Friday, August 31, 2007

Ian's 1st Birthday!

So my little guy turns one today. Why does that make me sooooo emotional? I'm such a dork!

What a year we have had. He was just three weeks old when we moved here to Germany. He was the one that held our family together in times of hardships. It is crazy that such a little guy could of done that. He was such a happy baby. Always smiling. Everyone flocked to him. It was easy to meet new people in a far away land because of Ian. No one can resist such a cutie.

I am such a procrastinator. I went out today and bought Ian his birthday presents. I love the fact that I can go shopping with him right there. He can play with whatever it is in the cart. Then I can come home and wrap it up. And when he opens it, it is as if he has never seen it before.

I bought him a lawn mower that he can push around. the dang thing makes noise when you push it. I am sure that will drive me nuts. But he is going to love it. I also bought him a huge truck. He loves pushing Spencer's cars around. So I thought he would enjoy this. And this is bigger. I don't have to worry about it going into his mouth.

We had friends over from our church tonight. People that help watch Ian and always want to hold him. We grilled Brats.

I made Ian his very own cake as well. It is a big number one. I saw my sister made this same cake last month with Dominic and couldn't resist stealing the idea. Ian was not as aggresive with the cake as my other kids had been. But once Ian tasted the frosting, that is all he wanted. You really have to watch the video that goes with it. A picture just doesn't do it justice as to the excitement of the frosting.

The Lawn Mower I gave Ian was a huge success. He loved it. Emma was giving Ian presents. He would open one and then she would give him another one. Well, we should of waited until last to give the lawn mower to him. He started crying and trying to get to the lawn mower everytime someone tried to take it away for him to open another present.

The kids were very excited to have it be his birthday. It was a very fun evening.

Ian's Birthday Dinner.

Ian's First Present

The Lawn Mower

The Cake

Ian in Action

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Want Levis in Germany?

Looking for a deal you can't pass up? Want that comfortable fit you're used to? It's got to be Levis. No, this isn't an add for Levis. It's an update from our Living in Germany Podcast by Tamara's better half?!?! ; -) The lovable DH you've heard so much about.

In Episode 12 of our Living in Germany Podcast we discussed a sale at the local department store here in Ratingen, Germany. It's a sale for Levis 501 blue jeans for 65 €. That translates to almost $87.

I had heard about this phenomenon of high prices for popular blue jeans from the United States from others who had visited Germany, but I had never looked at the prices before, so this one blew me away when I saw the advertisement.

And how much are those Levis 501 blue jeans in the U.S. right now? We looked at Sears online and they are offering the jeans for $31.99 or $3 off the normal price (approx. 23.50 €).

For all you math majors out there (or non math majors who haven't calculated the difference yet), the jeans are about $55 more expensive in Germany than in the U.S. - that is Amazing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My Grandpa and Granda Astle

So yesterday I got an email from my Mom telling me my Grandpa had died. I know that sounds funny, that I read it in an email. But that is how I found out.

My Grandpa had been suffering from Alzheimers and he had gone down hill really fast. When I lived with my Parents last summer while waiting to give birth to Ian, I couldn't believe the difference in my Grandparents. For the first time in my life, I thought they were "old". They were fragile. They couldn't remember things. And do I dare say here for the world to see, that they stunk? Oh it is true. They smelled.

While living with my parents last summer, My Grandpa got in a car accident. And that car accident marked really the end for my Grandparents. Not really, but that is when I personally noticed things changing. But remember, I wasn't living near them until then.

My Grandma was suffering from Breast Cancer. And the car accident was the day before she was supposed to have surgery. (I could be getting some of the dates wrong, but the story is pretty much the same). So Grandma had surgery the next day and then never came home again. She spent the next several months in a hospital. And a month after I moved here to Germany, she had passed on. (October 2006) She was surrounded by family. Her Kids, My Grandpa, Grandchildren and even Great Grandchildren. Everyone was there who could be. And they all sang to her and that is when she passed on. From what I heard (as I was not there), it was very moving and then the Grandchildren sang that exact song at her funeral.

Now Grandpa got put in the hospital while I was living in Utah this summer. He had some infections that I remember hearing they thought was the result of that car accident I spoke of. His body got weak. He couldn't get out of a chair anymore. He ended up getting admitted to the same hospital as my Grandma. He also never went home again. After being released from the Hospital, he had to in an Assited Living Center or something similar. It is pretty sad I don't remember all the details.

The last time I saw either one of them was the weekend before I moved here to Germany. I took my kids, including my brand new baby, to the hospital so my Grandparents could see my kids and so my kids could one last time see their Great Grandparents. I knew while I was there, observing my Grandparents, that this would be the last time my kids and I would see them. I am glad I took that little bit of time to go and visit them before I moved.

I need to add that my mom has spent almost every day with my Grandma and Grandpa since the car accident back in the Summer of 2006. My mom retired in January of 2007 and instead of working, spent her days sitting with my Grandpa. And I know that all my Aunts and Uncles spent many hours with my Grandpa and Grandma. My mom and Dad were not the only ones. My Mom still took vacations. But she called everyday so Grandpa would know she did not forget about him. I am happy that my mom can finally get back to living her own life.

Grandpa was living in an Assisted Living type center. It is where it is locked down at night so he couldn't wander out. He had done this at a previous place and got kicked out because he needed more supervision. Anyway, he was living in a place where they do rounds every two hours to check on the people living there. He was still alive at the 1am rounds. But at the 3am rounds, he was no longer breathing. He died in his sleep.

And this is why I found out in an email about my Grandpa. My mom was up. Of course could not sleep. And yet it was way too early for her to call anyone in America. But she knew she could email me. She would of eventually called me. But she knew I was at church and I think she just needed a way to tell someone. of course, when I read the email, I called her immediately.

I think the hardest part for me right now, is the fact that I am going to miss the funeral. Somehow when I missed my Grandma's funeral, it wasn't so bad for me. I knew I had just gotten here. But now it has been almost a year. And it saddens me greatly. For the first time in a very long time, I ache to be home.

When I think about my Grandparents, I remember the times when I was younger. Spending time at their house in California. The twirly chair, the good cereals, playing card games, their jacuzzi, Christmas, Legos, Grandpa playing the guitar, ect

And then as I got older, there were things like: Grandpa had to buy a new car because his old car needed new tires, big family (aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone!) trips to Bear Lake and The Beach in California ect.

And of course, I will remember his alzheimer days since I was there during a part of it. I will remember him getting lost and walking around Salt Lake City for hours looking for the Hospital Grandma was in. I will remember him needing to write some checks to buy the hospital. His hands being tied down at the hopsital from him taking his I.V. out. And him continually asking everyone to untie them. And all of our responses were, we don't know how. We are not a nurse.

Everyday I lived in Utah, there were always some funny stories I would hear when my parents came back from the hospital. They were funny, but they were also sad because they were true stories. Sad to think that someone you love so much is not how you remember them.

If you knew them, I would LOVE to hear what you remember about them. What are some of your favorite memories? Perhaps all the cousins could pass this link to other cousins. I would love to hear what everyone has to say. It would make a FABULOUS scrapbook page as a tribute to them.

I am happy that my Grandma and Grandpa are together again.

Grandma and Grandpa Astle: Sometime in 1990's

Grandpa and Grandma Astle: September 2006

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shantal's Adventure At The Dentist Office

Shantal had a dentist appointment today to get a few cavity's filled. She is so afraid, and so the dentist office thought it was best if they put her to sleep for the work they had to do because Shantal was not offering an open mouth when we had been there the previous 2 times.

So I arrive at 10:45, just like they tell me to. Initally, her appointment was for 8am today. But they called me 2 days ago and said the younger kids go first with this type of proceedure so she needed to be there no later than 10:45. Mind ya, there is no eating or drinking at least 6 hours before.

we arrive on time and as I walk by the waiting room, I can see it is totally packed full. I go check in and the receptionist says I should have some patience. That means, they are behind schedule. I asked them how long, and the dentist says it might be a good idea if I took Shantal and walked around the city a bit. Well, it was pouring rain, so I declined. We went in the waiting room and found a seat that Shantal and I could share. She sat on my lap and cried with her face in my chest almost the whole time.

After being there just about 1/2 hour, they called us. But my hopes were smashed when I found out it was only for a consulation. They were just going over the procedure with me and getting me to sign the forms.

Back out in the waiting room we go. About an hour later, they come into Shantal to give her something to drink. It is medicine and from the looks of it, was no more than 2 teaspoons full. It was supposed to make her drousy and sleepy. Well, Shantal cried. She did not want it. The assistant wanted to force it down her throat. I got Shantal to calm down. We went out into the hallway where no other parents were and I had to ask the assistant to back away from Shantal where she couldn't see her. As soon as she did, Shantal did take it. We ended up sitting in the hallway the rest of our wait that we had.

About 45 minutes after Shantal drank her "juice" as they called it, they called us into the room to actually start an IV. ok, this did NOT go over at all with Shantal. She SCREAMED at the top of her lungs. Telling everyone to let go of her. She was fighting with her fists. The one assistant put her hands over shantal's mouth so she could try and be louder than Shantal for Shantal to hear her. Shantal kept screaming that they were hurting her.

I felt bad for Shantal because I knew I could get her to calm down a bit to actually get it taken care of. But at the same time, this one assistant kept being a bit too forceful for Shantal. It is the same assistant that wanted to force the "juice" down Shantal's throat.

Anyway, Shantal didn't want to have this done. That was a given. The assistant kept saying she would just send Shantal home and let her teeth rot out and it would hurt. But to me, this was not an option. Shantal kept trying to say she wanted to sit on my lap. So finally, I asked them if it would work. The person actually doing the IV said yes.

So I laid in the chair with Shantal laying on top of me. And then 2 female assistants held her firmly on top and also one male doctor while another one did the IV. I tried covering Shantal's eyes so she wouldn't see the needle, as sometimes that makes it easier for me. But all the while, she is just screaming. But I tell ya, It took SECONDS from the time they put the needle in her arm and the drugs in her IV until she was out like a light.

They lifted her up off of me so I could get up. It was amazing to see her there. They laid her on the chair where I just sat with her. She was just so all of a sudden quiet, asleep and peaceful.

As they asked me to leave, I left not really knowing how I should feel about the whole experience so far. You know, my heart breaks for Shantal. I know she was scared. And I know she is stubborn. She makes it worse than it needs be at times. And I also know that she needed to get this done. But I do believe I could of gotten it done in a bit more of a calm manner if they would of given me a few minutes. But they didn't.

As I left the room and went into the waiting room, it was empty with the exception of one little girl left with her mom and her grandma. The grandma asked.....was that your little girl that did all that screaming. I admitted it was. And as people started leaving and coming in the waiting room to pick up coats and stuff, they would all comment on how loud Shantal was. Some not even knowing that I was sitting right there as they would talk to other people.

When it was all over, they moved Shantal into another room to wake up. It took her about 20 minutes afterwards to wake up. And when she did, she had to wait another hour to get the IV taken out of her arm. All she did after she woke up was cry about her arm hurting from the needle being left inside.

But you know what, she cried for an hour over this. But it was a quiet cry. I don't think anyone in that office knows she cried. I was there and I was able to help her through that.

Two things came to my mind while waiting for so long at that dentist office today. with them being SOOOO far behind today, they should of called us and asked us to come in later. It is terrible for any child to sit there for so long and listen to all the kids before them cry when they get the IV put in and then cry when they wake up. Every single one did it. Mine just happened to do it the loudest and the longest. The one assistant mentioned that in all the years she has worked there, she has never experienced it so bad before.

I know if my mom is reading this, she is thinking.....PAYBACK for when I was 11 years old at the dentist office. I cried and the dentist told my mom to go home and they would call her when they were done with me.

And if Gardner's Dad is reading this (he is also a dentist and who the kids usually see), I am sure he is thinking......I'm so glad it was them and not me who dealt with Shantal!

It was a very long and exhausting day! It is over, Shantal is in bed. She is OK now. She doesn't want to talk about it at all. But I am sure we will, Someday!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ian's Happy Spot

So, do you know what a Baby Born is? It is a doll. This is a doll that Hannah got for Christmas. It can eat. It can also pee. And yes, that is why Hannah wanted it.

Well, an accessory that Grandma Wheeler bought to go with this Baby Born is a Baby Born Car. It is Pink. It plays music. It starts up like a real car. And the Baby Born Doll can sit inside.

Well, one day, I noticed the kids draggin Ian inside this car. At first I was mad at the kids. Since then, I have come to realize how much Ian actually likes being pulled in this car.

Check it out!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

After School Activities

So, we are in the middle of the 2nd week of school. Things are pretty much going good. I have a good routine down for at home and everything is working out great, with the exception of Shantal and her homework saga. It is the same saga she had last year. She hates it, she doesn't want to do it, there fore, she will cry, scream, and simply not do it. I should say, it eventually gets done. But for example, Saturday, she was home ALL day doing homework. No, there is not that much homework, but she just lays on her bed in stead of actually doing it. I think it would of taken her 45 minutes to complete it if she just would of done it.

Hannah cried every day during the first week of school. Only for a few minutes, she tells me. But, this week, she has not cried at all. And a matter of fact, she told me Monday that it is better when no one walks her to class because then she does not cry.

Another funny thing about Hannah this week. On Monday's they sit on the carpet in a circle and talk about what they did over the weekend. I thought for sure she would of told them about us going to the summer festival in town. I did that Saturday with 4 kids while Gardner stayed home with Shantal doing homework. But no, she told them how she went to church on Sunday. Someone said, church....that is a good thing. We are a church school. And hannah proceeded to tell them that she does not like church and she does not like learning about Jesus. It made me laugh real hard when she told me this story.

All three of the older kids started Gymnastics yesterday. There is a free Gymnastics program on Tuesdays here in town. Hannah went first and it was an hour long. Only 1st graders allowed. There were only 5 kids. Perfect for Hannah. Then comes the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. There was 21 kids. Shantal had fun and said she is going again, but Spencer said no way.

The reason why: There was a little girl there who kept messing with Spencer. She would hit him, push him, ect. When I was there, she was making fun of Spencer for speaking English. It is amazing, bullies come in all shapes, sizes and genders. I even talked to her before I left and asked her if there was a problem. She said no. But since she kept it up all through Gymnastics with Spencer, I think there was a problem after all. Spencer said they kept fighting and that the teacher had to break them up like 3 times. And right before Spencer came home, this girl hit Spencer in the face. So Spencer grabbed her and held her tight. She started crying. Spencer's response was: Now maybe she will know she can't mess with me. And the terrible Mom some of you might think I am, I agreed with him. We've tried the method of walking away, ignoring, telling an adult, etc. But that just doesn't work. We've come to realize that here in Germany, the only thing Spencer can do is defend himself.

Also next week, Spencer starts Soccer and Shantal starts Dancing. Those are after school activities at the school. I am hoping both are good experiences for the kids.

And then starting next Wednesday, Spencer and Shantal start Swimming as one of their classes in school. And then after school, Spencer will start a Games With Balls Class.

All three kids had play dates today. I am really happy about that. Usually they are just home doing nothing. I know they were all happier when they came back together. I am trying really hard to get them involved in different things in the town so they can get to know more kids and feel more comfortable here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The First Day Of School - German Style

Well, we now have our first day of school behind us.

The kids started school yesterday. Spencer and Shantal are now in the third grade. And Hannah is in first grade. First Grade is when the kids enter the Elementary School here in Germany (Einschulung). And when that happens, well, let's just is a HUGE deal. We have also described the day in Episode 9 of our Living in Germany podcast.

This is how the first day of school went yesterday for Hannah. All festivities began at 10am. We met at the Lutheran Church where there was a combined Lutheran and Catholic service. After a 45 minute service, we all walked to the school. That was about a 15 minute walk. Then there was an assembly at the school. It was a good 45 minutes long as well. Perhaps even longer. All the classes in the school did some sort of presentation. Some were songs, dances, poems. Stuff like that. Then, it came time that they called the kids to go with their teacher to class. The kids spent 45 minutes in the classroom and the family and visitors all waited outside for the kids to come out. When the class time was over, the kids came out and we all went home.

But afterwards, everyone had parties, special dinners, etc., planned. Family came for this special occasion from long distances to be a part of the big day. Grandparents, aunts, friends. I couldn't believe how many people came. It was treated as if it was a Graduation from High School in America. And to top it off.....The kids got what is called a Schultüte, schultuete, or school cone. It is a big shaped cone filled with presents. It was amazing to see these school cones in person. Many of the school cones seemed larger than the children carrying them. I actually made Hannah's. It has a Lillifee on the front. Which means Lilli Fairy. But some people went ALL out for these.

Now, to talk about what happened with Hannah on her first day of school. We got to the church for the service and they had the kids sit on the first 5 rows. Of course, Hannah did not want to and stood by us in the back of the room. They gave us a big strip of yellow paper for us to write a wish that we had for Hannah during the school year. At one point in the service, The kids all took their strips up and it made the rays for the sun. I got Hannah to go up and of course, I had to go with her. Anyway, while we were up there, a girl named Debbie asked Hannah to come sit next to her. And Hannah did. I was so happy. BUT....that happiness was short lived by Hannah. A bit later in the service, The pastors called all the children up so that they could give the kids a blessing. Hannah immediately started crying and came over to find me.

After the service was over, we walked back to the school. Hannah was walking with two friends, Debbie and Lena. We got to the school and they did the assembly. Once again, the kids were sitting on the first 3 rows. Hannah this time DID sit with the kids. I think it is because I was just 2 rows behind her. She could see me and touch me if she needed to. But, when it came to go to the classes, the principal called out the kids names and they were supposed to come up as the kids names were called. Well, Hannah's name is last on the list due to our last name beginning with a W. Everyone was already gone. And Hannah just started crying and saying she didn't want to. I got up and seriously DRAGGED her to the front of the stage where the kids all went. Then I had to pick her up and carry her to the classroom. Of course, all the parents were laughing. That did not help at all. I got her up to her classroom and her teacher asked if she was in her class. I of course responded with a Yes. And she said, "Do your daughter a favor and just put her down and leave." I did just that. As I started to walk away, the fire alarm went off. I think that startled everyone a bit and helped distract Hannah with what really was happening.

So while she was in the classroom, I was outside with the kids, Gardner and other parents. They served Mineral Water while we waited. Mineral Water is what they drink the most here. If you ask for water, Mineral Water is what you will be given. It was a hot day, so it was a nice offering due to the heat.

After about 45 minutes, the kids came out. Hannah was happy and said her teacher was really nice. All the kids got their School Cones and gathered together to get a class picture.

To all seemed SO over-rated, but Gardner loved it. This big day. I felt it was too long for the kids who were going to school. Sure, maybe the adults like this stuff. But it seemed like too much on the first day of school. And why all the grandparents, friends of the family, and extended family? Seriously, for what there was, it just seems so odd. I have to add that Nadine, one of our exchange students we have had live with us when we were in America, came up for to spend with Hannah on her special day. And that was nice.

Here are pictures from yesterday. You can see the back packs they use here, the School Cones, the massive amounts of people.
The Lutheran Church where the Service was held.
Gardner, Tamara, Nadine, Emma and Ian with Hannah.
The Walk to the School.
The German Style Backpacks (Tornister, Schulranzen).
Hannah waiting for the assembly to start.
Family and Friends lined up EVERYWHERE to watch.
Students coming out of class.
Hannah coming out of class.
Where Hannah sits in class.
Trying to get a class picture.
Still a class picture.
Hannah with her Schultüte (schultuete, German School Cone).
Hannah in front of our house with her Lillifee school cone.

Hannah reaching in to get something out.

Hannah showing off her Chocolate Surprise Eggs.

Friday, August 3, 2007

School Preparations - First Day of School in Germany

Gardner was informing me last night that I have not updated the blog in a while. So, here I am so he can be surprised when he checks in again.

We are getting close to school starting here. School starts on Monday, August 6th. That is just 3 days away. I am about ready for them to go back. I am enjoying the non-routines in the morning. Where there is no stress when we first get up in the morning. But there has been a lot more fighting the past week with the kids, so I am ready for them to go back so that will decrease some.

I have been getting school supplies together. The big purchase is a backpack that the kids here in Germany have. They call it der Tornister or Schulranzen. It is more than just a back pack. I will take a picture so you can see it. These usually start at 50 Euros and go up past 200 Euros. We got lucky and found one on sale for Hannah for 30 Euros. And then we never did buy one for Spencer since we came mid-year. Our friends told us to hold out because there are lots more to choose from during the summer. And they were right. Which also means, we got it cheaper. His was also 30 Euros. Now they are not the best, but that is OK. Shantal, well she does not like these backpacks and refuses to have one. Which is OK with me. It saves me money.

Hannah is going into the school for the first time here in Germany. In Germany, they enter the Elementary School in the 1st Grade. So it is a big deal. Each new student gets something called a Schultüte (Schuletuete, or German school cone) . It is a cone looking thing that I have to fill with goodies and Hannah get to take it to school on her first day. It reminds me of a stocking at Christmas time. Like I have a t-shirt, sandwich box, chocolate, candy and wallet in there so far.

I will have to get the pictures taken of the back pack and this cone so you can see exactly what I mean. Because these are German things that are HUGE here.

I will also post next time all the supplies I had to buy for Hannah to go to school with how much it all costs. So look for that next time I post.

One last thing, it has started to rain again here. The weather is so wacky! That is all I have to say about it.

March 2007