Thursday, July 30, 2009

Diplomatic?

Diplomatic passports, …who ever thought our family should be any version of ‘diplomatic’ is beyond me. In fact, ‘diplomatic’ calls upon the following synonyms from the thesaurus; "tactful, subtle, suave, discreet, sensitive” We are, no doubt, as a family, the furthest thing from “diplomatic”.
Nevertheless, to get a Belgian ID, so that we can register the car, we must jump through the “diplomatic passport” hoop. So, kids in tow (of course), we arrive at our scheduled diplomatic passport appointment at NATO.
Here, it should be mentioned, that NATO is not what many of you think it might seem. Harrison Ford cannot be found in the hallways, the place is not landscaped with greenery and endless national flags waving proudly, and it's not all that, for lack of a better word, fancy. In fact, instead of Harrison Ford you'd find any number of uniforms representing a variety of nations, chain smoking near building entrances. The flags representing each NATO country wave proudly, around a sculpture better known as "the death star". I hasten to add, the landscape is mostly overflowing parking lots.
That being said, it is still NATO. People who are arguably important, work there and some form of business is said to take place. Our visit was anything but "diplomatic" “discreet”, or “suave”. In fact I would venture to guess that about 1/3 of those working between 2pm and 4pm, popped their head’s outside their office doorways to peer down the hall at us. Yes people, get back to work, it’s just us! The 'diplomats' , we’re the ones making ALL the noise.
Here’s just a brief example, say 25 min clip in time of how the entire 2 hour visit went:

2:15pm
We park next to Spain and arrive at security. “Arriving” for this clan is like trying to nail jello to a tree. Kinda messy. Emory decided he should push the stroller through security. I tried to reason with him that it’s just not a good idea. ”Just go!!” I urged him. But there was no going through security without a complete and utter meltdown. Right there, in front of the gates and bleeping siren, he sat down in his socks and sandals, bellowing to all NATO nations about the mean mommy and a stroller. When I eventually let him have the stroller (and decided to carry Arleigh instead) Emory blew full force into his first stroller push, lost balance, and landed flat on his back in the hall…..of course, enlisting yet another tantrum. And the halls at NATO echo.

2:20pm
The notary we were supposed to meet with ‘has just gone to a meeting with the Ambassador’, so we were quarantined in a side office. I lined up the kids with worksheets and pencils. Then begged them to sit quietly and ‘try to learn something’. Arleigh was restless, so I whipped out Cheerios for his snack.
Less than 3 minutes later, Stella was playing with the computer keyboard in the office. Emory was trying to write hieroglyphics on a chair with a “Go Army” pen he found. Addie had picked up the telephone. Cheerios were everywhere.

2:25pm
Faint and distant sound of Arleigh’s babbles- Too distant to know that he was not in the same room. I jumped up and started searching. Peering under desks, computer stands, bookcases, it was a race for time. I knew the next thing I’d see would be Arleigh on his back under a shelf of books that had flattened him, chewing on computer cables, tugging on some secretary's hosiery, or hair on end with his finger stuck in an electric socket.
Instead, I found him crawling at a nice clip down the State Department hallway to check out the other employees in the US Mission to NATO. He apparently, was on his own mission.

2:30pm
The notary shows up. There’s a small table opposite his desk with a few photos, one of Laura Bush. I noticed that he’s the guy in a framed photo, shaking Laura Bush’s hand. I called the girls over and asked them “Do you know who that woman is in the photograph? Do you remember when we talked about elections this year? Do you remember watching election stories on TV?” They stared at me, blank faces, both perplexed. Addie finally chimed up and offered he best answer, “Is that our neighbor in the picture?”
(Ugh, no Addie, Laura Bush, not our neighbor).

2:35pm
Juggling Arleigh in one arm, holding his tie flat with the other, Matt leans to the notary to ask “What is the expiration on these passports?” It’s clear he’s hoping not to have to make this trip too many times.

This scene just continues, on and on and on.

Fast forward-
We pulled away from the compound, I glanced at my dear husband who seemed less shaken from the experience. “That was awful!”
He noted calmly, “Could have been worse”.
“How?” I remarked.
“Well, no one peed on the floor, everyone left in tact, and we still have a head count of 6. Nothing was damaged,…permanently, and as far as we know right now, and nothing was stolen.”
His standards are obviously lower, but he is, of course, right. It could have been worse.
‘Diplomats’? Not really. But here’s hoping that someday we might earn a passport stamp “Suave”.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What's next?

If you've followed the blog, you've seen him,
Mannekin Pis.

We didn't know it, but we have a Mannekin Pis of our own.

We were packing the car from a hotel stay in Germany.
I had the kids at the Continental breakfast.
Matt was loading the car with luggage.
While I was cleaning up Arleigh's highchair, and the floor, and his arms,
and his face, and the seats, ...I realized Stella and Emory had vanished.
But only for a minute.

I couldn't have seen it coming.
Stella came screaming though the hotel lobby.
"Mooooom! Mom! EMORY JUST POOP-EED!"
Five seconds behind her, Emory came waddling into the lobby
right in front of the Army base reception desk.
I was stunned, (but not completely), simultaneously praying
that turds weren't going to fall out of his pants and onto the hotel lobby floor.

I hastily finished the breakfast clean up, letting the tabletop crumbs go.
"What Emory? You did what? Where's your father?"
(I know where father is, he's packing up .
I'm just want him to magically appear out of nowhere. NOW!)

I managed to get everyone outside and regroup.
And in a downward spiral, it all seemed to get worse.
"Now what Emory? Are your pants messed up?
Why didn't you tell me you had to go?"

Stella shouted to me, wandering across the hotel landscape outside,
"Do you wanna see it? He POOPED RIGHT OVER HERE!"
"Emory, what? You pooped in the bushes?"

I looked down at him.
He was holding his shorts at the waist band.
"Yeah, I poop-eed over dare.
I was Manneken Pis, only it came from back here."
He grinned, pointing to his rear end.

I shut my eyes and took a moment.
"Please God, just let me disappear now."
I had to glance up to see if anyone was
witnessing my moment of motherhood and insanity
all converging into one big, nasty nightmare.

Stella shouted, even louder this time... "IT LOOKS LIKE A DRUMSTICK!"

"What next? Really? Bring it on."







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How Many Have We Graced?

Daddy had to work in Stuttgart, Germany this week.
We tagged along.
They wanted to play at the playground.
Of course, we can play at the playground.
I sat there, spinning in circles, wondering,
in all of our travels, how many playgrounds have we graced?

It's dizzying...


Striking me as quite funny that
without a TV at home, once they
arrived at the hotel room, they were awe struck by the
TV and all it had to offer for entertainment,
even in German.

But we didn't stay in the hotel or on a playground for long.
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Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau

I was stuck in traffic near Stuttgart.
Awful, pitiful, traffic.
I had to pull over because 2/4 of the passengers in the car
had "to pee wee-lly bad".
Once I reloaded the car, everyone strapped in,
I pulled the GPS out and
started typing in locations.
On a bit of a whim....like say, less than 10 minutes of
internal debate, I decided to steer towards the Bavarian Alps.
Tom Tom said 2 hours....I thought,
"this could be a mistake, but at least I won't be in traffic."
Off we went.
Roughly 2 1/2 hours later, we arrived at the base of
the Bavarian Alps with more to see and do than
I had ever imagined.


The intention was to take the kids to the
"Cinderella castle of Germany", the
Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles.
It is said that this is the castle which Walt Disney used
for the design of the famous Sleeping Beauty castle at Disney World.
I wished I'd had the video camera instead of the SLR camera.
Hauling the little people and their stuff, makes photography a huge challenge.
Here's a video which encompasses most of what we saw.
Built and lived in by King Ludwig of Bavaria,
Neuschwanstein remained unfinished at his death in 1886.
The castle embodies 19th century Romanticism,
set with grand towers and spires over the Pollat River gorge.

The facade of Schloss Neuschwanstein, alone was impressive.
Huge slabs of limestone material
found at Alterschrofen near Swan Lake (Swansee).




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One we got there, we had to get there

Once we got to the castles,
'Schloss Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau'
we had to find a way up to see them.
We decided to hoof it.
In tow, a baby in a sling carrier,
3 rambunctious little people,
a diaper and camera bag.
When the little voices began to beg, tug, and whimper,
"Pleeeeease? Pleeeeeease can we ride the horse carriage up?"
there was no matter of twisting my arm.
'Hoofing it' turned out to be a good choice.

These strong, beauties pulled us 20 minutes
up the winding forest road to the base of the castle.



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Throw off the Bowlines

I am so glad we decided to go.
Even if on a whim.
All risks aside.
(Admittedly, thoughts of me and 4 small children, with limited food and water,
broken down, or a flat tire, on the roadside, in the mountains in Germany
crossed my mind more than once. It did.)
And people back at Stuttgart were quite shocked to hear that
we traveled alone, so far, to unfamiliar territory, unplanned.
One friend called it "quite ambitious".

But as another good friend, Mark (Twain, that is)
once stated,

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by
the things that you didn't do then by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."

He's right you know!
What did you discover today?



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Friday, July 17, 2009

Backfired

Science week- last week's theme.
My heart sung when Addie announced that she wanted to conduct an experiment of her own.
I'm thinking "Ahh! Wonderful! It's getting through to them. An interest in science!"
I asked exactly what she was going to study.
"Well" she said quite studiously, "I'd leave my cereal bowl with the milk and cereal in it. Then let it sit in the kitchen for 1 week and I'd eat some of another bowl, then let that one sit for 1 month. Then we can see what happens!"

Ewww, ...no, no, no. Ugh,...Now I'm thinking "science week just backfired on me".
Science week- One big experiment, 4 small kids, suddenly gone wrong. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The rest of the week

I think I'll let the camera have a rest.
Leave it at home. Instead,
I'll get down and play,
get slimy, gooky,
and build,
and run,
and learn.




They just look like they are having way too much fun
for me to stand by and watch!
So, next week's theme -"Crazy Cooking"
In the meantime, we'll be busy,
... in a scientastic way!
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Still more Technopolis


This little guy is such a great baby.
He's so willing to tag along, have patience,
and is usually happy to simply be with everyone.
We just couldn't be luckier.


Stella loved this skeleton reflection which biked along side her.
She was fascinated to watch 'her bones' go for a bike ride.

OK, OK, I know- there are too many photos
from this Technopolis visit,...
but I tell you, the posts are proportional
to the amount of fun we had!
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Technopolis (Again!)





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More Technopolis




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Scientastic Theme Week

Summer theme week #2-
Weird Science...
At home we're doing 2-3 experiments a day,
putting science related puzzles together,
watching science videos (online),
and taking a few trips to some scientastic museums here.
It's quite cool, not to mention a lot of fun.

So far, this is their favorite at home experiment-
how sound travels through a space and can actually blow out the candle.



First stop - Technopolis..
After a day here, I looked to see if we
could get a family pass for the year.
A great time had by all, and
Ugh! (gasp!)
they might actually have learned a little there too!


More photos to follow from weird science week...
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Great Hope

It gives me great hope to know that when these siblings
want to work together, they can.

They stumbled upon this bridge puzzle and
each of them immediately wanted to fix it.
Ahh- 3 young children who want to
restore order and commit to work
together?

Could this be a fluke?
A lucky moment in time?
Happenstance?


For now, I'll walk away with great hope
that perhaps 20 years down the line
they will be able to work together
to accomplish anything they can dream.
In the meantime, I suppose we must endure
the tantrums, tears and struggle to get there.
...and the occasional, ever so slight, glimpses of tiny successes
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