Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Carl Jr.

I was just on the phone with Delta, linking our many itineraries together for our upcoming US travels in June, and the Delta representative kept referring to Simon as Carl Jr. It was so weird! Who is Carl? The name just doesn't ring true to my son, or my husband. Yet we did end up naming our son after Martin....

Confused yet? Martin and Simon both have many names. But in both cases, their first name is Carl. As Martin discovered in post-911 US, it's really inconvenient to go by one name, when your actual official name is another. This leads to all sorts of confusion on documents and registration forms. It used to not be such a big deal - Martin could just be Martin. But no longer.

And somehow we ended up naming Simon Carl as well. We had narrowed down our list of names pretty quickly (or rather we didn't have a long list of names due to his early arrival). I really like Carl because of the nickname Calle/Kalle, which is common in Scandanavia. We had always liked the name Simon, and Martin, Martin's brother, and Martin's father all have Simon in their names. But we decided against Calle/Kalle (after my mom said it in this really American way that kind of killed my buzz), but we kept Carl and Simon and Jack (my grandfather's name).

Discussing names in the hospital
Trying out a few different combinations and spelling options.
And now we don't really know why we did it. Kept the Carl, that is. As evidenced by my recent Delta conversation (or visits to a new doctor) they think my son's name is Carl but it's not (but it is). We didn't mean to name him after Martin, we even feel a little silly about that (Carl Jr!). Martin keeps saying we're going to change his name (drop the Carl). Ha! Try dealing with three separate countries that already have his name on file as Carl Simon Jack. No thanks. But no matter. He's our Simon. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lunch in Luxembourg

A group of 5 of us mamas decided to give ourselves a break and head out of town for a night. We left on Friday morning and came back Saturday night. Short and sweet, but a much appreciated (and needed) break from the daily grind.

Our destination was Trier. It met the criteria of being close and a place that none of us had been to. It is rumored to be the oldest city in Germany, predating Rome by 1300 years.

Because Trier is located near the border with Luxembourg, we decided to have lunch in Luxembourg. It just seemed incredibly awesome to have lunch in another country. Coming from Minnesota, it would be like having lunch in Iowa, except it was Luxembourg where they speak French. It just seemed way too cool of an opportunity to pass up.

Lunch in Grevenmacher, Luxembourg.
Then we headed to Trier, and we learned that we weren't the only ones. The seamless robe of Jesus (yes, the Jesus) was on display at the Cathedral, which has only happened a number of times in history and draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Legend has it that this was the robe that he wore during or shortly before his crucifixion. And we got to see it.

The Porta Nigra, the Roman gate built between 186 and 200 AD

There were old Roman ruins scattered around the city, which is located on the beautiful Mosel River. However, Mother Nature did not cooperate with us, so our sight seeing was somewhat limited. We did, however, make sure to sample the local wines of the region. I don't think many people in the US associate Germany with good wine, but they do have some very nice Rieslings that don't make it far beyond the Mosel region. And of course, we had some schnitzel.

Sampling of German Rieslings
Schnitzel and white asparagus - doesn't get more German than this.
As always, I appreciate getting away for just a short while, to recharge my batteries and remind myself that there is more to life than Legos (thank god!). It's also an opportunity to deepen friendships and have conversations that go beyond potty-training and sleep schedules.

Monday, April 23, 2012

You give me FEVER!!

Simon has definitely been sick before, so fever is nothing new to our household. But Simon was recently sick for 7 days with a high fever. I am not a mom to worry too much about a sick kiddo, especially because we have enough docs in the fam to give us advice. After 2 days of fever, he slept for 17 hours!! I couldn't decide if that was a good thing because he was sleeping it off, or a bad sign because he was so out of it...
Fevered Simon cuddling with Bear and Lala (Elmo) somewhere around hour 15.
Needless to say the fever stayed so we ended up at the doc's office twice this week. Which, while going to the doctor is never terribly convenient, turned out to be even more inconvenient than usual.

Our doctor was out of town, as I gathered from the voice message when I called her office Monday morning. The announcement that the office was closed was followed by information on a few other doctors to call in case you needed to be soon. (She is the only doctor in her practice and was gone out for 2 weeks). But I ignored that info, deciding instead that I would call a Kinderarzt (pediatrician) that a few friends had recommended that is just around the corner from our flat. (As opposed to the one we go to that  is across the river in Oberkassel - not in our neighborhood at all.)

So I called the doctor in our neighborhood, but when I told them that my doctor was out of town, they said that I had to see one of the doctors that she recommended. I guess there's some kind of agreement. So I listened to the message about 100 times before I could understand the phone number, and I made an appointment. I also could not understand the name of the street at all, even after she spelled it for me. Thank you googlemaps for being so smart! Even with my ridiculous spelling it knew just what I was talking about.

Anywho, went to the doctor, they said it was a virus, come back in 2 days if he still has a high fever. Two days later, still has a high fever but I did not want to go back to this doctor again (too far) and so I called the office close to me again and this time they let me in. I think that eventually they realize I don't understand everything that they're saying, so they just give in and give me want I want. Yeah!

This time they did a strep test, which came back negative. Then a blood test to see if it was a bacterial infection, in which case Simon would start on antibiotics. Also negative, so we were sent home to wait it out.

My sister is a pediatrician, so I asked her about all this hopping around to different docs. Then I realized that it wouldn't happen in most practices in the US because there is more than one physician. Brilliant!

And, as so often happens, when I think about it (or just read what I've written), it's just not that big of a deal. But sometimes, when you're doing everything in a language that you only kind of understand, the little things just are a big deal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Frohe Ostern! ~ Easter is back!

I have to admit that I have felt very out of touch with Easter for quite a while. I guess after the Easter bunny stopped brining me chocolate bunnies, it kind of lost its meaning. And having not lived nearly family for 10 years, it's not a holiday that we would normally make it home for. But I have news - Easter is back!

There are two reasons. The first and most obvious, is Simon. While he would not have known the difference if we did nothing for Easter, I loved the idea of him having a basket, painting eggs, and running through the grass looking for eggs. We did a few Easter egg hunts this year, with friends and on our own on Easter Sunday, and Simon loved it! I had to keep hiding the eggs so that he could do it again and again. But the best part - he had no idea that all the stuff he was finding was candy! So we took it all back. He did accidentally unwrap one piece of chocolate - and he was amazed to find that you could eat what was inside. 

It was so much fun to celebrate with our own little guy. And it was a good excuse for him to have his first piece of chocolate! I know I remember the anticipation of looking for eggs and, more importantly, what was in my Easter basket. 

The second reason that Easter is back on my list is that it's really a big deal here! It's a 4-day weekend in Germany (like our Thanksgiving), and that alone is reason to celebrate! Like in the US, chocolate bunnies are abound. But unlike the US they don't do Easter baskets, but they do do the eggs. It's also common to get a small gift for Easter (which we never did in our family, but some did in the US). So really, it's the 4-day weekend that has me back on the Easter bandwagon.

Simon and Endrik on Easter
And what a great 4-day weekend it was! The weather wasn't very nice, but we spent a lot of time with friends here in Düsseldorf, including Easter dinner with Katrin, Oscar, Endrik and Emilie Victoria. Having grown up spending holidays with my large extended family, it really helped make the weekend feel more like a holiday. I guess it's kind of weird as you transition into adulthood and parenthood that you become in charge of holiday traditions. So much responsibility.

Looking forward to next Easter already!

*I was born on Easter Sunday, 1980. Did you know that my birthday won't be on Easter again until I'm 62? It's going to be a party, though!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cash Culture

After living here for nearly two years, you would think I have adjusted to many of the ways of German life. But I haven't. Don't get me wrong, I do feel well-adjusted here, but I am still surprised at the things that still get to me. Like the shops being closed on Sundays (and ALL holidays). That means this weekend (Easter weekend) everything will be closed Friday, Sunday, and Monday. That is just inconvenient.

Another thing that still gets me is how much of a cash culture it is here. It seems nearly impossible to use a credit card or a debit card - at least when you compare it to life in the US (or even Sweden) where you can buy a stick of gum with a credit card. I have definitely been caught cashless and have had to come back to a store to complete my purchase. Now I know better and am usually prepared.

But when I do pay with a card (at the grocery store, for example), I feel like I am the exception to the rule. People bust out two fifties to pay for their groceries. I can't even imagine when or why I would ever have $100 in my wallet in the US. You just don't use cash.

And when I am standing there, waiting for my card to go through at the cash register, I feel like I am really holding up the line. The machines are really slow. I always think of those visa check commercials where everyone is paying with their check cards and everything runs so smoothly. Then someone comes in to pay with cash, and it causes total chaos. It feels like the opposite here.

When people pay with cash, they often use exact change. It is not uncommon to stand behind someone who is digging through their coins to come up with that 0.78, or whatever. And that's where I feel I've adjusted. In the US, that would drive me (or anyone) crazy! But I don't feel badly making everyone behind me wait a little longer as I look for that 2 cent piece. When in Rome...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Smile for the camera

Last weekend we had a
friend take pictures for us. In a rare Düsseldorf moment, the sun was actually shining! We wanted to take pics where we live and play, so we headed to the Hofgarten, which is just 2 blocks from our flat. We go there nearly every day when the weather's nice (ie. not raining).

Martin commented on how crazy his hair looked, and I said "His hair is crazy!" That's probably my favorite pic - the full length one of him with his crazy hair and goofy grin. I think Ricardo captured him perfectly - I couldn't be more happy.

My favorite!
Now comes the challenging part where we have to actually put them up in our house. I'm embarassed to say that we had pictures done last year as well, and we never put them up despite hot stinkin' cute they were.

Check out a few more pics on Ricardo's blog