Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mid-year update

Summer.  This is my favorite season here in Germany!  I will always remember what my friend Rachel told me years ago when we were in the midst of Winter here in Germany.  "Germany has really high highs, and really low lows."

We can have weeks here of constant rain and drizzle.  We can have heat waves throwing the Mercury well over 90 degrees with intense humidity.  When we are really lucky, we can have a string of days with the perfect amount of warm sunshine and cooling breeze.  You never know what you're going to get!

Daniel is always asking me to "update this blog."  "It's the best souvenir from our life here in Germany!"  he has told me time and time again.  To be perfectly honest, he is absolutely right.  One can only collect so many beer steins, refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, or Christmas ornaments.  What really matters are the relationships we have with loved ones, the memories we create, the photos we treasure, and the words we carefully notate.

Daniel and I have created a "family vision."  One of our main points in that vision is that we are creators, not consumers.  Clearly, we are all consumers to one degree or another.  However, if we can instill in our children an intense focus,  and ferocious pursuit of experiences and knowledge verses material possessions, then we will have accomplished one of our greatest feats.

Since I last wrote, we pulled the kids from German school and enrolled them in American schools.  This was an extremely difficult, agonizing decision for us.  For me personally, I did not want to send the message to the kids that when things are difficult, you can just "quit."  Each of the children had areas in German school where they were thriving, and other areas where they were struggling.  The decision boiled down to the questions, "What is the healthiest decision emotionally and mentally for the kids and the family as a whole?"  "Have we accomplished our goals?"  Long story short, the answer boiled down to the fact that switching them was the best decision emotionally and mentally, and our original goal (to speak German fluidly and/or fluently) had already been accomplished.

On the last day of German school, I met the kids and helped them carry all their books and supplies out to the car.  With each and every teacher, I could feel myself fighting the tears.  One lesson I have learned in life, is the grass is not always greener on the other side.  Making a major decision such as this is always scary for me, because I second-guess myself all the way through until I have confirmation that the decision was "the right decision."  I cried for so many reasons over this decision.  The entire German school experience has by far, been the most traumatic, most rewarding, most intense experience for the kids, and of course for Daniel and I watching, and getting involved wherever we could.  The sucky-ness, the awesome-ness, the rewards, and the losses were all tightly intertwined around each and every school day, for 3 and half years.  Long story short, the kids as well as Daniel and I are so ridiculously grateful for the experience, yet so ridiculously excited about the next chapter of this wild ride.

In April, we took a trip to Ireland which of course was awesome.  We are all in agreement that out of ALL the places we have traveled, the Irish are by far the nicest people ever!  Daily German life  is clearly outlined by their explicit laws and regulations.  If you jaywalk, mow your lawn on a Sunday, wash your car in the driveway, or warm the car up in the driveway on a cold winter morning you will not only get the "stink eye," but you can also find yourself paying a fine. We soooo much enjoyed the opportunity to exercise a little common sense when crossing the street in Ireland!  No cars coming?  Let's go kids!  Despite the many advantages of having a society that follows such strict rules, it always feels nice to "go what feels right" in the moment.

We stayed in Dublin for the most part.  We rented a fantastic little apartment with plenty of space, and not too far from all "the good stuff" Dublin has to offer.  We toured the Jeanie Johnston, a famine ship that ran back and forth from Ireland to the US between the years 1847-1855, and had absolutely no loss of life.  In that time, that record was unheard of.  We visited the Guinness Brewery, the Temple Bar district, and made the jaunt across the island over to the Cliffs of Moher.

When we arrived at the Dublin airport for our departure, we went straight to the "ticket line" to show our passports as necessary.  Daniel showed the employee our tickets, to which he responded, "Ok have a great flight!"  Daniel asked him, "Don't you need to see our passports?"  The man looked at him questionably and responded, "Oh!  You're not Irish! I will need to see those!  I thought you were Irish!"  It's always fun to be mistaken for a local!

Over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to get out of town and make a trip to one of our favorite spots- the Alps!  We rented a small little apartment 8 minutes from the Austrian border, right on a lake called the Alpsee, 7 minutes away from Neuschwanstein, the castle after which the Disney castle was modeled.  The setting was perfect!  The kids got to swim in the crystal clear mountain lake.  Patrick and Teddy exercised their swimming confidence by swimming out to the floating dock in the middle of the lake and jumping off.  Daniel and I were able to enjoy some German beer.  We were all able to enjoy a pork knuckle, our "go-to" order at any Bavarian restaurant.  We packed a lunch, took a drive into Austria for the day, hiked a few hours up a gorgeous mountain to an old fortress, and across the Holzgau Suspension Bridge.  The scenery was breathtaking!  Austria just may be my most favorite country yet.

Before departing this area of Germany, we toured the "Cinderella castle" also known as Neuschwanstein.  The funniest part of this excursion was the horse and carriage ride to the top. The kids and I were seated up in the front of the horse and carriage with the driver.  Daniel was seated in back with a group of about 8 Chinese tourists.  When we arrived at the top, the kids and I hopped out, only to see several of the ladies in back with Daniel taking turns to sit next to him and have their photo taken!  I am still trying to figure out what was going on there.

All in all, life is still great here in Germany.  We are still creating experiences, taking photos, and intently focused on making the most of each and every day we have living here.  The good days give us joy.  The bad days give us experience.  The worst days give us knowledge.  The best days give us memories.

Neuwanschtein Castle

Neuwanschtein Castle

Teddy & Rowan Neuwanschtein Castle

View from the castle

View from the castle

Hiking in Bavaria

The lake we stayed on

Rowan in Bavaria

Suspension bridge we walked across in Austria

Austrian suspension bridge

Austrian Alps

Austrian fort

Hiking the Austrian Alps

Boys having fun


Me and my girl

Funny kids

Austrian Alps

Paddy Pumpkins in the Austrian Alps

Fort in the Austrian Alps

Austrian Alps

Gorgeous views

Alpine beauty

Two beauties in the Alps!


and more hiking...


Stacking rocks

Yodeling in the Alps

What a view!

... and more hiking...

The legend stated those who are honest and kind find gold in this hole.  Liam was searching for his gold.

My big boy

My big man

Show us the way!

More stacking of rocks

Gorgeous trails

View from our room's patio

A little time to throw the ball around at the hotel

Fun times at the hotel

Gorgeous lake view from our hotel.  The kids were able to swim in this frigid water!

Irish castle

Cliffs of Moher

Cold winds at the Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

Irish fishing village


Drinks at the Guiness brewery

Trinity College Campus

Uh Oh... Fake news is Ireland!

Our commander in chief is so respected overseas

Wetting our whistles in the pub

Temple Bar District