Friday, January 28, 2011

Vitamins and Water Quality

The other day Mike came home and said that a co-worker of his brought to our attention something that answered a lot of questions for us.

For a while our whole family has been breaking out in acne. I haven't felt so young in years! Seriously though we just couldn't figure out why. There's definitely more humidity in the air here and we've been really stressed out and in need of a good nights sleep but, after a few months one would think he would adapt right? Well here is another piece of the puzzle. In the States, most major cities use chlorine during the treatment process, while Germany often does not. Why does Germany not? They believe adding chlorine is unnecessary. Why does America chlorinate their drinking water? Because chlorine is an inexpensive disinfectant that generally carries well at low levels throughout the drinking water system. So, that little toxin we've been adding to our bodies and washing with for years actually was helping us not break out! I guess the next question of mine is how the heck do I get rid of my pizza face?

The next little tidbit is vitamins. Before I left the States, the grandmother of one of Joshua's classmates came up to me and warned me about the lack of sunshine here. When she and her husband were stationed in Britain years ago, she actually had to seek medical treatment because of the bad weather. I scoffed at her thinking that it couldn't be that bad... after all, I was an ignorant Californian! She wasn't kidding. There truly is about 3 hours of sunshine a day during the winter if we are lucky! Most days though, it's raining or snowing. This, I think, has caused a serious downer for me. Emotionally for sure.

A playgroup instructor at one of Sam's playgroups said that she was tested and seriously lacking in Vitamin D. She took supplements and really couldn't figure out why women in general are so lacking in the important nutrient. Another puzzle piece I was given here... just about all women's makeup comes with sunblock mixed into the foundation nowadays, blocking what little sunshine we can receive during the winter here (usually the rest of our body is bundled up too. NARS brand is sold here and doesn't have SPF). I would have liked to talk to her more about this but our time was lacking. She's working through a doctor to receive "sunshine" treatments. Lack of Vitamin D can be a nasty thing. From what I understand, African Americans are incredibly susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency. It is a causing factor in depression and makes it more difficult for human bones to absorb calcium. Again, I really want to look more into this and possibly get a blood test to determine what nutrients I'm lacking but it's something to think about when one moves here. Take your Vitamin D! They sell supplements at the commissary and I've been taking those along with my multivitamin daily. Again, this is just the info I've gotten from others and online. The supplements seem to be helping my overall mood; along with switching around my diet and getting to the gym.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cathedral of Trier

Today, we took a road trip to Trier, Germany, which is near the German border of Luxembourg. It's only a bit over an hour drive from Landstuhl, but it was nice to get away for a few hours and experience something new. After spending the lion's share of these first two and a half months within a stone's throw of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC), trying to transition into the community and create some form of normalcy in our lives again, hitting the road for Trier was a great stress relief. As Nicki mentioned in her prior post, we have found and signed a contract for a rental home, so we have just another fortnight or so to wait until we can move into a more permanent living situation, and we can actually see our own home furnishings again. Now that we've locked in a move-in date, we feel a little more free to spend our weekends doing more of what we have wanted to do... explore Germany!

The primary goal for our trip to Trier was to visit the Cathedral of Trier, which is the oldest cathedral north of the Alps and within all of Germany. It was constructed in the 4th century; though it has been through a few renovations along the way. We got there in the late morning and I snapped a few photos of the exterior building before we headed inside. Once inside, we were amazed by two things:

1. The enormity of the place and attention to detail within the architectural and artistic building elements, and,

2. Our two year old, Sam, actually remained quiet for the entire hour or so that we spent inside the church, once we asked him upon entering to be silent.

After walking the inside of the cathedral while taking turns pushing Sam's stroller, we worked our way back outside. On the way back to the car, we stopped by a German toy store - these places are a lot of fun and the toys are so cool - and Nicki picked up a couple toys for a new baby recently born in our circle of friends. Then, it was back to the car for lunch. Nicki had packed a picnic style lunch for us, so we actually hit the road from Trier and stopped to eat at an autobahn rest stop, which was perched on a hill overlooking several small villages.

Some photos of the trip (and one of Jane, our cat) are below:

Jane the Cat

Cathedral of Trier

The Main Altar

These Organ Pipes are Huge

A Building Across from the Cathedral

House Sign in front of the Toy Store

View from the Toy Store

Friday, January 7, 2011

Super Dubber Kinderland in Dahn and Ramstein Aquatic Center

Yes, I finally have my license. Everyone get off the sidewalks! This is really a relief to me. Unlike Japan, it's pretty crucial to have my license here. Because of the snow, it's difficult to commute via foot just about anywhere. It's caused me to feel very isolated and glum.

However, armed with GPS, I'm feeling much more confident. Even now with a lease signed for a new home, I'm feeling much better.

Last week we went to Kinderland in Dahn. It was a short one hour drive to a huge indoor playground. Absolutely huge indoor play structure (about 3 stories high) small go carts, bicycles, tricycles, bounce houses and trampolines. This was exactly what I needed for the kids to sweat off some energy. The price wasn't too bad and it got us out. Something that we needed to do.

Another place that we've gone to recently is the Ramstein aquatic center. It's located on Ramstein AB and is really great for all ages. There is a small wading pool that's 1.5 ft deep and a small fountain. Perfect for the itty bitties. The other children's area is about 4ft at it's deepest, with 3 small water slides and 1 really big tube slide. There are life vests there for toddlers and preschool kids. Swimming lessons are offered there and a ton of activities like mommy and me swim in the bigger pool. Now until March is Cosmic Swimming in the evening with glow sticks for sale. Also, they have birthday party packages. The center opens early at 9:00AM on Wednesdays; perfect for me. After dropping Joshua off at school, I can drive over. The bummer is that we have the pool basically to ourselves. Around 10:00/10:30, other moms with toddlers start showing up. Sam has to take an early nap for him to get enough sleep before I pick up Joshua at 3:00. We usually show up at 9:00 are done around 10:00-10:30, get showered, dressed and home by 11:00, eat lunch (done around 11:30-12:00) and then nap until 2:30. Then it's off to pick up Joshua. At least that's the rough plan! I'm looking forward to when we move to our home and the bus picks up and drops off Joshua. It will give me a little more flexibility, I hope. As usual, I've given a little too much info and gotten off the subject but I hope that readers get the point that this Aquatic Center in my opinion is state of the art and a great place to take the kids. I do really want to try Azur, which is also in Ramstein but off base. I hear it's nice. In addition to kid pools it also has a sauna and tanning booths. WOOHOO!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where Have all the (Reasonable) Houses Gone?

Hey everyone, it's Mike. Happy New Year!!! We took a couple weeks off from the blog to celebrate the holidays in style - though in this case, the definition of "in style" means: staying put in our temporary quarters here in downtown Landstuhl. It was actually very nice and relaxing. Santa was very generous, leaving us with a few more wonderful distractions to keep us all entertained until we finally get reconnected with the furniture, toys, and other things that we haven't seen since early October, before moving to Germany. I worked most of the week between Christmas and New Years, except for the federally authorized holidays. It was slow and most of my coworkers were off the job, which allowed me some ample time to continue learning what's expected of me at my new post and catching up on some of the work that was waiting for me when I arrived.

New Years in Landstuhl, in a word, is crazy. Back in the States, there are only a few select areas that allow regular customers to buy powerful fireworks, without having to obtain a special permit or go through other legal hoops. At the strike of midnight here, it seemed as though every man, woman and child had their hands on some form of explosive. The fireworks were literally exploding all around us, as far as the eye could see. My pictures give a taste of what we saw, but provide only a limited view. 1000% more insane in real life.

Our search for a more permanent housing situation has continued to be challenging. If Dante Alighieri had written his Divine Comedy in the 21st century, he would have created a 10th circle of suffering called "Searching for Landstuhl Area Housing Outside of PCS Season". There has been very little selection within the school zone we're searching, and those houses that do pop up seem to get snapped by other scavengers before we even get a shot at them. We've started checking the appropriate websites multiple times a day, in hopes that we're the first to find and act on new listings. We've now decided that it might be worth our while to expand our search to include houses within the Ramstein school zone. Ramstein seems to have a lot more availability for families within our demographics (family size, age of kids, pets, etc). This just means that if we find a place outside of Landstuhl, we'll have to request a waiver for Josh to continue attending the school on post where I work. Others have successfully obtained waivers, but it's another hurdle that I was hoping to avoid, as Josh has already been shuffled through more schools than I care to count over his young educational career.

Tomorrow is our first look at a house in the Ramstein school zone since deciding to expand our search. From Google maps and from the property description, we're filled with some hope. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things that I've Learned Part I

Things that I have learned about moving to Germany with young children in the winter.

If one is freezing cold, head to the bowling alley on Vogelweh but make sure to bring one's shorts and tanktop. I think the heater is broken. It was so hot in there that a soda fountain broke down and the liquid inside was unsafe to drink because it got too hot.

The HUGS playgroup on Lanstuhl is Tuesday mornings at 10:30-12:00 not Monday mornings. Just about everywhere, it's advertised as being on Mondays.

I should always set my timer in my car so that I don't go down to an icy snow covered car that I have to clean off of 20 minutes. Plus, it feels so good sitting down on warm leather seats vs. cold leather... brrrrrr.

I should have studied for my drivers license exam, passed the test and bought a car immediately upon arrival. I was nervous and wanted to get Sam into CDC before getting involved in the whole "getting settled process". It wasted precious time. I should have bucked up and gotten things done a lot quicker.

Bring swimsuits. Ramstein has a very very awesome indoor pool for kids of all ages. In fact, there is a playgroup that meets there on Wednesdays, which I'm going to try and visit tomorrow. I understand Azur off base is a great indoor pool as well. I'm really looking forward to visiting that one as it also has hot tub and sauna.

Buy snow boots or good quality snow foot protection for the entire family. It's pretty imperative to have good walking shoes for the weather. If there's no room in luggage bags, send them to your new mailing address so they are there for you upon arrival.

Hit the ground running when looking for a home. That is, go on the site (a .mil email address is required for site registration), Ramstein yard sales, Kaiserslautern American classifieds and look look look. This time of year, it's VERY difficult to find a good home in the Landstuhl area. We have found a good home, but it's not exactly what I'd like, so we are going to look some more when things open up more in the spring/summer. I've heard that during the spring and summer (major PCS season) it can be tricky because rentals get snatched up quickly, so if one sees something they better grab it because it will be scooped up at the next appointment.

We had a great sponsor. We were booked at a nice temporary lodging facility off base. Civilians will more than likely be placed off base for temporary lodging. If one has kids, be sure to get something in town. Not just near town. In town. Many times families are booked at a very posh hotel. Although it's very nice, it's a little bit of a hike to town. On a google map, it may not look like it but in snowy weather on a steep hill, it's a long way! When I couldn't drive and the snow started falling early, I was so thankful for being within walking distance of a supermarket, cafe, drugstore, etc.

These are just a few things that come to mind. I'm sure that I'll add things when I have a chance, or when more comes to mind! For now, that's all folks!