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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Deutschland, Chapter 3 (2 1/2 months in...Has it only been 2 1/2 months!?)

This post covers our 2nd and into our 3rd month here.  The transition continues to be interesting and I have funny realizations every day - things I miss that I didn't even expect to notice, new things that I am enjoying, the continuing ins and outs of experiencing a new place/culture with a small child in tow....As I think pretty much all of you know, I make a hobby of getting to know where I'm living.  In San Diego, San Francisco and Indianapolis I had typed out lists of my favorite restaurants (these were extremely handy for visitors and continue to be circulated amongst traveling friends/colleagues), as well as trying to find the hidden, non-touristy gems and activities.  

Well, let me tell you, life in a new place with a 2-3 year-old, initially no friends/family, and no babysitters is a bit different than my previous experience.  My restaurant list is sparse (read: there is no restaurant list), BUT I can point you to the nearest and best play ground!  After almost 3 months I have no idea where to get a drink at night or where the best cafe with free WiFi is, but I know about a great mom's group in Munich.  I haven't been to one castle here in the land of castles (informational tours of any sort and Levi DO NOT mix), have not bought myself one article of clothing, have not seen the trendy neighborhoods of Munich or even done a walking tour, but I know where there's an awfully fun cable car that leads to a biergarten/playground, that you can't count on there to be a working escalator or elevator in the train stations, and that the soup tent in the Viktualienmarkt has a high chair! 

What I've come to realize is that getting to know a new area as the mother of a small child makes you a local right away.  The every day life things that fill most people's hours are your baptism by fire: the grocery store, the gas station (goodness, I miss "pay at the pump), the play grounds, the schools, the mom's groups, the cleaning products, the cheap/family friendly/easy-to-get-in-and-out-of-with-the-most-understanding-waitstaff restaurants, the neighborhood pizza spot where the waiters come to know you and therefore give you a free bottle of wine because you look like you need it, the general culture of how people raise their families and associate with each other....that is the Bavaria we have mostly come to know thus far.

Now that Levi has started a bit of school (covered below - very exciting!) I am determined to conquer some of what much of the world would consider to be the exciting, cultural, and trendy side of living in a new city.  Until now, the excitement has certainly been more than enough for me, that is for sure.

New things I like:
  • German butter crackers, weißwurst, various cheeses, cheap German wine!
  • New cocktails, like Negronis and Hugos!  Definitely transferring those back to the States.
  • Germany's Next Top Model, hosted by Heidi Klum.  Much better than America's Next Top Model.
  • Trails and woods everywhere (Intending to explore these more when we have our station wagon and can transport a dog along.)
  • No yard work (Well, except for the obvious result of having 3 large dogs in a small yard.  There is daily cleanup there now....sigh....)
  • Practicing my German.  I can get around pretty well with basic needs now and am starting to understand people better.  I've even had some small conversations at playgrounds!
  • Getting a bit of a break from teaching/singing.  Though I LOVE teaching and singing, it is lovely to not need to save energy throughout the day while I play with Levi.
  • The lovely scenery - wide open fields, woods, and here and there the Alps.  Lots of variety.  (Though I do find myself homesick now and then for some misty rolling farm land dotted with a Americana-style barn and silo.) 
  • Living like a tourist and traveling more.  I intend to transfer this to home.  Why is it that here we are willing to drive an hour to a new town, but at home we stay so much in our neighborhood?  I already have a Pinterest board bursting with things we have yet to try back home in Indiana.
  • The kindness, advice, and understanding of the other ex-pats we've encountered.  They are the people who don't expect you to love everything right away, who understand homesickness, who have great advice for where to shop for cilantro and tomatillos, where you can get a real burger...I look forward to "paying it forward" when it's my turn. 

Things I miss.
  • Machines that don't yell at me.  The fridge beeps constantly if you have the door open for too long (say, while you're arranging space for groceries in the tiny space?), the oven beeps if even a towel brushes the heating controls, the washing machine/dishwasher/clothes dryer all beep for who-knows-how-long when they are finished, the car beeps when I back up, the car radio interrupts a CD to loudly tell you the traffic and news report....ahhhhhhh!!!!
  • Movies and TV.  Anything in English, really.  Thank God for iTunes.
  • Breakfast.  Some places are catching on with the brunch idea, but it can still be very hard to find a real breakfast anywhere, much less the creative and interesting brunch cafe menus we are used to at home.  (Shout out to Bub's Cafe's "Breakfast in Burma" and Petit Chou's "Hippy with a Benz Omlette.")
  • Trash Service.  I may just write Ray's Trash/Recycling services a thank you note back home.   Below is the color-coded trash calendar FOR THE WHOLE YEAR, showing which days they will pick up what trash: paper, plastics, regular trash, metal, or bio trash.  Oh, and you take glass either back to the store or to a receptacle on the road.  And they only pick each thing up 2 x/month.  And we have 3 German Shepherds and an not-quite-potty-trained toddler.  So, yeah, trash is a problem.
  • Sane driving.  It's just too fast with no speed limit on the Autobahn, which I drive daily.  I have decided that 140 km/hour (87 mi/hour) is a safe speed where I'm not going to get run over by people going way over 100 miles/hour, but can slow down for the people going only 50 miles/hour.  And yes, they drive aggressively here.  Right up on your tail while you are rightfully passing someone.  And then I get a dirty look as they whoosh by me and my small child.  Sigh.
  • Having 2 cars
  • American Menus at my favorite foodie spots.  Indy has a fantastic restaurant scene and I am used to being surprised by menus.  I love seeing what that particular chef has dreamed up, sometimes just on that day.  Here the options are generally Bavarian or Italian, both of which I thankfully like.
  • Big playgrounds.  Like huge, monstrous, have a cookout and spend all morning, playgrounds.
  • Big parking spots
  • Going to sporting events (other than soccer - sorry soccer fans)
  • Ventilation.  Even in our new house, the only way to circulate air is to open a window (and therefore let rain/snow/bugs in and heating out).
  • Grocery baggers.  Trying to bag a large amount of groceries, plus speak in German, plus watch Levi, plus pay is always a stressful moment.
  • A real vacuum.  3 dogs + one child + a hand-held vac with a hose just doesn't cut it.

  • They have a "Starbucks" here in Bavaria.  It's just that it is called Meier and it is a bakery.  I always joke, in any tiny town you come to just find the busiest street and that is where you will find the Meier.  
  • Perhaps due to the observation above, and also that I bake a lot of my own bread at home, I'm actually a bit tired of bread!  There is no way Germany could ever go on a low-carb diet.  I've never seen such bread consumption, and I didn't know that I could have days when I actually didn't want more.  Huh.
  • Wow - Paperwork.  I can see that I come by my over-thinking, organizational side honestly now.  It is hard to impress us with paperwork, seeing as we have gone through two international adoptions, but I have never seen anything quite like it.
  • I've found it fascinating to see where produce comes from.  At the grocery store my cilantro comes from Israel, tomatoes and zucchini from Italy, garlic and citrus from Spain,  onion from Egypt, cucumber from Bulgaria, even baby carrots from South Africa.  My apples and mushrooms tend to be from Germany, though the apples this past week were from Argentina.  Go figure.  It's become a hobby of mine to read the labels.  
  • People ask me for directions a lot.  I must look like a safe bet with German heritage on my face and a small child at my side.  They die laughing when I inevitably say (auf Deutsch) that I'm American and don't know my way around yet.  I think they are horrified and amused that they asked directions of an American.  
The Levi Update

Not surprisingly, we talk a lot about trying new things these days.  This is an extension of Daniel Tiger singing about trying new foods.  It has translated well to trying new things of all sorts here in Germany.  Honestly, I say it for myself as much as him. When on the way to a new place or to meet new people I'll often tell him how brave we are to try something new, and it makes me feel better too.  It must be sinking in because he has frequently started telling me how brave he is for trying new things.  Whether trying a new school or one day when he tried yellow bell peppers, "Vi try new things.  Very brave."

Back to diapers.  As many of my friends have told me, there is often a regression when they get close to conquering potty training.  For Levi, pushing back against the potty training seemed to be a good way to act out.  Not surprising I suppose after all the changes lately.  After 7 times of him removing undergarments to poo on the floor, and multiple times of peeing on the floor too (this was especially popular after I put him down for his nap), we went ahead and went back to diapers.  Oh well.  Ironically, his manners have taken a nice leap forward.  All day long I hear, "Please, Mama!  I need [fill in the blank]."  So, at least there's that.

Levi Says:
Me: "Levi, what would you like to do today?" 
LT:"Have an adventure!"; 
LT: "Vi like puppets all day long." Then, proceeded to list the entire family and say we all like puppets "all day long."; 
"Vi watch ABC TRAIN.  It's my favorite...ever."; 
After his nap one day, "Mama!  Chooooooocolate!  
I love it!  For ever, ever."; 
Said the prayer at dinner with no hep from us, 
"Dear God, Thank you: Nana, Pa, Neenie, Papa...keep safe.  
God thank you, food...big and strong.  Jesus.  Amen.";
Me: "Levi, did you eat enough?" LT: "Yes.  I did.  I think I did.";
" 'I'm out of ideas!'....Thomas said, on my DVD player!"; 
Imagination still going - While waving his hands in the air he cried out one day, "Catching butterflies!  Come here, little butterflies!"; 
Loves to "read" menus.  At our Greek spot: 
"Vi read menu book....Um.....Taco.  Chicken taco.";
"Vi kiddin' little Neenie."  
(Very accurate as Neenie certainly is little.); 
Looking at ourselves in a mirror, "Hi, Mommy in the mirror!"; 
"Levi, do you think about trains most of every day?" LT: "Yes, I do.  I need trains [long ramble about other vehicles/people/where they're going], but not on a peacock!";
While looking at the Alps, "Vi climb those mountains!  All the way to the top!  Will be slippery.  Slide down on belly.  
Mommy and Daddy waiting at the bottom."

Firsts and Quirks:
Often wakes from his nap calling for chocolate; Still likes adding Mommy/Daddy phrases to his repertoire.  This month, "Good plan!" was popular; Though he used to tell me not to sing when I would even hum, he has decided that Mommy singing is okay again.  He often requests that I sing a song I made up about blue ice cream and to, "make it really loud!"  Kein Problem, Levi; Obsessed with Octopi.  They apparently live in every body of water here in Germany.  Also can't stop talking about touching a star fish here at Sea Life, though they apparently don't live wild in Germany; When we got some cake for dessert at a restaurant he asked us to singing him Happy Birthday; Started saying "Levi" instead of "Vi"...bittersweet; Told me for the first time about a bad dream: Something about getting "friends" (a.k.a. mannequins) out of a window, Mommy and Daddy helped, and then something about a big crash.  Otherwise, he seems to dream about trains all the time, often mumbling about them in his sleep or talking about them as soon as he wakes up.

Reading and alphabet have taken on even more meaning.  He loves to call learning about letters, "Alphabet Power!" thanks to a Blue's Room episode.  Then one day he spontaneously "read" to me for the first time: Told me he was going to read me a book, picked up The Rainbow Fish, and very carefully spelled out each letter of the title.  He can do a huge 10 foot alphabet puzzle all by himself and sings them all by himself too.  He also informed me out of the blue one day that "D is for Dada and Dog, M is for Mommy, and Please starts with P!"  We've tried to sound out some full words too, and he helped me successfully spell "green" one day.  I know he just turned 3, but these things are already making me excited for the day we can really start some reading.  However, I try never to push it and let his interest direct how we play.

Discovering one of our favorite new towns, Bad Tölz, where our new friends (Amy, Tobias and their kiddos, Alexis and Baby Max) live.  

And then Amy and Tobias showing us the ropes (literally - the kids are tied to ropes as it gets quite steep in certain parts!) hiking in Garmisch, another new favorite spot.

A cable car up a mountain provides a lovely restaurant, little playground, and gorgeous views.  Amazingly, there are massive mountains right behind Brad and Levi that can't be seen.  For the first couple months that we were here, they couldn't be seen at all.  I had no idea there were even here, though people kept telling me there were!  Just like when we lived in Switzerland, I'm always amazed that clouds can completely cover up these massive Alps for months on end.  (Brad says it's me - out of the 6 weeks I spent in Switzerland I think I saw the mountains 2 or 3 times.  I guess I have bad mountain luck.  I also have bad bus luck, but that is neither here nor there at the moment....)  A bit later in this post you'll see the same view later in the month with Mom.  Totally different!

Alexis, Brad and Levi off-roading it with some sheep.

After our hike we worked up an appetite for a real American burger!!! There is a U.S. base in Garmisch and therefore the only place we have found yet that serves a burger like it should taste.  Little slice of home.  

Our 21st Century kids.  Levi thinks Alexis is the best, being older and wiser and all.  One day he woke from his nap and cried out, "Go see Alexis!"  Awwww.....

And the result of our big morning, naturally....

In other news, that lining things up tendency is still strong....

SO BIG!!!  Just turned three and almost as long as me!

The hot book this month?  One of my very favorites, Courduroy.

Levi asked for a chocolate Mickey Mouse Sunday off the menu.  We thought it was pretty funny too.  (Thought after he got to know Chocolate Mickey he had a hard time eating him.  Apparently, it's hard to eat your chocolate mouse friend.)

A spring mask (though it was still snowing) from our Munich Mommies group.

Levi's first "slumber party."  After a fantastic cookout with our friends, Tobias and Amy, we all were shocked and amazed that the kiddos went to bed with no fight whatsoever.  Never heard a peep out of them, so Brad and I were able to stay up nice and late chatting with grownups!  

Easter!!  Still with no church home here in Germany (long story - tried 3 so far, but no fits), we tried to make an all day event out of it.  We read Easter children's books, we made eggs, we ate cinnamon rolls, we did an egg hunt, the Easter Bunny came during nap time...Very strange to not be in church, but we worshiped in our hearts.

Marbled shaving cream and food color for eggs....

After the eggs were done we made some marbled paper....this turned out to be fantastic for a coral reef project a few weeks later!

Really beautiful results, I think!  Levi was a big fan.  May just have to do this for fun now and then.  
(Besides, I really love hard boiled eggs.)

Levi ran into the room with squeals of "Thomas Thomas Thomas!!!" after nap time.  There is absolutely nothing more important than trains at this point in his life.  Later that night, when I asked him if the Easter Bunny came he replied, "Good fun!  Good fun, Luke!"

So, this is a strange quirk we have learned.  Here they plow DURING rush hour.  Multiple mornings, much to a panicked Brad's dismay, we got stuck behind the very slow snowplow on the way to take Brad to work.  Our half-hour trip often turned into over an hour.  Now I will forever appreciate all those workers who plow all night long back home to get the roads ready for the early morning rush.  The funny things you miss....

We tried to go to the park by the lake this day to get some wiggles out.  It was a quick trip as it was incredibly cold by the water.  Levi quickly requested to go back to the car.  But we still got to run at least a bit.  Hard to believe it was April!!

This is how Croatians roll!  Love it.  One of our closest restaurants is a Croatian spot attached to the area "Sporthalle." We ordered the platter for two since we don't know much about Croatian food.  Yeah, it was awesome.  

And the meal ends with complimentary warmed up apple schnapps.  Apparently, the perfect thing to settle all that meat.  

Another moment that makes me laugh.  It's possible, as I have noted in previous posts, that wine bottles are great for when you have to glue toys back together.  

Enjoying a sunny day without snow in Mittenwald.  Bit of mountains showing!  I believe this was one of my first days seeing them.

Fun at Coco Loco, an indoor playground in Munich.  Unfortunately, such spots don't open until 2:00 since all the little kids are in school all week long.  But we had a fun post-nap visit one day.  I was climbing the 3 story tall mazes with him and wore myself out as well!

Going down the 2 story slide.  Wasn't sure I was brave enough, but Levi insisted that Mommy had to join.  Here we go!

The night my Mom arrived!!  We had a sudden moment of realization that we were standing alone in the kitchen and Levi was off in another room playing with someone other than us!  Then, Bob Todd (Brad's Dad) called to say that the last piece of our adoption paperwork FINALLY arrived after being ridiculously held up for months.  Reason enough to snap a picture!

Levi, of course, was THRILLED to finally  have someone from home here, especially Neenie.  There was much talk of Neenie seeing the Pink Germany House.  I can tell it has been very important for him to have someone finally see where he has been trying these new things.  The day before she arrived I told him, "Neenie loves you so much, she is going to get in a big plane and fly for a long time, all the way to the Pink Germany House!"  Levi cried out, "Neenie, buckle up!  Buckle up in the plane!  Fly way up high in the blue sky!"  And so she did.

Taking my mom to Olympic Park in Munich and climbing the huge hill that overlooks the whole place.  Then we had to fight some geese for our lunch of bratwurst and crepes.  Those geese are not messing around!  

Secret picture during Brad's eye test in preparation for our drivers license paperwork at an eye glasses store.  The test was BIZARRE.  I went first and even after a slow explanation in German I was still confused by what to look for since I was expecting to read letters.  Instead you looked at rows and rows of circles and had to tell the woman where the break in the circle was - at the top, bottom, upper left or right, middle, etc.  Brad benefitted from my awkward and embarrassing baptism by fire.

Date night with Amy and Tobias in Munich!  Fun to get all dressed up and meet some of their German friends.  

Grabbing a pre-dinner drink at a wine bar.

Here I am with Amy and her good friend, Alex.

Me and Amy

More new friends!  Through my Munich Mommies group I discovered that there is another American in Munich with an adopted Ethiopian son!  I was put in touch with Carolina (who is from Chicago originally) and Gwillem (her English/French but grew up in the Munich-area husband) and we scheduled a brunch at their place.  Their son, Abel will be 4 this summer, so is just a bit older than Levi.  The boys had a blast together and Carolina and Gwillem are just the kindest people.  Seem to be kindred spirits. We are looking forward to getting to know them all better these next couple years.  

Hugs all around before we left.

And later that month they joined us for an Ethiopian food night at our place.  Levi was very, very excited to have Abel over to "play with trains."

More fun with Neenie!  A vist to Andechs Monastery.  Cheers!  (Or, Prost!)

And a hilarious visit to the Freizeitpark in Wolfratshausen.  They love these little theme parks here.  The whole place felt like a large version of the It's a Small World ride at Disneyworld, but made and not touched since the 80's, haha.  And since even the little kids are in school, we had it all to ourselves.  Levi got to ride trains of cars, squirrels, trains, play on jungle gyms, listen to very detailed fairytales being retold by motorized dolls....too funny.

I love how awkward Mom and I sound in this video.  I honestly didn't know what to say about what we were seeing.  

A day in Munich.  First, Levi's favorite place, the massive Deutsches Museum.

Then lunch at "The Soup Kitchen" in the Viktualienmarkt, where unfortunately I ordered Mom Sour Lung Soup.  (Thought it said Sour LENTIL soup.  Whoops!!!!!  I DO NOT recommend Sour Lung Soup, just so you know....)

(...But I did find a giant can in the grocery, so someone must like it?....)

And taking in the sites at Marienplatz too.  I will say, getting LT around in his stroller in the city is not my favorite thing to do with all the crowds, small streets, and bikers whizzing past.  It doesn't seem to be his favorite thing either.  I am looking forward to wandering around on my own some to get to know it better.  

Relaxing with Dad and another new favorite book, A House for Hermit Crab.

Showing Mom the lake.  Again, there are massive mountains behind them that are just barely visible.

Neenie has no fear of jumping into fun at the park, even while wearing heels!

Complimentarly Ouzo after our meal at the Greek spot in Starnberg.

And then after taking mom to our Croatian spot another night for the patter of meat!  I MUST find this schnapps.  Honey, we were told.  SO good.

That night Levi amazed us all with what he managed to fit into that slim and trim body.  The child still has never had event he slightest bit of fat to pinch, but he managed to eat a massive pile of fries, green beans, fava beans, schnitzel as big as my head (I'm seriously not exaggerating - we are finding the child portions here to be every bit as big as an adult portion), few ounces of steak, couple bits of feta, full apple juice, glass of water, and finally a packet of gummy bears (because, you know, the child needs complimentary candy after all that food).  He stomach was ridiculous.  I asked him where it all went because I truly didn't know.  When I saw his belly it was fairly obvious.   
Yay!!!  Sun and visible mountains!  My bad mountain luck ran out at the perfect time - a trip to Garmisch with Mom, who loves a good hike.  It was a picture perfect day.

Lunch at the same restaurant pictured earlier with Brad and Levi.

There is a playground a little ways away from where we eat.  Levi did a great job bringing me buckets of sand that day.

Apparently, a day in Garmisch has the same effect on Neenie as it does on Levi.

Showing Mom Bad Tölz and enjoying our new favorite flavor of ice cream (well, really sorbet, but don't tell Levi): Zitrone (Lemon)!  

Mountains in the distance and the beautiful Isar River that runs through the town.
Again, taking advantage of that live-in babysitter, Brad and I actually got away for a couple nights!  We snagged a hotel room on points in Bolzano, Italy.   It's just across the border on the other side of the mountains and still very German, also called Bozon.  But I found it to still feel like you're in Italy.  

Before settling in Bolzano we drove past it to Verona.  Brad had always wanted to go as he had a friend in Turkey who was from there.  We saw the coliseum, where they perform opera still, and took pictures of the lovely view from the top:

And then along the river...A rainy day in Verona is still lovely!  We also had lunch at a little locals spot we looked up.  There was no written menu, but the waitress announced it all slowly for us in Italian and we were able to pick our dishes alright.  Though when Brad ordered the braciole he ended up with his least favorite food.  A plain, grilled pork chop.  It was pretty funny, really.  (And still confusing as not what I associate with braciole, pork or beef.  We must have missed something in the description.)  I shared my marinated fish and polenta with him.

Low season, high season...rain or shine, it's always crowded in Verona it seems.  

I do like the coffee machines in the parking garages, though I have to laugh at what .70 cents of coffee/espresso equals.  One thumbs worth, I would say.  Still tasted good.

One of the first spots we found in Bolzano - a hippy bruschetta bar.  Pretty funny.  Wasn't sure if I was in California or Italy.  

The lovely piazza

One night we had dinner in a castle above the city!  The extremely windy one-lane road (yes, we had a gridlocked moment with cars coming at us from both side - mildly frightening when there is a cliff next to you) was worth it for the food and view.

And the next night, upscale traditional Italian.  Yes, I ordered the truffle pasta on special.  Surprisingly light and not nearly as rich as you would imagine.  I ate every last truffle crumb.

Again, I find the tiny espresso funny.  I need to start asking for a double or an Americano.  

Levi has a new school!!!  Being an only child Levi is just desperate for "friends."  Whenever we got to a park here he asks if there will be friends there.  Sadly, we are often on our own during the day.  So, as I discovered back home, though I want to soak up every minute with my boy school really is essential for him to learn to socialize, listen to other adults, and back up all the fun education we do at home.   

This all came about after a somewhat exhaustive search for anywhere in the Munich area who would take Levi for only 2 or 3 mornings/week.  (I'm just not read, and Levi doesn't seem to be either, to give up my full week with him.  After missing his first 10 1/2 month it is still important to me that I be his primary care giver.  Time just feels so short!)  I had found a couple places quite a ways away that weren't traditional Kindergartens (for instance, one was a Gymboree branch just like we have in the States), but chains or co-ops instead.  So we joined wait lists for those spots.  Then, out of desperation (I can't tell you  how often Levi talked about his school back home.  Heartbreaking!) I wrote Busy Bees and asked if they would consider a partial week schedule.  And they said they would take him right away!!  We couldn't believe it.  The drive is only about 10 minutes and here I thought I would be heading 45 minutes to the north side of Munich multiple times/week.  Fantastic!  

Busy Bees International Preschool in Gauting is just one town over from us.  While Mom was here we visited for a morning.  We found the teachers and kids to be so welcoming and Levi immediately appeared comfortable.  It is a bit funny to watch a German Montessori.  They do the Montessori concept of free play, of course.  But between segments of the day they march like little armies in perfect lines, sit with no talking while they eat their snacks (this is actually a rule - no talking during snack/lunch time), then march to the potty, etc.....  It makes for a somewhat comical atmosphere at certain moments.  But my wiggly Levi fell right inline and marched down the hall for snack, potty time, out for play time, etc.  Ah, positive peer pressure, right?  (Today before school he informed me that there is no standing up during circle time, haha.)

We are very fortunate that Roche covers the bill for school while on assignment.  Otherwise, there is no way we would be able to do a private preschool here.  The expense is amazing, especially compared to the plethora of preschools at home.  And we are equally blessed to have found a faculty at Busy Bees who are willing to be so flexible with us.  The head of the school, Frances, is like a ray of sunshine bouncing around, handing out hugs and kisses, and constantly checking in to see how you are.  Very sweet and kind.  

I discovered (especially after another mom at my Munich Mommies group sat me down and told me I had to get on the preschool search for next year!) that although there are state-run preschools here and all kids are pretty much expected to start when they are 3, getting a spot in any preschool (a.k.a. "Kindergarten" here) is coveted and a hot topic.  It's often the first question other moms ask me.  I've read a few posts on ex-pat sites where panicked moms have been turned down from as many as 9 Kindergartens, even the state-run ones.  So, I am becoming more and more grateful to have Busy Bees take us in on short notice.

Currently we have settled on a 3x/week schedule.  I drop Levi off around 8:45 on M/W/Th after we take Brad to work.  Then I pick him up at 1:45 up after "Project Time."  Honestly, this is longer than I would like, but I wanted him to get to stay for the educational part of the day. (Their morning is filled with free play, circle time, an hour of recess, lunch, resting, etc.)  I've decided to try this schedule out for a few weeks and see how it feels.  I get quite a bit of pressure here and there to do the 5 day/week schedule and I am most definitely a fish out of water.  It can be a bit lonely, honestly.  At home there was such a network of stay-at-home moms of kids this age, and I miss my "mom friends" dearly.   Of course, it is nice to be able to come home and give the house a good cleaning, make some bread, catch up on the blog/emails, maybe someday go explore Munich, etc., but I also really miss my one on one time with Levi.  It feels like a big leap to go from 5 hours/week back home to 15 hours/week here.  

We'll see how it goes and I'll report back next month!.....

I found out when I arrived during story time on his 2nd day that he is a hit with the ladies.  I also heard a lot about how he washes his hands and what color car he rode during recess.  These things are big news.

One of the requirements for a German preschool is what I call the "hazmat suit," haha.  They play outside in the rain or when it is muddy, so they get big plastic overalls and raincoats.  (Another funny cultural moment: They want to go out and get dirty without getting dirty.  I say, send him home messy!  He's 3!)  Levi isn't sporting his red plastic overalls in this picture, but he was excited to try out his new raincoat.  The dogs thought it was pretty cool too.

We stumbled upon this fantastic restaurant and Biergarten near Brad's work.  Open fields surrounded by mountains.  Levi loved the horses and tractors, naturally.  Oh, and they have a whole page of Schnitzels.  Makes for a good evening.

Running back to Daddy to tell him "all about it." 

Brad made me take a picture of the stuffed squirrel by the door, of course.

Levi and I had a great day exploring the famous Engilsche Garten in Munich.  Well, one corner of it at least.  It is bigger than Central Park!  

As always during a weekday, it's like we rented out the place.  How funny to have a famous Biergarten and its playground all to yourself!

Ah, his favorite "treat food" at our neighborhood Italian spot.  Now after every meal Levi loudly says to any waiter or waitress, "Treat food, please!"  I don't know how this happened to my boy who didn't even like sweets!

I wish Levi had seen this - his best world of worlds: A dog AND a train track.

"Mommy School," as Brad jokingly likes to call it, continues!  

Letter L week.  I find the "strewing" technique works well for Levi.  He's still very picky about what crafts, toys, games, etc. he finds interesting, and it changes all the time.  I just set a bunch of stuff out and see what is a hit and what is a miss that week.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em....

Painting with a toothbrush!

Salt/Glue/Water colors.  Good for early writing as they can feel the shapes of the letters.

"Mailing" a picture to Nana and Pa (which we "delivered" when they came to visit).

Making a "train" out of the markers is often preferable to coloring, I found out.

And for letter A week....(We don't go in order, incase you haven't noticed.  I still follow the calendar from his school at home.)

This was fun: Geometric shapes in grilled cheese.  Lunch becomes a game of, "Can you take a bite out of the rectangle/square/triangle....?!"

One morning Levi told me he wanted to do a "Thomas Project."  (He calls all our crafts, "Projects.")  All excited that he requested something, I got to work cutting out bits for a Thomas box.  I laid them all out and asked if he wanted to make Thomas with me.  I figured we could count how many stripes he has, how many wheels, etc.  He refused to touch it.  So, I had fun making a Thomas box by myself.  It really was fun, actually.  Now we use the box to keep train toys in.

Making a PB and oat bird feeder when we learned about God making the birds and the fish.

Planting carrot seeds when we learned about God making all the plants and seeds for each plant.  (Yes, I know, that box is way to small to grow a carrot.  But seedlings came up and the point got across.)

I thought this was SO cool, but Levi refused to play with most of them!  I ended up giving them to Alexis.  It's homemade play dough and you hid the color inside!  It appears as the child smashes the dough.  We did the green one and he was done.

This never gets old though.  We read Eric Caryle's Pancakes, Pancakes book and then, well, make our favorite - Ethiopian pancakes!!

This was another huge hit.  The Little Engine that Could was a huge obsession after Papa sent the recorded book.  So, we made our own.  He often walks around now, for instance while carrying a big box of toys, saying, "I think I can!  I think I can do it!"

We did our first "worksheets" recently too.  I had forgotten what a big deal it is to learn how to draw a straight line.  Finding the objects on both sides of the paper and matching them seemed to have been fun enough to give it a try with Daddy.

This is SO cool.  Daddy liked it too.  Whole milk + food color + dish soap.  The colors move all over the milk as you drip in the soap.

Levi's cars helped choose the center for Neenie's "hand flower," which we put on her bed for her arrival.

Monthly Chair Picture (27 Months Home)....

1 comment:

A Darley said...

I love getting caught up on your adventures! The pictures are wonderful - I can't believe how big Levi is getting. You should see if there is a German equivalent to "Bringing Up Bébé" to let you in on how they parent! :) Best wishes and hugs from the midwest! -Ali