Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year's Eve from Germany!!!
We had one of my favorites for lunch, Municher Weiss Wurst (white sausage) with pretzles and beer and then for dessert/ tea time we had the traditional Berliner (Jelly doughnut).
We were loving participating in some different holiday traditions..... especially the doughnuts! : )
Fireworks are a HUGE part of the New Year's Eve celebration in Germany.... sort of like the 4th of July in the States!  We didn't have plans to set off fireworks at midnight (we had to get up early to leave on the morning of the 1st) but Mutter got sparklers for the kids to enjoy!!!!
The kids had a blast playing with the sparklers!!!  It was the perfect ending to the afternoon.... we had play hide-n-go seek, worked in the garden, and enjoyed the cooler weather..... hard to believe we are leaving this all tomorrow.... it has started to feel like "home" and the kids are starting to speak a bit of German..... why is that just as it is time to leave is when you have settled into the new routine?!?!
Just means we have to come back..... I've actually thought about spending a month or so in Germany and sending the kids to camp so they can learn even more German..... we'll see if we can make that a reality..... we are all about chasing/ living our dreams these days!!!!
The kids figured out to make their sparkler a "double sparkler" by lighting it in the middle... double the fun!!!  We thought our firework adventure would end here since we all went to bed early however, most of the fireworks in Osterode were lit right at the end of our driveway so at midnight we were all awoken (besides Ethan) to a HUGE firework display!  It was fun to enjoy a bit from the comfort of our little apartment and comfy jammies before crawling back into bed (and let me say someone else decided to light off fireworks at 4:30am... ugh!!!)
Crazy to look back at our New Year's Eve last year and think of ALL we have accomplished this year!  What a year 2013 has been.... we are looking forward to 2014 and everything it has in store for us!!!!  Happy New Year to our family and friends!

German Cousins

If you were a fly on the wall during our visit with my host family.....
You would probably assume we were blood related.
You would probably assume the kids had all grown up together.
You would probably assume we all spoke the same language.
You would probably assume we've been playing this game for years.
You would probably assume we got each others jokes.
You would probably assume we've known each other since we were babies.
You would probably assume we all shared the same holiday traditions.
You would probably assume we've all heard about Grossvater's bees.
You would probably assume that Ethan is the youngest grandchild out of 8.
You would probably assume that a weekend running in Grossvater and Grossmutter's garden is something we do regularly.
You would probably assume that we've opened many gifts together.
And you would probably assume that we've taught each other many new things.
However, NONE of that would be true... and when I tell you that after you've spent 48 hours on the wall watching us all interact you wouldn't believe it!!!!  Heck, I don't even believe it!
The last time we saw my host family Owen was 14 months old and I was pregnant with Addyson.  That means, for the most part, the kids have never met that they remember meeting.  My kids don't speak German and Birthe's kids don't speak English.
We've never spent a holiday together as a big family or worked in the garden together or shared jokes or played games.  Nope.... we are doing it all for the first time and despite language differences and blood differences......
We are FAMILY!
Family is someone that shares your heart.... not your blood..... and despite the lack of blood bonds we have spiritual bonds that can't be broken... we CHOOSE to be family.... and luckily we even look like family.... and we get each other....even though we don't understand each other... and that is LOVE!
I honestly think I am one of the luckiest exchange students there has ever been!!!!  I was welcomed with open arms 18 years ago and still to this day.... with 4 extra people in tow.... I am welcomed with open arms... and loved... and understood.... and my kids are SO lucky to  have German cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that love them like family!!! 
We joked about this but,  here's to Hosins -Host Cousins!

Ethan in Germany

The year I lived in Germany I had a standing "joke" about the weather, it rained the day I got there and it rained the day I left and it rained every day in-between and that is pretty much how the weather is in Germany and what we experience while we were here.  The nice thing is that in between ALL of the rain (we had all rain and no snow : (  ) there are also some nice days/ moments you really have to take advantage of and that is exactly what we did!!!!
When the weather was nice.... we were outside!!!  We did SO much hiking, walking, gardening this trip and it was good for our soul!  It was nice to be bundled up and enjoying cool weather vs. being in shorts and a tank top and trying to tolerate the HOT weather!
At times the sun was SO perfect and the background TOO great to pass up taking pics.... I tried not to carry my camera with us on every hike and at times I regretted it.... I'm telling you, I could have gotten some AMAZING pictures on some of the hikes we took.... and proof that our kids are TROOPERS with how far that hiked in the Harz mountains surrounding Osterode!!!
Other times I wasn't around.... like I was packing or helping in the kitchen and Brad took advantage of the moment to take some great pics.... I was proud of him for thinking of that.... I'm usually the photographer in the family....
Anyway, as I looked back on the pictures in my camera it looks like Brad and Ethan had a mini photo shoot while we were in Germany!!!!
Too Cute!

Thanks Brad for capturing these cute moments of our little guy!!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day in Hannover

My host sister Birthe came into town yesterday with her family and today she offered to drive her family and my family into Hannover.  Hannover is the town that my host family lived with when I was an exchange student 18 years ago and then I went back to Hannover to work for a nursing home for the German Red Cross after my sophomore year of University.  I was excited to go back and get a peak at the town that I called "home"!  Vater and Mutter even offered to pay for all of us to go to the zoo!!!!  You know us Brewsters, we LOVE a good zoo!!!!
The year I lived in Hannover was my 10th grade year of high school and that year you have to do a 2 week internship.... I did mine at a kindergarten close to my home and my good friend (she was also American) got to do an internship at this zoo playing with the baby chimpanzees..... I was SO jealous!!!!  Funny how I eventually got to work with baby chimps myself later in life...
and now here I am back at this zoo years later with my own little chimps!!!!  Amazing sometimes how life comes full circle!
One of the exhibits at the zoo is this neat walk through with these birds.... Ethan thought it was great until one came up close to check him out!
The two big kids got brave and got close to and even touched this one.... that wanted their picture taken with the "sleeping" one..... it wasn't sleeping it just wasn't.....
walking around like the others!!!!  We didn't even realize but we had "lost" Owen and we turned back and saw that he was on the other side of the 2 birds that were walking around... and he was crying!  So Brad had to go save him!!!!
And then the birds decided that they didn't like Brad so much and they went up and started attacking him with their beaks!  I couldn't help but laugh!!!  Good thing he had put Owen over onto the other side of the fence before the birds got to him!!!!
One way to cheer Owen up after being pinned by a bird....
take him to see his most favorite animal on the planet (remember he asked Santa for a meerkat last Christmas?!?!)  They are one of my favorites too!!!  I almost studied these guys at the St. Louis zoo instead of the Spider monkeys and Colobus monkeys!
Having daddy around to help lift up kids, answer questions, and steer in the right direction is SO nice!!!!  I just love vacation and am SO thankful he gets about 60 days of vacation a year!!!!
We found an animal show to watch... it was cold, the seats were covered in frost (that means a wet hiney when you sit down), and the show was in German.... but we all still had fun!!!!!  We all speak the same language of "cute animals"!!!!!
Checking out the lions perched on the rocks!
Riding an Elephant in "India".... maybe he'll get to ride a real one sooner than later!!! : )
It was a COLD day but a great morning at the Hannover Zoo!!!!
After the zoo Birthe dropped us off in downtown Hannover so we could walk around while she went to visit her sister-in-law!  This downtown area is one where I spent A LOT of time (I just broke the news to my host mom that I skipped a lot of school while I was an exchange student.... no one was keeping record of my or my grades so why go?!?!).  Some days I'd come hang out here just to walk around... I told myself I was learning more German by interacting with people than I would learn in school.... that's how I justified it to myself.  Here we are in front of the main train station... the train station where my host family stood with a big American flag to pick me up for the first time.... look how much I've changed!!! : )
We did lots of walking around.... I was really hoping to remember more than I did.... I really wanted to take them to the American bar/restaurant I use to meet my American friends at once a week but I couldn't find it... and I didn't recognize as much as I had hoped I would.  So, after an hour of wandering around feeling lost.....
we were finally able to partake in one of the things I REALLY wanted to do on this trip.... treat my kids to Spaghetti Eis.... ice cream that looks like spaghetti!!!!  Going to an Eis Cafe (ice cream cafe) is very popular and the menu is HUGE with SO many things to choose from some of them being food that looks like Italian foods (these cafes are run by Italians) like spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, etc.  The kids LOVED it!!!  So much fun to share special memories with these 3!!!
We had such a wonderful day in Hannover... the only thing I wish we had time for was to go see our old house and old school..... guess that just means we have to go back!!! : )