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23 March 2012

The Beginning of our Spring Birthday!


Paige had a birthday!!  A big important birthday is you're LDS!
She politely reminded us all week to buy her presents ... as if we were going to forget her.  I'm pretty sure she had a fabulous day celebrating.  She got to spend time with her favorite teacher, explore the forest, eat dinner at a 'real' German restaurant (where she immediately ordered fish and chips - not so German if you ask me), and had a "surprise" birthday party.  Later we went to the movie The Lorax and had her favorite meal - Lemon Chicken.


At Paige's request she went upstairs, we turned out all the lights, called her name to come down and yelled SURPRISE!!  It was pretty funny!  She played the part perfectly ... I mean, you can't tell me this above picture isn't a genuine smile from being surprised! Right?!



(I had to include this picture because Emi's face is pretty hilarious!)

Happy Birthday Paiger Raigers!!

** She is always PLAYING (dolls, babies, pet shops, board-games, transformers, riding her bike, roller-blading anything and everything) ** She LOVES going to the Bakery here ** She speaks German like crazy even if she doesn't get it right the first time - she doesn't hesitate to try ** She LOVES her teacher ** She is constantly trying to get away with not brushing her teeth and stuffing her clothes into her drawers **  She loves learning new things **  She really enjoys playing the recorder and the piano **  Her teachers at school LOVE her **  She isn't afraid to try or do anything ** She is such a sweetheart in our family, always making sure everyone is happy and taken care of ** Her favorite dinner is still Lemon Chicken **  Her new favorite thing is to walk home from school at the bottom of our hill **  

"Little Berlin"


First things first, our other blog has a few more pictures -- go HERE if you are interested

For our Saturday afternoon last week we decided to take a day trip to what American's call 'Little Berlin'. It's this little town on the edge of Bavaria where, I swear, only 50 homes stand.  The Berlin Wall split the town in two, right down the center.  Isn't that so sad?  Two brothers were separated by the wall.

ABOVE: The kids (with our friends kids) on a Soviet Tank
BELOW: The kids in front of the museum (FYI - adults are 3 Euro and Children are 2 Euro) 



Evan peeking his head through part of the wall that was saved and moved up next to the museum entrance.


A watch tower on the Soviet Side - Emi is sticking her head out the window on the right and Paige is the center child with her back facing us.


Looking down the from the top of the tower. 

Wandering through Prague


In anticipation of both sets of grandparents coming we needed to check out Prague ... you know, any kind of excuse to see the sights!!  We got a late start so we weren't able to see a whole lot.  We really just enjoyed walking around the city!  The people were so nice and gave us chocolate bars and free balloons! 

Check our our 'other' blog for more pix's & more info. -- HERE 



05 March 2012

our adventure begins ...

If you don't want to read all the "DRAMA" leading up to this vacation, you are more than welcome to skip this entire post ... I promise I wont be offended  :)


First things first ... our little man's passport.  November 8, 2011 (a week after his birth) we took a trip from the comfort of our home and headed on post to apply for all the important documents we needed (birth certificate, born abroad certificate, no-fee and tourist passport).  We had to apply for all this in order to get his social security card which of course one needs to fill out taxes (due in April BTW).

I called at week 8 ... still no passport.
I called at week 9 ... still no passport.
I called at week 10 ... still no passport.
I skipped week 11                                             Yes, I was a bit embarrassed to be calling so much.

Other business took me to the same office on post at week 12, so I decided to check in person.  Guess what?  They hadn't even turned in our packet, so none of the 6-8 weeks things were getting processed.   Awesome!
One concern - we were planning a family vacation in 2 weeks ... not 6-8 weeks.
They applied for an emergency passport (free of charge of couse) and we got it the day before we were planning to leave.  They had to physically drive it out to Frankfurt and physically drive it back.  (We are so grateful they were willing to do that).  Miles and I then spent the entire evening the day before our trip trying to book our hotels since we didn't want to chance anything.  It was a very LATE night.  In some cities there were no hotels so we had to 'reverse' our trip - putting the last city first and the first city last.



But the adventure continues ...
We got a late start since we stayed up so late the night before and we were too tired to pack.  Our GPS said our route had traffic and was going to re-route us a different way.  Sure, why not.  Our new route also had traffic - stand-still traffic for 2 hours!!  I swear, all of Germany was trying to get over the Alps into Austria or something.  Finally, we turned around and tried to go over the Alps another way ... we got all the way down and up the mountain again to find out that the 2nd road was closed due to snow.  Another 2 hour adventure.  Finally we stopped at McDonalds, fed the kids, turned the GPS off, used the iPhone and headed to the autobahn to face whatever traffic there was just to get over the Alps.  Our 6.5 hour trip took us 15 hours.  FIFTEEN HOURS!!!  Oh, and my baby was at the beginning stages of a nasty virus.  He was sick the entire vacation.

At least the view was AMAZING!


Since we got into Vicenza, Italy too late to run our errands Saturday evening we had to do it all Sunday morning.  By the time we got to Florence we barely made the

Galleria dell'Accademia

in order to see Michelangelo's David.  They sell their last tickets 1/2 hour before closing time and we were one of the last people they let in.  Unfortunately we weren't able to see the 

Uffizi Gallery

which seriously made me sad!  The Museums are all closed on Monday's so the second day we were there we couldn't hit up any of them.  The kids didn't mind much about missing the museums, they got to ride on the carousel outside our hotel and were thrilled. 



Italy Highlights! (with TONS of pictures)

FLORENCE


We made it!!  Yahoo, as my baby girl would say!
Gold anyone?
Behind us is the famous bridge (Ponte Vecchio) over the Arno river where they sell fine gold jewelry.  No worries we didn't get any but I had visions of me and Miles coming back one day and splurging. 


The Duomo (Cathedral)


Ghiberti's Famous Bronze Doors on the Baptistery 
- he spent 27 years working on these panels, can you believe that?  I don't know if you can see but there is a little head right above Emi's purple head which is Ghiberti own head.  He carved his own head into his masterpiece, brilliant!


The view from the top of the Dome.   Yes, we climbed the Dome (8 Euro each BTW) and the kids loved it.  We have decided that wherever we go we HAVE to climb something.  It is the only way for the kids to really remember it and enjoy it.  They absolutely LOVE climbing each church Dome and/or tower. Isn't the view amazing!!  Miles loves this sort of thing too!    


POMPEII

This is probably the thing we loved most.  Miles and I have been wanting to go here forever!  The kids loved wandering around, climbing on everything, and exploring with no rules.  It was the perfect way to end a day of traveling.  Even better was our kids were FREE.  The man at the ticket office asked how many kids we had and was shocked when we said 5.  He asked if we could pretend we were from Canada for the day so our kids could get in free.  Sure, I was born there, why not!




Here are the kids pretending to be at a 'fast food' restaurant.  Apparently after attending the public baths the people from Pompeii would then cross the street to get food.  It was your ancient 'fast food' experience.  Evan is being the gentlemen and ordering food for Anika.  Paige is being the diligent owner.


Family photo opt


Amazing huh?!  Here are the kids in the Theater - it was huge!


my little goofballs


NAPLES


Here is a good story --
See the women on the right side of the photo carry bags?  This woman is our bird lady.  She came up with a bag full of bird food (or bread crumbs) and started throwing them at the birds.  Tons of birds came flying towards her to enjoy the food.  The kids saw this and started toward her to watch her and the pigeons.  Notice Emi (in white) and Anika (in red) in the center of the photo.  The girls are trying to get in on the action.  Emi and Anika eventually knelt down in the grass and watched the woman and the pigeons.  They were only there for a second when the woman started speaking to them in Italian while making this disgusted look.  Now take note of the crowd of men on the far left of the photo.  These men were surrounding a table while a couple of other men played a game of some sort (probably gambling or something).  As soon as the woman started speaking and moving towards the girls these men turned around to see what the commotion was all about.  They started speaking Italian and making the same disgusted look.  We tried to get the girls away since it was apparently gross ... we honestly didn't know what was going on.  Now notice the very center of the photo ... it's a water faucet.  The woman and several men came toward the girls attempting to help them over to the faucet to wash their hands.  Paige and Evan finally joined us and everyone was trying to get our children to wash their hands.  We then looked around and noticed all the poo on the grass.  Our kids were so excited to finally see grass that no one noticed how gross it really was.  Yuck!!  Everyone washed their hands!


Here we are taking the Rick Steve's old down-town walk.
I seriously can't believe we took our children here! Definitely not the safest thing to do with a family of 7. At one point we sat on a bench to rest while Miles checked out what we just walked through and what was coming up.  We were right smack in the middle of the famous organized crime area.  Fantastic!  All we were looking for was the first Gelato store so we could get a dessert!  Oh man, that was the best Gelato we had though!  Delish!  That was also where Anika peed her pants. Perfect!!


This is how our children slept at night.  We had a hide-a-bed and 2 twins for our family.  We just pushed the twins together, re-arranged the cover and ta-da!  It worked out great - it was super cold in our room and since the kids were sharing they were all snug and warm.  The only down side was we didn't realize we could close the sky-light, so we were up and at it bright and early the next day.

Naples was probably the scariest city to drive in for Miles - no rules and extremely narrow roads.  It was also probably the dirtiest and run down city.  The people though!!  They were, by far, the most friendly and happy people.  They loved our family.  They loved how many kids we had.  They loved Anika and Kenneths Bear costume I had him in to keep him warm. They tried so hard to communicate with us.  I can't tell you how many times they counted our kids, said it out loud in Italian, shook their right hand up and down while saying "Mama, Mia!"  It was hilarious and charming and I love the memory!  

At one point someone asked Miles if all our kids were from the same woman, as if it were impossible for one woman to give birth to 5 children ... or impossible for Miles to be with only one woman to have so many children.  We had a good laugh about that one!  


ROME


The Colosseum 


Above: the kids actually standing still for a moment inside the colosseum

Below: Miles sporting his "I pooped today" shirt -- ha, ha, I got him that for Christmas.  It even has a gold star for a job well done!  I love this picture because Miles was so excited to really, truly be inside the Colosseum!  I also love it because of the facial expression of the woman on the left.  I am almost certain I have made that expression in a million strangers pictures.





The Pantheon!


Paige and Evan in the Vatican Museum in front of a REAL mummy!  Emi thought it was disgusting and refused to get her picture with it, actually she refused to stand near it for too long. 


Standing in front of St. Peter's Basilica - with Bernini's statues all along the columns.


The kids loved these guards, and the guards were very kind and professional ... I cannot wait until we see the London guards. 


This picture made Miles' day!
We were so thirsty from walking all day.  Inside the Roman Forum was this fountain and the kids went a little crazy.  I showed the kids how to cup their hand in order to bring it to their mouths for a drink.  They tried it and then Evan said, "this is how you really do it" and proceded to do this!  All I can say is, I'm glad they had their rain jackets on so it somewhat protected them from getting soaking wet and being miserable the rest of the day.  It was hilarious!


Titan's Arch inside the Roman Forum


The Roman Forum


A Sleepy Bus-Ride
Poor little guy, he was SO tired!


PISA




Paige and Miles on top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Only children 8 and up can climb the tower.  We told them that Paige was turning 8 in just 2 weeks and asked if they would let her go up.  They said YES!  Paige was so excited!  



Can you see us?  We are the 5 dots on the tip of the white triangle type thing in the center of the picture.  Great explanation I know!
Miles took this picture of us waving at them while they were up on the tower.


Can you see us (again)?  
Miles took this picture of Emi and me on top.  Our arms are raised in the air so you can see us (to the left of the flying flag).  We had to take turns - one of us went with one of the girls while the other stayed with the rest of the kids.  It was so neat to climb the tower.  It would be super hard to climb the stairs on one side and then super easy.  You could literally feel yourself tilting to the side with the building.  The grooves in the stone stairs even followed which way gravity pulled you while climbing.  When we reached the top the guard there asked if I was Paige's mother.  Um, yes I am.  She then invited us to her beach house on the Mediterranean Sea.  I love my friendly little Paige!!  This guard was totally serious too and reminded me again when we were getting ready to go down.  So funny!

03 March 2012

Schokolade


Germany has the BEST chocolate!!! SERIOUSLY!!!
Instead of using chocolate chips from the grocery store I now just buy a block of chocolate and cut it into chunks for our cookies.  They are so good!

Fasching or Carnival


Fasching or Carnival is  pretty big here in Germany.  They dress up and celebrate with parades and parties.  Our stake had their primary activity centered around Faschings and it was a huge success.  Seriously, the kids had a blast!!!  There is something about dressing up in costume that I LOVE.  So instead of celebrating Halloween once, we got to do it twice!!  LOVE it! 

(above is Anika, Paige & Evan waiting to join the games)


(our pink flamingo and captain hook waiting in line)


(Emi the witch)


(classic game of taking off only one shoe, putting said shoe in a pile in the center of the room, and then trying to find your shoe the fastest when they say Ready, Set, Go - yeah, my kids didn't quite get it)


(Kenneth the Lion - he was just too little last year for Halloween for me to get any pictures)