Friday, June 27, 2008

The best of our trip pictures, so far, in no particular order

Waiting at the train station to go to Bremen
Feeding the horses in Ottersberg

Petting the deer at the Munich zoo
Munich zoo, again
One really cool slide at the Munich zoo!!
This is the theater where we saw the ballet. We were on the top tier.

Castle at Heidelberg
Lucerne, Switzerland
On the boat to Mt. Pilatus
The four kids in Munich

The BMW factory in Munich
The view from our hotel in Innsbruck
Buckingham Palace
One of the many flower pictures, probably taken by Jonathan
Notre Dame
Lowendenkmal in Lucerne

More pictures from Ottersberg

Benjamin is now addicted to rollerblading. This morning, after breakfast, he went upstairs to get dressed. A few minutes later, I looked out the window and saw him skating past, IN THE RAIN!!! He, of course, saw nothing wrong with it, and was indignant when I made him come in.

Jonathan asked me to take his pictures next to the plants that were being watered. This machine goes down the row, slowly watering all of the plants.
Another favorite thing is using this go cart. They drive up and down, by the greenhouses. It goes quite fast, and has an adjustable seat, so all three boys can use it.
An old house in Fischerhude
Cobblestone streets in Fischerhude

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Germany Wins!!!!

We had a lovely day yesterday. First we walked to Inid's other greenhouses. It was supposed to be about 3 miles away, but I think we took the long way. Oh well. The walk made us realize why Grandma's ancestors settled in Pennsylvania - it looks very similar, with rolling hills and pastures. Here we are, leaving for the walk.
There were many windmills along the way.
Instead of training wheels, Elias has this bike with no pedals. After a few minutes, he had it figured out and was balancing like a pro!
These are some of the many fields outside of their greenhouses. These are full of Heather, I believe.

After lunch, we went to the neighboring town of Fischerhude, where we took Elias and the boys on a leisurely boat ride down the Wimmer river. It was just a simple wooden boat, but instead of using oars to paddle, they gave us long paddle that we used to push the boat downstream.

Near the dock, the stream was so shallow that we had to get out and push! This afternoon turned out to be quite a workout!

That evening, we first went to watch Mattias play hockey. In the US, we would call it field hockey. Here, it is very popular and played by men. Benjamin and Alexander had never seen hockey and found it very interesting.

The highlight of our night, though, was the football (soccer) party at Lisa and Frank's. It is the European Cup Championship, and it is HUGE here. It's more intense than the superbowl. Germany played Turkey in the semi-finals, and in an exciting game, Germany won 3-2. Jonathan had stayed back with Elias and Joel, but Benjamin and Alexander had a great time! We got home around 11:00, and, of course, it was still dusk outside. We're so excited that Germany won, because now we get to go to a finals party on Sunday! We all have Germany shirts, and I have a Germany scarf. On the way home, all the cars were beeping, and people were standing on street corners, waving flags and singing. What a night!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More pictures from our trip

Here we are with the British guards.

Jonathan took this picture of us at the gardens of Versailles, outside of Paris
One of our favorite trips, up the incline train on Mt. Pilatus. Next to Benjamin is Madi, the other child on the trip. They became fast friends on day two, when they played a game of tag. They were inseperable after that. This is one of many many pictures we took atop Mt. Pilatus. I can't even describe how beautiful it was. We were over the clouds, and watched them come in. By the end, we were inside the clouds. What an incredible day! We decended on a cable car and then a gondola.

We found a playground in every city we visited. The Europeans obviously don't have the same liability issues that we do. They had some awesome equipment you would never find in the States.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lots and lots of pictures!!!

Thanks to Inid, I was able to download the first 440 pictures. Unfortunately, they did not download in order...and I couldn't figure out how to label them - the entire snapfish website came up in German!!!! But for those who are interested, here is the link to our first batch of pictures. They were taken with our old camera, and many were taken by the kids. Enjoy.

Pictures from Ottersberg

Feeding the horses at a neighboring ranch
The greenhouses

The first of our photos!!!!

Here is Alexander in a rose garden in Rothenberg, Germany.
Feeding the monkeys in Munich, Germany.
Alexander enjoyed his ice cream at the zoo.
Big Ben, as taken by Jonathan

German Cultural Lessons

Right now, we are in Ottersberg, Germany. We arrived here yesterday evening and unpacked. We are staying with Hermann and Judy, who are cousins to Chris' dad. Their daughters Anke and Inid live on the property, too, along with the huge greenhouses which are their family business. Inid has two boys, Joel (1 1/2) and Elias (4). The boys are in heaven here. They have a huge yard, a woods, and a pond. They also have boys to play with and thus all the required boy toys. We've only been here 24 hours, and have already learned some lessons:

Lesson Number One

You know those coo-coo clocks everyone has? The ones that say "coo-coo" every hour? This afternoon, we were sitting on Anke's porch, enjoying the gorgeous weather, when we heard her clock going off. The strange thing was, it just kept on going and going. Finally, we asked her where her clock was and she started to laugh. We were hearing the actual coo-coo bird!!! It lives in the woods, and is in this area for about four months every summer. She got out a bird book, and showed us a picture, and guess what? The bird looks NOTHING like the birds that pop out of our clocks at home!! We had no idea it was an actual bird. Inid and Anke enjoyed a long laugh at us!

Lesson Number Two

The German keyboard is set up differently from ours. The Z and Y keys are reversed, so I've done a lot of backspacing. The shift key is farther to the right and left, and all the special keys like "$()'@ are in totally different places. It makes quite a challenge when typing.

Lesson Number Three

We as Americans to way too much laundry. Here in Germany people tend to rewear their clothes until they are actually dirty, opposed to what we usually do, which is throw all of our clothes directly in the laundry, no matter what condition it is in. Their washing machines are smaller, too, so today we have had to run about 6 loads of laundry. We're trying to rewear as much as possible, and will try to contintue that when we return.

Lesson Number Four

It's really hard to fall asleep before it's dark. Last night it got dark at 11:00 PM. It's also extremely hard to sleep in when it gets light at 5:00 AM!! What a change from what we are used to!

We will be here at Inid's until July 4th, so we'll be able to check email, despite what our vacation message says. I'm also going to try to get my pictures on snapfish, since the first memory card is full. Don't worry, we brought along two more memory cards with us....

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Yesterday we spent the day in München (Munich). It is a wonderful town that hopefully we can visit again. The downtown area has a large walking section, but you must watch out for bikes! They are everywhere!!! We had a morning bus tour that pointed out the major sites, then lunch in an outdoor market. We found brats, sandwiches, and delicious fresh fruit.

After a search for a place to change money (oops, forgot it was a Saturday), the bus took most everyone to the concentrations camp of Dachau. Chris accompanied them, while I took the three boys plus Madi (the other 10 year old) to the München zoo. It was fabulous. The Germans sure know how to do their playgrounds - there were two playgounds in the middle of the zoo and they spent a long time at them. Benjamin tells me the highlight of his trip so far was when a monkey ate out of his hand. With all of the things we´ve done, we were laughing that that has been his favorite.

We met up with everyone for dinner at a Biergarten. They were moved by the visit to Dachau, and were excited that they got to stop at the BMW place on the way back home. Last night I took Benjamin to a ballet - probably my highlight of the trip. It was absolutely amazing. I was tired when we got there but had no problem staying awake. Today it is on to Rothenberg and then Heidelberg.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What a trip!

I am here in Munich, with just two days left on our school portion of the trip. I have only 6 minutes to blog, so I will try to give a quick synopsis.

Paris ´was our least favorite city. Dirty, a bit scary, and the people were rude. Jonathan loved the Eiffel tower, and every time we got a glimpse of it, he yelled "There is the Eiffel Tower!" Very cute!

Next it was on to Lucerne. We climbed to the top of Mt. Pilatus (via cable car and some steps) for the most spectacular views I have ever seen. Quite a highlight. Our hotel there and in Innsbruck were amazing, with beautiful views of the alps.

The boys are doing well. Alexander has only had a few worries so far, and all the m high schoolers have adopted them. Hope to get on the computer again on Mondaz

Saturday, June 14, 2008

the queen

Today we were treated to a parade in honor of the queen's birthday! We saw her, Camilla, William, and Harry go by, as well as a fantastic fly by of British jets. it was amazing! we took a walking and driving tour of London and are now at a pub waiting for our fish and chips. tomorrow it's on to Paris!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And we're off!!!!!

Tomorrow morning, at 10:30, we leave for the Orlando airport. We'll fly to Washington, DC, and from there on to London! We'll be in London at 6:30AM English time, which is 1:30 AM our time. Jet lag will be interesting, especially with the kids! Hope to blog soon.

Pictures galore

Follow this link to view the pictures taken at our bell choir concert

Monday, June 9, 2008

Last day of school!!!

Friday was the last day of school for kids. Poor dad has to work today and tomorrow and finish out the year. Benjamin was a bit excited to be finished, don't you think????

At the awards ceremony on Thursday, Benjamin received a special award from the Duke TIP program. Yea, Benjamin! Yea, Duke!
Alexander had a GREAT teacher this year. He's going to miss her - they've already emailed back and forth.

That evening, I pulled Alexander's loose tooth. Would he have gotten more money if he lost it in England?? 1 pound = 2 dollars!

Barack Obama

Our house is so excited now that Barack is "unofficially" the democratic candidate! If you are a supporter, go to this website to get a free bumper sticker. We've had one on both cars since last summer, but I'm sure we'll find a place for this one, too.

Jonathan's speech

Jonathan asked me to post his speech from graduation. Together with other boys, he recited a poem by Shel Silverstein entitled "Ickle Me Pickle Me." He practiced over and over and did a wonderful job!! He was so proud of himself.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

More video

Today was our annual bell choir concert at church. This video is of Benjamin and Chris' bell choir, playing Pictures at an Exhibition. Many of the children in the choir are playing for the first time - they did a wonderful job!!! My (Karen's) bell choir also played, but we only had room on the card to tape one song - and Benjamin won out. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Video time!

While clearing out our memory card, I found these videos to post. This one is of Alexander's solo in the chorus concert. You can see he's a bit nervous, but he pulled through!! Benjamin was the videographer on this one.

This video was taken last night at Benjamin's "Fantastic Florida" performance. The fourth grade curriculum includes a study of Florida history, and the culminating activity was a 45 minute show including music, skits, and speeches. This was the first time we were able to hear Benjamin's Orff music group, and we were impressed.

At the end of Jonathan's graduation, they played "We are Family" and the children danced. He told us he would dance, and we were pleasantly surprised when he did! Look for him amongst the jumble of kids - he is wearing striped shorts.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Getting ready!

We're getting ready for our trip. On June 12th (Jeff's birthday), we leave for Europe. We will be traveling with 24 high school students, 11 parents, plus the five of us. I can't wait! It's going to be the trip of a lifetime that hopefully the kids will never forget. Tonight we organized our passports, backpacks, and journals. Benjamin and Jonathan wrote their first entries, predicting what they will see in the next two months.

We are not taking our laptop with us, mostly for security reasons, so our blogging will be spotty. I just added a link on the right that connects to our different hotels. You'll notice there's a week and a half that is unaccounted for - that's when we'll be staying with our relatives in Bremen, Germany. They run a greenhouse business, and have a huge house and property, so hopefully we won't be too imposing. Inid and Matthias, who are hosting us, have two young children. Our plan is to lay low for that week and a half, doing "normal" things like going to the market or the playground. I won't be surprised if Jonathan returns speaking perfect German!

While we're gone, follow along on our trip with these links. We'll try to post whenever we have computer access, but we'll also be very busy and won't have much time to seek out computers. Believe me, once we return, we'll be posting like crazy, trying to share as many pictures as we can without bragging too much!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ice Cream Deception

I love ice cream. My family loves ice cream. We had to make a rule that the boys are only allowed to eat it once a day. I'm a sucker for frozen yogurt, because it makes me feel like I'm eating something good for me, even though it is obvious it's filled with sugar and other not-so-healthy ingredients. We always have at least 3 kinds of ice cream open in the freezer, because of course the boys have to fight over what flavor to eat.

The other day, we had only two containers of ice cream left, and we were already at Target, so ventured over to the ice cream section. I had seen from the flyer that Breyer's was on sale. When I looked carefully, however, I realized that Breyer's ice cream now comes in 1.5 and 1.75 quart containers. Although the size of the container has been reduced, the regular price, of course, has been raised. I then checked Edy's, my personal favorite. They, too, have switched from half gallon to 1.5 and 1.75 quarts. At this point I am pissed. We bought one 1.75 container of Breyers, just to get us through the day. The next day I went to Publix. Luckily, their generic ice cream and frozen yogurt (which we all like) still comes in half gallon containers, I let everyone pick out their own flavor, and we came home with 2.5 gallons of ice cream.

I have since emailed both Breyers and Edys to inform them of my boycott. Along with shopping at Wal Mart, I refuse to buy any ice cream that is packaged in less than half-gallon containers. It's my own personal rebellion, and, although they won't notice it in their bottom line, it's a moral victory for me.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Jonathan's Graduation Day

It's 3:00, and time for the ceremony to begin. It was held outdoors, at the Port Orange Pavillion. It's a beautiful setting, except for one thing - it was HOT!! Luckily for the kids, they were sitting under the pavillion. The rest of us were sweltering in the heat, wishing we had been as smart as the 6 or 7 people who brought umbrellas for shade.
Here are all of the children who are in VPK (Florida's free preschool program) or Kindergarten. We were sitting fairly far back, hoping to catch more of a breeze.
The owners of the school, Mr. and Mrs. Scotty. They have owned Montessori of Port Orange for years! My friend's son, who just graduated high school, went there.
They asked Jonathan to be in a group that recited a poem. I had warned them that last year he refused to participate at all in the graduation ceremony. This year, he assured us that he would participate. And he did!!
After about 30 minutes, storm clouds began to form. This was quite a relief to all of us because it brought the temperature down a few degrees. Not to mention how much we need the rain. Unfortunately, no rain materialized.
All of the kids recited "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" The kids in front are wearing the various animals.
Look how well our new camera can zoom. All of these pictures were taken from the same place.

These are all of the VPK students, after they called each name and recognized each child.
Next they handed out "diplomas" to the graduating Kindergarteners.
It all ended with the kids dancing to "We are Family." Jonathan was rocking!

Our blue-eyed boy!

Jonathan with his proud brothers.
If you didn't get enough of these pictures, you can view all of them on snapfish by following this link. Included in the album are the 5 pictures from church, and all of the graduation pictures.