Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Last night was the first night of the trip that everyone seemed to sleep pretty well. Abby, Cade and I had colds and we could not seem to find enough Kleenex in the world to wipe their noses as many times as they needed it. We walked over to the main building at the Kreuzerhof and had an excellent breakfast. We had scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, rolls with jelly, rolls with honey, juice, and hot chocolate. It was a great start to the day. I was ready to do some souvenir shopping and I knew that Rothenburg would be one of the main places on the whole trip that I would find the kinds of things I was looking for. We made our way down the main street again toward the square and the first stop was a bookstore. I asked the man which would be a book that every German kid would know and he showed me a few different ones. Abby has quite the collection of foreign books and I think it is a neat idea. My parents and my brother have gotten her books from many different places and although she already had a German book from my parents, I thought it would be nice for her to have another one. We bought two “typical” German books and were on our way. The next stop was the Christmas store and I could have spent thousands in there. It was very expensive, but the things were very nice. I bought a nutcracker and an ornament for Cade. Then we went to another Christmas store and I found a night watchman for Abby that we will use as an ornament as well. I also picked up a little bunny for Abby and a duck for Cade since we would be in Germany for Easter. We made our way back toward the B&B and then the interesting part about traveling with kids happened. Well, again, not as if throwing up in the car twice wasn’t interesting! Anyway, for those of you who don’t like too much information, you can stop reading now and I won’t go into great detail, but Abby is much like an adult (well, maybe a female adult) when it comes to pooping away from home. She had decided she wasn’t going to do it and she was holding it. She had clearly become uncomfortable and we decided enough was enough. I went into a pharmacy to try to get some suppositories. Language Barrier!! I tried everything I could think of to explain to the poor woman behind the counter what our predicament was. I think I finally said, “She can’t go to the bathroom.” Seems simple, but I don’t know what I had said before that. She finally understood and spoke to the gentleman in German. She gave me a box and said, “Give her 1.” I asked how long it would take and she laughed and said, “5-10 minutes.” Well, they evidently have never met a such a strong willed American 3-year-old because it did not happen in 5-10 minutes. About an hour later and after playing at the park, and still no poo, we decided to be on our way. It was getting later than we had planned on leaving so we decided it was best to skip Nordlingen and Dinkelsbuhl (other walled cities) and just get on the autobahn for our 2 hour + drive to Hohenschwangau. We stopped at a McDonald’s for a late lunch and after we ate, Derek drove into town to get some more Euros and the kids and I played in the play area at McD’s. They have a play area in almost every BK and McD’s over there and we were lucky with this one. It wasn’t big, but one part had a basketball area and another part with a maze that the kids could climb through and time themselves. We met the sweetest little boy in there and even though we had no idea what each other was saying, he and Abby had such a fun time together. He shared a ball with Cade and Abby told him “danke.” It was so sweet! We were finally back on our way and we were pushing the limit with the drive and Cade was ready to be done in the car, but it was getting close to 5pm and we still weren’t there yet. For some reason, I didn’t think to get directions to the B&B or an address. So, even though we had Matt and Sarah’s GPS Trudy, we had no way to find the B&B except to ask around. We finally found it after asking about 5 different people. WOW! We were at the foot of the mountain and there was Neuschwanstein Castle. It was amazing. The kids played in a little patch of snow left on the front yard and I stood on the driveway and stared at the castle while Derek checked in and was shown the room. We were in room #1 of Gastehaus Weiher on the second floor. We had a double bed, a single bed, and a balcony with an absolutely amazing view of the castle. We settled in and Derek went to the store to buy some meat, bread, and fruit for supper. We ate on the balcony and the kids played. Later that night the poop issue was resolved and Derek and I sat on the balcony and stared at the castle with the full moon slowly creeping past. That night we all slept great!


Monday, April 6, 2009

Happy birthday Papa Michael!

We woke Cade up at about 8:45 and tried to give him some breakfast before we pulled out at 9am. We were able to use Matt’s car from his work, which was awesome! Well, not the car exactly…it was a small Opel Corsa (or something like that) (it was actually one of his co-workers) but the fact that is was free was AWESOME! Anyway, we were probably about 20 minutes into our 4 hour + drive when Cade threw up in his seat. We pulled off the interstate and got him and the seat cleaned up as best we could with diaper wipes. He seemed to be okay, so we continued on. Both of the kids fell asleep for awhile, which was nice, and then we stopped for lunch right off the autobahn. We were in Germany and the only way I knew was because EXIT had changed from UIT to AUSFAHRT. Now, because of my sister-in-law’s lesson for me, I knew that AUSFAHRT was exit and not a really big town 🙂 The restaurant had a play area for the kids so we took time and relaxed and let them get some exercise. While we were there, suddenly the camera said there were no pictures on the memory card. Sarah had put them on their computer so we used her cell phone (which they had let us borrow) and called Matt to tell him to make sure not to delete them. Luckily, as you know from earlier posts, the pictures all made it! Whew! So, we were on our way again. The German Autobahn is crazy, but it works. All you have to do is stay in the right lane (not just the middle lane) unless you are actively passing someone. When you need to pass, look to make sure that no one is coming for a long time, get in the middle or left lane and floor it. Really, if people in the US would just stay over unless they were passing, it would clear up the roads so much. We usually traveled between 80 and 90 mph and got up to 100 mph more than once. It seemed unsafe at first with the kids in the car, but other people were driving so fast that if you went slowly, it was actually (I think) more likely to be in an accident from someone hitting you from behind. We were well on our way and had just stopped for a rest and some icecream when we were making our way up a mountain. Cade threw up…a lot! We pulled off in a pull off area and got him out of his seat. We had to take the seat out of the car and vomit was dripping out of the bottom. I changed his clothes while Derek tried to scrub out the seat with diaper wipes. Ugh…what a mess! We found out later that day that Cade was cutting molars. He also had a cold. Factor in the time change and being out of his normal surroundings and possible motion sickness from the fast moving Corsa and it is no wonder why he threw up. Poor boy! Well, we got cleaned up the best we could and we were on our way again.

I was never so happy to have a road trip end as when we pulled into the city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. I had pretty specific directions of how to get to the B&B and it led us right into the old city. We drove through the big tower, made a few turns and we pulled into the parking area of the Hotel Garni Kreuzerhof. The owners greeted us as we got out of the car and it seemed like a decent enough place. Derek got us checked in and instead of the double room that I had reserved, he took us to a quadruple room and asked if that would be okay…yes! The room was not fancy, but it was clean and spacious. We took a little time to unload the car and get organized and then we headed out for some dinner. We found a nice little restaurant, Adria, right next to the wall where we came into town. We sat outside and ordered 2 pizzas and some drinks. The food came before too long and it was good. We ate it all and then headed for a park. The kids played for awhile and then we walked through the town. Rothenburg is an old, walled city and there was something about it that just didn’t feel real. It was just so old. Some of the buildings had dates on them from the early 1600’s. All the shops were closed, so we just walked around and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We strolled into the town square just before 8:00, which turned out to be perfect timing. At 8pm, the big clock in the square began to chime and two windows opened up like on a cuckoo clock. Two men drank their beer and moved around. After that a real night watchman came into the square and the people all gathered around. He gives a tour every night, but we figured with the kids it would probably last too long for us, so we didn’t go. We did, however, get to listen to his introduction and watch lots of people getting their pictures taken with him. Abby said, “I want my picture taken with that man.” I said, “You do?!” Her answer was yes, so I told her, “Well, get up there then.” When she looked at him kind of sideways with her finger in her mouth, the crowd all gave a chuckle. It was too cute! After that we headed back to the B&B for some much needed rest. It was a long day but what a neat, neat town. I went to bed excited to explore the town again the next day.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This day started at about 2am when Cade decided to wake up. Luckily Abby stayed asleep and Derek wanted to watch the Michigan St. vs. UConn basketball game online so he took Cade downstairs and got him back to sleep. While he was gone, though, we had another visitor. I thought I had gotten all of the food out of the bags, but I found out the next morning, I had actually missed some. The bag was closer to the bed this time, so I just kept banging on the bag until it decided to leave. I was glad it didn’t take too long and I was able to get back to sleep.

We started the day by driving to Keukenhof Garden. It was a short drive, about 20 minutes, and we arrived at about 10:00 am. Again we skipped the lines and were able to walk right in since we purchased and printed tickets online. We walked around and admired the beautiful flowers. There were whole fields of tulips and lots of other kinds of flowers too. Abby went through a maze and Kaylin rode the zipline with Sarah. Then we went into the petting zoo. A hairy donkey started chasing Matt when he was pushing Shane in the stroller. Matt asked me to help and he handed off the stroller to me. Of course, then, the hairy donkey started chasing me. I dodged and maneuvered my way through the crowd and was able to lose him. I figure I saved Shane from the crazy beast 🙂 The kids (and adults) waded through all the poo and smell and generally speaking had a good time. Then the girls played on the playground before it was time to eat lunch at the cafeteria. I had forgotten how European hamburgers taste and made the mistake of ordering one. Luckily Abby did not eat all of her chicken nuggets so I was able to sneak a few of those. I also got the girls each a tulip sucker which you will see pictures of later. They both licked and sucked on them all day long (literally)! After lunch we looked at more flowers. Derek, Matt, and Abby walked on some stepping stones across the water and were able to get a close look at a fountain out in the pond. I think it was nearly 3pm before we decided it was time to get heading back the house. Abby fell asleep on the way and we took her up to her bed when we got there.

After a few hours, we woke her up so we could go on a canal boat tour. After a tram ride and a walk, we got to the boat tour and saw that it lasted more than an hour. We decided it had been a long enough day and that we would probably be better off holding off on the tour. We walked to the flower market instead. I bought some tulip bulbs to bring home and we walked along the rest of the market. Back at the house we relaxed and the kids played on the back patio. Just before bed, Abby and Kaylin colored eggs and Cade colored (or cracked and drew on) one. The girls had a lot of fun choosing their colors and stirring and splashing! Matt tried out an old family spin, swirl trick which (kind of) worked. It was fun. I couldn’t believe that our time in Amsterdam was coming to an end. I was glad to know that we were coming back on Easter so that we didn’t really have to say goodbye just yet.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

This day actually began at midnight because that is when both of the kids woke up. I mean WOKE UP. Within minutes of each other, they both were wide awake. I suppose it made sense because at home it would have been 3pm, which is often the end of nap time. Luckily I felt pretty awake too and we didn’t feel like fighting with both of them for who knows how long in the bedroom, so we took them to the basement to the playroom. They played and had a snack. I had just sent Derek upstairs to the couch at about 1:15am when Abby announced she was ready to go to bed. She still sounded pretty chipper, but I wasn’t going to argue with her about that, so up we went. Cade went back to sleep fairly easily, but Abby stayed awake until about 3am. She didn’t complain and fuss, but was just awake and tossing and turning. Just after she fell asleep, I knew that it wasn’t just the 4 of us in the room. We had a visitor looking for some American goodies. I had read Sarah’s blog so I knew that mice were common in Amsterdam and any time she tried to get someone to get rid of them, they treated her like she was crazy. Derek asked, “Is it raining?” He had obviously heard the noise too. I just said, “No.” He asked again. Again, I answered, “No.” I didn’t want to tell him what it was because I knew he would be a little freaked out. I wasn’t sure that Abby was sleeping, so I finally told Derek, “M-O-U-S-E.” Derek, “What?” I repeated, “M-O-U-S-E!” Derek, “What?” I got tired of spelling it out and said, “How many times do you want me to spell it out. It’s a f*&%$%^ mouse!” Derek was shocked and appauled. I finally got tired of listening to it and threw Derek’s shoe across the room at the bag. Finally it was time to rest.

We woke up to some cool weather for our first full day in Amsterdam. When we woke up I found a hole in the backpack, a chewed through baggie and the corner missing off of a decorated Easter cookie. Stupid me for leaving food in the room. I knew better and just didn’t think about it.
We had reservations at the Anne Frank House and planned to leave the house by 9:00. I think it was closer to 9:30, but we were doing okay. We walked to the tram and then walked some more once we got off the tram. We were on the edge of the redlight district and I can only imagine what the middle of it might look like, but it was early in the morning so it was tame 😉 We got to skip the line and go right into the house since we had already purchased and printed tickets online. I read The Diary of Anne Frank before we left and it was amazing to be in the annex and to think that Anne and her family and fellow housemates had walked on the same floors and looked at the same walls. In one sense it felt bigger than I had imagined but then when I thought about being stuck there and not being able to go outside for years, it suddenly felt very small. The bookcase that hid the annex was open and we walked right up the stairs. The kids were patient, obviously not understanding what we were doing there or how long we would take. We couldn’t take pictures of the inside, but I can picture it perfectly in my mind. It was very powerful. I plan to reread the diary sometime soon and be able to create the scenes in my mind better this time. We took some pictures of the outside and then were on our way to the central train station.
On our walk, I was amazed how many canals there are in Amsterdam. I had no idea that there we so many. We made it to the train station and again it was nice to be with someone who knew what they were doing. Matt got the tickets, led us to the right train and we were on our way to Zaanse Schans, which is a traditional Holland village with windmills, woodcarving, a cheeseshop and some other interesting sights. We ate lunch at a little restaurant there and had pancakes. It wasn’t Abby’s favorite (not quite like our pancakes at home) so she mostly just ate her Pringles. Then we moved on to some shops. We sampled some cheese, bought souvenirs, and took pictures in the big wooden shoes. Matt, Derek, Abby, and I went into a working windmill that was grinding pigment and got to go out by the propellers (not sure if that is what they are called or if that is how you spell it, but anyway….) They were going very fast as it was a breezy day. We also kept getting the smell of brownies all day and couldn’t figure it out until we realized that there is a cocoa factory in the town and the wind was blowing in our direction. We made our way back to the train station, walked to the tram and walked some more. We finally made it back to Matt and Sarah’s and it had been a long day. The kids played and the adults relaxed (I think!) It was a great day and we all had a great time.

Friday, April 3, 2009

We landed in Dublin, Ireland and made our way into the airport only to find that Cade’s diaper had not held up as well as expected and he was soaked through. We found a bench as there were no “toilettes” to be found. We got out the changing pad, diaper, wipes, extra onesie, and pants… pants… pants… OMG…where are his extra pants?! Oh, yeah, I packed so early that I didn’t have enough pants to put in the diaper bag and thought I would just put some in before we left. Well, I didn’t. So, we made it through customs and security with Cade wearing only a onesie, socks, and shoes. It looked quite strange, but oh well. We found a store and bought some very European looking khaki pants and paid more than I will for his entire summer wardrobe! At least he was clothed. When I asked the clerk for scissors to cut off the tags, she replied, “There are no returns or exchanges once the tags are off.” I realize she was just doing her job, but seriously, we were in an airport and my kid was not currently wearing any pants. What did she think we were going to do with them? Anyway, we made our way to the gate area and had a snack to pass the time. It was drizzly and cold looking outside and it reminded me of our trip just a few years ago. We boarded another AerLingus flight and were on our way to Amsterdam. We arrived early and made our way into the country with no questions asked. We collected our 3 bags and carseat and looked around for Matt. We changed money and ran into Matt on his way into the airport. We didn’t even realize that our flight arrived about 20 minutes early. It was so strange to be in a foreign country and then to see Derek’s cousin. I have traveled to many places, but don’t have family anywhere out of the country. In fact, almost all of my family lives within a day’s drive away. It was so good to see Matt and have a friendly face in a foreign country when I usually feel overwhelmed. I got to sit back and just let Matt take us to their house. We were greeted by beautiful weather and even though we were SO tired, I felt energized to be in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. We arrived at Matt and Sarah’s house and I couldn’t believe how big Shane was. The last time we saw him, he was just a little baby. Now he is walking some and playing and babbling. Kaylin was full of energy and seemed to be happy that we were there. She gave us a tour of the house and then we went to the basement to the toy room to play. After awhile, Abby went upstairs for nap and I joined her awhile later. Later on, Sarah and I took the kids to the park down the street while Derek and Matt rode bikes to the store. I have never seen so many bikes (except maybe in China)! The kids played in the sand, climbed, and went down the slide. It was interesting to watch Abby’s reaction when she realized she didn’t know what other kids were saying.

We turned in fairly early that night (I think between 7 and 8:30 for all of us) as it had been a VERY long day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

We left our house at about 12:30pm just minutes after the garbage truck picked up all of our stinky diapers (good that they weren’t stuck in the garage for 11 days!) and then on our way out of the neighborhood, we were stopped by the UPS truck with a kickball that we were supposed to take to Matt in Amsterdam. We made our way to Mendota and met our driver at Mike and Toni’s. I got the inflated kickball stuffed into one of the duffel bags and we pulled out of Mendota at a few minutes after 1:00 and were on our way. We made good time to the airport and the kids took short naps on the way.

We made it to the AerLingus check in desk and checked in without any problems. The security line was quite long, but lucky for us, there was a separate line for families traveling with small children. It was still long, but not as long as the other lines! Abby’s only issue was taking off her shoes for security. I’m not sure what that was all about except that she was already tired, but luckily it didn’t last long and was forgotten once she got to put her shoes back on. Our gate was just on the other side of the security check so it was easy to get to and we had plenty of time to spare. Luckily there was a nice little children’s area just down the hallway where they could learn about fire safety. I’m not sure they learned anything, but they had fun using the pretend pay phone and messing with the computer. It was a good time killer and they were able to move around so Derek and I were happy too.

The kids were looking at our plane and waiting patiently until it was time to board. Abby called it the “Shamrock Shake Plane.”

It was finally time to board and we actually took off early because all of the passengers were there on time (that never happens!). We also hit a jetstream on the way which lessened our flying time by more than an hour. The flight went fine with no major events, which was wonderful. We also ended up with 5 seats instead of 3 so we were able to spread out a little bit. That worked out well when Abby was finally readyto lay down to sleep. The only part that could have been better was that they took forever to turn the lights off so the kids did not want to fall asleep. They finally fell asleep with about 3 1/2 hours to go. Cade was in the bassinet, which essentially a cardboard box with a pad in it but he was so tall that we had to hang his legs out the end. It was pretty cute!