Thursday, January 31, 2013

International Market

    Today I got to experience one of the great things about going to an international school. Once a month they host an international market place. Different Vendors set up booths in the high school gym with various products, but mostly food. A lot of the food is homemade by different moms who's kids attend ISD. Today was the first market since we have arrived and I took the opportunity to buy some of the things others have been raving about. Like.... One mother makes Thai food that you can order weekly and then she sells out of the trunk of her car in the school parking lot.  I thought we would try some for dinner tonight before I put in an order. So we tried two different  curry dishes with rice and spring rolls. There was also a mother from France with different quiches and breads so to go with our Thai dinner I picked up a vegetable quiche and a bread stick filled with feta cheese. To complete our worldly dinner I got some delicious cake pops from two American ladies.
   I did not buy anything but at it, but there was also an american dry goods store at the market. The American store sold such delights as overpriced poptarts, super expensive yellow mustard, and the rare pancake syrup. However I am not yet desperate enough for a poptart to pay the elevated price. ($7.80a box)
      Oh and I was very happy to see they also set up a table of English books at very low cost and all the profits they receive from sells go to a school in Tanzania.  Next time I am in need of some new books I will know where to go.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Better than a Bicycle

We saw a little of the south this afternoon when we were out buying grocery's  It brought  tears to our eyes remembering home.... tears of laughter.

This guy was loading up his four wheeler with grocery's. This is the second ATV we have seen out and about it turns out they are totally street legal here! Hummm maybe I should get one to take the kids to school??

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Washing away my blues

                                                         smaller in person
                                            The water container for the dryer

      So we have lived here almost a month and our new washer and dryer were just delivered this past Saturday. With a family of five you can use your imagination as to the clothes that have piled up in their absence. When we went to purchase the pair I tried to get one of the larger capacity 8kg sets only to discover that the largest dryer they make is 7kg so essentially I could wash more clothes than I could dry... not a huge help. So we bought both appliances in the 7kg size for 1232 euros making them fairly expensive.
    Well everything is bigger in Texas.... including my old washing machine! I already new that European washers and dryers were smaller than their American counter parts, but there were a few extra things that I did not know for example the washing cycles are much longer than back home, washing machines heat their on water and you have to dump the water out of your dyer every time you dry a load of clothes.
    As with the recycling I received a guide to washing clothes in Germany entitled "The art of washing clothes in Germany." I prefer the dump everything that's dirty into one giant load and walk away method but I guess I have no choice but to change my ways. I did read the guide before we arrived but chose to wing it anyway. ...Success! minus the part where I have tried to dry a several  loads without first emptying the water container.
   Back home it seems we value anything that saves us time (time conservation), where here they value energy conservation. So although I now see the laundry as a huge "chore" the appliances are designed to save family's money on the high cost of utilities. We chose a A+++ washing machine which is close to the top in energy savings (since I will be doing a lot of clothes!!) I have been washing now for 4 days continuously and I have just began to put a dent in the clothes we accumulated.

..... A new friend who is originally from England recently told me that the machines they used when she was a little girl were only 4kg and we are lucky because they are much larger now!! It's all about perspective.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Country Fried Weiner Schnitzel

    Upon arriving here and not having a kitchen to call our own for several weeks we were inevitably forced to find some source of nourishment ever night. This is much harder than you would think and thus caused our daily McDonald's and KFC visits.
   Aside from all the fast food we also ate at some very good German restaurants and our kids discovered their love for weiner schnitzel. The first night they ordered it at a local restaurant from a very nice English speaking waiter. The next time we were down and in the altstadt and when the non English speaking waiter came they took it upon themselves to order "the country fried steak."  He made a face and Michael swiftly corrected ... drei schnitzel bitte!
    OK I know country fired steak is made a little different (schnitzel is made of veal) but it's still delicious and the only thing it's missing is the white gravy. I'm sure if the locals tried some they would never go back.
   I think the next step is to learn to make it myself... recipe coming soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Our Dirty little Habit................ Recycling

     In Texas we enjoyed the extreme luxury of not one but two gigantic trash cans. I can not say at the time I fully relished what I had. Not only were the trash cans gigantic but... you could place anything you wanted into the bins! I'm not saying it was good that you could dump batteries, food, and paint all into one container but we did... and it was easy!
    Upon our arrival here the company ambassador proceeded to give us a 10 page pamphlet on how to recycle. It came with this handy chart to help those of us from Texas whom take our large trash cans for granted. I could fit the contents of all four trash cans here into one back home... sigh.
     So we began to sort our garbage, plastic here, food cooked/uncooked there, paper, plastic blah blah blah. However, we have one major problem the house we moved into is missing some of the color coded trash bins. So at the moment our garbage is starting to really stack up and I'm running out of room.  The kitchen is beginning to look like one large garbage pile which fondly reminds me of a poem by Shell Silverstein  Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out. Well I am not Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and I would very much like to take my garbage out!
    Until we receive our tiny cans I will continue to sort even though I'm more than sure I'm doing it all wrong and will shortly be issued some sort of fine. Enjoy your over sized, non sorted trash cans and think of us as we try to determine weather a candy wrapper is paper or plastic.. or is it paper with a plastic coating?

Just of few of the bags

Handy Guide

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nutella Cookies

I have very little on hand for baking no brown sugar or chocolate chips etc... but every night after dinner my kids ask "what's for dessert." So tonight I looked for something sweet I could make with what I had on hand.  Nutella is plentiful here so I made these cookies with only four ingredients. They were really easy to make and pretty delicious.

1 cup Nutella
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 Egg .............. How easy is that!

-You simply mix all the ingredients together
-Form dough into small balls with your hands
-Then roll the ball into a little extra white sugar
-Place on cookie sheet, flatten with spoon
and bake 8 min @ 350

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bible Study

Well I traveled across the ocean to a foreign land and what do I get .... a bible study from Texas!
It is a running joke that every womens bible study is from Beth Moore and that proved to be true even in Germany. Somethings I guess you just can't escape...
  The study officially kicks off here this week but last week at the meeting the leader shared a poem by Beth Moore that I really needed to hear it changed my outlook for the day and for the week and I will continue to reread it whenever I am feeling that weight the world can sometimes lay on your shoulders I thought it was worth sharing, true for everyone.....
 Has someone seen the life I planned
 it seems to be misplaced.
 I've looked in every corner
 it's lost without a trace.
I've found one I don't recognize
 things missing that were dear
 promises I'd hoped to keep
 and dreams I dreamed aren't here.
faces I had planned to see
 hands I planned to hold
now absent In the pictures
 not the way I told.
has someone seen the life I planned?
did it get thrown away?
God took my hand from searching
then I heard Him say,
"child, your ears have never heard
your eyes have never seen
 eternal plans I have for you
are more than you could dream.
you long to walk by sight
but I'm teaching eye to see.
I know what I am doing
til then, you must believe"
He's done so much, I felt ashamed
to know He heard my moans
 to think I'd trade in all He's done
 for plans made on my own.
I wept over His faithfulness
and how He'd proved Himself
how He'd gone beyond my dreams
 and said to Him myself,
"no, my ears have never heard
my eyes have never seen
 eternal plans You have for me
 are more than I could dream.
yes, I long to walk by sight
but You're teaching eyes to see
 You know what you are doing
 til then, I must believe."
I felt his great compassion
 mercy unrestrained
 He let me mourn my losses
and showed to me my gains.
I offered Him my future
and released to Him my past
 I traded in my dreams
for a plan He said would last.
I get no glimpse ahead
no certainties at all
except the presence of the one
 who will not let me fall.
are you also searching
 for a life you planned yourself?
have you looked in every corner?
have you checked on every shelf?
child your ears have never heard
your eyes have never seen
eternal plans He has for you
are more than you could dream.
perhaps you long to walk by faith
 but He's teaching eyes to see
 He knows what He is dong
........child, step out and believe.

No TV??

Where the TV would be

     We have not had Television in over three weeks. I still miss it terribly maybe a little too much. I miss all the horrible reality TV shows that are really just watching train wreaks unfold. The kids miss their hours of Saturday morning Nickelodeon. That is full of subject matter geared for an older adolescent audience. Michael misses football.... but what are we really missing?
     The news is right here on my computer at all times, I can see everything that happens in the USA plus all the absolutely useless "news" articles Yahoo deems fit to post. I can look up the weather even though the outcome so far is always disappointing.
     So we have decided that as a family we are not really missing anything! We have passed the point where we think TV is absolutely necessary and so we have decided not to hook up the TV. We actually do not even have a TV that works here so not only are we saving our bodies and brains from all the mind numbing television we are saving money. Then again maybe we will break down in a week from our lack of Duck Dynasty ?

How to make kids happy? ... Let them play

     The kids have been at their new school now for a little over 2 weeks and there are many difference between the school they came from and the one here. As I think over those differences I can just hear the variety of responses(and eye rolling) from my friends and family. We all value different things, science, art, math, music.. our interests lie in different areas and we hold the ones we are good at as more important than others. I would say I love reading and art while Michael believes that if the kids are not superior in math they will never hold a real job. Perhaps I can not argue his point since I currently don't work. lol
    That being said before the kids could even begin here we had to attend a mandatory meeting with the deputy principal so she could explain the differences between the learning style we came from and the one we were about to enter. As we set in the office she explained to me and Michael that this school DOES NOT focus on skill and drill but on conceptual learning. Unlike their school in Texas there would be no grades, no official report cards, and the kids would not even be taking test. She explained that most people are fine with the concept until you come to learning math and then they insist that with out skill and drill and testing the concepts can not be learned. Also, they do not assign homework. In fact they believe the effects of homework are more negative than positive and ultimately degrade home life. Believe me I am all for no homework, especially for elementary aged children  So we both agreed to the terms and conditions of the new school and they began class the following day.
    So far they absolutely love it. They have never really looked forward to going to school, but now they do some of the things they love.....
-2 Recess times, one is 45 min the other 15
-No lines
-They are allowed to move about the room as the please unless the teacher is talking
-Eli gets his own macbook
-No homework of course
- In music each student is given and instrument that they can take home and practice on
- In gym they do activities such as plate spinning, juggling etc..
-Oliver has a class period outside in a garden everyday (yesterday they built a snow fort)
      They play outside daily no matter the weather snow, wind or rain the kids still go out and play. I know there would be days in Texas the teachers would keep them inside if it was fifty degrees! It will be seven degrees here this Friday and they will still play outside! By far the kids are enjoying the two recess times the most. I know they are at school to learn but they are still kids. Play time is important and I think a little undervalued in the states where the focus in on "the test."
     Altogether they seem to have much more freedom within reason at the new school and because of the little freedoms they enjoy going. At first we were concerned over the differences in the learning styles but we decided that it was similar to the gifted classes Michael and I had in elementary school which were puzzle and activity based as opposed to work sheets etc.
   Right now we are all pleased with the school! This may change over time and it has occurred to us that when they come back to the states they are in for another big adjustment as they return to the Texas public school system.
   I do not think there is only one way to learn and I look forward to watching the kids growth in this new setting... to be continued

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sweat Treat

      It looked like a Blizzard outside this morning when we woke up. It snowed enough to have a fresh blanket of white covering everything.
      It was time to make snow ice cream so we gathered a bowl from the back yard and added a little sugar, vanilla (brought from the states), and milk. It was Delicious! and here you can make it every day... not just once every three years.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Light it Up

    When you rent a house in Germany and many other european places you must provide your own lights and install them. Where else do you go for something you need that you do not want to pay a fortune for.... Ikea. All together we needed 13 lights and even though we will be here for several years we did not want to break the bank buying lights we can not bring home. We choose several lights for a total of 224 euros.
    Sadly Michael had to add another thing to his already full plate. I think he has aged 10 years since we have been here. The picture below should say it all. After all that effort the lights we bought and partially installed were very dim, so we decided to go back one more time and look for some more. Currently even though we live in the house we only have 4 lights installed just enough to get around in the dark nothing more. To be continued...

KFC of the USA

I know that I have already hailed the great McDonalds, but the other night we made a new discovery. Kentucky Fried Chicken. We found it because it sits directly beside the Ikea we frequent and so on our last outing looking for lights we stopped for dinner. We would never stop at a KFC in the USA simply because Popeyes and Canes  is soooo much better. However, with out any other chicken options we were more than happy to have some "southern" fried chicken.
  I can only describe it in one word beautiful. We ordered a bucket of chicken with coleslaw and fries chili -cheese fries for 30 euros. The food was not so great. The chicken was not good the fries were not good! So why would I describe it as beautiful, because within its walls was a ICE machine and ...... free refills. If only you could have seen the joy on my face.
   With that being said there is nothing perfect in this world and to my disappointment they only served Pepsi products, but I will take what I can get and I was happy with my ice filled overflowing Pepsi light.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Catching the Tram

I did it, but........
        I found the public transportation system to be quite daunting since I have very little experience with the use of such things. In fact, the only time I have ever really utilized it has been on my visits to see Amanda in Chicago (and when you're in Chicago with Amanda she does all the thinking for you!)
I  just follow her lead, get on the train she tells me to get on, and ta-da that was it. Here not only have I never used the train but I can barely understand the broken English instructions.
   So I started off walking from our hotel to the Klemensplatz station to buy a ticket. I asked the young woman working if she spoke English and of course she said a little (that's the usual answer.) This girl however was telling the truth she only spoke a little. It was enough to get the temporary ticket I needed for 13 euros.  One single day group ticket later and I was on my way. I walked back to the hotel and had them drive me to our new home. There was simply to much left in the hotel for me to carry alone on the tram. So I got a lift and I was at our house with no way to pick up the kids except... the tram.  The tram I had never ridden with a ticket I was not quite sure how to use (still not completely sure.)
    I walked to the station an hour early just in case I did something wrong I would still have some time to undo my mistake.  I waited for the first train just to watch and when everyone boarded I sat and waited for the next train. The second train pulled up and I got on board scanned my ticket and hopped off 4 stops latter. After about a 15 minute walk from the station I was at the kids school 40 minutes early in 20 degree weather.  The trip had been a little too easy, now I had to freeze outside while I waited for the bell to ring.
     Now it was the kids turn to try the tram for the first time. I had spent a little extra time out side the school talking with new friends, so after walking to the train stop it was getting close to 4:30 and the train was full. We all had to stand and hold on while the train sped away. The kids seemed unimpressed by the entire situation and I think it may have been because the train was so full. Eli said it smelled horrible. When we arrived at our stop I took them into a grocery store right by the platform for a treat. We were wondering the aisles when Michael popped up around a corner. He had gotten home at 4:30 and was worried that the first train ride had been a failure. He drove to the house, then to the school, and because he knows me so well tried the grocery store (he said because he knew I didn't have coffee for the morning), and there we were. The rest of the way home was in the warm van. Michael saved us an extra 15 minutes of trudging through the snow. When we arrived the kids went straight back out in the snow to ride in some of the moving boxes down a snowy hill with friends.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We just don't know how to be cold !

     When we arrived it was around 43 degrees... not so bad. I thought "no problem"   We walked out in our thin fleece lined coats and went on our way... then it got colder and colder and wetter.
 I knew I was in trouble when a little boy ran up to Eli at school and said "my mom saw you walking today and she wants to know if you need a coat" and Oliver's teacher kept telling me "you know we go out and play EVERYDAY no matter the weather."....Ugh.... great now I look like the worst mother ever because we just don't know how to be cold!  Now it is down right bone chilling (to us) so today we went to Komphoff to buy the kids new jackets, warm jackets not the windbreakers of south east Texas, but down filled water proof snow jackets.
    We got the new gear just in time for the  dropping temperature then it started to snow and kept snowing. Now the kids apparently need; water proof trousers (Stella's words), snow boots, and new gloves (they have all lost at least one pair.) Trying to stay warm in cold weather requires a whole lot more effort than trying to stay cool in hot weather! The days of no socks and flip flips are gone. They have been replaced by multiple layers, boots, and multiple trips to the store for a new this or that. 
    Our side walk is covered in snow but Michael will not pay the 13 euros for a snow shovel. He insist they will be cheaper after the snow has melted.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Five Stories of Heaven.... If that's your thing

     We happen to be in the market for tons of new electronics due to yet another of a Americas quirky ways ie  miles, temperature, time,.... jeez.  I love anything that's different but to adjust to the majority of the worlds ways is hard. Now we are looking for a new washer, dryer, coffee maker, hairdryer, TV.. etc. The list goes on and on and this lead us to the Best Buy of Germany... Saturn. Saturn is like Best Buy but on steroids. It has 5 floors of electronics heaven, if that's your idea of heaven! It's not mine, but the majority of my family is pretty excited to see an entire floor dedicated to gaming.
   There was one noticeable difference between the two stores other than just the size. Saturn had almost an entire floor dedicated to coffee makers. Coffee makers of all shapes, sizes, and colors. There was even a 3,500 euro specialty brewer covered in your choice of sparkly crystals. Clearly the love of a cup a Joe is something this culture takes very seriously. That is saying a lot coming from a country of 4.00 specialty coffees around every corner.
   The amount of coffee makers was simply overwhelming and I opted to think things over for a bit before committing to such an important purchase. All and all we walked out with one hairdryer, two cordless phones, and one transformer(for the 3DS) for a total of 92, Euros.
Five Stories of Heaven

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Silly Little Things

Of course I miss my family and friends terribly but here are some of the silly little things I also miss:

- My car
- Ice
- Extra Ice
- American Diet coke
- Refills
- Sun light
- Warm days in the winter
- Softer water
- Debit Cards vs. cash only                           
- Giant Trash Cans
- Restaurants that serve you fast, bring you the check fast, and bring it back fast
- Flip Flops
- H.E.B
- The English Language
- Roads laid out on a grid
- Easily found, free public restrooms
- Mexican food
- Giant free parking lots
                                      I think I will continually update this list as time goes by...

FIrst Trip to Eis Cafe

Tonight after visiting the altstadt (old town) we took a detour to the Eis CafĂ©  which is a ice cream parlor with a few more choices.

      Oliver had a clown tower made of lemon, raspberry, and vanilla ice cream with cream and a cone hat. Stella had a vanilla bumble bee with cone wings and chocolate stripes. Elijah had a bowl of spaghetti ice cream with strawberry sauce. Michael also got a large fruity bowl of some sort. It was a big hit and Oliver has asked to go back everyday since we went. Total cost 22 Euros.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Three Brits and One American

Every day from 8:40 to half past nine the school opens the cafeteria and serves specialty coffees to any parents that wish to stay and talk. Today I had to stay anyway to get my security badge, so I decided to check it out.
    Much like high school (which never really ends) the tables were separated into little groups. The only difference being that these were not the artists, jocks, and cheerleaders. These groups were separated into regions. So I sat down my bag and stood in the coffee line trying to decide where it was that I belonged. Clearly not in the Asian group as I can not speak Japanese, not with the French women whom not only spoke French but were also very tall. I had finally decided on a group that looked about right and then they broke out of English and into a flurry of German. Then there were three ladies that looked very friendly and I thought I could understand. I got my coffee and asked if I may join them. They all looked up and kindly answered in a..... British accent, "of course."
   At first I felt as if I had broken the rules by sitting outside my designated region, but the women were all very friendly. They had all lived here many years and told me how the weather was much better than in England.
     It is the united nations sitting in one cafeteria, each table representing their country. Next time perhaps I should look for my table.... Texas.
(kidding.... that was for Christy)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Please Get the Door

    I have come to believe over the past week that everything in my daily routine is incredibly hard and more difficult over here. And for that reason I was unable to open a door today.
 I needed to return our signed rental contract to a local real estate broker in downtown. So I walked into Kaiserswerth determined that everything was going to go extremely smooth. I found the firm, double checked the address, and pulled on the door...nothing. I tried again it did not budge. Several people were inside, so I stood there and waited for them to buzz me in... nothing. After several rather embarrassing minutes I held up my papers so they could see I had business inside.....nothing. Finally a young man got up from his desk and came to the door and opened it with ease. It was a PUSH not a PULL I had stood out in the cold mist looking pathetic because I thought something was harder than it really was.
Don't make something harder than it really is

View on the way

Homeless, Broke, and Hungry

Please forgive me McDonalds for anything negative I have ever said against you.
When we were living in a hotel with no kitchen and very little money you were there for us.
When  we did not want to take three kids into a quite dark restaurant we saw your arches.
When we could not read an entire menu you were there with your brightly colored pictures.
When it was cold and dark outside at 4:30 you had a small but effective indoor play area for kids.
When I had not eaten all day because I was trapped in a hotel room you were there with a Big Rosti.
In case your wondering it's a quarter ponder with Ementaler Cheese, bacon, crispy hash brown, and big Rosti sauce???? on a onion bun.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Learning Curve


      Today the kids started their first day in the Dusseldorf International School, so they can become international citizens (that's the schools motto.) The kids start school everyday at 8:40. If you know me, you know this is a great thing as I have a small problem waking up in the morning. Even though I am overjoyed with this start time, there is one big negative to this set up. The kids do not get out of school until 3:40. It currently gets dark at 4:30 so the kids have less than an hour of daylight after they get out of school.
    So at 8:00 I woke them up and packed their lunches in cloth bags from Real. We ate breakfast in the hotel lobby and walked down the street to the school. I took their picture one block away so not to embarrass them (Elijah, said he would just die.) When we got to the front lobby the admissions officer walked each of them to their new classrooms, first Elijah, then Stella, and last but not least Oliver. They each walked in a little slow but no one looked back. I think they were glad not to spend the day in a hotel room.  Then it was time for my orientation. Another 3rd grade girl was starting the today in Stella's class. She came from Brazil a week ago. Her Father spoke English but her mother spoke only Portuguese, so she could not understand any of the orientation. She kept looking at her husband anxiously because he was leaving for work as soon as orientation was over and she would have to do everything else with out any use of language . The secretary kept telling her not to worry the school uses hands and feet to communicate, and they are used to working with all languages . This women could not speak to the teachers, the principal, nor the secretary.  She was more in the dark than I was. For the first time this week I could understand what was going on around me, the secretary was from England, the school nurse from Ireland. Sure they said trousers and kept telling me I looked cold, but I could understand it all. This women could not speak English or German. She had a very large learning curve, greater than mine! Just when you think "how can I do this," you meet someone whose challenges far out way your own and think "how are they going to this?"
   The Brightside is everyone seems to be in the same boat. The Brazilian couple live in our hotel and are also currently homeless and phoneless, just waiting on their air shipment to arrive. I also met an American from Ann Arbor Michigan. Her family arrived the day after us and they have been to Ikea an equal amount of times. 

-- The school nurse told me "slap cheek" was going around? what? am I the only one that has never heard of slap cheek? Chicken pox is also going around? because many places still do not vaccinate for it?


Monday, January 7, 2013

Silver Kettles

    I love how for breakfast they offer the kids hot chocolate in little silver kettles. Although very different, breakfast is delicious with different kinds of cheeses, deli meats, and breads. Instead of jelly's they offer plum spread, nutella and honey. I will be sending my dad some plume spread! They also bring my coffee in a little silver kettle and its incredible strong and bitter. Not the usual syrupy latte I love, but still coffee. My kids say that if I don't get my coffee the momster comes out!

HedgeHog Home

Since Michael told the kids that hedgehogs are indigenous to this area they have been working out a plan to catch one. First they built a home for the little critter in our new back yard with some "spare" bricks they found laying around. Then they begged for cat food at the store, Eli read online they love cat food!!.......... and now they wait in anticipation. If we get to the house at night they run upstairs for a flashlight and try to ambush the poor little animals............nothing so far, but when that day comes it will be glorious!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


     Pizza sounded like a good idea... until I realized I had to order it. Michael drove the monster van to downtown Kaiserswerth so I could hop out at a local pizzeria. One again I asked the owner if she spoke English "nein"... that's OK I'll order in German! After several people walked in front of me I ordered, I did very well or at least she understood me. One Margarita and two large salamis for a grand total of 15.50 euros. So then I waited as she rolled out the dough, put the toppings on, and stuck them in a tiny oven. The only problem was she kept talking to other people about the Americano... clearly I understand enough to know she was talking about me. I just had no idea what else she was saying about the Americao, which made me feel very "small." That's OK I thought, I am a grown up and I have to get used to our new world and all that I don't understand. I paid, I smiled, and I took our Americano dinner for five. Which we then ate as our very first meal in our new home.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Getting there is half the fun..Right?

     We began our journey in Baton Rouge Louisiana on New Year's day. We rented two cars from the airport and drove to Houston, almost 5 hours in pouring rain. After arriving at the airport we proceeded to drag 3 kids, 13 bags, and a car seat to the check in while Elijah grumbled that me and Michael clearly did not know what we were doing. We made quite the spectacle of ourselves going through security at the airport, it only took us like 12 overflowing plastic bins in a row. Stella had been pretty nervous to go through the full body scanner, but after all the build up they did not make me or any of the kids go through, or take their shoes off. However, they did rummage through two of our bags, one because I had accidentally stuck a rogue butter knife in one (my bad) and the other because Elijah had apparently loaded up on rocks his cousin had given him as a send off gift in Baton Rouge. The lady in security looked at him and said "honey you got rocks in this bag" and he answered almost crying "just one my cousin gave me."

    After all that excitement we hung out in the United lounge for a bit for some free food and internet and (to the kids skewed view of airport travel) then we boarded the plane for the kids first plane ride ever.... that just happened to be 10 hours long. The kids were excited and everyone else in first class was either smiling or grimacing at their rather evident joy, but apparently the pilots in the cockpit could hear this joy and invited all of them to have a look at the cockpit and sit in the pilot seat. They got to press a few buttons and wear the captains hat, it was all over the top and did nothing to calm them down. After getting them settled, we showed them how to work the entertainment center and it was all down hill from there. Elijah sat in the middle on his own and did great. He even managed to order a cup of coffee without my knowledge. They ate their 5 course meal and I even over heard a flight attendant say to another " what polite children they are"( in a British accent). Yay! I almost didn't think they had it in them. Everyone went to sleep after dinner (except me, thanks to my fear of turbulence.) We awoke to breakfast and daylight and thankfully a smooth landing. The kids walked off the place to discover they could see their breath...German Dragon's Breath. Then it was another marathon though customs and baggage claim... good times :) We stood at the wrong baggage claim ...blah blah blah.

      We rented the largest van we could, so we did not have to tie our suitcases to the roof. Apparently that means a black Mercedes van that looks like we should either start an electric company, do some sheet rocking, or abduct some children. Unfortunately it was a standard and after loading all 13 bags Michael ran it into a wall. Yes you read that right, he ran it into the wall ! He could not get it into reverse and gassed slightly to much. Thankfully no one was in the garage so he put it in neutral and pushed it backwards. While the kids slept in the van Michael went back to the rental car agency to get yet another van... an automatic, 2 hours later we were on our way to the hotel in Kaiserswerth. We stopped at the German walmart (Real) for some snacks and to show the kids they still have normal stuff in stores; DS games, toys, etc.. they were very pleased with what they found. Finally, hours behind schedule we drove to the hotel, only to find the doors locked.  We rang the bell and tried to call a number on the door, but nothing. We were exhausted and had no where to sleep. We walked to the closest restaurant and said "Sprechen Sie English" the owner helped us call another number to a sister hotel 10 miles away in Ratingen. We set off yet again! The hotel was easy enough to find and we made a meal of sandwiches from Real supplies .... and finally 24 hours later sleep............