Welcome to our life!

Hi, I'm Allison! I'm a thirtysomething, freshly baked, stay-at-home mom. I'm originally from Connecticut, now living in Germany, hence the name of the blog. I live in southern Germany with my German husband and our baby boy. Life has turned out to be nothing I ever expected, and am so incredibly happy with it! We certainly do have a lot of laughs! I hope you will enjoy following our new experiences raising a little half American/ half German in a little German town.

Mittwoch, 30. April 2008

Fairly boring update

I FINALLY had my first bagel this morning. Yum! Cinnamon raisin with a very thin layer of cream cheese!

Things back at home are fine. We are busy setting up therapy and doctor appointments for my mom. I think, hopefully, we will soon be easing into a routine, which will help all of us function slightly better.

My mom and I went to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, and she showed me something new in Fairfield - the Fairfield Museum, formerly, the Fairfield Historical Society. I am so impressed and shocked that our little town has it's own history musuem! I just can't believe it. The building is gorgeous. It shares the grounds with the Town Hall, which dates back to 1794, when it was rebuilt after being burned by the British troops in a 1779 invasion. My mom said she would love to go to the new museum, so we will put that on our list of things to do.
Last night, I went over to my father's house. Since I normally stay with my father, I find it so strange to have been home for 2 days without seeing "dear old Dad." But, situation remedied. We went out for ice cream, and then watched some TV. There is a new TV show here called, "The Alaska Experiment." I was immediately shocked and sucked in. The premise is that three groups, like families or friends, have agreed to spend 3 months in Alaska. They are put in three very unique and harsh environments, and provided with potatoes and beans, and simple equipment (like a canvas tent, basic tools.) They must find their own source of drinking water, protein, and firewood. To further complicate things, there are bears everywhere! Sheesh, I can't believe I'm hooked! Only problem, to watch the whole 3 month experiment during my almost one month stay!
Today, we're off to occupational therapy. Hopefully, I will get a few phone calls made to some family members as well. And, I will try to enjoy the sun that I haven't seen since leaving Germany.

Sonntag, 27. April 2008

How crazy amazing technology is!!

Right now, I am sitting at the Paris airport using my very tiny, pink Eee PC (tiny laptop) to write my blog.
I have used the internet in airports before, and it has been really cool. But, it was always, pay at the machine, buy a ticket, sit down at a desktop compter (that everyone has access to) and use up your time.
But with the wonders of Wi-Fi, I am sitting here, with my own computer. I was able to pay using the internet, so no tickets, nothing. If I use this service more often, there is a flat rate. Depends on how much time I will be using such services. The super cool thing though is that by allowing me to use my computer, even though I am traveling, I feel closer to home.

My trip so far has been enjoyable. Marcel even came to the airport to say bye to me. When I got to the airport, I had the coolest experience. One of the students from the other junior kindergarten class was there with her family. She's one of the adorable Japanese kids, and she is a super - hugger. So not only did I get hugs from Joern this morning, but also from one of the sweetest little girls in the world! It made me very happy, yet also made me realize how much I am going to miss my life during the next month.
My flight on Air France to Paris was uneventful, which is really the best kind of flight. Better yet, I got to see the Eiffel Tower as we were approaching the airport. Amazing, since I've flown in and out of Paris many times, and have never seen the Eiffel Tower from the air before. Sadly, I didn't have my camera out. Hopefully, I'll be treated to a repeat performance when Joern and I travel to Paris in June :)

...I planned on publishing this post immediately, but somehow my internet froze, and I lost my last 5 minutes.
After giving up on the crazy cool, not yet perfect, technology, I decided to do something that is always perfect - shopping :) I wish I were going back to Germany now, I would have bought a great assortment of cheeses. Maybe I'll remember to purchase it next month. Or maybe that great bag from Longchamps - hmmm...
I decided to buy some French home magazines though, and I am so excited to take a look at them! I may not be able to understand a word, but does that really matter? Most home magazines are worth it for the pictures anyway. The French are well known for their style, maybe I can incorporate some of it into our home -whenever we get there!

Donnerstag, 24. April 2008

Uh-oh, there goes the neighborhood

As you may know, we do not really live in Stuttgart, no matter how often I may say we do. We live in a suburb of Stuttgart. Anybody with a strong familiarity with Connecticut will understand when I say that Neckartailfingen is like Easton, only with much quicker access to the city. Not that I am comparing Stuttgart to NYC, but it is a world city, with all that comes with it, and we live in a suburb.
We are considering building a house on a plot of land near my in-laws. They really live in a beautiful location, and it would be a trade-off I could live with (as opposed to living on the top floor of their house). Yesterday, we met with a representative from AllKaufHaus, a building company. What I enjoyed best though was the wonderful surprise we were treated with as we rounded the corner on my in-laws street.
These sheep were just hanging out, of course with their shepherd and two sheepdogs, two lots over from my in-laws! There is a shepherd in our town, and it is so, so, so exciting when he has lets his flock graze in our area!
It is something I have always found really cool about Neckartailfingen. Growing up in Fairfield, I never experienced any sort of agricultural related setting. Sure, I drove out to farms every year in Easton, but I never lived in a rurual community. Here in Neckartailfingen, there are large old farm houses, like Joern's grandmother's hosue. We have a small farmer's market, and all the produce comes from a few Neckartailfingen farmers. Our town is surrounded by fields, and orchards, coolest part is that some of them are our fields. And of course, I cannot count the number of times I have been stuck behind a slow-moving tractor while I was speeding off to work.
The best part about Neckartailfingen? We live 20 minutes from the city. So, if we should happen to build our house near my in-laws, you will never hear me complaining about the neighbors.

Sonntag, 20. April 2008

Tropical Dreamin'

I can't believe it's actually sunny here today! We have had such a miserable run with weather lately, its gotten me dreaming of far-away, sunny locales. I have decided to start putting money away now, just a little each month, as a surprise for Joern. Our 10th anniversary is only 3 years from now, and I would love to surprise him with a special trip, to somewhere other than Mallorca, no matter how much we both love it there.
Here are some of my dreamy ideas...
I have never been to Mexico, but would absolutely love the opportunity to go there. Maybe Cancun? I have found some lovely pictures, and think that it would be really cool.
Of course, maybe a small island in the Caribbean would be great too. I am spending lots of time dreaming away on TripAdvisor.com, and have narrowed down my choice places to the US Virgin Islands or St. Barts.
St. Thomas, USVI
image from www.tripadvisor.com
St. John, USVI
image from www.tripadvisor.com
Both pictures from St. Barthelemy (St. Barts)
images from www.tripadvisor.com
Since we didn't have a big wedding, nor an all - out huge honeymoon, I feel like this would not be out of line for a 10th anniversary celebration.

Then again, it depends on what else is going on in our lives at the time. I also have a babymoon location planned, although I am nowhere near pregnant yet :) I will keep that location secret though, but will say that it will be in Europe.

This is all at the dreaming stage right now. But, I do know that the next three years will fly by really quickly. And of course, I am hoping that 2011 will be a much better year than 2008 is turning out to be :)

Freitag, 18. April 2008

Carving a little place of my own

I have really been enjoying my German class this past month. Besides the great group that I am with, and the super teacher, there is another bonus, my 2 hours in Stuttgart twice a week.
I have loved Stuttgart ever since my first time here, perilously close to 8 years ago. The city is great to me. It has a city feel, yet is cozy, comfortable, and extraordinarily safe. The one thing though is that I have never made it mine. I think it is because I have spent relatively little time in the city on my own. I lack familiarity with the city. Joern and I come in, wander up and down the Koenig Strasse, stop for an ice cream or a Starbucks, and that's about it. Or, sometimes, we will drive in for a specific purpose, Döner Kebab at Gül Kebab, or a quick computer purchase. Rarely, do we spend actual time in the city repeatedly stopping in shops or ambling without purpose. When I was in Dublin, I spent some time almost every day exploring. I had my book shop, my socks store, the local sandwich shop (The Jolly Swagman.) These seemingly mundane places helped transform a foreign city into home for me.

I feel completely at home in Germany now, and know that no matter where I live, my heart will now long for my two homes. But in the past months, my 4 hours per week in Stuttgart, spent waiting for my class to begin, have allowed me to start this home city transformation process. I take the U-Bahn (subway) in from school, which I will continue to do when I get my driver's license. I am becoming quite knowlegable about the public transport system, and am even starting to look like a non-tourist on the U-Bahn, namely, I do not gawk out the windows anymore at the scenery. In Stuttgart, I am beginning to know which U-Bahn stops will lead me to which areas. I mostly wander into shops, and then to Starbucks for a coffee. I now know the collection at Esprit as well as that from JCrew. I know how to navigate the gigantic 5 floor bookstore Wittwer. I know which drugstore to find my favorite toothpaste, where I can find my L'Occitane handcream without running into the snobby department store, and where I can find really cool wrapping paper (which is very difficult to find in Germany.) I have a favorite little stand for lunch. And of course, the baristas at Starbucks are starting to recognize me :)

It is more difficult to make a city "home" when you don't live or work directly in it. Yet, I have begun the process. When I return from my time at home, I will have to continue this habit. One day, I may truly call the "dorky" little city of Stuttgart home.

Dienstag, 15. April 2008

An appology for my absence

I don't know why, but this is simply not my year. And while I am not going to wallow in self-pity, that won't help, I can hold on to the hope that even though this will be a difficult year, I am already looking forward to 2009. I'd like to fast-forward through the rest of this year.
My stepfather called on Monday morning to tell me that my mother was in the hospital because she had a stroke. It isn't her first, but it was a much more serious one than the last time. Fortunately, my stepfather was sitting right next to her when it happened, and he was able to call 911 immediately. As of today, my mom can walk and move with no problems, and is fully cognizant of her surroundings. Only her speech and swallowing have been effected. I have been talking with her on the phone, I can tell she is fully aware, but her words are all jumbled up.
It is a blessing that my stepfather is able to be there now in the hospital with her. The doctors feel that she will need to go to rehab for about a week for intensive speech and swallow therapy. My plan right now is to go home when she is able to come home. I feel it would be most useful to Jerry (stepfather) if I was able to be there when my mom came home.
Of course, I do not want to be going home for these reasons. The good news is that my principal was very understanding when I told him today. I will qualify for compassionate leave, so some of my time home will still be paid.
Hopefully, life can even out for a few days, as I prepare to go home. I am looking forward to seeing everyone at home but as you can all imagine, I have very mixed feelings about this upcoming trip.

Freitag, 11. April 2008

Such a cool day!

There are some really cool things about living in Germany. These things include pretzels and my job. What made life really great was yesterday, Thursday, these two things were combined.

We just completed a unit called "Where does our food come from." As you can imagine, this is a huge unit, and includes learning about farms, food, some simple cooking activities, etc. As a wrap-up, we went to a bakery yesterday with the kids. It was awesome. One of the best days I have ever had here!

We are so fortunate to have an incredible bakery within a 5 minute (well, 15 with 27 4-year-olds) walk from work. The bakery, Bakery Blankenhorn, is one of those wonderful family bakeries, where everything is made fresh on premisis. Unlike the major bakery chains here, which although good are not incredible, Bakery Blankenhorn is one of a disappearing breed. You can see that things are made by hand, not with a machine, and you can taste the freshness and the better ingredients.

The owner and head baker, Mr. Blankenhorn welcomed the 27 sopping - wet little ones, and the drowned 6 adults into the shop with a big smile. First, we looked at all the wonderful things in the shop, before heading into the back.

The back room, where all the baking magic happens was actually huge! We split the group in 1/2. Some kids went into a break room to hear a wonderful Eric Carle story, Walter the Baker, which is about the history of the pretzel. The book is now in my shopping cart on Amazon. We listened to the story first. It was such a great story, plus, being about the history of the pretzel, it is set in Germany.
As an aside, the history of the pretzel, although a little fuzzy, is linked back to the southwest of Germany. Well, the area now lies in France, but at the time, the area was German.

Back to the visit. When it was our turn to go in the back, Mr. Blankenhorn had set up two large pieces of dough. He showed us how the dough, which begins by looking like a pizza, is placed into a machine that makes indivdual balls.
He then put the balls through a machine to make little roll -shapes from the dough. Then, he gave the kids the dough to roll out and twist into pretzels. The kids loved it! The teachers loved it! It was so great!
We then got to see the secret to turning the outside brown. The pretzels are quickly dipped into an acid bath before baking. In German, this acid is called "Lauge," and is why pretzels here are called "Laugenbretzeln", Lauge Pretzels. After the acid bath, Mr. Blankenhorn showed us how the pretzels are salted, and then put into the oven. He was so kind, and picked up all 27 little cuties to look into the oven. The kids were so interested in the entire process. After the pretzels came out of the oven, we bagged them up (they each got 4!), and headed back. The cutest was to see how many kids came into school today with their pretzels from yesterday!

Mittwoch, 9. April 2008

Not really sure I want to grow up

Sure, the American dream isn't much different from the German dream. Mainly, work hard, save a lot of money, and have your own house. Joern and I have done the right things so far. We got married, got jobs we are happy with, and saved money. Now, we're moving toward our next goal, a home of our own.
The thought of our home means only a thousand freedoms. No more neighbors poking through which trash we put in which bin. No one complaining that I don't unplug my washing machine every time I use it, nor a thousand questions as to why my washing machine is so big. ("Surely Frau Allison, this washing machine is for a large family." And of course, no more kehrwoche.

But, I have started to take a good look around our apartment, at all the things that need work. We have mold growing on many windows, and of course, the leaky kitchen wall that is still waiting for a repair. The light in the bathroom that keeps blowing the fuse. The slowly leaking kitchen faucet. The door that has broken off the TV stand in the living room. The door to our china cabinet that needs a repair. And the tousand light bulbs that need to be replaced. Now, our washing machine is leaving funny spots on our clothes. Who fixes all this stuff? What happens when our living area is doubled, tripled, quadrupled? I am pretty sure the repairs grow exponentially!

Buying a house is a really exciting prospect, but it is really scary for a thousand and one reasons, finances aside. I love where we live right now, but it is not realistic for the long run. I just wish that I could find the number to the "house fixer upper fariy"!

Sonntag, 6. April 2008

A very busy day

It is so funny to me sometimes how extremely opposite Joern and I can be. This was proven again yesterday, but what began as a surprise plan for the day, which I found disturbing, turned into a really long, but enjoyable time.

Our Saturday began totally normal. We were up by 8:30, with breakfast done by 9:30, I mentally made a list of how to attack my cleaning for the day. Just as I was off to the shower, Joern said to me, "when will you be ready, I want to go look at the Musterhaus Park today." Wow, talk about throwing me a curveball. I have an extreme need for planning. Most often, I work best with a day's notice, and as the notice of an event decreases further from 24 hours, the more cranky I become. Therefore, I did not like this notification coming 30 minutes before Joern wanted to leave.

The Musterhaus Park is in a suburb of Stuttgart. It is a village of over 100 showcase houses. I am pretty sure these villages do not exist in the States. I am assuming that because people here build homes, instead of purchasing pre-existing ones, there is a need for a village of these uninhabited showcase homes. Each house represents a different building company.

Being that we were in Germany, the experience was quite different than I had expected. Salespeople in high end areas, like car, tend to suffer from "Mercedes Syndrome." This has been discussed in the news here. This "syndrome" is meerly an arrogant expectation from salespeople that their product is so wonderful, it will simply sell itself. When you walk into most Mercedes dealerships here, rarely do you even get a "hello." If you want to buy something, you have to seek out a salesperson. This was quite similar to our experience in the homes yesterday. The few who asked us if we needed help treated us pretty poorly when we explained that this was our first time visiting the park, and did not know what kind of questions to ask, or what information we needed to supply. The entire experience left me a little uncomfortable. But, we got to see some great house ideas in reality. We were there for most of the afternoon. It was odd, but I'm glad we went.

Instead of going home, we went to a friend's house for a (gasp) unannounced visit. Another piece of German culture (or it may just be Joern's friends) is the surprise visit. I really can't deal with surprise visits, but Georg seemed fine with it. We ended up there for most of the evening, until around 10:00, when we decided to attend a wonderful Stuttgart event, the Long Night of Museums. The main idea of the event is that the museums in Stuttgart are opened until 2 am, and the goal is to attract normally "non- museum goers." It is such a fun night. The city does a great job coordinating public transportation, and routes, so people don't have to worry about parking. Each museum also does something special, and frequently, there is cool music playing, giving the museums a cool, party feel.

We decided to go to the Landesmuseum Wuerttemberg, which covers Swabian history from the Stone Age until the creation of Baden- Wuerttemberg (our state) around 1780. Joern's friend Georg is a complete history buff, and Joern and I are always interested in learning more about our area. We were there 2 and a half hours, and were the last to leave at 2 am. Okay, so we didn't really party at the history museum, but it was a lot of fun, and I really learned tons about the area.

Donnerstag, 3. April 2008

4 year old English vs. Adult English

A fellow expat posted a list of British English versus American English words. It is a list that I have come to master living here and now working in an international school. But, it got me thinking about my day-to-day and the languages I have to learn. My favorite? 4 year old.
I am tired, so this list is just a few of my favorites. As I think of more, I'll add more to my International English-speaking 4 year old dictionary.

4 year old - adult
"My pants are squishy" My pants legs are riding up the legs of my
puddle pants are are quite uncomfortable.
"There are monkey bits on There are black spots on my banana.
my banana."

"The blueberries taste a bit lemon." The blueberries are sour.
"I am super-dupy-masuki" They only add masuki when they are tired.
"Top me" (actually 3 year old) Please put my blanket on top of me when I lay down.
"I don't like it" a. I hate this food
b. Never tried it, but I see something green
c. Never tried it, I might like it, but don't want to risk it.
d. The kid next to me just said it, now, there's no choice.
"No tebukero today"(Japanese) Pleeeeeeeeease don't make me wear my gloves today.
TEARS mean anything, but least often do tears result from injury

Dienstag, 1. April 2008

Mein erste Schultag

I LOVE learning, it's just my thing. I love learning so much that I have decided to make my profession passing on my love of learning to others. Few things in life are so extraordinary to me as the "lightbulb" expression on a child's face when a new connection has been made. Ah, the world would be a sad, dark place without the quest of knowledge and understanding.
Besides learning, I love school. Why not? School is an institution devoted to learning. School is a place where eager minds come looking for more. We learn in school about facts, history, math, science. Those of us who have had good teachers in our past know that school can be a springboard into the quest for life-long learning.
As a student, and now as a teacher, nothing excites me more than the first day of school. There is something so entirely exciting about the fresh start. New books distributed. Pencils are sharp and erasers clean. Students meet their teachers, and the dance begins.
I adore my job. Ever since I started working in a school, I knew it was the place for me. I love welcoming students on their first day, helping them overcome their fears, gently steering the relationship that grows and blossoms over the year.
Last night, I had the opportunity to once again be in the student seat. I began my new German class. I am quite excited about it. My teacher is great. The group of students represents places all over the globe, India, Alaska, Mexico, Georgia, Iran, Turkey, Connecticut (that would be me). For the first time ever, I understood every word the teacher said, and didn't fall for her attempts at tripping us up in order to solicit common student mistakes. The next 9 weeks will be very exciting. Plus, I will be one step closer to my goal of becoming integrated here!