Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Neuschwanstein Castle

April 28-29:
After our climb in Ulm, we drove on to Schwangau and saw Mad King Ludwig's couple of homes. Construction was never actually finished on this extra summer home of his before he died. This is the castle that Disney copied the look of for their fairy tales and at their parks, so Reagan was a little in love with it!
Grandpa Martin on Ryan-stroller-nap duty, letting him sleep as long as possible before our tour
From an inner courtyard before starting our tour.
After touring the castle and making our way back down to the town/tourist area in the pooring rain, we found a cute hotel (where's Reagan's bed happened to have a view right out the window up at the castle on the hill) with another great restaurant. Cam tried pork knuckle and I tried red venison. Awesome!

Ulm, Germany

April 27-28:
After arriving in Ulm, finding a hotel and grabbing another delicious (and late) German dinner, we woke the next morning to the typical breakfast spread at every hotel (loved that!) and then climbed the tallest church in the world, right next to our hotel! It was quite a strange, medieval site in the middle of such a modern square full of shops. Reagan climbed the entire thing herself, both up and down. It was ~760 steps in narrow stone spiral staircases. We took turns carrying Ryan between Cam, myself, and my Dad since he still had quite a limp even on flat ground. It was a great workout! It was so exhilarating and adventurous to climb and haul the kids up that it was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip!

Panoramic shot by Cam since we couldn't fit it all in one (3 shots pieced together)
We thought we were as high as we could go here ...
... then saw we still had the steeple to climb! Yay! (my Dad's and my reaction) No way! (Cam's reaction - noticing parts of the ancient stone structure were being held together with chicken wire weren't helping his heights issues :-) Every single one of us made it to the very top though!
Reagan's pink pants were a nice shade of black after going down the whole thing on her butt!
When the kids and I were getting ready for bed the night before, Cam popped outside and got this awesome night shot! Spooky!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Camelot Catch Up (Nov 2010 - Apr 2011)

For Cam's birthday, we went zip lining in the Santa Cruz redwoods with a group of old work friends of mine. Rani came along to watch the kids. Cam worked hard to conquer his fear of heights and managed to get through it all. I even felt my stomach in my throat when we reached the first tree platform 150 feet in the air! Afterward, we ate at a great restaurant where the wait staff put on little song and dance shows on a small stage.

We celebrated Christmas and New Year's at home, just the 4 of us. Ryan got a train table and a "balance bike". Reagan got lots of miscellaneous pink stuff - a princess scarf, fairy wings and wand, shoes, tinkerbell dress .. that's all I can remember since it was 8 months ago!
The kids and I visited Peoria while Cam was stuck working "turn-around" at work. We had a great time seeing everyone, both mine and Cam's families plus friends; Heidi and Hanna, Morgan and kids. We missed Rikki and fam because of their strep throat :( No snow until the day we had to go to the airport. Reagan was bummed about that, but got an hour to play in it before we left.

All the kids enjoying my Grandma and Mom's Holiday dinner ... the best food ever!
From left: my Dad, Mom, Grandpa, Grandma, Reagan, Me and Ryan
Playing at the Wicklow's
Grandpa Don, the (pretend) snack snatcher (to see what Ryan would do) :-)
In early February, we met Uncle Danny, Aunt Bethany and some of their friends in Tahoe (again with Cam stuck at work) and Reagan skied for the first time! Ryan tried the skis on too, but that didn't last long. It was gorgeous weather! Also, on Feb 27th, Ryan turned 2!

Here's a video of her skiing:

First weekend of March, we went to Tahoe with friends (2 other families). Reagan rode in a chairlift for the first time! The Dads made a great sledding hill out of the plowed mound of snow outside our cabin door. The big kids loved it. Ryan loved the snow tunnel Cam dug for him.
Then March 16, the leg break. Poor Ryan.. he simply tried to straddle a foam roller and it rolled away with his foot stuck on top and his legs were pulled apart and twisted causing a spiral fracture in his left femur. After an x-ray and multi-hour ER visit to get it splinted, we spent 5 tedious days at home moving him as little as possible until casting day.
Ryan getting casted
We tried to keep him entertained before the cast. He was sad and angry a lot at first, it sucked!

Reagan turned 5 on April 13! She had a gymnastics party and loved it. Ryan had gotten to be a pro with his cast by this time, scooting all over the place as if he'd always had a bum leg. The cast was purposely done with a right angle to prevent him from trying to walk on it, so scooting around was his only option.

Here's a video of Ryan scooting at her gymnastics party:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hallo from Innsbruck, Austria!

We've seen a lot of amazing things in the last 5 days, but because I need to get some sleep, I'm only covering the first two since leaving Berlin for now.

Tue, Apr 26
We left Berlin and drove 4 hrs (plus 2 for bad traffic) to Bad Neustadt where my Great Aunt and Uncle live (Tanta Paula und Onkel Burkhardt) ... my Dad's aunt and uncle/my Grandma Liesi's sister and husband. I had never met them so that was pretty neat. We had homemade cake and chatted with them (mostly my parents in german, though I understand bits and pieces) for a couple hours as well as saw the very room and bed where my Dad spent a year there as a kid. The view from their house was so charming! We've been using that word a lot through southern (Bavarian) Germany.

We continued on to see the castle of Bad Neustadt (there's a castle in every town around here since these all use to be kingdoms or feifdoms or something like that). This first one creeped Reagan out a bit ... old, vacant and spooky seeming I guess.After that, we made our way to Weikersheim, part of the "Romantische Strasse" or Romantic Road that makes it's way from one quaint, charming town with a castle to the next. We stayed the night at my Dad's cousin Harold's house. Harold and Ute were wonderful hosts! We had a great spaghetti dinner, plenty of comfortable space to sleep, and a great breakfast. We saw the Weikersheim Castle with them the next day before heading on our way.

Wed, Apr 27
After the Weikersheim Castle ...

How can you not photograph the bejeesus out of this stuff ... cobblestone streets and cute little buildings straight out of fairy tales!
.. we drove about 30 minutes to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (on the Tauber (river)). This place was unbelievable! It was surreal that people actually lived there since we felt like we were in Disneyland or on a Hollywood movie set. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. "Quaint" and "Charming" were understatements.
After wondering how in the world we spent 6 hours there, we drove on to Ulm, famous for the tallest church in the world ... yes, the world! I guess they were attempting to actually reach god :-). More on that next time.

Tschuss bis spater!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guten Tag! Wir sind in Deutschland!

The view from Augie's apartment!
We've been having a great time so far... arrived 2 days ago. (I'm typing on Augie's german keyboard and it's pretty annoying... the y and z are switched, the apostrophe requires shift key and is farther away, the shift and return keys are farther away than usual). The flights went well, kids got about 4.5 hrs of sleep on the long flight to Paris (10 hr flight) and it was very bizarre to see the daylight when my watch said midnight and I was feeling ready to try to sleep a bit. I ended up not sleeping and missed a night's sleep but feel normal after a regular night (even though the kids kept me up for 2 hrs in the middle of the first night here).
2 exhausted travelers
Cam's been dealing with some allergy issues, not horrible, but annoying. They are exaccerbated here since Augie has a cat. Being away from the apartment today helped him out.

Augie hid tons of chocolate eggs and bunnies and such plus 20 colored hard boiled eggs in the courtyard at her apartment building as well as set out a great breakfast spread and we all ate and the kids excitedly gathered all the goodies. Happy Easter!
This is almost everything ... except whatever gave Reagan a chocolate mustache already :-)
After that, we went to Checkpoint Charlie (Reagan's standing on the old Berlin Wall in the left side picture), then the place where Hitler committed suicide along with a section of the berlin wall left remaining (pictured right), and then the Haus Am Wannsee (where the head nazis laid out their plan to get rid of "racial aliens"). Pretty crazy, I took pictures of some of the papers (translated versions) outlining their plan (talking about mixed race jews that were part german and whether or not to evacuate them or not and who they would let stay/live but would sterilize so they couldn't pass on any more jewish blood. Just totally insane - see pics of 3 pages of it below). As I was explaining some of this whole thing to Reagan, I told her about Great Grandpa Andrew being in one of these concentration camps. She had a few questions, but didn't dwell on it. We tried explaining to her how none of us would exist had he not stayed alive and she didn't seem to grasp that even though I tried explaining it again. Oh well.

On the way back, we found a street fair and the kids got to do a few rides, then we ate at a very traditional german restaurant and had awesome pork and dumplings and schnitzel, etc. The weather is nothing but perfect and with a light sweater, we could eat dinner outside (both of the last two nights). The first evening we got here, we walked a block and a half to a really great vegetarian restaurant and then stopped for an ice cream cone across the street from Augie's apartment on the way back. More sight seeing for Monday and then heading south Tuesday morning.
Can't be in Germany and not order a beer larger than your own head :-)
Differences that stand out here:
1. Ordering water at a restaurant isn't easy ... you must specify tap water, otherwise it's bottled and getting a waiter to back down from wanting to give you bottled water takes a bit of back and forth (even with Augie speaking to them in German, not because of a language barrier)
2. Never turn right without watching out for bikers
3. Not an SUV in sight, lots more smart cars, and very few vans
4. The "walk" and "don't walk" signs are little walking and standing figures with a hat on, the walker is green and the standing person is red
5. The holes in toilets are in the front of the bowl instead of toward the back

Aufwiedersehen für jetzt!

(Adding our final day in Berlin)

Holocaust Memorial (some heart wrenching stories and pictures in the underground museum below these structures). They warned us about bringing kids in (Ryan was napping at home with Augie, so it was just Reagan) but said they could provide crayons and something to color. That worked perfectly when we noticed all the pictures were at adult eye level and you needed to get close to tell what was going on.
Justice of the Ministry where Augie works as a translator (or a Sprachendienst) and has met some famous political figures because of it!
3 translated pages of the (huge, multi-page) document created (in a fancy lake home that was taken from Jewish people) to deal with the "racial alien" "problem". Clicking on each will show it large enough to read ... practically makes you sick to your stomach, but worth reading. Then just hit the "back" button to return to the blog (It annoyingly returns you to the top of the blog and you have to scroll down to this post again ... sorry!). By the way, "Mischlinge" means "mixed blood"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Halloween 2010

Reagan was the princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Ryan was a Bat (same costume Reagan wore at 1.5). I was a half man, half woman and Cam was a Vampire. We had a really fun Halloween party for all our friends and their kids. It went from 4-6 and then everyone headed out trick-or-treating, some on their own, some in groups. Reagan ended up going with her two girlfriends, Emma and Olivia, who were Sleeping Beauty and Princess Tiana (princess and the frog) respectively.

Ryan: "She won't give me that!" Reagan: "ha ha, he can't reach it!"
Princess Tiana (Olivia), Sleeping Beauty (Emma), and Princess Belle (Reagan)
Most of the adults at our party dressed up, I really encouraged it and it worked! We voted and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty (Erika, behind me, next to Cam) was our winner! You can see the woman side of my outfit mostly here, but not Cam's (black clothes, red cape, slicked back hair, trickle of blood that had worn off already ... that was the extent of it :-))
Cam and I went to an old friend's party in our same costumes the previous night.

Earlier in the week, we dressed up for music class (same Bat costume for Ryan and Reagan was a Turtle - had to wear the $3-clearly-homemade-thrift-store turtle costume we found!)