Saturday, June 16, 2018

Another one bites the dust!

Whew!!! It was kind of a roller coaster ride to the end of the school year this year, but we made it! Here's a little peek at the last month.

We finished up after school sports- t-ball and golf- despite the fact that a tie rod end broke on my van and I was without a vehicle for two and a half weeks while we waited on parts from the States.  Rob would drive Amelie and I to base at 8 am so she could go to preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We would then make use of the shuttle and walking to do all of our errands and pick the kids up from school, etc.  Then Rob would come back after work at 6 pm to run us all around to the evening activities like Cub Scouts.  It was not one of my favorite things, but we got through it.

On the other days of the week, Amelie and I stayed home, which meant I finally buckled down and finished this denim quilt I started about a year ago.

Toby had a piece of artwork featured in a district wide art show which was very nicely done.  He looks sad here, but wasn't really- he had just come from golf, and was on his way to his brother's t-ball game, so he was just tired. It was a super busy night.

On the same super busy night, Jake's nose decided to explode in his first (and very traumatic) nose bleed in Rob's truck. He was okay by the time we got home, and had a relaxing bath before bed.

We also did a little local exploring on a walk around this lake Rob found on a bike ride.  Sadly, no swimming is allowed.

But we did go swimming at our town's outdoor pool complex which opened for the season!  For a few weeks we were having highs in the upper 80s, which is unseasonably warm for May here.  The pool provided a little relief.

Amelie also worked on perfecting her winking skills.  She thinks she is doing it. It made me smile a lot on those long days hanging around playgrounds on base.

The last weekend in May we went to the Schlossgrabenfest in Darmstadt. I really love this one.  We listened to some live music, and ate some yummy food.

Darmstadt isn't a real touristy town.  It's most known for some cool art nouveau architecture and as the Wissenschaftsstadt "City of Science."  And the periodic element 110 is named Darmstadtium. It is old though! The name dates from the 11th century, and I love the random ruins that run under the modern buildings.

We took a picture of Toby in front of the Technische Universitat Darmstadt.  He talks about maybe going to college here, so I want to be prepared with this photo in case he does someday. TU Darmstadt is one of the important technical institutes in Germany and is well known for its research and teaching in the Electrical, Mechanical and Civil Engineering disciplines which is the stuff Toby is most interested in.  So we shall see.

Back to the food at the Schlossgrabenfest though.

Sitting in the park, eating pretzels, and watching frat boys play some strange drinking game.  Truly, this is Germany.

These hats were being given out by one of the sponsors and they helped keep the sun off our faces, so they were much appreciated.  And cute.

Rob got this baked potato with a million toppings.  He loved it, I didn't so much.

I got a plate of vindaloo chicken that was pretty spicy and very tasty.

We listened to about 6 performers before heading back to our car and some were better than others but none really wowed us this year. Until we saw this street busking string quartet in town. They were just playing fun stuff- like the Beatles- but they did it really well and we sat and listened to them for a while.  Our favorite performers of the day and they weren't even part of the fest!

One night I made a fruit pizza for dessert and the kids loved it so much they told me to take a picture of it.  So there ya go.

Jakey's t-ball coach this season was an MP, so for their "end of the season party" he set up a tour of the fire station on the airfield.  The firefighters seemed to enjoy it as much as the kiddos.  They took them for a ride and shot the water cannons.  Then they set up cones and let the kids knock them down with the fire hose.

Amelie enjoyed this very much!

I did get the last day of pre-k photo of Amelie!  Though she will be back again next year thanks to her September birthday.  And I didn't get a photo on the last day of the other kids because they were so emotional. They really have a hard time with having to say goodbye to friends at the end of the school year since so many of them are moving away.  It really doesn't ever get easier. 
They did recover enough though to attend an end of the year party some friends of ours from church threw. We walked down the hill from the school and the kids played with friends, ate hot dogs, chips, and cupcakes, and had water fights.  I also enjoyed sitting and chatting with some friends.
And finally, that same day, Toby's Cub Scout Pack went to visit the same firefighters on the airfield. Jake went with them because he was just loving this firetruck business.  They also went for rides in the truck, but then the firefighters had something different in mind for these bigger kids.

They took out the ladder truck and took them up!

Like really, really high up! Several stories into the air. I'm glad Rob took them and not me, because I would not have liked that very much.  So, as you can see, the end of this school year has been BUSY.  I am ready to stay home and relax a bit this Summer.  Sometimes anyway.  There are a few places I want to go.  ;)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Springtime heals my soul!

I have a hard time with Winter in Germany. I love snow, and hot cocoa, and sitting by a fire on a blustery night. But that isn't the reality of 95% of Winter in Germany. The reality is a cold drizzle, no sunshine for a week at a time, and only a few hours of daylight at all. Oh, and of course, muddy floors from kids' wet shoes. I may have seasonal affective disorder actually. Anyway, in the Spring, I begin to perk right back up again!  On the day we sat on the beach in Corfu recently, Rob pointed out to me that we probably enjoyed as much daylight as two Winter months in Germany. I needed that.

Springtime brings back Spring sports!  
This year Toby wanted to try golf.  The base has golf for kids 8-18 years old. They take them by bus to the nearby golf course where they have instruction and play for an hour, and then the bus brings them back.  This is fantastic, but means I have no photos of Toby playing golf this Spring. He says it is "interesting, but not that fun."  I don't think he'll be playing again next year, but I'm glad he tried something new and learned the basics.

Amelie has embraced the bike with pedals that she got for Christmas this past year!
She can start, and ride all by herself... but she still uses her feet to stop instead of the brakes.

 And Jake is back to t-ball this Spring playing for the Astros!
His favorite thing about t-ball, I think, is that it allows him a lot of time to talk with the other players.

I love watching my little slugger.

Spring also means the trees and flowers are blooming in the Fasanerie near our home. I love taking walks alone there after dinner.  It is one of my favorite things about where we live right now.

I may have mentioned it at some point in the past, but the walls of the park were built in the early 1700s with stones from our local Schloss Dornberg which had been destroyed by the French in 1689.

Storks are the symbol of our town, and their enormous nests can be found throughout the park.

I just had fun taking photos on my walk one evening recently.

One section of the park's trail is lined with apple trees that were in bloom this particular evening. Apple blossoms, sunshine, longer days... yup, I needed Spring to come in a major way. 


Amelie's class participated in a parade on base for the Month of the Military child in April. She thought this was big fun!  Her class played jingle bells and other instruments.  I love that the symbol for military children is a dandelion- because it blooms wherever the wind blows it.

Our yard is also in bloom!  These are our blackberry bushes in the backyard and by the looks of it we will have a ton of blackberries again this Summer.

Now the days are getting warmer, the school year is winding up, and we are getting excited for Summer. But I am thankful for Spring and don't want to miss the mild days that are left. Time moves quite fast enough some days.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Med Cruise: Kotor, Montenegro and Home!

We were really looking forward to exploring Kotor as I'd been reading great things about the Bay, and kayaking, and hiking. But as luck would have it, our day in Kotor was our only chilly, rainy day of our cruise and we were all feeling pretty tired of the "get up and go, go, go" vibe of this trip, so our day went a bit differently than planned.

At one time part of Yugoslavia, and then in a partnership with Serbia after that, Montenegro has only been fully independent (in our modern age) since 2007.  Montenegro means black mountains, and the mountains surrounding the Bay of Kotor are dark and impressive.

The Old Town of Kotor.
The earliest recorded mention of Kotor dates back to 168 BC, however many of the fortifications and buildings in the Old Town date from the middle ages when the town was under the rule and protection of the Venetians.  The Clock Tower here dates from the 1600s.



We strolled around the Old Town in the drizzle and poked into churches when the rain got heavier.  This is inside St. Nicholas which was built in 1909.  Not old at all by Kotor's standards, but interesting to us as we don't get to see many Orthodox churches in Germany. Rob and I discussed whether it was Greek or Russian Orthodox, but upon looking it up learned that it is Serbian Orthodox.

The stray cats have their own souvenir shops in Kotor.

I love the medieval details of the stone work all over town.  We passed under this gate on our way up to the trail head leading above the town, to a church, the city walls, and fort above the town.  You can see them a bit in the first photo I posted.  However, the rain started getting heavier and the cobblestones were very slippery.  Still feeling foolish from my ill-advised donkey trail trek, I volunteered to stay in town with whoever didn't want to hike.  In the end only Rob and Jake made the hike, so here are the photos from Rob's camera.
 
  
They made it to the Church of Our Lady of Remedy built in 1518 and stopped for a rest.  They were only about a third of the way to the hilltop fort at this point.


Views of the Bay and town from the trail. 

Getting closer to the fort at the upper end of the medieval walls.  Rob was very proud of Jake because it was a challenging, wet walk, but Jacob said, "If I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to finish it."

And he did!  Way to go Little Bear!


That's our ship behind Jake on the trail back down.  He was wet and tired but perked right up when Rob bought him an ice cream cone to celebrate his accomplishment.

Meanwhile, Charlotte, Toby, Amelie, and I stayed in town.  The girls pet friendly stray cats.  And then we found a public restroom to wash up.
 
Then the kids and I checked out St. Luke's church built in 1195.  This church is neat because it has two altars- one for Catholic services and one for Orthodox.  The floor is also made of gravestones, as some of the citizens of Kotor were buried under the church in a collective grave until  the 1930s. 

 When we entered the church, the Orthodox mass was just beginning, so the kids and I stood near the back (there are no pews) and listened to the service.  Our kids don't often get the chance to attend other churches and it was really interesting and different from our own worship service.  Lots of good stuff to discuss afterwards!

The kiddos had been so patient with my taking them to church (on a Saturday!) that we found a covered table at a cafe in a square and ordered hot chocolates all around.  Hard to believe that just the day before we had been sitting in the sun on a beach!

Then we met up with Rob and Jake back from their hike and strolled a little more.  This is St. Triphon's Cathedral built in 1166.  The kids had quite enough of churches at this point, so we just enjoyed this one from outside and did a little souvenir shopping as the rain began to really come down hard again.

By the time we made our way back to the ship everyone was wet and cold and pretty done with this vacation!  We went to the top of the ship and enjoyed the views, without cameras, as the ship maneuvered through the beautiful Bay of Kotor. 

The next morning we woke up in the port of Venice and made the long trip home. We took a minivan taxi to Treviso airport,  then flew to Frankfurt, then took a train to our town.  Then I jogged/walked home to get the car, (usually Rob does this, but he was coming down with a cold by this point,) and then drove everyone home.  We were in the door around 8 pm! Cruising isn't ever going to be our favorite mode of transportation, but we are really thankful for the chance to do this trip, and love sharing these experiences with our kiddos.