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

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March Update, Odds and Ends

It feels like sooo much is new here, and I know each of these topics deserves a longer post of its own, but in the interest of time (mine, mostly), I am going to attempt to summarize the news of the last couple of months.

Martin's New Job

It's going extremely well, even better than either of us had hoped, I think. He has landed squarely into management; his time is spent working on proposals, defining new positions with HR, advising engineers on existing projects, consulting with peers and operations managers about strategic moves, and making client presentations. Yeah, I'm sure he'll do some real engineering at some point, but for now he's having fun with the new challenges, and feels like he's adding a lot of value (that's the feedback as well, which is nice). He may be spending a good deal of time at the office in Prague, as they can only "borrow" the engineers from their Prague office for a German client for 90 days before they are reclassified as German employees. More on that in time, as projects, proposals (etc.) evolve.

Weekend Marriage Update

The weekend commuter marriage thing is not so bad, actually, as I have plenty of help here during the week. We have a babysitter (a friend's daughter, age 13) that comes Tuesday through Thursday right after I pick up Nicholas from Kindergarten at 4:00; she stays through dinner and bedtime at 7:00. Nice to have someone helping with the kids so that I can actually cook a dinner and a big relief to have the extra help, etc.

The kids (and I) miss Martin, but are coping pretty well. It helps that they are on an earlier bedtime now (due to new Kindergarten schedule); if he was still at Audi they'd only see him from 6:00 to 7:00 weekdays. He comes home after they're in bed on Friday night, and leaves us early Monday morning.

Nicholas' New Kindergarten

Nicholas is doing really well at the new Kindergarten, the smaller group size and closer attention make all the difference in the world. It also helps tremendously that his German skills have skyrocketed between September and now, and that unlike the kids in the first Kindergarten who completely ignored him when he spoke English, the kids in this group hear the teachers speaking English (occasionally) to him and want to learn it too. I go for parent meetings to work on specific behaviors at home and/or provide historical details to their evaluation team, which is also a great parenting resource. It is so nice to be working with the teachers so closely on every little detail. And he enjoys it immensely.

At the end of going to the previous Kindergarten (after he was settled and the newness of it had all worn off), every day when I went to pick him up he would come out from behind the teacher's skirt and run towards me, happy to see me. Now, every day when I go to get him, he says "No, no, Mommy, not yet, I need to play!" which makes me realize that it wasn't the separation that made him happy to see me before, it was the fact that I was rescuing him from a not-so-fun situation. He is much more comfortable (i.e. not clinging on the teacher, his only friend) in the new group, and having only eight kids and two (or sometimes three) teachers is just great.

Because the Kindergarten is co-located with a "special" school for older kids (with autism, Downes, lots of wheelchairs too), I think it gets special treatment. For example, during Mardi Gras (Fasching), the in-house theater troupe at Theater Ingolstadt came to the school and went to all the classes in full Fasching costume. Kind of like when the circus comes to town and the clowns go to the cancer ward at the children's hospital... they just don't visit an average, ordinary school.

In addition to the outdoor playground and indoor gymnasium (typical at all Kindergartens here), his group can tap into the larger school's facility... which includes a swimming pool, movie theater, stage theater, etc. It's really a dream facility/program, with a lot of resources and a little bit extra from the community (like the theater troupe dropping in).

The best part is seeing how happy he is there every day. :-)

Stephanie's Second Birthday

Stephanie just turned two (Nicholas is three and a half, although as tall as many five year olds), and is cute as a bug every day. That girl is such a flirt and eager to entertain any audience, big or small. I swear she will be on stage at some point. This week she and I have both been sick with an evil bug, and she learned the word sneeze ('neeze), which she says whenever I cough... she brings me the Kleenex and has me blow my nose (" 'neeze, Mommy") after every cough. Too funny.

Here she is on her birthday (you can't quite see the long curls that are growing behind her head):

My First German Class

Ugh! I signed up for an intensive, intermediate grammar course (the only grammar course in town). With grammar, I am a complete beginner... I have good pronunciation and vocabulary, and most people compliment me on my German and are surprised that I have only been here 15 months and have taken no classes yet. So while that is nice to hear, I also know that I don't know how to conjugate the verbs "to be" and "to have" in all persons, present tense (because I just don't need to use "they have" or "you (plural) are" very often). I am definitely a complete beginner at grammar.

And when you learn everything by ear, you are a beginner reader, too. It takes me longer to read, as I need to pronounce things out loud and hear what I am saying to understand the sentence that I am looking at. I often feel illiterate. So I signed up for this class, since all the other options were four or five hours every morning, five days a week, for six months to achieve fluency (going at the pace of the slowest farmer's wife from Turkey who has had four years of primary school). Thanks, but no thanks. Really not possible, especially with Stephanie still at home. At least this way, I am in over my head but it forces me to open my books and study on my own every week. The second week of class covered the subjunctive present and past, and the third week was on the conditional (if that tells you how in over my head I am!).

Martin thinks I'm nuts, but the teacher is excellent and it's only $68 (for 15 weeks)... I told him even if I only learn twenty percent of the course, that's twenty percent more than I knew before.

New Toddler Swim Class, New Friends

I just found a baby swim class at the very nice pool facility one mile from here (there are a handful of nice pools here, all impressive, Germans love their swimming I guess). It's actually free, and I plan to go every week, with Stephanie.

I met two German women there who each recently lived two or three years in Detroit (Audi has a marketing/sales office in Auburn Hills and often does temporary transfers to Michigan). Usually when I hear of someone moving from here to the U.S., it is to Michigan, since Ingolstadt (pop. 120,000, metro area pop. about 160,000) is very much a company town (Audi has 35,000 employees). They were thrilled to meet an American and want to get together again at a playground sometime, where we can talk more.

Flights Booked

The kids and I are coming to Michigan, via Lufthansa/Chicago, from Sunday, May 13th through Friday, June 8th. I was trying to get a little "Martin time" in on both weekends that we are travelling, and in the process the Michigan weekends got short shrift. So I am spending one weekend in Ann Arbor (May 19/20), one weekend in Traverse City with both sisters, parents, etc. at an indoor swim park/hotel, and one weekend visiting both sets of aunts and uncles. The rest of the time we'll be in Grand Rapids, doing misc. kid-friendly activities.

I can't wait! :-)


Yep, I was right. There IS a lot new since I last posted!


Anonymous Heather Patey said...

Hi! I am following you on Twitter... I am a Suzuki violin mom from Newfoundland, Canada - looking to correspond with same. My girls started three years ago, but I still feel like a beginner sometimes. Hope to hear from you.

4:39 PM

Anonymous Bettina G said...

Hi there- I stumbled across your blog when I thought we may be moving to Ingolstadt. Found out we are instead moving to Dreieich... I'm from Michigan originally too, south of Ann Arbor. I know NOTHING of Germany, and have two wee ones. Would love it if you could fill me in on what you think of Frankfurt, etc. If you get a sec (which I'm sure are few and far between if you're like me), would love it if you could send me an email at

My name is Bettina... Thanks so much for any and all help!

5:31 AM


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