Not Always a Vacation

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Living in Germany can seem like a never ending vacation with all that there is to do around here–but we also have to live our real lives too.  As we’re nearing our three month mark here in south west Germany, reality is hitting most of us–and knocking us to our knees.

Briana has good and bad days–most of them mixed in depending on the minute.  Poor Steve, he is dreading the teenage years from what he’s currently watching unfold before his eyes when it comes to her emotions.  She broke down crying at the park yesterday because one girl wouldn’t talk to her; turned out she didn’t speak English (we were on base, so we didn’t expect that barrier).  But we moved her up to the K-5 group at church this morning and she had a thrilling great time and was chatty for the rest of the day.  She talks about how Purcellville is still her all time favorite place in the world and talks about how we’ll go back there when she’s 8…or 11…or 14.  Thankful that she’s not quite got a countdown yet.  It’s also hard for her because our girl neighbors are 10, 9, and 7.  None of whom are really interested in playing with a 5 year old that doesn’t speak their language!  Such tough lessons for a sweet hearted girl. She has made a few great buddies–and we’re thankful for them!!

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There’s a USAFA family that arrives in Germany this week, and I talked to Briana about being a nice buddy to their little girl because she might miss her old friends too and need a new buddy who knows how she feels.  Hoping that focusing on others will help stave off the “I don’t like Germany” moments.  She’s also been doing a lot of her own free hand drawing in her much needed alone time, and I can usually tell her mood by what she shows me–this was on a “I miss Ditka” day

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Mikey also struggles but in his own ways.  He has his highs–walking up to kids and introducing himself like a boss; and his lows–where he’s nonverbal and back to grunting and screaming.  Those days are hardest on us all, because there’s nothing much we can do until he comes back to a calmness and can be talked to.  I’m fine getting those “looks” when they see a boy who looks too old for his pacifier and bear–because he is a tactile soother, and even when he doesn’t have it, I can tell when he’s upset because he’ll chew on anything.

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Mikey also did soccer camp with Briana, but he hated it.  Hated it so much he still starts to cry if I ask the kids if they want to go play soccer (as in, down the street in our little field).  He had anxiety attacks all week during camp–he only made it one day it got so bad.

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We did make quite a few friends at that horrible week of soccer camp, and there’s quite a bit more boy buddies around here than girls, so Mikey’s made a few friends despite the experience of screaming at soccer!

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Mikey also takes a lot of comfort in looking at pictures–he has a pile of pictures on his night stand that he goes through often, as well as a book of pictures from his classmates that his teacher sent him!

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Evie is starting to talk more–both in German and English–but she’s also a screamer who isn’t a fan of others in her personal bubble.  Not sure how she feels about this place yet.  She does love the outdoors quite a bit, so that’s a plus!  So far, she’s just along for the ride and happy as long as we’re nearby.

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We gave her bed tent to another family in the area that was in a similar situation we were six months ago.  Tonight is night two in a bed without any restraints…I think she didn’t sleep much last night because she fell asleep sitting up on the couch today.

Steve got a little overwhelmed with our travel heavy first few weeks, and soon he’ll be going TDY (temporary duty) to help out somewhere in southern Germany.  He’ll just get back the day before we leave for the U.S.  I feel like he and I will both need our little vacation we’ll get by attending my cousin’s wedding in Colorado!

It’s the little things that are starting to get to me–we’re thankful we can make it to my cousin’s wedding, but we’re also missing other weddings this fall.  We’ll also miss the birth of a few babies to friends that we’re very close to in Virginia, and that’s digging at my heart the past few days.  It’s extremely expensive to fly our family of five back to the U.S., so this trip may be our last U.S. trip as a family for quite a while.  It was such a stressful flight coming here (thanks Evie!), and we won’t be able to afford the back and forth for every event.  I miss my girls too, raising babies and living crazy lives was easy with them around–one of kind!

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And this week, it’s been in the high 40s/low 50s in the morning, and low 60s by the late afternoon.  That’s not how I’m used to August–you can’t blink because you’ll miss the summer apparently!  I do love the fall, but this came almost overnight!  I might need a trip to South Africa this January!  I feel ya Mikey

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Then there’s our yard…

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We really need to cut it back, clear it of weeds (hahahahahaha) and get it ready for the spring so we can utilize the most of it.  Our land lord came by yesterday to look at the progress on our new covered patio, and even said he’d brick out the rest of the patio so the first level is all brick! But that we can also do what ever we want–including plant trees!  We know stuff grows in plenty here, we just need to get ahead of the weed game…and it’s tiring!  I can only do so much with the kids, and Steve only gets about an hour of yard work in after work work.  It’s a tough balance!

Lots of hard work going on–both physical, emotional, and spiritual.  We’re still glad we made the decision to take this opportunity, and we knew it would be a tough one.  Those rough spots are starting to show as the kids realize this permanence.

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At least these guys are mostly getting along, and are learning to rely on each other for companionship

Pray for us!


Gartenschau Kaiserslautern

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In the busyness of everything, I completely forgot about our spur of the moment trip to Gartenschau Kaiserslautern–which people here happily refer to as the Dinosaur Park!  We made new friends at Briana’s soccer camp, and the Taylor kids love them; so when their mama suggested us meeting them there, we went without knowing what awesomeness lie ahead!

As we walked up to the ticket booth (we’ll be getting a season pass next April and making great use of this place), we encountered a gorgeous fountain with dinosaur statues

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Then as we walked towards the pedestrian overpass, we’re greeted with a warm welcome from T-Rex himself.

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This place was a hilarious juxtaposition of gorgeous gardens and décor, and dinosaurs.

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After you cross the highway, there’s a skate park for bigger kids and a sunken soccer field (I’m definitely starting to get acclimated to the new names of things–I kept wanting to write fußball!).

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Then you get to walk through your own little Jurassic Park

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The kids had a blast here.  We crossed a tiny stream (which we later learned the children are allowed and encouraged to play in), and played on the playground until our friends arrived.  Mikey and Briana loved this acorn swing so much!

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We played for over an hour, then headed to lunch at the biergarten.  After lunch–which was ordered with my ever growing yet still horrible German–we decided to test the physics of these slides with fully tummies

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The kids tried out some Archimedes screws, pumps, and other fun items up on this rocky hill.

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The crazy extremes some of these parks have, and that there’s no need for waivers or warning signs–it’s expected that you understand the bounds and dangers of what you’re doing.  It’s also encouraged for kids to do these things by themselves!

Briana ended up wading through a creek with her new friend Michael, looking for rocks and fish–while his mama and little brother and my little ones played on the other side of the park.  Kids here walk to their school at a very young age, so most parents sit in the grass sunning while their kids play when at a park.  There’s really no helicopter parenting here–it’s a lot about freedom and independence, and I’m slowly learning to give that to my kids (Briana digs it; Mikey would rather hang with me).

Thankfully, they still think their mama is fun, so we still do a lot of playing together so I can get pictures of them

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We had a great time at this gorgeous place, and we’ll happily take visitors the next time any of them come to town–you can’t miss this!

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A UK Birthday

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Since we arrived in Germany, we (that means me and Kate) have been trying to plan a trip to the UK to visit our friends, the Hayes family.  It turned out that the only available weekend we both had in common was Evie’s birthday weekend.  No worries, we practically celebrated Abi’s birth two years ago with our visit–why not celebrate Evie’s 2nd birthday with friends?!

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We headed out on our drive to take the Eurotunnel (or Chunnel) for the first time.  The trip from our house to Calais, France was about 5.5 hours, and about 40EUR in tolls.  That took us by surprise, so we vowed we’d take the non-toll way home (that ended up a big mistake, more to come).  After about a 30 minute train ride under the English Channel, we deboarded in Folkestone, England and headed towards the Windsor area.  We were greeted by an early rush hour on the M25, and added about 45 minutes to our travel time.

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But we finally made it to their house and the two older girls hugged at the door and bolted up the stairs to start their playtime together like they’d just seen each other a week ago.

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It was hard to get them to take a picture together all weekend they were all silliness and giggles–and posing in ways I have no idea where they picked it up!

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We woke the next morning and since our kids were still on an hour different time zone, the day got started a bit earlier than usual for everyone.  That was okay, because we got nine people out of the door and to Windsor Great Park by 9:30a.m.!  We strolled through, visited the obelisk built by King George II, which commemorates the services of his son William Duke of Cumberland the success of his arms and the gratitude of his father.

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The kids had a blast playing and running around, and then Jamie took us on a stroll around Obelisk Pond,

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through the sand quarry, and we came out at the Polo fields–which were setting up for a match that afternoon where the Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Phillip) was to be in attendance!

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Minus a little tantrum from the almost 2 year old, it was a pretty good trip!

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(I’m seriously contemplating making her a photo album of her tantrums through Europe…stay tuned)

 We ate in the Garden area patio, and then headed home to play around.

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We headed to The Warren for dinner and rounded up the night sitting around glasses of wine, beer, and good friends laughing about our first albums owned–and pulling up the horrible music videos to them!

Sunday, we woke up the birthday girl (who greeted us with a diaper blow out in true birthday form!) and celebrated from the start!

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Kate made delicious fluffy pancakes for the kids,

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and then the kids showed how desperately they’ve missed tv when we caught them catatonic here:

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We headed out to Grey’s Court for a picnic and walking the grounds.

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It was a shaky start when Steve took a tumble right outside the parking lot stairs!  Scary, but he was okay and left a little sore for the rest of the day.  The gardens were gorgeous and fun to explore.

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We finally found the hidden tree fort and let the kids (big and little) play for quite some time.  We then spread out and had a picnic, played with bubbles, and explored the ruins of the area!

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Once back home, we enjoyed a little tea and scones (I have a serious love for clotted cream, serious).

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But then it was time for cake, and man oh man did Kate make a magnificent cake!  She knew Evie was a big Bubble Guppies fan, so their gift to her was a BG Busy Book–and she used those characters to decorate her cake.  But her detail to the bubbles, seaweed, and sand were adorable.  AND it tasted amazing.  It was a great end to Evie’s big day!

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She’s our swing loving, monkey lovey obsessed, very opinionated little girl!  She really holds her own in the trio of kids, and sometimes can be the bossiest!

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Though she was our tiniest baby, she’s our tallest toddler (wearing some of her sister’s clothes from last year!)!

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She continues to show off her MacGyver skills by breaking through tent zippers, and unlocking doors–our days of containing her are few I fear!

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But we love her zeal, her snuggles and pats on the back. Even though she isn’t one for too many words, she’s picked up German phrases quickly, and loves to use them!  Here’s to a great year Miss Evie Jo!

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 Oh, and our drive home through Belgium was just short of a disaster.  We got on the Chunnel early (they’ll let you board one time earlier than your ticket states if you’re early); but that was squashed by a technical difficulty with one of the train cars, so we left later than our original departure.  Then as we went around Bruges and Brussels, we were greeted with rush hour traffic combined with construction and potholes…

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…and a Mini Cooper caravan of over 50 cars!  It was cute, but the older ones weren’t moving along so great!  It turned into an 11 hour trip home and we were all just this tired.  That’s ok, we had fun and the kids were great on the way home!

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Day 7–Idar-Oberstein

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I wanted to plan a day trip that was a little off the beaten path, but not far from our house.  I would say that Idar-Oberstein was the perfect spot for that!  I-O is known for two things–gems and Felsenkirche.  Felsenkirche is the Church in the Rocks.  Legend goes:

“Once upon a time, there were two brothers, Wyrich and Emich. They lived in a castle on the top of a cliff, looking over the village of Idar-Oberstein. Both brothers were in love, but the problem was they were both in love with the same princess, Bertha.

One day Wyrich came home from a trip to find that Emich had beat him to the punch and got engaged to beautiful Bertha. He got so mad that he pushed Emich out of the window of the castle where he fell to his death.

Things didn’t go well for Wyrich after that, and like the good catholic he was, he confessed the fratricide to a priest. The priest told Wyrich to amend for what he had done by building a church in the spot where Emich had died.

This was no easy task. Apparently, Emich hadn’t fallen all the way down the cliff, but only part way. So Wyrich’s church was built into the cliff between the village below and his family’s castle above.

During the building of the church Wyrich asked for a sign from God that all was forgiven and a spring sprung inside the church. The church was finished and in a final dramatic flourish, Wyrich too died in the same spot as his brother, falling down dead before the Abbott at the dedication of the Felsenkirche.” (story from www.germanyja.com)

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So with all that said, I was really intrigued.  The drive was very pretty, scenic, and about 35 minutes from our house.  We easily parked in the garages (it was Sunday morning), and walked on a pedestrian bridge over to the main area of the town.  Helpful little signs pointed us to the stairs–all 214–leading up to the Church.

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We had to make a few stops for tired kiddos and adults alike!  But once we made it up there, it was worth it!

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The church itself is pretty small, but it had some awesome little bits inside!

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The live spring was my personal favorite, as well as this carved thing.

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As I was standing looking at it I noticed the stone under my feet was loose…I really felt a bit Indian Jones-y and wanted to shout in my best Sean Connery voice, “Alexandretta!”  Steve totally understood what I was feelin’.

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After some views of the city we saw a sign that said the Schloss Oberstein was only 2.2km up the trail…and UP the trail it was.  Briana learned a new word–switchbacks.

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Holy smokes was that quite the hike up.  We had to stop to do a little first aid for some Croc induced blisters, but it was a nice time and great view at the top.

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(hooray, we survived!)

Oh, the Schloss was closed for renovations for the summer.  You think they’d put a sign saying that down at the bottom?!

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It was a unanimous agreement that we head down for food and refreshments!  We sat and ate at the Italian place at the bottom of the hill where I had an amazing dish of smoked (but very lightly, almost raw) salmon over linguine with parmesan cheese over arugula.

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We let the kids play in the fountain and Evie (remember her love of fountains), went a little overboard and was soaking wet by the end of lunch.

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The locals eating around the open plaza were thoroughly entertained it appeared as some started taking pictures.  On the way out of the area is a small Jewish memorial for what I assume are those who perished during WWII.

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I think we all left having had a really great time!!  Steve, Jo, and Dawn parted ways with me and the kids–blisters made some very cranky–and they headed to Burg Lictenberg which I heard was spectacular, and is even closer to our house.  So I know I’ll get to go there soon enough!  I’d go back to I-O for just any regular old day (I DO NOT need to hike up to the church or schloss again!), I liked the feel of the town and the shopping looks like it needs some more research ;-)


Day 6–Black Forest Tour

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I booked this tour at the same company, RTT, when I booked the Rhine River cruise; so our expectations were now pretty high from our cruise a few days earlier.  We boarded the bus and left even earlier–at 6a.m. sharp!  That’s an early wake up to get seven people out of the door, but we did it!  I’d honestly have to say one of the biggest highlights of this tour was not having to drive the 4 hours to get there…

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We were a little disappointed that there were no stops at the scenic overlooks–so all I have are bus pictures.  Our first stop was the glass blowing museum and shoppe.  There Briana, Grandma Jo, and Dawn each blew their own glass vase!

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Jo and Dawn also surprised me with this beautiful sea green glass paper weight–I’ve been collecting these since I was younger, and have ones from Tahiti, Greece, Italy, Kentucky, and now Germany!  All our window sills here are deep so I’m finally able to display them, and it looks lovely among my pictures and other glass in my sewing room

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We also had our lunch here, provided as part of the tour.  It was a pork shank, with these potato balls that were mashed and had some sort of binding ingredient in them because they were very spongy and cake like.  No dessert with this meal :(

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Because the drive to get here was so long, the kids were a bit restless.  So after scarfing down my meal, I hung outside with the kids so Jo, Dawn and Steve could eat (and the 30 others with us) in peace.  The kids had a blast climbing on the hand carved items and playing on the raft:

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Another child at heart member of our group had a little fun with the wood statues:

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We then loaded back onto our bus to head to the open air museum that featured a set of original houses with their original thatch roofs.  It was a tricky stop, because shortly after this lovely picture through the little area leading up to the museum…

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…it started to rain.  And rain harder.  We brought our rain coats, but left them on the bus because it didn’t look like it was going to rain when we de-boarded!  We saw a few of the houses, and out buildings

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But we were all a little grumpy and wet–except Evie, she seemed to be amused

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So we headed back to the bus…

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…but in the flurry of walking in the pouring rain, we forgot that we told Jo and Dawn that we’d meet them at the visitors center! AH!  So as our departure time approached and went, Steve ran to grab the ladies–we leave no one behind!

The bus headed to our last stop, the coo coo clock maker; it has been passed down for eight generations in this family and the work was phenomenal, but really expensive.

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Because the kids were solidly asleep at this time, Steve and I swapped going into the shop.  Since I couldn’t afford a coo coo clock, I settled for this:

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You can’t go to the Black Forest without trying the signature cake!  It was amazing, and I headed back to the bus to swap with Steve.  I’m not sure we’d go again because of the long ride, and it’s kind of a once and done deal for us, but it was stunning views and trees!

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Day 5–Nancy and Metz, France

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We were happy to oblige the request to have lunch in another country–and we decided to one up that and spend the whole day there!  We had too short of notice to book cheap train tickets to Paris, and we also didn’t want to just spend one afternoon there.  So heading to my favorite blog again, www.germanja.com , I typed in “France” into the search engine and found some wonderful things to do in Nancy, France–just under 2 hours drive away!  And then I found that if we went about 25 minutes out of our way home, we could visit Metz, France as well!  I am SO glad that we did both!

We left around 8a.m. Friday morning, Dawn riding as my navigator, and Jo riding with Steve and Briana.  We hit our first ever toll, which is nerve wracking when you’re not sure what to do!

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We found some rock star parking just outside Place Stanislas–but before we hit the Place, we took the wrong turn and ended up in front of the Cathedrale (I had an itinerary for the first time, and the Cathedrale was last on the list).  It had enormous doors, and was gorgeous from the outside, yet still seemed humble.

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We then headed up the street towards what I thought were the golden gates…turns out these were nothing compared to the actual Golden Gate entrance! WOW!

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We stopped along the way to hear some live harp playing.

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We enjoyed a little shade as a family by the fountains,

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and enjoyed finding these around the area

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The kids loved the fountains and played make believe rescue squad to save something that was stuck in the fountains:

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A certain family member likes to throw her monkey and climb into fountains…no names shall be mentioned, but my parenting at its finest was caught by camera:

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Briana is totally fascinated by the whole place and exclaimed, “Mom, France is my new favorite planet!”  She had a blast from the start.

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We headed out of the Place through the Arches and walked through the tree lined Place de la Carriere.

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From there we could see the Basilique Saint-Eprve, but up close it was ornate and overwhelming.  It was closed, but you could notice the work that was being done to restore the outside walls.

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We also had our first experience with pay to potty!  Let’s just say there was some dry heaving from those who made the mistake of breathing in through their nose…

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We then walked back through the Place de la Carriere to the Parc de la Pépinière.

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It was a large, Central Park type area in the city, complete with a small zoo/animal enclosure, carousel, fountains, park, and open air auditorium.  It was phenomenal.  The kids were in heaven, it was a very peaceful setting and seemed safe.  If I lived near here, we’d be back daily!

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Soon it was time to leave and drive 45 minutes north to Metz, France.  I was about to turn the corner and pull into the parking garage on my map, when I was hit with this sight, up close and personal!

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It’s amazing how something can just take your breath away!  The Cathedral of St. Stephan (also referred to as the Metz Cathedral) was by far, one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen.  As much as I was blown away by the outside, the inside was tear invoking.  I’ve been to the Vatican, but the art in these windows was so much more amazing in my opinion, than the art there.  But before we even stepped foot inside, we HAD to eat.  So we (wisely) chose to walk away from the Cathedral, and found a bistro a few blocks away that had immediate outdoor seating for 6 (Evie sat in laps).  Best. Lunch. Ever.

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The service was friendly and fast despite a bit of language barrier.  I think my order of steak was swapped with Dawn’s order of steak (medium v. medium rare), and I might never go back to medium!

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Briana’s lunch was ground beef and fries.  Sounded odd when ordering but it came in this thick patty and was rare in the middle–but it was out of this world.

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All three kids (and adults) picked at it when she wasn’t looking! Mikey and Evie shared fried eggs and fries.  Mom had a delicious chicken with mushrooms on top, with a cream mustard sauce that I happily stole from her to dip my steak in.

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We all had dessert too–cheese cake for Steve, I had rum cake, and mom and Dawn shared a lemon meringue pie.  We also let the kids run around in the plaza/street–where the encountered baby Ditka, a French Bulldog lookalike!

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Happily fed, we headed back to the Cathedral and were wowed even more.

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It was looking up that really made the tears come forth

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We left with our first impressions of France knocking our socks off, and us wanting more!


Day 4–Barfußpfad!

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There’s no rest for the weary, or those who come to visit us!  I was trying to give Jo and Dawn a unique look at some of the local attractions in Germany that weren’t castle or beer related (those are available everywhere anyways!).  So I used one of my favorite blogs here, GermanyJa!, to find such place.

I found the barfußpfad of Bad Sobernheim.  That translates to Bare Foot Park, located about 80 minutes north of us in Bad Sobernheim.  So my dear friend Sarah picked us up in her minivan, and we all squeezed in for a ride to quite the adventure!

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Here’s the sad part–I didn’t get any pictures.  I knew we’d be walking through a clay pool as seen from the post on GermanyJa! site:

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AND also crossing the river with three kids, so I wasn’t about to risk another phone.  It was quite interesting!  I really couldn’t tell you if Jo and Dawn liked it–quite the experience though! Mikey loved and hated parts just because part of his sensory processing disorder comes with the fear of being dirty (which he handled really well!), and being in different temperatures on his feet and legs.  We did need to be rescued while we were crossing the river.  I think the sign at the entrance to the river crossing said something about 8 years old and over only…but it was in German, and it was probably right!  I carried Evie, Grandma Jo held Mikey’s hand, but ended up having to pick him up because the water came up to his mid thigh in the middle and strongest point of the current, and Briana held Dawn’s hand…though at one point both gals were about to lose footing so I was also holding her other hand, but then I was walking across the river unassisted!  A gentleman (assuming he was from the Netherlands from his non German and platinum blonde hair!) waded part way out and grabbed Briana so we could finish crossing.  Lesson learned!

We walked across stones, corks, wood balance beams, and more for about 3.5km!  At the end we dealt with a minor scare as a muslim teenager got in Mikey’s little bubble (as Dawn was helping him up a huge wood plank), and kept screaming “Engleeeesh! Engleeeesssh!” to her friends across a huge recreation area.  She kept waving them to come over.  I’m sorry, but I went into total emergency prep mode in my head and started scanning the area!  I’m not a fan of being pointed out as English Americans in a huge crowd of non!  Same girl, later on as we walked by in the eating area, snuck a stroke of Briana’s hair and I wasn’t going to have it and let her know (doubtful she understood).  I have no problem with strangers touching a curl, and neither does Briana, but most either ask or get down on her level and talk to her complementing her while picking up a curl.  That’s fine–don’t sneak it as she walks by.  Very violating.

We decided on our way back to Landstuhl that we needed to stop by and get some gelato.  Off to my fav gelato location in Landstuhl!

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Here Dawn learned that my kids are very much like little birds and will cheep cheep at you until they’re fed:

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Later that night after we put the kids to bed, the adults headed next door for a pint and some flamkuchen!

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Then it was off to bed for an even busier day to come on Friday!


Day 3–Rhine River Cruise

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On Wednesday, we headed to our first excursion!  Since we’re rookies in the area, I relied on some word of mouth, and went to the local travel agency at Ramstein, RTT Travels.  They were so great!  We’re pretty cheap travelers, usually doing stuff on our own, bringing our own food, etc., but since we really have NO clue what we’re doing quite yet when it comes to sites to see and more, we were happy to pay a little extra to have it all provided!  We were NOT disappointed!

We woke up bright and early, and left the base chapel parking lot at 6:30a.m. on a bus that made its first stop at Burg Reichenstein a castle still privately owned and operated by the owners and family.

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(they loved their antlers!)

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My little trio weren’t the best behaved or quiet here,

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so after arriving inside the castle, the kids and I took our own little self led tour.

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The views were spectacular,

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and the food at the café was just as yummy!

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(who wouldn’t want this as breakfast?!)

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(ice cream at 9:30a does wonders, I’m going to continue my scientific research)

After a short ride back on the bus, we hopped off and had about an hour before our boat arrived.  Coincidentally, we were dropped off across Stephan’s Wine store–a shameless tourist trap.

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BUT, he saw me and my three kids and gave me double shots of every wine he was offering as a tasting.  According to Rick Steve’s books, he is one of the only places to offer Eis Wine tastings.  I loved Eis Wine, but it was a little above my price range–and I’ve quickly learned to never buy something at a tourist trap!

Our boat soon arrived, and off we set down the Rhine River!

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We saw over 14 castles along the Rhine, and they were ranged from ruins to spectacular!

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After the Rhine docked in Rüdesheim, we headed up the city streets to a lovely lunch provided for us

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Once we were done with lunch we were provided with about 2.5 hours of free time which included tickets to the cable cars which took us to the top of the hill/mountain to the Germania Monument!  The ladies took the older kids, and I got stuck the privilege to ride with the wiggly one.  But look who insisted on being a big girl and sitting in her own seat.

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I sat ready to spring into action if she flinched or gave me reason to believe she was going to throw that monkey down below!  At the monument, we were offered a spectacular view of the wine country, the Rhine, and the city below.

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The monument itself was amazing, and was an offer of peacetime after the war with Prussia.

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As we headed back down to the bus for our ride back to the base, we stopped for a little gelato (oh, and we had gelato for lunch too!)!  So if you’re counting, that’s 3x gelato for the day–mom of the year!  We had a great time, had a great tour guide, and were all VERY tired at the end of the trip!

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First Visitors!

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Since we just moved here a mere seven weeks ago, we didn’t really expect anyone to come out this summer.  We were pleasantly surprised when Grandma JoJo and her best friend Dawn decided to fly out and not waste any time (or good weather!)!  They had one request–to eat lunch in a different country; we were happy to oblige and plan even more!

Steve and I both drove up to Frankfurt am Main airport (the one downside to there being no extra seats in my car) to pick up Jo and Dawn around 1p.  We forgot that they wouldn’t have data nor WiFi once they landed so the art of finding them in such a large airport proved tricky, until we found two parking spots alongside the terminal–yeah, you can still park in front of the airport here without crazy whistle toting rent-a-cops yelling at you!  Steve walked inside and found them within minutes!

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It was pouring buckets, so our plans to walk around downtown Frankfurt were squashed.  That’s okay, we were all really tired.  But not tired enough to test out our new favorite meal–döner!

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We also need to stock up on some “supplies”, so I saved my recycling trip for their first night and showed them how doing this:

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Gets you about 6€ back at the Lidl or Aldi nearby!  And with wine and beer being so cheap, it’s a deal!  Jo and Dawn spent most of the time in the Lidl amazed at the prices!

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We took a little tour of the town, and these ladies did awesome staying awake until 9p their first night!  We were all very happy to have them in town!

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The kids were very excited to have someone new to read bedtime stories!

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Pretty sure this guy’s smile doesn’t get much bigger!!

On Day 2, we woke up our visitors and took them on a little tour of our favorite things to do in the town–feed fish and pick berries!

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Daddy comes home early on Tuesdays to take conference calls back to the U.S., so after he was done with that, he took the ladies to the Base to get their visitors passes for the week–a huge time saver!  We then met up at Burg Nanstein, but not realizing we were minutes away from the castle closing, we chose to eat first.  Oops!  We had a great dinner though, and you would too with this view and company ;-)

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Garden Update

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It’s going to hit the 90s again today, and of course it ended up being one of the only free days we had to work in the yard.  Go figure!  Thanks to some friends of ours that Steve works with, we were able to tackle our little jungle of a yard full of stinging nettles and thorny bushes and vines.  That’s okay–in our yard work Steve found that the whole side of yard’s fence is covered in blackberry vines!  The #1 fruit in our house, and also a very expensive purchase around here is free for the next few weeks! Yeah!

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Our vegetable garden is hanging in there too.  The cucumbers have done well, though we’ve only yielded four cucumbers so far, it appears as though the peak of their fruiting season is yet upon us.  I guess I’m a little used to southern weather and the peak being in June/July–not August!

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The zucchini plants struggled at first, not sure why, but one really seemed to kick the bucket only to bounce back!  The green zucs are coming in to hopefully give us our first one this week or next; the yellow zuc (the one that struggled) was going to give us one to pick two weeks ago, but it shriveled up mid growth.  But, one thing I’ve noticed more of recently have been bumble bees!  They’re all around the garden now, and both plants have blossomed more and more flowers–so I hope that’s a good sign of veggies to come!

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The tomatoes continue to perplex me.  We got a first harvest soon after we bought the plant; however, since then, it’s only grown big green tomatoes (the first ones WERE red!) that are super tart, but never continue to mature into red ones.  Not sure yet.

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Next summer, we plan to clear out this whole terrace level and the next one down to garden the whole space.  We also received the okay from our landlord to put some sort of steps into the hill.  Lots of work ahead of us this fall!

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