Friday, July 31, 2009

The Great White Swimmer

In the annals of my family history, today will go down as a historic day: I'm taking the boys swimming at the local pool. Please hold your applause.

We tried this once before at a semi-private function and the result was a family with indescribably disgusting symptoms of cryptosporidium. I swore off the public swimming pool all of last year as memories haunted my sleeping hours.

For some reason, though, I had no problem suiting up when we went on vacation and let's both be honest: how clean can a hotel swimming pool be? Visions of spit, urine and flaked-off dead skin cells aside, I can hardly wait to go on vacation for the swimming alone. In Berlin, I admit, I spent some glorious hours floating on my back in paradise. (By which I mean a top-floor, indoor pool with skylights that let in just the right amount of light and none of the sweltering heat.)

I do not go swimming in our local public pool. Let me repeat that: I DO NOT GO SWIMMING IN OUR LOCAL PUBLIC POOL. It is sort of a mantra of mine that I have to repeat aloud for my children several times a summer. Or at least it has been. Something has changed.

When my kids bugged me about going swimming in the past and asked, "Wwwwhhhhhhhyyyyy?" in that whiny voice that kids pull off so well, I would reply: "Because I .. uhh ... oooh look! What's that over there?" Which is to say: I dodged the question. But here's what I was thinking: "Because I look like a big, fat beached whale with the whitest legs on the planet. And I'm fat. Did I remind myself yet that I'm fat and a swimsuit is not the right look for me?" Which, interpreted to a more subconcscious level, becomes this: "If I go to the public pool, I will see somebody I know. They will look at me in horror and think to themselves, 'I always knew she was fat, but whoa. That's sickening.' "

So what has changed? I realized that yes, people will know I'm fat. However, people already know I'm fat in my normal clothing. (Please do not leave comments trying to spare my feelings. I'm about 75 pounds over my target weight. It's okay: I'm fat!) In addition to other people already knowing I'm fat, it's true. I'm overweight. Okay. So that leaves us with... who cares? I know I'm overweight. They know I'm overweight. Why not put a smile on my face and create tidal waves of joy as I splash around obliviously with my kids?

With mental anxiety set in its' proper sphere, I can now get down to the business of having fun. I shaved my legs a bit (ahem.. a lot) more thoroughly than usual, lotioned them up, and got my flip flops ready. I know it sounds like I'm going to have a great time, but don't succumb to that impulse to crash the party. Sorry to all my fans, but your favorite celebrity blogger (ME! Who did you think I was talking about?!) isn't going to be signing autographs. I'll be wading around with my kids saying, "True Confessions of a whaaa...? Never heard of it."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Virtual Reality

Sometimes I wonder (seriously) what kids did without televisions, iPods and video game consoles. How did they spend their down time? How did their parents survive without the electronic anesthetic? I guess they used their imaginations, which is apparently what kids are still doing, but it's more like imagination on steroids. They can not only pretend that they're driving a car, they can grab the Wii steering wheel and have a wheel to hold onto, a race track and interactive results.

Call me old-fashioned but I like my kids' race tracks to be in their minds. That's the creative side of me wanting my kids to discover the power of their minds and the power of books and the power of imagination. So I held out a long time without getting any video games. Yesterday, I was given a Wii for my birthday. Yea! Now we're not the boring house anymore!

Joseph spent all day playing on the Wii. Thomas looked at it, watched Joseph play and then came downstairs to me. As we sat side-by-side munching our lunch, he said in a high squeaky voice, "Hi! I'm Thomii! I'm in the Wii! Are you in the Wii, too?" I replied, "Yep. I'm in the Wii, too. I'm Julesii!" All throughout lunch, Thomii and I imagined that we were in the Wii.

Then it dawned on me. We were pretending to be in the virtual world. That seems a few too many layers away from reality, doesn't it? Then something else dawned on me: instead of Thomii being upstairs in virtual reality, he was downstairs using his imagination. It doesn't matter that the Wii was fodder for his imagination. I hugged him and felt proud of his creativity.

Then I told him to hurry up, finish his lunch already and go upstairs with his brothers.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Inspiration Lacking

Enough about me. Let's hear some ideas from you. Here is what I want to know:

1. What are your favorite uses for zucchini? We just harvested our first of the season and I know there is more coming. When I was a teenager, we had a yearly tradition of getting a baseball bat or broom handle and pitching zucchini (and other produce) to each other. In case you want to try this yourself, cabbage was by far my favorite because it just disintegrated on contact. But zucchini on the roof is always memorable.

So OTHER than meaningless destruction with a baseball bat, what else do you do with your zucchini? Do you have a favorite zucchini bread recipe? Do you grate it and put it in stuff? Send me your ideas... please!

2. If you had an extra two or three rooms in your house, what would you do with them? A craft room? Guest bedroom? Office? I want to hear your vision. We have a basement apartment that we've rented out since we moved into the house and I think that our current tenants will be our last ones. We've had great luck with the tenants we've had and our current "downstairs neighbors" are the best I could ever wish for, so we'll be ending on a high note. (I think that their plan is to be here another year or so, so this is all very long-term planning... no rush...)

3. Color laser printer or Inkjet? We've been without color printing for about five years and we've loved our black and white laser printer. We've only replaced the toner once and it was super cheap to replace. I used to gnash my teeth and growl unkind words every time I plopped down $50 for a color inkjet cartridge. I don't want to do that again, but I really need a color printer AND a copier/scanner, too, so we'd have to invest in a Color Laser All-in-One which runs into a *cough* bit of money. Is it worth the upfront expense with the huge ink savings? Or would you get the cheap-o inkjet and then pay through the nose for ink for the next five or ten years? (Yes, I know that printers technically shouldn't last ten years in a normal household, but we use electronics the way we use cars: drive 'em into the ground and then hang on a little longer.)

These are the questions I've been pondering this morning. That and whether or not I should buy myself a snow cone maker for my birthday on Saturday. My husband voted against, but I think we could resolve his concerns without too much trouble. It just seems like it would be so much fun to make snow cones on a hot summer day, invite over some neighbor kids and let the sticky fun begin! So we'll make that question #4: snow cone or no snow cone?

I would love to hear your ideas!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Party Time!

To repent for a myriad of drab, photo-less blog entries, here are a slew of photos from the baby shower I threw last night, with how-to and recipe links at the bottom. I had so much fun crafting and cooking and baking!

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

From Party Pics

* Pom-pom decorations (hung from ceiling, or you can make half pom-poms with four pieces of tissue and lay them flat as flowers)
* Fruity ice cubes
* The most amazing lemon cream tart filling -- the variation of this that I prepared had, I THINK, only half a cup of lemon. I don't like things TOO tart.
* The inspiration for all of it here and here
* Fortune teller candy dishes -- line with wax paper or parchment paper for a pretty effect
* My favorite cake recipe (use as layer cake, Maryann cake or cupcakes ... makes a fabulous strawberry shortcake base!) -- tastes even better the next day!
* Butterfly template -- This is a great project for your kids to help with!
* Yummy lemon cream cheese frosting and lemonade made from The Joy of Cooking. Flaky pie crust for tarts from the highly-recommended Baking with Julia.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Domestic Frivolity and Wonderfulness

My first baking-induced injury of the morning was rather embarrassing: I cut myself, but not with a knife or baking utensil. I just clumsily broke my skin with a too-long fingernail. I was cutting and juicing lemons at the moment and almost (literally) poured lemon juice over my cut. I love it when life is a living cliche. Don't you?

I am throwing a baby shower tomorrow and hosting my writer's group, so I am spending all day today being Domestic. I used to think I was inherently Non-Domestic, but I've changed my mind. When I grow up, I want to be my Grandma Hacken. She was Domestic in the best sense of the word. She bustled around in a blur of home-made clothing, delicious smells in the kitchen and freshly cut flowers from the yard. She didn't do it because she was repressed by society and forced into a role that she hated. She did it all out of love. She painted murals for grandkids and made costumes and baked bread and tended the garden and made me feel like the most special person in the whole wide world.

By the time she passed away, I'd already mourned her for several years. We had already lost her to Alzheimer's and the loss was immense. Every time I think of the ideal wife, mother or grandmother, that childhood image of my smiling Grandma Hacken comes to mind. She is who I want to be when I grow up.

So today I am being Domestic. Sandra, stop laughing or gnashing your teeth. There is nothing wrong with being Domestic, even if you are an outspoken feminist with crazy ideas like "Men Can Change Diapers." I can peacefully exist within both spheres, and I do.

So, it is 10:31 a.m. and this is what I have done so far:
* Baked a pan of my favorite brownie recipe to be frosted, cut into bite-size pieces and topped with the paper-crafted daisy toothpick thingees that I made on Saturday.

* Made pie crust, which is happily chilling in the fridge in anticipation of being made into miniature tarts (lemon? lime? other?) later today or tomorrow morning

* Sliced lemons and limes to make a citrus syrup for my first attempt at homemade lemonade/limeade. Later on, I'm going to slice more lemons and limes and make some Fruity Ice Cubes out of them to go in the punch at the party. Now I debate: Strawberry lemonade? Raspberry lemonade? Throw in some food coloring to make "pink" lemonade because my "pink lemonade" recipe calls for grenadine and I have no idea what that is or if it's against my religion? (Laughing at myself, but.. yes, I'm serious.)

* Cut out sugar cookies (made the dough yesterday of course, because that gives the dry ingredients a chance to absorb the moisture, making for a more uniform and tastier final product ... as you already know) into daisy shapes to stick with my summery, flowery baby shower theme.

* Unloaded the dishwasher, wiped the countertop, loaded the dishwasher, wiped the countertop, hand-washed dishes, wiped the countertop, wiped the countertop, wiped the countertop .... repeat ad nauseum because cooking is messy and I can't tolerate a dirty countertop when I cook, regardless of what my husband will tell you. (Hush, husband.))

* Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl for my vanilla cupcakes, since we ate up the whole first batch with two last-minute gatherings with friends yesterday. I'm out of eggs now, so I need to go to the store before I can finish the cupcakes.

* Cut the last sugar cookie from yesterday into four pieces and enjoyed with my sons. There is something incredibly magical about home-baked goods that are frosted with a lemon cream cheese frosting. Seriously magical ... and highly addictive. I went to bed last night feeling nauseated by the amount of sugar in my system and swore not to let that happen again ... EVER. Ick.

I love cooking days. Love them, love them, love them. I love that I'm making a lemon syrup for the first time ever and that I almost poured lemon juice on my cut. I love planning parties and doing things that my Mom tells me are ridiculously unnecessary. Of course they are. That's why they are appreciated and remembered. That's what makes parties delightful--doing things that are completely unnecessary, incredibly time-consuming and impractical but fun and wonderful.

All is well.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mixed feelings about ADHD

Here are a few of the emotions stirring around in my pot today. It's hard to tell if they will bubble and boil over or if they will just stay on a low simmer. They've been simmering a long time. Today I am:

Today I am taking my oldest son to his pediatrician to discuss ADHD. Before my trip to Germany, I took him to a psychologist for testing. I had very mixed feelings about the whole process and dragged my feet quite a bit. I was hoping for some therapeutic, behavioral, psychological advice. Instead, I was told that medication would change all our lives and I should get him on medication ASAP.

My son has been a "full speed, straight ahead!" type of child from the first. He was precocious and demanding as an infant, impulsive and demanding as a toddler and now defiant and demanding as a school-age boy. I adore him and his amazing sense of creativity, but I literally feel worn out the first moment I hear his voice in the morning because the first sound is always some sort of demand.

I want to be a nice, fun, laid-back Mom but I haven't had the chance with my son. He is always pushing the boundaries, demanding more and seeing what he can get away with. I have to constantly restrict him, discipline him and keep everything ordered and methodical or else the entire family seems to explode from within. My nerves are getting a bit raw just thinking about it!

Sometimes I wonder if it's my fault as a Mom, but I've finally accepted that different children have different temperaments and this is just how my son is. The twins are far less demanding and far more affectionate and laid-back. My parenting style works much better with them. So I just need to figure out how to mesh my parenting style with my oldest boy's temperament. It's a long process and always under review... which itself is exhausting.

So I am finally taking Joseph in to discuss medication. I have been very reluctant to do this. I'm not sure why. It's complicated. It's emotional. It's way more personal than I can really detail here. But I'm curious about what the doctor will say and I'm curious what affect this could have on Joseph and, consequently, the whole family.

Anxious about social stereotypes
ADHD has become a buzz word, a social phenomenon, a running joke. People throw out insults in the form of "You are SO ADHD! You drive me crazy!" without thinking that ADHD is a real concern for real people. Others seem to believe that ADHD is a fictitious problem--a convenient label to slap on the problem kids to make people feel better about themselves. Some talk about the over-medication of America, which I tend to agree with in a lot of ways.

ADHD is that label that teachers use with each other as they sigh and pat each other on the back. "I have 5 ADHD kids this year!" a teacher will say to another teacher. They'll both groan and feel underpaid.

The stereotypes and social stigma surrounding ADHD are ugly. Considering that kids with ADHD are more prone to getting into trouble and not meeting their full potentials, they are highly susceptible to developing anxiety and depression as secondary side effects. The last thing these vulnerable kids need is the stigma of being "an ADHD kid" with all the associated baggage. It makes my temperature rise ... considerably ... and I want to shelter my son from the unkindness.

Anxious about doing the right thing
My feelings about ADHD are very complicated because it has affected my life directly in several ways. I fear that I won't look at the situation in a detached, analytical manner. I want to just do what is right for my son. How do I know if the medication really is safe? Yes, it's been tested and it won't cause him to sprout a third arm, but you can't tell me that the full impact is really understood.

The body is intricately, insanely complex and I question the ability of research to ever fully understand the impact of environmental or medical influences. So how do I know that drugging my son up every single day for his entire childhood and adolescense ... and maybe adulthood? ... is really the best thing to do?

How can I not try it, though, when so many people have pushed and prodded and told me that life will be so much better for all of us, including my son, if he is medicated. How can I not give him every chance to lead a more fulfilling life and gain confidence and real friendships? How could I withhold that from him? So I am putting my anxieties to the side for now and trying to keep an open mind. I have to figure out what is best for my son and that's not as straightforward as people seem to believe.

Hope for a solution
I'm so worn out. I'm sick of the arguing, defiance, anger, questioning, emotional mayhem and lack of respect. I'm sick of the time-outs and the constant need to look for ways to encourage my son to offset the fact that he's constantly in trouble! I'm sick of seeing his little face fall when he knows that he is in trouble ... AGAIN. I'm sick of being the instrument of lower self-esteem by constantly discipling him. I'm sick of all of it. I want to start enjoying my time with him more.

So I am hopeful that everyone is right and ADHD medication is the answer to all my prayers. I'm hopeful that people haven't overexaggerated the benefit my son will see. I'm hopeful that we can find a better place for our family with less anger and less crying and less arguing all around. I hate contention and I hate all the negative emotions brewing ... that just isn't my cup of tea. So I am excited today to see if a new chapter of life is unfolding.

Wary of expecting too much
I'm wary that I expect too much! I'm worried that people have talked up ADHD medication so much that I'll be disappointed.

* * *

I want to be cautious.
I want to be hopeful.
I want to be open-minded.
I want to do the right thing for my son.
I want to be a good Mom.

Heaven help me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Left My Heart in ...

There's nothing like 12 days away from home to make you passionately realize that Dorothy was right.

There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

Especially when home is chock full of wonderful things like a washing machine and dryer, clean clothing, a large bathtub, air conditioning, free water and, of course, an adorable family.

I think that it was pretty clear that I was intensely home sick during my trip to Europe. That home sick feeling shouldn't be interpreted as a lack of gratitude or regret at being where I was. It was a simple, healthy acknowledgement that I love my family and am very aware of the blessings that center around the hearth.

That home-sick feeling is actually one of the things that I most treasure about my trips away. It is a reminder to be grateful for the everyday things that seem mundane--the ability to clean my clothing, the ability to drink water, the ability to grab my children in huge hugs and listen to them giggle in my ear. Every time I have a few days away from my home, I come home feeling like I've fallen in love with my family and my life. It's a passionate love affair brought on by an aching heart.

However, Germany was astounding. I cannot describe the experience because it was just that: an experience. It wasn't a list of sights seen or places discovered or pictures taken or relatives visited. It was a constant bombardment on all my senses: new smells, images, thoughts, realizations. It was seeing a different way of life that made me question my own lifestyle and ask, "Why not?"

Why not give herbal tea another try? I've always had it warm and hated it, but my relatives in Germany served it iced and it was quite refreshing (and low-cal!)

Why not landscape my yard like my European relatives, planting flowers and herbs in every precious inch of land I own? Why not live my life outside more often and treasure the cool-morning breeze or the evening chill?

Why not build some boxes around my back patio with trellises to make a nice outdoor eating space? Or grow grapes along the fence?

Why not really become fluent in German after discovering how much I really already know?

Why not teach my boys to live life full of vim and vigor by having them help me out in the garden?

Why not spend my days discovering the history behind some of that artwork I saw in the museums? Why not grab some paint brushes and try to surprise myself?

Why not think about installing a small pool in our backyard ... someday?

Why not learn more about fashion so that I can fit in next time I travel abroad?

Why not... why not... why not...?

I feel changed by the intense feeding of my soul that occured in Germany. I don't know how I've changed, but I can feel that I am not the same person I was two weeks ago. I like this feeling of growth and cerebral expansion. My muse was well-fed and now she must be well-exercised to give those seeds of creativity room to expand.

All is well, all is well.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Drunk Guy :: Part Two

It took him a couple hours to talk to me, but he did. We were with the same group of people--it was inevitable that we'd run into each other when we were stuck on the same boat, cruising the Spree River.

I was in back snapping 238 photos. He finally approached near the end and before he could say a word, I asked, "So are you drunk again yet?" He was only slightly buzzed but not yet deliriously drunk. He literally couldn't remember what he had done the night before, but he remembered me as a sort of guardian angel who had (figuratively) taken him by the drunken hand and reminded him which direction the party was at. (The museum was rather large.)

He seemed to make a few pointed comments to find out if he'd made a fool of himself or not. I just smiled and let him keep talking. No use in telling him he's now been immortalized as "Drunk Guy" on my blog. So as far as his memory will serve, I'm the nice lady who showed him where the party was. In my mind, he'll always be Drunk Guy.

* * *

In other news, I saw two amazing museums in Berlin today. I saw the bust of Nefertiti. Yes, The Bust of Nefertiti. You know which one I mean. I'll post pictures later in case you really, actually don't know which one I mean. There was a bunch of other cool stuff at the Altes Museum, blah blah blah, but what I really want to tell you about is ....

WOW!! The Pergamonmuseum was amazing. Just. Simply. Breathtaking. Literally.

If you can imagine the explosion that happens when a submarine has been torpedoed and blown out of the water, you can start to imagine how I felt when I walked into Pergamon. I had just finished off a pretzel on the steps of the museum, looking at the German Chancellor's flat. I didn't know what to expect in this museum. It was just another museum. Right?

When we walked in, I was staring up and into a full, restored Altar with stone steps and columns and friezes that ran around the entire, amazingly huge room. Then I walked into the next room and saw the Market Gate and was blown away. Then I walked into the next room and saw the Ishtar gate and was blown away.

Torpedo ... hit! Hit! Hit! Blown out of the water!

That museum was ... breathtaking. If you are planning a trip to Berlin, please take time for the Pergamon Museum. Stunning.

I came back to the hotel, tired and sweaty, swam in the top floor pool for a while, showered and then went on the above-mentioned river tour. I'll post some of the 238 pictures later on my Picasa album. What a day!

It's been great but I'm feeling antsy to see my little darlin's again. I fly home Thursday and can't wait to see the kiddos and have good water to drink for free and have a washing machine (YEA!!) and lots of other amazing conveniences.

That leaves one day... Time to buy chocolate.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Drunk Guys and Rembrandts

I could blog about going back to Potsdam and the cute little shops and historic sites and how I was so brave about figuring out the regional train system all by myself.

I could blog about the wonder of staring at original Rembrandt paintings and feeling like I'm about to cry.

I could then blog about how I always cry. Always. Even when I watch things like American Idol or The Apprentice. I don't know why, but I always cry.

I could then blog about how that is neither here nor there and I've blogged about that before. I could then go off into many tangents that are also neither here, there or anywhere in between.

I could blog about many things, but I have chosen something very special for you today: the drunk guy. To give a little background, I was with my father at a reception for some group-or-other that has something-or-other to do with libraries and spanish stuff. I should probably pay closer attention to details like this, but I didn't care. All I knew was that I was incredibly excited to go to the art gallery where it was being held.

There was food. There was wine. There was beer, I believe. I had juice and sparkling water. (I could blog about my irritation with the European obsession with water that is not just nice, cool, still water.... but again... I must not sidetrack. I'm blogging about drunk guy.)

We had a guided tour through some highlights of the art gallery and then my Dad and I split off into different directions. I was walking through some Dutch paintings alone when suddenly, there he was: drunk guy. He was standing next to me as though we were best friends in the world, rambling about how his group had abandoned him just because he had to pee.

I was amused.

He said unabashedly that he was incredibly drunk and had better go have another drink because... well, I didn't quite follow the reasoning. I told him I'd never been drunk, but I thought I'd probably be very entertaining because I already make a fool of myself in normal life without the help of booze.

He kept talking and I realized that he wasn't going to let me look at the paintings in peace. We were apparently friends now and looking at the paintings together. He was being decidedly friendly. And then he started asking me personal questions: how old was I? What was my name? Was I part of SALALM? (SALALM is the library thing-a-doo-hickey that my Dad is attending here in Berlin.)

I started feeling a tad concerned.

I kept smiling and started walking, very deliberately, back toward the main reception area. He kept talking and I realized very quickly that he was coming onto me. Man, it's been a looooong time since I've realized someone tried to pick me up. Usually the wedding ring on my finger and details like me being overweight and in the presence of three screaming children are enough to make the thought laughable.

I was entertained but alarmed.

I wasn't really 100% sure he was coming on to me until he asked in his drunk stupor, "So if your Dad saw us together, would he kill me now or wait until after the conference?"

I replied, "As long as you don't touch me, I think you'll be all right."

He backed away a little bit and said, looking reflective, "I don't think I did that."

"Then you should be okay," I replied.

We found the main group again and I quickly eased away. Problem solved. Only one thing remained: get out of the reception so I could blog about it and let the rest of you laugh with me.

All is well in Berlin. Life is different... unquestionably... but all is well.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Independence Day

Yesterday, I stood with one foot in the former East Germany and one foot in the former West Germany.

I saw the outline of where the wall used to divide this country unnaturally into two different worlds.

In the car, my cousins told me what life was like when their country was divided into two. They were small children during WWII and witnessed the division and the reunification of their beloved home. "Every year, we come now to this part of Germany," said one cousin, "because when it was divided, we could not come here at all."

She told me that she lived for one year of the war in an industrial town that was bombed repeatedly. She told me of the fear she lived with. I told her that my city has never witnessed a war. Never a bomb or an enemy plane flying overhead.

"Yes, you cannot imagine what it is like," she said. I agreed. "My children, also. They cannot imagine what it is like." After a moment: "It is better so." A look of sadness tells me everything I need to know--I don't know want to know.

Now this place is beautiful. Peaceful. A place untouched by anything except memories of a wall. We stand in the fields of flowers and eat fresh cherries from a picturesque town full of half-timbered homes.

"I have a suggestion to make," says my cousin. "Take a picture of the flowers to remember this place." She wants me to remember the beauty of Germany and put the ugliness out of my head. I snap a few photos gladly and prepare to leave. A sign by the parking area says that it's nice we are here. I agree.

I think about war and division and unity and fields of flowers and my small, insignificant town that has never been bombed. It is nice that I am here, and it's nice to have a country of peace and freedom to go home too. It is too big for me to wrap my brain around right now. So, so much that is important and I cannot feel the weight of what it means.

Happy 4th of July to all of you.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Alles gut in Deutschland

I have been taken to task by that ever-present Internet phenom: the anonymous comment. I can't blame Anonymous for feeling envious of my travels and irritated by my lack of enthusiasm. When my friends and family travel out of town, I am always exceedingly envious and cannot envision them having any down side to the luxury of travel.

Life, however, is neither all black nor all white. Jet lag is a real drag. If you think it is easy to be in the middle of people who are talking about you, judging you and literally laughing at you in a language you cannot understand, then you're just being silly. If you think it's easy to figure out a balanced diet when you can't even read the menu, you don't really know how important healthy food is when you're on your feet all day long. It's hard and it's stressful!

Today I was on the verge of tears. Correction: today I actually started crying in the middle of lunch when people were saying "Juliana...blahblah gibberish blah... ha ha ha... Juliana ... blah blah blah .. ha ha ha!!" and I had to pull myself together (quickly) to not make the matter worse. The heat was ... hot. I was sweaty. I was so hungry by dinnertime that I honestly thought I couldn't get out of the car. We had to hike way up to a beautiful castle and I was so dehydrated that I probably would have sold all three of my kids for a liter of water.


Today was perfect! I got out into the real Naturpur (Pure Nature!) the "Green Heart of Germany." I toured an amazing castle and learned a new story that I had never heard before. I felt the inspiration flowing into me as I thought about what might happen in those dark woods that towered on either side of the road. I grinned foolishly on an Autobahn and told a cousin that he likes to drive the same way I like to drive: fast. I stood on the border between West Germany and East Germany and pondered th stupidity of men in ruining a beautiful countryside with a wall from one end to the other.

I visited villages full of half-timbered homes that took my breath away. I saw the room where Martin Luther translated the New Testament. I saw the house where Bach lived. I bought some amazing hand-made gifts for my Mother. I had dinner on the porch of a beautiful restaurant overlooking a perfect German valley.

Alles war wunderbar. My German language skills are quickly getting better and better und besser und besser. I'm amazed how much comes back to me from my five years of junior high and high school German.

I will post pictures and write more details another time. Bis spater und lots of liebe.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Almost no internet access right now... I have a few minutes on my Dad's laptop and that is all. Connection too slow to even load Facebook.

I am taking deep breaths and trying to remember the beautiful German countryside that I toured today. I... must... survive... without... Internet. I need to repeat this mantra every time I look at my lonely little laptop with photos that I can't upload.

We took a train from Berlin to Kassel. It was nice to get out of the big city and into the German countryside. Here is the birthplace of the fairy tales (although the locals will hotly debate who actually wrote them, so don't ask...) Our train arrived late, so we only saw part of the Water display at Wilhelmshohe castle, but it was beautiful! The grounds there are heavenly. The museum inside has Rembrandts and other famous pieces of work, but when I asked about them, my cousins didn't seem too impressed. I hope I can see them anyway, but I don't have high hopes.

I'm getting really homesick. I miss my kids. I almost had a nervous breakdown yesterday evening because I started missing home so much. You can't imagine how much pressure there is when you are with relatives and they know that you know SOME German, so they keep asking you questions which you can't understand! Between relatives that ich konnte nicht verstehen and menus that ich konnte nicht verstehen and changing hotel rooms and cities and still being jetlagged, I am feeling really overwhelmed.

All is well and I am more grateful than ever before for the luxuries of air conditioning and a washing machine. There's no place like home.