need to bring your own bags, purchase reusable bags or buy paper bags. I think its like 5 cents per paper bag. I saw a news article the other day that stated that England alone has dropped its use of plastic bags by 80% over the first year that this tax was in place. This is a country that was originally using 7.6 billion plastic bags per year so that is SUPER impressive. I think America should get on board with this idea. I think it is brilliant!
  6. No one drinks tap water. No one! When you go out to a restaurant no one will bring you a free glass of water. You can order water (still or bubbly) but you can’t get a glass of tap water. I looked into this a little bit and there seems to be no clear answer to why Germans do not drink tap water. Some people theorized that it is due to the poor water quality after World War II so there is a generation that grew up not being able to drink tap water and they passed that tradition down to their children. This is just one theory but doesn’t mean it is the answer. Tap water in Germany is perfectly safe to drink and is heavily regulated but the tradition continues. Either way you have to buy bottled water at the restaurant in order to drink water.   Which brings us to our next point…
  7. Beer is cheaper than water. No joke. At the restaurant the bottled water is typically 2.50-5.50 (euros) small to big sizes. A glass of beer is typically 2-4 euros. Beer is cheaper than water, which is a cruel, cruel twist of fate for this preggo lady but hubby doesn’t seem to mind one bit.
  8. Never leave home without an umbrella. Seriously though. Never!
  9. Google Translate is everything. When using Google Chrome as your Internet browser, a handy dandy tool called Google Translate will pop up and offer to translate pages from German to English. Yes! Yes! A million times yes! This has been extremely helpful. It has its own quirks but I don’t know what we would do without it.
  10. German Chocolate is amazing! But you already knew that. It is seriously super delicious and it makes everything better. It was worth the trip!

First Few Days in Germany

After a 9.5 hour flight, we finally arrived in Frankfurt, Germany. We left Denver at 5:40pm on a Wednesday and arrived at 11:40am on a Thursday. The Frankfurt Airport is HUGE! It is the 3rd largest Airport in Europe and 11th overall just behind Hong Kong and Dallas. There was walking, more walking, passport check, escalator, escalator and more walking before finally finding baggage claim. Luckily all signs are in German and English but let me tell you that is a test of your mental fortitude. Get off plane after 9.5 hrs with minimal sleep and maneuver your way around a massive airport. Just to make things interesting lets add a 2 year old who thinks he is in charge, one misplaced gate checked stroller and GO!

We were very blessed in that Gavin’s new co-workers met us at the Airport after baggage claim. They helped us maneuver our way to the rental cars (more walking and elevators) and helped us find the parking garage where the vehicle would be (again more walking and surprisingly not close to the rental car area). They also helped us manage all of our luggage. They even helped us find the hotel, get us lunch and help us settle in. We are forever grateful and cannot express how thankful we are for this kind gesture. It made a HUGE difference on our first day.

Time Change

The next struggle for us has been the time change. They say it takes 1 day for every hour difference in time. There is an 8 hour time difference between Colorado and Germany so it is supposed to take us 8 days to adjust. 8 days. Let that sink in for a minute while I cuddle my screaming toddler. 8 days!

IMG_0597(Toddler tantrum time)

We have been through 2 nights here so far and they look like this: fall asleep at 5:30-6 pm as unable to keep eyes open any longer, wake up wide awake at midnight, stay awake until 2-3 am and then fall back asleep until 10am-noonish. I should add wake up starving at midnight because you fell asleep before dinner and have no food options open. Poor hubby has dealt with hangry pregnant wife on very little sleep. We have learned our lesson. Today we ventured to the grocery store for midnight dinner options and are attempting a more strict sleep schedule to attempt to slowly change our internal clocks. Fingers crossed!

IMG_0596(American bread vs European Toaster)

Finding a Home

As mentioned above we got in Thursday afternoon and then the very next day we were scheduled to meet with our “relocation assistant” to help find us a house. There’s nothing better to cure jet lag hangover then making a huge decision about where to live. It really couldn’t be avoided though as we have to find a place before all of our stuff gets here. We met with a lovely woman named Stephanie who was able to show us around our new town and show us several properties. The housing market in Wiesbaden is rough (right now). Rents are high and options are limited. Fortunately we were able to find 2 homes that we really liked. The process of renting a home here is rather interesting. After you decide you would like to rent a home, you must fill out a tenant form. Basically a form that says who you are, what do you do for a living, how much money do you make and where do you bank. You then submit this form to the landlord and they get to just hold on to the form until they decide if they want you as renters or not. They can say yes right away or they can wait and see who else might come along. I feel like we are trying to find a date on Match.com . We submitted our paperwork on Friday and now we wait. I hope they like us!

Final Thoughts

The first few days have been chaos but overall I think things are going well. We have been able to order food (most people speak English), the kiddo has only had a couple meltdowns (he is 2! Its going to happen), we attempted to drive the car somewhere (but didn’t succeed and came home and walked it. Haha!), we have managed to get on the right train (and back!) and we’ve been to the grocery store.

IMG_0594(O loves the train!)

All in all, not too bad. I look forward to the days when everything comes easy, but that’s not what we signed up for now is it. Our first few steps into European waters have been shaky but I think we are finding our way. Stay tuned for more Littleboy Shenanigans!

IMG_0599(Watching ducks in Wiesbaden)