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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

European Travel and One Homesick 3 Year-Old

This was one of those, "Who do we think we are?" kind of months.  Most of our pictures are from travel, as you will see.  After returning from our holidays at home we thought that some spontaneous travel would help us keep making the most of our time abroad.  We certainly covered lots of ground in our first year here and wanted to keep it up.  Levi even seemed to be having an easier time transitioning back to Germany.  Little did we know it was just a different kind of transition, rather than easier.  After a while back in Germany it seemed to set in once again that most of (save the WONDERFUL friends we now have here in Germany!) his "friends and family" (as he constantly refers to them) are an ocean away and it would be months before seeing them.

I always thought as Levi got older and understood things like time, space, oceans, and boarders that his homesickness would be easier.  But apparently ignorance was bliss.  We had never seen Levi like this, to be honest: Fine one minute then throwing Brad's phone as hard as he could across the room….Daily screaming at and hitting me….Sobbing so hard in the car that we have to pull over and let him climb in my lap while he cries about missing his family, friends, and "Iniana house"…..Extreme behaviors I have never seen him do.  It was a very, very, very hard month.  And then sometimes in more calm moments he'd casually throw in comments like, "I wish I could have ALL my friends and family to our house.  Mommy, I think you should write a message to them and ask them."

Unfortunately, it always takes a bit to figure out what is going on.  We saw quite a bit of this behavior during our travels, but just thought it was normal 3 year-old acting out.  When I finally figured out what was wrong I was able to diffuse the harder situations really quickly.  But that wasn't before we had a good bit of craziness during our trips and home as well.

Another huge obsession this month was wanting to know what his friends and family were doing EVERY SECOND.  I did a lot of educated guessing (and even requested some info from some kind friends who filled in the blanks).  I frequently got such requests: "I still want all my friends and family to wake up in Iniania.  What kind of bed does Jacobi sleep in?  My toys wish they could wake everyone up, but they can't.  They're so sorry."  And after learning that Jacobi sleeps later that he does, "Oh my goodness, Jacobi sleeps late!  Why does he sleep late?  I think he's a joey."  (As in a baby kangaroo.  Yeah….I don't know…..)

I do think that a 3 year-old should not need to be this sad over such big things.  Problems should definitely be a bit simpler at that age.  I hope that important lessons are being learned at the same time.  Things like, we are always here for him, his friends and family always come back, we can make friends anywhere we are, and that we love him no matter how much he cries and fusses.  He loves to repeat back to me: "Mommy loves me every second of every day and every second of every night."  And the biggest lesson of all,  that he can always rely on God.  One day after a big tantrum he suddenly quieted down and we had this little conversation: LT: "I said a prayer." Me: "You did?  Do you want to tell me about it?  Or is it a secret with God?" LT: "It's a secret."  I love to see the beginnings of his own one-on-one relationship with God growing.

That all being said, you will see from the pictures below that we still had some nice moments.  Brad and I like to think that just a few hours of enjoying these locations - say some happy bike riding and then a pinch of wine tasting in France? - hopefully makes the trips worthwhile.  At least, that is what we tell ourselves in the moment.    Of course, maybe all the travel was a mistake?  In Solvenia at 2 a.m. after asking for more milk he sleepily said,  "I'm so excited to go to my Germany and Iniania houses."  And then there are the moments when you realize the fantastic opportunity to travel like this is incredibly lost on a 3 year-old: [While FaceTiming with Pa] Me: "Tell Pa, what was your favorite part of Switzerland and France?" LT: "Pa, the bathroom was SO stinky, I peed outside!" (That was true.  There was an incredibly awful rest stop bathroom.  But I hardly thought it was the thing that would impress him the most.)

So, before you look at all these pictures and think we live some glamorous life of European travel, feel free to use your full imagination to fill the moments, hours, days in-between!

IN OTHER NEWS, there is an accompanying post with this month about our home preschool in action.  And another post detailing a typical day in our homeschool. Those have been some of our happier days, for sure.  We also have been doing a lot of Spanish and Amharic learning, alternating days with each.  One of my favorite moments this month was when Levi suddenly looked at me and said "I love you" in Amharic: "Ewedehallow, Mommy!"  (Technically, it should be "EwedeSHallow" as I am a girl and all, but still!)

Zagreb, Croatia 
Most people head to the coast, but not us!  We head for the capitol city.  I mean, great history for the adults, street cars for the kiddos, and The Museum of Broken Relationships and fantastic food for all.
This little spot has won awards for being the most innovative museum in Europe.  Hilarious.  All the stories and memorabilia inside are true and from real breakups.  And they had a little car and kids' table for LT too.
Quite a few of the objects/stories came from Bloomington, IN, where the museum has toured!
For some reason the waiter thought I needed two glasses of white wine at LUNCH.  I did not turn him down.  Guess my Croatian needs some work.
Can't escape….
Loved the little fried fish.  Just popped them right in!
Beautiful sights around town….
Fantastic traditional Dalmatian food for dinner - garlicky prosciutto-wrapped frogs' legs, polenta with tomato sauce/eel/frogs legs, squid ink risotto.  YUM!  We hopped right out of there with full bellies….
Slushy day exploring Ljubljana...
Heading up to the castle above the town: fascinating history and an even better restaurant with a  gourmet lunch buffet.
Technically, this was Levi's first movie theater viewing!  A dragon (they really like those there) gave us a historical overview of the castle.  Levi was fascinated.
While driving to Slovenia we very suddenly hit an incredibly dramatic ice storm.  It was devastating to that region, snapping half of the forests there in half under the weight of the ice and knocking out power for days.  Then, within mere feet over one hill it was gone.  I've never seen anything like it.
Arriving in Slovenia just in time for nap time.  What a difference.  50-something degrees, windows open, calm waters…..Balm for the parents'-of-a-homesick-3-year-old's souls.  
And then a drizzly evening walk with my boys, making new friends:
Science at dinner?  Why not?  Fascinated by the bones of the fish Daddy and I picked clean.
And then there was the next morning.  Back to the extreme fussiness.  It was so bad this particular morning that Levi and I had to cancel plans to go to the caves and couldn't leave the room until lunch.  We sent Daddy who had a great time (and reported back that it would have been an inappropriate hike for a 3 year-old anyway.  Whew!  Perhaps disaster avoided?)
Hot chocolate helped after nap time.  But when does hot chocolate not help?
And a yummy Italian dinner didn't hurt either.
Trying out his camera work.
Everything ALWAYS must be in perfect order.
A beautiful, drizzly night on the square.
Driving home we encountered the remains of a huge blizzard we drove through on our way to Croatia. It was a serious amount of snow.  We stopped for lunch and a walk to get our fix, as we've had no snow this winter in Bavaria.
Back home again.  Tucking a car in with a "blanket".
At least we could enjoy the nice weather by the lake!  (Yes, I often have the feeling that I will someday be jumping in that ice cold water after Levi.  So far so good though.)
Dinner party at Miss Monica's and Mr. Arnaud's!  Maria put on a music class about Scotland for the kids.  Precious.
And a play date at Allianz Arena with our buddies Liam and Meegan.
This happens once or twice a month - our older neighbors at the end of our row get two cases of bier delivered by semi.  Not kidding.
After the craziness that was our Croatia/Slovenia jaunt you would have to think we are insane to head out again almost immediately for Switzerland and France.  But Daddy had a work trip to Basel, Switzerland, and it was either join or stay home and miss Daddy.  
Upon arriving at our hotel Levi spotted the Swiss flag and asked, "Is that the sign for when you need help?"  Ha!   Good thing he liked the hotel because he refused to leave it our first morning.  (Yes, I know, I could have forced him, but I promise, [and I have tried it ALL] that option doesn't lead to anything good either.  And then you are out in public while it leads to nothing good.)  We had brought his cars and trains with us on this trip, having learned better on the last trip, and that kept us busy at least.  
Someday I will remember to bring our French press with us on trips.  These tiny cups are never going to work in the morning while traveling with a small child.  3 sips of espresso just don't cut it.
We did find a neat park and spent a chilling evening there waiting for Daddy to finish meetings.  
Certainly the highlight of our time in Basel was visiting the moving art museum.  Levi was amazed by, and a pinch scared by, the huge sculptures and installations, many of which are turned on by the watcher.  Of course, he had to remark: "Why are they not cars?  Why do some of them move and some of them don't move?"
There was a lot of covering his ears for the big ones.
This was his favorite.  Small and not too loud, a bar on the wheels that reminded him of a train!
Arriving in France (Nolay in Bourgogne) first things first: find a place to get the wiggles out.  We are beginning to have a 6th sense re: stumbling upon parks.
It was Valentines' Day and we had a family date night at a casual little spot with some great food.  Levi jumped right in to trying escargot (not that I told him what it was) and was as big a fan as his Mommy: "I want more!  And please, Mommy, may I dip bread in there again and again and again!?"
Exploring the market in town the next day.  (By the way, it always cracks me up that mixed in with the local fare you can also find produce from, literally, all over the world.  Bananas from Ecuador, grapefruits from Florida, Activia yogurt next to the yogurt made there in town….I promise you, Europeans are not buying solely locally at these markets.)
Fish, meats, and yogurts as well as an impressive selection of candy inside this hall:
Fussiness ensued upon leaving the market, so we found a place to get wiggles out.  By this point we had been in Bourgogne for 24 hours, but had tragically (well, for Mommy and Daddy) not yet made it to a winery!
At lunch we at least tried some local white.  
Nothing messes with nap time, even while traveling, if you want to have hope for the rest of that day (or the days to come)!  Though almost 4, Levi still desperately requires 1 1/2 - 2 hours/day.  Seeing how much he grows, it really isn't surprising. 
Finally getting some tasting in!  
We were the only people in this huge shop.  We respectfully let Levi zoom a car around as we perused (being careful to not let the car crash anywhere near all the bottles!!!).
And across the street, our saving grace: a huge empty parking lot so that we could….
….get another tasting in.  Levi was not a fan of the cave-like atmosphere in the tasting room in this family's beautiful chateau, but Brad and I were fans enough of the wine to leave with a case.  Success!
The beautiful little square where our bed and breakfast was located.  My RUSTY French sure came in handy, let me tell you.
Passing through lovely little towns on our way to Dijon.
Sometimes the landscape makes this Indiana girl feel right at home.
A quiet Sunday in Dijon
Classic French flea markets
The only place we could find open for lunch was a bit fancier than we had planned.  However, Levi loved his "fondu salad": Literally melted cheese on POUND CAKE.  Naturally, with dijon dressing.
I love this picture.  See the dog and puppy to the left!?  So cute, stopped me in my tracks.
We broke up the drive home by stopping in Freiburg, which is near the boarder with Germany and in the German Black Forest.  While driving home I told Levi, "See those trees and hills, Levi?  This is a famous forest called the Black Forest."  He responded: "Is it a rainforest?"
Well, no.  But once again we did find a lovely park for a good bike ride, and then, strangely, a pretty decent Mexican restaurant for dinner!
Back again in Germany, one of Levi's favorite things is to park his bike in bike racks just like grown ups do.
The weather was so unseasonably nice that we took he dogs for a walk and grabbed a drink at "The Secret Biergarten", as we call it.  Usually only open starting Easter, they opened for one day.  Unfortunately, Levi was not happy that day and the dogs were over-excited. (Contrary to popular belief that all European dogs are calm and docile, many have been very aggressive towards our dogs. This makes things a bit nerve-wracking for us all, and though I try to stay calm and in control, I feel like our dogs are always on edge here.)  But we still had a lovely moment in the woods and a picture to show for it.
Another favorite moment this month was when we were reading a favorite book about cultures of the world, he pointed to the girl from Dominican Republic and said, "Mommy, she looks just like you!"

Girls night!  Dinner and a bit of spontaneous dancing with Caro and Maria. We all chuckled over the fact that we had each independently explained to our kiddos that they definitely didn't want to come as it would be "boring Mommy stuff."  Brad texted me to say that Levi proclaimed, "I would NEVER go have dinner with Mommy and Miss Maria and Miss Caro.  That's boring stuff…It would drive me BONKERS."
Levi Says:
  • [Bathroom break during our travels:] Why would they ever paint this bathroom purple?
  • LT: Why would [Curious] George get in the water?  Me: I don't know!  Can George swim?  LT: No, because he's not an ocean animal.
  • [Listening to musicians in a restaurant in Slovenia] I want to bring my instruments here and play.
  • [Stealing Daddy's hat] I'm causing a little boy ruckus.
  • Me: Why are we taking your socks off?  LT: Because you don't need socks AND footie pi's.  If we had socks and footie pi's we call the police!  And an ambulance!
  • I got a good nap and my body says thank you.  Sometimes, we all get wonky.
  • In Iniania I would like to get donuts with you, Mommy and Daddy.
  • [Trying to play tug with Gracie, who didn't want to] Well, Gracie, what are you going to do?
  • [A favorite phrase he's stollen from Neenie and likes to imagine his dogs or toys saying] There's my boy!
  • [During a visit to the pool] I'm having a great time.
  • [Waking up after a particularly hard yesterday when we weren't able to go to the pool] I want to be a big boy today.  I want to go to the pool and try again.
  • [After leaving the pool] LT: What are all the people doing at the pool?  Me: I think a lot of them had gone home to rest.  LT: What's the water doing at the pool?  Me: What do you think? LT: I think it's resting too.  I think it's its nap time.
  • [Watching bobsledding] I want to do that.  And maybe Daddy could go with me.
  • [Watching Olympic figure skating] I want to watch something else.  I want some bobsledding.
  • LT: I want to go into McDonalds and ask everyone inside why they are making bad choices.  Me: Levi, you are very smart. LT: I'm not smart.  I'm just curious.
  • [Looking at the Alps] Mommy, I think those mountains look like volcanos.  I want to learn more about volcanos.
  • [First thing in the morning after Daddy went to dinner with coworkers the night before] So, Daddy, how was your dinner?
  • I think our dogs missed us when we were on our flight, on our trip.  They said, 'Where's my little boy?'
  • Brad: "Do you think we should have a boys' lunch today? LT: We should have a girls' lunch.  Brad: A girls' lunch?  But, we're boys.  LT: Yeah, Okay, we should have a boys' lunch.  Brad: What should we eat?  LT: We should eat carrion.
  • Why is the sky so high that we can't touch it?  Why are the moon, and the sun, and Saturn, and all the planets SO high?
  • [On the way to Monica and Arnaud's house for dinner] Mommy, I don't know what my friends will be wearing.
  • Me: Maybe we could raise your bike seat. Brad: Oh, I'm sorry, it's already as high as it will go.  LT: Too bad.
  • Every morning Levi asks me to come in his room and see his "yellow clock", which tells him when he can get up.
  • Me: Why do those dogs bark so much?  LT: They say, 'We're dogs.  We like to bark.'
  • LT: This train is going to South America.  Me: South America? Which country in South America?  LT: Iniania South.
  • LT: [Clapping my hands together] Mommy, pray to God.  Me: What should I pray for?  LT: Me.
  • [Watching the ball shoot in his Indy Children's Museum App] Mommy, I wish I were a ball.
  • [The influence of Curious George stories] LT: How do you fish?  Me: Well, you put food on the end of the line and - LT: Is it cake!?!?
  • [Calling out after nap time] Mommy, I'm coming down and I want to watch trucks.  Vroom, vroom!  Mommy, I have a strong motor.  Vroom, vroom!  And I have oil and gas!
  • [Seeing his undies still in his room though he was dressed] Me: Buddy, did you put on your undies? LT: [not missing a beat] Actually, I did not.
  • LT: What's that?  Me: An amusement park.  Those are roller coasters.  LT: I would love to ride a roller coaster.  Me: I'll keep that in mind.  LT: Ok.  I would love to do that.
  • [Opening a card from Neenie and Papa] Me: What did you get?  LT: It's a book.  It's only one page.
  • [Whenever you ask him if he wants to do something and he doesn't want to] I'm not totally sure.
  • Mommy, I'm mad.  Why do we need to calm down when we're mad?
  • [Love our adoption conversations:]  LT: Mommy, how did God make me?  Me: Well, God knew your heart before he sent you to Earth, and he gave you a Mommy and Daddy in Ethiopia to make this wonderful body, and he put your heart in this wonderful body.  And that is why we have family in Ethiopia too.  Remember Abi?  And someday we will get to find Abi and tell him 'thank you' for making you.  He loves you so much.  People all over the world love you so much.  [Then, later….]  Mommy, God picked out you and Daddy to be my Mommy and Daddy, and he sent me to you, and you love your boy SO much.  [Giant smile and a big kiss!]
  • Why do you sleep upstairs at the pink Germany house?  Do you have any planets and stars?
  • [After a couple big sneezes] Sometimes I get tickles in my nose.
  • [Putting him in his bed at midnight after getting home from France] My room looks perfect.  It looks perfect.
  • Mommy, when we went on vacation I missed my doggies.  It made me so sad.  Why could we not take all of our cars and trains?
  • [In the wine section of the grocery store] LT: Look at all these juices!  100 bottles scattered everywhere!  Are you going to try some?  Me: [Absentmindedly]  I think so.  I'm just looking for the right one….LT:  Mommy, you should try it.  [Breaking into song from the cartoon, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood]  "You gotta try new foods 'cause they might taste good!  Me: Ha!  Thank you, Levi.  That's good advice.  LT: How 'bout that one Mommy?  Does that one look good?  [….I got two bottles instead of the one I came in for.  He sold me.]
  • Mommy, I want to tell you when I need you.  I want to have special Levi Time.
  • Mommy, I want you to snuggle with me.  I want you to sleep in my bed at night and sleep in my bed at nap time.  I wish you could sleep in my bed all day and all night.
  • Why did God give me two Mommys and Daddys?
  • [Bringing his new toy 'baby horse' home to be with his 'Mommy and Daddy horses']  They have happy tears.  They waited so long.
  • I wish there was something I could do so grownups could wear foot pi's.
  • [Once when the show he was watching finished] Me: There you have it.  LT: [Pauses..Confused face] What did we get?
  • Why did God make Venus and Mercury so hot?
  • Told Brad that his "friends" at work are "unkind" because he has to go and work with them at the office.
In Other News:
  • Can zip coats, etc., all by himself!
  • Likes to recite large portions of Curious George stories or his favorite train video as he plays, including musical interludes (somewhat tunelessly, which makes it even cuter).
  • Likes to tuck his cars in at night, kiss them, tell them he loves them, and to wish them a good night.
  • Oatmeal is pronounced "Opemeal"
  • Loves to speak pretend Amharic with some real words thrown in, especially "Tadias", "Ciao-ciao" "-achu", and often ending with "Papua New Guinea.
  • Thanks to the story of The Caboose Who Got Loose, he is now obsessed with the process of rusting.  Yes, Youtube videos have been scouted.
  • Loves learning about the body systems thanks to a great ebook.  Not surprisingly, the digestive system is his favorite.  Me: How did all that food get in that little tummy?  LT: It went down my esophagus.  Down into my stomach.  [And another time] Me; Where did your food go?  LT: In my esophagus, down to my leg, into my boots.
  • "Wrote" his own email to Nana after she sent him a report of her day: 
Dear Nana, [This is almost word-for-word Levi's message.  He LOVED your day's report!]
Thank you for that message.  My favorite part was the whole message :).  I did eat some yummy Frnech food.  My favorite thing was the fondue salad I had for lunch yesterday.  (the cheese was melted on slices of pound cake, says Mommy!)  Curious George puts cake on hooks to catch fish!  And we should do that too.
When I got home I got your Valentine.  I was surprised!  I love playing with the dump truck.  I woke Mommy up this morning beeping it on her bed!   It was beeping and echoing.  That dump truck said, "WAKE UP, MOMMY!"  Mommy was still fast asleep.  It talked so loudly.
That's all.  I love you so much.
Your Buddy [At the moment, he claims that everyone calls him 'Buddy'.]
  • Can't stop giving me story prompts.  Example: "All my friends and family come to Munich, go to the train and car museum, see the green train, then help pack up all his toys into the green train and take them back to Iniania."  [Later in the story they somehow got attacked by a mannequin with moving arms…..There are always twists and turns I can't predict…..]

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