Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hot Wheels Track

I can remember having Hot Wheels tracks when I was a kid, what I remember the most was that they never seemed to work very well, probably because we always set them up on carpet and not linoleum or wood floors. Well Macen is fascinated with Hot Wheels so I wanted to see what the current generation of Hot Wheels tracks were up to.

This is the birds eye view of two of the Toys R Us Kid's Picks Track Packs put together in a continues track with two curves and two loops, I've also added two battery powered boosters. I've left out several pieces of straight track and the jump and catch ramps that come with each pack. Here's the Macen's ground level view. The tracked worked pretty well with the car that came with it a long short car called the "The Gov'ner" making 5 complete circuits on the track before coming off. The '67 Mustang Shelby GT500 made 2 complete circuits and the Corvette C6 and the '65 Mustang Fastback each made 1 1/2 none of Macen's other cars made a complete circuit before flying off the track. Here's some video.
video


The Gov'ner in action.
video

Macen likes the launcher and the jump part as well. He likes to see which car can go the furthest.

Not a good day...

So I have a story about our day yesterday, lol.

We had planned on going back to Nurenburg to shop at Ikea for house items and to go to Toys R Us. Yeah, they have them here and I have been dying to go to see if they are the same as the states. First off, James has been sick all week and Macen started yesterday morning. Mostly a bad cough for them both but Macen had a slight fever when he woke up. We held off on going until after Macen naps so he could get some decent sleep. Well he wouldn't nap...at all which is very unusual for him. I finally got him up and we took off about 2pm. We got about 20 mins away and its snowing pretty good. It has basically snowed here non stop since either Tues or Wed but had finally stopped in Vilseck. We went on since it was only about a 45 min drive for us.

Toys R Us was interesting. They do have a lot of the same items but still plenty of brands I am not familiar with. James found some boosters he needed for the hot wheels track he had gotten Macen (and himself). Ironically,we hit up several TRU's before we left the states looking for these hot wheels boosters and we couldn't find any. They had tons and tons of Playmobil items as that is a German company. We walk out of the store and Macen gives his "Best toy store ever" line.

We get to Ikea and we head for the area rugs. We have no carpet downstairs in the living room or playroom. Well we are both blah about the selection. The same selection we had seen at the other Ikea just 2 weeks ago. So we get the rest of the things we need and decide to eat at McDonalds. Do you see our pattern for the day? Ha ha! A pretty American day for us -Toys R Us, McD's and although Ikea is European,we had been there before so we had a good feel for it. Macen is whining (his fever had come back at this point) when we were ordering our food and the lady gave him McD's fruit snacks - they were all arches. He loved it!

We finally hit the road and as soon as we got outside of town, we realized the snow was staying on the roads outside of town. It has snowed a lot since we've been here but the roads have never, ever been an issue. The Germans are great about clearing the roads and sidewalks so you can easily get around. The more we drove, the worse the roads were. So James slowed down and we realized it was going to take us a little longer to get home. Macen fell asleep and we followed the GPS. We were about 10 mins from post and the GPS was leading us on some back roads when we came head to head with a large vehicle. It was a narrow road and it was much bigger than us so James moved to the side and stopped for it to pass. He moved a little more to the right so the truck could get by us and we literally sunk in a ditch completely full of snow. We were at a slant and another 9-12 inches the snow would have been all the way up to my window, there was absolutely no way we were getting out of that ditch. As soon as the truck passed us and we sunk, I laughed out loud. We moved out of the way for an emergency vehicle! The truck backed up and the guy said while smiling "Can I help you?" All I could think was how extremely lucky we were it was an emergency vehicle; however, if the vehicle hadn't been so big we wouldn't have ended up in the ditch. So they hooked up to us and ended up pulling us a good 12 ft before we got out of the ditch. James got out and stepped into the ditch to look at the car and he sunk to his knee in the snow and he was already hip deep in the ditch. It was a deep ditch and we were lucky we only went down as far as we did. Just looking out over the snow, you would have never know there was a ditch there that is how much snow had built up over the last few weeks.

So we thank them and couldn't wait to get home. I'm sure they were thinking "Dumb Americans" and we can't blame them. We shouldn't have been out in that kind of weather and we definitely shouldn't have followed the GPS when it took us off the major highway. What should have taken us less than an hour ended up taking us 1 hr 45 min.

That was enough adventure for one weekend so we decided to stay home on Sunday and it's just as well since it's snowing AGAIN.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We have a house

We looked at a house on post yesterday and got the keys today. It's actually a duplex - 3bd, 2 1/2 bath. We have several playgrounds surrounding us so Macen will be thrilled. We will start living there either Thurs or Fri. Our household goods will be delivered Feb 3rd. Little by little, life is returning to normal.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nuernburg

This weekend we took the train from the town of Vilseck to Nuernburg. It took about 50 min to get there and was pretty inexpensive for the 3 of us to get there.
Here is Macen waiting for the train to show up. He loves trains so he was very thrilled to be getting on one.
Macen staring out the window and taking in the scenery.


This is the outside of the train station in Nuernburg.


This is the pretty much the center of the train station inside. There are lots of shopping and eating opportunities inside the station to include a Claires. And James discovered a bathroom where they charge you to pee. And he needed to pee, so he paid :) From the time we stepped outside the train station we saw massive amounts of police, ie polizei. Not only were they everywhere but they were in packs so it was slightly intimidating. Apparently, there was a soccer game that afternoon and they were there to control the crowds. There were groups of people drinking all over the train station with some getting rowdy with songs and chants. While we were waiting for our train, we saw a very large crowd walking thru the station with polizei basically escorting them wherever they went. I really wanted to get a picture of a pack of polizei but I thought I would get in trouble and I couldn't ever get a good picture of them walking away. So just picture what you see on tv when there are police everywhere trying to prevent a riot and that is what it looked like.



We went inside this Aldis and came out with some chocolate :) It was actually a brand of chocolate sold in the US Aldis. The only other brand I recognized there was Reggano. It was pretty small compared to some of the other Aldis we've seen. We walked down the street in front of the train station to a bunch of stores kinda like an outdoor strip mall. We did find a mini mall so we enjoyed exploring that. It was round so it was basically up and down. At the center were excalators with about 5-6 stores on each level and atleast 5 levels to the mall.

We walked around some more and saw a lot of sex stores with plenty of large photos of topless women, I kid you not. Thankfully Macen isn't old enough to realize it but I'm sure we'll be doing some explaining by the time we leave here.

Oh I better not forget our bakery purchases this time. This bakery had some different items but we stuck with our favorite: pretzels and we also got a 2 serving slice of chocolate cake. Very good! At some point, we are going to have to stop hitting up the bakeries.

We also hit an actual German restuarant. Shantel had the goulasch soup, and James had saurbraten. It was all really good and we will continue to explore the food opportunities as we get out and about.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Our living conditions

It has been just over 3 weeks since we "moved" into hotels. We're surviving and we haven't killed each other yet. Ha ha! I guess we can't complain much because we slept on an air mattress for 2 months prior to hotels. A hotel bed is better than an air mattress but we all know nothing is as good as your own bed. And it has been almost 3 months since we've slept in it. We are hoping to have only a few more days here. Macen is asking about every other day to go home. I know its hard for him to understand and we keep telling him we are getting a home soon to just bear with us a little longer.

We all want a home, including the cats.

The Chipmunks are Complete


Theodore has arrived from the United States! And Macen is a very happy camper. They go everywhere with us. We can't thank you enough Aunt Stacy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bowling

We took Macen bowling for the first time. And he loved it! He always took his turn, sometimes with a little prompting but I think with the exception of 2 times, he always pushed the ball down the lane himself. We played 2 games so that was pretty good for his attention span.

It's been awhile since James and I have been bowling so we enjoyed ourselves. I think we will be bowling alot in the 3 years.








video
It looks like the last part of the video was cut off but Macen was reacting very excitedly after the ball hit the pins.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Driving On The Autobahn

Not only did we drive down to Regensburg yesterday but we did it on the Autobahn. That was an experience in and of itself. The recommended speed limit is 130 kilometers an hour which is about 80mph. So I got out on the Autobahn and set the cruise control at 80 and promptly got passed like I was standing still on numerous occassions. You really have to be careful and watch your mirrors constantly. I was passing a semi and from the time I looked and cleared my mirrors and when I pulled out I had an Audi Q7 breathing down my neck. The rule of thumb to remember here is to stay right unless passing and get back over as soon as you're done passing and look at least twice in your mirrors. I'm actually glad we got the Edge instead of the Escape since it has a little more horsepower which allows me to stomp on it a little bit and get out of the way of those speeding Q7s. You know I wouldn't have that problem if Shantel would of let me get the Shelby GT500KR the dealership had on the showroom floor, I know I could of got a car seat in it. Of course if I had tried to get it I probably wouldn't still be married.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Regensburg

Today we became tourists. We left town/post for awhile to get out and experience more of Germany. Friends that use to live here recommended going to Regensburg if we got the chance. It's not too far away and since we are just hanging out a small room, we thought why not.

The trees here are different from the ones in MO and KS. As you can see the snow stays on the trees making it beautiful scenery. The picture doesn't do it justice and it was taken from inside the car. You also see the white/gray sky. Apparently, it stays that way for a good 3 months or so we've been told. The sun has not shined since we've been here. Dreary....very much so.

Here is some German homes in a little town we drove thru. I will post more pics in the spring when the snow goes away and the sun comes out. But the snow hater in me does see the beauty of the snow here. The Germans are great with clearing the roads and sidewalks of the snow and ice. It snowed here everyday for the first 5-6 days we were here and they were out every single morning even with it still snowing, clearing the way.


We went to IKEA!!!!!! I loved it and James said he was underwhelmed (it's his new word as of late). It reminded me of a Crate and Barrel store a little but less expensive. Very contemporary items. I'm excited to get a house and then go back to furnish/decorate the it some.
This is the Historiche Wurstkuche or Historic Sausage Kitchen. In the summer time it is really crowded with tables out in front on the banks of the Danube. Today it was really crowded inside and we were lucky to get a seat. The food was really simple and really good, little wursts (sausages) served on a bed of saurkraut with a sweet homemade mustard. The wursts are cooked over an open fire grill on one half the restaurant and the seats on the other. James also had a weissen bier. A wheat beer that was a little different from an American wheat beer with more a sweet, citrusy taste.

Here are some buildings in the historic part of Regensburg. This is a view from the bridge over the Danube River.

James and Macen on the bank of the river right outside the restaurant we ate at. Macen has a fascination with rivers (and most bodies of water) so he loved watching the water flow. He also liked chasing the pigeons that were plentiful in the area.
Here is the Danube River.


Bavaria is a part of Germany that resisted the Protestant Reformation and is still very much a Catholic area. Many of the days off work are actually Catholic holidays. The Regensburg Cathedral at the city center is called Dom Sankt Peter or St Peter's Cathedral. It is beautiful! We didn't go inside but the next time we are down there, we will. Just imagine how beautiful it looks when the sky isn't gray.
ETA: I forgot to mention the bakeries. Germans love their bread and so do James and I. While roaming the streets of Regensburg, we found numerous bakeries and decided we needed to try it out. We each got a pretzel and James got a cinnamon roll and I got a chocolate covered domut. The pretzels were fantastic! Macen was even begging for one when we got back to the car. Of course he doesn't like bread but he held onto it and licked all the salt off it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

We have our car!

James passed the drivers test...and on the first try!

He went and got the car today so we can now go outside of the mile radius we've gotten use to walking in the last week. Ha ha! We do have a gas ration card so we are limited to a specific amount of gallons of gas we can purchase on post in a month. If we go over that, we will have to buy gas in the German economy at a higher rate. Gas here on post is currently $3.09 so a lot higher than the states. I don't even want to know what it is out in the economy.

We showed Macen the car but we're not sure he actually understands its ours. We've driven several different cars since mid-Nov and it's been almost 2 weeks since we've been in a car.

Now its time for me to get studying so I can take the test.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Macen has become a fan of these 3 furry creatures. We were a little stumped on how he got started on it but then Mariah told us she had him watching it one day while we were clearing out of our ous in KS. One evening while we were having dinner with my dad and stepmom, Macen was very tired from the days activities and kept whining about Alvin the chipmunk. I was confused and then a little girl at the next table over asked if she could give Macen her Alvin. Of course he was thrilled and the next day we realized it was a McD's toy. We were even more surprised when we stopped at the half way point from Frankfurt and Vilseck at a McD's and they had the same toys. Macen asked for Simon and the pic is from him playing with them the rest of the bus ride to Vilseck. And ever since then he keeps telling us he needs another Alvin the Chipmunk meaning he wants Theodore. He repeatedly tells us we need to go to McD's first to get another one. Unfortunately, I don't think there any McD's nearby. We are in a very rural area of Germany. So we put our first request in for sending something from the US we can't easily get here. Aunt Stacy has Macen squared away and he is going to be a very happy camper when he gets Theo in the mail.

So to temporarily squish the repeated requests to go to McDs we took Macen to his first movie at the theater. Alvin and the Chipmunks was playing at the post theater, perfect timing. Macen did great at the movie and loved it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Time Difference

One of the problems with living in Germany is the time difference. This is especially hard on me when it comes to watching football games. A typical 12pm CST start game comes on here at 7pm and a 3pm CST start at 10pm and the prime time games at about 1 or 2 am. The noon starts aren't that bad but the late start and the prime time games are way past my bed time.

Bring us to this weekend and the fact that the Cowboys are playing a playoff game at 7pm CST Sat. That game comes on here at 2am. I'm way too lazy to stay up that late so I'm going to have to catch the replay at 1pm Sun. That means please no emails or phone calls telling me who won. I'm going to try my best to stay off the internet and not find out who won the game before hand. Shantel seems to think I'm not going to be able to do that.

Go Cowboys!!!!!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Best Ever...

Okay, I'm going to interrupt moving posts to give you Macens latest favorite quote. Macen's favorite candy at the moment is nerds and I made sure we had plenty on hand for the move (or Grandma did. Thanks Grandma!) While we were hanging out the other day at the hotel in Frankfurt, Macen informed me they were "The best nerds ever". Very funny! Last night we went to the commissary to get a few things for our room and we grabbed a box of Special K for Macen. While checking out James was pointing out all these boxes of Special K and asking Macen if that one was his favorite. He kept sayinbg "no" until James got to the red berries one. And Macen responds "The best special K ever". Lol!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

We've made it to Vilseck

UPDATE: We can't get the car until we or one of us takes the driving test for here. And the good news about the housing turned into not so good news this morning. James went to housing where they told him there would probably be something available around the 26th of January. Yeah, not cool! We are hearing from multiple people here on post that there are plenty of houses empty. So he's going back on Monday to talk to them. And instead of going to a German hotel this weekend, we are going to an area here on post where there are cabins. We plan to stay there until the end of the month unless housing decides to give us a house sooner.

James came in today and we took the long bus ride to Vilseck. We are in temporary lodging on post right now but we will move to a German hotel in a few days. Apparently, temp lodging gave away most of our reservation since we didn't make it here on Monday as planned so there were only 2 nights available for us to stay.

In the midst of playing musical hotels, our hold baggage (the stuff that was packed 2 weeks ago and shipped) is here waiting for us as well as our car. James should be picking up the car tomorrow. And word is that we should have our chosing of houses/duplex/whatever they call them and we should be in our new home around Wed of next week.

I'm sure the cats will appreciate that! Macen seems to be enjoying hotels just fine.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In Frankfurt

Macen and I are hunkering down in the hotel at the airport. We got back here yesterday and we'll stay until James comes in tomorrow morning.

Macen hasn't quite adjusted to the time difference. I mentioned before I put Macen down at his normal time 2 nights ago and he stayed in bed over 15 hrs. He was awake for an hour in that time but he was catching up on some major sleep. He went to bed at his normal time last night but was awake from 11:30pm to 2:30am. He did wake up much earlier today so we'll get a nap in (both of us) and then maybe get on track tonight.

We are enjoying the maze that is the Frankfurt airport.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hello from Germany!

As James mentioned, we made it! About half of us anyway. The days activities so did not go as planned when we woke up Sunday morning. But next week it'll all be a distant memory. We should have known something would happen because up until yesterday, everything had gone extremely smooth for the move - other than James and I disagreeing about things.

And for anyone thinking we'll be coming back anytime soon, don't count on it. The seats on the flight here offered very little leg room making it near impossible to sleep. James and I were both up around 3:30 am Sunday anticipating our big move and I got maybe 2 hrs total sleep on the plane. So very little sleep before adjusting to the time difference. Maybe it'll make for an easy transition but not a trip I want to repeat anytime soon. Macen did do great on both flights and I couldn't believe the amazing help I got from strangers.

I'm going to reach here a little bit and say Macen has not been affected by jetlag. Yet, atleast. We'll see how tomorrow goes. He was getting pretty cranky at the airport this morning because we did a lot of walking (it's huge or atleast it felt that way this morning or maybe it all the luggage I was carrying and pushing around) and he couldn't be carried at all due to the massive amounts of luggage I had - we're talking over 200 lbs. But once we got to Emilie's, he was his normal self on 4 hours of night time sleep. Running around full of energy and at the speed of lightning. He did sleep for about 2 1/2 hrs this afternoon and I just put him to bed at his normal bedtime. No issues yet and hopefully it doesn't catch up with us tomorrow (or even tonight). The Tot Clock just might get us thru this time difference.

We'll let you know when we get to Vilseck and hopefully James' flight day is a lot less interesting.

Myles is curled up in my lap as I type, happy as can be.

They Made It.

Well I just got off the phone with Shantel and she is currently exploring the Commissary and PX at Weisbaden with her friend Emilie. So she and Macen have both made it to Germany safe and sound.

According to Shantel she had no issues during the flight. Macen slept most of the way from KC to DC and that there was a very sympathetic woman who helped her with the car seat as she moved between gates in DC and once on the plane to Frankfurt Macen played for about 4 hours before she had to pull out the clock and tell him it was bed time and then he slept the rest of the way to Frankfurt. There were once again no issues in Frankfurt. Myles the Carry On Cat was scanned for his microchip and that was it for him. A member of the German version of the TSA helped Shantel get to Customs and through Customs and then Emilie was waiting to pick her up. Thank God for sympathetic strangers and good friends.

As it stands right now the Sheraton at the airport is full and Shantel is going to spend a couple of days with Emilie and then move to the hotel the night before I get in, that way Emilie doesn't have to get up early to get her to the airport.

I'll be spending the next couple of days in Mid-Missouri visiting with my family and maybe getting a bird hunt with my dad. Shantel swears that the reason I stayed was to watch the Cowboys game yesterday and to go bird hunting one last time with Maggie before I leave. She really doesn't have much sympathy for me.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Flying Catastrophe, Drama, Chaos

Well we were supposed to fly to Germany today, but as you can tell from the title of the post there were all sorts of issues this morning. Here's a little recap then let me know what you think.

We are of course moving with our two cats Mo and Myles, and the dog, Maggie, is tentatively scheduled to be shipped later this spring after we get settled. Shantel has been super paranoid about flying with the cats, calling the airlines immediately after we got our tickets, scheduling vet appointments within a ten day window of flying, She called the airline 2 days before the flight to ensure that the cats were still on the manifest, finding out that only one of them was and that the airline only allowed 1 pet in the cabin and only 1 pet in the cargo hold. Still not comfortable she went to the airport ticket counter with one of the pet carrier and the day before we flew and talked to a ticket agent who informed her that the pet carrier would work for the cabin but not for the cargo hold. No one ever mentioned that pets would not be allowed in the cargo hold if the temp was under 45 degrees, keeping in mind that when Shantel went to the ticket counter at KCI the current outside temp was -4 degrees. We just thought that maybe United, our airline, didn't have a policy like that.

Fast forward to flying day. Macen is going nuts saying "We are going to airport, Yeaaaaaa!" "I'm moving to Jersanny". He just can't quite say Germany and it's funny to hear him say Jersanny. We turn in the rental car and get in the check in line at about 8:40 am a full three hours before our flight and the line moves really slow. We have our 7 pieces of luggage for the three of us, Shantel and Macen each have two carry ons and I have one. We also have one cat in a carry on kennel and one cat in a slightly larger kennel and the car seat for Macen. We truly look like the Beverly Hillbillies. Not to mention our entourage, My mom and step dad, Shantel's sister and her family (3 kids), Shantel's mom and the twins Mariah and Jeremiah.

We finally make our way to counter and I dutifully inform the ticket agent that I'm about to make his day. He laughs and says go ahead. I immediately let him know that we did have two cats and OK no problem, lets start with the luggage. No issues there, then we start with the cats. 1st issue, there is some kind of embargo on pets flying to London, so the ticket agent spends time finding out if there is a similiar one to Germany. Nope no embargo to Germany. Myles the Carry On Cat is good. Time to start on Mo the Cargo Cat. Uh oh the weather has warmed up to a balmy 15 degrees and the airline now says that Mo the Cargo Cat can't go in the hold and Myles is the ONLY cat who can be a Carry On Cat. Now what do we do.

Well first thing we have to do is deal with a grouchy Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, in uniform, who thinks he's going to miss his flight. Insert funny Air Force sleeping in while the Army gets up early joke here. Sorry mister Air Force Lieutenant Colonel you are just going to have to wait until the lowly Army Major and his family gets all of their issues ironed out.

We check for flights to Germany later in the day, Nope nothing. How about flights on Monday, one person can get to DC on Monday, but not to Frankfurt. Tuesday same story, flights to Denver and Chicago but nothing from there to Germany. Wednesday is the earliest one person can go. Looks like Shantel just volunteered to take Macen, and Myles the Carry On Cat all by herself from Kansas City to Frankfurt. So that's what we did.

Now we are trying to get Shantel, Macen, Myles the Carry On Cat, and the car seat through TSA security. Hold on the United Check N Go lady interferes "No hard sided pet carriers". What the ticket agent guy said nothing about that and he put a baggage tag on the hard sided pet carrier to show that Myles the Carry On Cat had paid $200 (Thanks to James' credit card) for his right to be the ONLY Carry On Cat. Finally it's decided small hard sided pet carrier like Myles the Carry On Cat owns is just fine. Then a super friendly TSA agent (Yes they are out there) helps Shantel, Macen, Myles the Carry On Cat and the assorted accouterments through the security process.

Of course since I wasn't flying the airline had to take three of the bags off the airline and of course I didn't get my bags and Shantel was stuck with all three of the 50+ lb bags.

Last we heard Shantel and Macen had landed in DC and were trying to make their flight to Frankfurt. As of 7pm CST Shantel's cell phone is going direct to voice mail so I can only assume that she is safely winging it across the Atlantic.

Before we left the airport I called some friends of ours who are now stationed just outside Frankfurt and asked them to check in on Shantel and Macen when they arrive in Frankfurt. Emilie, the wife who is actually from Denmark, will meet her at the airport so she'll be in good hands when she gets there.

Instead of imposing any more on my in-laws I headed to Columbia with my mom and step dad. Upon arrival in Columbia I frantically got on the internet and looked for alternate flights to Frankfurt. Most of those flights are running $3000 or more for the next couple of days the cheapest being an Air India flight from St Louis for $900 or a British Airways flight from Atlanta for $1200. I could drive and make either one of them, believe it or not, but the British Airways flight makes a stop in London, and the UK requires pets to have a pet passport or something similiar to land and of course you can't get one in less than 24 hours and the Air India flight seems a little shady to me, so I won't press my luck and just go with my Wednesday flight.

Luckily for me my actual report date is not until the 15th so I do have some leeway, but at this rate I'm going to use it all up.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Here is Macen ringing in the new year! We all saw the new year come in with the back of our eyelids. Ha ha!

We cleared the house yesterday and we're currently in a hotel. And is was really, really cold last night so we weren't up for venturing out for any big events. And not to mention Macen has a cold and I believe he has passed it along to me.