Tuesday, April 27, 2010


So, imagine all the fears and adjustments involved sending your first child to school for the very first time and multiply that by (oh, I don't know) A MILLION, and you have an idea what Ilya's first two days at preschool (or Kindergarten as they call it here) was like. All of the typical fears are there: will the other kids be nice to her? will the teachers be nice to her? will she eat well? will she miss me too much? ... etc ... Then there was the added difficulty of not not understanding a word anyone was saying, and, of course, teaching styles are very different here.

Apparently, I am the only one who is struggling. Ilya spent all morning in preschool by herself today (the teacher told me to go, and - not being able to speak the language - I couldn't argue even though I really wanted to) and loved it. When I walked in to pick her up expecting shouts of joy and bear hugs, I received a passing glance and demands to know where daddy was. Awesome.

I guess in addition to being brilliant, Ilya is also completely comfortable without mommy and daddy. She doesn't seam to mind that no one understands her; she keeps talking away and making friends with everyone. Now, if only I were as comfortable without her as she is without me...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Couch Surfing

For years we have been listening to our friends, Brendan and Stina, rave about the this wonderful thing called couch surfing. Basically, its a website whose members can get in touch with people from all over the world who are looking to meet new people. Most people use it as a way to find free places to stay while traveling. The theory being that people offer up their couches for travelers to save the expense of a hotel and meet new people in the process.

Adam and I signed up a while ago but we hadn't used it until today. We offered our fold out couch and a Hungarian/German couple contacted us looking for a place to stay while they visit the Irish festival on Sunday (which we will also be attending).

Meeting new people is hard for me. I'm shy to my core and I always find making small talk uncomfortable and awkward. Adam claims that he struggles in this department as well, but I marvel at how open and interested he is with any new people we meet. He was so excited to get to host this couple.

Adam met the couple at the train station and is currently showing them around Magdeburg while I wait for the little one to wake up from her nap. We are all planning on going to the festival together tomorrow and I'm having some friends over for dinner tonight.

The point of the rather rambling post is that I think that it is important to step outside of our comfort zones in order to really experience all that life has to offer. I basically left my comfort zone a few thousand miles away when I embarked on this journey and I'm so glad I did. It hasn't been easy (in fact, next to giving birth, it is one of the most difficult things I've ever done), but I am meeting so many amazing people and experiencing so many different ways to live that it more than makes up for any discomfort that I might be feeling.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Parenting Styles

I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination. I run out of patience after the third or forth time Ilya pours everything she owns on the floor and refuses to pick it up. I let her eat dirt, small bugs, things covered in dirt, food off the floor...you get the idea. My point is: I am the last person who should be judging other parents and their parenting techniques.

With that said, I am going to "discuss" some "interesting" parenting styles I've noticed here in Germany.

First, there is the "absent" parent. Now, I am the first to admit that American parents can be a tad...overprotective of their children. Circling around them constantly like a bumble bee. Applying gobs of creams and bandages for every little scrape and bruise. Never letting them out of their sight for an instant. The "absent" parents in Germany are pretty much the opposite of that. Children just walk around all the time. Unsupervised. Alone. All the time. I'm not talking about older children either. Little kids - 5 years old sometimes. I caught one of these children decorating the sandbox with his pee at the park. When he noticed that I had noticed him, he quickly put himself away and proceeded to play with the wet spot.

Second, there are the smokers. Apparently, the whole, "cigarettes and can kill you and your children" campaign hasn't quite reached these German people. I swear, 90% of the population smokes - all the time. Mothers will plop their babies down in the sand then sit right behind them and light up. It hurts to watch. Its not just a couple of random, uninformed parents either. Almost every time I take Ilya to the park, there is at least one group of parents smoking right next to their kids.

Third, there are the givers. When Ilya was born, I was unofficially invited into the very exclusive "mothers club." I instantly shared an incredibly personal experience with millions other mothers all across the county. This would manifest in knowing glances as Ilya had a meltdown in public as well as unsolicited advice about everything from breast feeding to preschools. Germans take this club much more seriously. When I take Ilya to the park, random parents will pick her up when she stumbles, lend her toys to play with, and try (unsuccessfully) to talk to me. Parenting is seen as much more of a community activity. I like that. What I don't like, are the parents that take that a bit further. On three separate occasions since arriving here, random parents have shoved (not offered, mind you but SHOVED) candy into Ilya's hand then smiled like they had done their good deed for the day. Have you ever tried taking candy from a baby? Because it is NOT easy. Thanks for being nice, but stop giving my child sugar!

Enough ranting and raving. Ilya and I bought bikes yesterday and I can't wait to ride around exploring the city. Everything is flat and bikers get their own lane ON THE SIDEWALK. How cool is that? As soon as Ilya's seat arrives and Adam gets his own bike, we're never going to use the tram again!