2014 already?? Although this was Connor’s second holiday season, it felt like his first because he was truly able to enjoy all the decorations, gifts, and excitement. (I promise…he was much more excited about the holidays than he looks in the picture!)
Charlie’s woodwind quintet performed Christmas carols at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center early in the day. Connor and I had fun at home baking pecan pies, green bean casserole, and playing with his Lego train. After Charlie came home, we had Thanksgiving Dinner with our town’s German-American Social Club. It was a potluck hosted by one of the members, and there were lots of people there. I think Connor only ate the turkey, but Charlie and I enjoyed lots of nostalgic holiday food. We were able to Skype with many of my family members who were gathered at my dad’s house for all of the annual Thanksgiving traditions back home.
My sous chef (yes, he wanted to wear my apron :) ) taking a break to play with his train set on Thanksgiving morning
Connor learned many new signs as he experienced all of the holiday magic: Christmas, reindeer, snowman, Santa, calendar (for our Advent calendar), wreath, ornaments, stocking, angel, and gift. It was so much fun to see him pointing out holiday things that he recognized anywhere we went. We bought a music-box Advent calendar at a holiday bazaar, and Connor loved to open the doors each evening. We hid some sort of small gift inside, like stickers, a new ornament for the tree, a box of raisins, etc, but if we had a busy evening or weren’t home, luckily he didn’t remember what he was missing! I bought a beautiful Advent wreath at our local florist, and Connor enjoyed the routine of praying and lighting the candles at dinner each evening. He would put his hands together to pray, and every time I asked who or what he wanted to pray for, he immediately said and signed “Da Da!” He loved our mini-Christmas tree and all the ornaments, especially the colored lights. We saw Santa Claus at the BX the week before Christmas, but Connor wasn’t interested in sitting on his lap. That was fine with us, because we were definitely not interested in having an upset Connor! Connor didn’t open his gifts until December 28, after we had returned from Hirrlingen. He was spoiled rotten by his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, Santa, German relatives, and our landlord!
Inspecting the Advent calendar
Decorating the tree
Playing with his felt tree
Decorating gingerbread cookies
Charlie was busy with four holiday performances throughout December. I was disappointed not to see any, but Connor and I enjoyed lots of quality time at home while Charlie was gone. After all of the concerts were finished, the unit hosted a great holiday party for the soldiers and families. We even won a few raffle items, including a beautiful handmade quilt and a 3-liter bottle of beer!
On Christmas Day, we drove to Hirrlingen to spend the holiday with my German relatives. This was the fourth time we have visited them, and they always make us feel right at home. Once we arrived at Annette and Gerd’s house (and their three teenagers: Elias, Julian, and Lillith), Charlie helped them finish preparing the midday meal while I helped Connor settle down for his nap. He stayed asleep while we enjoyed roasted leg of lamb, knödel (bread dumplings), roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, spätzle, potato salad, and a green salad. Don’t worry, we saved a plate for Connor, and his favorites were the spätzle and knödel.
After everyone relaxed and dozed after the meal, we drove to a church in a nearby town to see the Krippe. The Germans use the word “Krippe” or (crib) to describe what we would call a nativity scene. Krippe are found at most churches (at least in the area of Germany where we were), and they are very large and elaborate! Afterwards, we all went to Friedrich’s house (Annette’s brother). We enjoyed coffee and cake (including a homemade Linzer Torte that my grandma had sent to us), followed by singing many German Christmas carols. Luckily they had song books, so Charlie and I could sing along, even if we didn’t know what we were saying! I forget the word that Annette used, but it’s a tradition to compliment the beauty of someone’s Christmas tree with words or by singing, and then you receive a shot of schnapps for being so kind. We all sang our hearts out, and the schnapps was served! Connor had fun playing with some cars and trucks that one of Friedrich’s sons got out for him, and he also was intrigued by the cat. Unfortunately, the cat did not feel the same way, and Connor ended up with a very mild bite on his arm. He was upset and cried for a few minutes, but the skin wasn’t broken. It’s now almost two weeks later, and we still hear Connor randomly say throughout the day, “mrow mrow…boo boo” as he signs the word cat and then points to his arm. Once we got back to Annette and Gerd’s house that evening, I put Connor to bed, then the four of us grown-ups enjoyed a light meal of bread, sliced meats and cheese, and tomato-mozzarella salad.
The day after Christmas was Lillith’s thirteenth birthday! We had a nice breakfast with the whole family, and then Charlie, Annette, Connor, and I went to Mass. I’m embarrassed to say that was only the second church service that Connor has ever attended, but he made it through with flying colors! After walking home, it was naptime for Connor, and then lots of relatives arrived for Lillith’s party. These relatives were from Annette’s mother’s side of the family, so we had never met most of them. Most of them spoke English and we enjoyed getting to know them, and lots of delicious food was served (soup, chili, bread, cheese, roasted vegetables, and various dips). Later in the afternoon, Alex (Annette’s cousin) arrived to bring us to his house for the evening. We enjoyed coffee and cake with Alex’s family (his wife, also named Annette, and their two kids Sven and Nina), as well as Alex’s parents Elisabeth and Matthias (Elisabeth is one of my grandma’s first cousins), and Annette’s parents. Alex and Annette’s parents left after a while, and then Annette cooked a huge dinner of schnitzel, spätzle, potato salad, cucumber salad, cabbage salad, and green bean salad. In the meantime, Connor was having such a blast playing with Nina! Charlie and I were obviously stuffed from all of the wonderful food served to us throughout the day, but we were also overwhelmed with the constant offerings of coffee and wine/beer! I think I had more coffee and wine during our three days there than I normally have in a month!
Connor stuck to his usual vacation sleep routine of going to bed later than usual and thus waking up even earlier than usual…so we enjoyed the wee morning hours with Annette while everyone else slept in. Charlie made it downstairs for a light breakfast with us, then Annette and I went on a walk with Connor and the dog while Charlie took a nap. Annette and I enjoyed the sunshine (did I mention it had literally been raining constantly for the past 48 hours??) while Connor took a much-needed nap in the front carrier. Once we got back to her house, her father (Bernhard, another first cousin of my grandma) was walking over to see us. He had a big surprise for Connor to see…his TRACTOR!! Connor got to sit in the tractor, and I have never seen such a huge grin on his face! (I think Bernhard was equally ecstatic to be able to provide Connor with that experience!) He has been obsessed with cars, trucks, steering wheels, trains, and tractors for a while. Lately, every time he sees one, he signs “in,” and now he finally got to sit IN a tractor! He couldn’t get enough of the big steering wheel or honking the horn. Now, when he starts talking about tractors (which is often!), he will say “Buh buh” for “Bernhard,” and when we ask him what he did in the tractor, he will pretend he’s using a steering wheel and say “meep meep!” for the horn.
Annette served everyone a nice lunch of noodles, homemade meatballs, gravy, and tomato salad. Afterwards, Charlie, Connor, Bernhard, Annette, and I drove to the Wasserschloss (water castle) in the Black Forest, about thirty minutes away. Bernhard wanted to take us there during our first visit, but we didn’t have the chance. He took us to the cafe inside the castle, which was decorated ornately and had lots of interesting things to look at. We looked at two cuckoo clocks for sale, but neither was the style that we are looking for. (According to Charlie’s dad, we had better find a cuckoo clock soon, otherwise we will leave Germany with a new baby instead!) After looking at the clocks, we sat down for coffee and a giant slice of Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwald torte). Yes, we had Black Forest Cake IN the Black Forest! Connor tasted a little of the cake, but was much more interested in the foam on my cappuccino. We said goodbye to Annette and Bernhard (which is always emotional even though we know we will be back again) then hit the road towards home. It should have taken about two and a half hours, but it was closer to three hours with traffic. I was sure that Connor needed another nap, but he was content for the whole ride home. Around 5:30pm – literally ten minutes from home – he fell asleep. I figured he would wake up when I got him out of his seat, but he didn’t, so I laid him in bed. He woke up a few hours later and I changed his diaper and put on his pajamas, but then he went back to sleep and slept until early the next morning! Christmas vacation wore him out! As usual, we had an absolutely fantastic time in Hirrlingen and we are already looking forward to our next visit.
Can’t leave out the Christmas sweater shot!
New Year’s Eve
We had absolutely nothing special planned, which was fine by us. Connor and I went to bed fairly early, followed by Charlie not too long afterwards. At midnight we started hearing fireworks. Charlie got up, but Connor didn’t wake up until about 15 minutes into the show. I tried to get him back to sleep, but he wasn’t happy about it, so I decided I didn’t want to ring in the New Year with a crying little man. We got up and joined Charlie near our upstairs windows, which are huge and overlook the other side of Hochspeyer. The fireworks show was amazing! Individual people set them off from their own homes, but as we looked over an entire part of town, it was quite a show! Connor loved it. Charlie went back to bed once it started to die down, and I cuddled with Connor in the glider while we were still able to look out the windows and see the last of the fireworks.
Connor’s latest update (almost 21 months!)
I will try to keep it short this time since I rambled about our holidays :)
New this month: caterpillar, turkey, dinosaur, animals, brown, white, pink, full, empty, table, garbage (truck), forklift (you made it up yourself by combining “fork” and raising an arm!), doctor, sad, don’t like, boy, girl, broccoli, rice, Christmas, Santa, stocking, gift, ornament, reindeer, snowman, angel, (Advent) calendar, wreath
Not many new words: whoa, oh nooo!, and you say a few letter names very well (A, B, C, D, E, O). Speaking of letters, you can (usually) identify, say, and sign those same letters!
Legos (train set, duplo blocks), trucks (garbage, tow, and dump trucks), pots, pans, and lids, anything with a steering wheel that you can use
The pots and pans just never get old…
The new train set combines with his first set!
There’s a Hole in the Bucket, The Snowy Day, I’m a Little Teapot, Cars and trucks and Things That Go, Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever
Mama’s little helper
You will load an entire basket of laundry into the washer, from the washer to the dryer, and from the dryer to the basket. You love to empty the water from the dryer (not something we will have to do once we are back in the states!), put the lint filter back in, and help me carry one end of the basket into the living room. Helping in the kitchen is another favorite activity of yours, and you especially love to stir anything, pour ingredients from a measuring cup/spoon, and put lids on. You like to climb into your high chair and car seat by yourself, and you can do the buckles mostly by yourself once I help you with the straps.
He climbed up all by himself and started trying to snap the buckles!
We took off the front of your crib and moved it alongside our bed, so now you have your own space instead of sleeping in our bed all night. Your “new normal” is to stay asleep between 6 and 8 hours at bedtime before you wake up for the first time. I can usually soothe you back to sleep without nursing until around 3:00 or 4:00am, and then you like to crawl in next to me and nurse to sleep for the rest of the morning. You usually wake up too early (and I mean that it’s not enough sleep for you, not that it’s too early for me!) and I’m working on trying to help you get enough sleep.