Monday, March 31, 2008

A Nanny to the Rescue

Tamara has been sick with anemia for some time now (she takes iron pills and B12 shots) and recently underwent surgery to help improve the situation. with the surgery we applied for Haushaltshilfe (Domestic Help) through the health insurance and were able to receive it, just when we thought no more help was available after grandma was gone, and Tamara's blood counts actually got worse.
A little reminder that the Nanny is here.

It very common in Germany to wear house shoes, offer your guests house shoes, bring your own house shoes on trips, etc. We now have a reminder, even on the weekends, that the Nanny has come to help us (kind of like Mary Poppins' umbrella).

The benefit of a nanny is available here in Germany through the health insurance is a domestic help program. Social service organizations coordinate with the health insurance to provide homes with help after a surgery for example. In our case Tamara needs help with the housework and with the kids. After, the first week of surgery with lots of help from the congregation, and then two weeks of grandma, and I, Gardner, was back at work, we got this amazing help for Tamara, just when we thought she was back to being left all alone. It has truly been a life saver these last weeks.

Ah, lunch at my desk

To save money in the states I almost always brought lunch to work. And, for good or bad, I almost always ate lunch at my desk while I worked. So, in addition to saving money, I saved time and was able to leave the office earlier.

Fast forward to our lives in Germany. Tamara cooks a bit differently and the kids eat more (they are older) which means there are only occasionally leftovers I can take to work. Additionally, the choice and cost of "frozen meals", which I commonly took to work in America, here in Germany makes that option less viable.

Not to worry, there is a very good option in Germany to keep costs low - subsidized lunches. Companies subsidize the cost of lunch and so a warm lunch is generally available for around 4 €. At the cafeteria where I generally eat (client site) I can often eat for under 2 €, for noodles/rice/potatoes with a sauce and vegetables on the side.

Well, on Friday I was at my company's office and went to Subway for lunch. The restaurant was full, and I wanted to get home, so I took the sandwich back up to the office.

At the end of my sandwich I was done with one of the main tasks on my list for the day. And I got out on time with all major tasks completed. It was a nice feeling.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Grocery Shopping in Germany - Tips

Tamara, my lovely wife, is an expert in grocery shopping. So, what did she do when she moved to another country and had to re-learn many of her skills? Find out in Episode 14 of our Living in Germany podcast.

It includes such fun things as how to drive a four wheel shopping cart, the purpose of renting a shopping cart (say what?), why we shop at Aldi, and the endearing check-out process. Here's a picture of the toy we opened on the show - an Überraschungsei, which is a favorite here in Germany (Ueberraschungsei, Kinder Surprise, Magic Kinder). The little yellow egg containing the toy comes inside of a chocolate egg. Great fun for the kids.

The first several minutes are about the kiddos, including how Emma is doing with German.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Carrot Stew, Carrot Stew

looking at the food photos on Mausi's site always awakes wonderful senses in the soul. But one picture in particular brought back a great memory from my childhood - Carrot Stew.

The memory stems from the book the Tawney, Scrawny Lion and a song that was part of the read-along-tape called Carrot Stew. My dad listened to the song a few times and figured out how to pick out the melody on the guitar. I recall that he would sing the song to us in the evening when we were heading towards bed. I don't recall the story nearly as much as I remember dancing around and singing carrot stew, carrot stew . . . while my dad strummed on the guitar.

According to one reviewer, the audio book on CD no longer contains the sweet carrot stew song. But, if I find the song I'll post it. It's a beauty.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

German American Relations

D-USA is tracking a new purported German radio personality in Oklahoma and trying to sniff out Claus' true identity - German or Not German? I don't know if he is German either, but it is so goofy it's worth a listen, just for the entertainment value. Here's my pros & cons list:
- too goofy, in other words, too much like an American pretending to be typical "German"
- Claus would be spelled Klaus in Germany

- high quality German accent on some phrases
- knows that David Hasselhof is popular in Germany (what American would know that?)

For today I'm going to go with Claus is a German because the pros and cons are even but one of the cons is probably invalid: the radio name or pseudo name Claus wouldn't be the guy's real name any way.

Photo Radar in Germany

Here in Germany, they have a lot of photo radars. You know when it happens because it is bright orange. When it happens late at night and with it being dark, there is no mistaking it. And of course, then you just wait for something to show up in your mailbox.

Gardner has gotten his picture taken two times for driving too fast. And each time, it was only 20 Euros. The bill comes and we send the money via the internet and make a transfer from our bank account into the account they have specified for these tickets. And then last summer, while we were in Berlin, Gardner got pulled over and had to pay 35 Euros. The weird part there was we were to pay on the spot if possible. Otherwise they would send it in the mail.

Well, while I was in the hospital in February, Gardner got his picture taken again. This time, for running a red light. He told me about it while I was in the hospital. And that was the beginning of February. Then we got something in the mail a few weeks ago about it. But no bill for us to pay. Just a notice. Well, yesterday in the mail came the bill. 148 Euros. But that was not all. It also said that Gardner was not allowed to drive for one whole month. Not only is he not allowed to drive, he has to go and turn in his drivers license for that month. The bill that showed up yesterday said that he ran a red light and the light was red for 1 second. Wow, one second. That one second cost us a lot of money, time and hassle.

For someone who doesn't drive very often, he sure knows how to get caught.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Leise rieselt der Schnee

We woke up to snow again this morning. It was a light snow. As I walked down the hill from our house to the bus the beautiful Christmas song Leise rieselt der Schnee kept running through my head. The melody and text describe so well a light snow fall and the peace that accompanies it. Thinking of a Christmas song at Easter was also nice because without Christmas, we wouldn't be able to celebrate Easter.

German first verse

1. Leise rieselt der Schnee,
Still und starr liegt der See,
Weihnachtlich glänzet der Wald
Freue dich, 's Christkind kommt bald!

English first verse

1. Snow falls softly at night,
Stars o'er the lake shine so bright,
The forest reflects holy light,
The Christ child is coming tonight!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shantal's take on Easter

Here is Shantal's take on our Easter celebrations and the wonderful, snowy Easter weather we had over the weekend.

She makes a fine snow chair and talks about one of her favorite Easter treats from the U.S.: sugar coated marshmellow Peeps, which are shaped like bunnies or baby chickens.

White Out in Düsseldorf

Wow, was I shocked today when I looked at the window after lunch. There was nothing but white before my eyes. The snow was falling sideways, and the flakes were large.

The snow didn't stay, but it stayed cold throughout the day and into the night. Lulu experienced the same thing in the Köln-Bonn area. She got to go sledding, which we didn't get to do. Lulu's post has essentially the same title, but that's what it was, a real white out, followed by real winter weather.

We've only had real winter weather a few occasions in last two winters in Germany and everyone discusses the odd timing. At a church meeting tonight, for instance, someone mentioned some early planning for a Christmas activity. Several people at once then said, well the snow is already there, why not just celebrate now.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Snow Fun

Today when I woke up, it started to snow. And not just snowing for like 10 minutes like it has for the last couple weeks. This time, it was coming down. And it actually was where the kids could go outside to play.

Emma was at her first real play date with a friend, Parker, who is moving back to America next week. And Ian was at nap. So the three bigger kids went out to have a great time in the back yard. Imagine my surprise when I looked out and saw this:

Shantal was sitting on this great big huge snowball. I had to grab my camera. And as I am taking her picture, she tells me that Hannah also has made one.

It was so funny to watch them trying to push this snow ball around. It got to be too big and too heavy for them to roll. They were grunting so loudly. And all this time, I thought they were making these snow balls to make a snowman. Oh no, that was not the case. They were making chairs with a place to put their feet. Take a look at their creations:

Shantal's was pretty complex. Take a look at how she dug it out so she could actually sit inside of it. She did a fabulous job. I was definately impressed.

After I took some pictures of the kids outside, I came back in the house and watched them from the window. All of a sudden, I saw this read bag fly over the bushes. Now this is not an uncommon thing that happens here. We live around 7 older couples who are a lot like Grandma's and Grandpa's to my kids. The one told the girls that the Easter Bunny was here.

And here is what was inside that red flying bag.

And lastly, I have to put up a picture of Spencer. He was sitting on the swing with this big thing of snow. I didn't know what he was doing it with but as I got closer, I could tell he was not in a good mood. Something to do with the girls. Anyway, I had to snap a picture anyway. After all, I need a picture of him to document that he actually was outside playing in it at some point. :) Poor thing just wants to have a brother old enough to play with. Ian just doesn't do it some days.

I'm Dreaming of White Easter?

We woke up this morning to the third day of snow in our little village outside of Düsseldorf. The first thing Shantal asked us this morning was - "Mommy, why is it snowing?" Answer: It's just that traditional Easter snow we all dream about. It makes for pretty decent weather though (read, not raining, which is always a treat here in Drisseldorf). We had a nice sunny afternoon on Easter with snow staying around in the shady areas. Hopefully the same holds true today.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter 2008

Some of the kids started the day out bright and early. I heard Emma and Hannah around 6am. And I just didn't care. I was too tired. A little before 7am, I decided I better head down stairs and stop Emma from eating all her candy. And to my surprise, she had not gotten any candy out.

Hannah's first thing she said to me was that a neighbor brought a basket to our back door. And it was still there. She said she waved to the kids and then left. The basket was full of chocolate and colored eggs. Now these eggs are interesting in itself. They sell at the store here in Germany pre-colored, hard boiled eggs. Now you might be saying to, that is fabulous. Takes a few steps out of making eggs. But we have come to find out last year, that these eggs taste really terrible. I don't know what the difference is, but we prefer the fresh hard boiled white eggs that we can dye ourselves if we feel so inclined.

After the kids were all awake, I made them put their baskets up so that Ian wouldn't get into anything. The rule I made was nothing until after church.

We went to church and oh man, the kids came home with so much stuff. Who needed the Easter Bunny. Seriously, they all came home with lots of chocolate.

We had invited a friend over for lunch. And there is not enough room inside our van for her to ride with us. So Gardner rode the train and bus home and Hannah went with him. I took everyone else in the van. Now, there was a reasoning for me sending Hannah with Gardner even though we had enough room in the van for Hannah.

See, Hannah still believes in the Easter Bunny. Of course Emma and Ian don't know the difference. But as soon as we walked in the door, Emma and Ian went down for naps. Spencer and Shantal were VERY excited to play the Easter Bunny and hide the eggs for Emma and Ian to find. The instructions to them were that it had to be easy for the little kids. And Spencer and Shantal did a pretty good job.

While Spencer and Shantal were hiding eggs in our Living Room, Our Friend and I was in the back yard hiding eggs for the bigger kids. We actually did a pretty good job of hiding them. It took the kids a little while until all eggs, chocolate and bags of candy were accounted for. I must also say that this morning, we woke up to snow on the ground. But, as we got home, it was perfect for an Easter Egg Hunt. You will be able to see in the pictures that some of them still have snow and some there is none. It depended on the shade in the backyard.

Ian had a ball finding the eggs inside the house. Emma didn't help out as much. The nap made her a bit moody. But she was very excited to find a chocolate bunny and a bag of candy and basically forgot all about the eggs after that.

We ended the day by watching Harry Potter. It was the first one. And I have to say, this is the first Harry Potter we have ever seen. It is a shocker, I know. We just never have gotten into the Harry Potter Craze. But I think now, Gardner is going to be wanting to see the rest. Not to mention I am sure that is all Spencer will be talking about for awhile.

Here are some pictures of our day today. Normally, I put them in chronilogical order of when I took them. But since I don't want to deal with blogger today, they are really in no order what so ever. And I am leaving it that way.

Ian putting his first egg find in the carton.

Ian found a bag of candy and Chocolate Bunny.

You can see the snow on the ground here. What is left of it anyway.

And look, no snow here at all.

Hannah scored a bag of candy that was up in a tree.

These were taken first thing in the morning. This is what the Easter Bunny brought all the kids.

Here is the snow fall we received during the night. Hannah was very shocked to see snow on Easter.

Preparing For Easter

The kids had fun coloring Easter Eggs today. I got the eggs boiled on Thursday and yet, we didn't seem to get around to coloring the eggs until 4pm Saturday afternoon. Crazy.

Emma seems to enjoy the coloring process. But she didn't like to leave her eggs in the dye very long. She, of course, was the first one done coloring her box of eggs. And, she dropped one before it was colored. So instead, she ate it.

Ian enjoyed watching us from the table eating hotdogs and pasta.

Spencer was the one that wanted to leave his eggs in the dye for about 10 minutes a piece. That is until I told him he had to go faster.

Something about the Egg Coloring Process always stresses me out though. I really enjoy doing the fun things with the kids. But I worry about the cups getting knocked over. And probably because I have a few kids that are old enough and should be able to do it a lone. And then I have some that are not old enough and big enough. And if Emma sees Shantal doing something, of course she doesn't understand why she can't.

We all survived the Egg Coloring and have a plan in place for hiding the eggs in the morning.

I also got all the "baskets" filled tonight. I am excited to see the kids faces in the morning. Although, I know I won't be seeing their faces because I will still be asleep when Emma decides to make her way down stairs. She will be eating everyone's candy before they get up.

And now that I think about that.....maybe I need to put them up so she can't get to them first. Seriously, Emma will come down the stairs between 2am and 5am. I caught her one morning at 2:30am in our living room playing yatzee. Of course, when that happens, I take her straight back to bed.

Here are some pictures of our Easter Preperations.

Easter On TV

Here is a side story to the real Easter fun our family had this weekend.

I don't recall the story of Jesus being played on mainstream T.V., i.e., ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox, at Easter time when I was growing up in the states. I could be way off, but I just don't recall seeing such a thing. The shows I remember at Christmas time were also very secular - Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and the like.

To my astonishment, and great surprise, we found a wonderful depiction of the life of the Savior on Friday night on KiKa (Kinder Kanal, or Children's Channel), one of three national state run channels. This was up against Wallace and Grommit and Harry Potter. Meaning, it definitely would not do well in the sweeps in the U.S.

The show, entitled, The Miracle Maker (Der Mann der 1000 Wunder) was a great depiction of biblical stories because: 1) The vast majority of the script was quoted directly from the New Testament, and 2) I really enjoy seeing the biblical texts being acted out. It brings alive passages I have previously read but only partially been able to envision in my head.

This pointed out an interesting different between religious life in Germany versus in America. Coupled with an interesting article I found related to the TV line-up in Germany for Easter weekend, made me starkly aware of the contrast: Local Bishop slams TV Lineup

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Duesselstrand Indoor Water Park

We took the kids today to an indoor water park here in Duesseldorf called Duesselstrand. It is somewhere we have been on several occasions. It isn't a huge place, but big enough for the kids to run around and enjoy the water.

We were there at 9am when they opened this morning and left around noon. Just in time to get Ian home for his afternoon nap.

Here are a few pictures I got before I joined in the fun.

German Easter Egg Hunt

A colleague sent this to me. It is from News TV Germany. I'll translate the conversation depicted. Two dads are talking in their backyards while the kids have the easter egg hunt. Notice the eggs hanging from the tree in the one backyard. That is a tradition I enjoy here in Germany.

Ihre Kinder suchen aber lange . . .
[You kids have been searching for a while]

Wir haben ja dieses Jahr auch nichts versteckt!
[Yea, well, we didn't hide anything this year!]

Schönes Wochenende

© OL


March 2007