The adventures of a born-and-raised-in-Michigan girl (OK, woman) who's moved to Bavaria with her husband, kids, and dog.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

News Update

I am going to take a break from the FAQ format of the recent posts (I know, I still owe you one about Martin's job!) and fill you in on a few news items of late.

First, I am flying to the U.S. tomorrow, for my sister Ann's wedding June 24 on Mackinac Island (bringing the kids, but Martin will likely not be able to join us for the wedding, due to workload). We fly back on July 7th, and have much planned... bridesmaid dress fittings, haircuts, swim class for Stephanie, library story hour for Nicholas, trips to Lake Michigan, etc. Of course, I would love to see each and every one of you, but this trip will be pretty hectic (revolving heavily around the wedding). I also have a fairly lengthy list of stuff to pick up that I "need" over here... everything from thermometer probe covers (better than buying a new Celsius thermometer here) to dried cherries and smoke detectors.

So. On to the news from Germany.

In addition to my friend Gaby, the German woman with four kids, I have a new German friend who very recently moved here from the Hamburg area with her husband and ten-month old daughter (her parents emigrated from Bombay in the 60s). I met her at our town German playgroup, and when I introduced myself she asked if I was American (she had heard from her neighbor who also attends that there is an American woman in the group). Of course, I said yes, and she asked where I was from... when I said "Michigan" she asked where in Michigan. Yup, you guessed it, she lived in Troy for eight years during the 90s and has a perfect Michigan accent.

So it has been fun getting together with her and exploring Ingolstadt (so far mostly shopping trips spurred by my trip to the U.S.). I'll be bringing back some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for her, as that's the only thing she misses (Martin, too, by the way... maybe it's a German-American thing?).

The other piece of major news here is that Nicholas got into a Kindergarten, which we are thrilled about. There are two in the little town of Etting (pop. 3,500; within the city of Ingolstadt, pop. 120,000) where we live. One is older, larger, more established and with a huge wait list. There are a number of factors that go into the admissions process here, for example if you need the Kindergarten for daycare (mom returning to work) or if both parents (not just one) are foreigners, then you are at a higher priority. Also, the birthdate (rolling admissions based on third birthday) is a big factor. So with his August birthday, we knew he had a very low chance.

Sure enough, the larger more established one turned him down (the wait list started with January birthdays, for reference). Essentially, they take four-year-olds, not three-year-olds. They also have a fairly strict potty training policy, which would NOT be a good match for Nicholas at this time (we are still struggling with potty stickers, potty cookies, and the latest invention, potty balloons as incentives).

The second Kindergarten in town (which happens to be the one where I know other kids who attend) is smaller, less established, and much more flexible with potty training. Each classroom of 25 kids has a teacher and a pediatric nurse (this ratio and setup is typical for all Kindergartens here).

It would still be tight with an August birthday, but since they are adding a new, third classroom to the existing two, they needed warm bodies to fill it so accepted all their applications (I presume).

The Kindergarten contract is fairly flexible, some people use it for daycare from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We will use it from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Apparently, most parents start with that and then mid-way through the year increase it some or all days to something like 2:00 p.m. pickup, as the kids love it and want to stay longer. For our contract, it will cost about $75 Euros ($95 USD) a month. Pretty cheap.

The other major Kindergarten news is that the building burnt down a few weeks ago. Still haven't heard what the cause of the fire was, and thankfully it was on a Saturday with no one on site. Apparently, on Sunday the parents were called (most knew already, it is a small town) and Monday's park excursion went ahead as planned. When parents dropped their children off Monday, the temporary plan was explained -- the two existing classes of kids have been reassigned to other locations (one in the town church parish, one in a Kindergarten nearby) and the new third class (Nicholas') will start in September at the larger Kindergarten in Etting that he didn't get into. The new building will be completed in October/November, so the school will be reunited then.

Tuesday when parents went to the new locations for the first time, everything was completely set up -- new class materials, snack area, even hooks to hang coats. One frend of mine (British) and I agreed that the whole scenario was "German efficiency" in action. Quite impressive.

The other major news here is that our kitchen remodeling project (which began early April) is nearly complete. Martin tore down the wall between the dining room and kitchen, reworked the plumbing and all electrical, rebuilt the walls (brick and cement, very little drywall and studwork done here), built a new ceiling, retiled the floor, applied paintable textured wallpaper to walls and ceiling (that's how it's done here, you don't want to paint directly on concrete!), painted, and the cabinets and appliances were installed on Thursday, June 1st. Still to go are the backsplash tiles (ordered), curtains (picked out the fabric), slipcover for the couch that has returned to our kitchen, light fixture for the table (ordered), and new tablecloths/placemats. In other words, it's functioning, but not decorated. I'm thrilled -- not just to have the dishwasher back, but also in how it is turning out.

So, other than all of THAT excitement, there is not much happening in Germany. We have managed to make it into Munich a couple of times (to visit the Deutsches Museum, which is similar to the Smithsonian) but that is the extent of our travels so far. The weather has been incredible -- sunny and 60s in April and rainy and 50s (60s and a hint of sunshine on a lucky day) throughout May. I keep asking my Mom what the weather is like there since it seems strange to be packing shorts for next week when I am wearing sweatshirts (and feeling chilly) around the house. This is the longest spring of my life!


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