Saturday, August 3, 2013

Germany: Week One

Hello everyone!  First off, we have taken very few pictures since we have been here, so the pictures featured below are from the last year that I haven't posted during.  I will let you know when the pics are of the actual present.
Avram and I at Omaha Oktoberfest.  Worst schnitzel ever!
Anyway, we have arrived in Germany.  Actually, we have been here for a week.  We are in Western Germany, a few miles from the Netherlands border.  In fact, we drive in and out of the Netherlands all the time, without really noticing.  There is so much to tell!  First the similarties.  This part of the country looks a lot like Omaha: vast flat fields of corn or wheat and a few trees.  It isn't as humid here as it was in Omaha, but it has been hot here, which is more unbareable than when it is hot in Omaha, for one key reason - there is NO AIR CONDITIONING! More on that later.
Avram at Halloween.  He was a penguin, but his hood kept falling off or covering his eyes.
Other similarities - lots of white people.  It's always strange to me when I walk past a group of white people who aren't speaking English.  Why aren't they speaking English?  Only brown people don't speak English!  Is that racist?  Maybe, mostly just naive.
Avram with my grandma Bodily.  She past away in January. 
Another similarity - Same latitude as Juneau, Alaska.  As I sit here typing, it is 830 Greenwich Standard Time and the sun is shining like it's 500 or so.  The sun doesn't set until like 10.  But apparently in the winter it sets at like 4, so that's something to look forward to.
The picture that would have been on our Christmas card if I had ever gotten around to ordering them.

So the differences -
Something important to know about Germany:  they don't believe in artificially cooling anything.  What I mean by this is that they don't have air conditioning anywhere or ice cubes in drinks.  We had breakfast in the hotel this morning and the milk was a little warmer than luke warm.  It was awful! Ordering a drink at a restaurant?  Hope two ice cubes is enough.  They can't waste ice on things like drinks because they don't even waste energy on cooling their own bodies.  There are a lot of smelly people here.  I need those ice cubes too, because you see, they don't have Diet Coke here either.  If you want something that is 0 calories and has caffeine it is Coke Light.  So I need the ice cubes to water down the terrible taste of the stupid Coke Light!!! Maybe I am a snob...yes I am a snob, an American air conditioning and cup 1/2 full of ice cubes snob.
What! No Diet Coke?  Who will take care of me?
So we are still doing cloth diapers.  I was getting a lot of pressure from all sides to switch to paper diapers while we were homeless and getting our bearings abroad.  But I knew that if I went to disposables now, I might never go back to cloth, and I am committed to cloth!!!  But we made it,  we made it through 10 days at the Townplace Marriott in West Omaha, we made it through 3 weeks at my parents house, we made it through 12 hours on an airplane.  We did it!  (Sidenote:  I washed diapers several times at the hotels we have stayed in and I always have to go to great lengths to make the washers and dryers "safe" for the diapers.  I wonder if I should a put a note on the machines after I use them "Attention, baby poop was previously swished around in this washer, use at own risk).  Now here we are in Germany, staying in this little hotel next to the bus station, and it is time to do diapers.  I confidently make my way to the laundry room (which is located in the basement next to the sauna, because people need to sweat more here) with my bag of dirty diapers and 5 euro worth of coins.  I was prepared for the washers to be small.  I had heard all about it.  The drum probably holds a pairs of jeans and three t shirts (small washers - also not helping anyone smell any better).  But I had forgotten one thing:  I don't read or speak German.  Sometimes I can look a German word and decipher the English one.  Not this time.  So I put in my Euro and randomly spun the dial.  One hour later, I couldn't open the washer door.  Mike now does the laundry.

Avram's first candy: black licorice
We have had a lot of entertaining things happen here because of the language barrier.  Mike spent an hour or so the other night calling people on the phone trying to make appointments to see houses.  I sat in the bathtub reading and laughing silently to myself as I listened to his struggles.  Then yesterday we were trying to get gas, but when Mike went in to pay the cashier insisted that they "Had no gas" and "didn't sell gas".  Apparently here, they are trusting enough to let you pump first and then pay.  Also a landlord showed us a rental house and continually reiterated that the previous owner's dogs "made pee pee" all over the wood floors.  I don't attempt to speak German.  I would like to learn it, but previous attempts to learn languages have gone completely bust.  I took French, failed spectacularly, and found comfort in the fact that I would never be going to Europe anyway.  I am a little worried that I am going to forget how to speak English like a native English speaker.  I spend so much time uh-ing and err-ing in order to figure out how to simplify what I am saying that I fear I might just up sounding stupid all the time.
Avram on his first swing ride in Chadron, NE.

Avram is doing very well here.  In fact, he is the instigator of all conversations with Germans so far.  Well, Junior does too.  Here's a funny story. Junior has an ear infection.  We are treating it with drops and we are supposed to flush his ears out every few days with this stuff that looks and feels exactly like his earwax.  It's really gross and his ears smell a lot like old lady feet.  So anyway, we decided to go on a family walk through the business center of the village and find a bakery.  As we walk past a little restaurant a lady calls out in German "Cavalier!  Cavalier!"  which is Junior's breed.  She walks towards us and I can see that she wants to pet Junior, so I let the leash out and he goes to her.  She is talking the whole time,  we don't know if it is to us or to him, and scratching his back.  Then she goes for the ears.  I watch as she starts scratching him on the ears, stops, looks at her hand, scratches again, stops, looks at her hand, scratches one more time, then looks at her hand and with disgust on her face wipes it on her pants. Then we just turned and walked away.  There was nothing we could do.  We couldn't explain to her that it was just ear medication.  Sorry lady,  don't pet strange dogs of foreign people.
Avram meets his new cousin, Lizzy Joe.  It's not you, Lizzy, it's Av.

Anyway, Avram is adorable.  He is nearly walking.  We bought this thing that looks a bit like a wooden lawn mower that he pushed around the hotel room.  He can't turn around with it though because the wheels are locked in place, so once he gets to the end of the room, Mike or I goes and turns him around.  He is also still fascinated with cars and trucks.  Our room overlooks a train and bus station and he will just stand there for 15 minutes straight and watch the buses and taxis and people moving about.  He hates getting his diaper changed.  He will not lay still long enough to get the poop wiped off of his bum.  I have to wrench his legs and twist his hips as he arches his back and cranes his neck around.  It feels like abuse a little bit, but I know he would be more upset if he got poop in his mouth.  Maybe I should see about changing his diaper on the window ledge so he can watch the buses and have the threat of falling 20 feet to keep him still.

I was nervous about coming here.  I felt like I was moving to the moon.  I know a lot about the moon, how far away it is, that it's dusty and there is no gravity, but none of that helps me function or survive there.  Same with Germany.  I knew it was far from my home and family,  I knew they don't speak English, and that they eat delicious meats and breads, but none of that was going to help me survive.  None of that could provide me any comfort.  But it is not so bad here.  The people, so far as I have been able to understand them, have been nice.  Driving is not bad, in fact better that some places in America.  Avram is not going to be neglected or kidnapped.  We are all going to be fine and I am excited my anxiety is over and that I now able to start enjoying this new adventure.  Now if I could just get rid of this pesky jet lag.


PS - Here are the only pictures we have taken so far here.  We are in Sittard in the Netherlands.  It is a really cool town with a market in the square on Thursdays that I am hoping to attend next week.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Is anyone still out there?

Sorry everyone.  It has been a long time since I have added anything to my blog and I fear that I may have lost all of my loyal followers.  But maybe all the added pictures will entice my friends to come back and read about our baby.  I actually started this post twice over the last month, but I was always to negative and since this is serving as part of our family history I thought that I should wait until I was feeling more positive.  Which is not to say that I want to keep an inaccurate history or make everyone think our life is peachy keen with lots of sunshine and daisies, but I don't want to dwell on the negative.    It does me no good and I doubt any of you want to read about all of my woes, though they be minor.  So since it has been such a long time I am just going to post a whole bunch of pictures and give a bit of narration to accompany them and then hopefully my next post will be more organized.

First, some nudity....

I don't know if I have mentioned this recently, but Avram hates tummy time now a days.  This hurts me because he spends so much time on his back I get bored and want him to do something different for a change.  You would think he would be board of this also, but apparently not bored enough to suffer through tummy time.  So then I read online about how babies like to be naked, because they feel less encumbered.  So we tried it and it was a success...for about 5 minutes.  Which is better than nothing right?  But we did get a good shot before he started screaming.

Quality Time

This month Mike is on inpatient again, which means we don't see him.  He usually gets home at around 7:30 or so.  I always hate inpatient months because I like to have Mike around.  But it is especially bad now because 7:30 is Avram's bedtime, so Mike gets home just in time to rock him to sleep, maybe.  Now I know what you're thinking, why don't I just wait an hour and then put him to bed?  Maybe you should come to our house around 5:30 most nights and try keeping him up an extra hour. Or at least try wanting him to stay up an extra hour.  Trust me, I am doing Mike a favor by putting him to bed.

I feel bad for Mike because when he gets home I have to act like a elementary school librarian and ruin all his fun.  No laughing, no running, no turning on the lights, no talking to the baby, no tickling or playing with the baby.   By the time Mike gets home Avram has been bathed, changed into pajamas and fed and is quietly looking around the room seemingly happy and at peace.  So I can see how it is tempting for Mike to want to hold him and tell him jokes and get him all riled up.  But that is something I simply cannot allow, especially after the previous 2 to 3 hours of fussing and screaming I have been dealing with.
      Last night I half heartedly suggested that Mike could wake up half an hour earlier in order to feed Avram and maybe have some quality time with him.  Mike just stared at me.  Yes, what an awful woman I am to put my husband in such a position.  I think Mike wakes up at 5:00 or so, I wouldn't know,  I am absolutely dead to the world at that time.  Anytime before 3 am I can be woken up by the baby and face any feeding or diapering with gusto and a positive outlook.  But after that time,  any waking of the mommy must be done with the utmost care and also an air horn.  Anyway, Mike waking up earlier would put him at about a 4:30 wake up time.  Thus Mike would have to choose between time with his son and his sanity.

Pictures from the Blessing (part deux)

So last post, I put up all the pictures that we had taken with our camera and also the pictures that Mike had the presence of mind enough to upload to our computer from my mom's camera.  So there were not many pictures of the Gravett's.  So after an impassioned plea on my part and much apologizing, these pictures were sent to me from Mike's parents via an email from Mark, complete with captions.  Unfortunately, the captions fell victim to one of many computer crashes or the upgrade to Mountain Lion, so they are no longer with us.  For this I apologize, whole heartedly, to Mark.

By the looks of the above picture I was still in my pajamas when Mike's parents arrived.  I don't exactly know why this was.  Maybe I just wanted to show off the amazing zit I had on my chest.  Nevertheless, Avram looks as cute as a button and seems to be enjoying being held by his Grandma.

These two pictures kill me.  It's like you can actually see his little baby brain working, trying to figure out how exactly to get his little mits on those chain links and how wonderfully coincidental it is that they match his outfit perfectly.

Mark claims that the above picture is Avram's reaction to first meeting him.  I disagree.  This looks more like his reaction to being hit by lightning.

 This picture pretty much sums up the visit from the family.  Slightly blurry and Avram screaming.  By the way, Avram has developed a new crying style.  It starts with him looking happy and serene.  Then his eyes get kind of watery and he makes the sweetest little frowny face, immediately followed by the most pitiful cry you have ever heard.  It sounds like someone just took away his ice cream cone.  It is incredibly heart breaking and he deploys it to great effect.

One of the nicest things about having family visit is actually being able to get dressed and get out of the house before two o'clock in the afternoon.  Look at me in the below picture!  Make up and earrings!  Even better about this photo is the fact that the stroller is in front of my belly!  Hoorah for Israel, to coin a term from church history, which is fitting, seeing as we were visiting the Winter Quarters Visitor Center at the time.  P. S.  I made the blog again!  Hoorah for Israel!

The Downside

Since Mike and I moved out of Utah, I have never felt a strong inclination to move back.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I have had a strong inclination to never live within 100 miles of the state line.  It's not that I don't like Utah, I do.  I think it must be the feeling that I have accomplished something by moving outside of my home state and if I move back I will feel as though I have regressed in some way.  It's like I secretly fear that if I move back to Utah I will somehow become unmarried and have to move in with my parents and be a teenager again.

I love living "abroad".  I love meeting different kinds of people (something that doesn't happen as much now that we moved to NE, but happened often in MD).  I love seeing things in different ways because of the different kinds of people.  I love my house.  I love the closeness I feel in my ward.  They are like family to us.

But here is the downside.  They are LIKE family, not actually family.  I never realized how much I cared about that until everyone came out for Avram's blessing.  I felt terrible when Mike's mom had to say good bye to Avram.  I even apologized, although I am not exactly sure how that would have comforted her.  Since Avram's birth, felt an added closeness to our families and a greater desire to stay in touch.  Which is why I started this blog.
This picture reminds me of the film "Weekend at Bernie's" , which I have never seen, but I think is about some guys trying to trick everyone into thinking their boss is still alive by putting sunglasses on his corpse carrying him around.

I love these pictures of Avram with two of this three and a half cousins, Amber and Deon, and his uncle Mark.  I was looking at them and I wished that we lived closer to family so that he could know them.  That they could grow up together and have shared memories.  Granted, Amber is 12 years older than Avram, Deon is 8 and Kaiya 4, but there are other cousins to come that we will be separated from.

I have some cousins that live in Chicago area.  I remember seeing them once, when my grandfather died, and then not again until they moved to Utah for college.  I don't know them, and I don't want that for my son.  He has great cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents and I want him to be close to them.  So what do I do?  Move back to Utah which is absolutely repellant to me?  Live with the fact that he just won't have a close relationship with his extended family?

I decided something.  Well, several things.  I decided I can't worry about things I cannot control. That sounds like one of those mantras that people with anxiety disorders say to themselves in the mirror every morning, but it's true.  Where you are going to live, when you are in the military, is one of those things.  But I have faith in the Lord.  He knows me and He knows my families needs.  He knows Avram's personality and gifts better than I do.  So from this I can be assured that A) if I have a righteous desire, the Lord is going to make things happen so that my desire can be fulfilled and B) family is important to the Lord he will provide ways for us to stay close to our family.  Whether that means that we will be moving back to Utah or that we will always live far away, but the time we do get to spend with our families will be more meaningful.

This is Kaiya's birthday cake.  We had a picnic lunch and some cake while we were at the zoo in order to celebrate her birthday.  This is the best cake ever and I am constantly trying to think of a reason why I would need to get another one.  Oh look, the summer is over, better get a cake.  Oh, Junior had to get some shots, better get a cake.

3 Months and Growing!!!

Avram turned 3 months on Monday.  According to my good friend Dr. Karp, around three months is when the babies are supposed to be use to being out of the womb and so they stop crying as much.  This so far has not been the case for us.  There is still a lot of crying going on, however there is also some real legitamate smiling going on as well.  This smiling is hard to catch on camera, and I have come to the conclusion that the task is a two person venture.  Every time I get the camera out when Avram is being especially smiley, he gets incredibly distracted by the camera and he makes this kind of a face:

Don't get me wrong, this face is adorable, but not the desired gummy grin I so long to have record of.  Anyway, I put Avram in these pajamas the other night and realized he has really grown out of them.  These pajamas were, I think, the second outfit we ever put on him when he arrived home, and he was swimming in them.  I actually have a picture of him in them at 2 days old, but I can't find it.  

My brother sent us these pajamas which he bought in Brazil.  When they arrived, I looked at them and thought there was no way my baby was going to fit into something so small. Well, it took three months, but I am right.  I would like to point out that the diaper he is wearing is a diaper we have used from the beginning and it fits him pretty much the same.  So, he is gaining weight and getting longer in the torso, but his legs are still the same length.  This is displayed in the belly revealing top and the pants that are still too long.  When I was in high school, there was this kid with an abnormally long torso and comparatively short legs.  I always thought he looked a bit freakish.  But he was an excellent basketball player, so maybe that will be Avram's destiny also (ha ha ha).


See that green thing on Avram's chest?  I MADE it!  I am so proud of myself because I sewed it all by
 myself.  It is a frog if you can't tell.  It's filled with split peas.  I got the pattern of this really cute website called purlbee.  They sell fancy fabrics and felts and stuff and provide free patterns for different projects  so that people will want to buy their stuff in order to make them.  Well, I got this fabric from Walmart, which actually makes me shudder, but I was there getting something else and fell into the classic trap of "Since I am here, I'll just grab some motor oil, eggs and some fabric."  

It took me a while because well, I have this thing at my house that doesn't like it when I make it lay on the floor by itself for extended periods of time.  He just doesn't understand that I am making him a toy and that he should just let me get down to business so he can have something new to play with.  Every time he fell asleep I would rush over to my sewing table and work feverishly to get the next step done, all the while thinking that I was putting a lot of hard work into something he wouldn't even like.  But much to my surprise, he does like it!  Look at him chewing away on that thing! 

When I was a kid, remember my brothers putting lots of things in their mouths.  They weren't even babies, they were like ten years old and seeing if they could put the whole seatbelt in their mouths.  Anyways, I remember how much stuff stunk because of the build up of saliva on everything, so I lined the inside of the frog with some waterproof material in the hopes of preventing that smell and also hopefully extending the longevity of the peas.

On the same Walmart trip I mentioned above, I found this locker mirror (the white thing in the middle of the above picture).  I had read that babies like to look at themselves in mirrors and had been on the look out for a mirro for him to play with.  But I have a real problem with a lot of the baby stuff out on the market today.  Does everything have to be so gaudy?  Lights and sounds and characters all over the place.  So I was looking for something that didn't have baby garbage all over it and I found this locker mirror.  I don't know if you can see the rig up that Mike did with some twine to hand it from the baby gym I made.  We were sitting watching tv and I said, "I think I would like to tie some string around this and hang it up."  Then Mike started doing all these fancy scouting knots and twenty minutes later we have a mirror that Avram can spend at least 15 minutes under entertaining himself.

If you made it this far, you deserve this . . .

During the course time it took me to finish this post, we finally got a good smiling picture.  Look at his cute dimples!  See you soon.