Sunday, January 22, 2012

Christmas 2011

From the moment we arrived in August, we all looked forward to Christmas.  AK looked forward to seeing her favorite friend and her cousins again, and I looked forward to Target.  Within 24 hours of our arrival in Atlanta, we were off to accomplish some of those goals.

We drove to Charlotte for a round of dental visits and to check on our house there.  We were lucky enough to visit with some friends over dinner who also graciously entertained AK and B3 when Ben and I visited their dentist.  The squeals and giggles and laughs from the kids made our trip north worthwhile;  both the girls and the boys enjoyed their playtime together, and I enjoyed catching up with a friend, too!

AK handled the dental visit like a pro; B3 survived but proved to be a tough customer.  At his age, AK popped her mouth open for a complete and thorough exam and cleaning. B3, on the other hand, is no follower of sibling trends.  Not even the fancy new Lightening McQueen toothbrush was enough to get him to open up.  He has teeth; we've seen them and brushed them.  The dentist just had to take our word for it.  Oh well. Maybe next time.

Perhaps he wasn't all that interested in the dentist because he'd been up for hours by the time his 8:00 am appointment rolled around. I think he was up around 3; I was shopping at Wal Mart by 4:30.  There's not a 24 hour Target, so I settled for an hour alone in Wal Mart. It did not compare to the greatness of Target, but it was definitely better than nothing.  And, at 5 AM, it's fairly empty.

When I reviewed the pictures I took when we were in Georgia, I realize dthat there really weren't that many.  I spent a lot of time watching and listening tokids play and not so much time trying to take pictures.  I admit, it was actually quite nice!  I do, however, wish I had a picture of B3 camped out by the front living room window watching for his cousin's car to come down the drive.  He sat there for most of a morning saying, "Emma!  Come on Emma!"  Needless to say, both he and AK were thrilled when she arrived  AK was especially excited to discover they both had on Christmas cookie shirts.  She was bewildered, and not until I told her that her Aunt Alicia had orchestrated the match did she understand how such magic could happen. 

A highlight of the trip was our First Annual Christmas Eve Bonfire.  You might remember AK's artistic rendition of her Memory of America.  In honor of that memory, and because boys (of all ages) like to burn things, and because we can't buy decent hot dogs in Singapore, we spent part of Christmas eve in the yard gathered around  a fire.  And, if you're thinking right now, "there is no such thing as a decent hot dog", I am in agreement for about 360.5 days a year.
 The kids all had a ball, and B3 had a more than a little quality time with his old friend, Daisy.

The kids picked up lots and lots of sticks.  Even the sticks that PaPa had strategically placed in the ditch for erosion control. Oops. 

We tried and tried to get decent pictures of these three cousins together. 

We failed. Perhaps the subconscious decision to keep the camera put away was a good one.

After our bonfire, we headed to church (some of us likely still smelling of smoke and dogs) for the Christmas Eve service. B3 and I stayed long enough for him to excitedly (and loudly) announce "That's PaPa!" from the balcony as PaPa started to speak.  After that, it was all over for him.   We spent the rest of the hour counting cars and playing with trucks in the playground.  Afterwards, our family served a delicious Christmas dinner to several women who were a part of a residential recovery center that my Parents work closely with.  Our three elves were there, too!

(finally - a decent picture!)

Then, it was time for special Christmas pajamas...
and time for the mandatory someone-throwing-up-scene which is as much a part of our family gatherings as red velvet cake and Grandma's rolls.  This time, Uncle Stephen was the lucky recipient of B3's sickness.  Joy.

Speaking of Grandma's rolls, the girls got to help make them.  It's a rite of passage; I know we have photos just like this one of our generation helping Grandma make her rolls.

Christmas morning started with these three wondering what was under the tree.

It was a fun time of discovering Percy Choo Choo trains and Barbies and lots of other goodies.

The day after Christmas found us in the mountains celebrating with the McCraney and Marion families.  After our fun there ended, I realized that I never removed the camera from its case.  Regardless, there are many memories of squeals of laughter, stomps through the woods, and lots of fun. 

We're thankful for the family members who arranged their schedules so that we didn't have to drive all over the state to make visits.  It was so nice to stay more or less in one place but still see so many family members!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Georgia (and Germany) On Our Minds

AK's last day of school before Christmas break was Friday, December 16, so we scheduled our trip back to the US for that night.  Our flight was at 11:30 that evening, and none of us were looking forward to it.  On our trip over here in August, we had all enjoyed the benefits of a Singapore Air business class flight.  No such luck this time.  AK kept talking about her bed on the plane; we repeatedly prepared her for the small, confining seat that would barely recline.  Ben spends a lot of time in the front of the plane, and not even the thrill of travelling with his family could excite him about being in the back.  Way in the back.  As in, the very last four seats in the back. 

Before we boarded, we had a couple of hours to kill in the airport.  We settled in to wait near a piano.  Imagine our surprise when the pianist began to play "Georgia on My Mind". How did he know? Maybe the trip wouldn't be so bad after all.

Despite Air France's efforts to make our trip miserable before we even left Singapore by being unreasonable and uncooperative, the flight was surprisingly uneventful.  AK was asleep before we even took off, but B3 was there to be entertained.  He enjoyed a movie with his little Fisher Price earphones; he played an iPad game; he ate snacks, and he enjoyed the meal that was served.  All at the same time.  At 12:30 am.  I wanted to sleep, but I had to wait until he finally crashed. 

Since we weren't able to enjoy the direct business class flight from Newark this time, we opted for a long layover in Frankfurt. Ben had been there a few years ago during December, and he thought we'd enjoy visiting their Christmas Market. He knew the perfect hotel to stay in, too. We arrived early Saturday morning and left for Georgia on Sunday, so we had one day to play.

We enjoyed Burger King brunch (don't judge; when you're travelling with jet lagged kids, the path of least resistance is our favorite road to take) at the train station near our hotel, while we waited for our hotel room to be ready.  My Dad was stationed in Frankfurt during his Army years long ago, and it seems we ate our lunch in his old neighborhood. I'm sure it's much different now, but it was fun to talk to AK about that fun detail.
Finally, we were able to check in and put on our many layers.  We brought bits and pieces of winter clothes to Singapore, but no one had a complete winter outfit.  Pajama pants became long johns, and I borrowed Ben's fleece jacket since I had brought nothing warm for myself.  We needed all of the clothes we had; it was cold!  It felt a bit strange to wear hats and gloves and boots and scarves after nearly 5 months of wearing short sleeves and sandals. 

The Christmas Market was intriguing.  Never have I seen so many sausages. 

 Never have I seen such decorative sausages. 

Never have I smelled such sausages.  Yes, there were lots and LOTS of sausages!

 And the bratwurst tasted delicious. 

We did a little shopping, but we mostly oohed and ahhed over things we couldn't transport or couldn't afford. Or both.

One of the highlights for AK and B3 was the double decker carousel.  We didn't know the rules for riding, but we watched many people just go and choose a horse.  So, we did, too.  No sooner than I have both kids strapped on did the attendant approach me for our tickets. Oops.  We missed that detail. 

The snacks were plentiful, beautiful, and tempting  These, in particular, caught our eye, but we never tried one.    We finally figured out that they were marshmallow filled. 

Generally not a fan of pretzels, I made an exception for this one. All four of us were glad that I did! It was a soft, tasty pretzel covered in a thick layer of dark chocolate. Milk and white varieties were available, too, but if you know me, you'll know I didn't even give those a second glance.
Everyone loved the pretzel, and Ben also snacked on warm sugared nuts while AK enjoyed the most authentic and German snack of all: cotton candy. 

The market was packed, and the buildings around us were beautiful. 

After just awhile in the market, we headed back to our hotel.  It was cold, everyone was tired, and it was time to call it a day.  B3 and AK thoroughly enjoyed the views from our window.  They watched barges and boats on the Main River, and the lights in the cold winter sky made us thankful to be inside our warm hotel room. 

 B3 and AK were asleep by 6 pm, and they managed to sleep until nearly 6 the next morning. Our little stop over experiment worked well!  Frankfurt is definitely a city I'd like to return to in a more friendly season, but it was certainly worth visiting for the Christmas Market, too. 

Our flight to Atlanta was, again, surprisingly easy, but we were ready to be there far before we arrived.  I wish I had had a way to record AK running to her PaPa waiting for us at baggage claim.  It was so good to be back in the land of grits and all things familiar!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Under Pressure

(Note:  I tried to figure out  how to add music to this post, since I keep hearing Queen's "Under Pressure" playing when I think about typing this.  Obviously, I failed.  I have no idea how to add music.)

We're back in Singapore.  At home.  Yes, Home.  One of us has trouble calling Singapore home while the other has no problem whatsoever with that.  Any guesses which is which?  I might send a prize if you get it right.

 It's taken me longer to get back into the swing of things than it should have.  Perhaps it is the extra winter clothes we returned with that don't yet have a home.  Or, maybe it's the pile of Christmas junk presents that my kids received that need to be put away.  There's a chance that it's the birthday party details that keep derailing me.  Or maybe it's the fact that we've unplugged (figuratively) the TV, and B3's cries of "Mooeee" have been replaced with "Mommy!  Pay ME!" (play with me!). The joy of pottytraining an unwilling subject just adds to our fun.  Whatever the cause, all of the blog posts in my head haven't yet made it to the screen yet.  Be patient. 

Three months ago, I wouldn't even have acknowledged the hiatus.  That was before we went to Georgia for Christmas and I heard, repeatedly, comments like these:

  • "Love your blog!"
  • "I quote your blog at work."
  • "Some of my friends read it every week!"
  • "She asks me nearly every day - 'Anything new on the blog?'"
  • "Keep up the blogging - we enjoy it!"
It was a little startling and unexpected.  I thought you were just being nice.  Then, just today, I've heard one "When will you write again?" during a Facetime chat, and I had one "Will you ever blog again??" email
Uh Oh.  See why I needed the "Under Pressure" theme song for today? 

I had no idea anyone would read.  Honestly, I'm surprised you do.  And I wonder who you are?  . I just checked, and there have been 107 visits to this little blog since 01/01/12, and there's been nothing to see. Who ARE you?  Let me know; leave a comment.  I'm a little freaked out by the fact that anyone whose last name isn't Patton or Marion is even slightly interested. 

Anyway, the adventures will be chronicled once again very soon. I need to tell you about German Christmas fairs, Christmas eve bonfires, The top of the Eiffel Tower, and jet lag. About monkeys and red envelopes and Barbies and John Deere Tractors.

But now, I've got to go find a home for some of those Winter clothes and a find a home for a little Christmas tree that we neglected to pack up last weekend.   I've also got to think of a reasonable explanation for the "Why" I've been asked twice since last Sunday, when I told AK that no, she could not wear her new tiara to Sunday School.  Any suggestions?