Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Status Quo

Things are quiet around here. Well, no, actually with four boys and no school it is not quiet at all, things are noisy, very very noisy. Nothing new is going on however. The boys are playing with/fighting over all the new toys Santa brought. There is still no snow in the Taunus. David is back to work leaving me at home to deal with the chaos. Normally I am not envious of him going to work, but this week it sounds fabulous. Where can I get a job, quick, so I can go spend my days talking to adults instead of mediating the never ending fights around here?

The house which I spent hours decorating for holidays has started to close in on me. This happens ever year. I love the glitter and color of all the Christmas decorations. I love fussing with them each year trying to make it all look just right. But then just before New Years I suddenly want to rip it all down! I want to make the house feel open, clean, and organized. I think it isn't so much the decorations as it is the kids being home and the fact that they can trash a room faster that I can clean it. I noticed in Jakarta when we had a full time maid, the house stayed spotless most of the time, and the need to take everything down and pack it away just wasn't there. In fact last year I didn't get around to packing up everything until late January. This year I think it will all go the weekend after New Year's.

Even though there isn't any snow, it is still too cold for the kids to be outside for long periods of time, (-8 celsius/18 fahrenheit right now) but the sun has been shining so out they go. They get all bundled up and head outside, but I swear they barely make it down the stairs before the doorbell starts ringing. We have one of those intercom doorbells. It rings, I answer and ask politely over the intercom "Who is it?" then buzz the downstairs door open. I then have to wait for them to make it up 3 flights of stairs and ring the inside doorbell to our apartment. I am now to the point I am answering the outside doorbell "WHAT?!?!?" I am going to end up yelling at some poor innocent person who happens to ring the wrong bell.

Well it is 7:45am  and the sun is just starting to come up, which means that the kids will be up soon. In fact I can hear Grayson heading to Colin's room to wake him up.  I am going to post this, enjoy a last cup of coffee and brace myself to face the day!

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Today is the last day of David's vacation before he returns to work tomorrow. It has been wonderful having him home for an entire week to enjoy all the fun and chaos that is Christmas in house full of boys.

Sadly there continues to be no snow so the new sled sits unused in the corner by the tree. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. Very unusual from what I have seen of Germany. Usually it is grey and cloudy almost all the time. David says at least once a week, "This is what Seattle was like." Even with the sun shining today it is cold, too cold for this south Texas girl. In the picture above the circles in the grass are ice the boys pulled off the sand box. It filled with water and no one bothered to empty it.  Now with the cold spell it is full of ice.  

Yesterday we made a detour on the way to the commissary. Dave and I drove up high into the Taunus to see if the snow fields up high had escaped the thaw last week. No such luck, the area where we played before had muddy looking piles of snow here and there. We did find that one of the roads that has been blocked every time we have gone to play in the snow was open so we drove up a bit higher and found ourselves on the highest peak, Grosser Feldberg at 878 meters. We found snow up there and were initially excited but when we stepped out of the van it was cold enough to take our breath away. The thermometer in the van said it was -6 celcius but that sure didn't take into account the wind. We walked around for about 10 minutes taking pictures and when we climbed back into the van David had ice in his mustache. Brrrr! 

Today we are just being lazy. There have been a few half hearted attempts at cleaning but most have been abandoned long before completion.  I am reading a book. The boys, including Dave, are playing with the new racetrack Santa brought. The house seems to echo with the sounds of zooming cars and giggling boys, punctuated with the occasion sound of cars crashing. David has already put in a request for a track extension kit for his birthday. I think this may become the new obsession around here.  Check out the video below to hear see and hear the fun.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Day

Christmas day has come and gone and I leave you these pictures to chronicle the day. I hope you enjoy.

Happy Holidays!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Events of Christmas Eve

Today was full of fun and excitement. As promised I am providing an update on how the tamales and houses building went. Well… actually it all went really well. We got the masa and the meat all done yesterday so all we had to do today was assemble, cook, and eat.

I didn’t get any pictures eating them because… well, we were all too busy eating them. These tamales would give “Rubens Homemade Tamales” on Rigsby Ave in San Antonio a run for their money.

Today we found the best way to get rid of the candy you still have from Halloween is to have the kids decorate gingerbread houses, or in our case graham cracker houses. We all had a blast with our decorating. I am not sure how we made such a big mess and to tell the truth I am not sure how much the candy actually made it on the houses. From the sounds I am hearing from the kids, the ones that are suppose to be asleep upstairs; I would say a good portion made it in the kids.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wordless Wednesday--Christmas Eve and Still No TV!

The night before Christmas Eve

The boys are all tucked in to bed and Shannon is hard at work in the kitchen getting the fixings ready for tomorrow. If all goes well we will be having tamales with chili con carne and beans for lunch and the boys will be decorating their gingerbread (aka graham cracker) houses. Next year Shannon swears that we will get the gingerbread made and frozen by November.

Check back tomorrow so you can see the finished results of the house decorating and the fruits of our hard labor in the making of the tamales. If all goes well perhaps we will be able to have them more often, you know like once a year instead of once every time we go back to Texas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shopping Trip

This morning we took the kids on a surprise shopping trip. We have been planning this for several weeks. We were supposed to head up into the Taunus after the shopping trip but Mother Nature isn't cooperating. It is warmer this week than it has been in over a month, even up high in the Taunus mountains it is too warm for snow. We wanted to go up into the snow fields because this morning we bought a sled, snow saucer, snow pants, snow boots and I finally have a heavy coat. David's only request was that my coat not be black so he can spot me in a crowd, I don't think he can loose me in that green!  Anyway now the kids are anxiously watching the extended weather forecast hoping for snow so they can try out the new gear.  Yesterday was the first official day of winter. I think they will get plenty of chances to use it yet this winter, and next!

OK We're ready it can snow now!

Letting our true colors hang out!

In the mean time the kids are enjoying some outdoor play. It is still very gray and overcast but it isn't too cold so they are outside riding bikes and playing at the playground. When they are inside they have been playing cars and blocks for he last 2 days (TV is STILL dead!). I discovered an old roll of painters tape and used it to make a roadway on the floor. The boys have been building and demolishing cities every since. If you try this make sure you use painters tape not masking tape. Yes, there is good reason for this. Painters tape is low tack so it will come up off the floor easily and leave little or no residue, the bright color is just a bonus. Masking tape on the other hand is very sticky, and leaves mess after you pull it up.

The young hip urban designer considering what to build next.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wallowing in Christmas

There seems to be so much to do at Christmas time in Germany. Drives into the mountains to play in the snow. Christmas markets in every city and town. Ice skating downtown. Parties and Christmas shows at school and cub scouts. I am beginning to feel a bit like we are overdosing on yuletide spirit. Today's activity was Breakfast with Santa here on the Siedlung. We told the kids to get dressed we are going take a picture with Santa. A few minutes later they showed up downstairs in matching outfits, honestly I didn't plan the outfits, I was too busy sucking down my morning caffine. Colin and Grayson even match down to thier socks. David grabbed the camera to record the cuteness, these were the best of the pictures he took. We left the house a little worried about the photo session with Santa.

While we waited our turn several babies and young toddlers took pictures with Santa. Everyone of the them burst into tears. Poor little things. Last year Grayson looked a little concerned about Santa (and who could blame him?) but this year he climbed right up into the sleigh and smiled up at him. Grayson has caught the Christmas spirit! Santa seemed relieved to have a break from the tears.

In spite of our worries the pictures came out fairly decent. A little red eye but David can probably fix that later. For some reason my red eye correction tool is making everyone look stoned. I finally gave up and left it alone.

Tomorrow we are taking the kids on a surprise shopping trip downtown. You will have to check back to see what we bought.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snail Mail!

As Dave came in the door I asked, "Did we get any mail?"

I have asked this question every day for the last 2 weeks. About 3 weeks ago the TV died. The parts have been ordered, but have not arrived. The kids get out of school for the holidays tomorrow and I was really hoping to have a working TV. Every day he answers the same thing,"No, not today!"

Today he answered "Yep, here ya go!"

He handed me a package and for a minute I was confused, I sure don't know what to do with TV guts! Then I looked at the address, it was from Jae! We were real life friends long before we were bloggy friends. Mail from home, how fun! When I opened it up inside was a lovely new ornament for my tree and a Christmas card, the first (and likely only one) this year. I already have both on display! Isn't my new ornament gorgeous? It's a silver dove with an quote from Emily Dickinson inscribed on the wing, "We never know how good we are until we are called to rise." Jae is just the best ever!

Since we moved overseas I have a noticed a huge drop in the number of actual paper cards we receive and a corresponding jump in the number of e-cards. Is this just a we moved overseas thing, or is this happening pretty much everywhere?

Here is my moose card holder with his lone Christmas card.

P.S. No we still haven't received the parts for the TV. Maybe tomorrow, I hope!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday- Winter Wonderland

Tour Of Homes

December must be my month for joining. First I joined We are THAT family in Share Your Christmas Tree, now I am joining Boo Mama's Tour of Homes. I just can't resist a chance to show off my Christmas decorations one more time!

Before we get started let me tell you a little something about my house. We are on the third and fourth floors of an apartment building in Frankfurt, Germany. An old apartment building with all the charm of army barracks. Our housing was assigned to us. Trust me, I wouldn't volunteer to haul four kids, all the groceries and trash up and down all those stairs every day. Oh yeah, did I mention there is no elevator? The topper is the furniture, which while in good shape and perfectly functional, is not exactly to my taste. OK ready? On with the tour!

Here is the outside view of our Christmas decorations. We can't do much decorating outside for obvious reasons but we do have some lights and the tree up in the windows. I think it is festive. By the way I took this picture at 7:35 this morning when walking the kids to the school bus. Yep, it was still dark. Welcome to Germany!

I already posted pictures of my big tree so I will move onto other decorations. This year I am very pleased with the china cabinet. This is one of those pieces of furniture I used to consider useless until the foreign service stuck me in a house with one. Do you know you don't have to dust all the nick-knacks every week when they are behind glass? Who knew? This year I put the nativity scene plates in it since it is a cabinet designed for dishes. I also set up the Christmas in the woods scene from Charming Tails. I love the way it came out and all of it is safe from sticky little fingers. Woo-hoo!

Here is the mini tree complete with Santa taking a nap. And did you ever see a better use for a vintage deviled egg holder? It's just perfect for holding those hand painted glass ornaments. The cast iron muffin pan is pulling duty this Christmas holding nuts. The kids love to crack and eat nuts. Then they chip the nut bowl by throwing the nut cracker back on top of the nuts. Hopefully they won't manage to crack cast iron!

I tried to get a good picture of the windows to no avail. This is the best I can do. The windows are my favorite this year. I have snow flake window clings as well as hanging ornaments and the kids are working on cut paper snow flakes to add to the mix. We have really wide window sills so I have used them to display all kinds of things. It adds some much needed color to the room.

One of the few pieces of furniture on the house that is mine is the coffee table. Originally bought as a safe display for collectibles it has been taken over by the kids as an ever changing museum of boy treasures. It usually contains a mix of shells, leaves, rocks, and various icky things boys pick up and put in their pockets. However for one month of the year it is Mom's table. I use it to display some of the oldest of our glass ornaments, the very first Christmas card David ever sent me (still love Ziggy!) and what ever catches my eye when I am putting together. I think it comes out lovely.

The kids have their own decorating going on upstairs. They have made several trees out of k'nex. For the large one I am going to give them some old wooden ornaments I made during college and I think they are going to make paper chains to liven it up. Makes a fun project!

Wow this is a long post, and there is so much I haven't talked about: bows on pictures and sconces, pillows on chairs, stockings on the staircase, bells on door handles, poinsettias in pots, spray snow on windows, and most importantly mistletoe overhead. I could go on and on, but I will stop here and wish you a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Share Your Tree!

Kristin over at We are THAT family is hosting Share Your Tree. Join the fun. Post a picture of your tree, and share a bit about your family's Christmas traditions. Don't forget to sign in at We are THAT family if you are playing.

I love Christmas. I love the family traditions we repeat year after year. I love the lights, the color, the music. I love the look on my children's  faces when they come downstairs Christmas morning to find their stockings full, and presents waiting under the tree. This year the kids are begging to sleep under the tree on Christmas Eve. I am not sure how Santa will pull off leaving presents and stuffing the stocking without waking the kids. We will see if that happens.

I am finding that as we move around the world our traditions are changing. A long standing tradition has gone by the wayside this year. Normally we read a new Christmas picture book each evening, but my box of holiday books didn't make it here from Jakarta. Instead we are listening to an old time radio show each night, Cinnamon Bear. It is great fun.

We continue to buy a new ornament for each person, each year. Since we are a family of six that means there are a LOT of ornaments crammed onto our little tree and almost no two are the same.

We used to make a trip to the tree farm to cut our tree every year but when we were posted in Jakarta we found that Christmas trees were in short supply and VERY expensive. Huh! Imagine that. Largest Muslim nation in the world and they didn't have a whole lot of Christmas trees. We gave in and bought a fake tree. I miss the smell of pine, but I will admit it is a lot easier to set up. No stringing lights, just unfold and plug it in. Ready to go. Yeah, I'm no fool. I bought a pre-lit tree.

A new tradition we are starting is having family members play Christmas music on their instruments. David has taught himself a few carols on the piano, Cody as been fiddling around with some tunes on his violin. (sorry couldn't resist). Both Colin and Alonzo can play a song or two on their recorders and the piano. Hopefully by next year I can join in on the guitar and Grayson will be learning piano by then too, although he already pounds on the drums and sings Jingle Bells at the top of his lungs. 

No matter where we go, no matter what changes, Christmas is time for family.

Cody shows his brothers how to make the violin sound just like a dying cat!