30 June 2005

Growing Up

We signed Katrina up for a small Montessori preschool today. She starts next week. We've gone to 3 schools this week, and this one was the most impressive. Katrina was immediately fascinated with the "materials" as they are called in Montessori. The director/teacher was enthusiastic and good with Katrina. Katrina did not want to leave...she wanted to look at one more thing, ask one more question, etc. And this was without other kids in the classroom. Truthfully, I don't really care philosophically about Montessori vs. traditional preschool, but this school was one where I could picture Katrina doing well and not getting lost in the crowd.

It's 5 days a week, which was a little more that I really wanted. But the other schools we talked to were filled up on the M-W-F classes anyway (with the exception of a church preschool that doesn't start till the fall). So she'll go to the summer program for the month of July. The school closes for August and then starts for the school year.

I'm hoping that this will help both Katrina and me make new friends. The director spoke of building a community, which appealed to me. I'm an introvert by nature, so taking the initiative on meeting/getting to know people is difficult for me. But Katrina needs social interaction like she needs air to breathe. So becoming part of an established "community" should help both of us.

My mama heart hurts more than I expected with this first big sign of separation. I suspect that Katrina will love being around other kids and doing cool stuff. But I keep having thoughts like, "what if the teacher doesn't understand or appreciate her?"; "will she be safe?"; "is this too much change for her on top of a move?"

Of course I wonder if she'll miss me, but the answer is "probably not." She's an independent little girl, never clingy unless she's sick or something. She steps boldly out into the world, running toward adventure, asking a million questions along the way. Today she saw some kids on the playground and started yelling "Hi!" from a block away.

I have a lot to learn from her.

28 June 2005

Home Making

I've been homesick on and off since we moved....for the people we left behind; for our house, which I loved; and for the feelings of control and comfort that come from established routines and familiar places.

So I was upset the other night, after a long day, and told Jon I was homesick. And that, surely, he must miss home, too. Do you know what he said? That he was not homesick because he had me here with him.

At the time, I thought he was being very sweet, but that it was annoying that he seemed to have nary a twinge of homesickness.

But now, I'm thinking about the notion that I represent home to him (and to Katrina, too). I've heard the idea that the wife/mom is the heart of the home (or, in a more humorous way, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!"). As we start to make a home and build a life in a new place, I'm seeing how true that can be. When I am short-tempered, impatient, or sad, I sometimes see a mirroring-type reaction from Katrina. It is frightening, sometimes, just how much influence a parent is in a small child's life.

And when Jon makes a comment like that, I realize that I underestimate my influence in his life. If I am home to him, what kind of home am I making? If I set the tone and rhythm in our home, what can I do to make our life as a family peaceful, loving, a haven for both my husband and daughter?

27 June 2005

Just Go To Bed!

That's the title of a Little Critter book that I've read to Katrina so many times I practically have it memorized. Little Critter is playing: "I'm a cowboy! I can lasso anything!" when his father rudely interrupts to get him ready for bed. At every stage, Little Critter is in his "let's pretend" world and resents that his dad keeps moving him along. In the bath, he's a sea monster, but then he has to get out of the bath. He's a zookeeper while he has a snack, feeding his stuffed animals...until his dad has the gall to tell him to put on his pajamas. Little Critter increases tempo, flitting from one thing to another, until finally his dad loses patience and says "Just go to bed!"

We're living that exact scenario right now. Except in the book, Little Critter goes to sleep peacefully at the end. Not quite what's been happening here. After an exhausting hour and half to two hours of bathing, teeth brushing, book reading, singing, and back rubbing (often punctuated by a tantrum if things aren't exactly right or if we assert some authority to get her moving), we go through numerous "curtain calls."

"Mamaaaaa! Mamaaaa! I have to go pottyyyyyy!" Last night she went potty twice in 10 minutes. And if she can't "go" once she's there, she wants to sit there until she can force something out. That's fun, too.

"My foot's coming out!" That's a crisis, you know...she puts her foot over the side of the toddler bed and then gets upset because the sheet has fallen off it.

"I don't have enough roooooooom!" This is a nightly lament, usually while we're trying to settle her down before we leave the room. Now, I would take that as a sign that she needs to move from the small toddler bed to a normal single bed, except she said exactly the same thing when she slept in the large single bed that came with our temporary furniture. Of course, some nights she has 4 or 5 stuffed animals plus BeBe, her security blanket, in the bed with her. But if I suggest that some of the animals can sleep on the floor beside her bed, she exclaims "Noooooo!" with such horror in her voice that you would think I threatened to cut them up or something.

We realize that she's still settling in and that her room doesn't yet feel like home to her, but this nightly struggle to sleep is really wearing on both Jon and I. Especially since she has been a really good sleeper since she turned 1.

We also suspect that it stems from napping during the day. Again, she's been a great napper since she started the toddler stage, and I hate to give up that hour and a half to two hours of quiet time. But now, the longer she naps, the later she stays up at night. One night we said "good night" and left her room around nine, and she just played in her room until 10. She still gets sleepy at midday and will sleep, but unlike when she was younger, we pay for the nap later at bedtime.

Today she did not take a nap. She was nodding off in the car as we drove back from having lunch with Jon at the base, but she perked up as soon as she got out of the car. We went through the whole naptime ritual, but she just talked to herself in her room for 15 minutes and then came looking for me. So now we're having "quiet time" in the family room...a DVD for her, the computer for me. It's just too hot out to do the playground in midafternoon.

Quiet time for her means dancing and singing along to the songs on the DVD, though. Oh, well. Maybe she'll get to sleep before 9:30 tonight. Hope springs eternal.

Update: Well, she was totally out by 8:45 pm, the earliest in a long time. But it was at a cost of her crying for me (after I left her with Jon to go to German class)/having a tantrum for over an hour--and being awfully whiny the rest of the time. So she definitely still needs some sort of nap to be civilized; maybe we just need to move it to earlier in the day or wake her if it gets too late. Sometimes parenting is an awful lot like putting a puzzle together, except that you don't know for sure what the puzzle is supposed to look like.

25 June 2005

Floh-Markt und Kleiderschraenke

I went to a flea market (floh-markt) in Ramstein-Miesenbach this morning. The wife of one of Jon's co-workers invited me, along with a friend of hers. It was nice to get out sans toddler, and I actually made it there without getting lost. There are floh-markt signs all over this area. It seems to be a big thing to do here. The best and biggest in the area is in Homburg, which is a bit farther away from us. Lori is a flea market queen...she knows exactly what she likes and is looking for, and is very focused as she's looking. Her friend and I just chatted and looked around more casually. I saw some things I kind of liked, but at the moment we have nowhere to put anything.

Did I mention that most houses in Germany are built with no closets whatsoever? None. It comes from the way they used to tax houses, by room. And a room was anything with a door, including a closet. No closets, lower tax. So if you live here, you have to get a "kleiderschrank" or wardrobe for your hanging clothes. A room that looks pretty big can get small quick once you put in a few schranks (to Americanize the word a bit). On the other hand...hey! an excuse to go to Ikea and buy stuff! That's where Jon is now. We would not have been able to fit big items in the car with Katrina in the backseat, so he took off when I got back from the flea market. I guess tomorrow's project will be putting together the schranks, the bookcases, the nighttable we're getting for Katrina's room, and anything else he picks up along the way. Katrina will have a ball trying to "help" us...she's fascinated with tools and putting things together (or taking them apart).

While I was at the flea market, Jon had planned to take Katrina to the playground. But she saw Jon's X-box box and said "I want to play games on TV." Mind you, we don't have any kiddie games for the X-box, so it's not like she's done much other than see Jon play. They played "Midtown Madness," a driving game. When I got home and asked Katrina what she did with Papa, she said, "We play game. Papa don't drive very well. He hits lights." I asked if she drove well. "No, I hit lights, too."

23 June 2005

Things I Don't Miss

1. DC Traffic. Hate it, hate it, hate it. There are traffic jams here, of course, but because we can afford to live closer to Jon's place of work, his commute is much shorter. Which brings me to...

2. Ridiculous housing prices. We still own our house in Virginia and are trying to rent it out. Why? Because if we sold it, we would never, ever be able to afford another single-family house in that area. The housing prices are appreciating so rapidly that we'd be priced out by the time we moved back.

3. The weather. Yes, it's hot here, too, but for a shorter duration. And so far, we've not had the stifling humidity and bad air that are typical to the DC area. I'm hoping that continues.

4. The general standoffishness of people in a metro area. The DC area just isn't very friendly. I haven't met many Germans (and those I have I couldn't communicate with very well), but the Americans living here are very friendly. Perhaps because they were newcomers not that long ago, or because we're all in a foreign country

Hmm. Can't think of anything else at the moment. A bit unbalanced, but there you go. Maybe when we live here longer, I'll do this again. Pretty much everyone I've talked to who has lived here longer than a year likes or even loves living here. The few people I've talked to who have been here less than a year either hate it or still feel like they're getting settled.

We're still getting settled.

22 June 2005

5 Things I Miss

1. A garbage disposal. Germans do not use garbage disposals. They have a separate trash can for organic waste. It's picked up monthly and sent to a central composting facility. In the meantime, we have a garbage can of rotting food sitting outside our door in the heat of summer. Yum.

2. Central air. It was in the 90s yesterday. We bought a portable air conditioner for $600 to cool the upstairs. The kitchen (downstairs) was pretty hot, especially after cooking.

3. American TV. Yeah, yeah, how gauche to be a TV addict. But I am. German TV is...well, in German, which I don't know yet. We have a few of the free BBC channels, but British TV is just not the same (except when it is: BBC Three is running the American re-make of the originally British sit-com "The Office"). Thank goodness our friends sent us a DVD of the "Lost" finale. We're supposed to get an AFN (Armed Forces Network) decoder soon, so all is not lost on the TV front.

4. Talk radio. When you're playing with a toddler all day, talk radio gives some semblance of adult conversation (depending on what show you're listening to, of course) and a way to keep up on what's going on in the world--without a little one pulling away the newspaper or closing the laptop ("don't read. Play with me!").

5. Window screens. There just aren't any. And so we have mosquitoes, flies, and assorted moths flying in at will.

Tune in next time for things I don't miss...


Monday was our 13th wedding anniversary. We didn't do much to celebrate--Jon got me a gift and card, and I ordered a gift from Amazon that will be here in mid-July. I forgot that shipping to Germany--even with an APO address--would take longer. Silly thing to forget, but I've been even more disorganized than usual since we got here.

We've been living here in southern Germany for a little over a month, so we don't exactly have babysitters at the ready to take care of our almost-3-year-old if we want to go out. So dinner at home, then spend 2 hours trying to get our daughter to go to sleep. Collapse into bed at 10:30 or so. Then start talking, trying not to stay up too late and yet still connect as husband and wife rather than as Mama and Papa.

Anyway, I decided to try out this blogging thing as a way to keep in better contact with those of you we left in the States. And to keep my writerly muscle exercised, because I have not written as regularly as I would like to since Katrina was born and I became primarily a stay-at-home mom.

So, welcome to a new beginning--of this blog and of our life in Germany. I hope you like it here.