Monday, January 29, 2007

Too Much Fun

Well, I guess some of the kids just had too much fun in the snow on Friday. Both Ian and Emma have been sick for a few days. They both have had a cough and cold. Then today, Emma started holding one of her ears and just cried most of the afternoon. I ended up taking her into the doctors right before they closed tonight. She did not have an ear infection. But she does have fluid in both her ears. I have to sit tight and watch because it can change over night. I gave her lots of tylenol before bed. Hopefully she will be able to sleep well.

Ian cries just like Emma. You can tell he does not feel well. And he is not his happy self. Tonight he got happy. But it was VERY short lived. I think it lasted 15 minutes. I feel so bad for the kids when they feel so terrible. All I can do is hold Ian or Emma during times like this.

I need to call the doctor again and make some appointments for the kids. Ian is now 4 almost 5 months old and he has not seen a doctor since his 2 week check up right before we left the states. He is past due for a few shots. So I need to get him in and I believe that Emma is also past due for a few shots. So my plan is to call them in the morning and schedule something.

Spencer changes classes in just a couple of days. Starting February 1st, he changes from Class 2B to Class 2C. His class he is in has 34 kids and class 2A has 33 kids. So they are making 3 classes out of 2. He met his new teacher. All he says is she has a funny looking face and that he HATES his new schedule. He is real sad that he won't be getting out at 10:45 in the morning once a week anymore. From the looks of it, he gets out at 12:30 everyday. That is a big change from what he has now. Right now, he gets out: Monday 12:30, Tuesday 11:30, Wednesday 1:20, Thursday 10:45 and Friday 11:30. He loved that schedule.

Shantal still complains about her homework. But it seems like she is finishing it without complaining as long. I don't have to keep on her as much. I do hope that it continues like that.

Hannah is progressing in school as well. She still does not talk much, but she is being more active and participating with friends and projects they do. That is definately progress. But I'm still holding hope that one day she will start talking more. But it is so much fun listening to her at home speaking so much German. She only speaks German to Emma. I think that is cute.

Friday, January 26, 2007

It Snowed!

Today, January 26, 2007, it snowed. Yesterday was actually the first snow as a few flakes fell. And then today, we saw a few more. The kids had fun today going outside and playing in the snow. It was so different than what they were used to in Wisconsin. And yet, they had the same amount of fun. There was hardly any snow at all. They were scrapping the ground trying to make a snowman. Here is what they came up with:

It is such a cute mini snowman. And eventually, they made a Wheeler Snowman Family:

We made No Bake Cookies today, went to the doctors and found out no one had Lice and played in the snow. Here are a few more pictures of the kids outside.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not Again!

This morning started like any other morning. I got up about 6:45 to feed Ian and then went on to wake up the other kids for school. Got everyone ready and just about to send Shantal and Spencer out the door for school. They need to leave by 7:45 as school starts at 8am. Usually while they are getting ready, I am also getting Ian and Emma ready as I have to take Hannah to school right after they leave. And I did just that this morning. I was brushing Hannah's hair when I saw it.....a bug. I was like...NO! I got it out and went into the bathroom to look at it in better light. And sure enough, to me, it looked like Lice. I was mad. Not at Hannah, as it is not her fault, but at the situation.

Last night when Hannah was praying before bed, she asked for help to not have to go to school today because she did not want to go on the field trip to see the puppet show. I told Hannah that her prayer was answered since she had lice, she could not go.

We did everything all over again, only this time without the help from Gardner. He stayed at work. I got all the sheets, blankets, pillow cases and towels washed. I got all the kids done with the lice shampoo and combed it out. I vacuumed all 4 levels of the house, including the couch, chairs, beds, pillows, anything that could be vacuumed, I did it for an extra procaution.

Plus I ran to the Pharmacy 2 times (they did not have enough of what I needed the first time but got it in a few hours later), Both schools to inform them of the lice I found (I don't feel confident enough to make the phone call with my German). I also went Grocery Shopping three times and the bakery (although that is cheating since the bakery is inside one of the stores).

I made a dinner that NO ONE would touch, until Gardner got home. I made Vegetable Lasagna. Gardner loved it. The kids would not go near it.

It was a very long day. And Gardner worked late, missed buses, trains and stuff. I had to go 15 minutes away to pick him up tonight. I'm still doing laundry. Still need to wash coats, gloves, hats, scarves, ect along with normal every day laundry.

But the one thing I did not mention yet...something very odd. Maybe it is not so odd, but I thought it was at the time. When shampooing the kids hair, you are supposed to comb it out afterwards and that is when I have seen the lice and eggs from the kids two weeks ago. Well today, I saw absolutely NOTHING. We go to the doctors tomorrow to get a note for the kids to go back to school. (Remember from my last post on lice, it is a law here. The kids can not go back without a doctors note saying they are clean and free of lice.) If he says that no one had anything, then I will be totally amazed because we all saw this little bug this morning. I just can not figure out where it came from this time. What am I saying, I did not ever figure out how Hannah got it last time.

I am totally finished for the day. Very tired. I plan on sleeping in come tomorrow since our doctors appointment is not until 12:30 in the afternoon. Gardner will be home as well because he has to also be checked and cleared for the kids to go back to school. So, I have all our metal blinds closed so it will stay dark until we open them. And hopefully the kids will take advantage of an extra day to sleep in and do so.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Trash Day

So I was thinking as I was getting ready for bed tonight, tomorrow is trash day. And it dawned on me, that this is a blog entry for sure.

The reason being, today was trash day. Tomorrow is also trash day and then Friday we have trash day again. I know people who dread trash day. Getting it all out on time, breaking down the boxes, blah, blah, blah. Try having it 3 times in a week.

Today was the blue trash can. In the blue trash can, we have paper goods. Tomorrow is yellow and Brown trash cans. Yellow is for plastics and metals. Brown is for biodegradable, which is frits, vegetables, egg shells, plants, leaves and so forth. On Friday, we will take out our grey trash can. It contains anything else not previously listed.

The one exception is glass. We have to keep glass seperate from all trashes. There are glass drop places all over Germany. And once again, you have to seperate. There is a green glass, clear glass and all other glass containers.

Not only do we have to seperate these items, we also have to remember to take the darn things to the street. Blue goes once a month. And the rest are every two weeks. Thank heavens we have a calendar and neighbors. We would be lost without either of them.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Massive Storm named Kyrill

Well, I was going to write last night but decided to go to bed instead.

We had a terrible storm here yesterday. We did not know how bad it was supposed to be since we do not have TV or Radio here. All I knew, is it was raining and the wind was blowing a little. But that was not abnormal for here in Germany. We got a phone call at 6:45 am from a mom in Shantal's class saying if the weather stayed the way it was, then her teacher was going to let the kids out early. I could not believe that the kids would be getting out early for rain and wind. I came here from Wisconsin and we barely got out for huge snow storms.

Well, Shantal did get out an hour early. But Spencer came home an hour late. Go figure. The wind did increase during the day. And by the time Gardner got home, I could not believe the outside. It was a serious storm. Gardner decided to come home on an earlier train than normal last night. When he got off here in Ratingen, he heard that was the last train for awhile. Thank heavens he was on THAT train. And come to find out, the trains STILL have not been back up and this is now Friday night.

Gardner went to work this morning not knowing the trains still were not running. Took him 2 hours to get to work and then 2 hours to return tonight. He had to make several transfers on several different buses and street trains.

The storm we had is something I have never experienced. It shook our windows. I wondered at one point if the windows would break. You could see the windows bellow out and in. Here in Germany, they have metal blinds on the outside of their windows so you can not see ANYTHING inside when they are closed. You would never know someone was home. Anyway, we finally closed those all the way and I am sure that is what saved the windows. We did get some damage to our hard wood floors on the top floor. The window was not locked and the wind kept blowing it open and causing water to come inside. We are hoping our insurance will cover that.

The storm was something comparable to a hurricane type winds. They are calling it "Kyrill". I have several pictures to show and I also am copying and pasting some news articles from .

Massive storm kills over 40 across Europe

Some 44 people lost their lives during one of the most devastating storms to hit Europe in decades. Here in Germany, 11 people are known to have died in storm-related incidents. Initial estimates say that storm "Kyrill" caused around one billion euros of damage. Travel was disrupted throughout the country. For the first time in its history the German national rail company had to suspend all of its services and more than 200 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt Airport. The storm also uprooted trees, battered buildings and caused major flooding. Hundreds of thousands of households across Europe were left without power. The storm is now hitting Poland and heading towards Ukraine.

Killer Winds in Europe Expected to Cause Heavy Financial Loss

Germany woke up to death and destruction Friday after Kyrill swept through the country

The storm that lashed northern Europe on Thursday is estimated to have caused more than one billion euros in damage to Germany, among the countries worst hit by the storm which killed at least 44 people across Europe.

The storm claimed 11 lives in Germany, halted rail services and forced the closure of Berlin's central train station after a girder collapsed, authorities said Friday.

For the first time in its history, the Deutsche Bahn national railway company suspended all services across the country as a precautionary measure after high winds blew trees on to the tracks.

Thousands of travelers were forced to spend the night in railway stations or seek emergency accommodation after train services across the country were cancelled.

Rail services were gradually returning to normal Friday but passengers were warned they faced further delays. "We're not taking any risks as far as passengers are concerned," said Hartmut Mehdorn, the head of the national rail company Deutsche Bahn, in justifying the unprecedented step.

Berlin's brand new central station, the biggest in Europe, was closed Thursday when high winds tore a steel girder from its high-tech facade. The two-ton girder fell 40 meters (130 feet) on to a stairway, police said. "No-one was hurt, thank God," said Volker Knauer, the Deutsche Bahn spokesman for the station.

The station was re-opened to passengers by lunchtime Friday, but train services remained heavily disrupted.

Embarassing blow to flagship station

Berlin's new station took a battering from the storm

Structural engineers were seeking to establish why the steel and glass building, which only opened eight months ago after being built for an estimated cost of one billion euros (1.29 billion dollars), had failed to withstand the first storm it has had to contend with.

Press reports said the storm, named "Kyrill" by German meteorologists, was the most powerful in the country in about 30 years, with winds gusting up to more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) per hour.

Many schools and businesses closed early on Thursday before the full force of the storm struck, bringing torrential rain and flooding to some areas, including parts of Berlin.

Eleven lives lost across Germany

Germany's autobahns became particularly trecherous

Authorities said the death toll in the storm had risen to 11 after a motorist was killed in the northwestern state of North-Rhine Westphalia when he crashed into a tree uprooted by the wind.

Another four people have died in the state died when they were hit by falling trees, including two firemen.

An 18-month-old baby died after being crushed by a door which was ripped off its hinges by high winds in Munich, in the southern state of Bavaria, while a 73-year-old man was killed in Augsburg after a barn door fell on him.

In the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, a man died when he was trapped under a collapsed wall in a restaurant. Three drivers were crushed by trees in Baden-Württemberg, in the central town of Hildesheim and in Strausberg, near Berlin.

Museums hit; flights disrupted

Several cultural buildings were damaged in the storm, including the church in the eastern town of Wittenberg where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in the 16th century.

A Cologne museum housing a priceless mosaic dating back to Roman times suffered damage and the wind blew the roof off an archive holding documents about the Nazis' victims at the site of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Berlin. "Luckily there was little damage to the collection," the spokesman for the museum, Horst Seferens, said.

The storm brought chaos to airports across the country

After canceling hundreds of flights Thursday, air traffic was also returning to normal in Germany Friday.

Germany's national carrier Lufthansa said it had been forced to cancel 331 flights around Europe, affecting almost 19,000 passengers. The country's busiest airport, Frankfurt, said it had grounded 207 of its 1,300 daily flights Thursday.

Though European insurers say it's too early to calculate the cost of damages inflicted by the storm, early indications say the bill is expected to be massive.

The German insurance association, the GDV, said insuredstorm damage in the country could total around 1 billion euros($1.3 billion).

Germany's biggest insurer Allianz said it had set up 24-hourhotlines for its customers and that damage assessment teams wereworking throughout the country.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

This and That

My life seems to be at a stand still since I last wrote. I should not complain that there is not much new happening in our lives right now.

The kids went back to school yesterday. They all seemed happy about being there. It was just the homework after school that drove me crazy. I say it drove me crazy, because I am the one that has to hear the whining and crying. Shantal is so terrible when it comes to homework. She complains so much and it takes more time than actually just doing it. For example, yesterday, Shantal came home from school at 1:30. She finished her homework around 5pm. She really had less than an hour of homework. But she just complains the whole time instead of doing it. And now, Spencer is starting in on it. It grates on my nerves.

Hannah did really well yesterday going back. She does not tend to talk to the teachers while she is at school. But she does to the kids. But yesterday, she did say "Tchuss" (good-bye) to 2 of the teachers. Today she said "Tchuss, bis morgan" (good-bye, until tomorrow). The one teacher was real excited today when she left. Hopefully that little progress will continue and she will say something more than good bye to them everyday.

I have had a hard time with Ian these past few days. Or should I say Ian has had a hard time with me. He had 3 days where he was bottle fed and coming back to me was not easy. We are getting back on track though. Unfortunately, tomorrow night I have to stop feeding him for 3 days again. We have to do the lice treatment one last time to complete the cycle. And when I do that, I can not breastfeed for 3 days.

Thankfully, I have not seen any new lice yet. I say yet, because I still have not ruled it out about it not being fully gone. I am still not caught up on all the laundry and I will have sheets, pillow cases, blankets and towels again tomorrow. I really am almost there.

One thing I wanted to say, is that Gardner got a photo-radar ticket. We knew that he was caught but had not seen the ticket. It happened before Christmas. Well, the ticket showed up the other day. It cost 20 Euros. Luckily, he was not going all that fast over the speed limit. But photo radar is the major thing they have here in Germany for patrolling and controlling how fast everyone goes.

We also found out how much Hannah's Kindergarten costs us each month. It is all based on your income. We thought we would be paying around 150 Euros a month. But it is actually 115 per month. So that was a pleasant surprise.

I started scrapping again. I got 6 pages done this last week plus 20 thank you cards for people who attended Spencer's Baptism. It was really fun to work on recent photos. So much, that I am going to be doing that more often. Plus it is harder to know what I scrapped already and what I have not since all my scrapbooks are in Gardner's parents basement. The next thing I really want for my scraproom is a sewing machine. I know people will probably read that and wonder if I typed it right. And yes, I did. I actually sew on paper. It brings a nice look to the page.

Oh yes, Yesterday around 5am, I was going down the stairs to get Ian as he was ready to eat. Well, I fell once again. Luckily I caught myself on the railing. Otherwise it would of been an 8 stair fall. It was bad enough though that it woke Gardner up. These marble stairs are dangerous! And I don't think my toes can take much more. As for last weeks fall, my toes are getting a little smaller. My one toe does not sit on top of the other toe anymore. But it is still a little swollen, still bruised and still hurts when I do something without thinking or when one of the kids step on them. OUCH.

The weather here is rainy. I am so tired of the rain right now. Seems like we barely have clear enough skies for the kids to go out and play. And I really want them to be able to go out.

Emma sat on the toilet for the first time the other day. I got a picture of it, and she looked really cute. I don't know if she is totally ready yet. But I believe she is almost ready. She always wants her diaper changed. She can't stand being wet or poopy. When she is in the process of going, she holds her diaper as if it is going to leak or something. I think she is really close! And I pray this will be an easy child to potty train.

Tonight I made Lasagna for dinner. I had not made that in YEARS. It was actually pretty good. Of course, my pickiest of eaters (Hannah) did not even think about trying it. But I did boil her some lasagna noodles and she ate those plain. Shantal would not try it, but after I put it away and told her what was in it, she wanted some.

Last night I made Schnitzel for dinner. A very German thing. I told my kids they were chicken nuggets. Well, I usually buy the mini ones. But this time, they were really big. After my kids talked about how much they loved them, I enlightened them on what they really were. They just kept saying how much they like them and wanted me to make them again.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What Next?

OK, I say what next because this has been seriously a week I would really not like to repeat.

Yes, we have dealt with Lice for 3 days. Then today, I was working on trying to get laundry up to speed and the house cleaned....again. Well, around lunch time, I fell down our stairs. Just 2 stairs. But our floors are marble, so they are hard. And I was carrying Ian. I did manage to keep Ian above the ground and not get hurt at all. But I on the other hand did not fair so well.

I ended up going to the ER here in Germany thinking I had broken a toe or two. Everything there happened so fast. I came prepared to be there a couple of hours (the way it usually is in America). Gardner came home to drive me and all the kids went with us. Well, Gardner dropped me off at the front door and went to park the car. When he got inside, I was already gone. Not only already gone, but coming out of a room to go to get X-rays. So we sat together to get the x rays. I got called within 5 minutes for that. And then we waited a little more than 5 minutes for the x rays to come back. I went back into the emergency room and they took me right back again.

They looked at the x rays. I had 2 of them taken. The toes did not look broken, although the doctor did say perhaps one of them is broken in this spot, as he pointed to something in the x ray. but it would of been a small break. So his theory is that they are sprained.

Two toes are totally swollen, blue and purple and one of my toes is curved kind of sitting a little on the toe next to it. I can not walk on it at all. I walk only on my heel. And I can not curl my toes either. My instructions were to keep my foot elevated, put ice on it (and not the ice cream, the doctor it has the same name in german as ice) and then they gave me some kind of cream to put on it 3 - 4 times a day. I'll be interested to see what that actually does.

I did ask what they would do for a break because it seems like there is nothing you could do with a broken toe. He mentioned that one would have to go to therapy. So I was trying to imagine what kind of therapy that would be....toe therapy. Sorry, but I chuckle at it. Just sounds so funny.

Well, I am now at home with my foot elevated. I was not feeling so well, and sure enough, I threw up after about 10 minutes of laying down. I think I have hit my tolerance level. I am definately ready for a different week with different trials.

I always say, when it rains, it poors by the wheeler family. Man, it has poured this week on us. That is for sure.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Random Questions and Answers

Well, the lice situation is under control for now. We all went to the doctors today and got the approval for the kids to go back to school tomorrow. Those same kids who cried because they had to miss school these past 2 days whined that they had to go back tomorrow. The other thing that is happening due to the lice situation, is that I can not breastfeed Ian. Because of the shampoo we used, I am not allowed to breastfeed for 3 days. So I am pumping and dumping. So reminiscent of right before we moved to Germany when I had my DNC and I had to pump and dump because of the anesthesia. At least that time it was only 24 hours. so this is a long time.

I have some ladies ask me some questions about Germany and my family these past 2 days. I decided to post the questions and answers I wrote here. Some of it is very informative.

QUESTION: So I am new and don't know your history but from what I understand you meet your husband in germany. What were both of you doing there at the time. Then what brought you back to the states and then again back to germany?

ANSWER: My husband and I came to Germany the first time back in 1990. We did not know each other but actually met here. We were both Missionaries for our church. So we both went back to the states (at different times) when our service was finished. After we were both home, we hooked up and started hanging out a bit. Eventually, we got married. DH has always wanted to come back here to work and live. So he looked for opportunities to come back over here. finally his job had an opening and he jumped at it. So now his dream has been fulfilled.

QUESTION: How many kids and ages do you have?

ANSWER: We have 5 kids: Shantal is 9, Spencer is 8, Hannah is 5, Emma is 1 and Ian is 4 months.

QUESTION: Do you speak fluent german????

ANSWER: Oh how I wish I could. My husband does and I rely upon that sometimes. I know enough to carry on a conversation and to find things I need. But I start every conversation with someone I don't know, "my german is not so good".

QUESTION: Wie viele kostet ein Gallon von Milsch en Deutschland? (How much does a gallon of milk cost in Germany?)

ANSWER: Well, they sell milk in liters. And it costs 99 cents. Take 4 liters to make a gallon, that is roughly 4 euros. But that would make roughly 5.25 US dollars for a gallon.

QUESTION: My friend just married a guy from Germany...she said she cannot find bleach in any store! Have you seen any bleach anywhere in the country?

ANSWER: No I heard there is no bleach here. I did use some because my american friend gave me some. She said you can find it in the Netherlands. I also have a friend and her husband works for the American Embassy so I plan on buying some at the base when I go with her in a couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Okay I know that you went to Germany for your husband's job. Will he be there for a set term (contract)? or do you intend to live there for the rest of your lives?

ANSWER: When he initially started talking about a job here, I thought it would be 2 years. Then he said 3 years. Then it turned into 3 - 5 years. Now that we are here, he has joked about staying forever. his reasons, 1st are: It was so hard to get here he doesn't ever want to go home and deal with that kind of a move again. Then the 2nd I've heard is: When he thinks about the kids going to college, he says we should stay. College is free here. It would save us money. But he is just kidding around with real reasons. we do want to move back. Realistically, I would say it will be 5 years.

QUESTION: How long have you been scrapping? Do you find any supplies in Germany, or do you have to order online? Are your older kids interested in scrapping? are there any other hobbies you have or crafts that you do?

ANSWER: I did some scrapping when I was in college in 1987. But scrapping has sure taken a change from back then. And I would say me doing it more of a die hard thing, I have been doing it for 9 years. I have not found any supplies in germany and am afraid to buy anything on line because the custom officials tax us on new items that come into the country. The only way around that is if someone mails something and on the customs declaration forms says it is a gift.

I have a few kids who want to scrapbook with me. Shantal who is 9 did scrapbooking in school last year. They made one throughout the year. It turned out awesome. And just tonight, she asked me how old you had to be to scrap. I told her there was no set age. Just when someone wants to they can. And she informed me she wanted to.

As for crafts or hobbies, I honestly can not think of anything right now. I love camping. LOVE IT. And I love to travel. But that is all I can think of.

QUESTION: What is the biggest thing that you have had to adjust to living overseas?

ANSWER: Let's see, no scrapbooking stores, staying up past midnight to talk to people on the phone, stores closing between 1 - 3 each day for a break, driving 100 miles an hour on the freeway, paying money to use the bathroom in a public restroom (usually 50 cents), keeping certain change in the van to get a grocery cart (deposit of 1 euro), Seperation of our trash (paper, plastic, biodegradable and then the rest), constant rainy weather and people looking at us oddly for having 5 kids (we really STICK OUT).

QUESTION: How have the kids adjusted to living in another country/speaking another language?

ANSWER: The kids have adjusted really well. They have picked up the language so well and are in the process of correcting my german every day. It is like no problem for them. And Emma who is 1, is starting to talk. She is speaking both languages already.

QUESTION: What is something that you learned about Germany after moving there that you were surprised about/didn't know before moving there?

ANSWER: How hard it is to get around and how much we would get lost trying to get to certain places. Free Coffee at work with real coffee mugs provided and washed each day.


First off, I want to say Happy Birthday to my mom. I called her today to tell her of my woes and ask for some advice and before we hung up, I asked her if there was anything else new besides what we had talked about. And she said, not unless you have something you want to say. I told her I could not think about much else besides my day. She then enlightened me it was her birthday. I did remember it this morning, but then the day hit hard and I forgot. I'm glad I decided to call her today though. I'm just sorry I did not remember to wish her proper birthday wishes.

On to my day....Well, I was getting the kids ready for school this morning. As I was getting the girls hair done for the day, I found lice in Hannah's hair. I could not believe it as we have never dealt with lice before and the kids just went back to school yesterday. So I went over to her school and informed them of what she had so they could notify the parents properly. Then I decided the bigger kids should not go to school either. Shantal was sad. So we went to their school and the school principal said that they indeed could not go to school. If someone in the family has it, they treat it like everyone has it. And in order for the kids to go back to school, there needs to be a note from a doctor saying they are free and clear. Shantal cried when she found this out because she had swimming today in school. Spencer cried because he has short day tomorrow and wanted to come home early. He doesn't get that he is not going at all. hannah cried because she is going to miss Gymnastics tomorrow. No one was happy. Everyone was crying.

Well, I went to the pharmacy around 9am and spent 100 Euros. With 7 of us, we bought them out of all the lice treatments they had. Before washing the girls hair with the special shampoo, I cut their hair. shantal and Hannah both had longer hair. Well, not anymore. I had already cut Spencer and Gardner's hair during the weekend. Now almost everyone has a haircut. Well, Hannah's hair is so short compared to what it used to be. She said to me she looked like Carla, a girl in her Kindergarten Class. So a bit later, I called her Carla. She said, "Mom, please don't call me Carla. You can call me Han, Hannah or Wheeler and if you forget my name, you can call me Kathleen." That was so funny to me. So tonight I have been calling her Kathleen (this is her middle name, after my mom). She looks so different to me.

Well, I spent the day washing every blanket, sheet, pillow case, towel, clothes. Oh, no, I am not finished but we all got fresh blankets on our beds for the night. We also vacuumed and mopped the floors. I also vacuumed the couch, chairs, beds, pillows, ect. You name it. If I could vacuum it for double protection, I did it. And then when finished, the vacuum bag went straight out to the trash.

And come tomorrow, I will have to wash sheets again. ARGH

Oh, I failed to mention, that while we were shampooing, afterwards, we used the comb for lice. Well, I found lice in Shantal and Emma's hair as well. They share the same brush and I knew that was going to happen once I saw Hannah with it.

Well tonight I got the shampoo on me. It is currently sitting in my hair and I need to rinse in 10 minutes. Anyway, before I put the shampoo in, I had Gardner cut my hair as well. I told him I did not care about my hair as much as I care about not having the lice. My hair can grow back.

Well, it is a law here in Germany that we can not go anywhere in public until we have the doctors notes. I am hoping that this will be a one time deal and we can get rid of it. But I have my doubts with so many people in this house having it.

I cringe knowing there are bugs here. But hopefully it won't be for long.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

16 Years Ago

Well, I had the best of intentions of writing last night. But, time just was not on my side.

Yesterday was a special day for us. We had come to realize that it was 16 years ago that Gardner and I met, right here in Germany. Right here in Duesseldorf. 16 Years ago (yesterday), is the day I arrived in Germany for my mission. And Gardner was working in the office and helped pick up the missionaries from the Airport. He was in charge of office supplies but was leaving the office the next day. So as all the new missionaries had orientation and it was time to talk about office supplies, Gardner is the one that did the talking. And out of all the people that talked that day about different things, the only thing I took away from that long meeting was that Gardner was not the person in the office over office supplies anymore. It was Elder Growcock. After every sentance, Gardner would say, "don't call me, call Elder Growcock." He made an impression from the very start.

Yesterday, I also cut Spencer's and Gardner's hair. I have not done that in so long. I did Spencer first. We had new clippers and had no one to practice on, except Spencer. Well, Spencer said I made him bald. And my response was and still is, "You are not bald. You have hair." He did get a buzz though. It is quite short. And when Gardner came in the bathroom and I asked him how he wanted his hair, he said, "give me a Spencer Special." So now, I have 3 boys that look the same, as Ian also has little hair. I did get a picture of Spencer tonight with his "short" hair.

I was gone most of the day yesterday. Our friends, The Risers, got home from visiting the States Sunday afternoon. I went Grocery Shopping for them and went over to their house for awhile. My job, besides grocery shopping, was to keep the mom, Eva, awake and not sleep. It is so hard with jet lag after that long flight coming over here. I still remember having family home Evening that first Sunday we arrived here at 4am. I think it took us a couple weeks to finally feel integrated into the German time zone.

Today the kids started back to school after the 2 1/2 week break. Spencer and Shantal did real great getting up and out the door. But Hannah was a whole different story. I got her to school but had a hard time leaving. She did not want to be there and kept trying to follow me back to the van. Finally one of her teachers blocked the door so she would stay. It does break my heart when that happens. I feel bad for her but know it is best for her to stay there and play. And it has done wonders for her German.

I have spent a lot of time this afternoon and even this evening trying to help Shantal with her homework. She drags her feet and tries not do to her math. She says she hates math. They do it a little different here and when she adds or subtracts the way she knows how, the teacher tells her she can not do it that way, even though she ends up with the same answer. And yet, she fails to show Shantal how to do it the way they have been learning it this year. Shantal is just thrown into it when the kids have learned it from the get go. And then, she brings it to me and I can't figure out how they are doing it either. Gardner and I both feel like she needs after school help with Math. And not help from us. She wants a 3rd party person to help her. And I don't blame her.
Emma has started saying words this past couple of weeks. She has already been saying Mom only now it is Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom. When I am driving I have to really address her or it will keep up. And she really does not want me, but likes to talk. (or so I think). I heard her a few weeks ago say the word "heiss". This means hot in german. We were at the Weihnachts Markt (christmas market) and I bought her a waffle, which they sell as a dessert, not a meal. Anyway, it was hot as they cook it to order. So when I gave it to her, I told her it was hot. She went to touch it anyway (she always does) and then pulls her hand back and said heiss. Just last week, I heard her say Tschuss. This means good-bye in German. It was while Gardner's parents were here. I am always stund when I hear a word out of her mouth. But especially german words. And then today, she said thank you to me. That is a word I had not heard from her before.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

9 Suitcases of Clothes.....GONE

Well, it is amazing to me that I am actually finding time to sit here and type some days. Maybe it is because I don't get to bed until 2am. Actually the other night, it was 3am. I don't know why I am staying up so late. I kick myself in the morning though for doing such a stupid thing. I actually start kicking myself within an hour from going to bed because Ian wakes up to eat.

So, my hair has officially started falling out again. Ian is 4 months old and that seems to be the time frame when the hair starts to fall out after having a baby. I noticed it about a week ago, but now it is in full throttle. I don't have enough hair as it is and it is coming out. ARGH.

Yesterday we spent the day trying to organize and clean my room. We still had suitcases on the floor from moving to Germany. The kids and I lived out of suitcases for so long. First moving to Utah and then to Germany. But finally, they are gone. The suitcases are in the attic and the 9 suitcases that were on my floor are no more. Here is a pic of the disaster of clothes. Remember, we have 5 kids which I had to sort through all their stuff.

I got all the summer clothes put away, weeded through what does not fit Emma or Ian anymore. Does not seem possible that Ian has outgrown clothes already. He is my baby. He is not suppose to grow. Anyway, we did get it all finished. Here is what the room looked like after spending so much time on it:

That area is now my scrap space. And I actually used it today. I was so excited to actually sit down, be able to find my stuff and make something. The kids and I actually made 20 thank you cards to send to people for helping with Spencer's Baptism and for the gifts he received. Then tonight, I made a layout from this past Christmas.

Spencer and Shantal fasted today for the first time. They've gone without eating during church on fast Sundays before. But not actually not eating a meal. Shantal said she was dying because she needed food. And Spencer had a hard time this morning. He said it would be OK skipping breakfast if he could play his playstation. Well, the minute church was out, we went into a room to pray so they could eat. As soon as AMEN was said, they wanted out keys and they ran out and stayed in the van for 45 minutes. Church here is so strange because everyone hangs out for at least an hour afterwards just talking to each other. Church gets out at Noon, but we usually get home around 1:30. The kids usually play in the gym while they wait. Of course, this was not the case today.

Emma is saying more and more words. Gardner and I were talking and I bet within a month, she might be putting sentances together. She reminds us of Shantal when she started talking. Once Shantal started talking, there was no stopping her. I am thinking she might be an early potty trained kid as well. Hard to believe since I really have not had any of those before.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Family Life

So a few days have passed since I wrote.

Gardner's parents left today. The kids were really sad. They sure enjoyed them being around. Emma took to Grandpa really well. She really loved playing with his zipper on his coat. We talked last night with the kids and asked them what they enjoyed doing while Grandma and Grandpa were here. And I must say Toys R Us was the biggest hit. But I think it is because they just went there the day before.

Gardner and I went to Ikea again last night. We spend 235 Euros. I went again today and spent 120 Euros. Unfortunately we have to go again on Saturday. Something I bought today had a broken piece of wood and something we bought yesterday is missing a part. Bummer. I love going to IKEA. I absolutely love that store. But....and this is a big but....IKEA is 1/2 hour away from us by car and gas is not cheap here. Currently, gas is 1.26 Euros per liter. That is 1/4 of a gallon. That is 5 Euros for one gallon of gas which is equivelant to $6.50 in US Dollars.

Yesterday I put together the Exersaucer that Gardner's Parents bought Ian. We actually put him in there and he was real happy. Look for yourself:

Something I keep realizing about Ian is that he sweats a lot while he eats. And then he spits up like crazy. We think he has a form of reflux.

So I heard a funny story about Spencer yesterday. While Spencer was on a train ride home from Cologne with Gardner, Gardner's Dad and Hannah, he made a comment as he looked thoughtfully out the window: What if I marry a German girl? Then I would never go back to America and my kids would speak German. Kind of crazy that this 8 year old boy thought of that. But Spencer always amazes me with things he says and does.

Spencer is such a great big help with Ian. Every day, I can count on Spencer helping out. Spencer always wants to hold Ian, burp Ian, Play the Playstation with Ian. If we are in church, he will ask for Ian.

And Shantal helps out with Emma like Spencer does with Ian. I love watching Shantal with Emma. Emma trusts Shantal completely. When Emma is really grouchy, Shantal is about the only one who can bring Emma out of it.

And so sometimes I really feel bad for Hannah. She has no buddy like Spencer/Ian and Shantal/Emma. Jokingly I told Gardner we needed to have one more child for Hannah. But let me stop all rumors before they start. We are not having anymore kids. We really are done. I know it and Gardner knows it. We both think my body will give out permantly if I had another one. Plus, I don't have the patience for it.

OK, so I have another funny about our life here in Germany. Or at least, everyone who hears about it thinks it is funny. We live in a house that only has 2 bedrooms. We have Shantal and Emma sharing a room and then Spencer and Ian will be sharing a room. That leaves Hannah and no bedroom. Gardner and I sleep in a big room on the 3rd floor. It is not a bedroom, more of a big family room type of a room. Anyway, we put Hannah in the hallway on the 2nd floor. People tend to laugh that Hannah's bedroom is in the hallway. Well, this hallway is like a foyer at the top of the stairs. It is a decent size. She has a bed, dresser, night stand and toy box there. I will have to take a picture of it. Hold on....I am going to do that right now.

And I have to add, that she asked to sleep there and have her own room as she has never had her own before. Shantal has since asked to switch rooms with Hannah. So as you can see, it is a very popular room in our house.

So I have been working a little on getting my scrapbooking area set up. I really miss those scrap weekends I used to organize in Wisconsin. I loved getting out, being someone besides a mom and actually accomplishing some pages during the weekend. There are not that many scrapbookers here in Germany. Those that I have found are Americans who only use Creative Memories. So my style is so much different. And the other hard part is there is absolutely no scrapbook store around. So I will have to rely on friends and family plus trips to the US to add supplies.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Christmas Again?

Well, New Years Day was spent with us doing different things. Cathie was not feeling well and we had plans to go to Cologne. So Gardner went with his Dad to Cologne. He took Spencer and Hannah. But I stayed home with Shantal, Emma and Ian. Spencer and Hannah had a good time with Grandpa and Dad.

And while they were gone, Shantal and I got our Christmas Tree put away and everything Christmas packed back up. I cleaned house like crazy plus I did 5 loads of laundry. Having company here, even if they are not staying with us, throws us off schedule a bit and so my house and laundry was needing some cleaning. Gardner was very surprised to see how clean it looked when he got home.

Today, I went to the Rathaus again to finish up with my Visa. I did get my visa and so did the kids. It is only good until September 21, 2007. Then we will have to renew again. My visa cost 50 Euros and each childs was 25 Euros. While there, the lady was telling us that I had to go to school to learn German, even though I already know German. She said all new people coming into the country must take this German class. But Gardner kept trying to get me out of this class, as he took a test and got out of his a few months ago. Normally Gardner does all the talking because his German is so much better than mine. But I jumped in making jokes about me going back to school and then she said I did not have to go after all. I guess she did not realize how much (even as bad as it is) I actually do know.

After we got back from the Rathaus, The kids, Gardner's Mom and I all drove out to Toys R Us. We were on a mission of sorts. I was trying to find an exersaucer for Ian since ours did not make it on the ship. I really wanted one as they are one of the best things invented. And then Grandma and Grandpa thought they would take the kids shopping for Christmas instead of bringing stuff out for them since the room in the suitcase is not so big.

The kids had a blast going around the store. Shantal ended up with some Dress up clothes and dress up make up. Hannah a Car for her baby borne and a back pack for her baby borne that she got for Christmas from Santa. Spencer bought a Pirates of The Caribbean racing car set. And then Emma got a Winnie the pooh Kitchen Set. And of course, Ian got his Exersaucer.
The kids were all happy and by the looks of the living room, you would of thought it was Christmas Day all over again. Empty torn boxes all over the place.

Oh, and we finished the Star Wars Series. We watched Episode 5 yesterday and 6 today.

Monday, January 1, 2007


New Year's Eve was spent kind of quiet and as a Family. The kids wanted to stay up to watch the fireworks that happen at midnight. So they took turns choosing movies.

One video that Hannah chose was our wedding video. The kids were laughing so hard at hair do's from 13 years ago, and how young some people were compared to now. People that they really know looked so different back then. They also recognized my Grandma and Grandpa Astle, which my Grandma died this past year. So that was nice to know they remembered them. The kids were also making fun of the amount of kissing we did in the video. In all, they made us laugh.

The movie they were watching when it became 2007 was Star Wars, Episode 4, or the Original Star Wars. Spencer and Shantal were so into the movie that they decided not to go and watch the fireworks.

The fireworks here in Germany is so different from America. I seriously have never seen such a firework show without going to a crowded celebration of sorts where the firemen light them. Here, you can buy the fireworks that go up in the sky. Matter of fact, that is basically all they have. And everyone was doing them at the exact time and it made it so fun to watch. The show went on for almost an hour, non stop.

It was interesting as everyone came outside once midnight hit. Neighbors we had never seen before. They come out with their wine glasses to toast with those they see on the street and to wish them a happy new year. And the people who were celebrating was such a wide range of people. Even the older people were outside lighting their fireworks. It really was interesting to experience the New Year here in Germany.

The kids got to bed around 1:30 in the morning and I got to bed at 2am.

So, as the old year ends and the Neujahr gets off to what we all hope is a good start, I wish you "einen guten Rutsch!" (a good slide).

Tradition of Sylvester, or New Year's Eve

The night of the Holy Sylvester, the last night of the year, has always been the night of fools and a funny good time. The saint of this day, Pope Sylvester I, according to legend is the man who healed from leprosy and baptized the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.
Sylvester was a Roman, the son of Rufinus. He was ordained a priest by Marcellinus. Chosen Pope in 314, he continued the work of organizing the peacetime Church so well begun by St. Miltiades. Sylvester saw the building of famous churches, notably the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. John Lateran, built near the former imperial palace of that name. It is quite probable too that the first martyrology or list of Roman martyrs was drawn up in his reign. St. Sylvester died in 335. He was buried in a church which he himself had built over the Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria. His feast is kept on December 31.

In many of the German-speaking areas the change of the year is celebrated noisily and merrily. Guests are invited, and groups attend a "Sylvester Ball." There is eating, drinking, dancing and singing. It may be accompanied by the popular "Sylvester" custom of Bleigiessen. A small piece of lead will be melted over a flame in an old spoon and dropped into a bowl of coldwater. From the shape you can supposedly tell your fortune for the coming year. At midnight, when the old year is almost gone and the new year is about to start, glasses are filled with champagne or wine, and toasts and hugs go with wishing each other "ein gutes neues Jahr". Some go out into the streets and listen to the bells ringing throughout the land. Others participate in shooting in the New Year, or put on their private fireworks.

Ian's Baby Blessing

I must first say, that I LOVE the outfit Ian is wearing in his picture. This is what he wore for his baby blessing He looked way too cute. Everyone at church did the ew and ah but of course, in German.

Gardner did the baby blessing in English. I was happy about that and since he did so, I was able to write down some of what he said during the blessing. Here are my notes I took:

*Bless Ian to grow strong
*Loved in Family
*Light and Example to Family
*Thanks for Light Ian is so far to us
*Blessing on Ian thy Spirit
*De well in this life in following the Savior

It was kind of crazy me trying to write while holding Emma and trying to keep her quiet.

We were taking pictures after church of our family including Gardner's Parents (Bob and Cathie) and just as the Missionary was going to take the picture, this man in the ward who is from Africa jumped in the picture and said I want to be in it. We went ahead and took the picture (It was a digital camera) and then after he stepped away, I politely said that I needed the family to stay so I could get one with just the family.

One thing that happened during church that was funny was the Bishop announced that Spencer was the newest member of the church. So he asked Spencer to stand up for everyone to see him. Well, then the Bishop said, maybe you need to stand on the bench for everyone to see you because he just blended in with us adults sitting down. Spencer thought that was great and jumped right up there. He was thrilled to do something that we continually tell him he can not do.

Spencer's Baptism

Wow, what a day! It started off all rainy and yucky. Cathie and Bob came over to the house around 9am so the women could go grocery shopping. I needed to pick up some stuff to get us through the holiday weekend coming up plus I needed to pick up some food for the baptism. It is so hard to plan food for an event when you don't know how many people are going to show up. No big deal.

So, shopping in the rain was crazy. Everything gets wet. Taking everything in was nuts trying to get it in without everything getting wet. That is when Bob said an attached garage is nice. I agree, but am happy I don't have to walk 15 minutes to the car anymore. Our garage is 3 houses down, not too bad compared to what we had before. We actually live in a town house. Germans call them row houses. And our garage is at the end of the row of town houses. There are a total of 4 houses and we are the third one down from the garage.

I cleaned house a bit before it was time to get ready for the baptism. Gardner, Spencer and Grandpa all went to the church about 1/2 hour before the girls did. And I gathered up all the stuff I needed for the baptism. As I looked around, I saw Spencer's baptism clothes sitting on a shelf. I grabbed those fast and ran out the door.

As I got to the church, I wondered if they would be happy to see me with the clothes. They had not even noticed that they were missing yet. But Gardner was still happy to see me with them.

The baptism was great. I worried for a minute there that Spencer might have to go again. But he did not. He got the OK and had a huge grin on his face. After the Confirmation, he started shaking the first persons hand (Elder Walker) and Elder Walker told him to hug his dad. Well, Spencer jumped up onto Gardner. It was really cute and then Spencer started to be silly and leaned backwards while Gardner was holding him, as if he was going to flip over. We could all see Spencer's face. He just lit up. Well, Spencer just had to jump up on Grandpa and the Bishop as well. (I think Spencer just likes to jump).

I took a lot of pictures of Spencer. We had invited a lot of people to the baptism and we had 12 non members (neighbors, co-workers and friends) come. Spencer got 9 presents from people. It is a big thing here in Germany to get gifts. I told Spencer it was a good thing he lived in Germany for his big day as he would not of gotten those things in America. Well, all his presents were books, in German I might add. Spencer could not believe it. The only thing he said is "WHAT?".

After the baptism, everyone hung out to eat. I had so much food there. Once again, I am an over-achiever.

Once we cleaned up, Sibylle (our Nanny from a few years back who is from Hannover), came over to our house for dinner. We did Raclette once again. Cathie actually bought us a raclette machine today and so it was fun to use it. The kids were thrilled to see Sibylle and to spend time with her. Sibylle brought all the kids gifts. That was really nice of her. It is nice that we don't live so far from her now. She lives about 3 hours away. Oh and I should mention that Spencer jumped up on Sibylle when she left tonight as well.


First thing we did this morning was Gardner and I went to the Rathaus (city hall) here in Ratingen to get the kids and myself our visas. This is something we should of gotten a month ago, but with the move, we decided to wait until we were in our new home. Of course, we did not have everything we needed. They needed a passport picture of myself and Shantal (because she would be 10 next year). And then we have all this paper work to fill out. So we will be going back on Tuesday after the Holiday.

Then, we ventured out and went to a city called Wuppertal. It is a beautiful city (for the area that we are in). Gardner actually was a Missionary in Wuppertal back in 1991. We saw what apartment he lived in and then rode on the Schwebebahn.

The Schwebebahn Wuppertal is a suspension railway. Its full name is the "Eugen Langen Monorail Suspension Railway" (Einschienige Hängebahn System Eugen Langen). The people of Wuppertal know it, however, as the "Old Lady" or the "Iron Wyvern". Designed by Eugen Langen, who originally planned to build it in Berlin, it was built in 1900, opened in 1901 and is still in use today as a local transport system in the city.

The suspension railway travels along a route 13.3 km long, about 12 m above the surface of the river Wupper and approximately 8 m above the city streets, between the districts of Oberbarmen and Vohwinkel. At one point the railway crosses the A46 motorway. The entire trip, including stops for people to get on and off, takes about 35 minutes.

As we rode the Schwebebahn, It swayed the whole time. The kids enjoyed this part of our trip. We also ate something called Doener Kebaps. It is a Turkish Sandwich made of Lambs Meat.
We really wore out Grandma today.


Well December 28 will be a day that I am sure Gardner's Mom and Dad would LOVE to forget. We took them to Ikea. If you have never been to Ikea, well, you would never understand this shopping experience. It seriously is in a class all to itself.

Ikea is a HUGE warehouse of furniture, kitchen gadgets, carpets, lights, all must haves and not really needing stuff for your house. On the top floor is like a large showroom. It is like a one way road with arrows all over the floor telling you which way to go. As you look through the show room, you write down on paper what items you are interested in and it tells you where in the warehouse to find those items. On that same floor is also a swedish restaurant.

On the bottom floor is a kids play room (kids 3 - 10 can go in for 90 minutes a day). There is also the warehouse. Man, this place is the same as the show room. A one way road with arrows telling you which way to go. It is a huge maze. And the amount of people is astounding. It makes you feel like every person in Duesseldorf was in Ikea at the same moment.

And if having that many people in there was not bad enough, try everyone deciding to leave all at the same time. This happened to us.

When we first got there, we ate lunch in the Restaurant. There were so many people, that you just keep your eyes peeled for someone who looks like they are almost finished eating and "hang" out around them until their table is free. It is seriously nuts. Well, after eating, I took the three older kids to the play area and then the adults and babies were off to see the show room and warehouse. As we got to the warehouse, we noticed we only had 1/2 hour to shop as the show room took one hour and we had to pick up the kids before our 90 minute limit was reached. Well, we did not find everything we were looking for, but managed to spend 220 Euros anyway.

As we got to our vans, we noticed the traffic jam in the parking garage. We were up on what americans would call the 3rd Level. (here in Germany, the 2nd Level). We were there for more than 45 minutes and the cars around us did not even move. I breastfed Ian while waiting. Then we decided to go back into Ikea as Emma needed a diaper change anyway and we would eat in their restaurant once again. After we were done with our second meal at Ikea, we were sure that the cars would be moving again. And they were.

But to finish off our Ikea experience, we got back to the house and Gardner and Bob put together our DVD/CD holder and then I later put together 2 chairs. Gardner's parents got the full Ikea experience and I am sure they would not mind if they never stepped foot inside another Ikea in their life.

Well, as if I did not have enough fun on this day, I decided to stay up until 1:30 in the morning watching a TV Series called The Amazing Race that Gardner's Dad brought out for us. At 3am when Ian decided to get up to eat, I was hating myself for staying up so late.


A couple of days have gone by and I thought I better get writing or it won't get done again. And the sad thing is, we are doing so much right now with Gardner's parents here.

Wednesday Gardner and I ran some errands. The first thing we did was go into Duesseldorf to sign up for Elterns Geld. What is Elterns Geld you are probably asking. It is money they give to parents who have babies and do not work. We found out that we still get some each month for Emma (until she is 2) and the lady even mentioned that they might go back and credit us 6 months. Wow, that would be nice. Even if it is only until October when Gardner started work, would really thrill us. We won't know how much money that is until it actually starts. Of course, we did not have everything we needed to get me all signed up for that. So the paper work is in but we need to give them copies of tax returns, visas, and all the good stuff that tells them we are real people living in Germany legally.

We do get money every month for having the kids as well. We get a little over 800 Euros every month for having kids. So getting the Elterns Geld on top of it would be pretty great and would really help us out.

We also tried to change our car insurance. They have such funny laws here. One of them is you can not change your insurance for a year unless certain things happen. Well, one of them is if your insurance goes up at any point. Well, ours did. So we jumped on the, "let's see what else is out there" band wagon. Well, we only went to one place....ADAC. It is like AAA in America. Anyway, they were almost Half the price of what we were paying. So we just decided to do it. The problems they were having though is that our car is an American car and they had never heard of it. So it is hard to give an accurate price on insurance when they don't know what kind of car you really drive.

Wednesday night, We had a Missionary Couple from the area over for dinner. Their names are Steve and Carol Walker. They actually know Gardner's parents. Steve and Cathie served in the same mission in Frankfurt back in the 60's. And then Steve & Carol and Bob and Cathie all lived in the same trailor park while Bob and Steve attended Dental School. So we had them over for dinner. We did something called Raclette.

Long ago in the Swiss Alps, the story goes, cow herders would carry potatoes and gherkin pickles up the mountainsides to eat with their cheese and milk. They'd bake the potatoes in the campfire and melt the cheese on a rock near the fire. As it melted, they'd scrape the cheese onto the potatoes and pickles and eat until the cows, well, until they were satisfied. In fact, the word raclette comes from the French word "to scrape."

Nowadays, raclette grills are an excuse to have one more fun cooking gadget. They come with little trays that hold the cheese under a heating element while it melts, and a grill on top for cooking the potatoes, sausages, and other savories that you wish to slather with cheese.

Christmas Day #2

Yes, there is such a thing....Christmas Day #2. At least here in Germany there is.

But let me start with Christmas Day #1 since I missed it yesterday. Yesterday we woke up and I actually got up before the kids. It is strange, it is so dark here until after 8am and then we have these metal blinds on the outside of the house. It makes the house pitch black even in the day if they are closed all the way. Anyway, they can make one sleep even longer because you see no light. Well, I believe because of these, my kids sleep longer. So I got up and showered as Grandma and Grandpa Wheeler were going to arrive around 9am.

As I was in the bathroom still getting ready, Hannah came in and said she was going to go down stairs to see how big here presents were. That made me laugh a bit. But she came back up stairs crying because she only had 2 presents under the tree, and one of them was clothing. I asked her how she knew and she said she felt it and saw only the 2. Well, I finally got her calmed down.
When it came time to open presents, the kids were so happy. The stockings is what we always start with. And everyone was happy. They can always count on getting a can of olives in their stockings. And thanks to a lady at our church, they still got those olives even though they don't sell them here in Germany. Well, then we opened the presents that were there. I saved the big Santa gifts for last. These were items that members from our church bought for the kids.

I started with Spencer who got Roller Blades. This is something that made him cry last year since Shantal got some and he did not. So he was very happy. Hannah got a Baby Borne Doll, which she was VERY happy about. That is until Shantal opened her present and got a Polly Pocket Dream Ship. Then Hannah started crying because she wanted a dream ship. And it is true, she did want one. But she wanted the doll as well. Oh the drama on Christmas morning. Emma on the other hand was very happy about her doll stroller. It is amazing how she is happy with so little but the others are not happy with so much.

We did just hang out most of the day. Gardner and his dad did get a light put up in our house and the kids played cards and games with Grandma. We also had some named Johanna come over for lunch since she has no one to spend Christmas with.

We spoke with my parents (Grandma and Grandpa Johnson) via Skype, a program on the internet. We got a web cam and so they were able to see the kids, including Ian. Boy has he grown since we left Utah.

With Christmas Day #2, it was a little more busy. We went to a Troedel Markt (Flee Market but the actual translation of Troedel is Junk) this morning. It was fun to walk around but very cold. Then this afternoon Grandma and Grandpa took Shantal, Spencer and Hannah to the movies to see Happy Feet, which I believe is the same title in English as it is in German. If not, someone can correct me. While they were gone, Gardner, Ian, Emma and I took naps. Tonight we finished watching Survivor, an American Reality TV Series that our family loves. Gardners Dad put the whole season on DVD's and we just finished it tonight.

Stores open back up in the morning and we have lots planned for the rest of the week. Gardner and I need to get stuff done like get Visa's and such while we have babysitters for the kids. And we also are going to take his parents to see some cities and sites while they are here. But my goal is to update as much as possible.


Today we all woke up in a mad dash to get to church on time. You would think with church being 1 1/2 hours later than normal, that we could get our act together. But that is not the case. We did manage to get there just in time though.

I must confess, that church today was the best I can remember in a long time. Gardner had to sit with the choir the whole time, but even so, Emma did not make a peep. She sat on Grandpa's lap the whole time. She colored a little but mainly just sat there and was happy. Normally, I am trying to quiet kids down and stop arguing, even in church. But not today. That was very nice.

Afterwards, I found myself in the kitchen cooking. I made Homemade AuGratin Potatoes, Peach Cobbler, Orange Rolls, a Vegetable tray with dip and Ham. It does not sound like much, but I was in there for more than 3 hours.

Spencer got his birthday present from Grandma and Grandpa Wheeler today and it was a new Playstation 2 game: Lego Star Wars 2. Spencer and the girls played most of the afternoon. Spencer was so very excited.

Grandpa switched the strings on our Guitar today and started playing. Shantal picked up the guitar at one point and figured out how to play "Ihr Kinderlein Kommet" on there. She was very excited and maybe this will spark an interest in playing it.

Tonight, we read the Christmas story from the bible with the kids. We finally got the kids in bed at 9pm but then I had my work cut out for me.

I decided, that Christmas Eve is a parents worse night mare. I was wrapping presents for 2 1/2 hours when I decided I was done. We were mainly finished anyway. But my back could not take anymore.

This has been a very unusual Christmas for us. We actually have had several "Santa" items arrive at our house this year. Yesterday, we had so much food delivered to us. There was the Ham we had today, lots of fruits and vegetables. Today at church, we got a card stating it was from Santa, and it had 200 Euros inside. Another lady at church said she had some games for the kids, and when we pulled out the bag today, there was a lot of stuff in there as well. Two other ladies in the ward bought our kids gifts as well. It is a little strange to be on the receiving end of such gifts. But it has been very nice as this move was a lot more than we expected financially.

Well, I am excited for tomorrow. I'm planning on a more relaxed day than today. I want to just enjoy my time with my family. My wish will be that there will be minimal fighting between the three older kids. That is my Christmas Wish this year.

The Grandparents Have Arrived

Today I got up early and had to run out to do grocery shopping. I knew that it would get crazy today since all the grocery stores will be closed for 3 days. So I ran to get last minute items at Walmart. (The Walmart here in Germany is mainly food, with a little of the other stuff.)

After I got home, Gardner had to run out to pick up a few items including a webcam. We bought it to use when we chat with my family on Skype. Skype is an internet communication service. We call each other and talk for free using a microphone and our computers. And now, we get to see each other while we talk. It will be great for the family to see how much our kids have grown, especially little Ian.

Gardner's parents plane got in late and they did not arrive here until 3pm. By the time we took them to the house where they are staying and unloaded it was almost 5pm.

We then took an U-bahn (underground train) and went into Duesseldorf to the Weihnactsmarkt (Christmas Market). It is something that is really big in Germany. It usually runs from Thanksgiving (which they don't actually have here) until the 23rd of December. You can buy all kinds of stuff there: Food, Nutcrackers, Candied Almonds, Toys, ect. Tonight it was really cold. Especially for me since I don't have a coat yet. Somehow it got lost on its way to Germany.

By the time we got back home, it was after 8pm and we were supposed to have a call with my family at 7pm, as they were celebrating Christmas and opening presents. Shantal, Spencer and Hannah did not like watching them open the presents so much. They actually wanted to be there opening them as well. Everytime someone opened something, they would comment that they wanted one of those.

Anyway, it is late and we have church tomorrow morning. Luckily, it is not at early as it normally is. Normally it is at 9am, but due to Christmas, it is at 10:30 and only Sacrament Meeting. We are all over joyed at the time change, even if it is only for one week.

March 2007