Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Eve

Jan and I have hosted all the Christmas Eves which we have spent in Germany.  It is always great fun pulling out the table decorations and planning the menu.  A fun twist this year was that instead of Jan's family being in the majority of our guests, mine was!  My cousin Kim's sister, Lisa, came over this year to visit and spend the holidays in Germany.  So, of the 9 guests we had at our table Christmas Eve, 4 of them were my family - 2 cousins (plus Kim's boyfriend, Bill) and my parents.  We also had some friends and Jan's step-brother, Oli.  It was a fun round of people.

Before the dinner festivities began, we went to Mass at 3:30 at St. Ignaz because they were having a children's Mass.  I found it very condusive to children since it was in the afternoon - no tired and hungry babies to cry through church!  It was very nice and included a little nativity play, the music was also wonderful - they had an orchestra and the closing song was Silent Night, for which they turned off the lights - very dramatic.

I have been holding out telling you guys something:

Blaise started sleeping through the night about the second week in December.  He didn't every night, but even the nights he didn't, usually just a pop of the pacifier back in his mouth would do the trick.  About December 22nd our sleep-hell started up again, and it was back with new found fury.  Fortunately, since the 26th he seems to have fallen back into the sleeping through the night phase - I was really starting to get worried!  We had a few nights where he was awake for 2.5 hours in the middle of the night - but we at least cuddled and he wasn't screaming.  We had raclette for dinner, and even though Jan missed about the first hour and we could hear a screaming baby in the background, it turned out alright.  Anyway, here's to being back on track! :)

Blaise proved to be a master at opening presents.  It was pretty fun that he was so "old" for his first Christmas - he was able to really enjoy it.

The German Christmas Eve tradition is having dinner after church, then the children are distracted while the presents are put under the tree.  The "Christkind" brings the presents and when she leaves she rings a bell letting everyone know that she has been there.  The formerly distracted children then are allowed in the living room to check out their loot.  The translation of Christkind is Christ Child, so you'd think that Jesus would be the one bringing the gifts, but actually it is always a picture of a young girl angel, as in the link above.  If you figure this out let me know, I still find it a mystery.  The Christkind comes to the Catholic (southern) part of Germany - and I suppose the Weihnachtsman (Santa Claus) visits the others?  We'll have to figure out what story to tell Blaise, though I would think a child growing up with two different holiday traditions will figure out the real truth sooner than later.  I don't think I will be able to convince him for too long that a girl angel comes to deliver presents on the 24th in Germany, but Santa Claus takes the US route on the 25th.  Either way, it will surely be good fun in the next few years.

Playing the "Water in a Cup" game with Lisa

Shyly beginning to unwrap presents

Checking out the tree

'This one's for me too?'

Gettin' into it!

Really getting into it!

Oooooooooooooo, a new car!

Bill, Kim and Jörg clearly mesmorized by the Baby

Grandma Rose

Playing with his loot

Playing with his nativity with Lisa

With our friends, Kathy and Christian during dinner

We got some good pictures, but I am already looking forward to next year and some improved photography skills.  I really like using natural light verus a flash, but it is really hard during the evening, so some of our pictures are underexposed.  I actually lightened them up with Picasa, but I couldn't get the edited photo to upload here, any idea why? 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ten on Tuesday(-ies)

So, this is the ToT that I stared LAST Tuesday, but never finished.  Oh well, here you go:

1.  I hate vaccines.  Poison, I tell you.  My baby had a fever for two days.  Don't try and give me reasons why they are a good thing, I will still hate them.

2.  Every Advent the theater hosts their own special kind of Advent calendar.  For the past three years I have enjoyed going there at 6 in the evening, enjoying a drink and about 30 minutes of musical or literary enchantment.  I look forward it to every year.  This year has been a disappointment.  I have only been twice, but they moved it from the warm cozy atmosphere of the foyer with tables, chairs and a bar to outside.  They stand on the balcony for about 6 minutes and that's it.  I need to go back and give it a fair shot, but all in all it definitely isn't the same anymore.  I am all about change and things remaining dynamic, but this change just seems to go against what they were trying to acheive.  A small moment of peace in this fast paced time of year.

3.  During my time at IU an a cappella group took over campus: Straight No Chaser.  I have to admit I felt pretty cool, because I knew one of the members personally.  Not like we hung out or anything, but Kelly and I spent summer of 1995 with Steve in Krefeld, Germany, as high school students.  Most of you have probably heard of them in the meantime.  Last year they became a nation-wide sensation, gaining unexpected exposure on youtube.  They brought out Christmas CD last year, also with our friend, Steve, and this year they have released a new CD, this time however without Steve.  (Who I am guessing left in order to be close to his growing family and start of his new career - anyone know for sure?)

Anyway, check their current Christmas hit:

4.  I was thinking about making this point its own post, but i don't have too much to say about it.  I just felt the need to get something off my chest.  While travelling in the US for a good 7 weeks, I felt encountered by racism more often that I would like to admit.  It really came from many sides and I was rather shocked and also ashamed.  When I travel at home I am travelling with my German husband and of course would like to have him see my home country in all its glory, hence being ashamed when that doesn't happen.  I am not without fault when it comes to being judgemental or stereotypical, but it really is something that I try and be aware of, and that is what I am asking of you this season - be aware of what you are saying and the message you are sending out. 

5.  Blaise loves clapping!!  He does it randomly, when he sees others doing it, when he hears others doing it, when you say "clap clap" and after songs!  :)

6.  I finally got back to working out last week.  It felt good and I'm looking forward to being on my schedules especially through the holiday season!

7.  My friend Kathy and I went to see a theatrical production of Peter Pan last weekend.  It was really great and we got a kick out of the kids in the audience!  They were very interactive and great at cheering on Pan and rescuing faires!

8.  After having watched the 6th Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I decided to go back and read the book.  It seemed like the movie was different in a few places and I thought I remembered some things that the movie didn't address.  It had been two years since I re-read all the books before the last book came out (something I am really glad I did).  Anyway, after re-re-reading the book I was pretty disappointed in the movie - it had some redeemable parts, but all in all there were some (I feel) very important parts missing and I am wondering how they are going to tie it all together in the next movie.  Thoughts?

9.  Grandma Rose and Grandpa Lynn safely arrived last Friday.  They will be staying with us for Christmas, New Year's and Blaise's 1st Birthday.

10.  We have been playing a lot of uchre in the evenings after Blaise goes to bed.  Michelle/Jan: 4  Grandma/Grandpa: 2  :)  (not that I'm counting...;) )

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pears for Breakfast

Hold the cereal, Mommy, hand over the pears!

I swear Blaise would have said this this morning if he could have.

He is becoming more independent and more communicative. Which, really, is great! - I just need to keep reminding myself of this. Normally I mix his cereal with fruit, mostly pears or bananas, and sometimes apples. Pears and bananas I find easiest because they are so soft already. Plus, we've (and by we, I obviously mean Jan) found the most awesome pears (butter pears) ever, and I like eating them too!

Because of his newfound love of trying to become independent, he MUST hold a spoon while eating. He is really good at spooning his food - sometimes. Other times it is a free for all. I've read that at this stage it is okay, even encouraged, to let babies play with their food. This is a time of learning about textures and tastes. Okay, I can deal with that, but with cereal? Yuck. So, I came up with this brillant plan - two bowls! One of cut up pear that he can spoon and one of cereal where only I have control. Until he starting crying and pointing at the pear bowl after I gave him some cereal, as if saying:

Nooooo, Mommyyyyy, not that bowl, this bowl!

Seriously? So, I tried to be tricky, and "hide" the cereal under the pear pieces. That seemed to work. Until the pear ran out. I mentioned I like these pears, right? I have to keep myself under control and not eat any of the pear, until the bib comes off - the signal that he is done. Today he eat the WHOLE pear and was quite upset when he saw the empty pear bowl...luckily we had another one. Note to self: never have only 1 pear left.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nicholas Day

I grew up celebrating St. Nicholas Day - it is a holiday celebrated by Catholics and some other Christian religions.  St. Nicholas was a bishop and got a name for giving children gifts and so the tradition of Santa Claus began.  Every year on December 5th, I would put my shoes outside my bedroom door and in the morning they would be filled with all sorts of goodies.  I specifically remember Christmas socks and Christmas watches.  Nikolaus is also celebrated in Germany, so we had some fun with it this year.  Nikolaus visited our local mall on Saturday with gifts for the children, as you can see Blaise was more interested in his angel sidekick. :)

We set Blaise loose this morning to discover his St. Nicholas Day treats, a book and CD (the candy cane was only for show):

Gunflint Trail Trapdoor PJs from Grandma and Grandpa

Getting ready for bed tonight in his St. Nicholas Day gift from Grandma and Grandpa - Santa PJs!

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

St. Nikolaus kommt

Thanksgiving Dinner

We hosted our Thanksgiving Dinner this past Sunday.  We had about 25 people on the guest list, but ended up having "only" about 19.  Every year is a huge discussion on how big the turkey should be.  Every year we say, next year we need a smaller bird.  You must realize that our oven is small(er) compared to the standard US oven.  This year we ended up with a turkey a bit over 35lbs.  Not our biggest yet, though I think it earned the silver medal.  In order for it to fit in the oven we have to take out the rack holders on the side.  You know what I mean?  So you couldn't put a rack in anymore and the turkey sits on the bottom of the oven - on a cooking sheet of course.  We have to be pretty vigilant about sucking out the turkey juice with the turkey baster (had to look that word up :) ) or it will start running out of the oven.  Yummm...  Jan needs to collect it anyway to make his famous gravy.

We actually considered either not having Thanksgiving Dinner this or perhaps doing it on a smaller scale, since, you know, we also have Blaise to take care of.  But, in the end, tradition won, and honestly it is a nice gathering of people, and who I am to turn down an opportunity to show off my baby?

Given the number of people that attend, we have to do some trickery to fit them all comfortably into our apartment.  We have a nice dining room table - that sits 12...clearly not enough.  What we've done every year since Thanksgiving expanded to its current state is take out the couch in our living room and borrow two long picnic tables from the wine bar downstairs.  It makes our living echo a bit, but at least we all fit into one room instead of spread out all over the place.

Blaise also shared in our Thanksgiving Feast.  He got some sweet potatoes earlier in the day and then ate from my plate later.  He needed the Thanksgiving Pants afterwards! :)

I've often wondered if the foreign relations actually get the meaning of our American Thanksgiving, and short of doing some research, conducting some interviews and then holding a lecture, I'm not sure I could really explain it very well.  The concept of celebrating the harvest isn't soley an American tradition, that part is clear, but the part about how we take the time to appreciate our blessings is what the holiday means (to most people) today, uh, right?  The historical factor with the Pilgrams and Indians is a little less heartwarming: let's break bread together, but then we're going to organize ourselves to try and wipe you out.  I think as I raise my son, we'll focus on being thankful for what we have, while keeping in mind what was taken away from the Native Americans and vowing to not allow something similar to happen under our own watch.

This gives you an idea of the size of the turkey.  Blaise weighs about 22lbs, the turkey over 35.

Clearly a tight fit

Contemplating the meaning of Thanksgiving - surely it can't all be about the persecution of the Native Americans

Daddy and Blaisey

Adrian - 4 years

Mommy and Blaisey

Babi feeding Blaise his pre-Thanksgiving Dinner of sweet potatoes

The Seimetz Family - Martin, Jen and Jonah

Baby Jonah 13 weeks

Blaise with Tante Andi and her boyfriend Andreas

Jan's Uncle Georg, Uwe, Jörg and Aunt Ivana

Martin, Jen, Jan's Mom Noemi, Jan's Aunt Ivana

Jan's cousin, Renata, with Blaise

Cousins and significant others: Sebastian, Jörg, Oli, Jana and Caro

Blaise "helping" Adrian with his puzzle, i.e. taking the pieces OUT for him :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today doesn't really seem like Thanksgiving to me, since it's not actually a holiday here, there's no Macy's Day Parade and my mom wasn't to be heard up at the crack of dawn running the Kitchenaid :)  No smells wafting through the air, well except for the occasional diaper which needs to be changed.  Don't get me wrong, I am not feeling sorry for myself, on the contrary, I have so much to be thankful for this year!  I have a wonderful family and a wonderfully healthy son!  Thank you to all of you who touch my life everyday, I am thankful to have such amazing friends and family!

Our Thanksgiving Dinner is planned for Sunday this year - Guten Appetit!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

Okay, so it isn't Tuesday here anymore, but it is somewhere, like...Hawaii! :)

1.  Jan and I watched the second Harry Potter, "The Chamber of Secrets," last night.  We are gearing up because I ordered the new(est) one, the 6th, "The Half-Blooded Prince" and it should be here soon.  I actually was able to watch some of it on the plane, but only in pieces and probably not more than 60%.

2.  Blaise has a cold! :(  It started out slowly a few days ago and then all of a sudden he had a bad cough yesterday.  I took him to the doctor and he prescribed a cough medicine to clear up the phleminess.  I hope this doesn't sound overly dramatic, but I feel responsible, like if I would have done something different he could have avoided being sick. :( We go back on Friday for shots. :( :( 

3.  The other night Jan and I watched "Serendipity" - I love that movie!  The best part was the carmel corn Jan made!  It was heavenly, gooey, warm and sweet.  He had some Garrett's Popcorn at the airport and can't get it out of his head.  He said his wasn't as good, but I don't believe him.

4.  We are in the midst of planning our Thanksgiving.  Normally we had it on Saturday, but this year we picked Sunday so we can have it earlier in the day.  I thought that might be easier on Blaise - we'll see.  We have invited about 26 people, which means taking the couch out of the living room and putting up some extra tables.  It's chaos, but tradition :)

5.  It is so nice to be back home so that we can cook for Blaise.  While we were travelling, we gave him mostly consumer baby food - I think I mentioned this before somewhere?  Anyway, it is so much easier to make sure that he is getting a variety when you can make it yourself, and it tastes MUCH better!  Plus, I feel good knowing what I am putting into his food.  You can't avoid all nastiness all the time, but at least I can reduce it.  He is proving to be a fish lover and today he yummied up his first yogurt (plain yogurt with cut up pear).  Later he is going to try tofu for the first time.  I am not a huge fan of plain tofu, but if he likes it then it will be a nice alternative to other protein sources.

6.  Blaise seems to be back on somewhat of a sleep routine.  We had a tough few weeks at my parent's house, and a tough few days back home, but he has had some great nights and some normal nights since then.  Right now the cold is aggravating his sleep somewhat, but even that doesn't seem to be too bad.

7.  The Christmas Market opens Thursday!!!  I can't wait for the Feuerzangenbowle that I missed out on last year! :)  Which brings me to...

8.  I think it's over.  I think we are done nursing.  Our trip really made it hard to keep up with nursing every few hours during the day.  Blaise was so distracted and overall disinterested, I was lucky if he nursed once during the day.  I still had him in the evenings though, before bed, during the night and in the morning.  Then it became less and less.  Now he won't nurse at night and even when he wakes up and is still sleepy (this was the way I'd trick him into it) he isn't interested.  I think I have to admit that it's over.  I nursed exclusively for 6 months, then without supplementing with formula until about 8 months, then to a few times a day and down to once a day until 10 1/2 months.  It was a good run, not the absolulte best, I was hoping to make a year, but I hit my goal of 6 months exclusive and then some on top.  I feel thankful that we made it as far as we did.  I still feel kind of sad now that it's over, just one more step to becoming more independent.  It's bittersweet.

9.  Speaking of independence.  Blaise is now using a spoon!  He is quite proud of himself, too!  We are still feeding him inbetween his spoonfuls, so that he doesn't put himself on a diet and so that dinner doesn't last 90 minutes!  When we were at my parent's house, he started taking off his bib and over the course of a few weeks he learned that dinner is over when the bib comes off, so he stopped doing it.  UNTIL, he started doing it when he was FINISHED eating.  It is so sweet!  He starts pulling at his bib and then gives you a look, you tell him it's okay to take it off if he's finished and then rip off it comes!

10. I was planning on getting back to working out this week, but then Blaise got his cold, so I hate to "give him up" to someone else.  Maybe I'll go when Jan gets home from work, but in all honesty it is getting dark before 5 already and that really kills my motivation.  (It gets dark earlier here than in the States, because we are farther north).  Somehow I have managed to lose some weight though and I'm even under what I was before our trip.  It's a miracle really, what with all the carmel corn :)  During the day I don't really have much time to eat, I guess maybe that's why, or maybe the secret is in the carmel corn?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dancin' Maniac

Blaise is really changing a lot lately and one of his newer tricks, originally taught to him by Grandpa, is dancing!!  I know, you are all astonished.  Grandpa's form of dancing was head wiggling and Blaise has gotten really good at it!  What is so amazing to me is that he knows to dance when he hears music - he definitely didn't learn that from Grandpa :)

Day Off

I feel like I have the day off today!  Jan came home from work early yesterday with a headache - must be all the non-sleep we are getting.  Things this week have been especially hard for him because after a rough night he has to get up and go to work, whereas I can sleep in with Blaise (he slept in to 8! and even 9! one day!!) and then take a morning nap with him 1 1/2 hours later.  Anyway, we did get some better sleep last night, but I'll tell you about it next week so I don't jinx myself, though his head is still not over it.  He also has some serious back and neck muscular issues which is surely compounding the problem.  My point is, he stayed home from work again today to rest and try and get better, so he's taking naps with Blaise.  I keep thinking I should go out on the town, 1:14 in the afternoon is a good time for that, right?  :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

We're home - oh the saga

I am obviously pretty behind on blogging.  I blame lack of sleep.  Once we left Hawaii, Blaise went from a fair sleeper to ridiculously bad.  I'm not really sure what happened, of course there were a few things working against us...jet lag from an 8 hour flight, 5 hour time difference, Jan left us to go home and I'm a pushover.  Anyway, we're working on it to get him back on a better schedule.

The saga for those of you who haven't heard is that I couldn't find our passports.  I had three of them, my US passport and Blaise's US and German passport.  I know they made their way into my parent's house when we arrived because I saw them on the table.  A few days after we arrived my mom invited some family over to see Blaise and while we were getting ready we must have moved them somewhere-never-to-be-found.  No one has any recollection of having moved them, but the table they were on became the pie table so they must have been cleared off at some point.

Fast forward two weeks later.  I knew I hadn't seen them since we arrived, but I honestly thought they'd turn up while packing.  The night before we left we went out for an early dinner with my Grandma and then headed home to put Blaise to bed and start packing.  Once I was pretty much done packing and hadn't found them yet, panic began to set in.  My parents and I searched the whole house that night except for my parent's room because Blaise was sleeping.  We looked ev-ery-where.  Twice.  And then again.

We finally went to bed to try and get some sleep.  Early the next morning as soon as Blaise woke up we searched their room.  Nothin'.  I kept thinking I was overlooking some key memory, like if I just thought hard enough about it, I'd find the answer.  Nothin'.

I started making phone calls.  The one thing I had going for me was that our flight wasn't until 6:49 that evening, so I had all day to try and weasel out of this.  It was touch and go all day.

Everyone I spoke with at the National Passport Agency and the Chicago Passport Agency was very helpful and sympathic.  The first guy gave me a list of things I needed, forms filled out, birth certificates, passport photos and a notarized consent form from Jan confirming Blaise was allowed a US passport.  Super.  The notarized consent is supposed to ward off kidnappings I'm sure, but it threw us a curveball.  I called Jan and I was freaking out.  He was surprisingly calm (I say surprisingly not because he is one to fly off the handle, but because I was so NOT calm, I guess we compliment each other).  He left work to find a notary.  All I can do is just hope that a fax will be acceptable to the Passport Giver-Outers.

At 9:00 I called the automated Chicago Passport Agency appointment line and was given an appointment for 3 days after my flight.  I called back and asked to speak with a person.  There was luckily one appointment left for the day - at 11:00.  They'd give me a 15 minute grace period.  I had less than 2 hours to get passport photos, receive Jan's fax and get downtown.  It was within the realm of possibility, but it was tight.

My Mom thankfully had my birth certificate and I ended up having Blaise's.  My Dad and I left for the post office for our passport pictures while my Mom waited for the fax from Jan.  (My picture looks like a mug shot!  Blaise's is cute.  Figures.)  The fax wouldn't work so they scanned it and emailed it to me.  I printed and noticed the notary didn't actually sign the form, but an attached letter.  I literally almost lost it.  I called Jan freaking out because we needed to leave for the appointment.  The notary's secretary pulled him out of a meeting and sent me a new one.  We left in the meantime, we had to make the appointment.  We figured if I needed the other copy, I'd be able to find internet somewhere downtown.  As it turned out the attachment was no problem - the scan was.

We head for Chicago and had some traffic issues on the way, but nothing drastic.  We arrive at the appointment right on time.  We "check in" and we're told they won't except a scan, only a fax and they won't give out the fax number so we can have it faxed there.  I'm told to wait until the agent calls my name and he will have the final call.  Scan wasn't accepted.  James G., our agent, gives us the fax number!  I call Jan to fax again.  After much running around he sends the fax and I think we are home free.

What made our case more complicated was that although Blaise is a US citizen, he was born abroad.  I had his social security number, but a German birth certificate.  I didn't think to have Jan fax the proof of citizen born abroad certificate that we got.  They started telling me I'd have to prove we entered the country legally, which I couldn't do without a passport.  That meant, I'd have to get some other agency to print out the fact that we did indeed legally arrive in the US on Sept 24.  Which meant, see you again on Monday - three days later.  I tried to stay calm, and basically just talked it through with the agent and somehow they were confused enough to just drop it.  Thank God!

By about 1:30ish we were finished with the paper work and James G. personally took our applications down to be printed.  We got them just before 3:00 and headed out of there, but not before filling out a glowing "how well did we serve you today" form for James G.

We left in plenty of time to make our flight.  It was a loooooooooong day and made even more miserable because with all the searching, telephoning and freaking out I was doing in the morning, I didn't have time for a shower.  Read with sarcasim:  It was a comfortable 8 hour flight - maybe that's why they had the air-conditioning so cold in there...

A huge thanks to my parents who were a huge help during this whole fiasco.  Another story to add to the repertoire (did I spell that right?), as if they needed one...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Welcome Blaise Party

Since we always have limited time when in town, my Mom likes to organize family parties for everyone to get together.  This year was even more special, because everyone was meeting Blaise for the first time.  We had a mini Hawaiian theme since we had some pineapple and macadamia nut souvenirs and other yummy treats for everyone.  It was great to see family who I only have the chance to see about once a year - unfortunately, I was kept pretty busy for the first half of the party, so I only got pictures from the last half and therefore missed my cousins.

Blaise with my Godmother

Blaise with my Godmother and Great Aunt

Chasing after his ball

Where d'it go?

Mr. Wilson and Grandpa

With my Auntie Dorothy, love this look on his face!  Too bad it's blurry :(