Friday, August 29, 2008

Sizzling Summer Vacation Spectacular '08

First lets get business out of the way. Kristen at We Are THAT Family is hosting the Sizzling Summer Vacation Spectacular today, complete with door prizes. Make sure to stop by and see what all the fuss is about! You really don't want to miss all the fun!

So how do I fit a summer vacation that encompasses three continents, two states and the District of Columbia into one blog post? I don't know either, lets find out together.

My summer started and ended with boxes. Lots and lots of boxes.  I loath boxes! I loath packing! I loath unpacking!  All you FS, military, NGO and other global nomads, I know you feel my pain! But in between all the boxes was a glorious, sunny, fun-filled summer!

We started the summer in Asia.  Jakarta Indonesia to be specific.  We celebrated the end of our two years there with one last trip to our favorite place, anywhere.  The Sailing Club at Tanjung Lesung.  As always we had an absolute blast.  Thanks to Dave and Sophie for making our last weekend in Indonesia so wonderful.  I hope to make it back again someday.  There is no place else quite like it.
I love this place!  

A week later we were on the other side of the world hanging with freinds and family in San Antonio, Texas.  We had so much fun seeing everyone, going to the river at Guadalupe River State Park, watching the parade and fireworks on the 4th and of course girls night out at the Melting Pot!  We even made it to the circus and got to watch Grandma Sheila show one of her Japanese Chins.
David step away from the camera and no one gets hurt!

Everyone loves a parade!

Look, No Kids!

Wonder what they are looking at?


Our time in San Antonio was too short and by mid-July we were in Kentucky letting our red-neck side hang out and enjoying a week-long crazy-family get together hosted by fellow blogger and sister-in-law Terio.  We ate ice cream, had fun in the sun, went four wheeling, and the boys learned a little archery from Uncle Kevin.  The best part was just watching all the cousins spending time together! 
Cousins everywhere!

Keeping cool in the heat!

Volleyball family fun

Uncle Kevin arms the kids, nowhere is safe now

Obviously Paul was at the wrong place at the wrong time!

From Kentucky we headed off to DC where we did much sight seeing, enjoyed a visit from a good friend, and David even managed to accomplish a bit of work. 
Yeah, that's original! Not!

Doug and Dave smile for the camera.

Our last stop and final destination this summer was our new home Frankfurt Germany.  We arrived August 1st.  It is the first time any of us have been to Europe. Well to be fair David visited Norway when he was in the navy but he has never been to Germany before! We are still settling in but I am sure we will have lots of new adventures to share with you.  We are looking forward to exploring castles, Roman ruins, and German culture. 

Woo Hoo Frankfurt at last!  No, that's not our house!

Our first Roman ruins.  Notice the jackets.  It's still summer and we are freezin' y'all! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Today's Adventure

For today's adventure I went to the grocery store, alone. For the record grocery stores in Indonesia are much more English friendly than German stores. Many of the food labels in the stores in Indonesia are in English. There are NO labels in English in the local Rewe (pronounced ree-vay). Not only that but German people expect you to speak German. Imagine that, speaking German... in Germany.

This weekend we escaped the piles of boxes waiting to be unpacked and went on a drive. Along the way we stopped at a fruit stand to buy some plums. David asked the guy (in English) if they were sweet. The guy looked blankly at David, said something in German, turned to another man standing by, said something in else in German and both men looked at us and grinned. At this point I had the definite feeling we were being laughed at. What he said next confirmed it. "What you think everyone should speak your language? Is yours the only language?" This was said in perfect and only slightly accented English. I am sure that the looks on mine and David's face were hilarious.

There was a long pause before David replied, "We have just arrived and haven't learned German yet."

To which the man responded, "You come back in a month and you speak German. OK? Or Spanish or Italian, or even Portuguese."

My brain finally kicked in. "How about Indonesian? Itu manis?"

"Or Russian?" David added then said something, but I have no idea what or if it had anything to do with whether or not the plums were sweet. Sounded good though.

The guy decided we were funny and sold us the plums which were indeed sweet.

I made it to the store and back this morning without linguistic mishap. Probably because the only time I opened my mouth was to say "Danke" when the cashier gave me my change. In case you are wondering I bought one carrot, one bunch of celery and a loaf of bread. I did not have to buy a bag because I remembered to bring my own (made from recycled trash). All this cost about 5 euro.

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day of Kindergarten

The day has finally arrived. All four of my boys are in school. Alonzo and Colin started school way back on August 4th. Cody's school started last Monday. Today Grayson started his very first day of pre-school. In Germany pre-school for 3-6 year olds is called kindergarten. So Grayson started kindergarten today!

I'm ready! I go to school! Let's go already!

Hurry up! I want to go in!

School is fun. You can leave now.

Grayson was still smiling when I picked him up at noon. The only thing that could have made him happier would have been if he could have ridden a bus, instead of walking, but the school is closer to the house than the bus stop.


Friday, August 22, 2008

It's coming

My house looks clean and tidy right now. Everything is orderly and in it's place, but that is all about to change. As I type this a truck is heading toward my house. It is carrying nearly 6500 pounds of things I thought we couldn't live without. What was I thinking? Within hours my peaceful house will be transformed into total chaos. A mess my kids call box city.

Updates later assuming I can find my computer...and camera.

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Update 11:58 am
The first boxes are here. I get to keep the little guy occupied while David does inventory. Lucky David!

Update: 12:57 pm Guy is back to paint wall patch. The first of 5 crates is unloaded. Lots of mold but blessedly the oils and watercolors seem to be fine, if a bit smelly. David says next time we will just pay out of pocket to have them shipped. Most of our good leather shoes seem to be a loss. We will see how they clean up, but right now they are a bit green and moldy.

Update: 3:08 pm We have too much stuff! We are on crate 3 and are running out of room to put things. Still have two more crates to go. Books were moldy too but mostly seemed to be the covers only not so much on the pages. House reeks of mold. Will be buying lysol and clorox wipes by the case tomorrow!

Update 9:47 pm Frankfurt time. All five crates are unloaded. The moving guys are gone. The kids are in bed. David and I are exhausted. Cody is still unpacking his room. The house gone from neat and tidy to a disaster. The piles of packing material and boxes were made worse by Grayson discovering a ball of yarn and creating a giant spider web.
The web went from the upstairs bathroom down the hall, through the loft, down the stairs, and finally all over the living room. When he is quiet it is time to worry.

Now my house looks like this

And this

But it also looks like this. We are calling this our island of sanity. I think we may sleep here because the bedroom looks like the rest of the house. Oh, you want to know what I am doing? I am setting up the next shot.  Dave busted me!

This is what I will doing in our little island of sanity. I will drinking red wine out of a real glass, not a paper cup, and I will be eating chocolate. Mango cayenne dark chocolate. Spicy chocolate. It is strangly addictive. Good night!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Yeah Right!

I think I like Germany. You see that stove in the picture? It is fabulous! Five burners, huge oven, one of the burners is even an oversized high heat burner. I am in heaven. I had been warned (repeatedly) about the European easy-bake oven sized ranges, so I was vastly relieved to see this monster in my kitchen. I love to cook almost as much as I love to eat. Unfortunately it didn't work when we moved in, or at least the oven and one of the burners didn't work. So the first work order I put in was to get the stove fixed. I was told someone would be here between 1 and 3 on Tuesday to repair the stove.

"Yeah right!" was my thought. My past experience with workmen, both in the states and in Jakarta, has taught me that a basic job prerequisite for repairmen is the complete inability to tell time.

Tuesday at 1:04 the doorbell rang. It was the repairman here to service the stove. Amazing! A repairman that actually shows up on time! He fussed with the stove a few minutes, pronounced the oven dead, and told me someone would deliver a new range on Thursday between 9 and 11.

"Yeah right!"

Wednesday 9:07 the doorbell rang. It was 2 men carrying a new stove. They dragged this huge thing into my kitchen, checked the paperwork announced, "Sorry, this was supposed to be delivered tomorrow. We will be back tomorrow"  

"CRAP!" Now I am going to have to deal with this thing in the way until they come back tomorrow.  I took a big breath to argue when the two guys scooped up the stove and left. I stood there with my mouth open watching them carry the stove back out of my house.

That stove is just as big and heavy as it looks. I live on the third floor. There is no elevator. This is a picture of the stairs leading to my unit. They carried that stove up all these stairs basically said, Oops, my bad, and carried it back down. 
This morning at 9:03 the doorbell rang. Same two guys carrying the stove, plus the guy that was here to fix the stove on Tuesday. "We are back." In comes the stove, in comes the repair guys. By 9:30 I had a working stovetop and oven. 
I think I am in shock.

Update: This afternoon a guy was supposed to fix a hole in the wall upstairs. (It was there when we moved in, I swear the boys had nothing to do with this one!)  He was supposed to be here between 1 and 3. "Yeah Right!" (I am a slow learner) He showed up at 1:06.  At 1:16 he announced he will be back tomorrow to paint the wall patch, and he was gone. Can we have all American repairmen do an internship in Germany to learn how to freakin' show up on time?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gruneburg Park

 Jenn of Mamma's Living in Paradise has made it clear I owe an explanation for Naked People Park.  OK Jenn here is your explanation

Our very first weekend here we went to the park.  We had been in Germany less than 48 hours, but parks were in short supply in Jakarta, and we just couldn't wait. So off we go with not only our four boys, but an extra, that's right 5 American boys were bearing down on innocent sunbathers in Gruneburg Park. 

Someone had failed to warn me that nude sunbathing is legal in Germany, not just on selected beaches or in nudist colonies, but in the park.  Had I known this I probably still would have taken my boys to the park (it's huge with multiple playgrounds scattered throughout) BUT there would have a been a loooong discussion about appropriate behavior, how the human body is a beautiful thing, differences in cultural standards, blah blah blah!!!!! Maybe what happened next could have been avoided if I had only known

We came over footbridge, walked down into the park, and were greeted by a large wide open field.   The boys instantly took off running across the field with Cody trailing behind.  David and I were walking along the path around the edge of the field talking quietly still unaware of the impending doom. Suddenly the four oldest boys stopped (Grayson kept running because he 3 and...well he's 3)  David and I were still oblivious until......


The scream cut through the air and suddenly several other sunbathers sat up and I realized that scattered across the field were sunbathers, some wearing clothes, and some... not so much.  

The young lady in question dressed and left rather abruptly while shooting us disgruntled looks.  Do you blame her?  The boys were yelling and pointing but not exactly running back to mom and dad, except Cody who was trying to look cool as he turned and walked away, all the while trying to look as if he weren't looking at naked women. Yeah right, he's 16 y'all, he looked!

The only thing worse than trying to get those kids off the field while naked people glared at us, was explaining to the other boy's parents that I let him get an eyeful.  Oh well, such is my life!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Oh I AM sorry Germany!

This could also be titled "Never thought I would say that!"

This morning David was trying to get the kids motivated to clean up a bit, you know just get the cereal off the floor and their PJs into the bedrooms. David announced "When everything is clean we can go to the park!" This simple statement started a debate between the boys and caused me to say something I would have bet money I would never, ever say as a parent. Here's the way it went:

"But we went to the playground yesterday! I don't wanna go to the playground." One boy whined.

"I want to go to the park with the ducks."

"Ducks are stupid."

"Ducks are cool! Besides I want to go on the bridge. Mom bought bread so we can feed the ducks" (as a side-note, Mom bought bread to feed the kids sandwiches)

"OUTSIDE!" (Three year old boys cut straight to the point)

"I want to go to the big park with the cool playground"

"Outside!" (the 3 year old is now standing at the door wearing his crocs and ignoring Dad's efforts to get him to pick up his mess.)

"I want to go to the naked people park."

"Yeah that's the one I am talking about! Naked People Park with all the playgrounds. Mom can we go to Naked People Park?"

"Yes we are going to the naked people park but only if you clean up your mess first!" Mom replied calmly (OK so I was almost yelling and ready to just pick up the mess myself but I can pretend I was calm can't I?)

Yes you read that right! Yes I said it! I am taking 4 boys to a park where there are naked people, and it's not the first time! Apparently in our family Gruneburg Park will always be known as Naked People Park. Sorry Frankfurt! Sorry Germany!

Cicak cicak di dinding

We were out exploring a bit today and stumbled across a little import store in one of the malls. We were amused to see painted cicak wall hangings just like the ones we bought in Jakarta.   We stopped to check out the prices.  Those were some pricey cicaks!  20 euro for the smallest and close to a 100 euro for the larger ones.  That is about 40 times what we paid for our cicaks in Jakarta! Talk about your mark-ups!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy to be here

Although we are all happy to be here in Frankfurt, I don't think anyone in our family is happier than the cats. While the rest of the family spent the summer traveling and living out suitcases the kitties were relaxing at Aunt Teri's Summer Camp for Cats.  At least that was the plan. I am sad to say that our cats (or at least Bing) were not very good campers. Bing decided he wanted to be the boss cat and beat up poor geriatric Kitten. Teri came home one day to find black fur all over the house and poor old Kitten hiding from big bad Bing. She had no choice but to banish both Bing and Fluffy to the basement for the summer to ensure the safety of all campers.

The cats were hardly alone in the basement though. During the big crazy family get together everyone under 16 got to sleep in the basement. At one point it was pretty much wall to wall air mattresses. The cats would just chose a kid and curl up in bed with them. During the day they had their choice of beds. They also were allowed to come upstairs for a bit everyday when Bob and Kitten (the permanent residents at cat camp) had their time to stretch out on the garden.

Now that the summer camp is over the cats have had a chance to explore our new house and stake out their favorite spot. Of course it is my favorite spot too.  In the living room there is a bay window area. I shoved the love seat into the area thinking I could curl up there during Grayson's nap time with a cup of tea, the laptop, work on the blog and just relax, BUT everytime I go to sit down and have a quiet moment this is what I find!

I like it better when the cats decide to spend some quality time with the kids and leave me to enjoy my place in the sun. This morning Bing decided to keep Cody warm while he sept so I finally got a chance to enjoy the view while I drank my morning coffee.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Recycling, German Style!

We have been living in Germany just over a week.  It is a huge change from Indonesia, and even from the states. David is back at work, two of the four boys have already started school, and I am busy, seriously busy trying to learn how to get things done in Germany with out actually speaking German, gotta sign up for language lessons ASAP!

One of the strangest things we are learning about is how to take out the garbage.  (AHEM, my German friends, and you know who you are, a little warning would have been appreciated!)  In Indonesia we threw everything into the rubbish bin that was built into the compound wall and eventually the trash pickers would come take it all away and sort through it for anything they could use, sell, or recycle. No effort needed on my part. In the states we had a smallish green bin that went out to the curb once a week. I tossed in soda cans, plastic bottles, newspapers and the occasional glass jar. The garbage men would come take it away on the designated day, and I was happy I did my part with minimal effort.  The learning curve is a bit steeper here!

This is the garbage can in my kitchen. It is kinda cool that it is built in under the sink. Notice that there are 3 bins not just one. My only complaint is that it is tiny, it needs to be emptied more than once a day.

This is where the trash goes when I take it out. Notice that there are 3 different colored lids. Green is for paper, yellow is for plastic and metal, and the grey is for (almost) everything else. 

Glass is NOT part of the everything else. Glass gets its own bin where you sort it by color. The glass bin is located no where near my house or the rest of the garbage bins.

Batteries are also NOT part of everything else. Batteries get their very own bin. The bin is not located anywhere near my house, the glass bin, or the rest of the garbage bins.

Some places also have a bin with a brown top.  Apparently that is for organic waste that can be composted.  If there is one here I haven't found it yet.

We (and by WE I mean Americans since I am one in spite of my current address-- although this certainly could apply to others as well) we could probably learn a few things from the Germans.  This is serious recycling on a huge scale.  Recycling is not an optional, do it if it makes you feel better, kinda activity.  Recycling is mandatory, even in the airport there were multiple bins for different types of trash.  How big a difference could we make if the whole nation embraced recycling the way Germany has?

**As an added bonus the trash situation is also becoming a major part of my exercise program.  Our "house" is really a 3rd floor apartment.  There is NO ELEVATOR!!!!! We have FOUR KIDS!!!! That means a whole lotta groceries get hauled up three flights of stairs and a whole lotta trash, umm, make that recycling, gets hauled down three flights of stairs and off to the appropriate locations. Man are my legs gonna be toned!