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Personal Notes

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned, but Cole is in American High School on base.  We pulled him out of German school when he started his freshman year.  Life is filled with enough challenges being a military brat. We wanted to give him as an easy-as-possible opportunity to complete all the right credits for college.

Having kids in both the German & American school systems, living under one roof, means very little overlapping vacation time.  So when it is vacation time, we let our hair down & let schedules go.  I love vacation time!

We are all night owls.  Leave us to our own devices and we are easily up past midnight, preferably till 2 or 3 am, sleeping till noon or later.  I’d hoped we’d be magically cured moving to Europe.  That maybe our night owl-ness was really my European genes passed down to the kiddo’s and we were innately on an European schedule.

But no. As soon as jet lag was over (6+ weeks!), we lapsed right into our night owl schedule.  When needed we have grumpy mornings at least 5 days a week.  Those first hours are a bear, even with pots of coffee.  Getting the kids out of the house, especially Dane & Cole, is a fight each & every morning.

I now have almost 4 weeks of NO SCHOOL! No early mornings.  No fighting. No bears.  I’m in hog heaven!

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A couple of weeks (months?) ago I read, on the front page of our local paper, that the Schäferbier was brewed, bottled & ready for the Schäferlauf.  Now, Schäfer = sheep.  Bier is obvious & lauf = walk.  I quickly deduced that the sheep beer was ready for the sheep walk, but what was a sheep walk?  And why was this beer special?

I spent the next hour reading the full article, coming away none the wiser.  My German comprehension is not quite at newspaper-level.  Not even local paper-level.  So I asked around, and my best understanding was that this village has sheep, once a year they march them down the street, and then they celebrate said-marching with a special once-a-year beer.  I was hooked, and I marked it on my calendar.

When my cousin called and wanted to visit, right on Schäferlauf weekend, I panicked briefly.  My cousin is 7 months pregnant, Schäferbier cannot be too high on her list of things to try.  Thankfully she also has a 1-year-old daughter.  Sheep rank very high on her list of things to try.  It took five minutes to decide on her trip, and then three weeks of waiting for them to get here.

Waiting for something fun to happen always takes soooooooooooo long, but now last weekend is already over and my cousin, aunt and the baby are back in Holland.  I miss them.  We had a fabulous weekend filled with hysterical laughing, sharing memories, a little beer and zero sheep.

That’s right.  Schäferlauf weekend was without sheep.  It was not a lack of trying on our part, we drove out to Wildberg not once, but twice!  Wildberg is gorgeous.  Nestle in a lush, green valley on the Nagold river in the middle of the Schwarzwald, Wildberg is filled with charm, fachwerk houses, a stunning kloster, friendly people… but no sheep.

We saw cows, horses, donkeys, all kinds of birds, ducks, deer, camels, zebra’s (baby zebra!) but no sheep. In the end, the invisible sheep really didn’t matter. Now all my aunt or cousin has to say is “Schaap!” (Dutch for sheep) and we are all doubled over in laughter.

Only I cannot find sheep at a sheep festival.

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Ever have a week, really a month, where everything goes wrong?  Yep.  That was me the last several weeks.  Thankfully it was not people-wrong, but mechanical-wrong.

It started with the The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine, it went out-of-order. Our hot water supply went to nil, our showers came to an end and the house got cold.  Despite some sunny days, it’s still pretty chill here in Germany.

We quickly discovered it was a lack of oil.  All four of our big, huge, tanks were bone dry.  Nothing beeped, lit-up or sang out “Danger Wil Robinson, Danger!”.  The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine just stopped working.  I quickly arranged for new oil… that was going to take 3-4 weeks to deliver.  Apparently this is something I should plan for.  Instead, I dug a little deeper & got a speed delivery 3 days later. Phew!

One day after that, The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine was again out-of-order.  We spent a weekend, thankfully a warm, sunny weekend, without water. That Monday, this Monday, was extra special.

It was the day after Dane’s big birthday blowout.  We’d spent all weekend cleaning & repairing zombie blinds (how is it I have never babbled about zombie blinds?  Sorry, I’m going to leave you to wonder today) so the house would look perfect for the invading horde.  Earlier that week my beautiful Veronica began to creak & croak.  In the shop she went for a new steering system.  So without car, without a shower, but working zombie blinds, I needed to find a way to Frankfurt to see Esther (Zesty Digi Designs from Australia) and Manu (Scraps from far-away here in Germany)!

I’m pretty savvy with trains by now, so I grabbed Dane & headed to the hauptbanhof in Stuttgart to take a big ICE train to Frankfurt.  As our little regional s-bahn pulled up, my phone rang.  Tess had injured her foot at school.  I turned back around and spent the next 6 hours discovering it was just a bad sprain.

Manu, Esther and I were all so disappointed.  And then, Dave saved the day and came home with a beautiful 2014 Audi from the rental place!  And a day off work on Tuesday to help me shuffle kids around and make sure I got my girl time in.  My hero.  Seriously, my hero.

Tuesday morning I called the guy behind The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine and pled my case.  He promised to come out in the afternoon, after the kids were home from school (to help translate for Dave) but before soccer.  Thankfully Germans understand the importance of soccer.  Even for 7-year-olds. I hopped into my fancy futuristic car and hit the autobahn.

My fancy futuristic car has a LOT more get-up go than Veronica. I put on speed control (auto pilot) to stop me from breaking the sound barrier.  In my old car, speed control has a little +(plus) button to increase the speed just a little. Fancy futuristic car had this too, and after 10 minutes cruising at 140kmph, I was ready for a little more oomph.  I hit the +(plus) button.

Dude! That fancy futuristic car took off in 2 seconds to 180kmph!  Aaaaaaaah!  It was like being in a jet plane, but on the ground.  I slowed that fancy futuristic car, and my heart, way back down and slowly sped to Frankfurt & my waiting friends.

Dave called as I pulled into the outskirts of a really big city.  Frankfurt is much bigger than Stuttgart.  Gulp.  Dave had good news, The Big, Red, Intimating, not-out-of-order Machine was fixed and a hot shower awaited my return.  As I hung up, I spotted Manu peering around some trees looking for me (or more likely Veronica) .With a big grin I found a park space and jumped right into her arms, and then Esthers.

The three of us had a fantastic, amazing, couldn’t-be-better afternoon and evening.  It was 23:00 before I realized it, and I still had a 2+ hour drive home.  I’m going to need another NL to babble about our meet, I’m way too chatty today to fit it in here.  But! I do have a picture!  It was sunny & warm in Frankfurt and we enjoyed a lovely dinner outside.  I can close my eyes and still hear them babbling.  I miss them so much already.

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Going Full American

by Toiny Westberry 17 May 2014

I know the photo is a little soft, but it is my favorite of Dane on his birthday this week.  It is just so him.  He finally, at age 7, has his first wiggly tooth and in this photo you can still see the precious baby teeth peeking out. His hair is poking out in […]

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Squeal-y, Hug-y and Happy

by Toiny Westberry 26 April 2014
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If you ask Tess what was the best part of our whirlwind trip back to the states; the answer is one word: “Becca!” The dynamic duo was reunited and their unbridled joy at seeing each other had all of us, at least us mommies, in tears.  I could feel waves of warm happiness radiating out from them. The air literally quivered […]

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Tante Marianne

by Toiny Westberry 19 March 2014

There is sunshine and light and laughter in every one of my days.  Even my dark days.  On the days when life has me down, things are not going my way, when I just need to cry. There are always my kids (and sometimes other peoples kids) and they always manage to put a smile […]

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No Shoes. No Soccer.

by Toiny Westberry 14 February 2014
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Yesterday was not poor Dane’s day.  All week long he looks forward to Tuesdays.  Soccer day.  The hours between school and soccer practice are almost unbearable, the boy has no concept of time.  Timers, clocks, stickers-on-clocks, nothing works.  He must ask me every 1-to-5 minutes; “Is it time?” “Can we go now?” “How much longer?”  […]

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My Bestest Friend

by Toiny Westberry 8 January 2014
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At the end of 3rd grade, we moved to America.  To California, to be precise.  Before that I had spend only 6 months in America, and I knew little-to-no English.  My memories of those first months are all visual. I wonder if that is what my kids remember from our first year in Germany? I did […]

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Weihnachts Circus

by Toiny Westberry 21 December 2013
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Last week, while I was still sulking over our friends PCS’ing (Permanent Change of Station) back to the states, a new friend (Tricia) called & asked if we wanted to go to the Weihnachts Circus with them.  It was sponsored by the local big box furniture store, and only €2 each.  I need a pick-me-up and the […]

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Almost

by Toiny Westberry 7 December 2013
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Today is much better.  I can breath again, and tell random strangers “I’m okay” without bursting into tears, turning me into a liar.  Our friends made it back stateside, after an extra long day of travel, safe & sound.  Even their puppy made it, United Airlines treated her with extra care & love.  It is […]

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