Just a little Update

Going to update the old blog. We’ve been very busy since Garmisch.  Here’s what has been going on since then.

We welcomed a bunch of guests.

We went to Prague.

My mom came to visit us from Giessen.

We went to Stuttgart.

We went to visit my mom in Giessen.

Kids completed school.

We moved to London.

We freaked out at the expense of London compared to Leipzig.

We found an Aldi and calmed down.

We welcomed Professor Husband’s parents.

We (excluding Professor Husband cause he has to work) did almost all the London things.

London things accomplished so far:

Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station

British Museum

Behind the scenes tour of the British Library

Big Bus Tours & River Cruise (kids love these)

Tower of London

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Poppy’s Fish and Chips in Camden Market

Imperial War Museum

Hyde Park

Changing of the Guard

Natural History Museum

Science Museum

Brick Lane

This weekend we head up to Scotland.

Now if I can get my act together I will actually post a blog post about these things and the kids closing thoughts on our trip. I did try and do vlogs. They did not work. I did get an interesting song about cookies though.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Part 2: The Skiing

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As I mentioned before I am not a skier. I did go up on the mountain a few times and the one time the sun decided to peak out it was beautiful. PH assures me that the skiing was amazing, and I’ll take his word for it.

PH and the kids skied in the Garmisch Classic area. We thought about going up to the Zugspitze, but honestly everyday was so foggy we wouldn’t have gotten to see much at all.

We enrolled the kids in five days of ski school. There were a lot of options but we ended up going with the green school – Ski-Gapa. I’m really glad we did. Unlike the other schools the class sizes were really small. Little J’s class only had two or three people in it the entire time. Em’s classes were the largest at six. Ryan paid for two group lessons and got private lessons.

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Em started off the week at the beginner level and she made her father’s day by killing at skiing. In three days she had moved up four levels and went from skiing greens to skiing blacks. Her instructor was awesome. He knew exactly how to push her.  One day after lessons was over Em was skiing with PH and her professor was doing a private lessons. Em thought he wouldn’t say anything to her. Nope. He came and corrected her. All her hard work paid off though her instructor approached PH towards the end of the week and told her that she had real potential to ski competitively.  This didn’t make Em’s head swell up at all. DSC_0136

 

The twins liked skiing. They didn’t make as much progress as Em, but that’s cool, the important thing is that they liked it. Honestly, I think that by day four they were just exhausted. Our days started very early and then they would ski for about five hours.

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Little J is fearless. Even when he crashed headlong into the kinderland race post he still kept going. If he would just SNOWPLOW (PIZZA) he could have gone down some bigger hills, but he would only do it with his instructor or PH any other time he would parallel his skis and jet down the mountain squealing with glee.

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Little J’s instructor was a badass.  Here he is taking his two students up the mountain.

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Here is what I was dealing with on the couple days I went up the mountain. Oh the fog. This was the one day I thought I was going to get some good photos. From hazy, to clear, to can’t see a damn thing.

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To finish it up some views from above the fog courtesy of PH.

 

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Garmisch-Partenkirchen Trip Part 1: Sights

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The children had two weeks off from school in February. It was our last chance to do one more big trip. There were many places on the table, but we ended up in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a little town (well two little towns that over the centuries became one) in Bavaria. Nestled in the German Alps, it really is the quintessential, storybook, beautiful German town.

We chose Garmisch for a few reason, but the biggest being skiing! Well not skiing for me although I almost conquered my fear of hurling myself down a mountain on pieces of fiberglass several times during out stay there.  PH also learned to ski here many, many years ago and really wanted to take the kids here for the same reason.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate for really great photos; a fog hung around the mountains everyday. I took a few when the light was half way decent and when it wasn’t.

 

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C (she doesn’t ski either) and I spent our mornings laying around the apartment and walking around the little town.

We found this delightful creature. He’s a Wolpertinger. Wolpertinger are suppose to be mythological animals that inhabit the Bavaria forests. Apparently Germans like to create these strange stuffed creatures and sell them to tourists. Honestly, if this Fuchstinger wasn’t 495 euros I would have bought him and named him Stan. Stan the Man! For a brief second I thought about making a GoFundMe page.  Could you imagine customs clearing this bad boy?! Greeting future boyfriends? Going to random social events?

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One the list of random expensive Bavarian things I want. A dirndl. These are the traditional dresses of Bavaria. Think Heidi or Octoberfest. These were beautiful. I wanted one so badly. C tried one on and also fell in love. The thing is this bad boys range from 200 to 500 euros.

So yeah … we’re gonna gaze wistfully from a distance.

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C and I also took the almost two hour bus trip to see two famous castles – Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau.

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The castles were beautiful, but you don’t really get to see a lot of them. We started with a thirty minute guided tour of Hohenschwangau. All the tours are guided and about thirty minutes. Also no photos of the inside. We got to see the queen’s apartments and then the king’s apartments.

Then we took a long walk down from Hohenschwangau through the tourist center valley and then back up the mountain to Neuschwanstein. It was about a 40 minute hike through a winter wonderland.

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This castle was impressive from the outside. However again you really didn’t see much once you got in. The guided tour (only option) was about thirty minutes. You only saw the completed rooms because Ludwig died (or was killed) before he was able to complete the castle. The rooms we saw were very impressive. You could see why people thought he was crazy.

His bed took almost five years to complete because of the massive amount of woodworking. I think it took five years because they had to figure out how to keep the whole thing from collapsing on Ludwig and killing him. Our second favorite was the room built to look like a cave from one of Wagner’s operas.

C and I ended our day at a little German restaurant eating delicious, hearty Bavarian food. Perfect after a day of trapping around outside and in cold castles.

Next up what the others did while C and I explored.

 

Sundays and Cafe Maitre

Not much is open in Germany on Sunday. This took a little while for us to get use too. Now seven months into our trip it’s one of my favorite days of the week. We usually sleep late, then go for a walk and end up at some little cafe drinking cappuccinos and eating a slice of kuchen.

Today we discovered Cafe Maitre and I may be coming here every Sunday. Pictured below is our second breakfast. The basket of bread is mine. PH and Em got the petite breakfast with just a croissant and butter and jam. I got the Normandie which is the platter of fruit and cheese and a basket of bread. I shared with Little J. So delicious.

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Little J and Em played with my camera while we were there. They got some interesting shots. You can see a little of the cafe in the background.

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After brunch we strolled around the neighborhood. Em took this photo of us.

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Rosensonntagsumzug in Leipzig – Fasching Parade

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Today was the Rosensonntagsumzug or the big Fasching parade in Leipzig today.  What’s Fasching? Fasching is Karneval or Carnival. Basically it’s the big celebration before Lent.  In the U.S. we would call it Mardi Gras. It isn’t as heavily celebrated here in Leipzig as it in other cities in Germany. Google told me Köln has the biggest Fasching festival in Germany.

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Our little dragon.

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Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. When is it going to start?!

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MOM! I see it!

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A BEER TRUCK!!! Of course, there is a beer truck handing out free beer at a parade, it’s GERMANY! PROST!!!

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Diving for the candy in between floats.

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Cool old cars.

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These guys … No German parade or celebration is complete without a scary troll looking thing.

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I have no idea what these were, but don’t mess with them.

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Don’t ask them for candy.

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If you do you will get a noogie full of confetti!

German Backpacks

I love German backpacks. I covet them all … the Deuters, Vaudes, Herschels, Fjallraven, Ergobags, Scouts, etc …  Nearly everyone here carries a backpack of some sort and it makes perfect sense. You have to pay for a bag at nearly every store you go into and a lot of people don’t own cars preferring instead to ride a bike or take a tram/bus. Germans are frugal and environmentally friendly; they aren’t willing to pay .10 to a euro per bag for every purchase. When you buy shoes you have to let the cashier know if you want the box. They won’t give it to you unless you ask CAUSE RECYCLE! Anyhow the point is you have got to be able to stash your groceries and other stuff somewhere while you walk or bike, so a good backpack is almost a necessity.

I’ve been dying to purchase some for us, but we came with awesome backpacks. Tom Bihn‘s to be exact.

Disclaimer: PH reviews bags for Tom Bihn. They graciously provided us with these backpacks. I’ll probably post a review at some point because they truly are awesome bags. 

Tom Bihn bags are awesome, expensive, and in my opinion worth the cost. I love my Cafe Bag and my Aeronaut.  That being said since we already own awesome bags it doesn’t make any sense to buy new ones. Most of the above mention bags are way over the 100 euro mark. Not going to happen. Except when it happens ….
Little J’s backpack was the first to be replace. I bought him a LLBean Junior Original Backpack before we left America. It’s cute. It has fishes all over it and his name on it, however the damn thing just doesn’t fit him. It falls off of his shoulders. It’s awkward. The straps are flimsy. He hates carrying it. He has carried it a grand total of once. If we were back in the States I would take advantage of their 100% guarantee and return the thing. I was very tired of having to carry around his backpack, so I finally broke down and bought him the Deuter KiKi backpack. It’s fracking adorable. It fits Little J perfectly. The straps are thick and padded. It has a chest strap. His water bottle fits inside one of the side pockets. The best thing is that he loves to carry it. He’ll most likely need something bigger when he heads off to American Kindergarten next fall, but for German Kindergarten it’s perfect.

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Today I replaced the boys’ backpacks. Make no mistake their Tom Bihns aren’t going anywhere.  Those things are awesome, but here is the deal sometimes being the only kids in your whole school that can’t speak the language is hard. It’s hard and it’s isolating and sometimes it’s the little things like carrying the same backpack everyone else is carrying that makes things a touch easier.

About 95% of the kids in the boys’ school carry either a Scout backpack or an Ergobag backpack.  I wanted to buy them some the minute we got here, but they are pricey. Super pricey. Like in the 115 to 250 euros pricey. I couldn’t really justify one when they already had backpacks.  And remember with twins I have to buy two of everything.

Well today I was out looking for a new wallet and I went into Karstadt and low and behold there was a huge table with Scout backpacks ON SALE! When I mean ON SALE! I mean ON SALE! I was able to find TWO backpacks for 30 euros a piece. So I splurged and bought them each one. They were so super excited to get these.

Let me show you what they look like cause they do not look like a typical American backpack.

They are definitely a little wider and boxier. There are two very wide side pockets for water bottles or whatever other crap that kids shove into them. If you look inside, it’s super deep and wide. I love that. Things can’t get LOST! You can see right down to the bottom.

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The back is sturdy and the straps are thick. It’s made to hold a lot and to take a beating and keep going. I love how sturdy the whole bag is. It doesn’t flop over when you set it down.

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So here is the bag filled up.

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Lastly you aren’t just buying the bag when you buy one of these, depending on which model you get you get EXTRAS. You always get extras, just some models come with more extras. The boys’ bags came with a gym bags, federmappes, and a wallet. Yes, they will use the gym bag. Even the first graders are expected to change into their ‘Sportsachen” (gym clothes). They have to have their gym clothes and tennis shoes that are only used for the gym.

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This is a federmappe. These things are awesome. I love them. The one on the bottom of the photo is Rory’s old one. He’s obviously lost a lot of it. I’m not letting them use their new ones yet. I’m putting them aside.

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As for me I’m eyeing the Herschel and Fjallraven bags, but since I just put myself on a no-spend month I’ll have to make do with the cute little wallet I found in the clearance bin. My old one was ripping in two.

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Morning Check List

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Every single morning with the twins is a struggle. Almost every morning I walk into the boys’ room and see a half naked child, laying on the bed face down, trying to pull on his sock with one hand.

Have you ever tried putting on your sock, laying facedown on your bed, with one hand? It’s pretty much impossible.

Then we move onto breakfast, which is pretty much a litany of PH and I saying, “Please put the book down. Please eat your breakfast. You have <insert number> of minutes. Please drink your tea. Please put the Kindle down. You only have <insert number> of minutes. Please eat your breakfast.” Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. We could make a pretty decent song out of this.

This lasts for about thirty to forty minutes, when we declare, ‘FORKS DOWN’ and it’s time to brush teeth and put on shoes and WHY didn’t you put on your socks like we asked almost an hour ago?!

By the time, they are actually ready to go out the door PH and I are sobbing quietly into our respective cups of coffee and tea, ready to strangle each other and the twins.  Cause

OH MY DEAR LORD IN HEAVEN WHY ARE YOUR SOCKS NOT ON???!!!

And so it goes.

Today I decided to try a checklist. They like checklists. I like a good checklist. It worked when C was little. So I made one and emailed it to the husband to print.

The husband tweaked it a little and this is what we have now.

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The Half-Year Interview Series – Little J asks Mommy

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I want you to tell me about the very fun day on Christmas day. 

Well your brothers and sisters woke up round 6 am. You were still asleep. I carried you into the living room and you woke up very slowly. We opened presents and then had breakfast.

I like it when we had a Christmas tree, but now we do not. We threw it outside the window. Why did you do that? That makes me sad. 

Well we couldn’t keep the Christmas tree forever. It was already dead and the pine needles were getting everywhere. I threw it out the window so we wouldn’t spread pine needles all over the halls and stairwell. I’m sorry that makes you sad.

And once upon a time there was a little girl named Evie and she lived upstairs. Where did she go?

Well they had to go back to the US. They live in Minnesota now.

One two three four funf sechs seiben … wait no it goes … Eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben, acht, neun, zehn, elf … What are these numbers? 

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven

How is my girl, Penny? She was fun and where did she go? 

Penny is doing very well. She is still living in Massachusetts.

 

The Half-Year Interview Series – Little J

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Hello Little J, 

How are you doing today?

Good. Well my friend Evie is nice. She used to play with me a lot and I also got some Playmobil.

Do you know how long we have been living in Germany? What do you like about living  in Germany? What do you not like about Germany? 

20 years. I like being with Evie but now she is gone. I like when people send us big boxes of mac and cheese. We ate those. Mac and Cheese is my favorite.

I didn’t like when that picture fell off and also I like it when it’s dark but only sometimes. I also didn’t like when Evie went bye. It was very sad. She’ll come back to me in Germany. I know this.

We just had our first Christmas time in Germany. What did you think of it?

I liked it. It was very fun. I love going on the ferris wheel. The big one. We went two times. When it was dark and when it was day.

My favorite Christmas present is my dinosaurs. Can I stick them in my ear? What would happen?

(NO! Do not put them in your ear! We would have to go the doctor.) 

So you’ve been in kindergarten for four months; how’s it going? Do you like school?

I like it a little bit. I like painting. I really like playing with some of my friends. My favorite teachers are Marlises, Romy, and Mary.

What’s are some new German words you’ve learned? 

Kasecookinlookin but that is a French word. It means grill cheese. Someone that speaks French taught me this word. That person can speak English and French.

Do you know we have purchased our plane tickets to go back home? Are you excited about going back to the US? 

Yeah. Remember I did that. I just said, ‘Do it’ and I clicked the ticket.

YES I am excited. But what will be the next thing we do? Probably Christmas again.

Would you want to come live here again? 

Yes, because Rome because I loved that crazy place and the bike.

Anything else you want to say?

It’s a happy memory. Like the song,

I wish you a Merry Christmas. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!! And you will be an uberdeine everyday and every every every every day!

No more questions, Mom.

The Half-Year Interview Series – Em

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Hello Em, 

How are you doing today? 

What is that foundation doing there?

Hmm I was asking Daddy to pick some up for me while he was in Texas.

Good.

We’ve been living in Germany for five months now. We’ve officially reached the half way point. What has been the most surprising thing about living abroad? 

I think the culture is a lot different. Taking the train everywhere but that is a given. The food is different and that is great because who doesn’t like food. School is different, too.

Most difficult things about living in Germany?

Obviously the language barrier and making myself more social. You know starting school and not know people. I’m actually a really shy person until I get to know you.  It’s a different type of shy. Everyone back home knows me and it’s easy. Here I had to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone.

Do you have my allowance? Taschengeld?

We just went through our first holiday in Germany. What was your favorite part? Your favorite gift? 

I liked the Weihnachtsmarkt because that is something that isn’t in America. I thought that was really cool. I love the handbrots. I loved New Years Eve because that was really different with all the fireworks. Way more then even our 4th of July. You would never see people shooting of fireworks in the middle of a city and it’s illegal in Massachusetts to even have them. It was all kinds of awesome.

You’ve been in school for four months now. How’s it going? Favorite subjects? Struggles? Accomplishments? 

School is good. It’s really good. I have a lot of friends. I felt really good when I got an A because French is hard. I have to translate two languages before I get to my native language. I like gym here because I am good at it. I found out that I am really competitive. I really like my German teacher. I don’t really care for the class, but I love the teacher. I also like kasecookinluckens. Also I like doner.

(She obviously is very distracted. Kasecookinluckins is Jude’s word for grilled cheese. He claims that it is a French-German word. Doner is a fabulous Turkish sandwich.) 

Anything you want to share with us about living abroad as a 12 year old? 

It is really hard at the beginning and it might really suck. However, as you learn the language and make friends it gets way better. I love being able to go downtown and buy food and shop with my friends without adults. I love that you can do that here. I feel like that would never happen in America. People are to scared … of everything.

So we’ve purchased our tickets to head back home in June. How does that make you feel? Are you excited about our month in London? 

I’m a little bit excited about going to London. Sad to leave Germany because it’s really cool. It’s been a great experience to be here. I am so excited to see my friends again.

SHOUT OUTS TO GRACE AND ABBY!

So five months into it …. and the question is, How has this experience changed you and would you want to do it again? 

This question is really deep. It’s like I just fell into the Atlantic Ocean …. HAHAHAHAH … Rory! Roar! Rory! did you just hear my joke?!

I’m little more mature, like the slightest bit, like just barely, like just scraping the edge of maturity. I know more German, then I thought I ever would know. I’m also like a lot cooler. Spending time in another country multiplies my coolness by a gazillion. And I eat more food, which is really not that weird.

I would definitely recommend people doing this even if their kids don’t want to. I want to come here again. We will do this again.