Monday, December 24, 2007

Chattanooga / TN Aquarium

After 3 days in Michigan (in my parent's basement), we were on the move again. This time to Chattanooga to see Ben's mom, sister, step-dad, and other extended family. We flew into Altanta and drove to Chatanooga. The flight from Detroit to Atlanta was a disaster. Without going into much detail -- we were stuck on the plane in Detroit for over 4 hours before we even took off, had hydraulics issues, then the FAA and Federal Marshal removed 3 passengers from the plane. Ugh! We were only in Atlanta for about 15 hrs but we were able to catch up with The Knoop Family and Greg Turner.

We had a great time in Chattanooga. Besides being able to see all the family, we had trips to a Train Museum and the TN Aquarium. At the Train Museum we were able to take a short trip on a steam train. Carter loved it and watched out the window intently, announcing "more clouds" as the steam engine produced more steam. The pic to the left is from the train ride. If you actually want to see the train (and not just Carter), you'll have to follow the link at the bottom.
The following day we went to the TN Aquarium with Aunt Rowan. This is a pretty amazing place that recently added a second building that is primarily dedicated to salt water species. Carter was especially fond of the pengiun display, the sea turtles, and all the "Nemo" fish.
Because we were going to miss the big McGregor Clan gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Alex and Leslie were kind enough to invite the whole clan to Signal Mountain on the 23rd. It was absolutely wonderful to see everyone...especially since it had been since Easter of 2006 since we had seen most of the family. I don't have many pictures from the party as I spent all my time talking. Carter had a blast with his second cousins, Sophia and Olivia, even though it meant having to share his cars with them.

Click here for all the pictures from our trip to Tennessee, including more from the train museum, the aquarium, and Carter and Ben assembling Legos.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Home, Sweet Home, USA!

It's good to be home! OK, so we really don't have a "home" in the US, but it's good to be back regardless.

We arrived in Michigan on a Saturday evening and first thing Sunday morning we were at Einstein Bagels. Yummy! We were going to give Carter a choice: bagels or cereal. Ben wasn't even able to finish saying the word bagels when Carter voiced his opinion with a big "Hooray!" Of course we also hit Target and Costco right after breakfast. We wanted to take full advantage of American mass consumerism...especially on a Sunday. We stocked up on all sorts of goodies and are already wondering how to get all this stuff back to Germany...and Christmas hasn't even come, yet.

A big snow storm hit Michigan that first night we were back. We tried to take Carter out for a ride in a sled. As you can see in the picture, he wasn't too thrilled about it.

We are going to be in the States for about 3 weeks and we've got a ton to do. So many friends and family to see. Stay tuned for more...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Hanukkah

It's interesting how being completely surrounded by Christmas here in Germany has made me miss my Jewish friends and family back in the States. I'm sure many of you have laughed at the TV stations and advertisements in the US that say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Feliz Navidad. I always thought that was a little over the top, trying too hard to be politically correct. Just say Season's Greetings and get it over with!

Suddenly, I am living the other extreme. Here in Germany, there is only Christmas...nothing else. And, it's very Christian -- unlike the US where it has become so commercialized. There are no inflatable Santas in the front yards or Jingle Bell Rock. There are songs about Jesus, Advent calendars and wreaths, and nativity scenes. The Catholic part of me is somewhat moved, but the Jewish part of me (hopefully I'm not offending anyone by saying that), finds it extremely exclusionary and lonely. No menorahs to be found (fortunately, we brought ours from home). Never before have I appreciated so much the attempt in the States to recognize all the holidays.

Just as I was at my low point, a box of Hanukkah goodies arrived from my good friend Alana. Thanks to Alana, Carter got his first dreidel and chocolate gelt. Carter loves having Daddy spin the dreidel for him and now thinks that all coins can be opened to find chocolate. Carter still thinks that all candles are birthday candles, so while Ben said the blessings and lit the candles on the Menorah, Carter sang Happy Birthday.

Whether you celebrate the Festival of Lights or the Birth of Jesus Christ, keep an open mind and spread the Holiday Cheer.
Happy Hanukkah
Merry Christmas

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pee-Pee on the Potty!

After months of just sitting on the potty, moving it around the room, ordering Mommy to sit on it...Carter finally used his potty. He actually asked to get out of the bathtub so that he could sit on his potty and go pee-pee. Why not pee in the tub like every other kid? Who cares...he used the potty!

Carter even has a potty book that I try to read to him (hoping to encourage him); however, whenever I pick it up to read it he says "NO! not the potty book!"

OK, so we know not to get too excited. It could be months before he even uses the potty again, let alone be fully potty trained. But right now -- we are some pretty proud parents.
The picture isn't the best. It's hard to get a 2 year old to sit still (especially when his parents are going nuts!) and Ben was directing me where to put my legs and arms so that Carter could maintain some modesty (not that he doesn't run around the house naked every night before bath).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

OK, so I'm actually homesick for the first time. Sure there are tons of people and things that I miss in the US daily but today I'm really homesick. What did we do today to celebrate Thanksgiving? We went to work (or school, in Carter's case). Nice big turkey dinner? Sure...turkey salami sandwiches. Carter went vegetarian and had 7 clementines.

I should have slept in, watched some of the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV, and peeled some potatoes. My mom would come over and help me stuff the bird, we would stress out over the Lions game and wonder if the turkey will be done on time. That's how Thanksgiving should have gone. Instead, I reviewed our "Interior Stowage Scorecard" and ate tomato soup in the cafeteria.

So, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity to live in Germany; however, I am more thankful that my mom makes a repeat of the Thanksgiving dinner at Christmas.

PS - several people today requested more posts on the blog (that means people are actually reading this!). I will try to go back and fill in some stuff from the month of October and early November.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

U of M vs. OSU

As many of you are aware, the annual Michigan vs Ohio State football game is a big deal...especially in our household. Ben is a Buckeye and I'm a Wolverine. We aren't supposed to get along...and we don't just one day of the year.

For the past two years, Carter has been dressed in gear representing both teams. Sure he looks like a little funny with an OSU jersey and UofM pants and a hat...but it keeps both parents happy.

This year, however, Carter grew out of all his Michigan clothes and only had his OSU jersey to wear. Living in Germany makes it tough to run out to the store to pick up a new UofM sweatshirt. Though I was a little disappointed in Carter's apparel, he did look especially cute with Ben.

We happened to watch the game with some coworkers at a friend's house. I don't think Carter watched much of the game. He was too busy enjoying having girls fight over him. Ava held her ground and was able to maintain girl friend status. You can see them here snuggling in a chair and sharing a cookie.

Monday, November 12, 2007

St. Martin's Day / Martinstag

On November 11, German children celebrate St. Martin's Day as the start of Carnival season. They walk around the streets, after dark, carrying lanterns, and singing songs. Carter's school had a parade at a park in the city center. The picture below is of Carter and Ava carrying the lanterns they made the previous week.

After the parade there was a huge bonfire with Glühwein (mulled wine) for the adults and Weckmann for the children. Weckmann is the piece of bread shaped like a man that Carter is holding in the picture below.

Here is one of the songs that the children sing, in German and with an English translation…

Ich geh mit meiner Laterne

Ich geh mit meiner Laterne
Und meine Laterne mit mir.
Dort oben leuchten die Sterne
Und unten leuchten wir.
Mein Licht ist aus,
Ich geh nach Haus,
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum

Here’s the English translation...

I walk with my lantern,
And my lantern with me.
There above, the stars shine,
And we shine here below.
My light is off,
I go home,
Rabimmel, rabammel, rabum.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Kölner Zoo

We went to the Kölner Zoo today with my parents. I couldn't have asked for a better "performance" from the animals. The howler monkeys were howling, the ostriches were running, the gorillas were banging their chests, the bears were swimming and playing. Even the red panda (aka, firefox) was awake. We won't talk about the they aren't very PG rated (yuck!).

One of Carter's mandatory stops at the zoo is the playground. There is a yellow train that he can climb in and around. Ironically, the train was a gift to the zoo by Ford. Here's a pic of Carter in the new favorite picture of him.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Burg Eltz

We took a trip to Burg Eltz today. This is the most beautiful place in Germany that we've seen so far -- absolutely breathtaking. Burg Eltz is a medieval castle nestled in the hills above the Moselle River between Koblenz and Trier, Germany. It is still owned by a branch of the same family that lived there in the 12th century, 33 generations ago. The Rübenach and Rodendorf families' homes in the castle are open to the public, while the Kempenich branch of the family uses the other third of the castle.

It's an 800 meter walk from the parking lot down a steep, curving hill to the castle. For the first half of the walk, you can't even see the castle. Just about when you think your knees are about to give out, you turn a bend and see the castle. We happened to be there on a crisp fall day and the castle against the backdrop of red and yellow trees was just breathtaking (or was that from the hiking?).

I quickly learned that a castle is not the best place for an active 2 year old. I spent the whole tour chasing after Carter and trying to keep him from touching anything. [I had visions of a suit of armor crashing down on us!] At the end of the tour, I knew nothing more about the castle but was quite exhausted. I had carried him up and down all the stairs as they were spiral staircases and rather treacherous. Fortunately for us, there was only one other couple (besides my parents) on the tour and they were American and very understanding.

The walk up the hill back to the carpark nearly killed me. My parents were smart and paid the 1.50 euro for shuttle back to the top. Not me, I thought it would be good exercise. Ben and I took turns pushing Carter in his stroller. I huffed and puffed my way all the way up...and in typical German fashion, a 75 year old man smoking a cigarette passed me along the way.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pumpkin Patch & Halloween

Autumn is our favorite time of year. We like to spend time outdoors and visit pumpkin patches and cider mills with The Fromans. Unfortunately, Halloween is just starting to catch on here in Germany and so there aren't many pumpkin patches or Halloween themed activities. We did find one place, though. Here's Carter with his "shades" on, ready for a ride in the wagon.

The pumpkin patch was really more of a working farm that had a huge produce store and fun and games for the kids. They did have a giant pumpkin pyramid, as you can see in this picture.

Some of the American families got together for an early Halloween celebration. Carter was the youngest of all the children there and so struggled to keep with the bigger kids and was scared of some of their costumes. It took us forever to get him into his own costume...but when we finally did, he was a cute little lion. We nicknamed him the "Cowardly Lion" (from the Wizard of Oz) since he was afraid of everyone else.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Playing "Doctor"

When Ben and I went to Carter's school to pick him up this afternoon, he was not on the playground with the rest of the kids. We found him in his classroom with a partner in crime. Ava (his "girlfriend") was half undressed and was in the process of taking Carter's pants off when we entered the room. Isn't 2 a little early for this?? I swear, kids are starting younger and younger these days!

The school teacher was mortified and so apologetic. Ben and I were nearly crying from laughing so hard.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Carter is learning to count and it goes something like this:

one, two, three, four, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve-teen, twelve-teen, twelve-teen

It's hilarious and if I could actually capture it on audio, I would post the sound clip here.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tag der Deutschen Einheit / Legoland

October 3 happens to be a holiday in Germany. If you are like me, you have no idea what this holiday might be. It happens to be The Day of German Unity (Tag der Deutschen Einheit) which commemorates the anniversary of German reunification in 1990. Pretty awesome day to celebrate. I'm old enough to remember an East and West Germany. I remember when "the wall came down" in November 1989. I'm sure I've even watched a bad movie on Lifetime Television about a someone trying to sneak across the border from East to West Germany. Now that we live in Germany, we figured we should celebrate reunification, too. So The Gale Family did what any good German would do: we went to Legoland!

We actually had grand plans for travel. With Wednesday being a holiday, we decided to take Thursday and Friday off as well to make a really long weekend. We were to go to Legoland on Wednesday, Zurich on Thursday, Lucern on Friday, Strasbourg on Saturday, and then home on Sunday. Unfortunately, Carter became sick and we ended up canceling the trip and so we came home on Thursday.

We did, however, make it to Legoland for about 2 hrs on Wednesday and even became members (free to go back!!!). Despite being under the weather, Carter was a trooper. He had a blast. I can only imagine how much fun he'll have when we go back and he's feeling 100%. I spent the first 30 minutes at the park in "Miniland" snapping pictures of the mini city replicas. The detail was just fascinating. Many cities were represented (Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Venice), Munich Airport, and even Neuschwanstein Castle.

Coolest thing, by far, at Legoland was Allianz Arena. It's a scale replica of the Munich football stadium and it took over 1 million Legos and 2 years to build. The pics here are hard to see as I didn't want to make them huge and take up too much space. For better resolution pictures (and the rest of our Legoland photos) click here.

** On a side note, I'm not sure there was much celebrating by the Germans for the actual Tag der Deutschen Einheit. As far as I can tell there were no fireworks, no backyard BBQs, no patriotic inspired outfits, no German flag waving. Perhaps the "growing pains" are still being felt and it puts on damper on celebration. Estimates put the cost of reunification at roughly EUR 1.3 trillion. The areas that were formerly part of East Germany are still trying to recover economically...unemployment can be as high as 25% in some industrial ghost towns.

Monday, September 24, 2007


We just spent a fabulous weekend in Heidelberg...located outside of Frankfurt on the River Neckar. Unlike much of Germany, Heidelberg was spared during WWII as it was neither an industrial center or transportation hub. Following WWII, situated in the American zone of Germany, Heidelberg became the headquarters of the American forces in Europe. The city population is roughly 20% US military and their families, 20% university students, remaining are probably all employed by the university or tourism industry.

We arrived there Saturday around lunch time. We kept things fairly low key as Carter was a little under the weather. We wandered around the old town (Altstadt) and had lunch. We walked up Philosopher's Way and enjoyed some incredible views of the city and castle. It's quite a hike up this road, but the old homes provide a great distraction.
View from Philosopher's Way on the north side of the River Neckar:

Saturday we night stayed at a little hotel on the west side of town, Hotel Neu Heidelberg. Apparently that's the best you can do when booking only 24 hours in advance. It turned out to be a fabulous hotel & restaurant. On Saturday evening, we put Carter to bed in our room and then had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Great food & we were able to run upstairs to check on Carter every 15 minutes. It was the first "date" Ben and I have had since we've moved to Germany. Dinner just the two of us...Fabulous!

Sunday was spent doing things centered around the funicular railway (which by the way is just a fancy term for a train that goes up and down a REALLY steep slope). This railway has a 43% grade at it's steepest point. That's pretty darn steep! Anyway, we took the railway to the top of Molkenkur and stayed for a Falcon show at the Falknerei. Pretty amazing how fast these birds can fly and dive for food. The show was entirely narrated in German; however, it's pretty easy to figure out the general idea of what the guy was saying. Carter was totally amazed with these birds of prey.

When then took the railway back down the mountain with a stop at the Heidelberg Castle.

The rest of the pics can be found here.

It was a fairly exhausting day for all. Just ask Carter:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Frankfurt Auto Show

Ben and I were lucky enough to get free tickets to the Frankfurt Auto Show and time off work to actually attend. And, yes, it is much better than the Detroit Auto Show...if only in that it's more spread out than the Detroit show. It's too cramped at Cobo Hall. The Frankfurt show is spread out through 10 different buildings at the Frankfurt Messe (convention center) and walking between buildings gives you an opportunity to escape from the crowd.

Most beautiful car: Alfa Romeo Competizione

For those of you who are interested (probably only Andy and Bernie), here's the link to the rest of the pics.
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Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's a Small World After All

Quite possibly one of the most annoying songs every to come out of Disney, but the lyrics really ring true to me these days.

Sitting with 17 other engineers in a conference room on an old Royal Air Force Base in Gaydon, Warwickshire, England (30 min outside of Birmingham), I was one of 2 not from the UK. The other - a Swede from Volvo - leaned across the table and asked if I knew Jessica Ledger. In fact, I do. She and I worked together on the Lincoln MkS Sedan for a year. Not only did we work together, we actually had the same job and worked for the same guy. What are the odds? This Swede and I are in the middle of England for 5 days, never met each other before, or any of the other people we were with. He was recently back from a 2 month assignment in Australia where he had been working with Jessica who relocated there almost a year ago. Sure, we are all Ford Employees ...but it's still kinda crazy for a company that has over a quarter of a million employees.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Carter's First Two-Wheeler

Carter got his first bicycle yesterday. Notice this bike doesn't have any pedeals. In German, it's called das laufrad -- which is literally the running wheel or impeller. These bikes are extremely popular here and toddlers all over the city have them. I did see them in the US before we left and they are called Balance Bikes at home. Essentially he just sits on the seat and runs with his legs to propel the bike forward, very good at teaching the concept of balance. Though Carter is not smiling in the picture (due to intense concentration), he is thrilled with his new bike and did not want to get off it to go to bed last night. And, it was the first thing he asked for this morning.

I am very impressed by his concern for safety. Carter has no issue with wearing a helmet. He was also very aware of cars coming down the road and always moved quickly back to the driveway if a car was anywhere on our street. Carter's helmet barely fits his big noggin. I think I may have to upgrade to an adult small!

I think by next week, Carter will be so fast on this little bike that I will be cursing myself for getting it for him as I run after him down the street.

PS - someone commented on the lack of bike helmets in an earlier photo of me and Carter on a bike on vacation. I would like to point out that we rented bikes in The Netherlands and were unable to rent helmets with the bikes. I guess the Dutch are as carefreee about bike safety as they are about drugs and sex. Ironically, there are as many bikes in The Netherlands as there are people.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Peanut Butter!!!

I snapped this picture while Carter was eating apples and peanut butter. He ended up with peanut butter all over his face (obviously), on his pants, in his hair. What a huge mess.

At least he was eating fruit.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Carter's 2nd Birthday

Cars, Cars, Cars. It's all about the Cars. That's Cars with a capital "C" as in Cars the Disney-Pixar movie. Carter is obsessed. The only thing that can compete is The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

For Carter's birthday, Nana sent (among other things) 3 Cars. In an effort to avoid an overload of cars, we decided to ration them out, 1 per day. This only led to Carter thinking that he gets a new car everyday. Oops. Big plan back fired. What's worse is that Ben and I are doing nothing to fix it. We are only making it worse. You see, Carter also got the Race Track/Storage Case combo for his birthday and now we are all obsessed with filling the storage case with all the appropriate Cars. when Carter gets home from school, he asks for his "car surprise." I guess we can only blame ourselves (or Disney!).

Sticking with the Cars theme, we also got Carter Mack the Truck for his birthday. He insists on sleeping with it now (displacing Mater to the bedside table).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Frühstück = Breakfast

How silly of me to forget -- what was once a huge staple for the Gale Family -- BAGELS! That really should be #1 on our "What we miss" list. Back in Michigan, we would go to Einstein Bagels every Saturday and Sunday morning. We went so often that we actually made friends with other regulars. After moving to Germany, we were at a loss on how to start our weekend mornings...there are no bagels stores to go to in order to start our day.

In fact, there are no breakfast places to go to at all! No place for pancakes or French toast. No place for an omlet. No place for eggs over easy with a side of wheat toast. And, of course, no place for bagels. We have pined for Einstein's, Angelo's (in Ann Arbor), Leo's Coney Island. Heck, even a Bob Evans would do. I don't even think the McDonald's here serves an egg McMuffin. Alas, no breakfast joint here at which we could become regulars. So I ask the Germans, why even have a word for breakfast when you don't even serve the meal?

Desperate for a weekend ritual substitute, we have developed a new habit of walking to the bakery on Sunday mornings (one of the few things open) after eating a regular ol' bowl of cereal. At the bakery, we pick out some sort of yummy pastry for a mid-afternoon snack. Carter quickly learned that a smile will get him a free cookie at the bakery and now expects one every time. Yesterday, upon receiving a cookie, I prompted him: "Carter, what do you say?" His answer: "Yummy!" Hmmm, not exactly the "thank you" or "danke" that I was looking for but it got a smile out of the bakery lady.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

10 Things We Miss Most

Now that we've been here for 7 straight weeks, we feel we have the right to say what we miss about home (friends and family are assumed so that´s why they aren't on the list):
  1. Garbage disposals
  2. Screens on windows
  3. Corn on the Cob
  4. Air conditioning
  5. Low Fat Salad Dressings, peanut butter, and dairy
  6. Stores open on Sundays
  7. Starbucks, Costco, Target, and Old Navy
  8. Non-smoking sections of restaurants
  9. 2 car Garage
  10. College Football

Though this list will most likely change over the next 2 years, here´s our initial top 10 things that we will miss about Germany when we move home:

  1. Kolsch
  2. Stores closed on Sundays
  3. A 10 minute train ride into the city center
  4. Delicious pastries (himbeer croissants, nougat croissants)
  5. Asparagus season
  6. Being so close to so many other countries and cultures
  7. Our Landlord´s garden
  8. More moderate climate
  9. TBD
  10. TBD

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Great Fares on Northwest to Dusseldorf

We would love some visitors and there are great fares on Northwest to Dusseldorf (or Frankfurt). Tickets must be booked by August 21 (so act quickly!) and travel must occur between November 07 and March 08.

We could use some visitors in late November/early December or in the New Year!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Backyard BBQ

Phew...we had a huge party at our house yesterday...40 people! Houses are small here compared to the US and so fortunately the weather cooperated and we were able to use the yard. I think we had 28 adults and 12 kids. It was a zoo! These were all other Ford ISE families from the US so we had a traditional US style BBQ. We decided to host the party on a Sunday since there is nothing else to do on Sundays but in retrospect it would have been nice to do it on a Saturday so we could have Sunday to recover.

Pictures to be added soon.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gales in Deutschland - Now with VoIP Goodness!!

Well, it only took two companies and over a month, but our VoIP finally works. We were originally with Sunrocket, the "no hassle" phone company. Evidently they don't consider going out of business to be a hassle. I was able to find a new company that would let us port our old phone number and use the same hardware that we already had. So, almost one month after signing up with them, our number finally works. It's the same as our old home phone in Michigan. If you don't have that number, email us or leave a comment on this post. PLEASE REMEMBER that we are 6 hours ahead of Eastern time zone.

That being said, please call. We miss everybody and would love to hear news from all our friends and family in the US.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Family Vacation

Just back from a family vacation. We spent 4 nights/5 days at a family vacation village called De Huttenheugte (part of the Center Parcs villages) in The Netherlands. We had a blast. So much fun to have undivided attention to give to Carter...something that I'm sad to say neither Ben nor I have had in the past couple of months as we have been wrapped up in the move.

The accomodations were a little more rustic than we hoped for but the time with Carter more than made up for it. We spent most of our time there riding bikes and swimming. Though you'll see in the pictures that Carter appeared unhappy in the pool, he warmed up to it and even had the courage to jump from the edge of the pool into Daddy's waiting arms. We played ourselves to exhaustion and Carter got to the point of asking for naps or to go to bed at night. In addition to the swimming and biking, there was a very cute petting zoo that Carter loved...especially the goats.

After the 5 days at Center Parcs, we spent a night in Münster, Germany and toured the Münsterland region. This area is know for Wasserburgs, moated castles.

Haus Huslhoff

Burg Vischering

Schloss Nordkirchen

PS - Happy 32nd Birthday, Ben!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Daddy's Little Helper

It poured rain again today -- all day! Perfect day for getting chores done around the house which is exactly what Ben and Carter did. Ben was working hard installing roller shades and curtain rods in our bedroom and Carter was watching intently. Suddenly he stood up and ran into his bedroom and came back with his Elmo drill. He ran back to his room again to get his foot stool so he could stand up high just like daddy.

Click here to see more pictures of Carter helping Daddy.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Our Sea Shipment Was Delivered!

Our sea shipment was delivered yesterday! It only took 5 weeks...helps make up for the super slow air shipment.

The movers arrived at 8am. It was so cool to see the truck driver maneuver the tractor-trailer up and down our narrow little street. I applauded him when he was done and it was in place. I was truly impressed. We had a great crew of guys who unloaded and unpacked our stuff. Fortunately, one was fairly fluent in English and he was quite the comedian, too.

It was wonderful to see our furniture again and Carter is just giddy about having all of his toys back. I definitely brought too much kitchen stuff. Our oven here is so small that my cookie sheets from the US won't fit. Good thing we have ample storage in the basement!

It's amazing how much quieter the house is now that we have soft couches and rugs to absorb the sound. Ah, silence....oh, shit, there goes one of Carter's loud toys. Couldn't we have left those in storage? So much for the silence.

Home Internet / Home Phone --
After much effort by Ben and many hours on the phone with T-Com support, we have home internet. Dealing with IT support is never easy, but it's even harder when you don't speak the same language. Of course, we got the internet working just in time for SunRocket (our VOIP phone line provider) to go out of business. So, we had promised all of you that once our home internet was up and running, you could call us at our old Northville phone number. No longer the case. Ben is now investigating Vonage or Skype for VOIP service. Stay tuned...once a decision is made and we have a new Michigan phone number, we'll let you know.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

BBQ at the Tikekars

Maneesh and Julie Tikekar had several ISEs and their families over to their house for a BBQ on Sunday, July 8. There were 5 kids under the age of 4. The food was fantastic. Dessert was watermelon, aka "toddler crack."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Blackberries for dinner????

Carter and I were exploring one afternoon shortly after moving in and we came across this blackberry (Brombeere in German) bush growing in our new back yard. These berries looked quite yummy so I picked the largest, juiciest one I could see and popped it in my mouth. Immediately I was overcome with a tart flavor and I almost spit it out. Then I got several of those huge seeds caught in my teeth. Lovely.

Of course Carter HAD to have one, then another, and another. He probably at more than 20 that afternoon. The tartness did not seem to bother him at all. He kept standing there on the back patio asking for "more" with his mouth full of the last batch I brought. If you click this link to the gallery of more pics, you will see that there were so many berries that some heavy equipment had to be called in. Needless to say, Carter didn't eat much dinner that night.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Im Forst 30

We have moved into our house in Germany (Im Forst 30). It's fairly bare bones as we are without our air or sea shipment. Carter's room actually looks pretty good as most of the 9 pieces of luggage we brought with us on the plane were filled with stuff for him. Ben and I are sleeping on the mattress we borrowed from the Johnsons and we are eating off of picnic plates borrowed from the Dhrunas. This is similar to camping but without the hassle of a tent.

Carter is doing well with the transition at school, Vincerola. They have a strict transition plan which includes one parent staying with the child at the school for the entire first week. Ha! If I had that sort of time, I wouldn't need daycare. Fortunately, Carter impressed them all with his ability to adapt and today I was actually allowed to leave for a couple of hours.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

We Now Live in Germany!

We are doing it. We are living in Germany...and surviving.

On Tuesday, June 26, the three of us boarded the plane in Detroit...ready to start our news lives in Germany. Ben and I were a bit nervous about Carter on the plane. This was his first flight, after all. Turns out there was no need for worry. He was like an old pro. During the take-off, Carter yelled "GO!!" and watched out the window. He did not appear nervous at all. After the dinner & drink service was finally over, Carter feel asleep in a little makeshift bed on the floor. Despite the $2000 business class seat, Carter preferred the floor! Who cares, he slept the rest of the flight and woke up after we landed.

Despite having a reservation with Hertz for a Focus Wagon, we did not have a car available to us. Our only option was a 9 passenger van that would not have fit in the hotel parking garage. Apparently Hertz knows how to TAKE the reservation, they just don't know how to KEEP the reservation. We had to wait 2 hours at the airport for a rental car. Again, Carter was a trooper. He handled the whole thing much better than me.

Thursday we registered with the German authorities and Carter and I got our residency permits. Ben's will get processed in a few months when the rest of his paperwork catches up. Following registration, we got the keys to our house and Carter seemed quite happy there. At one point when we were all in the car driving some place, Carter suddenly said "happy." When I repeated it, he said "me." And then he said "Mommy happy, Daddy happy, me-me happy!" It was the greatest. He's dealing with this whole thing so well.

On Thursday evening we went over to the Johnson's house for dinner (they are also Ford ISEs). We got a wonderful home cooked meal which was much needed. They have two children (ages 2 & 5). Another co-worker and his 2 year old daughter were there as well. All of the toddlers will be in the same daycare together so we were thrilled to have a chance for Carter to meet them. After complaining about not having our air shipment, yet, and not being able to move into our house despite having the keys, the Johnsons let us borrow an air mattress and bedding and towels. We think the house will be easier to live in with Carter but are we willing to give up some of the comforts of the hotel already?

Friday was delivery day for our wardrobes (closets) and washer & dryer. I better get on those German lessons as the washer/dryer are only in German. The washer is the smallest one I've ever seen. We also visited Carter's new school and spent a couple of hours there. He seems to like it and has already formed a bond with Yurinda, the lead teacher.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Moving out of the Michigan House

The movers arrived on Monday, June 11. Five men with a mission came and packed our house up so quickly and seemed to just whisk it away. There was no time to be sentimental or savor those last few moments. By noon Wednesday, all of our belongings were either in storage, ready for an ocean shipment, on their way to the airport for our air shipment. Carter has been amazing through this whole transition. He loves sleeping on his cot at Nana & Grandpa Gary's house. One of my first thoughts upon seeing the empty house was "gosh, who were the slobs that lived here?" If you think you keep a clean house, you do not. There is nasty stuff that lives under your washing machine and dryer. There are sizeable dust bunnies under all of your beds. At least that was the case at our house. Ben and I set about cleaning. Fortunately, my mom offered to help, too. We spent all of Thursday scrubbing, and washing, and wiping, and painting. Now if only we could find someone to buy the place!

Let me tell you, there's nothing like being homeless (or living in your parents' basement) to make you appreciate the house you once had.

PS - Thanks to all our friends and neighbors who stopped by to say goodbye. We will miss you all tremendously and hope that you can find time to visit us in Germany.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carla's Business Trip

I had to be in Cologne May 28 through June 7 for work. It's definitely lonely living in a hotel alone in a country where I don't speak the language...a big feeling of isolation. I looked forward to going to work each day just to hear people speaking in English. Every night after work I would walk all over the city exploring until all the shops closed and then I would sit down for dinner with a book. Eating alone never bothered me before but I guess that's because I could eavesdrop on other people's conversations...hard to do when you don't understand the language.

I was a little bit nervous about the weekend. Two whole days without anyone to hang out with. I was on my own in a city where I couldn't speak the language. What to do? what to do? Get my hair cut and colored, of course! I walked into the Kaufhof (a department store) and found the salon. It was quite amusing trying to explain to someone who spoke no English what I wanted. Fortunately, I could use my fingers to make the scissors cutting motion and that was understood. Now how to explain that I needed my hair colored? Just point to the 1 inch of gray roots, of course. Everything went amazingly well despite the language barrier. I got a great haircut and it cost less than what it would have at home.

I did quite a bit of window shopping with all my spare time. I learned that I have exceptionally small feet according to German standards. I struggled to find shoes my size in the women's department. I actually found more shoes my size in the children's department! Ugh, Carter and I will be wearing the same shoes. Quite the fashion statement to be 32 and have squeaker shoes or shoes that light up with every step.

On Sundays in Cologne (and probably most of Germany) everything is closed with very few exceptions. Those exceptions are restaurants, museums, and spas. I thought it would be great to go to the's not something I could easily do if Ben and Carter were here and they would have no interest in going with me. Given that customs are a little different here, I was smart and did my research online and found a thermal spa (Cladius Therme) that required bathing suits. Or so I thought! Apparently bathing suits were only necessary on the first floor of the spa, in the main pool, and the main area of the garden. Wander too far down a path or to one of the upper floors of the spa and you are likely to catch an eye-full.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

House Hunting Trip

Ben and I went on our House Hunting Trip the first week in May. This was our first time to Germany...ever. Let's do a little reality check: we agreed to move to a country to which we've never been, we don't speak the language, and now we have 3 whole days to find a suitable house to live in for the next 2 years. Yep, that sounds about right.

There wasn't much available on the market thanks to DHL just relocating most of their European employees to the Koln-Bonn area and the 30 other Ford ISE employees from the US who arrived before us and picked the market clean. We saw some pretty unacceptable places the first two days and we were starting to panic (or at least I was). There was a nice apartment located in Bonn just upstairs from my boss. No offense to Chet and his family, but I don't want my boss for a neighbor...puts a big damper on work-life balance.

Just when I was starting to feel desperate, we found our house! It's a Doppelhaushälfte (aka, town house) in the Poll neighborhood of Koln (Cologne). It's a 3 story town house with a basement, built in 2003. Yes, it's on the "wrong side of the river" but it's large by German standards and has a huge back yard (again, by German standards). The third floor is for guests -- there's a full bathroom up there and we will have a queen size bed. Visitors are welcome!

In addition to house hunting, we spent the week experiencing German culture. We quickly learned that the beer (Kölsch) is delicious and very easy to drink. We also learned that the restaurant menus are lacking in beef and chicken. There appears to be no shortage of Pork in Germany. As many of you know, I am not a fan of pork. Notice the menu offerings on the left: Pork and More Pork. Not that I'm against embracing German culture, but there are a few more food issues: no Cheerios, no peanut butter, no black beans, and no skim milk. Sure there's lots of dairy -- buttermilk, whole milk, 3.5% milk, and 1.5% milk. Skim milk is extremely hard to come by. In some cases, the trade-offs are pretty good, for instance coffee shops are replaced with Eis-Cafes (ice cream parlor). This city is obsessed with ice cream...and fancy stuff, too. For every coffee shop that you would find in a big city in the US, there's an Eis-Cafe in Cologne.
Overall, it was a fabulous trip and it served to make us even more excited about our adventure over the next two years.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It all started 3 months ago

Back on March 1, 2007, Carla interviewed for a Germany ISE (international service experience) assignment sort of on a whim. Carla wasn't totally sold on the idea of moving overseas but Ben thought it would be great and so Carla had to interview. Believe it or not, she got the job. And the rollercoaster begins!

So eventhough the job was offered to Carla, there were countless details to figure out before we got the green light. For instance, who was going to backfill Carla in her old position? when was she to start her new job? what was Ben going to do? would he get a job with Ford? what kind of daycare would be available for Carter? would Carla's mom ever forgive us (just kidding!)? and so on...

3 months later...Ben has an ISE assignment, too. We've picked out our house in Cologne. We have Carter registered for a Montessori School where both English and German are taught. Our Michigan house in on the market and the movers are coming on June 11. We are officially moving to Germany on July 1.