Friday, January 30, 2009

DInner Conversation

We sit down at the dinner table together each night.  It is an important part of our family life.  It is a time to sit together and enjoy (or complain about) our meal.  Unlike times gone by we encourage our children to be seen and heard. Lately Alonzo has been asking about the etymology  of words.  He wants to know why trees are called trees and forks called forks not the other way around. How do you answer a question like, why is that called a chair? David makes up wild tales by way of explanation.  

Tonight the boy wanted to know why butter is called butter.  Dad asked Alonzo what he thought.  Alonzo said a butterfly landed on the first ever butter so they named it after the butterfly.  Nice story, I like it!

Dad replied not bad but said the real story involved a fat man who tripped and sat in a vat of cream.  His butt got stuck tightly and no matter how he wiggled or danced about the container of cream stayed stuck tight.  By the time someone came to his aid and pulled it off the cream had been churned into butter.  When the men saw the floating mass of yellow butter they thought the man had an accident and yelled out BUTT TURD!   

At this point my jaw fell open and I thought surely I had heard wrong but one glance at four boys all nearly hysterical with glee confirmed that I had heard correctly and my husband had obviously lost all of his good manners and common sense somewhere along the line.  Just in case I missed what Dave said a second later Colin nearly fell out of his chair laughing as he asked me to pass the butt turd.  

As I glared in his direction David did amend the story to say that the fat man's mother wouldn't let him call it butt turd so he changed it to butter to make his mother happy.  If my four boys want to keep me happy (oh and trust me they do) they will remember not to call it butt turd! 

Sunday, January 25, 2009


This morning was pretty warm, in fact this whole week has been pretty warm considering the snow we had a few weeks ago.  The duck pond that had ice skaters gliding across it just over a week ago, today has little patches of water along the edges. So instead of going sledding today we planned to go hiking.  As we loaded up the car with the jogging stroller, snacks, and coats the kids begged us to load the sleds just in case, so in went the sleds.  Boy was that a good call on the kids part.  After a good bit more begging from the kids we decided to head up high into Taunus to look for snow before we went hiking at lower elevations.  It didn't take long to realize we were going sledding.  Once we started climbing uphill we hit snow pretty quickly.

It was almost a very short lived sledding trip. On the first run down the hill in the saucer Alonzo managed to crash into a small tree (really large shrub) and bang his head.

See the bright yellow coat in the center of the picture? That's Alonzo, he is headed straight for that patch of trees right at the bottom of the hill. He never even slowed down before he hit. It was a very scary moment.

Dad to the rescue!
David had been waiting to take Grayson downhill on the wooden sled but instead he handed Grayson to me and headed down alone to make sure Alonzo was OK.

By the time David got down there Alonzo had climbed out of the bushes and walked over to where David slid to a stop. He had a bump on the head, but was otherwise fine. Good thing he has a hard head, takes after his daddy he does!

David gave him a ride back to the top of the hill. Isn't he a nice guy? He would have had to walk if it had been Mom to the rescue. I could barely pull Grayson up the hill much less Alonzo.

The rest of the time passed (mostly) uneventfully, well there was the time Cody (also on the saucer) plowed through three boys like a bowling ball. It was a strike, he knocked all three down but all were unhurt and went on sledding. Alonzo was back on the sled and flying downhill in less than five minutes. What a fun afternoon. I can't wait to go again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pine Wood Derby

Alonzo and Colin participated in their first Cub Scout Pine Wood Derby today.  Each had to construct a car from a block of wood.  Our pack allow for family members to race as well, so Grayson added wheels and paint to his block of wood and called it done.  Here they are waiting impatiently to check in. Each car was weighed and measured to make sure it complied with the rules.

The cars are raced on a slanted track, gravity alone powers the cars.  In this video Colin, Grayson, and two other cars are racing. The races go very quickly, which is a good thing becuase each car runs multiple heats to determine the winners.

At the end of the day Alonzo took third from the Wolves, Colin took first place from the Tiger cubs (in all fairness he was the only Tiger participating), and Grayson took 3rd place in the siblings race and was the runner up in the most original design category. Unfortunately they only gave medals to the cub scouts (funding issues). Grayson doesn't understand this and was very sad he didn't get a medal. His brothers are going to try to make a medal for him, I can't wait to see what they come up with.

The winning cars.

Proud cub scouts showing off their medals.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What if we all did this?

I am an NPR junkie, yes it is true, I am addicted. For those of you unfamiliar that is National Public Radio. Now that I don't live in the states I listen by streaming audio over the computer or via podcast.  This morning as I was setting bread to rise I was listening to This I Believe, a program that allows people to share the personal beliefs by which they live their lives.  The program I listened to this morning originally aired on January 12th.  It is a very powerful statement about diplomacy on a personal level.  So powerful in fact, that as soon as it ended I pushed the button on the ipod to make it repeat so I could listen to it again paying better attention this time. Here is the program summary from the NPR website: 
Every Sunday for 30 years, Jim Haynes has welcomed complete strangers into his Paris home for dinner. By introducing people to each other and encouraging them to make personal connections, Haynes believes he can foster greater tolerance in the world.
Please take five minutes to listen to Jim Haynes as he talks about inviting the world to dinner. How different would the world be if we all participated in something like this? How could there be wars if we all sat down to dinner with people from all over the world. How could prejudice exist if we took the time to break bread with friends not yet met?  This is one man doing his part to make a better world.   You can read the program transcript or listen to the audio by clicking here.

In the spirit of reaching out let us know if you will be in the Frankfurt area and would like to stop by for dinner. Just leave a comment or send us an e-mail. 

Things Kids Say

This morning Grayson was looking at a book about space. He had it open to the page showing an illustration of the solar system. Pointing to Saturn he announced, "That is the big mommy planet and that (pointing to Neptune) is it's little baby sister." A few moments later I showed him Earth and told him that was the planet where we live to which he replied, "We don't Live on a planet, we live in GERMANY."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Will You Be Watching?

Will you be watching tonight when Barrack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States?

This is an historic event, as indeed is each inauguration. It really doesn't matter who you voted for. If you are an American, Barrack Obama will be your President for the next four years. It doesn't even matter really if you are American, one of the things I have learned living overseas is the world is watching. Some of the people I know who are most pleased with Obama's election are not American. This election has been covered just as heavily in the foreign media as in our own. I am watching the BBC Breakfast right now, they are interviewing Trinny and Susannah (from What Not To Wear and Trinny and Susannah: Meet Their Match) and having finished plugging their new show the talk has turned to the inauguration. Being Trinny and Suzanna they are most concerned about what Michelle Obama will be wearing, but still the inauguration is THE topic on all channels this morning.  

My kids have been very aware of the election proceedings this last year. I am not sure if this is because we are living overseas during an election year, or if it is just this election in particular seemed to take over everything. It could be argued that really this is the first election that Alonzo and Colin are old enough to really be interested, and of course this is true. However Cody, at 16, is old enough to remember a couple of previous elections and this is certainly the first in which he showed any interest at all. Perhaps it is partly the kids feel a strange kinship with Obama since they lived in Jakarta for two years where he also spent part of his childhood. I suspect that it is a combination of all these factors and more.

Tonight I will read Arthur Meets The President to the kids, talk about when they met George W. Bush, then we will watch as the President elect becomes, finally, the President. For my kids this is a bit of a treat since we have a firm "NO TV on school nights" rule.

I hope where ever you are you take a moment to observe the changing of the guard and if you have children involve them in this moment.  Regardless of your political views take a moment so share, celebrate, educate and look to the future. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009


So again we have come to the weekend with great plans to go sledding. Friday morning found Colin sick in bed with a 102 fever and body aches. Poor baby. His fever lasted through Saturday so no sledding yesterday since we thought it would be cruel to leave him behind while all his brothers went off to have fun. Today he feels much better. The weather, however, is not cooperating. This morning it is 5 celsius (41 fahrenheit) and RAINING. You can actually see the snow melting away. I am sure there will be no trace of snow left by this afternoon. Oh well. There is snow in the forecast later this week. Fingers crossed for mountain sledding next weekend. I am so very glad that I dragged the sled to to the duck pond so the kids could sled on the little hill there a few weeks ago. It is beginning to look like that may be the only sledding they get this year.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Alonzo has been shedding teeth right and left. He lost a top front tooth just before Christmas, the second top front tooth the day after Christmas. He just missed having to sing "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth..."

January 2nd he lost one of his bottom teeth (he lost the two middle bottom teeth in Indonesia). Now he has another wiggly tooth. I am not sure how he is going to eat with so many loose or missing teeth, but he sure does look cute!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

View Out My Window Today

This has been the view out of our living room window for the last week. Today I think it may be changing. It is warmer than it has been for over a week. By warmer I mean we are approaching the freezing point, still pretty cold by Texas standards! The snow is starting to feel a bit squshy underfoot. It may be melting away soon.

The mini snowplow that keeps our sidewalks clear has been busy spreading salt everywhere. As the snow melts the sidewalks will get wet but once the sun goes down so will the temperatures and no one wants to go ice sating on the sidewalks. I now understand why the schools here require kids to switch from outside shoes to slippers (my kids use their Crocs). That salt is a pain to get up off the floor once it has been tracked inside. It crystalizes leaving white footprints all over the place as if a ghost has walked through my house.

I checked the weather report and in spite of the rising temperatures we have a (slight) chance of snow in the forecast for the remainder of the week. Dave said it tends to snow when the temperature is closer freezing point. I can remember my dad saying something similar when I was a kid, "It's too cold to snow" I think is the quote. Seems like a weird idea to me, but what do I know? I am a snow newbie. I am loving it while it lasts.

This picture is just for my friend Jonelle. My house is really clean today, but it seems a bit plain without all the holiday decorations so this morning I picked this little beauty up at the grocery store.

I fell in love with orchids in Indonesia and kept several pots in the house all the time. I have been pleasantly surprised to find that orchids are inexpensive here as well, so I am able to indulge myself from time to time. This little plant was only about 7 euro. Not too bad and the flowers will last for a good long time as it has tons of unopened buds.

Well That's Done!

This was my living room this morning. Well, maybe it wasn't as clean as the picture but all the decorations and the tree were still there. Alonzo and Colin FINALLY returned to school today so I arranged for Grayson to stay for after school care (he normally gets out at noon) and spent the whole day putting away Christmas, alone, with no kids.

This is my living room tonight. It is free of (almost) all Christmas decorations and order has been restored. Ahhh! The poinsettia will stay until I either murder it or it is warm enough to plant it outside. I am betting I murder it long before spring.

Even more importantly with all the hanging window ornaments gone the curtains can be easily closed without worrying about breaking something. This a big deal because it is COLD outside. This morning the temperature was -15 celsius. That sounded really cold but I don't do metric as a general rule so I looked it up on the computer and it turns out it IS really cold, 5 degrees fahrenheit to be precise. Brrrr. The curtains really help to keep the inside a little bit warmer.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Go Away Murphy!

Murphy's law has been on overdrive around here lately.  You the law: "If anything can go wrong it will!"

We bought the kids sleds just in time for it to warm up and all the snow in the mountains to melt away.  It stayed that way right through the Christmas break.  The day Cody and Grayson had to go back to school we awoke to a winter wonderland, beautiful snow everywhere.  This is Germany though so there was no snow day and off they went to school.  We promised the kids that we would go sledding this weekend as long as the snow held out.  

It is a week later and that beautiful snow is still here and from my window up high still looks beautiful (up close though you realize that we have far to many dogs here as the snow is riddled with yellow spots, ewwww!) Did we go sledding this weekend?  Nope! Murphy came to visit in the form of a stomach bug.  David spent most of the weekend flat on his back in bed alternating with frantic runs to the bathroom.  By late Sunday afternoon the cramps had eased off and today he is back at work.  Poor baby!  

Today ALL the kids are back at school today.  The Christmas decorations are coming down today and a thorough house cleaning is in order this week.  Winter is still young and I am sure Murphy will move on to someone else's house (sorry if it is your house!) and we will get the sledding trip soon. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

Things Kids Say

During dinner last night Graysie threw a temper tantrum. (With four kids it seems like someone is always throwing a temper tantrum!) David told him to sit down and behave or else he would have to go to his room. Grayson looked at Dad like perhaps he had lost his mind and announced loudly, "But I am the cute boy!"

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mother Nature is a Pain!

Quick review: We bought sleds and snow suits the first Monday of winter break just in time for the weather to warm up and all the snow to melt.  In spite of weather forecasts predicting snow there has been no snow accumulation the entire winter break so the sleds and snow suits are sitting unused.  School starts this morning for two of the four kids.  I wake up early glance out the window and what do I see?  SNOW!

NOW there is snow when David has to go to work, Cody and Grayson have to go to school, and Alonzo and Colin are going to whine ALL day because I won't drive them to the mountains so they can go sledding! Why can't mother nature EVER cooperate??!

Skating at the Alte Oper

In spite of Friday's snow flurries, Saturday dawned bright and sunny with no snow on the ground.  So instead of sledding we went ice skating.  There is an outdoor rink set up downtown for the holidays.  Tonight is the last night.  This is the first time a skating rink has been set up in front of the Alte Oper and there is no telling if it will happen again next year, so we decided to brave the cold and the crowds and give it a go.  

The Alte Oper is the old opera house.  It was badly damaged by bombing during WWII but has been restored.  It made a beautiful backdrop for an afternoon of winter fun. 

David and I sat out the skating and played paparazzi. Neither of us would have been any help anyway since neither of us can ice skate. I think the last time I went skating was when this picture was taken. I was being held up a fellow teacher, otherwise the picture would be of me sitting on the ice. It was taken about a decade ago.

Cody took Grayson on the ice with him. Cody has been skating often enough that he is a decent skater (yes there IS an ice rink in Jakarta). He tried holding Grayson by the hands, under the arms, and finally he just picked him up and carried him around the rink. He managed to untuck all of his shirts and sweaters and let his tummy get cold. Poor little guy!

Colin and Alonzo were on their own. It was their first time on skates. They hugged the wall, hanging on trying to get balanced. They spent a lot of time at first falling down and trying to stand back up.

Poor Colin had the worst moment of the day. When the time came for the Zamboni to run and smooth the ice Colin was the last one on the ice. He was trying to make it to the exit but he was at the far end of the ice. The guard walked over to him, I thought to take his hand and help him skate over the exit, but instead he scooped him up under his arm and carried him out like a sack of potatoes. I am glad Colin has a good sense of humor becuase there was a lot of laughter as he was carried out. If you click on the picture to make it bigger and look carefully you'll see David standing in front of the tent with a video camera. Yup, that's right we got it all on video.

Colin and Alonzo enjoyed watching the Zamboni run and the ice smoothing out while they caught their breath. Grayson on the other hand was absolutely terrified. I just don't think ice skating is his thing. After the break he decided to sit and cuddle with Mom instead of skating some more.

By the end of the afternoon Colin and Alonzo were actually skating. Each has their own distinct style. Colin is slow and steady with an intense look of concentration. You can see him watching the other skaters and trying to do what they do. Alonzo on the other hand has developed a go for broke style I call "trying to run faster than you fall". He can get going pretty fast but all the while you can see him slowly tilting out of balance. The falls are spectacular. His knees are technicolored from all the bruises today. They can hardly wait to go again (except Grayson)!

What the boys don't know is when David and I went for out walk this afternoon the duck pond was covered in people skating and just sliding on the ice. I predict that there will be more ice skating in the near future for them, and maybe this time I will give it a try too.

Friday, January 2, 2009

It's Snowing!

Just barely, but it is snowing. I tried to take a picture but it is snowing so lightly that I can't pick it up on the camera. It doesn't matter though,  the kids are beside themselves excited! They have been outside catching snowflakes on their tongues and racing about.  It doesn't often snow very much in Frankfurt, but in the Taunus it is a whole different story. The kids have already figure this out for themselves.  

Twice they have rung the doorbell to ask if I can check the webcams (tech savvy kids, Sheez!) to see if it is snowing in the mountains yet (Nope, not yet).  When I see snow in Konigstein or Oberursel we will pack up the van with sleds, blankets, and hot cocoa.  With a little luck we will get to try out the new sled this weekend.  Yay! 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

It's a New Year!

Last night we celebrated our first New Year's Eve in Germany. Dave and I stayed home with the kids, as usual. We celebrated the end of the year and the repair of the TV by watching Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The kids all enjoyed it and spent today reenacting the fight scenes with the cardboard shields we made for Halloween and swords made out of K'nex. David is really looking forward to listening to the rest of the Narnia stories. Santa brought him the entire series of books on CD. He will be loading them to his ipod soon.

When the movie ended it almost eleven. After some serious begging we decided to let the kids stay up until midnight. This is the first time we have let the little ones stay up to ring in the New Year. I am so glad we did. From our apartment we can see downtown where the professional fireworks were launched. The best view is from the upstairs bathroom window, so we all crowded in and watched the fun. The trees blocked much of the view of the professional show but there were so many people popping fireworks all over town we had a great show anyway. The kids ended up racing from window to window trying to see it all.

After the fireworks started to slow down we toasted the 2009 with some fake champagne, no alcohol because of the children.

Then we took our first family portrait of 2009 and sent everyone to bed. The kids decided they were having a sleep over in Cody's room.

As I drifted off to sleep I could hear the kids giggling in Cody's bedroom and firecrackers still popping from every direction. It was very good night!