Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Birthdays Deutschland style...

As most know, Baby Bird is now in kindergarten. The German kindergartens have a long window of one of the parents attending the kindergarten until the child is settled. In this case, they told me I have to come everyday for 2 weeks. In the US, at the 2 daycares we went to, parents were not welcome after a little bit on the first day!

I am actually having a lot of fun there believe it or not and I will actually miss this when I go to Deutsch Kurs in a few weeks. I am also speaking a lot of German and have taught the German teachers there many words. For example, if you really want to make a German sound ridiculous, ask them to say the word squirrel. (uhh...just don't make me say Eichhornchen!)

I am also learning a lot about German culture. For example, today was one of the girl's 5th birthday. You would think she was getting indoctrinated into a sorority but really she just turned 5. This started right away in the morning.
  1. They sang 3 songs to her about having a happy birthday. One was the English happy birthday. The other 2 were German happy birthday songs that I don't remember.The did all have the words Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag.
  2. All of the children got in a line behind one another and held each other's shoulders with Birthday Girl as the leader and played a Simon Says sort of game.
  3. They followed her into the dining room where it was fairly elaborately decorated with balloons, streamers, and a birthday train with large pillar candles in it.
  4. There were also sparklers (guess German children can be trusted with fireworks!) lit in a brötchen or roll. These eventually went out.
  5. All of the children received a brötchen with their choice of apricot jam or brie cheese.
  6. Then they ate weird German cheese cake which was not sweet at all and did not have a crust. It really did taste more like "cheese cake."
  7. Then she got 2 presents - a barbie and some Barbie accessories where she proudly proclaimed she had 3 barbies now!
  8. ****After the children were done eating, she went into the playroom where she took 5 unlit candles on a plate and walked around a cut-out sun on the ground. While she was doing this, one of the teachers was reading a story which I couldn't quite understand (maybe not because my German is bad but Baby Bird kept asking to play with trains) Sometimes she would stop and get one of her candles lit. This ended after 2 pages of a story and all candles lit!
  9. Then, they sang more songs to Birthday girl.
  10. Then they sang and played Pippi Longstrumpf which we Americans know as Pippi Longstocking. I don't know what the fascination with her is in Germany, but I see her everywhere. There is even a playground near us which is decorated in Pippi Longstrumpf.
Unfortunately I had to leave at this point to go to a meeting for 1 1/2 hours so I didn't see anymore of the Delta Dueutsche Gamma indoctrinating. But at the end, I heard they made her sign her name in Nutella to swear she was 5.

I also had to bring Baby Bird to the meeting. Why I couldn't leave him alone for less than 2 hours at HIS OWN DAYCARE, I am not sure!

Note: The meeting was a disaster due to the fact that Baby Bird laid on the ground whining for things just barely out of his reach. He was not having a good day and thus, I remember nothing out of this fairly important meeting

*** This was the strangest custom of all. I am not claiming ALL Germans do this but this seemed like the custom at my school!

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Strange" days on Wall Strasse

We are certainly living in "strange" economic times.

Bremen and the WEBME

WEBME = Whiny Expat Blogger Meet-Up.

This past weekend we whiny expat bloggers (as well as Bremen marathoners and Werder Bremen fans) stormed Bremen. The Bremen town Musicians is probably what it is most famous for but it has lovely resturants, shops and other historical sites. We even saw a party tractor Saturday night! I mean come on, what town could be bad that has party tractors in the streets? (our camera broke but we still had a zoom lens=hence the sucky pic)

Note: I wish my zoom lens had sound because the betrunken singing coming from this was hilarious!

We stayed at the Hotel Residence, which was wonderful, and if anyone was accidentally reading this to get tips for Bremen, stay there. The breakfast was delicious and the staff so friendly. I think we scared the German guests away loudly eating breakfast with our 6 adults and 4 children-3 under the age of 2 but it was fun!

A HUGE SHOUT OUT to Cheeseburgers and Sauerkraut and J for helping to organize this trip. This was my first out of Berlin experience since moving here! What a wonderful city Bremen is, and I absolutely loved learning the history that accompanies it even though I was disappointed to miss the Werder Bremen game (next time J).

Since I am a relative newbie (and Blogging Mama was the senior Germany Expert-at least at our table for brunch) to Germany, I wanted to first apologize and clarify that I am not a stalker. I recognized a lot of bloggers from pictures etc...and I spoke with a few of you and I KNOW you didn't know who I was! I promise I will pretend not to know you from your blog and introduce myself like a normal person. I seriously could not help it! I was so nerdily excited!

I really wish I would have had more of a chance to speak with everyone like Regensblog and Mausi and but the conversations I had were quite interesting and so delightful. My Life in Germany thank you for bringing Thomas & seine Freunde and for being what I think sounds dramatic but such a kindred spirit! G in Berlin and I shared a ride from Berlin and the children were so occupied playing with each other (and new toys!) that it seemed like they had been friends for years. G and I see other often but traveling just made it better....

CN Heidelbergerin and the hubby are so witty. We really enjoyed talking with you and was very glad you decided to come. Hope we can possibly run into you at H stuff (talking in code for a reason-hope you get it!)

Deutschland uber Elvis had us laughing at brunch and is just a rather fascinating person with so many interesting life experiences.

Jen & Sparky have so much in common with us and even the Scientist got to get in on some blogging conversation and was raving about them.

Diane & hubby (& Charlie!) are just as wonderful in person and she somehow has a special talent for making everyone around her feel good.

Ian in Hamburg - I only had a short conversation with you but you are just as articulate and thoughtful in person as you write.

Blogging Mama and I finally had a chance to speak after admiring her blog for months now.

J -You are the most traveled and you don't let any opportunity pass you by! I really admire that! I so wish we could have made that game! Doh!

Finally, if anyone is still reading, THANK YOU the Scientist! You are such an amazing husband and I appreciated so much that you let me have a few hours of adult time. (Actually, I think all of the stroller brigade had wonderful fathers...they all stepped in and gave us breaks!)

To conclude, I am glad I didn't have to write this in German as I used so many adjectives, I would have NEVER been able to remember the endings!!!

Conclusion # 2 - I wish I lived closer to ALL OF YOU!!! Can't wait for next year! (and yes even though I am in Berlin- I was kind of hoping to get out of Berlin so I will not be voting or advocating for my rainy and cold city)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Funny Foto Freitag

Did you need some jasmine rice? We did and so we innocently went to the grocery store here in Germany to get some. Yea, we actually found some!

What did we find?

Awww...selected with hearts...just for us!

Random Facts Meme

I was tagged for a meme by Andrea at Blogging Mama.
I have to reveal six random thing about me! ok...here it goes....

1. I met my hubby the summer before 7th grade. We were in a play together called the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He was Peter-I was the dashing Tumnus the fawn.

2. I had bright red hair growing up and as I got older, it faded into a reddish brown color. Even though I hated my red hair growing up, I currently am having an identity crisis because no one sees me as a red head anymore!

3. I can't keep a plant alive if my life depended on it and am very jealous every time Green Thumb Jul posts pics of her vegetable garden!!! From her balcony nonetheless!!!!!

4. I once had a student (middle school) strip most of her clothes off in my class while dancing. I was substituting and she was mad at me for asking her take her book out and do her homework. (This story had actually more bizzare things than just this happen so if you are really curious and have about 10 min and extra beer-ask away...)

5. I can barely use my IPOD and Kimber and Kayla can testify to that!

6. Since staying at home with Baby Bird (~ July 1), I can honestly say I have played some sort of trains every day! I need a vacation!!!!

Seriously, there is not much interesting about me (at least that I would reveal in my blog.) Maybe the Whiny Expat Meet-up can loosen our tongues a bit with some delicious Bremen bier!

Okay, for those of you tagged, here are the rules, as I was given:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

I don't know who to tag as I am relatively new to the blogging world and the few people I do know have already been tagged so if you do this meme, post it in the comments and I will add you to the list! CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED in other words.... (although maybe I could strongly suggest that CN Heidelbergerin will do this because she is just very interesting!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Overseas PhD's under Obama

Nature, a top tier UK based science journal, has recently taken an interest in the US presidential election. They sent questionnaires to both Presidential candidates. Only one candidate answered. Guess which one? :)

One of the very interesting questions I read was this:

Would it make sense for more overseas students who receive PhDs at American universities to stay in the country and contribute to its research base and its wealth? What immigration reforms would you support?

Obama: I believe that we must enact comprehensive immigration reform to restore our economic strength, relieve local governments of unfair burdens stemming from an inefficient federal immigration system, ensure that our country and borders remain secure and allow a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants who are willing to pay a fine, pay taxes, and learn English. A critical part of comprehensive immigration reform is turning back misguided policies that since 9/11 have turned away the world's best and brightest from America. As president, I will improve our legal permanent resident visa programmes and temporary programmes to attract some of the world's most talented people to America.

While I can't speak to being a foreigner at a US university, I do have non-citizen friends who were/are in PhD programs in the US and I was always surprised at the troubles they were having with their visas. I was SHOCKED that some of them were afraid to fly home for fear of not being able to return. These situations only got worse after 9/11.

One might assume that I am talking about countries like Iran or North Korea but these were students from Japan and all over Europe! Ooo...French Biology PhD student-don't come to the US with your Freedom Fries! (which oddly enough were actually invented in Belgium who confused the American troops by speaking French!)

I, for one, would support policies that would allow access to our educational facilities from other countries. Who wouldn't want to welcome in the next Einstein or Fermi (Fermi also had a particle accelerator lab near my childhood house named after him!)into the US?

Obama - you had me at enact comprehensive immigration reform to restore our economic strength...


To go to kindergarten in Germany, every good child needs Hausschuhe. This is especially true in Berlin where because it rains so much, the wet shoes of the children would ruin the carpet.

Here are Baby Birds's new Hausschuhe!

I splurged just a little on these but come one...when else in his life am I am going to be able to convince him to wear adorable owl shoes? :)

Hoo Hoo!

Da Bears, Da Bulls, Da...

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for winning the NL Central over the weekend!

And now a quote from my friends K & J about the current situation:

Cue inevitable collapse and another off-season spent nurturing hope and expectations.
It's almost like being English.

Apartment vs House

We moved from a lovely house in the dreadful suburbs of Seattle to a lovely apartment in a lovely city.

How am I adjusting?

"The best things in life are not things."

This was one of the best moves we made because away from America, I can truly start to appreciate not keeping up with the Joneses and just...breathe....

However, if one more STUPID GERMAN MAILBOX STUFFER rings my bell to get into the building so they can stuff the mailbox full of advertisement junk when Baby Bird is taking a nap (especially where it took almost an hour to get BB to sleep!) I am going to scream!

Today, I was so angry that I finally went downstairs and cussed her out in 1/2 English 1/2 German!

Does this happen at your apartment building?

Note: I usually don't answer the bell but I was expecting a package and the voicebox is muffled so I can't understand anything that is said to me even if it wasn't in German.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You know...

You know when it happens and it happened today. After speaking (and insisting to all NOT to speak English to me!) German all morning at kindergarten, I finally had that problem of switching back into English and couldn't form sentences for a few minutes...

It was awesome....

Do you out there remember the first few times it happened?

Note: I did live in Germany a long time ago for a few months and remember when this happened before but I have not had this much of a "English setback" since moving here! I had to revise the past couple of posts a few times and am still hoping they make sense!

First Day of Kindergarten

What a wonderful place to be..surrounded by 2-6 year olds eagerly correcting my bad German all day. They explained that a Plate is a Teller not a Platte (plate vs platter) and even going as far as to grab my hand to a plate laying around to make sure I understood! It was, to say the least, a humbling day.

Baby Bird's first day of kindergarten (remember preschool is called kindergarten in Germany) was wonderful. I stayed the entire day with him and will be coming and going for the next couple of weeks allowing him to ease into a school where he doesn't speak the language.

Of course, he is almost 2 1/2 so I don't think there will be much of a language problem. He barely speaks English!

They started off the day by singing delightful German tunes. One was a song about a schones Madchen who has to ask her father, mother, dog, cat and mouse to date some guy and finally the mouse tells her no so she runs off and gets married to the guy anyway (and if I heard correctly-they go to Amerika!) The little boy playing the part of the boyfriend was not eager to be playing that part to an overly eager 4 year old "schones Madchen!" Baby Bird LOVES to sing. I don't know if every 2 year old sings so eagerly without knowing any of the words but my little Baby Bird sure does!

Then I get put on the spot and had to teach the kiddios "Wheels on the Bus" in English, Baby Bird's favorite song which we sing every day for naps and bedtime. (no I am not making a sound clip of me singing...)

The children kept insisting they speak English. So I asked them what they could say and they just kept counting to me in English. It was sooooo adorable.

The children mostly played after that. Baby Bird found the giant train bin and was quite content. He also bailed on the art project from making a drachen or kite (they use the word for dragon in German) to "play trains." And it seems like playing trains is a universal language for the other few boys there. Baby Bird definitely made some friends.

The wonderful but surprising part of this kindergarten is that the parents actually cook lunch for the kids 1-2 times a month. This and from meeting a few of the parents in the morning, it definitely had a community feeling.

I lucked out on this one.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Unplug Your Kids -Hard

For this week's Unplug your Kids Challenge, the theme was hard... No really, it was HARD!

So after searching my brain the Internet for rock ideas and not coming up with anything spectacular, I decided to turn my searching to use other things like dry beans!

And since Halloween is not normally celebrated in Germany, I decided to go with dry beans AND Halloween because the only American culture my son is going to get is from us! So we made Halloween tambourines.

First, I had to go find paint. Not only am I not crafty AT ALL, I am in a FOREIGN COUNTRY PEOPLE!!! I have no idea where to get this stuff AND it is written in German! So we went to about 3 stores to find paint and no one had anything but water color. Then, I saw a McPaper which is like a paper/pen/wrapping paper store. I found the paint section and there were like 40 different kinds of paint. Acrylic paint, tempur paint, giekepaint..so I bought the paint with a clown on it figuring since it had a clown, it must be for children...

First, I set out the paint. I wanted to make a pumpkin on one side and a witch on the other side. However, I didn't get orange paint so I had to show Baby Bird that red and yellow make orange! (although he seemed very unimpressed but I felt like a painter on PBS with my paper plate palette mixing colors)
Then I gave him a paint brush and we colored the first paper plate orange.

Then we let the orange paint dry.Next we got started on the other paper plate and colored it green!

The paint had nearly dried enough so we added black triangle eyes, a triangle nose and a mouth. And to top it off, a green glitter glue stem.

After we got finished with that plate, the other green plate had dried enough so we painted that. However, I let my "little artist" have more creative freedom here. Even though I kept insisting that it was a witch or Frankenstein, he kept saying "train track" and who am I to argue?

Here we are while we waited for it to dry completely with schmutzig on our hands!
While waiting for it to dry, Baby Bird and I went out to get jingle bells. We failed miserably. The closest I came was a ship captain's bell at a weird store which the "helpful" sales clerk at Bauhaus (Germany's home depot) referred me too.

When we returned, the glue was dry and we were ready to put the hard beans and rice in to make our tambourine!
After Baby Bird was finished putting in beans and rice, we used scary 1 Euro store glue to glue the rim along the outside and put the other plate on top.
While Baby Bird took his afternoon nap, the scary glue dried and it was ready to show Dada!
This project turned out WAY better than I expected. And Baby Bird was ecstatic about his new tambourine.

I made a short 20 sec video if you would like to see how it sounds. The first part is him being adorable and the second part is him being destructive. We will see how long it is before I am cleaning up rice and beans! gotta love the terrible two's...


This was a special project for me as Tuesday morning Baby Bird starts preschool in Germany! This was my last day at home with him everyday and it was truly a special one.

I struck Gold...

Expat GOLD....

thanks to FIL Kirk for sending us a wonderful box!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Funny Foto Freitag

Germans are very precise. They don't just want you to tell them you are a scientist but the specific type of scientist you are right away.

That is also the reason why they have anatomically correct chairs.

Note: Baby Bird is in the picture because he refused to get out of the picture. And I am one who chooses to pick my battles...

(as seen at the U-Bahn Dahlem-Dorf station)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yet another case where US is losing influence...

Here is yet another case from the NY Times where the US is losing influence.

This line made me sad:

"Chief Justice Barak wrote, the United States Supreme Court “is losing the central role it once had among courts in modern democracies.”

The article states that the European Court of Human Rights is now being cited more often. And if I am reading it correctly, so is Canada's "Supreme Court."

It is also sad that our Supreme Court justices are refusing to even look at foreign law. Another great line from the article:

"Judge Calabresi wrote, “and how they have dealt with problems analogous to ours can be very useful to us when we face difficult constitutional issues. Wise parents do not hesitate to learn from their children.”

It is sad when we refuse to listen to "our democratic offspring." They actually have a lot of important things to say.

Although my offspring certainly has important things to say also like chocolate milk and this below-see if you can figure it out. I will even give you a hint: we went to the aquarium yesterday.

The first Top 10 list - What to bring (and NOT) nach Deutschland UPDATE

I am here in Germany now almost at my 3 month anniversary of when we arrived. Here is a list of the Top 10 things I wish I would have brought:

What I wish I would have brought:

1. baking powder & baking soda -I am a glass half full person. I assumed I would master the art of German cooking in no time and not need American Baking Powder. If I did have a problem, magical German baking gartenzwergs would come to my rescue. I am now a glass half empty person. Baking powder here is single reactive not double reactive like in the States and I can't even make a pancake to save my life.

2. more scarves - Cliff at Regensblog had this to say about Germans and their scarves, "Put on a scarf as soon as the sun is partially obscured by the suggestion of a cloud."

3. boots - my boots took up too much room and I had a fantasy that I would get "cool European boots." However, take away one's salary and add one toddler who hates shopping and with no babysitter and store hours that close early and hence I only have one pair of boots with me.

4. more winter stuff - When I was a glass full person, I thought the weather here was going to be similar to Seattle. I don't know why I thought that. However, I have since learned that my Arc'teryx fleece (as cool as that was in Seattle!), no gloves and hat is not going to cut it.

5. shoes I can walk in AND are cute- I am used to getting in my car and not having to walk anywhere. However, in Europe, I walk everywhere OR to the train station to get everywhere. I only have cute shoes - not cute, functional shoes I can walk in for long periods of time.

6. Water bottle - why did I leave my water bottle at home? Your guess is as good as mine.

7. English books- Sure I can buy English books here but the main book store is in Prenzlauer Berg - 45 min away and the English books are expensive!

8. Snore Strips - The Scientist wakes me up in the middle of the night when these are not on when he has a cold/sinus issues. They have them here but they are 7 Euros for 10 which is 4X the cost in the US! And you have to ask behind the counter at the Apotheke (pharmacy) because one only knows what one would do to put oneself in danger if they were not regulated.

9. Men & Women's antiperspirant - Spray deodorant is wayyyy too common here for my liking. Yuk!!!

10. Purplish red hair dye - because if you can't beat them, join them! (This isn't the best picture of it but her hair was bright purple!)
UPDATE: I am also going to add chili powder, taco seasoning, cheese cloth, BBQ sauce, pie plates, craisins, vanilla (to tie me over till I can make some) and kids pajamas. (They seem so expensive and not very comfortable here!)

What I wish I would NOT have brought:

1. shorts - The Germans only wear shorts when it is REALLY hot outside and in Berlin that constitutes .00001% of the days in a year.

2. Pants that ripped the first time I wore them and not because I put on the Expat 15 but more like Gap outlet shoddy stitching.

Any other tips? If other expats want to write about this, commment below what you would have brought ot NOT brought OR put a link in comments if you blog about it and I will post it on my blog!

Note: I don't want any emails telling me I can find baking soda in boxes at Galarie Kaufhof or KaDeWe. Do I seem like I want to buy an incredibly small box of baking soda for 15Euros? I know you can find everything in Germany but affording it in Germany is a completely different story!

Note #2: I also would have had much better luck if I did not have a little 2 year old who accompanies me everywhere and wants to break touch everything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kindergarten Issues

A while ago, I was debating with a commenter on my blog named arturgreensward. We were speaking of daycare options in Europe vs US basically. I was arguing there isn't much difference and in some regions of the US, daycare is very hard to find and makes it difficult for mothers to work.

I was seriously misinformed.

Now, daycare can also be hard to find in the US. We have friends who drive a half hour north (with traffic) to take their son to daycare and pick him up in the evening (again in traffic). These friends work right by their house but nothing near them was open.

I thought that was bad. I am now experiencing trying to find kindergarten (remember - in Germany preschool is called Kindergarten) for Baby Bird. I was able to secure govt subsidization for kindergarten care so that I can take German language class. I thought THAT was the hard part. The hard part is finding a kindergarten that has a free spot!

I have called around 10 kindergartens in my area. 2 had a free spot. One had a free spot for children ages 1-2 and Baby Bird is a little older than that. I don't want him to be the oldest in a group.

The other kindergarten we fell in love with. I have scoped them out and watched them on the playground for months now. However, we are 1 of 2 people that want the spot and the director will call us tomorrow to inform us whether we got it or not. I got the feeling in the meeting that he liked us but was hesitant to offer us a spot (umm...could it be because we are new to Germany, barely speak the language and have a child who can't speak any German? Gee, I don't think I would pick me!)

UPDATE: The Scientist's work colleague called and was able to clarify that the other couple who are interested have priority because they called first. It is nothing personal. We still don't have an answer because the director is away today and whoever answered the phone didn't know who was "in."

Now I really don't know what to do except keep looking farther and farther away. We don't have a car so taking train or buses would really be the only option. And time is tight as it is...

Not to mention the anxiety I feel just calling a kindergarten is difficult because my German "ain't so great" especially after getting yelled at on the phone last week with the Doctor's office for "not properly stating I was a new patient to begin with."

I will not go to school if we can't find a proper kindergarten that we like. I obviously won't settle for anything that has a place open but I would really like to go to school and I would really like Baby Bird to learn German and have some socialization with kids his own age!

I guess I am just facing reality now. I thought maybe we could have this fantasy European life where one can get everything one needs in der Nähe. (nearby)

me: 0
public Transportation: 1

Come on: Who wouldn't want to take care of this face????

Monday, September 15, 2008

Unplug your Kids- Sand

This was a tough week because Baby Bird has been sick all week and after having a not so nice encounter with my first real medical need in Germany, he and I were definitely not in the mood to do anything complicated. I did manage to squeeze in a small craft when he was feeling better though but still not sleeping through the night.

I saw this a long time ago somewhere but can't remember where I saw it (as is the theme in my life right now.) We made sand dollars out of sand.

We first read "The Snail and the Whale" together and pointed out all of the sand dollars in the book and when there weren't any, I pointed to small white rocks and proclaimed those were sand dollars also. (This is one of my favorite books to read if you haven't seen it yet!)

We also went to a playground and played in the sand there. However, the playground was trashed by hooligans. There was a soccer game Saturday and I am a bit suspicious of the "after game" festivities. (We forgot our camera but there was garbage everywhere...)

To begin our project, we gathered some construction paper, glue, sand and scissors.

First we drew a circle (Kreis) and since I can't draw a circle if my life depended on it, I used a strainer.

Baby Bird saw the circle and kept saying "Circle, Circle" I am so proud of him. (Now if only I could get him to recognize ANY other shape...)
Then, I cut out the circle. (I took a picture of this but decided it was a bit extraneous to show a circle being cut out of paper-you are just going to have to use your imagination or believe it was magic from one step to the next!)

Next, I used the scary 1 Euro store glue whose language was neither in German nor English to make a sand dollar shape. As you can see, it was quite difficult with the scary glue.

Then Baby Bird had the most fun dumping sand everywhere!!!!

When the glue/sand dollar was covered, we dumped the sand back in the bucket.

Then my little sand urchin had a sand dollar!

It was a simple craft but he kept asking for more and different colors so we made 3. I got better at using the scary glue as you can see. Please feign excitement at Yellow Sand Dollar Glue Outline below.

My little Sand urchin!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin and Clinton introduce SNL

Quick watch it before NBC takes it away!!! HILARIOUS!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Don't mess with my baby...

Bring it on Germany...Your stares, your aloofness, your weiss bier that needs a special glass, your language..I can handle it.

But don't mess with my baby!

Baby Bird woke up with a 101 fever at 4am which then progressed throughout the day (even with Tylenol) to 103F or 40C. Since he is prone to ear infections and already had a cold all week and it was Friday, I decided it was time to visit an KinderArzt or pediatrician. But I am speaking ahead of myself.

I had already scoped out an KinderArzt ahead of time. An expat who lived in my apartment before had recommended a wonderful English-speaking pediatrician around the corner from my house. I was elated as I imagined train rides with very sick 2-year olds would probably not be an experience in Berlin I wanted to "enjoy."

I looked up her name and called. The line was busy and seemed busy on and off for almost 45 min. I don't know why I kept calling but I know in the states, my Dr's line would often be busy or I would have to wait on the phone for awhile.

But again, I should have taken this as a sign...

I finally called G in Berlin to ask for advice, get another pediatrician's name and just general moral expat mother support. She gave me good information and that if I wanted to just go there, they would have to see me.

I started to get ready when I decided right before I left to call one more time.

(This is all in German BTW) This time I got through. I explained the situation and she set up an appointment for me. She then asked me for my name and so I gave it to her. She suddenly stopped and asked if I was new. I told her yes (big mistake). She then told me they have no more room for other patients and that I can't come.

I thought I had prepared ahead of time by getting a recommendation of a Dr's name BEFORE we moved to Germany. I made sure I knew where the insurance card was at all time. Heck, I even found a small shot record I had put in the diaper bag before we left.

What I hadn't realized was that Doctors could be full and even the "best laid plans of mice and men can sometimes go awry."

Not only did the receptionist tell me that I couldn't come in, she was pretty condescending and didn't offer any other suggestions of what I could do but was impatient and annoyed. I am sure she had her reasons but I also had one big reason.

So I called the Scientist at the office blubbering the story. His office mates immediately sprang into action and offered to make appointments for us and gave us other names of great pediatricians but they were pretty far away.

I then called G in Berlin again and being the clear headed one (which she pretty much always is) she heard my concern in my voice (ok I was ready to break down at this point) and made an appt with her pediatrician!

So, I got off the phone and we watched some Thomas the Train. Then I noticed baby bird seemed more lethargic than usual. I took his temperature again and it was 103F!!!

At this point, 5 pm seemed very far away and I packed up our stuff and decided just to go sit in the Dr's office around the corner until they saw me or told me where else to go.

I went to the Dr's and as I was filling out my information, the nurse slyly asked if I had called earlier. I didn't answer.

The receptionist/nurse also got us in the room and I gave her my insurance card. She kept asking if I was on vacation and I said" Nein, Ich wohne hier." She asked me again and I told her again I live in Berlin. She finally sighed and told me the Dr speaks English and she would speak to me in English later to get my information.

The Dr came in, rather quickly, spoke English, was very nice but mostly business and to make a long story short, Baby Bird has a nasty case of bronchitis. He was also prescribed antibiotics and ibuprofen.

Why did they keep asking me if I was on vacation? My insurance card says "Reise" or Vacation Insurance in big bold letters. Now I am not sure at this point if the insurance company messed up and sent us the wrong insurance information OR we actually have trip insurance!! They are also getting a piece of me on Monday.

I am really disappointed in my experience today and it left a bad taste in my mouth. Is this the way foreigners are treated or are Germans having just as much trouble with their doctors? I even speak some German and understand almost all of what is usually said to me. At this point, I don't ever want to go back to that Doctor but she was obviously competent and is so close to my house that the convenience factor is important to me when i don't have a car.

Baby Bird seems a little better this morning although is still not sleeping through the night. The Scientist also told me when I asked him why he was being so weird on the phone that he thought his lab could hear me upset. Great-now I make uncooked brownies AND I cry when a receptionist yells at me.

I went to bed last night dreaming of returning to giant warehouses called Costco, my family and my former doctor and receptionists who always had friendly smiles for me...

For dinner, since I had not eaten all day, the Scientist brought back delicious donor kebab, Germany's most popular fast food. (For others reading-it is a gyro but with different spices and lots of crunchy red cabbage) Nothing like drowning your sorrows in pita bread!

Expats reading: how are your experiences with your Dr's?

Funny Foto Freitag

From a children's show in Germany called Tabaluga TiVi. Does the Schneemann (Snowman) give you nightmares as much as he does me? Are those teeth????

Thursday, September 11, 2008

BBQ- German Style and the inappropriateT-shirt Dad

We done got ourselves invited to a BBQ- German style!

The Scientist's lab mate had invited us over for a BBQ. The host had a daughter Baby Bird's age and one other couple who had a slightly older child.

They asked us to bring a dessert so I made some brownies thinking I could give some Germans a little taste of America.

I love grilled food. We don't have a grill here and I really miss it considering 50% of our meals were probably cooked on a grill all year long back in the States.

They live in Potsdam so we (really long story) eventually figured out there is a Regionale Train (RE7) that leaves from a station right near us. It only takes 18 minutes to get there! However, this Regionale train is very tricky...you have to walk past the first S-bahn station to get to another station. It also has a 24 hour fruit market in front of it. 24 hours? That is totally unheard of in Germany! Anyways, who thinks they need an apple or potatoes at 3am?

We eventually found the station, our train and even had about 1 min left. She had also mentioned that we should bring some bier also but there was a Aldi's across the street from her house so we didn't have to bring it with us.

We stopped at the Aldi's after getting off the very crowded, extremely hot train and found a selection of 3 different kinds of beers - weiss beer, dunkel beer and a Pils. We thought the weiss sounded most appealing.

We got over to their house and suddenly I was very nervous. We must have rang their bell 4 times and they still didn't come until I noticed a sign above that said "Bitte mehr klingen" (Please ring more) So one last time we rang it feeling like we were already annoying our hosts and they finally came out.

We went into their backyard and their little girl and Baby Bird played in the sand together. Ok, not together but more like parallel play. Baby Bird would stick his fingers in the sand and then she would copy him. She would dump sand on the truck and then he dumped sand on the truck. It was very cute.

Our host explained to us that we were to eat Thüringer Rostbratwurst. She explained that this was a very authentic sausage and you put them in a small roll and eat them with mustard. They were really good but I am not sure what the allure is about them.

We were then offered bier. She went to go get the bier we brought but realized it was weiss bier and she sadly explained she didn't have any weiss bier glasses. The scientist blurted out that we are ok to drink them out of the bottle and she looked really confused. Her husband then explained you can't drink weiss bier from the bottle because it needs to mix. (still not sure about this one) Blunder #1!!!

Dinner was ready and the other couple hadn't shown up but our host kept encouraging us to eat. So we started to take one bite when the other couple showed up of course. As they walked in, I caught a glimpse of his T-shirt. See anything wrong with it? (remember-he had a 4 year old with him!)

This is the exact shirt and if you wanted to purchase one for yourself, you can find them here!
The Scientist and I just sat there with our mouths gaping open and tried not to stare.

Did he know we could speak English? Was he trying to provoke us? Does he just want to rent-a-bi---?

Back to the BBQ, dinner was delightful until we started to cut into my brownies which WERE NOT COMPLETELY COOKED! The middle was gooey...Egads!!!! I had overcooked them last time I made them and so I took them out a few minutes earlier this time but evidently was too early!!!

The Germans called them "lecker" (delicious) and continued to eat almost the whole pan but I was totally embarrassed. The outsides were kind of cooked. In my defense we have a convection oven instead of a conventional oven so it takes some time to get used too. I asked them if they had eaten brownies before and they all seemed to think it was common. Myth #4 that Germans don't eat brownies - BUSTED! (just like one of my favorite shows!)

Conversation was interesting as Porno shirt Dad couldn't or wouldn't speak any English so either we were speaking English or they were speaking German together.

After dinner, it was getting slightly dark but was still nice so we stayed outside and watched the bats fly around. Baby Bird was OBSESSED with bats and kept saying "Bap Flying" over and over again. (The "p" is there intentionally)

We finally left, ran to our train and barely made it. The whole train ride home, we had the giggles about the T-shirt.

Needless to say, I don't think we will be invited again...unless they need some more gooey brownies!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My son threw his Thomas Train at Knut der Eisbär

Ahhh...2 years old. I feel like my mother is chuckling to herself about every rotten thing I did when I was growing up and 2 is a mother's way to get back without ever having to do anything except sit back and watch me panic.

It has been an absolutely gorgeous week in Berlin thus far. Sun shining. No rain (maybe at night a little) and so Baby Bird and I went to the Berlin zoo.

I should have turned around as soon as I had a sign.

We had been resisting taking the bus out of confusion here but finally after passing the bus stop in front of my house for the 1,000th time, I decided I needed to attempt to take it. It said Zoologischer Garten on it which is where I needed to go. How hard could it be?

We had been trying numerous ways to get there:

2 trains -25-30 min.
1 train with some walking to get to the stop farther away - 20 min.
Bus - 8 min

(and did I mention it goes practically in front of my house?)!!!! Wow, did I feel stupid for being so scared to take it in the first place.

Anyways, so we get on the bus and Baby Bird gets upset about something and starts throwing his shoes at the Germans around me!!!

I think he was saying pretzel but honestly I had no pretzels on me! There were shoes flying everywhere. Luckily people were nice enough to try to distract him and when the lady next to me spoke in German to him - he was doe-eyed the whole way there.

The zoo was great as usual. We returned to the scene of the crime but all I saw was this.
We went to the Streichelzoo (petting zoo) Baby Bird LOVED this. In fact, this is the first time I have really seen him interested in something like this. He fed a goat.
A pushy sheep
And he loved the horse. He kept prancing around saying "Eeee- hee -hee"
We left the petting zoo and went to go find Knut. We happened by an open but caged off area of African birds. He liked watching the flamingos and imitating their noises.

And then we went to take a Brezel break with Knut. I take the kiddio to the zoo, buy him a delicious German brezel at the bakery and he gets mad for whatever bizarre 2 year old reason and took Thomas the Train AND James the Red train and chucked them at the polar bears. The Germans around me seemed horrified so I didn't take any pictures but all the while was trying to control my laughter because of course why would my kid be the only one there chucking trains at innocent polar bears after already chucking his shoes???

The trains actually did not end up in Knut cage but rather got stuck in the large bushes in front. Here is the bears with a lovely (ironic?) sign behind them.
Can you read it? (it says Bayer as in Bayer aspirin-click on the picture to make it bigger)

We left right after that. I did snap one more photo of the bison. Are they supposed to be in a Native American area? Does that make them feel more at home instead of being surrounded by Aldi's and Wurst?
As we were walking out, the exit is farther away from the bus stop and I am walking along a very touristy shopping, CROWDED area and I hear 2 guys saying "Die Shuhe sind weg?" or something like that. (the shoes are gone) I start laughing because whose shoes would be missing when I realize they might be talking about my little darling. Sure enough, I look down and Baby Bird's shoes are gone! Did he throw them? Did he drop them? I have no clue so I began to back track looking for his shoes when 1 salesperson comes up with one shoe and I start gushing thank you in English. He looked surprised at how happy I was! (Shoes are EXPENSIVE here)

Another salesperson a few meters away also saw us putting one shoe on and came over with the other one.

I lost my dignity today but actually had a lot of fun. And baby bird still has his sandals.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Europe scares Americans...

Mike Huckabee's speech at the RNC convention was hilarious...Boy, after living in Germany for a couple of months, these European ideals sure make me scared to venture out in the world!!!! And no one should travel here...why would anyone need to be "worldly??"

Just read this...

What do you all think out there?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Unplug your Kids - Soft

On this week's Unplug your Kids, the theme was soft. Since I lack creativity anyways when it comes to crafts, I was really struggling to think of something to do for this. Nouns I can do...but adjectives???

Anyways, for this project I just kept thinking that soft doesn't really make sense unless it is compared to hard. And since my son is 2 and a handful of months, I had a pretty good idea that this might not be easy to get across.

So I came up with a game where I gathered soft and hard objects and put them on the table.

Being science-minded, I also had a positive and negative control. A cotton pad was the soft control and a rock was the hard control. I kept repeating soft and hard to him with these objects.

"Soft" cotton - positive control
"hard" rock - negative control

After we went over the soft and hard controls, I gave him a variety of objects and made him choose. Here is Baby Bird investigating a key in his ear for some reason only known to him.

He also got to decide if his favorite thing of all time was soft or hard: duck holding rabbit stuffed animal. His motto is "Don't go to bed without it!"
I even gave him food to explore. He loved the banana.
However, this game was not working. Baby Bird was saying soft and hard with no rhyme or reason. And he kept on insisting on eating the banana the whole time without seeming to care whether or not it was hard or soft!!!!

Feeling like I wasn't able to make up any more games and grumbling to myself as I put his shoes on, I left the house and went out...but WAIT...evidently, the game wasn't over...
Fast forward to the night. Our friends came over and I started to make dinner. Meanwhile, Baby Bird had grabbed the hand of one of our guests and proceeded to bring her to the same table and point out the objects and accurately state if they were hard or soft!!!!! (my friend commented how lucky it was that there was a bunch of "random" hard and soft objects on the table-yea, Lucky my A--)

It is simply amazing at first pass, it seems he is not getting it and was mostly worried about the banana. But really, he was taking it all in! It just took a few hours to get those neurons firing.

We have asked him numerous times since then and almost every time, he has answered correctly so this was not some kind of fluke.

Before I knew he had figured it out, I decided to do another project where he would continue to explore soft but at his level. Inspired by the random sheep we had seen a few days before, I bought some cotton balls and we made some sheep. (German cotton balls are some of the softest things I have ever felt-are they made from cashmere or something???)

I then helped him glue the cotton balls to the sheep. (I swear to you if anyone makes fun of my sheep drawing, I will send Schneke in the airmail to your address!!!)
I had some other plans to glue stuff on for the eyes and color some more but as we all know-2 year old have a short attention span and he announced he was done. So I snapped one last pic of the finished project!

My son - the enthusiastic banana eater, short attention span and occasional hard/soft differentiator. You gotta love 'em...