Saturday, May 31, 2008

Emma's Big Week

Emma had a big week this week. It started last Saturday when she jumped into Spencer's soccer game a couple of times. We're certain she had only the best of intentions - support Spencer as a 3rd defender. She was on the field twice while the game was going on. When we got home that night we found that Tamara had caught one of them on video.

Then Emma was able to get into a pre-school and start attending pre-school this week. She was totally excited, as was her little brother Ian, who said his 2nd word this week. Tune in to episode 30 of our Living in Germany podcast to find out how the week went for the two little ones.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Hi and bye! Probably not forever as I'm sure Tamara will invite me back to her blog as a guest from time to time. Before I go I wanted to post my take on the blog break up that Tamara and I have decided to undergo. We've talked about this a few times over the past few months, but I was a bit reluctant. Tamara tells one side of the story about our lives here in Germany - the interesting side, and I tell, well, another side of the story - the more the kooky side.

Like, did you know that there is a rock growing out of a tree in Wyoming. It's just west of Cheyenne in between the west and east bound lanes of Hwy 80. That's a great stretch of highway, by the way. Did you also know that I had our family stop to water the tree on our way from Colorado to Utah just as the train engineers did back when the rail line ran along beside the tree. The track was built around the rock just so the tree would continue growing.

And, isn't your life richer for knowing this? Well, there are tons of facts and tidbits about our lives here in Germany that I'll be vigilantly tracking over at P.S. from Germany, so tune in.

By the way, wasn't Emma cute on her first day of Kindergarten. Tamara did such a nice job getting her ready and excited about that day. Ian was also excited about the change.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Emma Started Kindergarten!

This is a three part blog entry. It is something I started last night, then added to it this morning, and then added more this afternoon.


So we have been trying to get Emma into a Kindergarten here. Kindergarten is a bit like Preschool. But more. Not quite a day care. And kids go when they are 3 years old.

I decided late to send Emma this next coming year and couldn't find her a spot. I was just going to hold out until she was 4 and Ian was 3 and send them both. When there is more than one child, you only pay for the first one.

Well, today, I had a knock at my door and it was the Kindergarten teacher for the school Hannah used to go to. There is an opening and Emma is in.

She is so in that she is starting tomorrow.

I don't know how Emma will do. But she is only going to go once a week for a bit to get used to it and see how she does. She wasn't going to start until August, but I think it would be great for while I am in America if Gardner can take her there where she can play with other kids.

She is excited to go to school tomorrow. Here's hoping for an easy get away on my part tomorrow.


So I took Emma this morning to the Kindergarten. She kept telling me before that she wasn't going to cry because she was a big girl.

And a big girl she was!

We got there and she got to choose a hook that was available to hang her stuff. That will be hers for the rest of the time she goes to school there. There were these 2 older boys who were helping her the whole time. So very cute. She ended up choosing the same hook Hannah had last year. I knew it would happen.

We got her house shoes on, and before I could say anything to her, she was off. Ran into the Doll House, Kitchen area. I did get a kiss from her before I left. And I told her she could look out the window and wave to me. But she declined my offer.

She is only going to be there for 3 hours today. Normally it is 4. And then we will see how she did and what next week will bring.

I hope she does well enough so they will let her start going everyday. Because if she was that happy to be there, I want her to go.

I can't believe she is big enough to go to school already.


Emma is home from school! She did so good.

I got there and she was in the craft room cutting and gluing. She looked over, saw me and kept on playing. I just stayed at the school for an hour while she did her thing.

When the kids went out side, she went outside and played. The one teacher said it is as if Emma had been there all year. She fit right in.

Right before they go home, they gather in a circle and sing songs. Emma went right over and sat down. They did songs with actions to them. Of course, Emma didn't know the songs, but she did the actions.

It was so fun to watch her. I was so excited and proud. If you could only know what I went through for years with Hannah, you would understand my true joy that came today.

Emma is allowed to come everyday now instead of a trial period since she did so well.

And they were telling me the kids can start coming when they are actually 2. Trying to convince me to leave Ian. No way. Not happening. Plus, if they are under three, it is so much more expensive. Maybe after Christmas I will re-evaluate. But for now, my little one is going to stay with me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Tough Decision

Well, it is official. It is something that Gardner and I have talked a lot about over the last few months. And tonight he has asked me to post and announce our blog seperation.

I started this blog back in December 2006. And at one point, I stopped blogging for a period. Gardner kept telling me I needed to blog and I didn't feel like it. I simply told him to start blogging then. So I added him on and we have shared this blog ever since.

Well, after much thought, he is going to start posting on his own blog and I am going to continue on my blog here. Sometimes we will blog about the same things. But most of the time, our focuses are different. I will go back to blogging about what I want to blog about. Whether it is things the kids do, something I find odd about Germany or about things I love to do, like scrapbooking. I tried seperating my scrapbooking from my Germany blog and I can't keep up with more blogs. It is too hard.

So take my blog for what it is. It is going to be all about me. And Gardner's blog will be all about him. His blog is P.S. From Germany. So make sure you check it out!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I'm A Big Girl Now!

OK, so I can't help but think of the Pull-ups Commercial in America when I say the title of this blog entry. {laughs}

Anyway, I am talking about Emma. She is a big girl. She is now 3 after all. But many things have happened over the course of the last two weeks with Emma that I find myself in awe at how big she is now.

First off, we took her binky away. I should say that I did it, and Gardner followed along with my fabulous plan. I started telling Emma about 2 weeks before her birthday that when she turned 3, she no longer gets to have a binky. I told her that she will be a big girl and doesn't need a binky.

Well, on her birthday, I did just that. Took her binky away. She turned 3 on May 14th and hasn't had a binky since. She has asked for it on a few occasions. But it is usually during the day when she is tired or something has happened. But it is so cute at night. We have a routine. And after I help her brush her teeth, we go in her room. And as she is running in there, she tells me every night, "I don't need a binky. I am a big girl". It is very cute.

To help with the transition of a binky to no binky, I bought her a princess pillow. It was something she wanted and now she sleeps with that pillow at night instead of her binky.

Another thing that has made me think of Emma being a big girl is a wallet. I know, sounds funny. But let me explain.

The three older kids have wallets and have their own money in those wallets. And when we go anywhere, they grab their wallets just in case they decide they want to buy something. well, little Emma never had money of her own to justify having a wallet. And after all, a 2 year old really doesn't need one. Well, that all changed when she turned 3. She got some money from Grandma Johnson. I did the exchange from American money to German money as I always do. And Emma was the proud owner of a few Euro Bills. And normally, I would of kept in my wallet or somewhere up high. But she was so excited and wanted a wallet.

Well, Hannah was nice enough to give Emma a wallet that she could keep. Matter of fact, it was a brand new one. Ah, that Hannah is one nice girl. {smiles} So now Emma wants to take her wallet wherever we go as well. I had to assure her this morning that we were only going to church and no reason to bring a wallet as we wouldn't be stopping anywhere to buy stuff.

So now my Emma is a big girl. She owns a wallet and she no longer uses a binky. Wow, she is growing up!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dachau - The Final Straw

In late April I saw a documentary on how Israel commemorates the holocaust. The show followed a couple of children as they prepared for the commemoration. It was in Hebrew with German subtitles and very well done. Many of the preparations were organized by the school and at one point a teacher asked the students why they should remember the Shoah? Or, why was there a Shoah, or Holocaust? The answer shocked me, though I had heard the theme before:

We remember the Shoah because the Jews in Europe were living good lives and were successful and in being successful they forgot their relationship to God. The Holocaust reminded them that they were God's people.

I told my friend at work about the statement from the documentary. My friend is an American and Jewish. We were both silent afterwards.

For my part, I realized that I had heard many quote holy writ (both ancient & modern) where passages say that through suffering we are reminded of God's mercy and through suffering we are brought closer to God.

I was deeply moved to hear someone say that about the holocaust. And it gave me a greater respect for the Jewish people reminding me that the Jewish people have, despite horrific suffering throughout history (the holocaust is just the latest example) remained faithful to God.

The final two places that I visited almost brought me to tears and moved me in a way that is hard to describe.

I left the museum and headed for the far corner of the camp, once again I passed the foundations of all 32 barracks. I saw the flag of Israel in Barracks 10, the edges now lined with tiny stones from my children, who were enthralled by the many stones in the camp. The crunching of the rocks under my feet continued, and despite the shadows shortening (it was almost 12 noon) the grounds were still cold to me.

I met Tamara in the back corner. She said "We found it." I couldn't think of what she was referring to. She told me she had found the gas chambers or gas showers. I didn't think all of the camps had gas chambers and had always associated that experience with Auschwitz. I was a bit scared and nervous to go into that area of the camp. It is separated by a fence with a gate from the main camp. She said Shantal didn't want to go in and that it was very eerie.

English: Remember how we died here!

I went with Spencer back to that section of the memorial. He was excited to tell me about each section of the memorial. I was trying to take it all in, but it seemed like we were moving so fast. There is really enough information for an entire day in the memorial.

We entered into the disinfection area, which was very small, then the waiting room. Here, Tamara informed me, the prisoners would be instructed as to why they were all showering. Then the prisoners would be ushered into the derobing room. It seemed to me that time was speeding up and that I lost track of what was happening around me.

Entering the showers from the waiting room one sees a sign above the door (upper right of picture above) which says "Brausebad" (or to bathe using a shower).

We walked into the shower room. As I walked into the showers shocked that the room was so small and confining. Showers usually have high ceilings for ventilation I thought. Then the door closed. I think Spencer closed the door, just out of curiosity to see if the door still worked. As the door closed, I felt a suffocating feeling surround me. I shuddered and out of instinct looked behind me hoping to find a way out.

Naturally and gratefully the door ahead of us was open and I was glad to leave of my own accord out the door on the other side of the showers and into the death chamber room. This is the room where the prisoners' bodies would be piled up waiting to be incinerated. We entered the incinerator room with ovens for burning the bodies (3 or 4 bodies could be incinerated at a time Tamara recalled). Despite the gruesome nature of this room I was glad to be there. I was glad to be in the light again and to be out of the showers.

We left this building and walked around the grounds a bit. This is the nicest part of the camp, with many trees, flowers, and nice foot paths. It was good to be in such nice surroundings after having walked through the death showers.

We left that area and walked back to the museum. We were back on the rocks and in the cool wind.

Behind the museum is a jail and a courtyard where executions took place. Tamara had indicated that she encountered an oppressive feeling when she entered the jail house. I experienced something similar. When I entered the thought jumped into my head - "it's not worth fighting any more" and a feeling of hopelessness entered my heart. The cells themselves were small and the long hallway was cold, cold, almost like the air conditioning was running.

I was glad to leave the jail and the camp. I'm not sure how any prisoner survived such an experience. I wondered how the soldiers could, for so long, torture, and brutally murder other humans. Wouldn't their hearts have been softened by the cries of the innocent? Wouldn't they have stood up to the sheer madness of it all, even if it cost them their own lives? These are questions thousands have asked. My questions also remained unanswered.

On the way out I took a long look at the gate with the words Arbeit macht frei! (work shall set you free) and at the worn down train platform. What a relief it was when it finally got warm as we neared the car.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

German Ads are Funny

I Found this hilarious video over at Planet Germany and just had to post it as well.

It's a great little advertising trick about an older husband and wife getting even. Enjoy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dachau - the Museum

After seeing the Jewish memorial I showed the kids the barbed wire fence, which still had some of the old electrical equipment attached. We walked back towards the Museum to meet Tamara. Along the way, as we passed the foundation for barracks 32 we found another token. The language was Dutch and we tried to guess what it said. The camera was full so I could not snap a photo.

At the museum exit I gave Tamara the kids and I walked towards the museum. In front of the museum is a large memorial. The memorial still had dozens of wreaths of flowers laying at the base from the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau and the end of World War II that was celebrated in early May. I walked along the base and found the American wreath. There were many countries represented. You can see the tops of the wreaths in this picture as well as the museum in the background. Then the row of wreaths in the subsequent photo.

Here is the memorial and museum from a distance. The expanse of this roll call area (in front of the museum and memorial) struck me each time we walked through it. The next picture is a depiction of a night time roll call Tamara found in the museum.

Although I have seen many documentaries and films on the holocaust the museum was well done in that it was dedicated entirely to the history of the Dachau concentration camp. The history of Dachau is naturally set in the background of the history of the war, but the primary focus is on Dachau's history throughout the war. Seeing the horror that took place over the life of just one camp makes the experience that much more real.

Here are few tips for people touring the memorial. There is simply too much information to read, let alone digest, in one visit. All of the information is printed in English and in German. There is also an audio tour available for 3 or 4 Euros in several languages. Here is the entrance to the museum - it looks like a battered down hall, as it may have looked while Dachau was open. Prisoners were brought into this building for registration, which generally included beatings and brutal treatment.

Here are some of my impressions after walking through the museum.

At the beginning of the museum maps are displayed showing the many concentration camps and sub-concentration camps (satellite camps). They seem to be ubiquitous. Then I came upon a T.V. in a side room. A documentary containing interviews with survivors of the Dachau concentration camp was being played. The survivors spoke rather light heartedly about their experiences. That struck me.

Here is a brief summary from two of the interviews. A priest who had held a mass with some polish people spoke about his entrance to the camp. He said, when he arrived he buttoned up his coat all the way so as to hide his priestly collar. When asked what his crime was, he knew he had to answer without hesitation and with some whit. He said "friendly relations with the polish." The officer said - "what was her name!" and moved onto the next prisoner. The man laughed and said I made it into Dachau without getting beaten. He said the officers had beaten almost all the other prisoners, including those just before and just after him in line.

Another man was transfered to Dachau from Auschwitz. When he came into the camp he received a new prisoner number - different from the number he had in Auschwitz. It amazed me that he could remember both numbers without even batting an eye. He said he then was left alone for a time with the other arriving prisoners. They had a peak into one of the shower facilities. They were surprised, because there was an actual shower head, with water dripping. He and his fellow prisoners arriving that day were very enthusiastic, because they expected a gas chamber.

Next I remember seeing a display that explained that prisoners released early on were told - do not talk about the camp or any of the details about life in the camp. A scary part of the system of intimidation and annihilation.

Then the career paths of several of the SS soldiers stationed at Dachau were documented. This struck me as so odd - a career in such a field, with a resume, and references. It seemed so contrary to normal and humane relations. They noted the increased violence and death toll that came about during one prominent camp leader's administration and documented his career path in detail. I believe he was later sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials but do not remember the name.

I then read about some of the experiments they performed on the prisoners. One experiment attempted to answer the question - "how long can a soldier stranded in the ocean survive on salt water?" One of the prisoners who underwent the treatment survived, testified at the Nuremberg Trials and helped convict the men working in the camp. Additionally they injected all sorts of diseases into the prisoners to see how the human body responded. Tamara remembered that they wrapped mosquito nets around prisoners legs with malaria infected mosquitoes trapped in the nets to infect the prisoners with malaria.

The museum then talked about how they tortured prisoners - there were special tables for beatings and special racks used to hang the prisoners from the ceiling by their wrists. Horrid. I couldn't stay in this room very long. The quote from the torture table reads:

Whipping trestle with bullwhip: For beatings the prisoners were strapped over a wooden trestle and whipped by two SS men with a bullwhip. The prisoners had to count the blows aloud.

The items about torturing prisoners were in the former shower area of the prisoner processing center (now the museum).

One of the last item was the video recordings from the Americans after Dachau's liberation - wow. It was hard to watch after touring the museum. I've seen similar videos before, but it was tough to get through.

After that I thought I was done. There was one more section that I hadn't seen and wanted to go to and one building with prison cells that Tamara had mentioned, but I thought I was done with the pain. In my next post you'll see that I was desperately wrong.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Here is our podcast about the finals of DSDS (Deutschland sucht den Superstar - English: Germany seeks its Superstar) the German version of American Idol. We've enjoyed watching the show together every Saturday night over the last several weeks and talked about some of the differences between the U.S. and German versions the show in our podcast.

One note from the podcast: Gardner was wrong. As Tamara clearly stated, in the U.S. it is free to vote for American Idol contestants. In Germany, the phone call costs 50 cents per phone call.

Each contestant will be assigned his or her own toll-free number and text message short code number during the performance show.

Thomas Gudoj was the winner and his signature song during the competition was Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. A video should be available at, which is the channel that carries DSDS here in Germany.

Deutschland sucht den Superstar

To Gross

Emma said this phrase Wednesday morning about some sandals she was trying on. They were just to gross, she said. With that much said I assume that most of the German-English speakers have figured out what Emma was trying to say. Note Emma's expression does not have anything to do with disgust. Here is the explanation.

gross = big in English
zu = too or to in English depending on the context

Emma was telling me that the hand-me-down sandals from Hannah were just too big for her feet. She can't wear them yet because they are too big (to gross) she repeated. In picking words she picked an English word and a German word and put them together. For her it makes perfect sense. I agreed with her (without correcting her) in my best German possible: Ja genau, die sind einfach zu gross. (English - Yes exactly, they are simply too big.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dachau - The Cold & The Rocks

A few things stuck me just after entering through the Dachau concentration camp gate with the famous "Arbeit Macht Frei" (work will set you free) slogan. The camp was larger than expect and the air was decidedly chilly. As I then started to walk around I noticed the gravel yard of the camp and how the gravel crunched under my feet and under the wheels of the stroller. Throughout the entire visit the chill did not leave the air and the noise of the crunching rocks did not leave my ears.

We then split up so Tamara could go into the museum alone (some pictures and videos are too graphic for young children). We walked from the museum entrance to the restored barracks across the role call area. People died standing at attention in this area and the walk seemed long and the chill in the air and crunching under my feet would not let up. At this point the kids started gathering rocks.

We went into the barracks and looked at the beds - three level bunk beds. The kids thought the beds would be cool to sleep in and picked out their favorite. I showed them that the beds would have been half a head too small for me (I am about 6 ft. 1 in. or 185.42 cm).

We then walked on past the remaining barracks' foundations (there are only two restored barracks on the grounds, but originally about 32 stood on the grounds - a foundation is present for each of the barracks.) The horrible thing is that towards the end of the war they housed up to 2000 people despite having capacity for only 200. The chill and the crunching did not subside and I tried to walk in the sun. I kept expecting the morning chill to wear off, but it would not. The kids continued to gather rocks and Shantal started gathering the "pretty" rocks. She is very good at seeing the beauty in the world around her.

We then found a Flag of Israel on the ground within the foundation of barracks number 10. The kids were impressed by this. In the lower left corner of the flag you can see some little rocks around the edge of the flag. Spencer completed this decoration and when we walked back I noticed that the flag had a stone boundary and some stone decoration in the middle in the star. Shantal continued to find beautiful rocks and was trying to decide which ones to keep. The chill and crunch did not relent.

We then went to the Jewish memorial on the grounds. The submerged memorial leads the visitor into what feels like an underground prison with what looked like barbed wire fencing guiding you down into an abyss. Once inside the prison, however, there is a ray of hope shining down though through a hole in the building's ceiling and through the hole, up on the roof one can see a candelabra, the light of the temple, a beacon in a world of darkness. I thought this was well done, and it provided brief relief from the crunching rocks and chilly air. Shantal had narrowed her search to a few rocks.

My journey did not end there. I will continue with a post about the images and impressions from the museum.

One note, however, on chill in the air. I would have attributed the chill in the air the weather of that day, except that when we left the camp and were walking to car the chill suddenly left. The sudden change in temperature was so abrupt that I will always associate an eerie chill in the air with the Dachau concentration camp.

Emma is Three!

Wednesday, Emma had a birthday and turned three. It is amazing how fast time flies. She has now spent more than half her life here in Germany. That is so weird to think of.

She slept so late that I woke her up around 9:30 that morning. Shantal got up early and had made her a birthday crown before she went to school. Emma was excited, even though the crown was too small to fit on her head.

She got a Laufrad for her birthday. For those that don't know, a Laufrad is a bike without peddals. It is a big thing for the small kids here. Seems like they have these little bikes instead of a small bike with training wheels. Helps the kids learn balance and seems like younger kids can ride real bikes sooner than kids in America.

She is very excited about this Laufrad. Although, we haven't let her ride it outside yet. Gardner is having problems figuring out the back break. It keeps sticking to the wheel.

She choose a Yellow Cake mix for her birthday. I made that but must say that she has not even had a piece yet. And there is one piece left. I told everyone that must be for Emma. She would cry if she didn't get a piece.

Before she went to bed that night, I had bought ice cream bars. She was loving it. Afterwards she got in the shower and then she got to open up one last present. It was from Shantal and Spencer. I think it is what she loves the most. It was a Polly Pocket.

Matter of fact, she told me yesterday that I could take the Laufrad back to the store because she was done with it. I think that would change once she can take it outside to ride.

Here are some pictures of Emma on her big day!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


As you know, we drove down to Erlangen on Friday to visit some American Friends who live there. They are getting ready to move back to America so we wanted to see them one last time before they moved. They have 4 kids and the wife is very pregnant with their fifth.

We all went out Saturday to site see in Nurnberg. We took the bus and then the train. You can imagine the looks we got as we would trapse around with 9 kids. Germany is not a place with a lot of kids. And matter of fact, there are many times that people are turned off by the large amount of kids.

While in Nurnberg, we did an ice cream stop at one point. I gave Ian an ice cream cone for the very first time. Normally he just gets licks and bites of Emma's or Shantal's. But this time, he got his very own. He was so excited, I wanted to take a picture of him. Then I decided to take a picture of all 5 kids together. Well, imagine my surprise after I got my picture to turn around and see a crowd of older people gathered around watching me get this picture. I think there was around 10 people who stopped to watch.

While in Nurnberg, we just walked around the city and at one point, we were going up this very steep hill. The kids kept telling us they needed a break. So we found some shade for the kids to take a break. And what do they do? They start pulling themselves up on the walls.

Anyway, here are some pictures of our time in Nurnberg. Really, no particular order since I don't want to deal with Blogger and re-arrange them.

March 2007