Monday, February 12, 2018

Meine Freunde Buch: A Funny Story

Every once in a while, one of the boys will have a book in their box at Kindergarten to take home, fill out, and bring back.  They are the typical friend books where you fill out information about yourself and your favorite things.  There is always a place for the child to draw a picture for the owner of the book, one of the other Kindergarten students.  I helped the boys fill out all the writing parts.  I read the questions in German and they answered me in German.  I wrote it down.  I knew how to spell all but one word that Drew told me.  I had to look that one up because I didn't even believe him that it was the right word.  I'd never heard it.  Witzig means "funny," but it was not the word I knew for funny.  I am super excited about how well they are both doing with German.

Anyway, back to my story, I left Judah to do his drawing and when I came back, he had drawn something.  I said, "Wow!  That looks like a flower."  He said that it wasn't a flower, but a person with a flower headband on.  Then he told me, "It's the meany meaniest mean Mia. She's so mean and she never let's me play."  I have been laughing to myself about this for a week, because Mia is the one to whom the book belongs.  Luckily, she'll probably think he drew her a flower and not a picture of the meaniest meany.  I probably shouldn't think this is funny, but I can't help it.

On a different note, Drew really wants one of these books now so that he can remember his time here in German Kindergarten.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My Birthday and Brian's Birthday

For my birthday, Brian took me to brunch at the Wasgau (a German grocery store!) because we had noticed a few weeks before when we stopped in after our antique shopping that they have some really great breakfasts at some of the bigger stores in the bakery.  Fast food places and even cafes are kind of scarce in Germany.  The grocery stores or bakeries are where you get a quick breakfast or lunch, commonly.    This was the "full breakfast".  It was so much food!
Meats and cheeses (Salami und Kase), a hard boiled egg (Ei), two rolls (zwei Brotchen), orange juice (Orangensaft) and coffee (Milchkaffe)

After a leisurely brunch, we ended up swinging by one of the antique store again because they had emailed us that they had more Brittany pieces in.  We ended up getting a stained glass of St. Peter and a Demijohn.  If you've never heard of a Demijohn, go to this Etsy link to see one for yourself.  Ours is green glass and will be holding our corks.  Here's to hoping that none of our kids or their friends fall into it since it has to be on the floor.

We went home to hang out with the kids a bit before our dinner out without them.  Brian must've thought I needed a break.  :)  For a late dinner, we went to Marathon which is a Greek restaurant owned by the parents of two girls on Hannah and Genna's basketball team.  I went there for their basketball Christmas party, but Brian had not been there yet.  It is really good Greek food.  I had the Gyros Spezial  which was Gyros meat in a Metaxa sauce with mushrooms, onions, and peppers, Uberbacken (direct translation is overbaked) with cheese.  It was absolutely amazing!  Even better than the Gyro pizza that I had last time.  Brian had lamb and he said it was exceptional.

I got the royal treatment that Saturday, as you can see, but my poor husband's birthday fell on a Tuesday.  He had to work and then we went as a family to our favorite Italian place nearby.  They know us there, we have our special family table (AKA Stammtisch) and Brian loves that.  I wish I'd thought to take a picture!

We were both showered with cards and pictures from all five of the oldest children too!  It's so nice when the children work so hard to make you a gift.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Since Italy...we do other things than just travel, sort of.

It sometimes feels like the time between trips is all about planning and packing for the next trip.  We have had no "normal" for the last two plus years.  But, alas, this is not a travel blog though it may have felt that way for the last couple of years.  We do, very rarely and occasionally just hang out at home.  Mostly we do this when my husband is traveling because he's the one with all the drive to get us going places and not waste a minute of our precious time here.  However, sometimes plans fall trough and even he ends up spending a Saturday or Sunday at home.  This is what it looks like... 

A beer, football, and cute boys in jammies!

I mentioned in some of my recent posts that we are unexpectedly moving back to the states earlier than was planned.  We'll be moving back to my home state it seems this summer.  So the list of trips got put on a different timeline and there are a few big items that we wanted to buy while we are here.  Brian and I have gone antiquing a couple of times looking for a buffet that matches our Brittany-style 100 year old table that we have loved.  We found the perfect piece at about the third place that we went.  The first two had pieces that matched, but weren't the right size, height, displace space, or storage space.  This was the one, but we were disappointed that the color was a shade lighter than our table.  After expressing that out loud, the wife of the shop owner said, "Oh, we can do that.  No problem."  Sold!

Pre-stained and fixed up...It won't be ready until sometime in February, but I am so excited.  He saw me looking at a Brittany-style napkin holder and Brian found a cool wooden shoe horn (It's weird, but our kids are in love with the shoe horns that we have seen at the apartments that we have rented all over Europe) and the owner gave them both to us as a gift.
After buying our buffet, we went to the grocery store to pick up a few things, and got coffees to go.  Then we stopped by a Doner shop and got a wrap to share.  It was a nice time together without the kids.

That evening, it started snowing and after dinner, Brian took all the kids (except Isaac because he had been really sick with fever and cough) outside to sled.  I got to talk to my brother on the phone with almost no interruptions, but Drew did get hit by a snowball and come in crying to me at one point.

Instead of sledding, Bob just ate snow for 2 hours.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Italy Day 3 and 4: Florence and Pisa

We've been to Florence a bunch of times, though not as many times as Brugges, this was our third time and Brian's fourth.  We keep coming back, one, because it's one of Brian's favorite cities and, two, because of Bernardo.

In front of San Miniato

Also, in front of San Miniato, but looking down on Florence

Brian in front of San Miniato

Bob, you'll never remember it, but look at the cool places you've been!

A sweet moment between sister and brother

Bernardo was a monk in this monastery when Brian first met him just a couple months before we got married in 2001.  
The girls and I met him in 2008, pregnant with Isaac, when I first went to Florence.  He showered us with gifts and made us feel so at home in San Miniato every evening after our full day of sight-seeing when we'd make the trek up to the top with a double stroller, Brian have a fractured foot, and I was carrying an extra bundle.  He even drove us straight to the train station early the morning we left.  I've told this story before, but he called only moments after Isaac was born to say he'd been praying for me and the baby and wanted to know how we were.
In 2016, we returned to have Isaac's First Communion in this church and have Bernardo there since he'd played an important prayerful role in his birth.  

Bernardo, our favorite Abbott!

Then now in 2018, we came back once more to spend a few moments with our favorite Abbott.  He was the same as always, praying for us and showering us with gifts.  First we went in front of San Miniato's relics and lit candles and lined them up in front of the altar and prayed.  He took us up to the bell tower and we stood right there with the bells as they rung out the noon hour.  It was super loud and Bobby started to panic, but he quickly calmed down and just let me cover his ears and cuddle him.

Cuddling the scared Bobby during the bells

Then we went up to the next level, the very top, and he gave the children candies and chocolates while we talked and looked at Florence below us.  Before we left, he took us into the gift shop and gave us a cake made by the monks there and gave each of the children a small medal.

Loving the sunshine!

The cake

The Arno River with the Ponte Vecchio in the distance

View from on the Ponte Vecchio

We walked to lunch.  At lunch Judah fell asleep at the table after eating his PB&J we packed for him. Bobby dirtied his diaper and I found out that I forgot to reload the backpack with more diapers that morning.  I had exactly one wipe and no diapers.  This had happened once before when Isaac was a baby in Amsterdam, but I was able to clean him up and keep the same diaper on him.  However, when I got to the bathroom I realized this was not one of those lucky times.  Not only was it dirty, but it was already out of his diaper on his baby leggings.  I had to pull together a makeshift cloth diaper by folding the baby leggings up and then putting his pants on top.  We paid and I went searching for a place to buy some diapers while Brian and the kids looked at the statues outside the Uffizi.  Luckily, I found some Pampers before he made any further mess of the situation.

In front of the Uffizi museum

I put his fresh diaper on behind this statue.  ;)

We always stop in Santa Maria Novella Farmacia when we are in Florence.  It is a perfume store in an old monastery and was in a scene in Hannibal, the movie.  It is Brian's favorite smells in all the world and he always buys me a new perfume.  This time we came rather unprepared as to what the names of my perfumes that I already had were since the bottle's only label is etched into the bottle on the back and not something you notice unless you are really looking at the bottle.  We smelled probably 15 fragrances and narrowed it down to two.  One was Brian's favorite and one was my favorite.  I ended up choosing the one that Brian liked more because he's the one who really would be smelling it the most since I get used to the scents that I wear.  Anyway, it turned out that it was the same one we got the last time we went.  So now I have two big bottles (they only come in one size) of the same perfume.  On the bright side, it is truly Brian's favorite if we picked it out twice and now I have a nice long supply of it.

Santa Maria Novella Farmacia

Santa Maria Novella before catching the bus back to our van and heading back for the night.

That was our Monday, and the next morning we were scheduled to check out of our Agitourismo to drive down to Rome for the Wednesday audience with Pope Francis.  However, we didn't check our facts and just relied on someone else for the info and it turned out the Pope was in Chile that whole week and there was to be no audience.  We found out on Saturday and so we canceled our Rome reservations and just cut our trip short.  We've been to Rome many times and that was really the only reason for going even though we'd planned to visit with a couple of friends while there.  We found a couple of days on our calendar when we could fly down to Rome for a Wednesday audience and decided that was a better use of our money than going to Rome as planned and never getting to see the Pope before we move back to the states.

So the next morning we got up earlier and packed up the van.  We drove to Pisa to literally just see the tower of Pisa.  For some reason, this was very high on the kids' list of things to see in Italy and so we wanted to give them that experience.  Unfortunately, it was raining and the kids were tired, so it wasn't as fun as they'd hoped.  My little people have a thing against rain coats, hats, hoods. 





"Yep, it's leaning."

And that is all I have to say about Pisa, except that there were so many people bothering us to buy stuff as we walked to the tower.  We grabbed McDonald's and hit the road for what was supposed to be 10.5 hours and turned into a lot more when they stopped traffic completely in the Swiss Alps outside the 10 mile tunnel because there had been a wind storm on the other side and some trees had fallen on the road.  We sat still for almost three hours.  We had just enough gas to get into Germany because we get cheaper gas in Germany.  Brian turned off the van, but was listening to his audio show.  The battery died and we got a jump from the car next to us, but we couldn't keep the van running long because of the gas situation and we had no idea how long this was going to be.  We charged it up for a while, but then we took the chance of turning off the van again, but this time not using the battery at all.  It started up fine when the traffic finally started moving.  For a long time we didn't know what was even going on, but Brian got out and talked to a couple of guys that were standing out in the snow and found out about the trees and that they thought it would be at least another hour at that point.  We got home at midnight, but we were happy to have made it and all went straight to  bed.  Bob had only slept for about 45 minutes of the car trip at around 10pm, so he was exhausted.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Italy Day 2: Siena

In preparation for this day, I had been reading aloud from our Mary Fabyan Windeat book about St. Catherine of Siena.  I am so glad we did that.  I actually didn't know some of the stories in that book about her life.  It was so great for everyone, with the exception of Bobby, to be able to look at the paintings of her life and know exactly what the story was behind it.  I cannot stress enough how helpful if you travel to read as much about the place in a story format, so as not to bore the sweet things, as you can.  I am trying to compile a list of books for each place we've been, but you know how much free time I have; so we'll see.

The first church of the day was the Basilica di San Domenico which didn't allow photography in most places either, but somehow we ended up with a couple of photos between the two of us.  It was not an amazing church itself.  It probably was once upon a time, but the frescoes on the walls were mostly gone.  This church had St. Catherine's head and a few other relics on display.  If you are very interested in seeing her head, you can try this link or googling it.  This church had a tiny, but pretty well supplied gift shop.  Genevieve, after hearing the stories about St. Catherine and seeing this church came up to me to tell me she wanted to buy somethings from the gift shop, because she wanted to choose St. Catherine of Siena for her confirmation (which is a still a year or two off) saint.  She purchased a small statue and a medal at this store.

Bobby and Judah kneeling and hugging...couldn't miss this moment!
Then we went to her house that she actually grew up in and lived out almost all of her life in.  It has been converted into a church, but they kept her cell where she slept and prayed.  The kitchen is now a hall of paintings of her life.  The original floor of the old kitchen has been preserved by having a glass floor put on top of it so no one walks on it.

This is in a open air entryway of the "house."  Another good Christmas card possibility, yes?

Her cell

The room that held her cell.

A painting of the scene when her father catches her praying and a dove, always representing the Holy Spirit, hovers over her head.

The main square of Siena

In the main square, they still have horse races.  It's that huge that they have room for a race and all the onlookers as well.

We stopped for lunch and this time I did a little drawing of Santa Caterina.

Kathedrale von Siena

Did I mention yet how amazing it was for us to see the sun and real, puffy, white clouds instead of the gray, stratus clouds that have hung over our heads since the beginning of November?  We've had maybe three days of sun in Germany since Brian's promotion ceremony.

This church was filled with tourists.  

It is famous for these floors.

Really pretty design and architecture.

The library

Then we went into the museum as well which led us upstairs as we walked to each new room which was up another giant flight of stairs.  

We eventually came to a "secret passageway" that led us up a tight, windy staircase.  It was tricky to walk up holding a toddler and even more tricky when you ran into someone coming from the other direction and had to squeeze past, and I really mean squeeze.  It led us to the top of the tower to these views...

I was a little tired at this point.

One last thing to do before heading to dinner was the baptistery, by Donatello.  It was impressive, but at this point I'd reached my maximum capacity for enjoying looking at things for the day. 

The Baptistery

Still smiling?!!!
This was our dinner.  The kids shared it with us, but we got them pizza on the way home to supplement it.  We weren't sure if they'd like it or not, but they all did.  Each liked different parts, but it was perfect because Brian and I did not need to eat that much.

Chianti was the wine of the trip for us.

Happy husband means a good end to the day.
We loved Siena as much or more than San Gimignano.  It's tough to say which was better.  I'd highly recommend a day in each!