Saturday, April 29, 2006
Checking out, thanks
On the way over to Noni and Popi's this morning I saw Emma in the rearview mirror with the blanket over her face. And it stayed there. Weird. So I took a picture, holding the camera backwards. You can see the progression as she falls asleep under it.




The big park
This was the first time Emma had ever been to a big park with lots of other children. We started in a more secluded area where there was just a few things she could do. There was a tall slide that had stairs so she could climb up herself and then slide down into our arms. Don't get me wrong, we stayed with her up the steps, but you know she can't do a ladder yet.

I was anxious for her to move on the the "kid's castle" where she'd mingle with other kids. I can't say that was the best thing. She seemed agitated once we got over there. She may have been overstimulated. She did a lot of things that she could, but she was peevish most of the time. She really threw a fit when she couldn't do the big kid swings. I even tried to take her on my lap. That pissed her off even more.

Needless to say, I carried her kicking and screaming from the park when it was time to go. But I suppose that would have been her reaction at any time I chose to go. She definitely wasn't the perfect example of a well-behaved child.

On the flipside, we did have some fun.

Popi's Antique
This past year Popi inherited at 1968 (?) Nissan Patrol when his uncle passed away. It's officially an antique. There was an add in the paper for an antique car gathering so he decided to take it and go. We stopped by to see him later. He got his first official antique car plaque.

I don't know why I'm stressing about finding Emma a play structure for outdoors. I should just steal one of these.

On the way home...
I could hear the sound of my jacket being constantly moved around. My best guess was that she was back there trying to stick her arm in a sleeve. It was pitch dark so to see what she was up to I did what I did this morning. Just held my camera facing backward and tried to take a picture. It worked. I could see her playing with the jacket. After the first time she figured out what I was up to because she could see the pre-flash. Look at her giggling when I go to take a picture.

Friday, April 28, 2006
It's a balloon day!
We got it at the bank after work. When the teller offered a balloon I hesitated for a second and then said "yes," telling myself that I'd supervise her with it every second. It went with her everywhere till bathtime. I was sure she'd pop it and we'd have major trauma, but no, even a grip with fingernails didn't do it. I guess it helps that I didn't blow it up really tight.

The Fridge Phonics Saga

It started with a wonderful gift from Noni and Popi. We put the toy right up on the fridge. E, E, E is for...Over and over and over. Emma would take the toy off the refrigerator and walk around with it like a boom box by her head. She loves to make it say the A, B, C's. And then it disappeared. As relatively new parents we've learned not to bother to turn the house over looking for something. It will turn up. But it didn't. So then we looked, and looked, and looked. And looked. We finally came to the conclusion/guess that she may have dropped it in the trash can, which sits right beside the refrigerator. Yikes.

So what to do? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Replace it so Noni never knows. Except for some inexplicable reason every single one of the basic Fridge Phonics has disappeared from the store shelves. Several visits to Target and Walmart yield no Fridge Phonics. Great. Of course she does notice that it's missing. Explanation: it's probably around here somewhere. (And it may still be!)

This goes on for two months, M. looks at Walmart every time he goes. Last night, finally, he finds it again. I had given up hope. I figured they had phased it out for a new model. I told him I'd reimburse him. Before he even brings it home he tells me that Grandma G. wants to pay for it. She tells him she often has impulses to buy Emma something but she never knows if it's right. So she wants to do this. So now Emma has a new Fridge Phonics and two sets of letters, sponsored by both grandmas.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
For those of you who haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. I watched it on the plane trip over to Germany. Northwest has those monitors on the back of each seat, which rocks. The movie was close to my recollections of the book. Bear in mind I haven't read the book in a couple of decades now.

It was a beautiful film and the sets were amazing. When Edmund's storyline began to develop I recalled the hatred I had for him when I first read his character. He was so unfair to little Lucy. The performers in the movie are perfect and the special effects are so believable. I really got lost in the story.

I would say it's a bit much for the little ones. Some scenes would be way too scary for anyone under 7 or so. Overall, I would highly recommend this movie.
Emma's passions
What are her overwhelming interests these days?

1. Shoes. We have to take off her shoes so her feet are available to try on every pair she can lay her hands on. That's the game, just try to put the shoes on. If she gets tired of it she'll bring me shoes to put on her.

2. Kitty cat. It's the most syllables she says. And she says it pretty darned well. Of course most things that are cute and fuzzy and probably animals are kitty cat.

3. Bath, she loves her bath. And she especially loves her new bath toys that Noni gave her.

Foliage update
The news is that we're starting to get some. The trees are just beginning to bud out. That means pollen, yippee. But nothing is as green as grass in the spring, so we have that going for us.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Monkey Balls
When B. was describing what there was to see along the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg he said, "Be sure and go down to the bridge and see the monkey balls." OK, dude. Whatever you say. Honestly, I have no idea what the significance of the monkey by the bridge is. But we saw the monkey and we saw his balls. Check that box.

18 month check-up
It went really well. The Dr. had no concerns. Emma chattered almost the whole time so the doc got to hear plenty of words. While Emma wouldn't show her belly or her nose on demand, when the Dr. said "open your mouth" the mouth dropped open. She's really good at following instructions, she can't just be ornery about the "show me your..." game.

She weighed 25 lbs. which puts her in the 59th percentile and she's 32 inches tall which puts her in the 56th percentile. So she's no longer a tall girl. The Dr. even said, "maybe she'll be a short girl." Uh, thanks for that insight.

Now we're set until Emma's second birthday.
I didn't realize this actually meant something, but it does. I means the swing. When she's on the swing we make that noise, but I'm not sure if she's actually just making the noise or if that's as close to "swing" as she can come. I learned this definitely means this swing this morning at breakfast. She started saying it as she got down from her high chair, so I said it back. Then she headed for the front door and wanted out so she could get to the swing on the front porch. Oops. I tried to explain that it was too cold (42 degrees) and we'd try later.
If someone offers you an Irish breakfast...

I'm serious. Our hotel offered a breakfast buffet, all I ate was ham, pineapple and toast. Fried bacon is actually fried ham. Their sausage It looked almost like regular sausage, but when I tasted it the flavor and texture was more like potted meat. Gag. Potted meat is like kryptonite to me. I didn't know if I would recover. Their bread was icky too. And this is from someone who loves bread.

Our last meal in Ireland, breakfast, was at McDonalds. Seriously, how long did you expect me to suffer?
Uisce Beatha
This is the only gaelic we learned. It literally means "The Water of Life." Which of course is whiskey. It sounds like "isky-ba-ha."
Guinness fact
Guinness produces 4 million pints a day. Only half are exported. Think the Irish drink much?
One thing they do better in Germany and Ireland is the crosswalks. Maybe some larger U.S. cities have this, but I've never seen it...when the crosswalk sign goes green for walk it also makes a noise, like a clicking noise. This gives you audible and well as visual signals that it's OK to cross. It's not a big deal, but it was nice for when you're in a mob and can't see the sign very well yourself.

In Ireland, when you stood at the crosswalk and looked down, they had painted "Look Right" or "Look Left" with an arrow pointing the appropriate direction. Like I said, it's pretty disorienting when people are driving on the wrong side of the road and I guess they've learned that they need to warn the 99% of the world that drives on the right side of the road. It's hard to overcome 36 years of training to look "left, right, left."

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Cool German stuff
One thing that is cool about Germany is the windows. Remember, I mentioned earlier that Germans build their houses to last 100 years. So, the features you find might be a bit different. One thing I really liked was the roladens. These are rolling blinds, similar to our hurricane blinds. You can roll them so they hang loosely and some light filters through, or you can roll them so they fit tight and the light is completely blacked out. And I mean completely. I would wake up and have no idea it was morning because the roladens had me fooled.

The other cool thing is the windows. If you click this link (please do this time) you'll see how the window opens based on how you turn the handle. Believe me, you about soil your shorts the first time you turn the handle too far and the whole window seems to come off in your hands. K. says that it's common for Germans to tilt open all the windows in the morning to air out the house, no matter what the temperature outside.


New Routine
When I get home from work Emma doesn't even go into the house with me. She heads straight for the chaise lounge outside. She'll wait there until I set our stuff down in the house and then come back outside. We'll play on the chair for a while, then she does a circuit of the yard. Finally she'll climb the front steps and point at her swing. So we swing. Then finally we go inside and have some supper.

Monday, April 24, 2006
This concludes...
the picture portion of your tour. And believe me, it took long enough. I will probably post once or twice more on my impressions of our travels, cultural differences, who does it better, etc. Right now, I'm tired.
Our last evening in Ireland
We wussed out again. We couldn't make up our minds where to eat again. None of us really wanted to walk the miles to Temple Bar. So we ate a Flanagan's Pizzaria. Um, yuck. The bread was good. After dinner we decided to try the pub in our hotel again. Easter Sunday, maybe it's slow, right? Wrong. So my bright idea was to go to the empty residents lounge and take our drinks with us. Fortunately we were able to do that. K. pulled out the Uno cards and we had a fine time.

Glendalough is a 6th century monastic retreat, or the ruins thereof. You can learn more about it here. Our driver, Manus, gave us the down and dirty tour and then cut us loose for two hours. We walked to the two lakes. There were tons of Irish families enjoying an Easter afternoon picnic. It was a nice day for it, albeit a bit chilly.

Here is the cathedral ruins...

I think this was a church. Notice the stone roof, I was impressed.

This is a beautiful example of a celtic cross.

The round tower.

The second lake, which was the farthest away...

The cheapest food I bought my entire vacation. The ice cream cone was only 2 Euro.

Lunch Break
We stopped at Lynham's of Laragh. We chose to eat in the pub, which like Duke's the day before, had a buffet style set up. For almost 16 Euro I got Guinness stew, pasta salad, a semi-Waldorf salad, and bread. And a diet coke. The stew was terrific. They gave me a lot of food. That was probably the best meal I had in Ireland.

The Waterfall
The one "inaccessible" place we reached in our van was up a long valley via a one-lane road. It was this waterfall. I don't remember if it had a name. The driver told us not to cross the wall and climb on the rocks, and there were danger signs all around. No problem. Then he told the story of the obligatory idiot who ignored the warnings, slipped on the rocks and fell to his death. Then his family sued, and despite all signs warning of danger, the family won the suit. So it's not only-in-America.

This is the view of the valley from the top of the waterfall.

The green arrow is an attempt to give you an idea of the scale of what you are seeing. It's pointing to tiny little pixels representing people.

Guinness Lake
This was another lake where we stopped. It's owned by the Guinness family, hence the name. You had to walk up a short hill from the bus (which was on the side of the mountain) and then you were hit with a blast of arctic air. But then you could see the lake, which was quite beautiful.