Friday, June 8, 2012


March and April brought us visitors! After a long, hard winter, March flew by as we anxiously awaited the arrival of Chad’s mom, Deanna, at the end of the month. The weather couldn’t have been any more gorgeous and above all, it was so wonderful to have her here. The kids loved having Grandma dote on them and I always so enjoy her company. I’m so blessed to have such a wonderful lady for a mother-in-law! I couldn’t wait to show her around. We braved taking the train into Stuttgart to visit the Wilhelma Zoo on a gorgeous, warm day. The language barrier was a little intimidating at first, but there was a group of students that spoke English quite well and were so eager to help us. They were so wonderful, helping us purchase our tickets, guiding us where to go, and most of all, helped carry the stroller up and down the stairs as we had to change trains at the Böblingen station and then again at the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (main station). What classy, wonderful kids they were.  Overall, it was fun and pretty easy too. I won't be so nervous to do it the next time!The zoo was so fun and I can’t wait to get back. Lucy squealed in delight most of the time and Kane loved exploring and all the fun animals. I loved the beautiful architecture and the botanical gardens that featured countless magnolia trees in full bloom. It smelled so sweet and heavenly!

We also made it to a neat town in the Black Forest called Triberg. It’s “the” place to go to purchase a cuckoo clock and also in the region that is known for creating black forest cake. We got a bit of a late start, so we couldn’t stay as long as we would’ve liked, but it was wonderful. Deanna found a cuckoo clock she wanted to take home to the family and also purchased a small one for Kane as well. He was fascinated and loved the clocks and really wanted one to “wake up my family”. He took a lot of care in picking one that was just right :)

We had hoped to do more, but unfortunately Kane became quite ill with a cold. Regardless, it was a wonderful visit and one we all will treasure. We so look forward to her coming back, and hopefully she’ll bring Chad’s dad too!

In April, my uncle Mike happened to be fairly nearby on business. He messaged me one Saturday and said he was headed our way and wanted to meet up. We’d hoped to meet up at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, but it just didn’t pan out with us only having one car at the time and the kids needing their naps. Luckily he was able to stop by the house for a short while and meet Lucy for the first time and he spoke some German with Kane. It was great visit and I hope next time we can see him for awhile longer!

Toward the end of April, my aunt Bonnie came to visit on her way back home after a nearly 3 week-long business trip to India. She was so glad to see the lush green land of Germany, have cooler weather, and good food! :) We had a wonderful visit while she was here! She stayed at a hotel near Panzer, where Chad works so I picked her up every morning after dropping him off. One of the first days she was here we visited Lichtenstein Castle, which is a lot smaller than Hohenzollern, but a lot more character. It was beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed the guided tour of the interior. It was just us and another couple so the guide was kind enough to translate things for us. It was quite cold that day, but beautiful!

Another day we had decided to go to Ulm…home of the Ulmer Münster, a cathedral with the world’s tallest steeple and hometown of Albert Einstein. The cathedral was easy to spot from miles away and as we neared it, I couldn’t wait to get a closer look. It was one of the most impressive, awe-striking things I have ever seen. It was so intricate and beautiful, I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it. The interior of the church was overwhelming as well. I wish I could’ve spent more time, but centuries-old Gothic churches aren’t very exciting for children, haha! We walked and walked and enjoyed the urban-meets-old vibe in the bustling city of Ulm. Again, didn’t get to spend as much time, but we had to get back to avoid the nasty traffic on the A8! I hope to get back again soon and maybe hit up the Einstein museum next time!

On her last day here, we roamed around in the town where we live, Sindelfingen. I’d never actually been in the city center before. So we found a yarn shop nearby where Bonnie bought a few skeins of lovely yarn and walked into the square in search of döner kebaps (by far my most favorite thing I’ve had living here) and the historic St. Martin’s church, which was built in 1083 and is one of the oldest churches in the Stuttgart area. We also found a lovely fountain that Kane couldn’t get enough of, as well as an awesome farmer’s market. It was a great day and overall, we had such a lovely visit with her! We hope she is able to make it out for another visit. Kane just cried and cried when we took her to the train station. He enjoyed all of our family visits! It has been rough on he and I both, being so far from family, but we get each other through and focus on the cool things we’ve already gotten to see!

Next up... a visit from my mom and Grandma in July! Can't wait!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reflecting on our First 6 Months Here (2 Months Late)...

My poor little blog has been severely neglected…  Suffice to say it has been a very busy several months around here. Lucy is a mobile, crazy, curious little lady now, and Kane is as much of a handful as ever ;)
This winter was very challenging for me. It was full of near-constant illness, it was very gloomy and dark, we went nearly two months without a car, and I felt incredibly isolated and lonely at times.  It was bitter cold in February. But then March came and with it, a beautiful spring, and I fell head-over-heels in love with it here all over again. 
When we first arrived here, people who had been through this experience before said it would take at least 6 months to a year to truly feel settled. It seemed so long to me and with as much as we have moved in our years together, I thought it would happen sooner. Nope. It took right almost exactly 6 months to really feel “at home” and feel more comfortable getting around.
Reflecting on our experience thus far has made me realize, once again, what an incredible experience and opportunity living here has been. I’m still in awe of it and though I miss our families terribly, I’m relishing the chance to be here.  I was thinking back to when we first found out we’d be moving here and all the excitement, trepidation, and the ideas we had. In some ways it has met my expectations, and in others it hasn’t. It’s just as beautiful, even more than I could have imagined. I have not gone out as much as I had envisioned. The reality is that we live in a pretty rural part on the outskirts of town and I’ve fallen into a pretty steady and predictable routine with the kids. The other thing is we had grand visions of traveling while we are here. Well…we have yet to travel further than a few hours from home. Truth of the matter is, it is expensive living here and most of all, it is challenging to go places with small children! Especially an infant that thrives on a schedule. We’re still learning the ropes and are hoping to remedy this very soon. This has been my biggest frustration, is that we’ve not gone anywhere yet. It has always been a life dream of mine to see Europe and never in a million years thought I’d get the chance. Yet, here we are. I focus on what little I have gotten to see, and it has been beyond my wildest expectations. Germany has certainly captured our hearts and I am so grateful for this opportunity. Can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next on this adventure!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Our First Christmas in Germany

I am embarrassed to admit I found myself almost dreading Christmas this year. I knew it would be incredibly difficult being so far from our loved ones on such a cherished holiday that is so centered around togetherness and being with family. I kept reminding myself that I needed to focus on the important part of the season, as well as the fact I needed to treasure making Christmas our own with our own sweet little family. I also reminded myself what a cool opportunity it is to be here and I need to enjoy the ride!

Christmas is a pretty big deal in Germany. There are Christmas markets held throughout the country; smaller towns typically hold them one weekend sometime between the end of November and Christmas, while bigger cities hold them open the whole time, even during the week. Münich, Dresden, Nuremburg and even Stuttgart are some of the better-known markets, but there are literally hundreds scattered all across Germany as well as Austria and Switzerland (and likely elsewhere too)! Going to a big, crowded market wasn’t really our cup of tea, especially with two small kids, so we opted for a small market in the nearby town of Maichingen. It is a 25 minute walk from our house. We were half way there when I discovered I forgot my camera :P We were surprised with how crowded this “unknown” market was…it was so packed we could not maneuver the stroller! My severely claustrophobic husband stayed on the outskirts with the baby while I took Kane and browsed the various booths of homemade goods, offering things such as scarves, ornaments, food, etc… We met up with my friend Friederike and her family, and they were so kind to treat us to some gluhwein, which is hot, mulled wine. It was delicious and perfect for a crisp, December night! I didn’t end up buying anything and had intended to go to at least one other market, but it didn’t pan out between fighting colds, lack of a car, and it being a bit of a hassle to go places with two little ones. Next year! I hope we can check out Esslingen, Ludwigsburg, Ulm and Tübingen at the very least.

I finally got some holiday cheer when we found a cute little pre-lit tree on base. It was the weekend before Christmas and I could not wait to put it up. Kane was an excellent helper and his excitement over Santa coming to visit was absolutely contagious! Nearly every day new packages arrived from our loved ones and Kane couldn’t wait to get them settled under the tree. Christmas is NOT about the gifts, and about so much more, but seeing those packages arrive and wait under the tree was a constant reminder of our wonderful families that lovingly sent those gifts from so far away.

On Christmas Eve, I made a roast, with mashed potatoes and gravy and greenbeans flavored with bacon and onion. And a cherry pie (thanks to Sara Lee). It turned out nice and Lucy got her first bit of solid food (squash) to celebrate as well! We had decided we would have the kids open their gifts from us and Chad’s side of the family that night, since they celebrate it on Christmas Eve. But first, Chad read us the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke. It was a special memory watching him read it as Kane eagerly listened in his lap. I couldn’t help but think of missing our family, but it also struck me that we were making it our own and starting our traditions. It was a really wonderful evening.
I could not contain my excitement over Santa coming to visit and gained a whole new appreciation for our parents and the lengths they went to for us making Christmas morning special. We had decided the kids would receive one present from Santa and one or two from us, and well as one from each other. That is it. We knew they’d be getting many other things from their grandparents and we did not want the emphasis on Christmas to become about how many presents they get. Kane asked Santa for a “see-saw” and “cutter thing”, which we knew to mean tools. Lucy didn’t care obviously, but she definitely needed some age-appropriate toys! Before bed, we made sure to leave Santa some peanutbutter cookies I’d made and some milk and we wrote him a note. While I got Kane settled in bed, Chad already started putting together his tool bench. We could not wait to see his face the next morning!
It went just as I had imagined…he loved it and I think was just as excited over the fact Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk! My mom happened to be up extremely late and skyped with us at about 9 a.m. and it was a treat to see her face and have Kane show her all of his favorite new things.

We had planned to drive to Strasbourg, France for Christmas Day…however we had to change the plans when Chad realized he’d need his International driver’s license and there was an issue taking the rental car out of the country or else we’d face a huge fine if caught. We chose not to risk it and decided to go to Hohenzollern Castle instead. It was a place I’d been wanting to go for awhile and one of the only things open on Christmas. It was windy and cold, but both kids did amazingly well and tolerated me stopping every 50 yards to take another picture. It was beautiful, and while it wasn’t quite France, it was still a really neat adventure. 

Our Christmas 2011 was a most memorable one, not only was it our first with Lucy, it was our first we made our own. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An Eventful November

A Special Visitor
November came and went in a flurry of big events for the Jones family! My mom came to visit and was here from the 10th through the 15th. It was too short, but still such an awesome visit. She flew in on my sister-in-law Kaylee’s buddy passes through US Airways and flew from Denver to Philadelphia, where she boarded her plane only to be faced with mechanical difficulties and was delayed by 6 hours. She then flew from Philly to Frankfurt and took a train from there to Stuttgart.
I had only had my driver’s license for a few weeks and only driven alone a handful of times and was nervous to go pick her up in the heart of Stuttgart (big, busy city!) I missed the correct autobahn exit not once, but twice, so I was very late picking her up. It was so surreal and exciting to see her face! I then proceeded to get turned around by turning right when I should have turned left because our GPS can be hopelessly vague and late to the party. I needed a serious glass of wine by the time we made it home, but it was an adventure we conquered nonetheless, and it was so wonderful to have her here.
During her time here, we made a little trek to the Ikea that is about 5 minutes away…she’s never been to one. We were sucked in to buying a few household goods and so incredibly tickled by our lunch that cost €10 and we bought 3 entrees, 3 desserts, and 3 drinks. We also took a 25 minute walk to the nearby town of Maichingen, which is so charming and we got Döner Kebap (sort of like gyros), falafel, and pizza and then enjoyed Italian gelato on our way home. The weather was beautiful the whole time she was here…exactly how you’d imagine a perfect autumn, complete with colorful trees and fog-covered mornings giving way to bright and cheerful afternoons. We also showed her the base and went to dinner at a great place called the Römerhof in Vaihingen, where we got our first taste of spätzle…an amazing homemade German pasta.
                                               Enjoying some Turkish food

On her last day here, we had really wanted to do something special and show her a neat part of Germany.  The original plan was to go to Heidelberg, but our Land Rover was acting a little funny, so we were nervous taking it too far. My friend Friederike recommended we go see Tübingen, a town full of character and beauty that sits on the Neckar River that was only 30 minutes away. I am SO glad we went. The weather was crisp and gorgeous and immediately we were taken with its charm. We went to lunch at a place called the Neckarmüller that is a brewery. Mom was anxious to try some famed German beer. We ordered pretzels and potato and sausage soup and it was beyond delicious. We then walked to the Marktplatz (basically like town center/square), which was a maze of narrow, cobblestoned streets edged with shops and historic buildings. Mom desperately wanted to see a castle while she was here. As luck would have it there was one! Schloss Hohentübingen was originally a castle from the 2nd Century, that was rebuilt and added upon over the centuries and became a part of the university in 1816. It was closed for tours that day, but we were able to enjoy seeing the outer walls and take pictures from the amazing view as it overlooks the whole city. Overall, it was an amazing, most memorable day.
It was so difficult to see her get into the taxi the next morning and I spent most of the day moping, but Kane, my dear, sweet boy was intuitive to my sadness and kept giving me extra hugs, kisses and love. It was exactly what I needed!

We Have a Kindergartener!
The next day was a momentous occasion for us…Kane started Kindergarten. In Germany, the children attend Kindergarten from ages three through six. I was a little shocked at myself that I didn’t get more emotional at the thought, but we were in too big of a rush for it to hit me. It did a few days later! He was so excited and had zero apprehension. He walked right in the classroom and started playing with the fun new toys and other children. There are two groups, one I cannot attempt to say or spell, and the other is the Sonnenkinder (Sun children) which is the group he is in. He has one teacher that speaks fair English and the other two do not speak any. They all are lovely, wonderful ladies. He has had a bit of an adjustment…re-learning how to share and play well with others. The last year I was not working and he had little interaction with other children. This has been SO wonderful for him and he absolutely loves it. It also gives momma a nice break and the chance to have some special time with Lucy.

The end of the month was rounded off by us hosting our first ever Thanksgiving. It was kind of a big deal for us because this was the first time in our lives we’d ever not spent it with other family and the first time hosting. I was afraid to tackle a turkey in the oven I had not yet figured out, so we decided upon Mexican food…something hard to come by here and something we’d been craving. I made a big pot of green chile, homemade refried beans, a Mexican chicken casserole, dip (with chips), and a sourcream-based soup (that never even made it out to the stove because I forgot about it. So like me). Five of Chad’s work colleagues came and it was a really lovely time. It was fun to celebrate in the company of others and meet some new friends!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Few Tidbits About Germany (So Far)

Well, it’s been almost two months since the kids and I have been here. Hard to believe…in some aspects it feels like it’s been much, much longer than that and in others, it feels like just yesterday Lucy was born and we were in the chaos of trying to put together our move.
While the kids and I were staying with my parents, that month while Chad was here flew by in a blur. It was such a blessing to be able to spend such quality time with our loved ones before we left, yet I also remember just feeling more than anxious to get here and be together as a family again, and in a sense, start a new life. Chad and I tried to catch each other on the phone each day…which was new for us, as we’re not a couple that talks on the phone much at all. I’d anxiously await his call and it seemed like each time I’d talk to him, he’d fallen more and more in love with this place and had all sorts of new and interesting things to tell me about it here. I can see how it had captured his heart so fast. Only two months in, and I have fallen in love with it too.  The longer we’re here, the more we discover about life here and, in some aspects, how different it is than the U.S.

Germany is roughly the size of Montana and has a population of approximately 81 million people. Chad has seen evidence of this in the crazy traffic he encounters on the autobahn making a 6 mile drive in an hour and a half on his way home from Patch Barracks. Compared to Colorado, it does seem so much more…dense. And yet, there are so many beautiful trees, vineyard-scattered hills, farm plots, and quaint villages to make it every bit as picturesque as you could imagine. The Germans take the environment extremely seriously… recycling is mandatory and quite a rigid process. Everything is so clean! It’s expected that you keep your walk and drive swept clear of any leaves or snow on a daily basis. (We already have failed in this category…the trees are merciless in shedding their leaves all over our pathway to the front door). The general expectation is that you are to have shoveled by 7 or 7:30 a.m. Also, car emission standards are extremely strict and they have signs posted showing which cars, identified by different colored emissions stickers, are allowed to enter that town/area. Some areas don’t permit motorized vehicles at all if there’s a “no smog” sign. It’s also quite noticeable that many people hang their laundry out to dry. My guess is the outrageous cost of electricity may have something to do with this. That, and it takes roughly two hours to dry one small load with a European dryer.

The German culture is very serious about rest. Virtually all stores, including the mall and grocery stores, are closed on Sunday, as well as most major observed holidays. There is to be no yard work, no laundry hung, or cars washed on these days. There is also what is called ruhezeit, which means “rest period” every day, also known as “quiet hours”, which are observed from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Even the parks are unofficially closed, and everything becomes eerily quiet. Luckily it coincides closely with nap time. :)
In some ways it’s a faster pace of life…there are so many more people, more traffic, etc… but it’s neat because the culture here allows for a more laidback way of life, which is something we’re easily getting used to.

Making a New Friend and Kindergarten!

Chad primarily chose this house for us because of the German kindergarten right behind it. When we first moved in, the weather was lovely and Kane would longingly watch the children play on the playground and even shout the occasional “HI GUYS!”, to which, he got a few curious glances. We knew we’d have to put him on the list, but assumed he’d perhaps be able to start after the first of the year…thinking it’d be done sort of like it is in the US. Not so much.

While the weather was still warm, I’d take Kane and Lucy to the park down the street every late afternoon upon waking from their naps. So far, it seems as though German people are not quite as openly friendly or talkative as what we were accustomed to in the States, especially in a small town like Pueblo. I’d been going for about a week or so and noticed the same mother there with her two young children, a girl…Maja (Maya) that looked slightly older than Kane and says “Hallo” with a sweet smile and wave to everyone she meets, and a charming little boy with an ever-present smile that looked to be about a year old. I knew the little girl’s name because I’d heard her mother call to her, and I remember thinking it was such a pretty name. I’d smile at her and nod, but was too intimidated to say anything and I didn’t want to assume she spoke English. Not nearly as many people here do as I’d imagined. It was through chance that one day a grandmother that was there with her granddaughter came up to me, speaking words I didn’t understand, but with a smile on her face…she referred to Lucy. She immediately registered the look of confusion on my face. She said, “English?” and I replied to her “yes.” She asked how old Lucy was and when I told her 2.5 months she gave me a look of shock and said “BIG girl”! Yes, she is. We get that a lot. The mother with her two children was standing there and joined the conversation. The ice was broken and I could feel myself get overcome with excitement as she spoke English to me...she asked how long we’d been here, what brought us here, where we were from, how old the children were… It felt wonderful to make my first friend here. She introduced her son, Jahn, who is in love with me J (Or rather, loves all women with long blond hair, haha). He is darling and always has the most wonderful grin. My new friend’s name is Friederike and she is such a wealth of knowledge and help!

Upon one of our first meetings at the park she asked of Kane’s age and mentioned the school nearby. I told her the house overlooked it and we hoped Kane could go there after the first of the year. She replied that they’d already started and I’d need to get him on the list (and basically “good luck getting him in!”) I knew I needed to get over there, but had been dragging my feet…a combo of feeling intimidated by the language barrier and the kids’ nap schedules. That day, we walked home from the park together and I pointed out our house (she lives further down the road). A day or two later, she stopped by to let me know to go to the kindergarten the following day and to talk to a certain teacher. That particular school was full, but the teacher would help me find another nearby that might have an opening. I was so grateful, but found myself nervous too! Ok, now I had no excuse…Friederike was helping me out and I needed to follow through. So, I went to the school with Kane and Lucy in tow after returning from my first MOPS meeting on base (to be featured in a future post), and walked in and found a lovely older blonde woman cleaning up in the kitchen… “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” She shook her head no. Of course. Oh, boy, this might be tougher than I thought. Luckily, she brought me over to a woman named Karen (unsure of the spelling, because it’s pronounced more like Car-In, only with a soft roll of the “r”). She explained there were no spots for Kane but she’d put him on the list. She went on to tell me every year there are many three year-olds beginning kindergarten in the fall, so it might be a year until he would have a place anywhere. I felt my heart sink a bit. Chad and I both so wanted for him to be able to go…he needs that interaction. There’s a waiting list on the base and it’s MUCH more expensive. Plus, there was the added bonus he’d learn German and meet other children in our neighborhood. Kane immediately made himself at home, pulling out puzzles and books to look at and he couldn’t wait to get out on that playground he’d so longed after! Karen was a good sport and indulged him and his excitement to be there…I could tell she got an absolute kick out of him. Before we left, she said she’d have the director of the school call me should a spot open up. I tried not to get my hopes up, but from the minute we had walked into that place, I fell in love with it and prayed hard he’d be able to get in before next fall. I just had a feeling…

The following Monday was Columbus Day. Chad had the day off, and, we decided to go to Ikea to try to find some furnishings for our still very empty townhouse. It was a disaster, but we won’t get into that :P Someone had called while we were out, but our prepaid phones don’t have voicemail, so I had no clue who it was. I gave Chad the number and he looked it up online. It was the kindergarten!!! I was so excited, but tried not to be. I wasn’t sure what it was about yet. So I called the next morning and left a message…rambling, I’m quite sure. Shortly thereafter, Frau Nesklar (sp?), the director of the school called me back and greeting me saying, “Ms. Jones, I have some good news…” I honestly think I half-shrieked. I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited! I shared that with her a few times as well. I could tell she thought I was pretty funny, but she humored me and my over-abundant enthusiasm. I felt like I'd won the lottery...because in a sense, it was exactly that. She said to come the following couple of days, whenever I had time, to fill out paper work. I did, and Kane once again went right out to play with everyone and made himself right at home. I had a good feeling about this. I was delighted to find out it will cost 60 euros a month for him to attend every morning from 8 – 1230. We’ll have him start on November 16th, the day after my mom leaves to return home. We are so anxiously awaiting her arrival on the 10th and look forward to this new adventure for Kane beginning the 16th! When I told him he was going to get to go to the school all the time soon, he looked at me with the most genuine smile and brightness in his eyes and said “I’m SO excited Momma!” He wanted to go right that minute. I know it’s going to be an adjustment, but I also know in my heart he’s going to thrive and he’ll love it. So thankful to Friederike for her help in pushing me to get my foot in the door and to God for answered prayers!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Moving into our new home

Ahhh...internet, how how I've missed thee! It's been driving me slightly crazy not having any connection to the goings-on in the world for so long. 
We moved into our house on the 17th after two weeks in the hotel. We are in a suburb about 15 km southwest of Stuttgart called Sindelfingen and it's about a 15 minute drive for Chad to the two main bases he works at and we are on the outskirts of town, bordering farm land. We also live really close to the Mercedes-Benz plant. It'd be fun to take a tour sometime. We haven't had much opportunity to explore the town yet, but I'm very anxious to do so. There's a bus stop directly in front of the if only I could understand the routes! That'll come in time :)
The house itself, is a row house (basically like a townhome). It is 149 square meters (approximately 1600 sq/ft), with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and three stories tall. It has some serious stairs! Off of the second floor is a decent sized terrace with some grass and bushes for privacy. Kane really loves playing out there. It overlooks the kindergarten (pre-school) that Kane will hopefully attend after the first of the year, if I ever get my rear over there to put him on the list. 
It doesn't quite feel like "home" yet though...our things we shipped over won't arrive until October 7th, which is five days earlier than what we were originally told, so that's a plus! For the time being, we are getting by with military loaner furniture. It isn't the most attractive, but hey, it's a place to sit and sleep and I'm so grateful for it! They also provided us with a washer and dryer that are very nice. What a blessing! 
Here are some pics of the place pre-furniture:

                                                                 The Living Room

                                                                   The Master Bedroom

                                                                    The Kindergarten

                                                                     Main Bathroom

                                                                      The Kitchen

                                                                        View from Master

                                                                       "THE" Stairs
Cute Kid in front of "THE" Stairs :)