Monday, July 29, 2013

F L O R E N C E , italy

We didn't see David.
I just had to get that out right away.
We should have stopped to see him, but we are ok that we didn't. Next trip.

There are those who travel here and have every minute mapped out. They have the need to check every single country and sight off the list. I admire what they are able to accomplish and see.

There are those who do not leave the base, have never driven the Autobahn and eating out is BK. Seriously. There are lots of them. I know- it sounds unbelievable. A shame.

I like think we fit somewhere in the middle.
We love to travel. We love to check countries and sights off our list. The boys are fairly easy to travel with as well. Easy as long as we don't go too crazy.

I have to remind myself that doing too much in a trip really can take the fun out of it for them. If they're not happy, we're really not too happy either.

Florence was one of those cities that I did not push on them.

We gave them the option to check out Florence with the adults, or stay at the villa and swim.

Ty took one for the team and stayed home with the littles.

They were happy. We were happy.

So- Justin, Ashten, Scott, Jazz, Jim and I headed out for an afternoon in Florence.

On my itinerary of our week in Tuscany, I had several day trips outlined. I like to have options. There were more things to see and do in a two-hour radius of our house than anyone can possibly do in a week's time or even a month's time.

Florence was a quick 45-minute drive from our villa making for an easy day trip.

Our greatest challenge with Florence was finding the parking garage. In researching, I was told to park underground at the train station. It was secure and easy to walk from there to see everything.
* click on photo to enlarge

We had it in the GPS but for some reason with six {6} of us looking we passed the entrance to the underground parking garage at least five times {maybe 10 times} before we finally spotted it.

Looking at this picture, it is still difficult for me to see where you drive under.

You can see the blue P signs, but the ramp going down was a little tricky for us.

In that space of time we drove in circles looking for the parking garage, we managed to drive the wrong way down road and were told we couldn't park in a spot because it was a blue spot {or wasn't a blue spot- can't remember now}.

It was more than a little stressful.

We also managed to keep calm and laugh along the way in this major city with crazy drivers.
Again, Jim's driving skills were at their finest- he is really incredible especially under pressure.

Florence is magnificent.
Florence is artsy.
Florence is old.
After parking and getting some food, we walked the short distance to the Dom, or Cathedral. As we turned the corner and saw the square- I could not get over how massive and huge and colorful the buildings were.

Oh, and the white, pink and green Tuscan marble. I loved the marble.
In spite of not being our first large city, it was still jaw-dropping and extremely impressive. With each large cathedral we have visited {Cologne, Carcassone, Notre Dame, Strassbourg...}, the feeling is the same while each has been so different.

They are extremely impressive especially considering the time frame in which they were built.

The dome of Florence's Duomo {Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore} was completed in 1436. The cathedral is Europe's fourth largest church and the city's tallest building.
The Baptistry is famous for the bronze doors and is one of the oldest buildings dating back to the 4th century. Each panel shows a scripture through pictures.

We tried to go through the Cathedral but were turned away because we were wearing shorts. Oops.
They weren't even short shorts, but rules are rules. Instead of purchasing the paper smock-like article that allows you to pass security into the church, we took a couple pictures in the entrance and headed back outside.

From here, we split up going different directions with a time to meet back up.

Justin, Ashten, Jim and I were excited to go up the Tower {Campanile di Giotto} next to the Dom. Jazz and Scott checked out the rest of the city.

The view from the top definitely made the climb worth every one of the almost 500 steps.

With a super narrow winding staircase, it was nice to have several landing look-out landing spots to take a break and take in the view.

With our fear of heights, both Ashten and I thought we were incredibly brave walking across this metal grate looking all the way down. Jim and Justin {along with the other people taking a break} probably thought we were crazy.

Even knowing it was secure and we weren't going to fall through, it was scary!
On to the top- it was nothing shy of astounding.

The view of the Cathedral along with everything else within the these hills of Tuscany was beyond impressive.

Love. Love. Love.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

91 degrees is hot over here

On a normal day, 91 degrees is blissful in my opinion.
I love the heat.
I love 100.

I know this is cool for Arizona.
Or, most anywhere else in the US right now.

In Germany, it is a little different.
There is no air conditioning.
Kind of like Alaska, only it is a little hotter for a little longer here.

Nope, just fans.

This being our third summer in Germany, it is definitely the hottest. The whole month of July has been sunny and warm and perfect for days at the pool.

Look at this nice melted coconut oil sitting inside the cupboard looks like it just spent a minute in the microwave.

It has been much-needed sunshine, but it makes for warm, stuffy, sticky nights.

We keep everything {rolladens} closed most of the way during the day, and crack the windows at night.

Of course, that only lets the bugs in. My legs are covered in bug bites.

It's ok.

I know the grey skies are just around the corner.
I love this sunshine.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

T Y is an adult... 18 years?

In all of the craziness of Caden getting hurt, I almost forgot to post the news that we officially have two adult children!

He wanted to go bowling, the pool and a good German dinner.

Can you guess how this turned out?
Yes, he landed straight on his side causing a sting and quite a few "Ahhhhs" from anyone watching.

Yep, he's 18!
We went to the bank first since he's now old enough to have an actual checking account/debit card on his account. That took too long, so we decided to go straight to the pool and skip the bowling alley.

As soon as Jim was off work, we left the pool and were ready to head to dinner.

Have I mentioned yet how much we L O V E  the food here?

We do.
ALL of it.

The place I picked to eat at in downtown Kaiserslautern had closed its doors. Bummer. The second place we went to try was only open on weekends. The third place was open and was good. Not our favorite, but good.

Yummy schnitzel, pommes and salad. The salads are so good here.
It was a great time for a super fun kid.
Welcome to adulthood.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

documenting L I F E

I'm way behind.
I'm going to try to catch up this week.

Our goal while living four years in Europe was to create memories. I feel we have grown stronger and closer as a family while seeing as much as we can in our limited time here.

Sharing our memories and every-day life experiences has been an easy way for me to stay in touch with friends and family.

I'm not good at calling home.
As soon as everyone is up and moving, we are usually working to get through dinner and bedtime is in sight.

I'm really not good at sending pictures or letters.

Along with connecting with family and friends, my main motivation for blogging has been to document our adventures. The good and the bad.

Life moves fast. I'm trying to not only enjoy it, but would like to remember it as well.

That being said. I still have not finished documenting Stockholm, Keukenhof, Holland or our Italy trips. To add to that, I just spent 24 hours making a day-trip to Boleslawiec, Poland.

I am working to get back on track and catch up.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Football season is right around the corner.
I just wish it wasn't so hot in Kansas.
I bet the boys wish it was a little cooler too.

Check out these videos of the Highland Scotties.

The Face of Highland

2013 HCC Fall Trailer

Are you Ready?

We are impressed with these coaches turning this program around.
It should be an exciting year.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

a day in the life of a T O U G H guy

It was just another day in the life of Caden.
Without a doubt, he is our little tough guy. We are constantly reminded of this truth.

Here were some stitches and another crash and a little {major} fracture here. A few more tears and blood are here. Have I made my point?

We knew when he was two and we made our first trip to the ER {when he split open his nose} that there were many more ER trips in his future.

Yesterday was another one of those trips.
We had just arrived at the swimming pool. Mieseau- our favorite outdoor pool. Within fifteen minutes of arriving at the pool, I looked up to see Caden in Ty's arms covered in blood.

He and Ty went down the slide at the same time. Caden said he was on his knee and with a little extra push from Ty, we think he flipped over and hit his mouth on the slide.

Ty said even with the water, crowd and kids everywhere he heard the bang and knew that he was hurt.

There were little pieces of the red fiberglass from the slide on Caden's neck and towel from the crash.

Seriously, he took chunks out of the slide. What seven-year-old does that?

I jumped up off my towel and in an attempt to remain calm started wiping the blood off to see where the source was. I realized it was his mouth, but was not prepared for how gruesome it would look. This photo is with all of the blood wiped up.... much better looking.
He said he hit his tooth on the slide. As soon as he made it down the slide, he looked over at Ty and said, "Ty, my tooth."
He definitely hurt both front teeth. Both front permanent teeth.

At a glance {without looking too closely since I had to hold it together and figure out how to get to the hospital from where we were}, his right tooth looked as though he chipped about half of it at a diagonal angle.

His left tooth looked gone and the hole where the tooth was seemed huge. The amount of blood coming out was huge.

I told the other kids to gather their things and head to the car. Ty was amazing and carried Caden.

I ran to the German lifeguards to ask for some ice. Even speaking in German, they thought I was CRAZY. There is little to no ice in Germany. Not for your drink, not for an injury.

I finally got them to give me a plastic bag and luckily had ice in our cooler to make an ice pack.

After finding the address in the GPS, we were on our way- just 15 minutes to Landstuhl and the ER. En route, I had Ty texting Jim to have him meet us there.

I had our friend texting her mom to meet us there as well {she took the other kids home and Ty to work later}. I knew we would be a while.

Both Jim and Heidi were at there shortly after we arrived. Luckily, Jim was in a class and he had arrived home from work as soon as Ty called.

We are reminded once again {especially being here in Germany} how important our good friends are to us. We are so grateful.

After a while at the ER with the doctor not sure what to do, it was decided we would go to the dental clinic.

They gave him some Tylenol and Motrin and we were on our way.

I am so grateful we happen to know one of the doctors in the dental clinic. She worked on Justin and Ty's teeth. Her husband coached them both in football.

It's not often that I use the phone-a-friend card, but we wanted to make sure there would be someone in the clinic.
The ER doctor told us they couldn't get anyone to answer the phone at the dental clinic which worried us. Little did we know- we was calling the on-call phone at 3:00 in the afternoon instead of calling the clinic DIRECTLY since it was open. Ugh.

As we left the emergency room, I received a comforting call on my cell that our friend had called the dental clinic doctor and let them know we were on our way.

She also gave the general dentist a head's up that he needed to keep the oral surgeon and pediatric dentist there so they could check him out as well.

Just knowing she and her husband both took the time out to make the calls for us meant a lot and calmed my nerves.

As soon as we arrived {a 15-minute drive from the ER}, they were ready for him. The pediatric dentist was the first to open his mouth and knew immediately that his tooth was still there. Jammed and twisted, it wasn't knocked out.
The body is amazing.

The doctors agreed that this was a good injury. Caden would be alright. In time, they expect his tooth to come down and straighten itself out. His gums should close up as well. At the worst, they think he might need a little orthodontic help on that one tooth to straighten it out.

They spent a while covering up the cracked tooth to seal the nerve and reduce his pain. We will have to get that tooth fixed as well.

As if we were not amazed enough- the most amazing part of the whole experience was Caden.

He did not shed a single tear. No crying what-so-ever.

When they asked his pain level on a 1-10 scale, he said about a 3. Of course, he was clinching his fists and grimacing as the van hit each bump on the way to the hospital.

Then, he told them when he fractured his jaw the pain was about a 4. We decided his pain scale is a 1-5 instead of a 1-10.

The doctors {all 4 that he saw} were beyond AMAZED at our little tough guy.
We heard no fewer than a dozen times how shocked they were with him holding himself together.

We are excited to see how long this little tooth takes to drop back down.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

the C O L O R S of cinque terre

I love the colors of Italy.

How can anyone walk into a side shop with peeling lemon yellow paint, weathered green shutters and a lilac purple door and not be happy?
The buildings are beautiful.
The doors especially caught my eye.
It was love at first sight and I took a lot of grief for it.
I'm still compiling a collage of all the door photos I took.

I am thinking all of this brightness and color might help get me through our last German winter.
I might have to print, frame and plaster every colorful Italy picture all over our house.

Or, we might have to take a mid-winter trip back to Tuscany for some sunshine and color.
Maybe, we'll do both.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

the beautiful C I N Q U E terre

I think Cinque Terre  (chink-a-tear-a) is perhaps one of the most beautiful places anywhere. The pastel colors, the DOORS, the water, the cliffs, the vineyards. All of it.
Cinque Terre is the rugged portion of northern coast of Italy on the Italian Riviera. The five villages, hillside and coastline makes up the Cinque Terre National Park.

Trails, trains and ferries connect the villages.

Only about an hour from our house, we decided it would be a perfect day trip. We figured we would drive to LaSpezia, then take the train up through the villages.

Sounds easy enough, don't you think?

It's not a region that you drive through, but instead buy a daily train pass to hop on and off at each village.

Even when you think you have thoroughly researched an area, things don't always go exactly as planned.

Finding the train station in LaSpezia turned out to be one of our greatest challenges as crazy as that sounds. I not only had the address, but also had the GPS and we still went in circles.

Luckily, we found a few Italians along the way to point us in the right direction. It was an adventure before we even got started. Believe me, the boys were thrilled.

Once we found the train station, we lucked out and caught the last train of the day only because it was running 10 minutes late. Whew.
The mood changed as soon as we were on the train and on our way. It was hot and crowded, but absolutely beautiful.

Food, gelatto and toes in the water helps everything.
I had read {again proving that things still don't always go as planned...} that you can walk along the trails between villages.
Friends had even recommended we do this in order to get the most beautiful views and see the most amazing countryside.

Things quickly went from tired and hot to more tired and hot. This was not a happy little guy below.
Looking back, I think we picked the most difficult trail to hike.

 After about 45 minutes {in flip flops, of course} of straight up hiking, we asked a group of young girls passing us in the other direction if we were close to the next village.
The laughed and basically said- not even close. Plus, it continued to be straight up and down. Ugh.

Jim made the good call for us to turn back with the little guys. Once again, the boys were thrilled.

Caden had blisters starting at this point and while Coleman didn't complain, he hit a point in the trail  and said, "I'm not going any farther."
Scott, Jazz and Ty decided to go ahead and finish the hike.

The rest of us turned around and caught the train to meet them at the next village.

We met up at the beach and spent some relaxing time playing in the water. There's nothing like a little beach time to turn things around and make happy kids.
All in all, we saw the area and had a fabulous day.
I'm pretty sure we all slept well that night.