There's a reason this month is behind. I'm finding it a bit hard to figure out how to sum it up! As I write this a few weeks after I should we are naturally becoming a bit more comfortable. And as you know from last month, the beginning was much harder than perhaps we expected. So, I guess our second post from Germany was a bit of a transition period between the two. Levi continued to act out and ask for his friends back home, but the big crying fits and tantrums pretty much stopped. Whew! It is still hard to hear him ask for specific people and places, but we've come up with a few tools to help now. By the end of the time covered by this post we had been here about six weeks. We had learned our area around the lake, explored more children's attractions in Munich, found an English-language Mom's group in Munich (which we called "New School" for Levi since he misses Faith Montessori so much), we have our go-to grocery store, a favorite brand of coffee/bread/cereal, a few new favorite foods and neighborhood restaurants...I think that's pretty good!
Of course, there were still lots of down days when we missed the people we love, the places where you feel comfortable, the food you know, not having to explain your life to people 'cause they just know you/where you're from..... But the trick is to get back on the horse the next day, I find. To do that I would make myself a little list of what I wanted to accomplish. Sometimes the things were really simple, like trying a new coffee shop (which actually can be a bit intimidating - we don't have the luxury of thinking, "Well, I'll never see these people again" seeing as we live here now!), making a new bread recipe, trying a new park. On the weekends we would explore a new town, area, or attraction so we felt like we were getting to know our surroundings. We've also been trying to go back to a few spots regularly. There are actually some waiters/waitresses who know who we are!
Outside of moving, Levi has started to realize that he is a "very big boy." He is very interested in things making him big and strong, things he is big enough to do ("Vi big enough to do that something!"), dressing himself, what "big kids" do and don't do. I try to use that to my advantage as often as possible. ("Big kids don't suck their fingers!") He is also still a very sweet, loving, cuddle bug, which we continue to soak up. After serving him roast chicken one night he said to me, "Great dinner! Thank you so much, Mommy." And every time someone mentions a hug he has to run and hug me. Melt my heart.
The dogs continue to do well, but training the backyard barking out of them is still a major theme of my day. Many people walking on the path behind our fence still seem to think it is funny or interesting to let their dogs chase ours, or a couple even try to attack them through the fence! There are three dogs in particular that antagonize them. Thankfully, if I go out there they calm down and stop their barking, but that means lots of running outside or to the backdoor for me all day long. That along with the 45 steps in our row house are turning out to be all the gym I need! Pretty cheap fix, really. (Now if I could just get a handle on the stress eating...oh well....on to the next new bread recipe.)
Brad's job continues to go really well. He has already had many moments of chuckling to himself as he definitely plays the role of "the American" in his meetings. Of course, that was why he was brought here, to help bridge the cultural divide, but it has still made for some amusing and awkward moments. It is a constant and interesting social study. His German took a big leap after a few days in a German intensive course. I am always impressed with his listening comprehension. So far he feels like he is getting out of the job exactly what he was hoping, which is certainly all we can ask.
Levi's Quirks and Firsts:
Knows left vs. right, north vs. south (on a map); Obsessed with picnics and wants to have them everywhere; spent a whole day in big boy undies; "Cheers"-ing with everything; Likes talking about running to Mommy/Daddy/Nana/Pa/Neenie/Papa, etc., and giving them a "big hug."; Loves trying to say the lines along with his favorite shows; the dashboard of any car is a "cockpit"; Likes to build "lighthouses" with his stacking cups in the bath;
Also, his imagination is going like crazy. Definitely creating worlds in his head as he plays. Sometimes he shares these with me: told me that the "Green Friend" (Rex from the Children's Museum) was sitting in a very certain spot on the couch, that he was a Wonder Pet when he turned his bib around like a cape, listens to his stuffed tiger to find out what book to read at night, and that he wants to go down in deep water to see an octopus and give it a hug. Octopi also tend to live in our (freshwater) lake here in Starnberg, apparently.
While looking at manequins in a window,
"Get friends out of window!";
Me: "Did Mommy take you on an adventure?"
LT: "Adventure! Thank you, thank you, Mommy.";
"Mommy, Daddy, Vi dance all day long.";
"Water, juice, milk turn into peepee.";
Loves to quote Wonder Pets: "First rescue, then hug, then celery.";
Me: "What do you think Daddy does at work?"
LT: "Eats lunch. Beans, chips, green leaves.";
Fell at a restaurant, thought he would cry, but instead he said, "Goodness Gracious!"; Olives on pizza are "pizza blueberries";
LT: "Vi has a date!" Me: "You have a date? With whom?" [This is going to be cute, right? He's going to say Mommy, right?]
LT: "Pooey!" Me: "You have a date with Pooey!?"
LT: "Yes. I do. I have a date with Pooey." [Me: sigh.];
"Vi think about a rainbow...in the sky!";
After pushing Luke, "Sorry Luke. My fault.";
While Gracie is panting in my face as she does every morning as I wake up, LT says: "Gracie telling Mama all about it.";
As Daddy takes him to bed, "Bye bye, Mommy! See you at a later time!"; "Tigie, Amen. Goodnight, Tigie. Goodnight, Vi.";
After his bath one day: "Clean is clean.";
Me: "Levi, I had a great day with you. You were a great listener and I am very proud of you." LT: "Thank you, Mommy!"
It's a good thing Brad and I keep our language clean, because Levi is in the little mirror stage, as I like to call it. This month I heard a lot of "Gentle, gentle", which I feel like I say all day long as he plays. Levi really likes to say "Bye bye, Daddy!" to Brad when he gets out of the car at work, and sometimes he'll steal Brad's next line and say, "Listen well to Mommy!" Or after a big yawn, "Goodness sakes, big yawn!" We also hear a lot of Thomas quotes: "Puff away!","Bust my Buffers!","Cheeky Engine", "Bother!" However, his favorite word is not one of ours or Thomas's: "Pooey." We've started a rule that he's not supposed to say it unless he needs to go potty or is actually ON the potty. (More potty fun below, just so you are warned. Definitely T.M.I., but such is my life....) That became necessary after he called out to a waitress, "Bye bye pooey fishy!" And yes, she spoke English. Thankfully he has also mastered a more polite farewell here in Germany: "Tchüs!" (Though he prefers, "Tchüsy!")
By our front door we keep a list of Levi's (frequent) ideas for when he visits home on the yellow, scribbled piece of paper. Once I write it down he knows it has been taken seriously and he seems to really feel better about it. (I also like our shapes art project up top too, if I do say so myself.)
Life changed when our sea shipment arrived!!! It was like a huge Christmas that we sent to ourselves. When Levi saw his toys coming out he ran to them saying, "I'm so excited!!" Maybe the best was the massive stock of snacks, toiletries, spices and such that I had stocked up on for months before we left.
It felt like Target and Coscto were waiting in the boxes for me.
Ah, two full spice racks again and bags of extras in our storage room. I'm set!
Enjoying the plane museum in Munich.
We spied a "Little Blue Truck" on the road one day! Looks just like the one in Levi's favorite books from one of his best buddies, Jacobi.
And we sent Jacobi one of our favorite books as a thank you. His Mama, Angela, said it was also a hit.
Before Levi's toys showed up we may have visited Ikea and come across a tent we just had to have....
Enjoying his "treat food" at the end of his meal at our neighborhood Italian spot. He really enjoys the German custom of giving kids a bit of candy at the end of a meal. (Not sure how I always feel about it right before bedtime, but there we have it....)
Exploring the woods with Gracie and Dad.
Ugh. I had the flu again this season (completely my fault!!! only person in the family who didn't get a shot and the only one who got sick) and couldn't barely stand up for a couple days. Thankfully, I had a pleasant view from bed and some constant company. The dogs are well-loved by us all for their constant devotion. Levi told Luke this month, "Luke, good boy. Take care of Luke for ever. Make Luke happy." And another day, "Cal my best friend. Forever! Cal, Gracie, Luke my best friends." Awwwww.
One of our favorite new spots is Andechs Monastary, or "The Big Church on the Hill" as LT calls it. It's open on Sundays, has a little park, a beautiful church where Levi likes to say a prayer, excellent beer, and some serious meat to eat.....
As some of you may have seen on Facebook, I had to give Brad a hard time for watering this fake orchid in our apartment. Twice.
Once, sometimes twice a week Levi and I attend an English-speaking Moms group in Munich, Munich Mommies and Munchkins. He LOVES it and calls it "new school." But, as always, he is the only one who 100% refuses to participate in music or craft time. (Though he LOVES parachute time, naturally. Just hard to impress.) Sometimes I take part in the activities, and sometimes I sit and do trains with Levi. The view always cracks me up as we sit on the opposite side of the room from everyone else.
That's my quirky, determined boy.
We've also enjoyed exploring the Munich Zoo. Though Levi loves animals he was most excited to see the playground.
And it was warm enough to enjoy it! As you will see, the snow quickly returned.
Another favorite spot is still the Olympic Park in Munich. It's on the way home from our Mom's group and has lots of room for running, the Sea World aquarium, hills to climb, and naturally crepe and bratwurst stands.
Big boy undies!!! Levi likes to wear them, but he's not totally ready for them all the time. I still don't think he has control enough to hold it and let me know before he needs to go. But we've had lots of good practice (and accidents, haha. lots and lots and lots - and lots - of accidents. Sometimes even while Face Timing with my Mom. And then driving trains through it...sigh....but I know that is par for the course.) There were some successes though. He's also had large chunks of time staying dry! I can tell he's so close to being fully potty trained....The funniest thing about Levi's potty training is how he asks for privacy when he needs to have a moment in the bathroom. "Privacy please, Mommy.", then orders me to cheer after he goes #2. "Mommy, clap! Cheer!" And then there was the day when he told me it looked like a dog bone and exclaimed, "They do, they do! Bye bye, dog bone!" Or the classic, "Vi put more poo and pee pee and toots in the potty"....Sigh, more info than I (or you) need, really.
MAN, they like candy here!!! This was just part of the display in our grocery a month before Easter. And each one of the displays is four sided and fully stocked. This is in addition to the HUGE regular candy section in the store and the plethora of independent candy stores/bakeries. I mean, they really, really have a sweet tooth. And this is coming from a girl who really has a sweet tooth. But I am seriously impressed by how much they REALLY like candy.
Our first walk to the bakery we discovered down the street. Yummy croissants, sandwiches and very kind people running it. Of course, Levi gets to choose candy out of a jar every visit and he was thrilled with even more "treat food."
This was the bane of my existence and I'm starting to get it in my head before I shop: needing a Euro to rent a cart. I can't tell you how many times I've had to walk around with my arms full of groceries, dragging Levi too, because I forgot that Euro.
It's those quirks that make moving tricky, really.
Thank you, Mom, for my beautiful new food processor.
Works great with the adaptor too.
Levi's birthday cake, which he requested. Our absolute favorite chocolate cake. I think you will see in the video his confidence-buidling (ha) reaction to his taste test when I made it....
(And when we showed him said video later on Levi watched it, laughed and said, "Doggonit!")
The Big 3!!!
He LOVED us singing to him and requested it ("Mommy, Daddy, friends sang to Vi! Again!") for days afterwards (to mixed results).
Friends to celebrate with us! Our new friends, Amy, Tobias, Alexis and Baby Max, joined for dinner and dessert. Levi thinks that everything Alexis does is the coolest thing ever. As I mentioned in our last post, Amy and Tobias have helped to make us feel so at home here.
This was also my first time cooking for anyone here in Germany. I was very nervous about finding everything I needed in the store, and it did take me a while (with iPhone translator in hand), but I got everything and it all tasted just as it does at home! I have been very pleasantly surprised to find an equivalent for just about everything I enjoy at home here in the big supermarket we have. (No, you don't go to a little store for every kind of food you need. They have big supermarkets just like we do. Everyone always asks me that!) Baking is probably the trickiest thing as some things, like leavening agents, are a bit different, but thankfully Google searches (and care packages) have answered most of my questions.
I was so impressed with Alexis! No fear of those big doggers and they obviously loved her right back.
Turns out Levi enjoyed the cake more than he let on in the video. Along with "Happy Birthday," it was something he requested for the next week (again, to mixed results).
That night when going to bed Brad asked Levi if he had a good birthday. Levi said, "Great birthday!" A couple days later was his actual birthday, which unfortunately was not so successful. To tell the truth, I had to "cancel" it. He was so defiant in every way all day long that there was no way I could end the day by giving him cake and presents. So, we "postponed" it until the next night and were able to have a fantastic time. We ate well too! For his birthday dinner with friends we had Ethiopian lentil stew and fish tacos with homemade tortillas. For his family birthday we had lamb ragu over polenta. And our big eater loved it all!
So many great gifts arrived for Levi's birthday. Thank you grandparents and Aunt Jenny! Presents have since become a big theme with Levi. He loves to fill his storage boxes with toys and say he has a present for Mommy. I've received many trucks, cars, and stacking cups.
These among many others were favorites. And a huge, huge hit, The Papa Book, as it is called around here. That would be a recordable version of The Little Engine that Could. I now often hear that book quoted to his Thomas trains as he plays.
Wearing parents' shoes: A kiddo tradition fulfilled.
We had one day that was warm enough to go out sans jackets, snow melted, to enjoy our terrace.
We've also had quite a few fun afternoons walking by the lakefront of our town and enjoying the playground by the lake. Looking at these pictures, it is amazing to know that it would soon again be covered in snow and so cold that even Levi requested going back to the car.
A train goes by the park! That makes for a happy moment.
My monkey. Barely needs any spotting anymore.
I wouldn't want to give the impression that Levi is always happy, smiling and sweet. (Ha!!!!!) Discipline continues to be a main theme of our day, though I still think that the 3's haven't been as bad as the 2's. (No days with 10 "time in's" before 9:30 a.m., or screaming in restaurants/music class/parites, etc. for 6 weeks! Those are my benchmarks.) But, as an example, this is Levi in the car when I ask him to take his fingers out of his mouth: He keeps them in and adds two in his nose. Sigh.....Lots of "privileges" are lost most days. (And sometimes he turns it around and manages to earn a few back, thankfully.)
But then again, some wonderful things are happening. Levi has started saying our dinner prayers and they are very, very heartfelt and sweet, even reverent. They are often even whispered with large eyes.
One morning during his allotted "show" he threw his arm around me.
My Wednesday morning date.
When snow melts you get mud!
Fun tromping through the woods behind our house.
And fun having a 'xploring day with Dad on the weekend. We like to drive around the lake and discover the bakeries, parks, and restaurants in all the little towns.
Ah, Mother. This is what arrived when I asked her to send me baking powder. I am probably on some sort of watch list now. As Tyler Smith said, we're sure the "Baking Powder" label threw them off: "Nothing to see here. Just some baking powder."
Shortly after the snow melted and the sun was out (though I must admit it remained very chilly) this is what happened.
What month is it again? Just before Easter? Surely not.
We continued to be challenged in finding a school for Levi. We needed something in English or at least bilingual, but we've learned that kids start going to school 5 days/week here when they are 3. However, I feel strongly about caring for him the majority of the week (we missed his first 10 1/2 months, of course) and suplimenting our week with school for socialization/educational reenforcement. This has made things tricky in not only finding a school, but also outings during the day. The parks are empty of kids his age during the day, and things like indoor play areas don't open until 2:00 because the kids are in school. So, unless we are going to do a larger activity, like a museum in Munich, a hike, a water park, etc., it can be tricky to find simpler activities during the day. There are certainly lots of wonderful things to do here, but we just can't do a main tourist attraction every day. And Levi isn't quite old enough for castles and museums. (And we can't afford it every day either!) At home so many businesses or community organizations cater to the little ones as so many are often only in preschool 2 or 3 mornings/week. Plus, lots of friends who are also home with kids and want play dates. So, filling the days with a variety of simpler here activities can be tricky. Definitely not a right or a wrong with either. Just a bit of an adjustment.
But back on the horse! I woke up one day with renewed strength to try to maintain Levi's education myself (mostly because I could tell he missed school So much) and suppliment socialization with our Mom's group, outdoor/indoor parks in the evenings and weekends, and play dates with friends on weekends too. I made a plan for the week - a letter, a shape (guided by the calendar from our school at home), a Bible story, a few concepts, and some crafts/project ideas. It worked amazingly well. In just one day at home we got so much done, I was amazed. I kept a list for myself and as I look back this is what it said from ONE day:
We practiced phonics while playing with trains, we counted cars, we had a water pouring party on the floor for sensory fun, we then fished letters out of a big soup pot, we made a train track and letters out of play dough, we did a butterfly study (described in pictures below), we had a dance party, we finger painted, we took a long walk in the woods with Luke and got nice and muddy, we did about 15 jigsaw puzzles, made banana bread, read some books, watched two short kids' shows, plenty of discipline and also plenty of just general play.
WHEW!!!! One day, no car, in the house, one on one with a 2/3 year-old and you can get a lot done! The rest of the week we had some outings and did a few more crafts with our letter of the week and Bible story. We also try to look for "experiments" around us too. One of our favorites is how sound echoes in our parking garage. He now pats the hard columns and says, "Sound bounces!"
Below, the result of our study of caterpillars (inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar). It culminated in watching sped up video on YouTube of caterpillars turning into butterflies. So cool!!! It's possible I learned some things too....Hard to see amongst the scribbles, but the top is a thumb print painting of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Then Levi put the wings on the butterflies below.
The butterflies may have flown....
"Building sites." Good sensory/hand eye play....
Play dough "train tracks and a gate." (He has an obsession with gates, for some reason.)
Rectangle was our shape that week.
A long line of cars waiting to get into the rectangle. (And a "gate," naturally.)
Each week over the past few weeks we learned about the things God made, like the sky!
Letter "S" week!
Little bit of "pre-math". Side by side train tracks to compare the amounts of cars on each train.
A bit of LT creativity. His versions of a "car wash."
And a new, elaborate track just about every day.
Puzzles continue. I would say he did 10-15/day this month. I think the America puzzle continues to be one of the best for learning. He pointed to an abstract world map the other day in an office and exclaimed, "America!" Definitely paying off. We try to make up a story for every state. (In Louisiana, for instance, they like spicy food, listen to jazz music, and have parties! That's one of his favorites.)
He now lists his favorite puzzles and then says, "all at the same time!" Then we pile all his pieces together. And I love his pride when he completes them all "all by Vi self," as he says.
And we have a little chair in the living room for him to do his important puzzle work. As you can tell, it's very serious business.
This is fun! Heat up a rock and draw on it with crayons!
And helping me knead some wheat bread. (Which is good 'cause my arms get really tired!)
Just had to share 'cause this is really yummy: Why not swirl PB (yes, I packed about 6 months worth) and honey in the middle and on the top of banana bread? I'll tell you, there's no good reason not to!
And this made Brad laugh. I may have also packed apple butter. I just have to have my apple butter. What can I say? I'm an Indiana girl!
Chair picture (Month 26 home, Age 3!)
Total silliness one night when he told us all the people with whom he would like to eat cheese (which he eats A LOT....Hence our teasing him about NOT eating cheese....I don't know how to explain....but it was funny....)