Thursday, April 30, 2009

Schloss (Castle) Heidelberg

So, I know the girls posted about this, but they didn't say much about the vastness of the grounds and how awe-some this castle is. So, if you're not interested in seeing some extra pictures from this place, skip this post. But if you are, then carry on. :)

This was the first site we visited while here in Germany. It's so close by that we thought it would be good to do while we were all still getting used to the jet lag.

We couldn't go up inside cuz most of it is blocked off. But that's okay. From what we saw it was beautiful and marvelous. Hope you like our pictures...

Xoe, the Explorer

The grounds from above

Brian and I came to this castle when I visited last time, and both times I've loved it...and I would go back again. As you'll see, the grounds are beautiful. It's nothing like how it used to be (there's a painting showing where the gardens and mazes would have been), but it's still serene and awe-inspiring. I'm seriously considering taking the girls for a picnic on the lawns.

Ya, you saw this picture on her blog, but I thought you'd enjoy it again and where it was taken.

What I didn't get pictures of were the multiple staircases and cobblestone ramps leading all the way down the hill to the city. It was fun for us to role play different scenarios during battles, like where the guys would shoot their arrows out the slits, or the secret staircase a princess would have to hurry up if the enemy was coming.

Most of it was destroyed y major lightning bolts over a few hundred years and also becuase of fires and wars before the 1800's. Ironically, though, the castle remained untouched and was not bombed during the Second World War. They've left a lot of the damage in tact which has made for a pretty cool scene.

After the castle was bombed the side of the tower slid down the side.

The interesting thing about this castle is that no one really knows when it was built. The first year the town of Heidelberg was written about was the year 1190 and the first time the mention of a castle there was in 1214, so it's been around quite a long time.

This is how it was believed to have looked like originally.

The inside of the tower...I posted it because you can see an old set of stairs inside the middle window.

A Bath House

The entrance to the castle. I heard a tour guide talking that the empty spot in the middle is where the silver decorated crest had been stolen.

Look up at the top. These are the spikes for the draw bridge at the entrance to the castle. It's like it was straight from the movies. Way cool.

Straight down one of the towers. Kinda scary for me who is afraid of heights.

A hidden staircase.

A side view of one of the non-working sides.

Inside the courtyard...

Walkway down to the cellar and the "Great Barrels"

Yup, they kept beer in this thing in the 1300's thru the 1700's.

An old mill grinder to grind the barley and wheat to make beer.

An old tap.

The biggest barrel in the castle. It even survived many of the wars.

Climbing the stairs up on top of the "Great Barrel"

Basically, this is all Spencer did the whole time.

The view of the city from the front balcony.

Climbing the walkway from the town.

The view walking back from the castle. Isn't that beautiful?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our Home Away from Home

The Keller Residence

The kitchen

Brian found this great place that specializes in (I almost said "caters to" but couldn't bring myself to) families visiting abroad who need a place to stay long term. Not only is it big and spacious with a room for Brian and I, as well as a room for the girls, but it has two bathrooms, a dining room and a big living room.

The spacious entryway and front mudroom (can't see from this view).

This is our view as we walk in the front door. The bathrooms and bedrooms are off to the right and then that little doorway to the left goes into the kitchen, living room and dining room.

The windows are great European windows that open outwards and the shades they have (I guess lots of Europeans have these kinds, but not Americans) completely darken the room. They're on every window. (Can you see them on the picture below for the big bathroom). It's great for Spencer, who's portacrib we put in the big bathroom. All our rooms become completely darkened in the middle of the day. I so wish we had these in America.

The big bathroom

The smaller bathroom

Dining Room

We've already gone grocery shopping and stocked our fridge. Oh, did I mention that if you pay 10 Euro more and they give you a car to drive around. How awesome is that! I'll take a picture of the car later. I've already gone driving. Are you proud? I am. :)

This is our sitting room. It is bigger than it looks here. You know me how I like open spaces.

There are also free laundry facilities here and the view is great. See the picture below. That is the view I have from my living room window.

My view

Mine and Brian's room

The girls' room

The little apartment is set in a cute town called Leiman and it is set amongst some really cute homes and surrounded by trees.

This is our home away from home so now you can have a reference as to where we live when we're giving you our daily stories. I know Nan likes being able to do that, as do I. :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Boy Walking to His Own Beat

(For the record, the picture above reminds me so much of Daisy and Kimball, kids of the Pethel clan. Anyone who knows those kids agree with me who reads this blog?)

So, you know how in previous posts I've loved the fact that Spencer beats to his own drum? He rolls over backwards (back to tummy) instead of the way most other kids roll (tummy to back), and while all his friends are crawling and not honing too much of their fine motor skills, Spencer has drinking out of a cup and reading books on his own down to an art. He also has 8 teeth, soon to be 10, while everyone else his age has only 3 or 4.

I'm asking myself, then, why I'm surprised that he's doing the total opposite when it comes to getting used to the time zone here?

I thought he would be a piece of cake and sleeping through the night faster than all of us. Why did I think that? Well for starters I got advice from so many people, including Lisa Villa, whom most of you know travels back and forth to England and other countries from the states all the time, and has been since her babies were young. Then, I looked up on the internet and checked my baby sleeping book. They all said not to worry and to just let them get used to it on their own...that he would get there within one or two days.

Alas, it's the fourth night and I'm still up from 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. with him. And I guess I am not used to it either cuz by the time I get to bed, it's about 1:00 a.m. and I'm still not tired. Then we all sleep til 10 a.m.

I'm seriously struggling here and am at the point where I think I'm at the point where I'm giving up and am accepting I'm going to be a zombie while I'm here.

I've tried moving his naps, to no avail. And I try waking him up early, but he just falls asleep in my arms. It's so sad. (And of course I can't get mad cuz how could you at that cute little boy in the picture above.)

Does anyone have any advice for me? I've been googling it the past couple of days but everyone says the same thing as before. That the baby will get used to it sooner than everyone else. It's not helping. Can I safely crush up Melatonin into his bottle? (Kind of kidding, but kind of not...) Benadryl?

Oh, and by the way, he's teething his molars. Does that change things?

In the meantime, I've posted a video of him for you to watch. We gave the girls a new camera for the trip and while Brian and I thought they were packing (since as you can tell our house is a wreck with all our "piles" trying to pack up ourselves), they were taking videos of Spencer. The funniest part is at the beginning. It's evidence of him when he's trying to eat his sock. Rather than take it off, he just folds in half. And after that there's not much to watch. Except for about a minute into it, you can see him do this thing with his mouth like he's talking but no sound is coming out. Too funny. :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hallo aus Deutschland!!!

Hello everyone from Germany! We made it here safely and are slowly adjusting to the time difference. Brian was great to schedule local things this weekend for us to enjoy so that if we needed sleep time, we could enjoy it. But more on what we did later...

I thought you guys would enjoy our plane ride story. Keep in mind that through it all, Brian and I handled it with ease. I was actually surprised that I was surprised that so many things would go wrong...cuz I was anticipating this plane ride being pretty bad. But then I got over it and assumed it would go relatively well. Haha. Boy were we in for a ride.

All in all, the things I initially thought were going to go wrong...didn't. Spencer was amazing! The minute we got on the first flight (after he pooped up his back of course), he fell asleep. He only slept for 30 minutes but didn't even cry because he slept when he was supposed to be drinking a bottle to pop his ears. And the rest of the first flight (we had a layover in Dallas, Texas) he just played and hung out. It was great.

Then the long flight to Germany he was great too! He slept a lot (without the use of Benadryl....hahaha, I guess all my preparations weren't needed) and watched a lot of YoGabba! Thanks Scott!

So, you ready for the stories?

The Ticket Counter Fiasco

We showed up at the Tucson airport with plenty of time to spare. We were at ease since everything had gone so well that morning. We had loaded the car the night before, set out our clothes to wear and got up at 6:00 a.m. to head out and get breakfast. We arrive at the ticket counter to check our bags in and the "oh-so-nice" ticket counter agent asked her first bad news question of the day..."Where's your addendum to your passport, Ms. Villa?"


Then she repeats, a little more bothered this time, accentuating a few words for then extra dramatic affect to go along with her flaming red/orange hair and tan leathery skin... "Where's your addendum to your passport, Ms. Villa?"

"An addendum for what?"

Sigh from ticket agent and an eye roll.

"The names don't match on your ticket to your passport. You can't fly on this plane and therefore you will miss your connecting flight to Germany."

"No, no one even told us we needed to have one."

Shoulder shrug and raised eyebrow from ticket agent.

Then very belittlingly holds up my ticket and my passport..."Do you see here? This one says Villa, and this one says Pethel. You'll never travel overseas."

(Ya, I get that. It's obvious...But what obviously isn't obvious to her is that she is wasting time standing there telling me the problem rather than using that time to fix it. We had plenty of time. She just stood there staring at us like we were supposed to just walk away and give up that easily. I was starting to get irritated. But as long as Brian kept his cool, I was too.)

It kept going back and forth until I finally stated the obvious! "Can't you just change my ticket into the name that matches the passport?"

Another sigh from ticket agent. "It'll take me a long time." Looks at clock. "I don't know if there's time." Bigger sigh. "HOLD on...."

She starts banging away at the computer. Then says, "You have a lap child? Well, he can't go. You don't have a ticket for him."

(Brian) "The ticket agent who booked our tickets never said we needed one. He's only 10 months old. He's a lap child."

This time we got a stare...Are you sensing a common feeling from her...she so doesn't want to be dealing with us right now. And instead of explaining why we needed a ticket, she just goes on and on about "why would you think you could go overseas without paying for an extra body? There's no way you're gonna make your flight."

(Are you serious? Just thinking of it again gets me so riled up. But at the time I was trying so hard to keep my cool. I really wasn't living in reality to realize the seriousness of the situation but was slowly starting to realize the gravity if she didn't help us.)

Brian was holding his composure, but he was starting to get pretty mad at this lady. She was just wasting time complaining when she could have just gotten right to it and started and probably could have finished in time. I totally expected him to lose his cool. Then he shocked me when, instead of pulling out "Jack" (my shortened name for Brian's alter ego, short for "Jack A*#"), Brian pulled out his charm and just said to me, "Christy this nice woman is going to help us get on the plane cuz I know she can do it. I don't care what fees we have to pay to have our baby go on with us. Can you go wait over there by the security so that the minute we get clearance we can get on? Now, Ms. ________ (insert her name here... I can't remember what it was), do you think you can quickly get our paperwork through?"

And sure enough, after I went and waited by security, I saw him rounding the corner ready to go.

Xoe & Xanthe on the first flight waiting for mom to be searched and seizured...
Christy as a Wanted Criminal
Yup, that's right. We got all the way through security with no glitches. I had prepared myself for how hard it is to get through with kids, a baby and 4 laptops. I fully expected the search of the bag for my liquids (for Spencer's bottles) and sending the stroller through. We walked all the way to the other end of the terminal (cuz of course they're always the last gate at the furthest end...I prepared myself for that too) and got to the gate just as they were starting to board. There was already a line going onto the plane when the ticket agent had us cut in because we had kids. We get all the way up to the electronic scanner and she scans all our tickets in. Then some sort of beeping goes off on the computer. She looks back at it and makes a confused face. Needless to say, every agent there, including the manager had no idea why it was flagging me.
I was so embarrassed cuz the line of people I'm sure were so bugged at me and just wanted to get on the plane. No one knew what to do so they sent Brian, the baby and both girls onto the plane and had me stand aside. The American Airlines ticket manager was so nice and was embarrassed because she had to walk me all the way back to security. They were going to make me do the whole security thing again! I was, at this point, trying to hold my composure but was starting to get pretty mad. I told them very nicely that they had already sent me through security and I was going to miss my flight. The manager said that she wasn't going to let that happen, yet couldnt' get an answer from the 4 security guys standing there looking at my boarding pass wondering why I had been flagged.
They finally let me go back to the gate with the ticket manager and right when I was about to go on, one of the security guys comes running after us again saying that HIS manager now wanted to talk to me and make sure I wasn't a threat. SERIOUSLY! Are you kidding me! I was standing there for a good 30 minutes. By this time they had shut the doors to the plane and I was not happy! "My kids, 10 months old baby and husband are on that plane!" Again, the airline people assured me they wouldn't take off without me.
And at the same time the security people were shrugging their shoulders wondering why it was taking so long for the security manager to call to the National Security Administration to clear me. They kept telling me that all of them had never seen this before. But I'm sure at the same time they were watching me to analyze what type of person I was. Therefore, I was making all the small talk they wanted me to make, talking about kids, laughing about how I'm ruining their on-flight stats (cuz my sister who worked for Delta told me all about it) and how everyone on the plane was going to boo me when I walked on.
Eventually, they let me go on the plane, no one booed me, and I went to sat down. THEN I had someone running after me down the plane to check all our passports. They had to take them all back with her up to ticket counter and then would be back. I was so embarrassed. We were 30 minutes late taking off, and Brian handed me Spencer who had just pooped up his back and was VERY stinky. Luckily we were sitting in the back of the plane cuz there was no way I was going to hold up the plane again to go into the bathroom to change him. Yup. I'm a mean mother. I made him sit in it for the hour and a half through the plane flight. At least I took the plane's blanket and wrapped him in it so it didn't stink and didn't leak all over me. :)
Negative 10 minutes to make our changeover
So, I hadn't really looked at our itinerary information to see how much time we had until our connection boarded for Germany. But as we were flying to Dallas, I started looking at the next flight times and figured out that with the time change, and the delay, we were going to be getting in 5 minutes before our other plane started boarding. That still didn't give us enough time to taxi in, wait for everyone to get their luggage and get off the plane. I still had to change spencer and we weren't going to have enough time to grab something to eat. Crap. That's all I could say in my head and just sat back. Brian just said, "Our boarding gate is only 5 gates away." Cool, I thought. No prob...
Until we got there and realized that those 5 gates were like 2 miles from each other. I booked it into the bathroom next to the gate, Brian stalled the plane and the girls just followed along. And OF COURSE while changing Spencer's diaper, I run out of wet wipes and his extra clothes were in the other bag. I was running to the gate with a big fat baby in only a diaper (Can you say Baby Huey?), and a blanket wrapped around him. All I could think while dodging people was "Don't mess with this beyotch right now. I have a plane to catch."
From there on out, it was smooth sailing. The girls LOVED the plane cuz they each had their own movie screen with a bunch of TV shows and movies to pick from, as well as video games to play. They loved the dinner and breakfast we got, and loved that each seat had it's own pillow and blanket. Doesn't take a lot to please, huh? They kept saying, "This is AWESOME......"
BUT we made it here safe and sound. Here are some pictures from our adventures on our way overseas. Enjoy!