Monday, August 31, 2009

1st Day of 1st Grade!

Sniff...sniff... Today my oldest baby got on that big school bus & it took her to 1st grade. I can't believe she's a 1st grader! Where does all the time go? She is so cute isn't she? And SO proud to be a big girl. She gets to learn social studies & science this year, on top of reading, english, & math. She couldn't be happier. And that makes me happy!


In Relief Society, we're trying to get ready for a big Stake Enrichment activity this month. And since I'm the counselor over enrichment, I got to get all the women together for a Bitburg Ward RS Photo. It turned out great! Don't we have the best looking bunch on the block? I sure think so!

And then here's the lovely RS Presidency: me, Chanda, & Louise, striking our best pose! Aren't you all glad you've got these strong women in charge? Ha ha ha!

Eifel Park Gondorf

Saturday we took the girls to Eifel Park Gondorf for the first time. We were surprised at how fun it really was. Trek called it a "Dollar Store Amusement Park." It's definitely not Six Flags, but it was fun & it kept us busy for several hours.

As you walk into the park, the sidewalk is lined with several painted bears. Taya got up close & personal with one.

As soon as you pass the bears, there is a huge open field full of animals. There were deer, elk, emu, & billy goats. We bought some wild animal feed & let the girls feed the animals. I was SO surprised because even Lorien fed them. She's normally terrified of wild animals. She didn't even cry.

After feeding all the animals, we found a fun little playground. These playgrounds crack me up because they are SO dangerous. But they are SUPER fun! I especially enjoyed this little ride here. It was a ferris wheel. You put your kid inside the seat, put a loose chain in front of them & then you pedal on the bike next to it & it goes around & around. Talk about a blast, but any kid could easily fall out of it!

After playing in the playground, we found a giant cushion of air for the kids to jump on & some huge slides that were a BLAST for both the kids & the adults

After riding slides forever, we sat down for our PB & J lunches. The bees loved us. We ended up eating our lunches as we ran in circles trying to avoid getting stung by the bees. Yikes. We walked down the hill a ways & we found what they called "The Eifel Coaster." It was a roller coaster, & yes, kids could ride. SO FUN! First Lorien & I went down, & then Trek & Cadence rode it. Somewhere between the switching off, Taya managed to take off one of her squeaky shoes & chucked it to who knows where! I was SO angry. Those shoes were SO cute & we've only had them a few days & there she goes losing one of them. We spent a good 30 minutes searching & asking people if they had seen her shoe. She is such a stinker!

Then after that ordeal, we headed down the hill to see the wild birds, wolves, & bears. There were 2 gorgeous bald eagles. There was a whole pack of wolves & then 3 grizzly bears. The bears were SO tame. They would let the people feed them & then would get up & beg for more food like a little doggy. It was funny. I couldn't believe a grizzly could be that tame. It's a good thing they had a small wooden fence separating us from the animals. ha ha ha. I'm surprised nobody's gotten hurt at this place.

After seeing all the animals, we hiked back up the hill to the very top where there were more rides. First we rode the giant mushroom with swings which made me kind of sick mostly because the guy running it just let it run & run & run because nobody else was in line. We were spinning for over 5 minutes. Ugh!

Then Trek took them on the caterpillar roller coaster to see how they liked that & they LOVED it. Looks like our girls are going to be thrill seekers just like their mom & dad.

Then we found a climbing tower. Trek rode this with each of the girls. They had to pull themselves up via rope & then at the top they would let go & the seat would fall to the ground again. It was kind of like a "free fall" type of ride. They liked this one so much they did it over & over & over again!

After we finished up top (up top was where all those fun playgrounds were too. . .see my playground post that I posted yesterday), Cadence & I opted to ride that Eifel Coaster down to the bottom, while poor Trekkie had to walk with Bladen, Taya, & Lorien & the stroller. He's so sweet to me. Cadence & I had a blast. I never put on the brakes on the coaster so we were cruising. She was laughing & told me that Daddy didn't dare go this fast. "Mommy, you're so much braver than Dad!" I laughed at that. As soon as we reached the bottom of the coaster, the funniest thing happened. Wedged, underneath the track was TAYA'S SHOE! The little imp had tossed it so far that it got stuck in the roller coaster. I was SO happy to have the shoe back! I'm glad we chose to ride the coaster back down, or we would have never found it!

What a fun day. We're definitely going to have to go back to Eifel Park Gondorf. We had a blast!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

German Playgrounds

Okay, so Trek & I really get a kick out of German playgrounds for kids. We took the kids to Eifel Park Gondorf on Saturday & took some videos of the playgrounds. Granted, they are the funnest playgrounds you will ever play in, but they are SO SO SO dangerous! Nobody sues out here so they don't care how dangerous it is, so long as it's fun! I think Trek & I had more fun than the kids did. Check these things out!


My mom & dad bought these cute shoes for Taya. She LOVES them! How funny is that?


When Oma was here we planted 5 tomato plants in the backyard. . . & finally we got to pick some of our delicious red tomatoes. There's still more coming, but here's a picture of our first few. It's very exciting to be able to see the end product of so much hard work!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trek's Old Stomping Grounds

In our original plans, we wanted to take the kids to the Berlin Zoo, but because of the marathon
#1: we couldn't get to it
#2: it was so late it was almost closed.

So, we opted for a plan B. When Trek served his mission in Northern Germany, one of his areas fell into the category of "East Germany." His very favorite area on his mission was in Halberstadt & Wernigerode which was only 3 hours from Berlin. It was only 30 minutes out of our way home, so we decided to go check it out.

Trek got SO excited when he saw the skyline of Halberstadt. He was like a kid at Christmas! I can't imagine what it would be like to come back to Spangdahlem ten years from now, thinking I'd never see it again. That's what it was like for him. We drove through Halberstadt & went on to Wernigerode. Wernigerode is situated in the Harz Mountains where the Grimms Brothers wrote their classic fairy tales. At the top of Wernigerode sits a beautiful medieval castle (said to be the inspiration for fairy tales such as cinderella, rapunzel, & sleeping beauty). We were SO happy we got there before the sun went down so we could see the castle in her majesty. We didn't get to go inside, but it was fun seeing it.

Then we walked down to the rathaus there in Wernigerode. Trek was giddy the whole time. I could tell he was loving being back in his old stomping grounds. The rathaus was gorgeous. It's the first one I've seen that is painted almost a peach color (which happens to be my favorite color). The town was so cute & so fun that we decided that we want to go back in October. That way we can tour the castle & spend more time in the village. We could only stay a couple hours because we had to get home.

We left Wernigerode around 9:00 pm & drove all night long. We finally got home around 2:30 am. After totaling it all up we learned that our trip was a total of 40 hours. 20 hours of that was driving, 7 hours was sleeping, & the rest was touring some of the coolest places on earth. What an AWESOME trip!

Berlin TV Tower

And right next to the Berliner Dome was the famous Berlin TV Tower. This one was just fun to take pictures of!

Berliner Dome

After Hard Rock. . . the last thing we wanted to see in Berlin was the Dome (the church). We got back in the van & tried once again to maneuver around the marathon going on. On our way, we saw this neat church that had obviously been bombed at some point. Usually when a church gets bombed, they reconstruct it to it's original state, but this poor thing they just left as it was. The side of the church was destroyed so you could see directly into the chapel from the street. We kind of felt sorry for it. But it was interesting to look at with it's crippled tower & open chapel.

Shortly after the sad little church, we found the dome. We parked in a parking spot that we were pretty sure was illegal parking, but there were TONS of other cars there, so we parked. It was across the way from the Dome, but we couldn't get to the dome because of. . . you guessed it . . . the marathon. The church was completely closed & the marathon ran completely around it! But we got to see it from across the park at least. It was massive. It's one of the biggest domed churches we've seen out here (second to St. Peter's at the Vatican of course). It was beautiful. I wish we could have had the opportunity to go inside, but it was fun seeing it from where we did. Oh, & just as we were pulling out of the parking spot, we saw the politzi pull up & start issuing tickets to the other parked cars. Talk about perfect timing.

Hard Rock Cafe. . .Berlin

Trek & I both had salads (beings it was lunch) & the girls got mac & cheese & chicken nuggets.

There was a colorful Trabi inside as well that we had to take pictures of.

Again, they had the same hoodies that the other Hard Rocks in Europe have, so I didn't get my hoodie from there either. But it was nice to sit down to a good American meal. When you live in Europe, sometimes American food can be a special treat. I love our Hard Rock tradition. So far we've been to: Amsterdam, Cologne, Berlin, Prague, Paris, & Rome. We're definitely the "world travelers."

The Infamous Berlin Wall

When we left Checkpoint Charlie, we wanted to go get lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe there in Berlin, but with the marathon going on, all the main roads were blocked off. We were trying everything to drive AROUND the madness, but no matter how far North or South we drived, we just couldn't find a way to get around it. But as we were driving, we were finding all sorts of beautiful buildings. I have no idea what these buildings were, but they were beautiful.

Then we found a little garage full of Trabi cars. Trabi's were the only car allowed in Communist Germany after the war. The government gave everyone a car & so everyone drove a Trabi. If you look at old pictures of post-war Berlin, you'll see parking lots full of the exact same car. It's kind of interesting. Trabi's are teeny little things (they remind me of old fashioned mini coopers). Anyway, this place was a place where you could rent Trabi's to drive around Berlin. We thought that was pretty funny.

Then, shortly after that, we turned a corner & there was a wall directly in front of us. It took us a second, but then we realized we had happened upon a full block of the Berlin Wall. We didn't realize part of it was still standing. I knew there was a memorial somewhere, but I imagined it would have a piece of the wall behind glass or something. But this whole stretch was just there in the middle of everything. It had a little gate around it, but you could walk up & touch it if you wanted to. We were shocked that it was there & that we just happened to run into it. We parked the van on the sidewalk & took as many pictures as we could before people started honking for us to move out of the way. We thought it was SUPER cool that we got to see it up close & personal!

Check Point Charlie!

Just around the corner from the Brandenburg Gate (okay, so it was around the corner & a ways down the road) is Checkpoint Charlie! This was the only place that you could pass from the Russian side of Berlin into the American side of Berlin when the wall was up. Several people tried all sorts of ways to sneak past Checkpoint Charlie to escape Communism. Now, all that is there is this little military shack surrounded by sandbags.

There is a museum across the street & depicted the many ways people tried to escape. Next to that museum was a currywurst museum. The girls (except Lorien) took pictures with the Currywurst mascot. There's nothing like hugging a giant hot dog in the middle of the street. Ha ha ha.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Brandenburg Gate

We got to Berlin right around 11:00 am. We were just driving around trying to find the Berlin Wall first, but we kept hitting all the main attractions as we were trying to find it. First we drove right through Check Point Charlie, then we passed the Brandenburg Gate. We decided to wait on the wall & park when we saw an open parking lot! We parked in a ghetto parking area, praying that nobody broke into our van while we were away, & walked toward the Brandenburg Gate. There were people EVERYWHERE! Everyone was carrying German flags or had flags tied around their waists. It took us a second, but we soon realized that the Berlin International Marathon was THAT day! Talk about a bummer. There was NO WAY we were going to get up close & personal to ANYTHING! Looking around we realized that all the main roads were shut down for the marathon. There was no straight shots to anything & some of the major monuments were surrounded by the marathon "path" so you couldn't get to them.

But walking along the side of the marathon road, there were several fun grassy areas for the girls to play around in. They especially loved any fountains we saw along the way.

Our first stop was the Brandenburg Gate. Of course, the marathon ran straight through the gate, so we couldn't get a picture straight on or underneath it. But we did get some beautiful shots from the side. And we must admit, it was kind of fun seeing all the spectators & runners in the marathon. It was pretty exciting when they passed by us!

Right next to the Brandenburg Gate was the US Embassy. The girls took a picture right in front of it.

We stayed there long enough to see the front runners of the Marathon run past us, & then we headed on our way to Check Point Charlie!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Staying the Night at the Temple

After Prague, we drove back to Freiburg to the temple where we had reserved a room at the hotel on the temple grounds. We got back around 11 pm & as we feared, the temple gate was shut & locked. The hotel is on the temple grounds, so we thought we were sunk. We had checked in before we left for Prague & had our key to our room, but they never said anything about being locked out of the main gate. We started to panic & I started running through a "How am I going to get the kids to fall asleep in the car?" mode. Trek calmly told me to stop panicking & he pulled out the hotel key. There was a lock on the gate, so we thought, why not? The key went into the lock without a hitch & opened the gate to the temple. I couldn't believe it! We had a key not only to our hotel room, but to the entire temple grounds! Why would they trust people with that? But then I started thinking about it & DUH! If you're worthy to go to the temple, you're not going to misuse the key. . .you're honest. How cool is that? You don't find that much in the world today. So, we parked the car, locked the gate back up, & went into our hotel room. It was perfect. There was a bed for Trek & I, a small bed for Taya, & bunk beds for the other girls. And the best part? It only cost us 20 Euro to stay there! Which only goes to prove that the temple is the greatest place on earth. Not only is it a good, clean, place to stay, but you get to do wonderful temple work inside that uplifts your spirit & brings peace into your life. It doesn't get much better than that! I woke up early so I could go do some temple work before we left since Trek got to do some the day before. Trek got the kids ready & fed so I could go inside. Unfortunately, they didn't have enough people to do anything when I was there, but I at least got a chance to walk around & see things & feel the peace inside. We left the temple around 9 am & headed on our way to BERLIN!!