So...going back to April once again, our third full day in Germany was Thursday, the 19th. At some impossible hour of the morning, Elisabeth and I left, taking a couple of trains and a bus to get to Ratingen for Elisabeth's two-year-old check-up. While the well-baby/well-child check-ups ARE now compulsory for people living in Germany, we can get excused from them because of not living there full-time (although we still have our residency there), but we receive notifications for every one as it comes due, and then warnings that a social worker will visit us (really? here in Cyprus?) if we don't respond by such-and-such date. It's not a big deal, but I don't mind the check-ups, and so when I can make them happen while we're in Germany, I do. As I have been told at EVERY single U7 (the two-year-old check-up), this particular one is known as the "screaming check-up", as two-year-olds have such a reputation for not being cooperative. However, with most of my children, I've been told that by a very surprised nurse or doctor, because most of my children thought the whole thing was very interesting and cooperated very well. Elisabeth, however, was quite into the two-year-old thing, and it wasn't a great experience for either of us.
I ran a few errands in Ratingen, got the bus back to the airport, two (or three?) trains back to Hamminkeln, and arrived just in time for lunch with my brother-in-law and his wife, who had taken time off of work to drive the three hours one-way to spend an afternoon with us. Didn't get any great photos, but here are a few.
Tante Claudia with Katie, who just happens (truly, it wasn't planned!) to be wearing a dress that Lars and Claudia gave to Marie when she was six or so.
Not sure what Katie is doing to Onkel Lars here, but he was laughing...
Just before Lars and Claudia left, Lars decided to show the boys how to do a hand-stand against a wall. He didn't notice the clotheslines hanging up and broke one with his feet...
Thursday night Jörn took the train to Düsseldorf to pick up the car that the C family was lending us for the weekend, and Friday morning E from Globe Europe took me into Wesel to pick up a rental car. I also took Marie, Katie, and Elisabeth with me. While I went to my doctor's appointment (routine check-up, no, I am NOT pregnant), Jörn took the other three children with him to take Lukas to his orthodontist appointment, also in Mülheim. Jörn's Cypriot telephone doesn't work in Germany for some reason (mine, a cheaper one, does), so we had no way to contact each other, just agreed to meet up at 1:00 at the house of friends in the north part of Essen.
I was finished with plenty of time to spare, and as we were driving past the ´main city cemetery anyway, I stopped there. Neither Marie nor Katie wanted to get out, so they stayed in the car reading, while Elisabeth and I went to the "Sternenfeld"--the place where babies under 500 grams are buried. I'd only been back there one time after the funeral for our son in 2007 and surprised myself with walking straight there, taking all the right turns without even thinking. The graves are unmarked, but the area is marked off, with a statue in the middle where people can put flowers and such, if they want. (Which I don't.) I took the photo first, then walked closer...and realized that there was going to be a burial that morning, possibly any minute. The funerals are only twice a year, once in April and once in October, always on a Friday morning, and this was exactly five years and three days after our own baby's birth, five years to the day after that year's April funeral. Because of tests that were run on our baby (because of that being my third miscarriage), we just missed being able to participate in the next funeral and had actually had to wait until October ourselves, but I hadn't forgotten the date. For no reason that I can explain, I did want to see the burial area again, but I did not want to meet the funeral procession coming from the chapel, most definitely did not want to see that tiny, tiny coffin containing all of the miscarried and aborted babies born in Mülheim since October. Nor did I think that any of the parents who might be there would be really happy to see me with Elisabeth, so I hurried away.
A more cheerful sight on the way to the Autobahn: a field of daffodils.
We all met up at Thomas and Caro's house with no problem and had a wonderful few hours with them and their two gorgeous daughters, with whom my own daughters immediately ran off to play princesses and lots of pink and girly things. Elisabeth enjoyed riding on this quadracycle:
We took several nice photos, but I try not to post photos of other peoples' children without their express permission.
From Essen, the four youngest children and I headed back to Mülheim for Mutter-Kind-Kreis ("mother-child-circle", a playgroup for children up to about age 6, which I was part of from when Marie and Jacob were four and two), where I thoroughly enjoyed seeing lots of old friends. Lukas participated in the Jungschar group (a sort of junior youth group, ages 6ish to 12ish), excited to see Florian, and I got to see Peggy briefly and meet Hannu, as they were setting up for the wedding reception the following day. In the meantime, Jörn and the other children went to the H family's house in Oberhausen, where we met up with them after Mutter-Kind-Kreis.
One measly photo, of Andrea playing with Helen:
Andrea's mother, Barbara, runs another playgroup (for children under three), which I was also part of from when Marie and Jacob were four and two, so I've known Andrea since she was eight years old and Barbara and I became good friends. She took care of the three oldest children while Katie was being born, was the person we could call at 3:00 a.m. to take all four children when I had my last miscarriage, babysat at other random times, and spent many hours packing and cleaning our flat before we left Germany. I tutored Andrea in English for a little while (I think when Katie was a baby), Barbara and Andrea visited us in spring 2010, and Andrea came and stayed with us in Cyprus for almost six months in 2010/2011, while she volunteered in a nursing home here. She and her cousin visited again in autumn 2011. She's now studying to be a nurse, and most exciting of all for us, she's here in Cyprus with us right now for 11 days. :-)
We spent the night at their house (also briefly getting to see Barbara's husband and her son, Nils), and that makes this post quite long enough.