Friday, March 13, 2009

Christmas Time In Germany

Christmas is probably my favorite time here in Germany. Everything is cold, sometimes white with snow, it gets dark really early and the Weinachtsmarkts are open. These are a special event that I truly enjoy. The last time I went to one, though, was before I was pregnant with Katja. Since then, I have been pregnant or pregnant or with a newborn or two in the hospital, you know the story.
So, this Christmas was special. I went to the Weinachtsmarkt.

Weinachtsmarkt in Hannover

Here is a picture of this big thing they build in the middle of the city. It looks like a giant Windmill. They sell Gluwein and Cocoa and food from this building. They have many of these, only smaller stands all over the city. That is the joy of the whole thing. You can shop and buy neat little crafty things. You can just stroll and eat. The whole city is lit up with Christmas lights.

Christmas Tree by the Marketkirche in Old City Hannover

Each city that has a Weinachtsmarkt has a Christmas tree. Ours is in the old part of the city next to the market church. We do not have much of an old city left after the Allied bombings. There is a great Weinachtsmarkt in a town close to us, Celle. They still have many old, old houses. I want to go there next year.

Nanny Sarah's parents came to visit us from Canada.

They stayed with us for a week. They had a great time and the girls really liked them a bunch. Baby Sarah thought that Papa Nielson was super.

She has good taste!!

They did a bunch of traveling and playing hockey.I had a great talk with Sarah' Mom, Donna, about how on Earth you can survive with five kids and how to handle things financially. I think I will post her ideas about that later. We celebrated an early Christmas celebration with them before they flew home to Canada. I did check their suitcases before they left to make sure they had not tried to take one of my babies!!!

Then I decided that the actual Christmas Eve and Christmas day we would take it easy and have no guests. It never turns out that way. Uncle Wolfgang is a bachelor and I cannot tell him not to come. He is always invited. So, as usual, I got a bit carried away and tried to cook this major Christmas dinner.We do not have frozen rolls here or Betty Crocker, so I made homemade rolls. They were the best part of the meal. I did a turkey, and homemade dressing (again, there is no Stove-Top here. No Stuffing at all in fact). Then I went online and found a recipe for Green Bean and Blue Cheese Gratin. I cooked that while watching the video online. God, my computer was my best friend. I looked up a bread recipe on it and was tabbing back and forth between the green beans and "how to tell if your turkey is done" and giving orders to Samantha. I am out of my mind. It will probably happen again next year.

Samantha and Uncle Wolfgang

Baby Sarah looking cool in the new outfit Nanny Sarah bought her.

My sister helped out with the present buying (thank you again Aunt Becky) which was a Godsend.We also got a donation from a nice lady in Midland. We payed off the medical debt with donations, a gift from my Dad and by selling off things on ebay. There was not anything left over for Christmas. So, I was so happy when I was actually able to buy them presents. It turned out wonderful.

Where did all the presents go??

I really wish Germany had a Walmart here that I could go to during Christmas and get a Christmas position at. I did that one year when I was single with Samantha. I worked a bunch and put presents on layaway and was able to make that year successful. There is just not an easy way to earn cash here.

Christmas was a success. I learned a bunch this year. I am going to buy stocking stuffers throughout the year. I am also going to try not to cook another Turkey. It is for the birds!!

Katja's Third Birthday

So, much has happened. It has been three long months since I last posted. With five children, I am amazed when I get the laundry caught up and shower. Let alone write a post on my blog!! So, I will attempt to catch everyone up on the last three months. I will start with November.

Katja Turns 3

Katja turned three years old a week after the twins celebrated their 2nd Birthday. She was in full princess mode with a crown and everything. There is no doubt that this little girl is that, all girl.
She was so proud of her crown. She told her Oma about it here on the phone in German and then Grandpa Taylor about it on Skype on the computer. She talked about it for weeks. She actually got two crowns, and a pretty white shirt that said Princess on it. Pretty pink play earrings. Man, she has it made. I still am amazed that I get to go through this whole princess stage with five girls. I am so lucky.

She got a new babydoll.

Not that we need another one but she was a bit jealous that the twins got one the week before and I wanted to avoid all fighting. But, give me a break. They still are fighting over them. Anyway, she really was proud of her baby and her crown.
Michael had a friend from work over but we kept the party small. I cannot imagine doing a big party for each child, every year. So, we are trying to do an every-other-year rule and then maybe it wont get so crazy.

Nanny Sarah's parents in Canada sent a present for Katja.
That was really nice.
See here here wearing both crowns
and holding the gift from Canada.

Nanny Sarah's parents are always sending things to the girls. I think they want Sarah to sneak one home with her in her suitcase when she leaves.

So, now she is 3 years old. I am talking to her about how big that is and how important it is to be my big girl helper. She seems to like her status. She is very stubborn though. I am also concerned because she seems to have a very anal cleaning streak. This sounds okay in theory but Katja wants to control everything and keeps everything meticulously clean. It is scary. I cannot even get the chance to cut her nails because she has bitten them down so short that there is nothing there to cut. I may have to read up on this type of child. Never seen anyone like it in my life.
She is speaking English again to me. That is so nice. Ever since Nanny Sarah arrived, things have gotten so much better as far as the verbal side of the children. Katja and I have real conversations. I am really hesitating sending her to a German preschool. I have heard from other mothers and seen it out in the public, once the child enters the German school, they stop speaking the mother language. They understand it but speak back in German. I have seen so many Turkish and Russian families here where the parents are speaking in the mothertongue and the child is answering in German. I think they should be able to speak both. I have had so many Germans tell me that I should not want my child to speak in English to me. I should give up my culture and embrace the German one. We will see about that.

Anyway, November was a success. That leads us to December. Christmas was coming and I was actually not pregnant and able to go to a Weinachtsmarkt. I will write about Christmas in my next post. I have to go and nurse baby Sarah.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We Are Two!!

The twins have turned two! I now, and for the next week, have a house with 3 two year olds in it. Kajta turns 3 next week.
Wow, Kelly and Sabrina are two. They had such a wonderful birthday. It was so different than last year. Last year we had plenty of guests but Kelly was still really withdrawn because of her West Syndrome and did not really enjoy it. This year she was just like every other average kid. She was so excited about the cake and the presents. I am going to post videos later today or this week. The girls each got a new baby doll.

Here is Kelly opening hers. Sabrina got an identical one too, of course.

They could not wait to get them out of the boxes.

They both said "Baby!!"

and they both

kissed their babies.


They also got a Dora video. Kelly about flipped out because she loves Dora. Then they got plastic dishes.

These were a necessity because we had one small set.
and they all kept fighting over them.
Same thing with the baby dolls. We had one large baby and they all fought over it. Now they each have their own. The dolls were inexpensive. I went for the dolls that require imagination. They do not talk or poop. I like that much better.

The twins look so cute with their matching shirts, a gift from Michael's friend Julia and with their matching hats. They are twins, after all. The girls had such a good time and Kelly did a great job grabbing the paper and pulling it off.

Oma and Opa Meyer came to visit and celebrate the double birthday.

Here is Oma holding Baby Sarah.

Nanny Sarah gave the girls both play cellphones. Again, I was so impressed with Kelly.

She knew just what it was and both she and Sabrina started talking away on their phones together like professionals!!!

Next they will want an I-Phone.

Nanny Sarah's parents in Canada sent the girls gifts too. Now we have several really cool Disney Singalong DVDs.

This is a super addition to our house.
Every single one of my five lovely flowers loves to sing.
I think they get this from me and from my Mother too.

Thank you to the Nielsen family in Canada!

I did not bake the birthday cakes.
Somehow, I just do not seem to have enough time to do everything.
I bought frozen ones in the store. They turned out really cute though.

Everyone wore a hat, even Baby Sarah.

Oma and Opa gave us money and we bought the girls a Princess Tent with it. We let Katja unwrap that because she is still too young to get the idea that only the birthay person gets a present.
Everyone had to get in on the act. Even big Sister Sam wanted to get inside of the tent.

Wait, who is that? Is that Oma's behind sticking out of the tent?

Once Oma figured out that she did not fit into the Princess tent, the girls had it all to themselves. We put Kelly into her Bumbo chair and fun was had by all!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Life is Good Again

Well, life is still crazy but it is good again. We are out of danger and I can stop and smell the diapers again. MMMM smells good in here!!

I sent everyone an email update but I have not had time to post an update because the girls have been playing sick for the last two weeks. All five have had a fever and they have been taking turns at it. One would be sick for 2 or 3 days and then the next one would take their turn. With five of them that means about two weeks worth of fevers. It is over and now we just have runny noses!!

Well, we have been paying off the medical debt and we are finally out of danger. The nursing firm is payed off and even some of the smaller medical bills. We bought Kelly a bumbo baby feeding chair and I am going to order her a creepster crawler today. So, thanks to you guys, life is good here again. Thank you all for your prayers and for your donations. This was a terrible time in our lives and now it is over. I received so many wonderful, heartfelt donations of all sizes. Each one was special and appreciated. Very, very much. I hope now that I can get our lives back on track and start living like a normal family.

We are thinking about starting an online business of some sort. Maybe selling smaller special needs equipment here in Germany. There are many items from America that would be a benefit to the special needs kids here. It is amazing just what we do NOT have here in Germany. We also need to find a way to earn more money so that we can assure that Kelly receives all the therapy that she needs. We have to face the fact that insurance companies are just out there to make money (I quote my brother Jerry here) and they are not going to pay for everything. There will be more surgeries and things they do not completely cover. Michael and I want to find a way to get ahead of the game so that we can provide all the children with what they need and never be in the situation where we are afraid of losing the house.

But, at the moment, Life is Good again. We are still wearing cloth diapers. I am still counting my pennies carefully. BUT we are actually able to stop and enjoy and smell those diapers.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cloth Diapers Rule

Well, here is the update I promised on our great cloth diaper experiment. I have learn so much over the last weeks.
First, you need a bunch of diapers with this many bottoms. We go through 25-30 a day!! That is a lot of tee tee!! Remember, my goal is to be able to wash them but hang them up to dry so that we can save money. In order to do that I had to find used diapers enough for two days worth of use. Then, I wash a load at night, hang them up, use the second batch on the kiddos during the day and allow the previous days diapers to dry hanging. In the winter, when the cellar is really cold, we will have to use the heating room or lay them on the heaters in the house. Germany, at least most of Germany, does not have central heating. We have these heaters that are up against the wall. The oil heats up water down in the celler which then runs up through the pipes and heats the rooms. The price of oil really kicks our bottomss too. We may have to have 3 sets of diapers to be able to do it without using the dryer.
Second, there are so many varities of cloth diapers on the market. There are some really cool brands out there. Most are way to expensive for what we are trying to do here. We are using a brand called popolini. They are really easy to use and one size fits all the bottoms. That is a major plus for me. What I really wish I could afford are the ones called Bum Genius or Fuzzi Bunz. They are a complete diaper with the liner inserted into the diaper and the cover is waterproof. These are very much like disposable diapers. You do not need the plastic cover with them and one size fits all again. They have adjusters. Unfortunately, they are super expensive. I bought our popolini on an ebay auction and got enough for one child. That is 18 diapers, absorbent liners, flushable paper liners that you use to catch the poop, 2 plastic covers. These parents are selling them on ebay as a complete set. I am hoping to resell mine when we are done.
Third, not everyone in the family is as excited about this experiment as I am. Michael is clueless about how to put the diapers on. The rest of the crew is being patient with my experiement, even though it can be kind of yucky when they get really wet and then also have a nice big poop. That is why those paper liners are great. With Samantha, 15 years ago, we did not have those and then we had to swish the diaper in the toliet. No need for that now!! I am greatful that all the people who help us out during the day are participating in the great diaper experiment and not complaining. I think everyone understands I am just trying to save money and save the house.
Well, baby Sarah looks a bit wet. I better get on it and change that diaper. I do miss the absorbency of a good old pair of Pampers!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thank you and an Update

The last two weeks have been very stressful in our home. We have come forward with this situation and I want to take time to thank you all for helping us so far. I want to address a few questions you have asked about our situation. I also want to tell you how far we have come and what we are still trying to do. So, bear with me and read on to find out what has happened to the Meyers.

· We have received many great donations from people all over the US, including people I have never met. This has lifted my spirits up so much and given me hope. I received donations from strangers, my uncle, my aunt and her mother, my cousin, old friends, an old boss, old students from LCU, another mom from the CP website, and many other people who just heard about our situation from the website. I am trying to email everyone individually but it will take me a few days. I am currently sharing the computer with my teenage daughter and with the other four girls around, there is not much time.

· I received one email asking why we are asking for our donations to be sent to an American address and account. That is because I still do my banking in America and it would be easier for us to get the money from my debit card here than have American friends trying to send things to Germany.

· Another friend asked if it was too late to send donations. NO, it is not too late.

· We have approached the firm that provided the nursing services last year and given them what we have collected so far. We still do not have the complete amount to pay off the bill but I am hoping this will buy us a few weeks time.

· People have asked me why we do not just get a lawyer and sue the insurance company. There are several reasons we are looking at.
1. The company found a nice little loophole and said they do not have to provide the type of care we received while I was pregnant. There are different words for different kinds of care given to sick people in the German insurance language. They told us that what we received was not what they covered in the insurance. Then they pointed to the city and told us to contact them. The city said the insurance should pay for it and we needed to work on their interpretation of the wording. This game of pointing fingers went on during the whole pregnancy.
2. We cannot bite the hand that provides for Kelly. We just checked with a social worker familiar with the law and they think that it would be very difficult to sue the insurance company. The other problem would be that if we attack the insurance company, and we later need them to approve something for Kelly, then we have bitten the hand that feeds us and may be denied for something important.
3. So, we would have to sue the city of Barsinghausen. We could do that and still may but if we do not pay this bill ASAP, it will not matter because we will lose everything anyway.

· I know many, many families in the US with children who suffer from CP or other medical conditions who have the same problems. Medical bills that the insurance will not pay. Insurance companies are evil. The difference is that the families in the US can ignore their bills for years and no one comes and takes their house or job away. I live in a foreign country where things are different. In America the other parents with CP children have had fundraisers done for them in their hometowns to raise money for bills, or new therapy or equipment that the insurance will not pay. People give them money and participate in the fundraiser and never once tell the people that they should just get a lawyer.

· So why not do a fundraiser here in Germany? Those are not common at all here. People give once a year around Christmas to big charity foundations. The social worker we are speaking with is trying to get us funding through one of these foundations. We will apply for something next week.

Please believe me that we are trying everything we possibly can to take care of this situation. I have thought about doing some type of craft and selling it on the internet. It is all a matter of timing and funding. At the moment we have done what we can for the short term and it is a matter of waiting and seeing what happens. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Janette and the Meyer Family

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Great Cloth Diaper Experiment

Cloth Diapers

I am trying to find a way to save money. One thing way we keep throwing money in the trash, literally, is with our daily diaper use. We use 6 diapers per day, per child. With four children, that diaper use adds up and it all gets thrown in the garbage.

So…Okay, maybe I am nuts but I am changing the four little ones all over to cloth diapers. Yes, I will have four children in cloth diapers. Why am I doing this insane act? Do I want to live with the smell of wet diapers in a pail? Four sets of diapers? Well, that is something I am going to find out.

Katja needs training panties. She knows how to use the potty, but she is in a lazy mode and does not always make it to the potty. With everything that is going on here, I have not been able to focus time and remind her every so often. She needs to have training panties on, instead of a diaper, which will be uncomfortable and alert her that she is wet. So, the cloth diapers here look like training panties with Velcro. I will be using the largest size on Katja, which should speed up her toilet training.

The plan is for us to find used diapers and start the kids out next week. Cloth diapers are very expensive now. There are so many varieties here.

Here is our plan.

1. Not buy the diapers new. They are really expensive.
2. Bid on used diapers on ebay.
3. Ask the neighbors and the midwife if they have any or know of anyone who has old cloth diapers they do not use anymore.
4. Put diapers on all of the children during the day. I might put them on the older ones at night. They are very absorbent.
5. Use a paper lining product that you can get cheap, to catch the BM or poop so it is easier to dispose of. I swished them out in the potty when I had my first daughter in diapers and that was gross. I do not want to have to do that now, with four little bottoms at once.
6. Put the used diapers in a pail to soak with detergent in the water.
7. Wash the diapers every other day on 60°. This is a European temperature. They have a temperature that is 95°, which is close to boiling. It would get them cleaner but it would cost us more money. I plan to use the 60° first and then if that is not enough, I will move on to the higher temperature. The German washing machine I am using is awesome and will probably get everything out on 60°.
8. Hang the diapers up to dry. I would use our dryer, but again I am trying to save the family money. These diapers are thick so they will take longer to dry if I hang them up. We have a room in our basement where I do the laundry. The cellar does not get warm ever, so it takes longer to hang dry clothes. We also have a room in the cellar where the heating unit is located. This room is warm in the winter. I will be hanging the diapers up in this room. I will be timing how long it takes to dry them in this room. I am washing a pair today and want to see how long it takes to dry. On sunny days, which are rare in the winter here, I will hang them up outside.
9. If the children get wet and have trouble sleeping through the night, God forbid, I will put one disposable diaper on them at night.

This sounds like a bunch of work, and it will be. The idea is that I am hopefully going to save 200 Euros a month by cutting back on our diaper bill.

I will keep everyone updated.