Friday, August 27, 2010

Things We Know and Don't Know About Our Move to Germany

We're getting a lot of questions about our move back to Germany.  Here are the lists of the top 5 things we do and don't know about where we're going and what we're doing.

Things We DO Know
Bryan will look great in tweed.
  1. We know a lot of people in Germany; several in the vicinity of where we will be living.  Can't wait to see all of our old friends!
  2. We know that the program Bryan is in should last around 4 years, but we do not have definitive plans for after Bryan gets his degree.  (Other than Bryan plans on insisting everyone - including me - call him "Doctor."  I plan on buying him a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, corduroy pants, and black rimmed glasses to give him the "sexy professor" look.  He hasn't admitted to it, but I think he really wants to get a hot tamale for hotness on )
  3. We know that we are bringing Oscar with us.  Oscar is totally freaked out right now - his doggie-sense has kicked in and let him know that something is afoot.  Piece by piece we are selling our furniture on Craigslist and each time something goes he gets more nervous and clingy.  What a pain all of the Pet Passport paperwork has been, though.  3 trips to the vet down and 1 more to go. 
  4. We know that we need to buy a winter wardrobe once we get to Germany.  The average high/low temperature is 39/32 degrees in January and 71/56 degrees in July.  Brrrrrrrr!  Both summer and winter seem cold to me.  According to Wikipedia (which means it must be true), we won't get much snowfall, but it will rain a fair amount.  That's a far cry from the summer we've had here in Jacksonville.  We recently had 50 days in a row with a heat index of 105 (41 Celsuis) degrees or more.   
This is a photo of Munster in the winter.  It must have been on one of the 12 days of the year when they got snow.
      5.  We know that 'die Hohner' is on tour this fall in Germany.  They are Bryan's favorite German music group and he has been carefully watching the Hohner "Termine" website (German for Concert...evidently)  for the latest concert updates.   Though we haven't learned German yet, Bryan will appear to be fluent for the two hours of the concert, as he knows the words of each song so well.  Going to a Hohner concert will shorten Bryan's 'Things to do Before I Die' list by at least one entry.  I wish that was a joke. 

Hohner: Proof that Bryan is "a 49 year old trapped in a 29 year old body."

Things We DON'T Know
  1. We don't know how to speak German, but we plan on learning. The PhD program that Bryan is in is all in English (whew!).  Dylan will probably learn the language faster than we do.  We will look into enrolling in some kind of language classes or possibly doing an English-German tutoring exchange.  We'll have to figure that our when we get there.  On my list of things to do before leaving is to buy a new German-English dictionary.
  2. This image from Google Earth is the only image
    we have of where we will be living.
  3. We don't know anything about the place where we're going to be living.  It is furnished, but that could mean many things.  We haven't seen any photos except for it's location on Google Earth.  All we asked for was that they have a crib and highchair there for Dylan when we arrive because I'm pretty sure the first thing Dylan's going to want to do when we get there is either eat or sleep.  I'm assuming there will be a bed for us to sleep in, too.  Once we get there, we will take some pictures and post them.
  4. We don't know who is going to be renting our house in St. Augustine.  We have signed up with a Property Management Company and are praying for a renter fast.  If you know anyone in the Jacksonville / St. Augustine area who needs to rent a 2 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom townhome with an expertly built 16'x16' deck by master-craftsman Bryan Foltice, please call or email us! 
  5. We don't know when we'll be coming back to visit.  That is one of the things that is totally up in the air at the moment, but hopefully we'll get back our friends and family in the US often.  We'll love having visitors on our side of the ocean too, so please come and visit us!
  6. We don't know how to drive stick shift.  Not totally, but I haven't driven a stick shift car since learning once in high school.  Bryan learned 6 years ago when we were in Germany and drove a manual car maybe 5 times total.  We expect to learn this quickly by driving very late at night or very early in the morning.  Hopefully, nobody (or transmissions) will get hurt in the process. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Big News - You're Going to Want to Read This

We have big news! (No, we are not expecting another baby.)

Bryan has decided to pursue a PhD in Finance at the University of Munster in Munster, Germany! In addition, a nearby basketball team in Borken, Germany has picked up Bryan to play for the upcoming season (and hopefully future seasons). We are so thrilled and excited to begin a new journey. Moving back to Germany, Bryan getting a PhD, and playing basketball again have been big issues on our hearts that we’ve been praying about during these past 2-3 years and we are so thankful for the opportunity to move our little family (Oscar included) to Deutschland.

Munster, Germany
We have been busy selling a lot of our belongings and sorting through our stuff in order to depart. Since moving back to Germany has been on our hearts for several years, we’ve been pretty strategic to not purchase anything that can’t be replaced – most of it is just “stuff” and that makes selling it much easier. Those few items that truly can’t be replaced, we will keep in storage (thanks Mom and Dad!), but mostly we’re bringing our clothes, Dylan’s toys and Oscar with us – everything else must go.

To those of you who we just saw in Michigan in July – sorry for not saying anything. We really wanted to tell everyone, but all of the details weren’t final and we didn’t want to risk saying something then having it fall through.
Borken, Germany

We’ll be renting out our home in St. Augustine and on September 2 Dylan and I will take the train up to D.C. to spend a week with my parents. Bryan and Oscar will wrap things up here in FL (cleaning the carpets, selling everything else, bringing what’s left to Goodwill, etc.) and drive up to D.C. a few days later in the van (yes, that same van that has no A/C or working windows … good thing they’ll probably drive at night). We then leave for Germany on Thursday, September 9!

We will need lots and lots of prayer to make it through the 8-hour flight with a 1-year-old on our laps and a dog in the cargo area. My blood pressure rises just thinking about it. To everyone else on our flight – sorry in advance.

The nature of our blog is going to change a little, but we think it will be much more interesting to write about our adventures in Europe than the adventures of a stay-at-home-mom. The pictures will probably be more interesting too.

There’s probably a lot of questions unanswered, so please send them to us and we will do our best to follow up or post responses in the comments section of the blog.
The purple bubble is Borken and the pink bubble is Munster.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Picture Update!

We haven't done a picture update of Dylan in a while and there is some catching up to do.
Dylan loves the swingset. This was the only day in July where the seat wasn't scalding hot.

Dylan thinks it is cute when he wears Bryan's hats.  We agree.

Dylan is getting to eat all sorts of new things.  I am trying to feed him a cube of mozzarella cheese and he is rejecting it by sticking his tongue out and pointing to his mouth.  He does the same thing with broccoli and anything else that is green.
Dylan likes to help fold the laundry by getting in the basket and throwing all the clothes out.
Yes, he is wearing my sports-bra on his head.
Extreme close-up!
We went to the beach to expend some energy.  He was afraid of the waves at first,
but by the time we left he thought they were funny.
Running into the ocean...
He was very tired on our way home from the beach.  I forgot
to pack him a dry outfit, but at least he was wearing a dry diaper. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Aerosmith Weekend!

After a crazy long date drought (again) we took things to the extreme and booked a babysitter on Saturday from noon to 3 a.m. so we could drive to Tampa to see Aerosmith in concert!

This was a concert compromise because I finally became fed-up with going to see the same bands over and over again (Poison, Def Leppard, Skid Row, etc. etc.) that I refused to go to those anymore and Bryan would go by himself.  It was just time to see a new band, and Aerosmith met our criteria for a mutually enjoyable concert:
  1. They're a rock band (Bryan's requirement - if I ever want to go see John Mayer again, I'll have to go by myself)
  2. We've never seen them before (my requirement)
  3. We know enough of their songs to sing along (both of our requirements)
We made it to Tampa with about 2 hours to spare before the concert, so we headed next door to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.  Bryan had never been to a casino before and was so excited to check out all the games.  I didn't want to be a "Dana Downer" so I didn't tell him how boring casinos and gambling actually are, but Bryan quickly found out for himself. 

After a couple of games of slots, Bryan was clearly upset by the stupidity of the game.  "This is the dumbest thing ever!"  He exclaimed for the entire row to hear.  "Why do people do this all day?"  Soon enough, a casino employee was on the spot explaining the surprisingly complex slot machine rules to Bryan.  It still didn't satisfy him, but it kept him quiet. 

Bryan with his slot machine winning vouchers.
Feeding the vouchers into the machine.
Let's see how much he won...
Booo.  Only $1.20.
Here are the top three reasons why gambling isn't fun:
1.  The casino's have made even the simplest games (like the slot machines) crazy confusing.  It's not as simple as putting in a quarter, pulling the lever and three Cherries = Jackpot.  There are up to 25 different "lines" to play on one spin, just making your chances of winning anything that much smaller.  
2.  No one looks like they are having fun.  The casino is full of sour-faced zombie people mesmerized by the flashing lights.  We were convinced by the end of our time that the casino was playing a tape of winning (ding, ding, ding) noises over the speakers, because we never saw anyone win anything. 
3.  You lose money ... every time.   We spent about $5 on the slot machines and were so bored it was tempting to just walk away leaving spin credits remaining on the machine.  

The only fun part was making fun of what all the zombie gamblers were wearing.  For whatever reason, all the younger girls were dolled up like they were actually going out in Vegas (not just outside of Lakeland, FL where the Hard Rock is located), but the guys were a mess.  I am not usually the fashion police, but socks and sandals are always a no-no. 

The highlight of our time there was observing the 'high limit' poker table.  We went around the table, having a field day on each guy.  I caught fire.  "That guy looks like he has no idea what's going on.  I wonder if he took acid this morning and wound up at this table.  He's gonna wake up tomorrow asking himself, 'Was I at the high limit poker table yesterday? Why are these headphones around my neck'?"  (Bryan's note:  I love it when Dana gets on fire...and I'm not the target.)

We also theorized about what the guys with headphones were listening to.  I say it's a self assurance CD that repeats encouraging words of affirmation a la Stuart Smalley.  Bryan believed that everyone was listening to John Tesh.  We will need to research this more in order to get to the bottom of this.   

We made it to the concert around 7:30 and were pleasantly surprised that Blue Oyster Cult was the opening band.  They played "Godzilla" for about 45 minutes, then wrapped up their set with "Fear the Reaper."  I honestly think they only played two songs.

Some people nearby (on the lawn) let us sit in their folding chairs.  This family told us that this was their 6-year-old's 4th Aerosmith concert.  Bryan joked that Dylan is only a year away from his first concert.  I am almost positive he was serious.

In between sets, we struck up a conversation with a guy who we thought was handicapped due to our inability to understand him.  Turns out, he was a drunk guy named Russ from Yorkshire, United Kingdom.  The difference between the two were quite negligible.  Bryan is used to speaking with people from London, but he was having a tough time understanding Russ' "English."  It was an awkward conversation.  We were happy that Aerosmith came on stage early. 

Aerosmith came on about 8:45 and for whatever reason opened with a cover song that no one knew.  Weirdest opening song ever, but they quickly recovered and went into "Love in an Elevator", "Livin' on the Edge," Walk This Way," "Crazy", "Cryin'" and a bunch of others classics. 

All in all, the concert was excellent, although the temperature was around 80 the entire time, so it was very sweaty with no breeze.  I was super hot, so I can't imagine how Bryan felt in his leather pants.  Also, due to the noise restrictions for the amphitheater, this was the only concert I've even been to where I left and said without any irony "You know, it could have been a little louder."  Bryan and I could hear our own voices singing along way too much.

Before the concert began, and before it got too hot.
Very sweaty, but a great concert.
I promise, Aerosmith is up there somewhere.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Trip to Michigan Part II - The Invasion of the Keeler House

After departing Chesaning after two restful days, we headed over to Grand Rapids to visit the rest of the family.  The Keeler Family graciously offered us their house to stay at while they were on vacation, so we were really able to take over the house with Dylan's stuff.  Dylan needed a play area so we took the liberty of pushing the Keeler's family room furniture to the walls to create some space.  I was so embarrassed when they stopped in to pick up something in the middle of the week and found their family room rearranged and in complete disarray with Dylan's toys. 

It will be easier to describe the rest of the week through photos, so here it goes.
Dylan met his cousin Johnny for the first time for a play date.  Here they are commenting on each other's baseball shirts.
We went out to dinner with the Foltice - Foster group.  All the kiddies were well-behaved and Dylan even made it through without screaming until the very end when he needed a diaper change.  He screams bloody-murder whenever we need to change him in a public restroom.
Four generations of Foltice men got together and we captured this precious photo.  Even though Dylan doesn't look like me in his baby pictures, there is still a good chance that this is what he will look like at the ages of 29, 63, and 91.  Dylan, this is your future. 
At Grandma and Grandpa Mohr's, Bryan took Dylan out on the Jet Ski.  He was not happy at all about the super-sized life jacket we made him wear and cried the whole time.  This is Dylan's 'I am on the verge of freaking out'' look. 
It was a very short ride but at least we got a good photo from it.  You could hear Dylan's horrific shrieks a mile down the river. 
Good times at Grandma and Grandpa's.  Yes, this is the same black shirt Bryan was wearing in previous pictures.  He didn't change his shirt all week.  Bryan almost hit a golf ball across the Thornapple River, or at least he was convinced that he came close.  We will let him continue to believe that. 
Just the three of us went to Holland Beach and to Captain Sundae's for some ice cream.  Dylan has unhinged his jaw to get as much ice cream in his mouth as possible.
All full from lots of ice cream and sprinkles.  Bryan finally changed his shirt.   All of these years later and we still perform a 'drive by honking' every time we pass.   
After Captain Sundae's we went to Amy's house for a playdate with Wade.  Dylan and Wade had fun together and both were good boys and went to bed around 7:30 so the adults could hang out and Bryan could lose numerous games of HORSE to Amy and Pip on Amy's basketball court. 
When we woke Dylan up at 2 a.m. to go back to the Keeler's house, we realized we put his crib too close to the desk drawer.  He had quietly pulled lots of files out and trashed the office in protest of being put to bed.  He even slept on top of a bunch of papers.  On a brighter note, the Popielarz's taxes are done this year.
Dylan had a few more play dates with the Foster kids.  We're so glad he got to spend time with his cousins! 
Family photo of Bryan, Dylan and Bryan's parents (and little Johnny sidled up at the last second to get in the photo too)
We wrapped up the week at Barlow Lake with the Scott relatives.  I guess I was done taking photos because this one of Dylan and Maggie examining the Washers game is the only one I took.  The lack of photos must mean I was just off having fun.  By the way, if you ever want to easily beat Bryan in a game and see him get mad, play washers.  We got to see the classic Bryan 'I am really pissed off but at a family gathering so I can't show it' face this evening.  Classic.
On Saturday, we put the Keeler's house back together and made our 19 hour journey back home. 

Thank you everyone who hosted us, hung out with us, took us out to eat and made time to see us while we were in town.  It was so awesome to see everyone!