Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Birthday

I have to warn you.  There are a few unsightly pictures of me here.  I'm also sorry that some of the pictures are grainy.  They were taken with my iphone because I kept forgetting my camera. :)

It's true.  I had a birthday a week and a half ago. I don't know how to feel about birthdays anymore. I used to be okay with them because I always felt younger, and I was still in my early years. And the age 35 felt like I was right in the middle.  But now that I've crossed over the hump (35 seems to be the hump), I am now realizing, feeling and seeing my age.

Should I be depressed about it?  I'm trying not to and trying to still have the same attitude I did years ago.  I used to embrace aging and would tell my husband (who looks very young for his age, but hated the fact that he was getting older) that we should embrace turning older.  But  now that I AM turning older, it's a different story.  I'm trying to embrace it with style, but since I don't have much style to begin with I'm starting to become very afraid I'm going to look very old very soon.  Plus, I can't get the weight off from Spencer's pregnancy as easily as I did with the girls, which can be very depressing in and of itself.  Think positive, right? I'm trying. :)

*Sigh*... Well at least my family does me right when it's my birthday.  It makes getting older much better. :)

On the morning of my birthday, I was sleeping downstairs (to ensure I could sleep in) when I saw the motion lights outside flicker on, then off, and I heard the garage door open and close. I looked at my watch and it was 5:30 a.m.  I got freaked out and immediately thought someone was breaking into our house.  I bolted up the stairs and saw the front door open.  Almost in a panic, I heard voices from the closed kitchen door behind me.  Then it hit me. I knew what was happening.  The girls had gone outside to get the "Birthday Box" and were scheming something.  I didn't want to ruin their surprise so I quietly started to walk downstairs.  Xoe caught me and I acted like I didn't know anything, and acted like the concerned mom asking her why they were up so early.

I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't.  So much for my sleeping in. :)  It was cute too, though, becuz the girls tried sneaking into the room a few times to get some things for whatever they were doing.  It was pitch black so they couldn't see I had one eye open and heard what they were doing. I just kind of smiled. It was so cute.  When I went upstairs they had decorated the hallway for me to see right as I walked up, had made me breakfast, wrote me a darling note (which was, of course, wrapped), cleaned up the kitchen and made a wall of streamers for me to break through just like I had done for their birthday. I loved that they had gotten up so early to make my day special.  Supposedly, Xanthe woke up at 3:00 a.m. cuz she was nervous they wouldn't have time, but Xoe sent her back to bed.  haha.

The rest of the day was very nice. I spent it with one of my friends hanging out with our kids at the park and having lunch.  The afternoon was kind of busy with all the running around for soccer practice, Step Rehearsals and church Young Women's (all for the girls, of course).

Afterwards, Brian took me to this amazing steak place near our house.  They give you a hot marble slab and you cook your meat to how you want it.  It was seriously some of the best food I've tasted over here.  The marinated meat just melted in your mouth. They had dipping sauces and side dishes, similar to The Melting Pot in America.  We also saw some good friends there having dinner, which was surprising because not many people knew about that restaurant, so it made it even more fun.  And of course, I had to eat my dessert first!  They didn't have cake, so I had apple struedel! Yay for apple struedel.

Thank you to everyone who sent presents and wished me a Happy Birthday.  It made it such an enjoyable day!

Friday, April 29, 2011

3Q Awards Assembly

Another Awards Assembly for their good grades.  Surprised?  They were just excited for the coupons of free food and magazines from the bookstore. Great job girls!

Aukamm School Antibullying Rally

This the last Step Performance post.

The Goal Den Steppers were asked to perform at the Aukamm Elementary School (the other military school here in Wiesbaden) Anti-Bully Assembly.  I wasn't sure how the longer videos would upload here on the blog, so I separated each into a few dances when I was recording. So they're all short little videos, only about 30 seconds long.  This is for you, Amber!

This is Ms. Brown, their Step Instructor.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wiesbaden Military Ward Easter Party

This is our church Easter Party that was on the day before Easter.  It was held at a place called the Fasanerie.  I'm not real sure what it stands for but there are a few around here.  They are amazing parks with tons of trees, wildlife to visit and a bunch of nature paths.  This Fasanerie happened to be about 30 minutes away, so we were all wondering if many people would come. (The reason we had it here was because many people from the church live out in this town... our church boundaries are very big considering our members are part of the military community).

Yes, even a zipline. The guy in the blue shirt was our bishop.

This is what Spencer did most of the time. Genius to whomever brought sand toys.

I'm part of the "Primary," which is the organization that oversees the little children.  We were asked to take care of the games.  So, we planned an Easter egg hunt, for which I recruited the Youth group and missionaries to help hide 700 eggs.

This is Xanthe helping Morgan and Elder ____ (can't remember) hide the 1-3 year old eggs.  We had a separate area for them so they wouldn't get run over by the bigger kids.

This game was a relay race, similar to "Simon Says."

This game was the spoon carry.  (We split them into age groups and then rotated.)  They had to all line up and then race to balance a decorated Easter egg on the end of a spoon without dropping it.

(The little kids racing after we switched. Doesn't that little boy in the red look like Spencer? His name is Sammy and he's more darling than ever.  He reminds me of Spencer a lot.)

My favorite game-water balloons!  I was super excited about this one so we had everyone play at once. They had  to all grab a partner and then line up.  One person had the balloon and when I said, "Go," they pass the water balloon to their partner. Then I say, "Step back!" And both kids take a step back.  Then they throw again, catch, then step back. The further back they get the harder it is to throw and catch without it breaking. We played quite a few rounds of this. They all loved it.  We got the adults, teenagers, little kids and missionaries involved.

Where's Waldo? Do you see me giving instructions to someone who showed up late?

Me having to shout over everyone.

Ummm, Spencer HATED the people breaking the water balloons.  That is an understatement. Brian actually had to take him to the car because he had a meltdown over it.

See Spencer in the back? Brian was taking him to the car.

The kids and teenagers thought it would be funny to hit the bishop with a few balloons. He was such a good sport about it.

Getting ready for the Easter Egg Hunt.  

Xoe is regulating.  Sitting on top of the cooler with the water balloons in it. We couldn't get the kids to switch activities cuz we had so many balloons that they wanted to keep playing.

Start of the Easter egg hunt. I had all the 4 year olds get a running headstart (right after this picture was taken) so they didn't get trampled either. We have about 12 young 4 year olds so I figure they needed the time.

The little ones.

Then they decided to empty the balloons onto me. 

I found some extras and got them back too though.

It was a really great party.  Couldn't have been on a more perfect Spring day and it was fun to hang out with all of our friends.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Father Son & Oreo Cookies

Anyone remember my Facebook Oreo cookie post a couple of months ago?  Well, I managed to find some pictures on my phone of the Daddy Kid Bonding Time.  Ya, Oreos have become a staple in this house. It never used to be until: Spencer fell in love with them, he and his dad eat dip them in milk together, and the store that carries them rarely carries them so if they are in stock, a person would only be smart if they bought all of the packages at once. It might be 6 months before a new batch shows up.  Thanks to Brittany for bringing two packages from the states for us after hearing of our Oreo dilemma. :)

I just love Spencer's face in all three pictures. He could care less the camera is on him.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Brussels, Belgium, Take TWO... UPDATED

It always seems like a good idea to head into Brussels, Belgium the couple of times we've visited Holland.  It's only a 2 hour drive from Amsterdam to Brussels and then a 3 hour drive home. So it's kind of out of the way but still feels like it's a place you should visit while out that way.

Something I was told by a friend who lived here was that most of the historical Brussels is only located around the main square.  After the war, most of the surrounding areas over time have been knocked down and rebuilt.  So, the part you want to mostly tour is the main Grand Square (Grote Markt).  However, there are a lot of things to see outside of the main square, like the palace, the Atomium, Mini-Europe, etc.  I'll touch more on that later.

Last time we came here, we visited the same Grand Square, so some of these pictures might be the same.  We parked on a different side of town so instead of the sidestreets being after our tour of the Grand Square, we happened upon the Manneken Pis first.  If you haven't heard of the Manneken Pis before, it's so ridiculously famous.  There are legends of what this statue is of (which I talked about in my post previously... child putting out the town fire from years past, and another one something about the king or something had lost his child and if he was found he would dedicate a monument to whatever the child was doing when hew as found), but this guy is almost like a monument of Brussels. It's pretty ridiculous but you kind of get caught up in the funniness of it.  He is dressed up differently throughout the year.  We've seen him dressed up as dracula and online I saw him dressed up as Elvis.  This year he must have just been a rapper I think

The crowds flock to him. It's pretty crazy.

Nearby there are tons of chocolate shops, waffle stands, jewelers, and lace shops, not surprisingly as Belgium is known for chocolate, waffles, diamonds and lace (and they have amazing fries there too).  All these things you need to experience, because they ARE f'amazing. Well, the diamonds I'm not sure how you could experience, except going into the jewelry shops, and the lace you can buy as a souvenir.  But the other stuff is AMAZING!  I've heard there are some chocolate factories you can go tour and see how the chocolate is made, which is something I may do on our next trip there.
Across the way they were selling Escargots.  The girls just wanted to take a look but I think we were all a little grossed out.

This guy has been here a long time.  We've seen him two other times.  You see him as you walk down the main street to get to/from the Grand Square.  Don't be fooled by him. He's supposed to be Van Gogh and while he's entertaining to watch to see how he stays still for so long, he'll bully you into giving money to him.  (Yes, one is a statue, one is him).  I'm not sure how Brittany caught a picture of him without coming after her.

A must for Brussels.  They are different than any other waffle I've tasted. It's like they coat them in a light sugar crystalline.

Walking up and down the small cobblestone streets is really fun. They're pretty small and you can buy waffles and fries and chocolate just about anywhere.  There is some beautiful architecture too.  Right up the street from Manneken Pis is the Greek part of town with restaurants, etc.  I felt pretty bullied there too.  Meaning they are sharks and come out to you and try to get you to go in, but not nicely like Venice. They also try to get you to buy things, but also not nicely.  It was crowded but it looked and sounded from the language, that unless you are Greek, you don't belong there.  Just a word of advice.

See? Ridiculous how the Manneken Pis is used for so many of their souvenirs and representations of the city.  And yes, he is peeing chocolate. This is a chocolate fountain. Care to have this "chocolate fountain" at your wedding?

I know this is a random door, but I loved this shot Brittany got. I've been really into doors ever since our first theme for Polite Society Magazine was Doors.  

Here is the Grand Square.  In the summer, I think every other year, they create a carpet of flowers. I've only seen pictures online but I've heard it's pretty breathtaking.  I won't say much about these pictures.  I just posted the ones I thought represented well what the square looks like.  Basically, all these buildings are surrounding a big rectangular open area "square."

Lots of streets break off from the main square, just like the one the Manneken Pis is on.

The next few pictures I had Brittany take because this was the building (I think it's a church) I sat under with Spencer in my Ergo carrier while he slept. He is obviously really big at this point but the only way I could get him to sleep.  He was too heavy to walk around a lot so I just sat while everyone walked.  Because we had already been there, I didn't need to see it again. The view I had from these steps was amazing and I LOOOVE to people watch.  A lot of the smaller details caught my eye too and I remember reading about these different details like the seven animals wrapped around each other represented what they believed to be the seven steps of life, stuff like that.

I read a lot about the meaning of this pillar.  The perspective is looking straight upwards.  The ceiling is actually the red brick and this is a pillar that descended about halfway and had all this detail on it.  I can't remember the meaning though, sorry. It was pretty interesting. I shoulda taken a picture where I read about it.

Parts of my view

Great shot, Brittany.

Okay, this guy was random. He came with some older, yet disturbing darker man dressed pretty similarly to this guy.  I know they had to be putting on their own show, not sure why. They didn't ask for money, and they couldn't have been serious. But this guy was jumping on and off walls, making speeches, etc.  A lot of people didn't know what to think at first but I was totally enjoying the "Crazy" show.

Part of the old wall

This is a church right in the middle of this sort of "roundabout" that you drive on to get out of town.  You have to literally jump out of the car or park far away to get any pictures.  We missed great pictures of it last time so Brittany was more than willing to jump out and grab some pictures.

Not sure what this is, but it's cool, nonetheless.

I "think" (Brittany correct me if I'm wrong) this is a church we also saw along the way when we were getting lunch. Brittany had to run a few blocks to get close enough but I'm glad she did. These pictures were pretty rad.

Thank you. Thank you very much.  THAT'S what I'm talking about.  I think everywhere needs this.  (This is where we stayed. It was a really nice Holiday Inn. Seriously, glass elevators? Need I say more?)
Okay so now we get to the outskirts of town. I know I posted about the Atomium before but it's well worth posting about again.  You can see this from the freeway and it's amazingly huge.  You can go inside and tour but we have always decided not to.  (Mine is because of my fear of heights but we had other plans this trip around too.).  If you'll remember, too, this has been here for Expo '58, Brussel's World Fair.

I wish I could remember what this building is. It's not the head EU office (European Union) but it is some kind of government building because it has the Belgium flag (similar to the German but the colors are in a different order).

Going to Mini Europe was something the girls had wanted to do last time.  Next to the Atomium there is this "Center" (I don't know what else to call it). It has a huge movie theater, a water park and a huge area in the middle with restaurants, fast food, walk up and order food and a fun playground. It's fun and quaint and a great time. Part of that "Center" is something called Mini Europe.  

It's basically funded (from what I gather) by the EU.  They've made every country in the EU into miniature form.  It was pretty fascinating. Everything was scaled to 1/25 (except for Mount Vesuvius and Eiffel Tower which were obviously way too big if it was at 1/25 so there's was 1/100) and the detail was dumbfounding. Each model took many years and a few million dollars.  The ticket prices are a little excessive, but for the work that went into this, I can undersatnd why (and for some of you who want to spend more time at the Center, you can buy bundle tickets to the water park, and Atomium).  

The girls took quite a few pictures so I tried to really weed it down.  

Xanthe... gosh I think this is actually Brussels, but I'm not sure.  The Brussels Main Square has the "carpet" I talked about.

Xoe & Xanthe in front of London's Big Ben and Parliament Building

I know this is kind of a hard picture to see but it was a pretty good overall one.  You can see the Eiffel tower compared to the people walking around.  I also wanted to show how they had vehicles that moved along a track and trains and a barge.

Another overall picture. You can't grasp the size until you see the point of reference of the people to the upper left.

BP Oil Rig.  There were a few differing opinions of whether or not this should have been represented but I can understand why it was there. It brings in the EU good money and we all benefit from it so until we stop using gas and oil, then we can't complain, right? :)



Brussels, Belgium... Those flowers are the carpet of flowers in the middle of the square.

Sacre Coeur in Paris

Can you see the waterslides behind it?  That was the other part of this place.

I love the details on these.  There were even people laying out by the pool and swimming.  So amazing.  Made me want to go to some of these places.

The Atomium in the background is not a miniature. This is the real thing and you can see the people inside the Mini Europe to see the scale size.  The Atomium is pretty close and part of the skyview.

Gotta have the windmills.



Xoe, I think this was either Dover or Bath.

Showing the "Chunnel", the underwater tunnel from Paris to London.

Eiffel Tower at 1/100 its size.

Paris' Arc de Triomphe (even with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in its center).

Featuring their airports

A great "overall" picture (although the entire place wasn't this small. It took a good while to go through the whole thing.  There is no way I'm even representing all the countries, with their 2-5 monuments each.

Spencer's favorite part... the trains

Pisa Square

Berlin- This picture is of The Berlin Wall coming down.  The bulldozer was even moving and knocking pieces down.  



And of course the token picture they always take at the beginning which you buy at the end (we never do but this picture was the only group picture we got.)