Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Visitors!

Christmas was not quite over for us with Boxing Day. A day later we had my brother Stefan and his family including Sophie's cousins Talea and Thore come to visit our new home for the first time. Sophie was eager to show her place and toys to Talea. Eventually they found the princess dresses.

 Dance show performance
 Before dinner, it was time to head outside to work up an appetite. 
 Little kids...
 ...and big kids at play
Oops, Sophie was caught throwing sand.

We still hope that Talea and Thore will come back to visit us soon. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day Dinner Or the Geldern Chainsaw Massacre

As opposed to the majority of other English-speaking kids, Sophie slept in until about 9 am on Christmas Day.
After some playtime with the new doll house and Ariel Barbie, we headed over to a nearby restaurant to meet with my sister Anke and her family for a Christmas lunch buffet. 
When we took a shortcut through the bushes and behind the patio from the parking lot to the restaurant we got the German stare. An entire family seated near the window turned around in unison to watch us do the forbidden. I swear one uncle spat out his soup. It must have been quite the boring family gathering if we were the attraction...
 Sophie and Kiron were certainly happy to see each other again. They spent a lot of time catching up under the table.
After lunch we headed back for coffee to my mum's house. More presents were exchanged for the kids. Kiron received by far the coolest toy. Yes it's a chain saw! And he had the word down fast, walking around saying: Kettensäge - he he.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Putting Some JOY into German Christmas

Today, one of my sister Berit's wishes came at least partially true: she has wanted her siblings to celebrate Christmas together at my mum's house in Geldern. Well, this had not been an option for me for years, as I could never take time off over the holidays. So I quit my job in September and here we are. Not all siblings there at the same time, but in stages over the next few days. 

Andrew, Sophie and I took the train to my mum's on the night of the 23rd. I got a few smiles for the Santa hat. Some Germans take this Christmas business very seriously. Since Christmas Eve is the big day and Santa has to magically deliver all of his presents to the German kids in a very short time span between church and dinner and not before it gets dark of course, we decided to come up a night early to get the English/American Christmas Eve feel full of anticipation and last minute tasks. We brought English Stilton and some good port (it was 'sweet' enough so that my mum would drink it as well) and enjoyed confusing Andrew with ever new rules to the board games we played. He thinks it's a mean German trick. 

So here are a few pictures of our not so white but very fun Christmas in Germany. I'm still sorry about the picture quality.
 Thank you auntie Sandra for sending Sophie this beautiful outfit. She took such good care of it that she was able to wear it again on Christmas Day. 
 Three generations.
 Happy times ... and off to church (!) for the kindergarten nativity play. Sophie was mesmerized, especially since her friends from her Geldern preschool were performing. 
 When it was getting dark, Andrew, Sophie and I went for a walk trying to spot Santa. It felt very cold, but we had to stay out for a little while. Only to find out that we had missed Santa! If only we had stayed home, we would have seen him drop of all of these presents!
 Oh, and Santa knew exactly that Sophie wanted a doll house.
 Andrew's present: a bottle of Laphroaig single malt. I don't think he liked it one bit.
 My mum stuck on the floor while...
... the three big kids played with the doll house. 

We had a relaxed and happy evening together filled with good food (raclette), drink, laughter and games. And although we missed our family and friends in California, it was nice to celebrate Christmas in this constellation for a change. If we ever host Christmas at our house in future years, we might ask Santa to come during the night while we are sleeping, however. That way we will not have to come up with some weird explanation why the NORAD Santa tracker showed Santa only over Russia when in reality he had already been at our house in Germany. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Caroling in Kindergarten

It was Sophie's last day of preschool before a one week break over the holidays. The children had invited the parents to come for the last half hour to listen to some Christmas carols.
video
"In der Weihnachtsbaeckerei" (At the Christmas Bakery) - I love how the chorus was always very loud (so much that the teacher sometimes had to tell the kiddos not to shout), then the verses started out fairly strong and petered out towards the end where the memorization was not that strong. 
By now this tune has been burned into our brains. Sophie sings it daily thinking of ever new verses to it, some of which have nothing to do with Christmas. 
 After the singing, there was lots of dancing to "Feliz Navidad." We felt like we were back in California.
 The boys were literally fighting over Sophie.
I managed to negotiate one dance, while the boys were waiting for her.

My camera is temporarily out of order, which leaves me with my phone camera. Sorry about the quality.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The First Snow!

Albeit very short-lasting, I think we made the most of our first snow in front of our doorstep. Sophie has seen snow before, especially last winter, but we always had to drive to it. For a while when we first arrived in Germany, it seemed as if seeing snow was the sole reason for moving here in Sophie's mind.
So when she woke up to about 2 inches of (very wet) snow, Sophie wasted no time and put her snow suit on over her PJ's and had a good play with Daddy before breakfast. 
 What a change to the sight of rain in the mornings!
 The sheep meadow with a layer of the white stuff.
 Not sure the boys knew what to make of it.
 A happy girl
 It had already started raining by then. 
more of this please!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Decorating Our Christmas Tree

After the ice skating it was time to decorate our Christmas tree. We found a fitting angel for the top of the tree at the Christmas market - not easy to find here. 
So here is our very American tree - not at all like your perfectly matching German tree - but we like it very much.
Thank you Nanny and auntie Sandra for the beautiful ornaments. I'm amazed they didn't break before they went up on the tree - she played so much with them.


Princess on Ice

We went back into the city today to do some more shopping, exploring and stumbled upon more Christmas markets. This one had an ice skating rink. Since they did not have shoes small enough for Sophie at the Monterey ice skating rink last year, this was going to be her first try on blades. Andrew really wanted to give it a whirl, too, so I let him take Sophie while I watched the bags and took pictures.
 It seemed like she didn't know what to do with her legs.
 But the most important thing was that she was having fun!
 Glühwein waiting for us over there.
After about fifteen minutes they were both done. Especially Andrew. His feet were cramping as the lady had looked at the wrong shoe size conversion chart and given him a pair two sizes too small. Fair enough.
video

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Picking Our Christmas Tree

Today we drove out into the middle of nowhere past Geldern, got lost a couple of times, to pick up our Christmas tree. Unlike in the Bay Area, there aren't many places out here that will chop down the tree for you right there and then. I was really glad we found this place. 
 It was almost getting dark and a major storm was forecast for the next day - very eerie.
Sophie on the hunt for the tree that was calling our name. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Visiting Gütersloh Again

Since we are so relatively close now, we arranged another trip to visit my sister Anke and her sons in Gütersloh for a couple of days again. Unfortunately we seem to be attracting the rain there, so that most of the time was spent with indoor activities. 
 As soon as we arrived on Monday, we headed with Kiron and Anke to his gym class, where they had a Nikolaus party for the kids with lots of cookies and other goodies.
One of Sophie's favorite things to do was going on this giant swing.
 Running off the sugar high.
 Action shot!
 Singing about the Christmas bakery (Kiron, Anke, and Sophie)
 Baking Christmas cookies. Anke had found letter stamps to mark the cookies with. 
 But about twenty minutes into it, the attention span started to be stretched.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Good Excuse to Get Together

So here is why we are so happy to have found this place (apart from it being in a big city): lots of other new families with kids Sophie's age. Since we are all new here, some clever neighbors thought that a visit from Nikolaus would be the perfect excuse to get together and get to know each other over a cup of Glühwein or two. 
 St. Nick groupies - our daughter is one of them.
Sophie had been a good girl and received a gift bag from St. Nick. 

Sophie and I were both slow to warm up (where is Andrew when you really need him?). But after a while she was playing catch with the other kids and I was chatting away to the other big people. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Lovely Visit by a Special Princess

We had my sister Anke and her two boys Luca (11) and Kiron (almost 3) come for a quick visit today. We hope it was the first of many more.
While Anke and I were having our coffee, Princess Sophie and Princess Kiron came down to surprise us.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Funiculus!

After St. Martin, another new holiday for Sophie to celebrate: St. Nikolaus. Or "Funiculus" as Sophie called him for a short while. Sophie has been somewhat confused about the difference between St. Nikolaus (who comes on 6 December) and Santa Claus. I told her that Santa Claus is St. Nick's fat brother. I'm not sure that she was buying it. 
 We started out baking some cookies for Nikolaus (and for us).
 We set out plate for Nikolaus and his horse (the other difference between the two of them is the mode of transportation they use: horse & carriage as opposed to reindeer & sleigh). We had a slice of bread and carrot soup (as we had run out of plain carrots) for the horse and a cookie and a glass of wine for Nikolaus. ;-)
 Sophie hung up her stocking by the door and stuck a picture for Nikolaus in it, hoping it would produce more presents. Then it was off to bed. Note to self: next year I will not tell her that Nikolaus will check on her in her room when he comes at night. Tonight she wanted to make sure that her door was shut tight!
The next morning, Sophie immediately checked the stocking. Nikolaus had indeed been there and left a snow globe for her. What a cool holiday!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Meeting Nikolaus at Mama's Castle

My hometown Bad (yeah, not so bad) Bentheim hosts a Christmas market with a twist. Some stands offer some gambling: you throw the dice to win some prizes such as sausage, bread etc. I always used to go as a very small kid, but haven't made it to this Christmas market in probably 25 years. It was about time to take Sophie and check it out.
 Sophie was very vocal about letting everyone in Bentheim know that this was her Mama's castle. Yes, we did get the stare. Of course!
 The rain stopped just in time for St. Nikolaus' visit. My uncle Gerrit and his girlfriend Gerdi had joined us for the occasion. We ended up spending a fun weekend at their house.
 Can you catch a glimpse of the man with the red hat? He was also throwing candy, but we did not stand a chance against the people in front of us holding open their umbrellas.
 As perhaps seen on a previous shot during nicer weather, there is a statue of Bismarck in the city center because he had once paid Bentheim a visit. He has a nice pith helmet, which has already been the subject of some Andrew jokes.
 Someone found yet another good use for the pith helmet. 
After some tears and crying, Sophie managed to conquer a spot on the tiny carousel. 
Sophie had a better view of St. Nikolaus from Gerrit's arms.

Sophie devouring her bratwurst drowned in mustard.