Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In Case You Wondered

If you set off on a walk to the local market and it is cold enough to see your breath then when you are a long way from home (without an umbrella) it begins to drizzle it will suddenly feel at least 10 degrees colder. If the wind starts to blow along with that drizzle it will feel at least 20 degrees colder. Brrr....When you get home if you make a cup of hot cocoa then stir in a little cinnamon creme coffeemate it will make you feel much better!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Snakes, Sneakers, and Turning Seven

I think Colin's Birthday went well. We decided to forgo the monster parties we have thrown in the past. We sat down and talked about it with the kids and let them know we will do a party sometimes and sometimes we will just spend a special day with family. While there are lots of reasons for doing this, for us the big issue is it's hard to throw together a party when you have just moved to a new country. Who do you invite? Where do you get party supplies? It's not like I can grab the yellow pages and look it up. Something that was a pain to get together back in the states becomes completely overwhelming. Colin isn't feeling too bad though, most of his friends back home have had their parties cut way back as well, for a variety of reasons so he is in good company.

Instead of a party we took him shopping on Saturday to buy a new pet and shoes. Guess which one he liked better? If you were a seven year old boy which would you like better, new school shoes or a snake named Ribbon?

Sunday, on his actual birthday, we went for a family hike in Oberursel and found a prehistoric Celtic settlement site.  More accurately  we found signs pointing the way to a prehistoric site. We didn't actually make it all the way to the settlement this time. We had to pick up Cody from his leadership weekend and decided to arrive early for some hiking, but that put us on a time schedule so now we all have our fingers crossed for decent hiking weather next weekend.

When we arrived home I cooked the birthday dinner Colin requested: fish sticks, macaroni and cheese, and canned spinach. I think the menu may have been chosen less for what Colin likes and more for what Alonzo hates. Certainly Colin looked pleased with himself when Alonzo saw dinner laid out on the table. Poor Alonzo! Cake and ice cream made everything better.  Colin asked for a chocolate vanilla cake with chocolate dipped strawberries.  I tried my best.  Colin was a bit disappointed that a last minute request to change it to ribbon snake cake was not honored but these things take planning and I already had a pile of chocolate dipped strawberries.  

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Colin's Birthday Present

Well, we have a new member of the family. His name is Ribbon. The kids all love him, it, her, whatever, I will be referring to Ribbon as a him. Colin got him for his birthday which is actually tomorrow but since almost all stores are closed on Sundays we went shopping today. Here for your entertainment is a video of Ribbon being introduced to his new home.

Don't you just love how I suddenly throw Ribbon when I realize he might actually touch me?! So much for bravery!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Park With a Palace and a Playground

Today's Workout Plan

I don't belong to a gym, I no longer go to fancy pilates or yoga studios to work out. Oh, I do miss the lovely pilates studio in Jakarta. I get my workouts dragging kids up and down three flights of stairs everyday and walking to the grocery several times a week.

Several years ago David bought me the book French Women Don't Get Fat. I only remember one thing from the book, French women don't get fat because they walk everywhere. OK, I get that now. I don't drive to the store when I run out of milk, I walk down 3 flights of stairs, turn left, then walk down the street for about 15 minutes to the Rewe. There I buy the milk, put it in my bag then walk 15 minutes home and back up 3 flights of stairs. Workout complete. Oh, in case you wondered, milk is heavy thus ensuring you won't buy much at a time and will need to repeat the workout often.

Today's workout plan was to walk to the Tuesday Farmer's Market (Ok that's what I call it. It probably has a fancy name in German but, hey I don't need German, Right?!) I wanted to buy some flowers for the living room and some fresh fruit for the kids lunch boxes. It is a bit longer walk than the Rewe, but all together should still take me less than an hour. Just before 9:00 I bundle Grayson into his coat and out the door to school. Down 3 flights of stairs, walk about half a block and back up a flight of stairs to his classroom. Drop him off go back down the stairs and out the door. Today's workout is off to a good start. Made it to the market in just over 15 minutes. Strolled through to look at what was available today. Bought some flowers, apples and pears. Make a mental note: Study the language unit "going to the market" and remember to bring the phrase book next Tuesday. I am really tired of not knowing what anyone is saying.

This is where today's work out plan got kicked into hyper-drive. I remembered seeing a pet store not far away and was pretty sure I could find it, so feeling brave off I went. I was on a fact finding mission. We have an empty fish tank and I want it filled up. It looks lonely!  I found the pet store easily enough. Bummer! It is a pet supply store. Cat food, dog food, even gerbil food, but no actual pets. Oh well, we will fill the tank another day.

Back out on the street I look around and decide that I will try a new way home. Please understand I have NO sense of direction. I can, and do, get lost anywhere. Additionally I do not speak German so I when, and notice I said when,  I get lost I cannot ask directions. Off I go. Poor stupid soul.

I walk a couple of blocks down the main road then turn in what I am sure is the direction of home and suddenly find myself in the most charming neighborhood with no camera, of course.  Slate roofs, dormer windows with window boxes, balconies, and perfect little postage stamp sized gardens. Totally enchanted I wander aimlessly for a bit admiring the neighborhood and daydreaming. Suddenly I realize I am lost. I look around for the tower. (I live near this tower it is visible for a very long distance.) All I need to do to get home is head for the tower, that's easy enough. Huh! No tower! All the houses are four stories tall and surrounded by even taller trees. I can't see the tower and have no idea which way is home.

I stand still and cuss. Taking a deep breath I start walking again. What choice do I have? Eventually I come across a street with a name that looks familiar. I am pretty sure this street runs near my house but do not recognize the area and still can't see the tower. At this point I have been walking over an hour, am hopelessly lost, and the fruit is beginning to get heavy. I pick a direction and begin walking down the new street. After about 5 minutes I finally spot the tower. Wow! It looks a lot farther way than it should. Apparently I have been walking away from home all this time. I cuss again, more creatively this time. Make another mental note: Bring the stupid GPS thingy so when I get lost I can just punch in HOME and it will guide me home before I walk even farther away from home. I follow the tower home, it takes another 15 minutes.

By the time I make it up the stairs I am exhausted. What started out to be a quick trip to the market ended up taking almost 2 hours. I have about an hour left until it is time to pick up Grayson. Arrrggh! I toss the flowers into a vase, brew a cup of tea, decide to ignore the house in need of cleaning and watch the German version of House Hunters. I decide it counts as this morning's language lesson. Oh and I let myself have a special treat. I think I deserve it! 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Art Class

They must be learning something in art class at school. The boys came home this afternoon. I was sitting at my computer working on German and the boys were coloring. Here is their conversation.

Alonzo: Can you pass the gold colored pencil?
Colin: Sure but it isn't gold.
Alonzo: Just give me the gold!
Colin: OK but it is more like dandelion, dark dandelion.
Alonzo Fine pass me the dark dandelion.
Colin: Here's the gold.

And he wonders why Alonzo pounds on him! Alonzo can give as good as he gets.

Colin: Can I have the copper.
Alonzo: It is bronze.
Colin: It looks like copper.
Alonzo: Na-unn, copper is a different metal.
Colin: FIne can I have the bronze?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

She Drives !!!!!

For the first time in the two years and one month that we have been living overseas Shannon finally drove “her” van. You wouldn’t know it was her van seeing that she hasn’t wanted to drive it. On Friday that all changed when we got a call from the school informing us that we needed to go pick Colin and Alonzo up because Alonzo had the dreaded LICE!!. (Shannon will blog more on that) No, Shannon did not go get them… I did. However she knows that I will not be able to do that for her very often.

On Saturday we made our weekly trip to the commissary to go shopping for our food and this time Shannon was going to do the driving. I mean there is no difference in driving her than there is in the states. But if you ask Shannon she will not agree with me. I knew when we left Jakarta we would need to get a navigator (a.k.a. GPS) so that we were not constantly consulting a map on how to get places.

So on Saturday we set out for the commissary with Shannon driving and our Nuvi navigating. Everything went well. She did not hit any people, animals, or cars… Only curbs. I lost count of the number of curbs we hit. It is a good thing I am waiting to get the new tires until after Shannon gets the hang of driving. I mean really she has less than 250 miles under her belt since we moved over seas and that was from last summer.

She really did a wonderful job. As always I was just a “usual” man in the car not helping things very well. Anyway please send her hardy congratulations on a job well done.

Great job Honey !!!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Grayson is a hoot! He loves to cook. If I am in the kitchen he will come running in shouting "I COOKER MAN!" He sees himself as the hero of all thing kitchen related. It drives me a bit crazy at mealtimes since I was accustom to sending him off to play with Dwi and relaxing a bit as I cooked dinner in peace with just my ipod for company. I am learning to find small things for him to do in the kitchen to help with dinner. Things like chopping onions or garlic with my finger safe chopper from pampered chef or tearing up lettuce to make a salad.

I also try to have him help make something special every once in a while. Last week we made some healthy banana chocolate chip muffins. He had a blast and don't you just love the Cooker Man outfit?!?
The hardest part is what to do with him while the muffins are in the oven. If I don't find something to keep him busy he will stare in the little oven window and ask "Done Yet?" every 37 seconds. When I reply "Not yet" he looks so sad and then agrees "Belum, not yet." Sometimes he will even try to open the oven to peek inside which is dangerous and lets the heat out.

I usually drag out something I know he loves to play with like playdo or geotrax. This last week I let him play with the quadrilla marble run. The kids all love the marble run but mom hates finding marbles in every corner for a week every time the kids play with it.  The old pie tin at the end to catch the marbles is my attempt to contain the mess.  Doesn't really work but it is better than nothing. Anyway the marble run did it's job, he was actually surprised when the timer went off.   Not a single "Done yet?"

The best part of the day was when Alonzo and Colin came home from school. Grayson yanked the door open and was shouting down the stairs "I COOKER MAN! I MAKE MUFFINS! HURRY COME LOOK!" You just know our neighbors love us, 6 families share that stair and you can hear every little noise in the stair well.

 The boys gave the muffins the stamp of approval. All together a good day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Almost Done

Our apartment is finally starting to feel like home. It is hard to believe that less than a month ago we received our shipment and our house was a disaster! Boxes and packing material everywhere, the smells of mold and cardboard permeated every corner, the walls were blank white with no hint of color, and the furniture...the foreign service furniture is ummmm....how to say this? It's blah!

We are almost done unpacking. There are pictures on the walls and books on the shelves. It is looking nice. There are only two rooms left to finish up. The loft and the guest room. I am supposed to be working on the upstairs loft which we are using as a kids play area. It still pretty much looks like it did the day we got the shipment, a big mess. I decided that blogging was a lot more fun! The mess will still be there when I am finished playing online.

I am hoping to work on the guest room this weekend. Perhaps it would be more acurate to say I am hoping to nag David and Cody in to hauling the boxes in the guest room to the store room in the basement. If you are a long time reader you know that our apartment is a third floor walk up. For those boxes to make it to the basement means going down 4 flights of stairs. It's a real workout.

Next week I will have a virtual tour up to show off our decorating. In the mean time I will give you a preview my two favorite spots in the house. Both are actually little nooks in the living room. I really like little nooks they add some interest to what would otherwise be one big square.

This is my office area. I sit here to blog during the day. At night I carry my MacBook to the couch to so I can sit next to my husband. Awww, aren't we sweet?
This is where I sit to read or do a bit of cross stitch when I get a chance. The only problem with this spot is I have to compete with the cats and kids for a place to sit. Everyone seems to like this spot.

See Bing sitting up high on his throne? He will suddenly and with out warning drop on your head before he stalks off. It can be quite shocking.  

Monday, September 8, 2008

Feeding the Ducks...In the Rain

Grayson and I went on an outing today to a nearby park to feed the ducks. On the way it began to drizzle. Grayson wouldn't be deterred, he wanted to feed the ducks. By the time we made it to the park it was pouring and we were both huddled under my umbrella. At first I didn't see any ducks, but apparently they saw us, even through the rain. They flew over from across the pond. First one duck, then another, then bunches of them. Within minutes we were surrounded by greedy ducks all wanting their bit of bread.

Grayson had a blast. He quickly discovered that if he walked away from the pond the ducks would follow. By the time we ran out of bread he was sitting on the muddy ground dropping bread crumbs inches from his legs and shrieking in delight as the ducks came right up to him to grab a treat. He tried to feed one out of his hand but when that beak got close to his hand his courage failed him and he dropped the bread.  Smart kid.

I forgot to bring a camera so you will have to use your imagination to picture Grayson sitting on the ground, in the rain, with a huge smile on his face, surrounded by hungry ducks eating soggy stale bread.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Don't Need German

Here we are in Germany and I can not count the number of times I was told “You don’t need to learn German” when we were preparing to move here. We were repeatedly reassured that most Germans under 40 speak a fair amount of English, especially in Frankfurt. Today we decided to go get Colin his new bike as he has outgrown his old bike. We have been to this bike shop before so getting there should have been easy, so one would think.

It all started when we went to the bus stop to get our ticket and the ticket machine did not take bills and I did not have enough change to buy the ticket. Ooops. I guess I will have to ask the bus driver to give me a group ticket. Okay this shouldn’t be so hard because I don’t need to speak German. This is how it went down. Shannon, Colin and I get on the bus and I say to the driver “I need a group ticket” his response was a blank stare. I said again “Group” except this time I added some body language, you know the gesturing with the hand and wiggling of the body. He looks at me and says “Gruppenkarte”. I looked at him and my eyes get really big I look and Shannon and Colin and I say “Yes that’s exactly what I want”. He takes my money gives me my ticket and my change. We are now on our way. I know where we transfer and even to what line. So about 15 minutes later we transfer to trolley 12.

I look around and yep we are going the right way I see things I recognize and start to relax. We make a turn and I think "Hey are we going the right way?" Hmmm... we continue. About 10 minutes later thing are starting to seem very unfamiliar. Ok time to get up and look at the map. “Where did the guy say we were?” hmmm it’s kind of hard matching what is being said over the PA to what I am reading. If fact it all looks German to me. Finally I got it! We are going the wrong way. I look up and lo-and-behold we are now on the 11 trolley. “What the heck!” We exit and go back the other way on the 12 trolley and I hear Colin … “Look, Dad we already went by this place”.

“Yeah Colin thanks for rubbing it in”. Ok I see that we are on the 12 and the destination on the banner is correct. As I am sitting there looking at the banner... boom!!!! It happens! It changed to trolley 11. What @$#%^ !!!! We get off at the next stop and decide OK we will just go the other direction. We cross the track and there is a German man dressed in blue wearing a mister Rogers’s sweater. He says “aksldfjl askfj dsjeid dkjfoie dpetrt” (just make German sounds in your head) WHAT ? I look at him and say “That way” pointing in the direction I wanted to go. He then says “Asdfjlkdsjfl asdkfjlk sdlfkj BUS” and points. Shannon and I go"Ahhhh". The track must be broken and we are going to take the bus. We cross the street and hop on the bus and off we go. One U-turn and one stop later we are there.

We all decide that our stomachs are growling and are in need of food. Look it’s a Burger King. Its right next door to the bike store. I tell Colin look in there... that’s were we are going when we get done eating. He was so excited. We get to the cashier and I say “I would like a number 5” holding my hand up showing five fingers, seeing that hand gestures worked earlier. She walks away and goes to the fry’s. Hmmm, I think. A few minutes later she brings someone else to the register that speaks a little English. And we manage to get our food ordered.

We head over to the bike store and it took Colin about 25 minutes to pick out a bike. It is a nice bike too. I wanted to ask the worker a few questions, but he spoke absolutely no English. He tried and gestured with his hands as he spoke but I still I did not understand him. After I got to the fourth worker he spoke perfect English. He was a great help. He took us to the check-out and the attendant told me the amount and I say “ahhh ok” I knew exactly how much she told me to pay ‘cause I looked at the register. I take out my wallet and hand her my credit card. She looks at me, hands me back my credit card and says “Cash or c-card” hmmm... that puts a cramp in things.

Ok where can I find an ATM machine? Back on the bus, transfer to the trolley and off to the gas station to get money. 45 minutes later we arrive back at the bike shop and pay for the bike and off to home we go.

We get on the bus to take us to the transfer to the 12 trolley and then the 34 bus. So there we are waiting for the 34 bus under a sign that say 34 and it says bus in the street. Must be a bus stop. Pretty soon bus 34 pulls up and stops. The driver watches us go to the bus to get on but does not open the doors. Ok he has to wait. He is hanging out the front door smoking cigarettes and yakking on the phone. He watches us go up to the bus door a few time to try and get on but the doors are still locked. He gets back on the bus and Shannon decides she is going to try the door again. As she reaches to push the door open button the bus starts up and drives off. I tell Colin “Run! We will catch up with you” we run down the street dragging the bike along with us to the next bus stop. The doors are closed and the bus is pulling away. I can see the drivers face in the mirror and I hit the door. He stops the bus to let us on. What a @$#%$& !!!! he knew darn well we were waiting for him. Even if he could not speak English he could have just motioned to us and said “sahjdfkj sdfj dslkfj dfsflkj” we would have understood him. I mean we don’t need German here.

For all you people out there that said “You don’t need to know German”


Friday, September 5, 2008

Let's Go To the Zoo....

Monday David had off from work, and Grayson had off from school. The rest of the kids had to go off to school. What to do with a 3 year old on a rainy Monday morning in Frankfurt? Go to the zoo, of course. The zoo is right downtown and there is a U-bahn stop just outside the entryway. We gathered up raincoats and umbrellas and hopped on the U-bahn. For Grayson riding the train is as much fun as as the final destination.

The Frankfurt Zoo is pretty nice. My favorite exhibit was the nocturnal animals. Here is a picture of the huge bat that marks the entrance.  The lighting is controlled so the animals think it is night time. They are very active.  It takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust but once they do it is wonderful. There is quite an array of different animals inside. I think my favorite is the aye-aye, which is a weird looking critter from Madagascar. I have no idea which was Grayson's favorite he just ran from one case to the next as fast as he could. I really do wish I could show you some pictures of the kangaroo rats, bats, sloths, and other cool creatures, but it was just to dark so you will have to pack up and come for a visit if you want to see the exhibit.

We spent most of the day at the zoo. The zebras put forth their best side to impress the foreign visitors. There is a petting zoo where Grayson discovered horns are sharp, don't worry the little goat was very friendly. 

The playground let Grayson burn off some of his boundless energy.  I even managed to pry the camera away from David long enough to get a picture of him with Grayson watching this sleepy bear.
I took the picture of the bear too!

David is a better photographer than me. He managed to capture this lizard with his lens.  It was taken through the glass enclosure.  Usually that doesn't work, but every once in a while.... 

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Seriously, Already!?!

Be careful what you wish for.  Two years of never ending summer had me wishing for a change of season, and I don't mean wet or dry! Those aren't seasons, those are weather forecasts. 

Fast forward to Germany.  It is September 4th.  The high today was mid 60's (around 18 celsius for you metric folks).  This morning when I walked the kids to the bus stop I could see my breath.  I am a south Texas girl.  Today it was 94 (34 c) in San Antonio.  It doesn't get cold enough to see your breath back home until November sometime.  I am freezing y'all!  I knew it would be cooler here than Jakarta or Texas but I didn't think it would be this cold this soon.  I am in big trouble come winter!

Even the trees have gotten the message that summer is over!

The tree outside my window is covered with patches of bright yellow leaves.
We took this picture of a tree at the Frankfurt zoo on Monday. Monday was Labor Day. I always thought fall started AFTER Labor Day.