Two bittersweet trips to Hirrlingen (March 18-19 and April 2-3)

I remember my 5th grade family heritage project so vividly: gathering photos and family tree information from my Grandma, my dad helping me make spätzle for the class…I never would have thought that I would actually be HERE in Germany, standing where some of those pictures were taken, and meeting people on the family tree! I feel so incredibly blessed to have the chance to get to know my German relatives while we are living here. Charlie has enjoyed meeting and spending time with them as much as I have, which just makes it even more special.

One of the relatives we spent a lot of time with was Bernhard. He is one of my Grandma’s first cousins, and I first met him many years ago when he visited the states. His daughter, Annette, reached out to me when we moved here and invited us to come for a visit. (Little did she know we would keep coming back!!) Bernhard was often emotional when we arrived and when it was time to say goodbye. Even though he didn’t speak English, it was clear how much it meant to him to connect with his American relatives.

Bernhard always had something special he wanted to do with us or show us: a certain restaurant or cafe, a cuckoo clock shop, or a museum he knew we would enjoy. He was like an Opa for Connor…taking him on his tractor or buying him a special sheepskin rug just like all of his own children had.

Bernhard passed away in his sleep on March 12. It was unexpected as he had been in good health. Connor and I were able to drive to Hirrlingen for the funeral, but Charlie had a concert and was crushed that he couldn’t get away. I was grateful that I could attend the funeral and represent the American side of the family. It was a nice Mass with lots of music, and afterwards everyone gathered for refreshments.

Charlie, Connor, and I drove to Hirrlingen again on April 3 for the burial of Bernhard’s ashes. I know that Charlie was relieved that he had the opportunity to say goodbye. There was a small ceremony at the gravesite with close family, and we were so touched that Annette allowed us to join them. Afterwards we all went to a café for coffee and ice cream and enjoyed an afternoon of socializing. We went back to Annette’s house for a little while, then back to the church for a special Mass.

Although the reason for our visits was a somber one, we nevertheless enjoyed the opportunity to see so many relatives and even meet a few new ones. Everyone was in remarkably good spirits; it seemed like they were focusing on celebrating Bernhard’s life and rejoicing that he is now with his late wife Renate. We made so many memories during these two short trips, and Connor still talks about so many of the relatives by name.

Bernhard, we are blessed to have known you.

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Happy 2nd Birthday, Connor!

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You have been growing and changing so quickly over these last few months! Watching as you develop your language and creative playing skills has been incredible. I’ll try to keep your update short so that I can work on another post about our two recent trips to Hirrlingen.

At your 2-year checkup on April 17, you weighed 28 lb and were 34.5″ tall (50th percentile for both).

Talking and Signing
I stopped writing down your new signs after the last post. Even though you are talking now, you still love learning new signs. You especially love watching the “little girl” on YouTube teach us new signs and sing songs using them :). (MySmartHands if anyone is interested!) When I wrote the last post 3 months ago, you were only saying a handful of simple words like mama, daddy, oh no, and whoa. Now you can say almost anything!! You can imitate almost any word (not perfectly, but you get most of the sounds), and you have a large vocabulary of words that you use without any prompting. It’s amazing to hear you speak in sentences already, even if they are broken sometimes. Some of our favorites are: “Mommy, more (fill in the blank…) please!” and “Daddy, build blocks please!” You are curious about people and always want to know “Who be there?” or “That man name?” With some prompting, you will ask, “What’s your name?” and can respond when someone asks you the same question.

I think you can pretty much say the whole alphabet and sign each letter. You can count up to 15, but often skip numbers :).

Favorite Toys
Legos, cars and trucks, and your play kitchen with its countless food/kitchen toys are your favorites. You enjoy doing puzzles and reading books, too. It’s so much fun to see you completely engrossed in what you are playing with! You are incredibly creative in your play, and you love to pretend to be other people, trucks or tractors, a fireman, etc. I constantly hear you exclaim, “Connor be Reilly!” “Mommy be Amy!” or “Connor be digger!”

Favorite books
Opera Cat, She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain, Love You Forever, anything about cars or trucks
I love hearing you quote your favorite books randomly throughout the day 🙂

Mommy’s little helper
You still enjoy helping with the laundry and cooking in the kitchen. You are able to follow directions and complete tasks pretty well, like putting away your toys.

Sleeping and eating habits
You like to eat, and you continue to enjoy most everything that I cook. Your favorite foods include eggs, beans, corn, broccoli, meat, oatmeal, and dried fruits. Bedtime is around 7:45-8:00pm (starting in your bed and crawling over to me at some point), and you usually wake up around 6:30am. Naptime lately has been about an hour and a half somewhere between 12:00-2:30. A few days ago, you napped by yourself for a little over 2 straight hours. That was a first!

And now the most important part of the blog…more pictures!

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Fixing the wall

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Decorating Easter eggs

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A new Lego fire truck and cement mixer!

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Connor’s new “walking bike”

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Happy birthday, little man. We love you to the moon and back!