Our German Cottage

The hubs and I are ADDICTED to Househunters International, especially the European episodes. We would watch it and say, “Look.  Those people moved abroad with their kids or their pets.  We can do it too!”.

We love guessing which of the three houses the people are going to pick and also like to say which one we would chose. Well, if we were on an episode ourselves we would definitely choose the home we are in now.  Just like the show where each choice has its pros and cons, so does our new home.  It has boatloads of charm with the thick wooden beams, original wood floors, and German antique and modern furnishings and decor.   It feels so homey.  I love the smell when we walk in the door, it just screams Germany to me.  I don’t know why.

The downside is that those original floors creak loudly and are not always level.  The walls are quite thin, so you can hear anyone walking or talking upstairs.   And the spiral staircase!  It is a necessity for such a small house, but can be a challenge when trying to carry a baby up and down or if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.   Even so, the positives far outweigh any negative.

This is the first time in any home in Europe where we have had so many appliances.  We have a dishwasher, washer/dryer, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, hot water boiler, iron, CD, and tv.  We feel very spoiled.  We are loving our new home.

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Solicitors Welcome??

On our second day here, we had an interesting experience with a solicitor.  She rang our front door bell.  Since we don’t know anyone here yet, we didn’t want to answer.   So we let it go.  She walked around the house to our back door and knocked.   Hubby went to the door and told her we don’t speak German.  In English, she started to tell him that she worked for the storm company and wanted to know if we owned the house.  He said, “No, we are renting.  We can’t help you.”  We thought that was the end of it.  Then we look out the window a few minutes later and she is sitting at our patio table having a drink and organizing her briefcase on the table.   Hubs ask her what she was still doing there and she said, “Just having a rest and a drink!”

Is it just me, or is that kind of strange?  I wouldn’t see that ever happening in the states.  She finished up her drink and threw the bottle in our recycling bin.  Did I mention that they are crazy (in a good way) about recycling in Germany?

International Cat Travel

The most daunting part of our moving to Germany was taking our cats with.  Our cats are our children and there was never an option of leaving them behind.  Either they came with or we didn’t go.   We didn’t want to let them stand in the way of this opportunity, so we were willing to do whatever it took to bring them with. It used to be that animals were quarantined.  In some countries, they still are.  However, to come to Germany, they would get to come right along with us in the cabin of the plane, but we had to jump through some hoops first.

We had to get rabies shot and a special European 15 digit microchip, which we had to order online, 21 days or more prior to the trip.  Then, we had to get a health exam done 10 days or fewer prior to the trip.  Next, we had to go to the APHIS office of Illinois, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to get three separate documents certified.  These documents were giving our vet palpations over whether or not he filled them out right and used the correct color ink.  He was afraid he would be the reason we were denied entry of our cats.

So we got all the paperwork and medical stuff done. The next hurdle was actually getting them on the plane and the flight itself.   The airlines had a weight limit of 18 lbs. per cat including the carrier.  Well, one of our two cats is a little plump and a month before the trip he and his carrier combined was 19.4 lbs.  So we had to put him through a little boot camp and diet to get him ready.  At the airport, each cat has to be carried by hand through the security machine, while his or her carrier goes through the X-ray. This was our biggest concern because we didn’t want them to bolt in the airport.

There were many days we went back and forth about whether or not to go through with it because of the cats.  Would they be okay?  Would they be different cats once we got there?   Would they cry the whole flight or get sick?  There are so many unknowns.  But the one thing we have learned and try to keep in mind with anything in life is that you can’t let fear keep you from doing something.

In the end, everything turned out fine and actually easier than we thought. At the check-in counter they just asked us their weight, they didn’t even put them on the scale.  So it turned out we could have said anything, but Micho did lose enough weight in actuality.   When we got to security, we asked if there was anyway to get around taking them out of the carrier, and they allowed one of us to go to a private room.   My hubby did that one, not me, and he has the scratches to show for it, but he said it was better than doing it out in the open.   Then on the flight they were quiet the whole trip until the last 30 minutes. One of them cried the duration of the descent.  I think his little ears were hurting as much as ours were!

This just proved to us again, if you have faith and a positive attitude that things will turn out okay.   We can’t let fears hold us back.   Now, their adjustment to our new home is a different story, I will save for another post.  But they made it.  They are officially international travelers!

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We Moved from Chicago to Germany!

We did it! We are finally here. We made the move with two cats and a baby to Germany. It has only been 4 days since we left Chicago, and already there is so much to tell.  I would like to use this blog sort of as a journal to capture our time here, in addition to sharing our experience with others.  I already have many stories to share about the first week. I will try to break it up into separate topics so far. Can’t wait to share our adventures with those who are interested.

Embracing uncomfortable

Is anyone surprised when I say we are moving back to Europe? We must sound like a broken record!

We are going back to Europe so Greg can play basketball again.  Our destination is Hagen, Germany, where Greg played two years ago.   What makes this, his 8th season of professional basketball, crazier is that we are going to be taking our two cats, Zoe and Micho, and our baby girl.

You can’t believe how many people say things to me like, “Wow!   You are an amazing wife to keep doing this for Greg!” or “How do you keep putting up with this?”  I guess people don’t understand that going is just as much for me as it is for him.  While he gets to follow his dream of playing professional basketball, I get to follow my dream of living abroad and passion for travel.   I am not “putting up” with anything.

Are we excited?  Definitely!  Are we nervous? Most definitely!  The strange thing is that the part we are most nervous about is bringing the cats, not the baby.  The baby will adapt, but will our cats? It’s no easy task to bring cats overseas.  We are not only concerned about getting the right vaccinations and documents, but seeing how they will do on the plane and in their new home.  Will they howl the entire flight?   Will they be stressed about their new environment?  Cats do not like change.  They would be content to stay in the same place forever if they could.  Unfortunately, their parents (Greg and I) feel the exact opposite.  Staying in a comfortable place for too long makes us uncomfortable.

That’s our new motto, by the way.  “What’s uncomfortable now becomes comfortable later.  What’s comfortable now becomes uncomfortable later.”

Will it be difficult to leave family and friends? Yes (uncomfortable)

Will it be stressful moving our family on only 1 suitcase each? Yes (uncomfortable)

Will it be challenging to be there without a support system and dealing with a different culture/language? Yes (uncomfortable)

Anything worth doing is going to be uncomfortable at first.  But we believe that doing what you love will make you happy in the end, you just have to get through the hard work and difficult phase. The discomforts of the move far outweigh the feelings of regret we may feel later.   So for now, we are embracing uncomfortable.

Hypnobirthing: Is it all in your head?

We are conditioned from childhood to believe one thing about childbirth…
It will be the most painful experience in a woman’s life.
We’ve seen it in tv shows, movies, and heard it from generations of mothers all of our lives. But is this the truth for everyone? Is it the only way?

Hypnobirthing has changed my entire belief system of child birth and what it CAN be.

I am an admitted hospital phobe. I get faint being in and around hospitals. I get faint thinking about needles and giving blood. My blood pressure shot up thinking about getting pregnant and having to go through all of the routine procedures involved in pregnancy. I told my midwife about my fears and she thought I would be a good candidate for a hypnobirthing childbirth course.

When I heard the word hypnobirthing I thought about being in a trance and a watch being dangled in front of my face. Again, this was just ignorance. But wanting to have a smooth childbirth, I was willing to try anything.

Turns out it was the perfect thing for me.

In the last 5 years of my hubby and my life journey, being positive kept popping up. We had our own anxieties while we were living abroad in Greece. One of the things that helped us and that we worked on daily was being positive. Trying to put a positive spin to anything and everything. We realized that you have to retrain your brain to be positive.

We came across some information somewhere that estimated that our brains produce as many as 50,000 thoughts per day. Of those 50,000 thoughts, it is estimated that 70-80% are negative. So I am not crazy for having some fears. But how to change that?

You DO have control over those thoughts. If you are having a negative thought, you can stop it. If you are having a positive thought, you can stop it.

Hypnobirthing has changed all of my thoughts about childbirth from negative to positive. Through the lessons I have learned in class, I have released my fears and anxieties. I have completely transformed my visions of what childbirth can be.

Will people think I am crazy?
Yes.
That I don’t know what I am talking about? Yes.
That I am in for a rude awakening?
Yes.
Well, what do I have to say to that?
They are just being negative!

You’re using a midwife? WHAT #@?

“Are you crazy?”

“Are you having your baby in a bathtub?”

“Good luck with that! (sarcastically)”

“You have no idea what you are getting into!”
These are just a few of the responses I got to my plans to use midwives for the birth of my first child.

I am five weeks away from the birth of my first baby and I plan to have natural childbirth, use hypnobirthing techniques, and midwives. (possibly water birth if it’s available)

It might sound strange that I haven’t really talked to any one close to me about my plans to use midwives and natural childbirth methods.   But not really.   Would you talk to people about your childbirth plans if these were the responses you got?

I think it’s really sad that there are so many misconceptions in the U.S. about midwives and the role they can play in childbirth.   But because I was met with such judgement, I found it easier to just not say anything at all rather than have it thrown back in my face.   I also didn’t want people to think that I was belittling the way that they chose to give birth, through the choices I am making.

Reasons my husband and I chose midwifery:
1.   Watching the movie “The Business of Being Born” : I highly recommend this to anyone newly pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or even thinking about getting pregnant.  It was truly eyeopening about the “business” of childbirth in America’s hospitals.  It helped us decide that midwives were aligned with our goals and hopes for childbirth.

2. Fears and Anxiety:  I have had many phobias about hospitals, needles, and blood.  The thought of pregnancy and childbirth scared me enough, that we kept it on the back burner for years.  I liked the idea of a midwife being with me for the long haul of labor, and not for the 10 minutes before the baby’s arrival like a physician.  This helped to quell some of my hospital fears.
3.  Mothering approach: From my personal experience, midwives have a more nurturing approach to patient care and the childbirth process.  From day one, I have felt comfortable telling them about my fears/anxieties, as well as goals/hopes for childbirth.  I felt the opposite with my physician.

Now as I approach the arrival of my baby, I think maybe I should have been more vocal to friends, family, strangers about my choices for childbirth.  I guess that’s why I am writing this now.

Maybe people would benefit from hearing about my plans.  Maybe people would become more educated and informed about birthing options.  Maybe people would become less judgmental.   Maybe they will be supportive of my choices.  Maybe they would understand.

Maybe…  Until they hear about hynobirthing!