Tag Archives: travel

a year of travel

We have traveled the US and part of the world this year.

March – drive to AZ for spring break

May – Germany for 2 weeks (including dinner in France one evening!), then Pennsylvania to visit family

June – add in a quick trip to Massacheusetts, Delaware and New York while we’re on that side of the country

July – the baby and I went back to Massacheusetts for a university promotion

August – quick 6 day trip to Colorado

September – the baby and I will be making a quick weekend trip to Minnesota to visit family and see a tractor show.

November – the whole family is driving to Phoenix for Thanksgiving with family.

December – we are heading back to the farm where LOML grew up to spend Christmas with that side of the family. We are excited about this as most of them have not met the baby, yet.

Coast to coast and across The Pond, it’s been quite a year. It makes me feel exhausted reading that list. Somehow we managed to do all of that with a 5 year old, 3 year old and a baby who is now just 9 months.

Travel should slow now that Big Ive has started her Kindergarten year at a public school here in SoCal. No more taking the kids out of school whenever we want.

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Christmas Letter 2013

Note:  I printed a similar, but shorter letter for the handful of paper Christmas cards I sent out this year.  I didn’t want to print and send you all 5 pages of Things HausMiller Has Done In 2013.  If you’ve gotten one of those, please do also read this.  More fun details and info.  :)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and welcome to the year 2014!

Like usual, I did not get anything written or sent out before Christmas last year.  Oh, well.  It’s always kind of fun to get the late holiday or birthday cards in the mail because it makes the holiday seem that much longer.  It always brings a smile to my face.

family photos 028January 2013 :: Big Ive 2.75 years, Little E 1.5 years
(a year later and Little E has now outgrown the clothes Big Ive is wearing in this photo)

2013 was a year of travel for the Miller family.

Christmas 2012 and January 2013 were spent in the United States visiting our family and friends and loved ones.  Christmas 2012 was super fun for us in Iowa with LOML’s family.  7 kids age 6 and under made for quite a crazy full house.

The girls and I spent the rest of January and a week of February in Arizona at my parent’s house.  LOML had to go back to work in Germany a week after Christmas.  We were sad to not have him with us to enjoy the beautiful sunshine.  I really did feel bad that he endured nearly the darkest winter in 43 years back in Germany without us (it was almost the darkest winter ever on record!!!).

In March we visited Munich.  LOML had some work function, I think, so we tagged along.  We got to see the main square and took a day trip to the Neuschwanstein castle.  This is the one Disney used as inspiration to make their castle.  This castle has a theme of swans, as the king of that area really liked them.  Little E decided they were all chickens, and during our very full guided tour she would yell out, “Chicken!”, every time we saw one.  No explaining on our part could convince her they were actually swans.  Needless to say, we hung at the back of the group and tried to keep her quiet.  Thankfully, most of the other patrons thought it was funny and we heard them laughing with us.

April had us in the Netherlands to see blooming bulb flowers at the Keukenhof gardens.  It was a cold winter and spring and there weren’t many flowers in bloom when we went.  We did enjoy ourselves and the girls had a blast on the playground equipment and with the petting zoo.

In May LOML sent me to Paris for a day as a birthday present.  A friend of mine came with for a bread baking class.  I got to make real French baguettes, brioche, and another bread I can’t remember the name of but was beyond delicious.

In June my dad and older brother, who the girls call Uncle Baron, visited us.

We drove to Croatia in July (through Germany, Austria and Slovenia) with my dad and brother.  LOML wasn’t able to join us again because of work.  That dang work is always getting in the way of a proper social life and a good holiday. We visited the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which I can’t recommend enough for someone thinking about a fantastic European vacation.  And then we spent a few days on the coast near Zadar.  This was the 3rd time I had been to Croatia, and the girls’ 2nd.  We talk about going again this summer, we love it so much.

Also in July, my youngest brother, who the girls call Uncle Robot, and his girlfriend, Tia, visited us.  We went on another Rhein River cruise, toured castle ruins nearby our house, and had a great German breakfast at a bakery.

In August Little E turned 2 and LOML’s parents came to visit for a couple of weeks.  We love having them visit.  LOML was busy with work again so we didn’t get to take a little vacation with them this year, unfortunately.  I also started my 5th German language class so I wasn’t able to take time off of that.  Happy to report that I can understand a good amount of German, but that I have difficulties formulating responses when asked questions or if I’m participating in a group conversation.  Coming along, but not as good as I would like.

September was little festivals in nearby villages.   Random day trips to France, 45 minutes by car.  At this point, I can’t remember a specific festival we went to, but there are so many, well within 1 hour’s drive from our house.

In October, LOML and I went to Stuttgart for the Cannstatter Wasen festival (Stuttgart’s Oktoberfest) with my German band for a fun day.  LOML wore his Lederhosen and I had on my Dirndl.  It was great.  We took a train over at 8am.  My wonderful band president was ready with the first ‘Good Morning’ drink of champagne on the very first train.  The other 2 trains followed with snacks and more drinks to set the stage for a very fun day with very fun people.

Mid-October we flew back to Arizona.  We then spent a week in Iowa with LOML’s sisters and their families.  It’s amazing what 10 months time does to those 6 little kids that were such a handful at Christmas.  The weather was better in October so lots of outside play was available.  Not to mention everyone was almost a year old and that much more able to play without direct parental involvement.  LOML was only able to stay in the States for 2.5 weeks, so the girls and I got to enjoy a few more wonderful weeks of warm sunshine in AZ before we headed home the week before Thanksgiving.  It was like a second summer for us.  A much-needed second summer for me.  The cold, dark, rainy, way-too-long winter was too much for this desert-kid.

In November (while we were still in the States) I flew up to Minnesota to visit my other Grandma and some aunts, uncles and cousins for 4 days while LOML’s parents and my parents graciously watch the girls.  My grandmother turned 89 in December.  There was no way I was going to have made a trip to the US and not go see my other grandma.  I wish I could have brought the girls with, but it was equally nice to have 3.5 days alone.  I didn’t realize air travel could be so stress free until I didn’t have my kids with me.

[[Side note:  I added up the number of airplanes my children have been on.  Big Ive has been on 29 and Little E 25, if I counted correctly.  Big Ive took one trip with me to Minnesota when she was 3 months old.  That’s where she gets 4 more airplanes than Little E.  I can’t believe we’ve been on that many airplanes in just under 4 years.  And I can’t help but notice how blessed we are to be able to live in Europe and visit family 6000mi (9000km) away almost twice a year.  God is good.]]

And Christmas 2013 was spent quietly in our house in Germany.  LOML and I didn’t realize how much our big crazy families mean to us on major holidays and we missed them all dearly.  And I didn’t realize how much traditions mean to LOML.  He really REALLY wanted me to make a whole turkey or ham for Christmas.  I told him I wouldn’t make a turkey because I don’t eat it, and we can’t get a good American-style ham in Germany.  I tried to compromise by roasting a whole chicken and he was finally ok with it after he took the first bite.  Having certain traditional foods for our family holiday get-togethers was never quite so important for my family.  It was more important to have everyone get together.  But passed the food traditions talk, LOML and I mostly noticed that it didn’t really feel like Christmas last year.  There was no hype of getting together with one of our crazy extended families, no big preparations for Christmas Eve services in our church, and a very big lack of family on Christmas day.  All my life my family would get together and we’d number no less than 20 for every single major holiday.  That’s a hard thing to get used to.  It made us a little sad to know this was the first Christmas the girls would probably understand and maybe remember, and they have no memories of giant family Christmases.  I hope we can give that to them in future years.

Lest you think our life is all happy travels to endless destinations with nary a care in the world, we had our share of illnesses, work challenges, uncertainty, child tantrums, sadness, worry, and plenty of instances to seek forgiveness.  We tend to recap the good things when we write these letters (or the major bad things), but that doesn’t necessarily paint a realistic picture of what really happened day in and day out during the year.  We know we are incredibly blessed to be able to live in Europe for a time, to give our children a chance to learn a second language fully submerged in the culture, being able to travel to places with our children we could have only maybe dreamed about taking them ‘some day’.  Daily life is pretty much the same here as in the US.  We have the same issues with our kids, house, car, what we are going to cook for supper, did you remember to do thisandthat, crap–not another unexpected German bill.  It’s great to live here, but we struggle with sadness about having left family and friends back in the US.  We love you all so much and miss you more than this simple letter can convey.

Love from Haus Miller Adventure

DSC05295retouchJanuary 2014 :: Big Ive 3.75 years, Little E 1.5 years

If you need our contact information (phone numbers, addresses, Skype names, etc.) please email hausmilleradventure [at] gmail [dot] com. Please fill in the correct symbols for the words in brackets.

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So where did the first half of 2013 go?

I feel like my life keeps speeding up, going faster and faster, and no one else notices.  Maybe LOML does.  He’s on this roller coaster with me.

So, yeah.  If you are still following my blog you will have noticed I have not been so good with the postings lately.  This half of a year has been very busy.  January was in Arizona.  February we came back to Germany and got re-acquainted with this time zone. March I started my German classes, which I am still taking.

Err… they finished the end of June.  It is now the end of July.  Time.  It keeps getting faster.  Didn’t I say this at the beginning??

March, April and May were kind of a blur for me.  We were sick a lot with the Kindergarten Kold because the weather was so terrible for so long.  So cold and dark and wet and long.

I did, however, enjoy my German classes.  I really like learning this language.  The classes are every week day from 8:30am – 12:30pm.  Each module is 1 month long.  So far, I have completed 4 modules and am at a beginning/intermediate language level.  You can think of it as a part-time job, my 20 hours a week of class time.  I have to get up and ready in the morning.  Then get the girls up and ready and dropped off at the Kindergarten at 7:45am.  Well, ideally they would be there between 7:30 and 7:45.  That usually doesn’t happen.  Yeah, I think I’ve gotten them there at that time about 10 times the past 4 months.  Normally it’s closer to 8, which makes me late to school because I have a 30 minute drive each way.  Whatevs.  The teachers are super nice and understanding.  Mostly they can’t believe that a mother with 2 small children would be taking this class to begin with.

The last week of class my dad and older brother arrived for a visit.  The first week of July we drove to Croatia for a week-long vacation.  (I feel very European now because I only want to refer to it as a holiday, not a vacation.)  We searched for — and found! — the villages of one branch of our family tree.  It was awesome to experience this with my dad and brother.  It would have been better if the rest of my siblings had been able to make it this summer, too.

The past 2 and a half weeks I have been home from school while the girls are in Kindergarten. (Today is their last day before a 3 week summer break.)  In my mind, I envisioned myself getting loads and loads of stuff done around the house.  Refinish the dining room table!  Organize the stored clothes!  Clear out the clutter!  Yeah.  Not so much stuff has gotten done.  Do you even know how much clothing miniature humans require in a year and a half time span?  Ridiculous.  Like, at least 12 diaper boxes worth of clothes.  And that’s not counting the ones in their dresser, the ones my mom took back with her, and the ones folded from when I did laundry earlier this week that haven’t gotten put away.

Little E wore 9 month sized clothes when we moved here (at 4 months of age) and is now in 3-4T size (kid is big.  and dense.  and super cute.).  Big Ive is only in size 4-5T herself (she’s a skinny tall one, my ginger).  I know kids grow, but I forget in the day to day until I see evidence of what used to be.  Somehow Little E is turning 2 in 11 days.  That can’t possible be right.  No way.

Onward and upward to finish out the rest of the calendar year, I guess.  At some point LOML and I will know where we’ll be living after September.  Until then we keep living each day, enjoying the gift of life we’ve been given.  When we know what we’re doing I will definitely let you know.  This Germany adventure may continue for a couple more years.  Or we could be moving back States-side.

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Back in the Wild West

The girls and I made the epic trek from Germany to Phoenix on Saturday (15.12.2012).  We left Frankfurt at 10:30am Germany time and arrived in Phoenix at 3am Germany time.  It was over a 24 hour day for me from when I got up to when I finally got to bed at my parents house.

The flights were pretty good.  I feel like I’m a ‘yes mom’ when I’m in public with my kids.  To an extent, anyway.  Can I have another cookie?  Yeah, since you don’t want to eat anything else the flight has to offer.  Can I play puzzle?  You bet.  Can I have more juice?  Yep.  Can I walk up and down the isles for a while?  Sure, as long as you treat the other passengers with love and be respectful.  It’s hard to keep nap times and a normal schedule in such a confined place.  I don’t want to make my kids have a meltdown where they will pester other people so I try to loosen up on those kinds of things.

The flight attendant on the first flight tried to tell me I couldn’t place Little E’s car seat on the isle seat.  There was no other way the flight would have worked with our 3 seats in the middle section with the aisles on both sides if Big Ive had to be on one side of Little E and me on the other.  Thankfully she didn’t make me change it.

We had at least 4 hours left of the flight and I was down to pulling out one of my last tricks in my bag.  I thought for sure it was going to end terribly.  Big Ive was happy to chat with some German ladies sitting across the isle from us.  One was crocheting little flower looking things and gave one to Big Ive after I told her to ask, “Was machen Sie?”  Little E was pretty content to stay strapped in her car seat for the vast majority of the flight.  I was very thankful for that.

Big Ive fell asleep as we were landing into Dallas, TX.  Of course she would do that.  I know it was about 9 or 10pm to her so it was reasonable.  But then I had to wake a sleeping child to get off the plane, and then walk through passport control and customs, and baggage pick up and drop off, and then security again.

We had an extra hour layover in Dallas than was originally scheduled when we purchased the tickets.  This was a relief to me because I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to make it through passport control, customs, baggage, security and then do the bathroom/diaper change and grab something to eat before having to board our connecting flight.  We got to our gate and ate the wonderful (puke-tastic) McDonalds chicken nuggets and fries.  Big Ive was so tired she fell asleep sitting in Little E’s car seat on the floor.

There were just enough helping angels on this trip to get us on and off planes and through lines with little to no troubles.  It was me traveling with my 2 little toddlers (2.5 and almost 1.5 years), a double stroller, 1 giant car seat, backpack (with laptop, iPad, liquids bag, etc), kid backpack of toys, coats, blankie for Little E.  There is a system to how I pack the backpack diaper bag so I can get through security easy.  But there is just a lot of stuff and wrangling of children that makes it take so long.  I do have to say it is nice to travel with kids because you can get away with bringing larger amounts of liquid through security (which means I don’t have to buy them as much juice or food in the concourse).

Phoenix for a week, then Iowa for a week to spend Christmas with LOML’s family and then back to Phoenix for January.  It should be a good holiday for Haus Miller.

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NaBloPoMo Day 26 – a Saturday without Mom

LOML took the girls to France for a quick day trip on Saturday.  There is a nice French grocery store about an hour away from our house.  It’s big and has a great selection of things we can’t get in Germany.  LOML is in love with their wine section.  We joke that there is a reason why the Germans are so willing to mix their wine with half sparkling water whereas the French would never even joke about doing such a thing.  Shows the differences in quality and styles of wines from next-door neighbor countries.

He also picked up fresh baguette and a selection of fantastic French cheeses.  We are already sad at the thought of not being able to get fresh, real French cheeses when we move back to the States.  It’s not like we love those kinds that have a horrid stench and taste to match, but we have been stepping out of our comfort zones and trying cheeses we normally would simply avoid.  LOML is definitely more adventurous than I am.

The baguettes are divine when they are fresh the first day.  And they quickly go to “Eh” the second day even if stored in an airtight container.  But we had more than a half left yesterday after I got home so we made 2 different kinds of appitizers.  One was a simple baguette crouton with cheese, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Toasted in the oven and yummy.  The second was baguette slices with chevre (goat cheese…I had to look it up to see exactly what it is) cheese, salt, pepper, cranberry balsamic vinegar drizzled on top after toasting and finished with a slice of pear.  So good and so simple.  Big Ive loved both of them.

LOML joked with his parents via Skype that he had to get the kids out of the country on Saturday because they were cooped up in the house.  : )  I love that man.

And any trip to France is not complete without the purchase of macaron cookies.

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Big Ive-isms ROUND 2


“Keem up” = “Clean up”  A lot of times I sing a little song, “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share” and she tries to sing it too.  Usually just comes out, “Keem up, everbo, ever”.

“I heard dat – my butt!” = “I heard that, ” says LOML when he hears Big Ive fart.  She started saying this when we were in Croatia and we couldn’t figure it out for a few minutes.  Then LOML got a giant grin on his face and said he knew what it was.  Whenever he hears her fart he says, “I heard that”.  holycow, I’m busting up laughing just remembering that.

“I hear dat – da bells.” = I hear the bells that were chiming in the church tower.

“I doin’ sompin’.  Workin’ hard.” = This was said when she was talking to my mom via Skype.  I’m not sure what she was doing at the time.  But she was doing something and working hard at it.

The Wiggle Butt song.  She got this when we were in Minnesota in May from one of my cousin’s kids.  I think…  She says, “Wiggle.  Butt.  Wiggle Butt.”  Sometimes there’s a “wiggle, wiggle wiggle” thrown in for good measure.  You wouldn’t believe the cuteness when she sashays and throws her hips wiggling her butt while singing.

The Happy Day song.  One of her own songs she sang in the car one day when I was driving.  It was mostly “Happy Day” over and over and over, but with different length and pitch.  She added more verse of “Happy Day” when LOML was around, but will now no longer sing any of it for us.

“I stinky.  Change diaper.”  This happened when LOML took Big Ive for a father-daughter morning at a cafe in Croatia.  They were enjoying coffee and juice, respectively, and then Big Ive dropped the bomb.  Literally.  And then they had to climb a big steep hill to get back to our apartment to change her.

In the Croatian village we stayed in we had to walk by a school yard to get to the town center.  One morning Big Ive heard and saw the kids playing and asked to go play with her “friends”.  “I go play wif fends?”  We got to the gate and it was locked, obviously.  Big Ive was sad and said, “Gate locked.  Keys?  Daddy?”

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Switzerland :: June 2012

This will be a mostly photo post.  Too many photos to share of so many good memories of this summer’s traveling.

Our European vacation started with a drive to Switzerland.  We stayed in a hostel in a village called Gimmelwald up in the Swiss Alps.

As you can see by the sign below, it is a new building.  : )

We stayed in what they call the Family Room — a small room with 3 sets of bunkbeds.  There are no locks on the doors to the rooms.  There might not even be a lock on the doors to the hostel.  I didn’t check that.

View from the window in our room.  Breathtaking.  The room and hostel may not offer very many amenities (pay showers for instance), but the views and experience were more than worth it.

Having a little snack picnic on the lawn by the hostel.

Big Ive and the wild chickens running around the hostel lawn.  Of course they would have chickens.  Ok.  So, they’re probably not ‘wild’ chickens, but they certainly didn’t seem to belong to anyone.  The egg selling lady up the street had her own pen of hens.

A daddy and his daughter.

Sorry I don’t have as many photos of Little E.  A lot of the time she is strapped in the stroller or sleeping so all of the photos look the same everywhere we go.  I keep telling LOML I’m going to make a flip book of all the photos of Little E in the stroller. I’m sure as she gets a little older and more of a stable walker I’ll take more action photos of her.

Watching the clouds roll in.

Big Ive playing in the rain.  She was having fun with the watering can and the gutter drip.


When you walk out of the cable car landing area you are greeted by this big metal slide.  As you can see by this photo, a lot of the days had fog — or cloud — during parts of the days.  It was so strange to watch the clouds descend around you obscuring your view of the mountain across the valley and the house just up the street from you.

Big Ive was excited about this slide but afraid to go on it by herself.  I had to go down with her a few times.  Our friend, Judah, went down with her a couple times.  There were a few slightly older kids that were trying to help her down while I waited at the bottom to catch her.  She loved climbing the stairs to the top.  And then she would chicken out and climb the stairs back down.  On the last day we were there she finally got over her fear and wanted to keep going down it repeatedly.

We took a bunch of walks around this village, to see the Alpen animals, to see the sights and views.  One day we took the cable car to the another village up the mountain a bit and walked back on the path.  The morning started out cold and overcast and dreary.  By the time we started our walk back to Gimmelwald it was completely sunny and had warmed up considerably.  My mom and I were using my umbrella to shade ourselves from the sun a little it was so sunny.

Notice all of the tidy, perfectly stacked fire wood.

Our friend, Judah, MomMom, Big Ive and my mom, Gampers.

3/4 of our family.  Little E was sleeping in the stroller during this walk and photo op.

Checking out the wild life on our walks.
Goats: check.
Cows: check.
Chickens: check.
Snails: check.
Ponies: check.

One of the days it rained a lot in the morning.  We took a cable car to the valley below and drove into Interlaken.  We walked around near the river, which is an amazing pale blue/green color.  It’s basically all Alpine snow melt and spring water and has lots of minerals that give it that incredible color.  I wanted to make sure Judah and my mom got a good view of the water as it really is unreal.  We did some touristing and went in shops.

Need more cowbell?
They were selling cowbells of all sizes in just about every shop.  This was the biggest one I’d seen all day.
The cows don’t even wear bells this big.

So … you totally can’t tell the color of the water by this photo…

This kid sure has a thing for umbrellas.

Since we stayed in a hostel we were able to use their kitchen to cook all of our meals.  Which means we had to bring all of our food along to cook.  We got to the hostel in the late afternoon / early evening so the kitchen was in use from people cooking their suppers.  We had an ice chest full of food and 2 grocery store bags full of more food and supplies.  My mom and I were trying to figure out where to store it all.  The people looked at our stuff.  And looked at us.  And then they asked how long we were staying.  I said 3 days and we’re cooking all of our meals.  They did a double take at the amount of food.  And there’s 6 of us, I added.  The relief that came across that young woman’s face could be felt.  She didn’t want to be judging us on the amount of food, but she couldn’t understand why 2 women would need so much for only 3 days.

LOML had plans of renting bikes with Judah and going on some cool hikes.  But he came down with the cold we brought back from the States.  Adventure plans were toned down.

The morning we left we ate breakfast in Germany, lunch in France and supper in Switzerland.  That’s pretty cool.

And then we drove to Italy for most of a week.  Italy photo post coming soon.

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Stuttgart Wilhelma Zoo – a must see if you are going any where near Stuttgart

My friend, BGM, from back home had a business meeting in Stuttgart in June.  Since it was a reasonable 2.5 hour drive from our village I told him I would make every effort to go see him while he was here in Germany.  I’m so glad we were able to make it.  It was a really fun day trip for me, the girls and my mom.

The internet said it would be a little less than 2.5 hours to drive one way.  I figured it would take us 3 with stops having to deal with children.  It took us a little longer than 3 hours because we ran into all of the road construction happening in Germany on our way over.  It was delay after delay.  Because it took so long my mom and I almost decided to NOT go to the zoo because we wouldn’t have much time before we had to meet BGM.  I was thinking it might not be worth the money for the entrance fee for a short 1.5 hours in the zoo.

I. Was. Wrong.

This zoo is beautiful.  You MUST go see the Wilhelma.  It is actually not a traditional zoo.  It is a botanical garden wrapped around and intertwined with a fantastic zoo.  They have exotic plants and animals.  And the grounds — the gardens, oh my goodness — are just immaculate and gorgeous.  No wonder it was a private retreat for kings in days past.  The architecture of the zoo/botanical garden is Moorish as this was the “in” style at the time.  I really like Moorish influenced architecture.  I like the detail and symmetry and ornamentation and the domes that are prevalent in that style.  Unfortunately, during the war a lot of the historic buildings were destroyed beyond repair because of the bombings.  Some were restored.  Some were rebuilt in the style.

All of the glass greenhouse buildings for the different climates are similar to this one.  Ornate metal and glass work.  Beautiful.

I had to keep telling Big Ive to stay away from these little fountains when we walked by only to walk past a couple moms and their toddlers putting their feet in one because the day was so warm.
I would have NEVER thought to do that on purpose.  The water was a little too green for me.  I like my water nicely chlorinated in pools.

I really like this shot.  The differences between the smooth cool grey and the bright spiky green.

We first walked through a number of botanical gardens representing different parts of the world.  It was a hot muggy day in Germany and we walked into the desert building first.  Of course it would be a hotter house than the outside!  Take a look at these incredible barrel cactus.  I have never seen prettier fuzzy barrel cacti in my life.  Growing up in the desert and I had to go to Germany to see  beautiful cacti.  Go figure.  : )

Then we wandered through the rest of the buildings.  One had a little koi pond with these GIANT koi fish.  They made LOML’s big koi in our little pond look like miniatures.

Little E was cooing and pointing at the koi here.

There was a building full of orchids.  I have never seen that many different varieties of orchids ever.

There were peacocks running around the park freely.  I squawked at one and it squawked back loudly and started following us.  I thought I remembered they could be a little on the mean side so we quickly got away from it before it could let us know if it was nice or not.  Not taking chances with the girls so close.

Can you see this one?  He was trying to hide from us in plain sight.

We saw exotic birds.  I squawked at one of those, too, so it would talk back to us.  The girls seemed to like it.

Some of my conversations with my children might be described as squawking, too, so I’m sure all of the Germans thought we were just loud squawking US tourists.  Oh, well.  When you find something that works, go with it.  Right?

Mountain goat animals.  I think.

Then we saw the elephants, okapi, giraffe, and finally had to stop for ice cream.  It was a hot day, remember?

Right as she slopped some on her shirt.

My mom got some good video clips of the girls eating the cold ice cream.  Little E was confused about it.  She didn’t appear to like the intense cold, but once she started to taste the sweet ice cream she really liked it.  Big Ive didn’t hardly even eat all of the ice cream sticking out above the cone before I had to trick her into giving it to me so I could stealthily throw it away.  I felt bad about throwing so much away but I couldn’t even finish mine so there was no way I would be able to eat the rest of hers.

There was a water fountain in a small courtyard by the ice cream shop.  A handful of kids were playing in it.  When Big Ive finally was done with her ice cream the water had been shut off.  It was kind of sad.  I was actually getting ready to fill our drinking water bottles with the water and then it was off.  Sad.

Check out this monkey exhibit.  There are no walls or ceiling.  They surrounded their play structure by water.  How cool is that?

Flamingos that greeted us on the way in and out.  Pretty pale pink birds.

We drove to see BGM at his hotel for dinner.  I had plans of going back into the city center to walk around, but the drive out of the city to get to his hotel took twice as long as it should due to rush hour traffic that we just went to the restaurant across the street.  The girls were not on the best behavior at supper, but we ate early and only 3 other tables had people, most of whom seemed amused at my children running around.

It was a really fun day.  I’m so glad BGM came to Germany and had an evening to spend with us.  I’m glad we had to go see the Wilhelma.  We are planning on going back as a family one Saturday and spending more time in the zoo and getting to see the city center walk platz.

Little E fell asleep before we were out of the hotel parking garage and I think Big Ive was asleep before we got to the autobahn.  My mom and I used the limited maps in our Germany guide books to go a different way than the GPS suggested.  We only argued with her for about 15 miles and made it home in about 2.5 hours.

It was late.  We were tired.  But it was a good day.

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Phoenix Photos – at last

Here are some photos of our brief trip to Phoenix in May.

Big Ive loves my mom’s piano more than words can express.  She says piano something like PAMmo.  Little E was so happy when she figured out she could reach the keys and make noises with it.

Quintessential Little E pose: sucking her thumb while holding her little soft blankie.

Playing with Uncle Fred and Aunt Leah.

With my grandparents (GrammaGramm and GrampaGramp) at their house when they hosted the family and friends get together on Memorial Day.  I think we were trying to get out of there after a full afternoon and the girls were NOT being cooperative.

At the PHX Zoo on the Friday before we left…

Little E with her Auntie.  It was so nice to have her be able to come with us that hot early morning. 
My sister is the only aunt my girls know by the name of “Auntie”.  You can tell them Auntie is on the computer and they’ll know who it is.  :)

At the splashpad at the zoo.  We spent a good portion of the time playing in the water.  Little E seemed to be most happy looking for, picking up and placing in her mouth leaves, sticks and other debris around the splashpad.  She was a little scared of the water that shot up from the ground.

Big Ive, on the other hand, LOVED running around the water.  She was caught trying to drink out of the little river running around the splashpad a few times.  Gross.

Family photo!  Every one was happy!

Grandpa holding Little E.  Believe it or not, she fell asleep in this position.  Baby was tired. 
And, I was able to get her into the stroller seat where she kept sleeping the rest of the time in the zoo.

She had to climb up on this sculpture by herself after all the other kids got off.  She did NOT want to get down and leave.

These tortoises are massive.  I’m sure they have to be 80+ years old.  The big guy looks like a boulder!


I’m working on the posts for Switzerland, Italy (Orvieto, Florence, Todi, Assisi) and Paris.  We probably have 8+GB worth of photos and videos for me to sort through.  Yikes!  Lots of good memories, though.

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US Trip Re-cap

The trip back to the States was really good, excluding the terrible circumstances causing us to make this trip and that we all got some sort of sickness or another.  Flights went REALLY WELL with the girls (a couple other passengers actually commented how well the kids behaved and said they were impressed).  I was surprised.  Flights over were better than back, but I think a lot of that had to do with me being so tired and run down from being sick I just didn’t have the reserve to handle the girls as well.  There weren’t any screaming fits and I didn’t notice any bad looks from people around us, so I’m calling it a success on all three legs of the trip!

Minnesota was wonderful.  It reminded me a lot of Germany.  The girls woke the first morning at 2:30am and increased about an hour each day.  We were all tired and jet-lagged, but good.  It was so good to see my family, but utterly sucked that we had to get together for my uncle’s funeral.  It’s hard to reconcile those 2 vastly different emotions — joy and sorrow — during the same trip.  The services were really nice.  There were so many people.

People highlights: cousins, aunts (great and regular), uncles (great and regular) that I haven’t seen in years.  One I think it’s been at least 10 years.  [[How am I even old enough to have NOT seen a cousin in over 10 years?!  I don’t feel like I could ever be old enough for that much time to pass without seeing someone.  Crazy.]]  Grandma, old family friends.

Funny MN story…
We jumped on my Grandma’s neighbor’s trampoline in their yard one afternoon.  The neighbor’s grandson was out jumping, too.  He started talking to me and asked where we were from.  I explained that we were from Phoenix but that we currently lived in Germany.  He did a double take and said, “Like Europe Germany?”  I said yes.  He asked me if there were kings and royalty still ruling in Germany.  I told him not in Germany, that there was a chancellor that was similar to our president.  I also explained that the royal bloodline still existed but they didn’t rule the country anymore.  Then he asked me why I would come to this small lake outside of this small town in Minnesota if I was from Germany.  It was really funny.  He totally understood that this small town is not much and he could not understand why I would choose to go there.  It was a really cute conversation with a 9 year old boy.

Arizona was nice, but not so much fun.  I got a nasty cold while in MN and it just lingered along the entire time I was in Phoenix.  I had all of these plans to go and do things and see my friends and family back home and most of it didn’t happen.

The girls and I made it to our old church Sunday morning (after we got in at 7:30pm on Saturday).  We miss our church family and community a lot.  We had a family and friends get together at my grandparent’s house Monday.  And then we stayed at my parents house in between running errands and going to the doctor for everyone.  I made 3 doctor visits that week.  One for Big Ive (dry air and climate changes are hard on a red-head’s skin), one for me (a bugger of a cold) and one for Little E (pink eye! and a double ear infection!).  Little E ended up with pink eye.  AGAIN.  Ugh, have I mentioned how much I HATE that illness.  And then Big Ive started to get it.  I think we’re finally over it (it’s only been 3 weeks…); no one has had goopy crusty eyes in about a week.

Oh, we did go to Tuesday Night dinner with our community downtown and that was a fantastic highlight of the AZ portion of the trip.

And the zoo on Friday morning with my dad and sister was a lot of fun.  I had never taken either of the girls to the zoo before then.  It was a hot day so we hung out at the splash pad in the zoo for quite a while.  The kids LOVED running through the water and getting wet.

It was all very familiar and didn’t feel like home at all. Driving around was strange after driving in Germany for the past 6 months. Having store clerks speak to me in English caught me off guard many times.  Walking into my house that our friends are now living in was strange.  It was mine, but it wasn’t mine.  I may own the house but it’s not my home.


Once I get the photos organized and uploaded I’ll put up a post about our trip to Switzerland and Italy.

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