Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer Update, Part 4 -- Butterflies & Humiliation

Slowly catching up here!

Shortly after we returned from the U.S., the kids and I took a little trip to Grevenmacher, a cute town on the Moselle River near the German border.  The big draw for us was the Butterfly Garden, which we'd heard was great.  It didn't disappoint!

Those are butterflies hanging all over that string.  Take a closer look:

They're nibbling on bananas suspended on the string.  They were flapping all around us, landing on our heads, arms, everywhere!  While I like butterflies, this was a bit too reminiscent of the bat incident for me.  But the kids loved it.  They stood very still...

...hoping the butterflies would land on them (and I could get a picture of it).  It didn't happen.

But we saw so many beautiful butterflies!  A few favorites:

There were also a few less-cute (in my mind) critters as well.  We spent 5 minutes watching this chameleon turn his eyes in different directions.  Creepy!

Walking sticks -- a favorite of Will's since his Kindergarten at home kept these as class pets:

And darling, colorful birds fluttering around:

After the butterfly garden we headed out for lunch.  And that's where the humiliation comes in.  As usual, I had very little cash on me -- somewhere around 15-20 Euros -- so I thought we'd find a place to grab a quick sandwich.  Just around the corner we spotted a cafe offering croque monsieurs and other cheap lunches.  Perfect!  We sat down, only to be told they just had one fixed-price menu available for lunch that day -- soup, followed by steak with fries and salad.  I figured, fine, I'll just pay with a credit card (See where this is going?).  

We had a lovely lunch.  Here's Kate enjoying her potato-leek soup:

When they presented the bill (22 Euros), I handed over my credit card, only to be told, "Sorry.  No credit cards accepted."  Oops.  What kind of sit-down restaurant doesn't take credit cards?  This one, apparently.  After searching my pockets and even trying to bum money off the kids, who are quite often loaded, I determined we had a grand total of 17 Euros.  So I had to tell the very nice server that we didn't have the money and ask where the nearest cash machine was.  In the center of town, about a five-minute drive away.  Leaving my iPhone as collateral, the kids and I headed off in search of cash.  It was no problem.  We were back 20 minutes later, money in hand, to pay the bill and retrieve my phone.  But, it was humiliating.  Lesson learned:  always carry cash or at least ask whether restaurants accept credit cards!!

Summer Update, Part 3

Almost immediately after school got out (July 15), we headed to the U.S. to visit family and friends.  We were there 2.5 weeks, and it was wonderful.

We spent the first 10 days in Sacramento visiting my aunt and other family members.  And swimming.  Lots of swimming!

Then we were off to San Francisco to see friends there.

It's hard to believe we won't be back for at least a whole year!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rainy Sunday

I had such great plans for the weekend.  We were going to go to Nancy, France.  We were going to take out the bikes for a family bike ride.  We were going to hit up Schuberfouer one last time.  We didn't manage to do any of those things.  We did a whole lot of nothing, really, and it rained most of the weekend.  But Kate and I did manage to make this:

Cinnamon bread!  Guess what we're having for breakfast tomorrow?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer update, part 2

In the early part of the summer, our good friends, Ted and Laura came to visit.  Here they are:

We had a great time.  We took them hiking:

Ted took lots of pictures, which is why Roger and I are actually in these photos for a change.

We also went to Vianden, one of the most beautiful castles around:

The castle is perched on top of a giant hill, as so many castles seem to be.  Usually you have to walk or drive to the top, but in Vianden -- in the summer anyway -- there's another option:  the télésiege (chairlift), which swoops you up to the summit in no time at all.  The view from there is fantastic.  I'm not sure why I didn't take any pictures of it!

It was great.  Will was, once again, really impressed.  

It is nearly impossible, if you haven't noticed, to get a decent picture of this boy!

Ted and Laura, however, were much more cooperative.

So any friends and family thinking of visiting:  Come see us!  You too could have pictures like this. ;)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The night the bats invaded

I think I alluded to this story when it happened but I haven't been up for posting it till now.  Actually, I wasn't even ready to download the pictures of "Mr. Bat," as he's come to be known.  I couldn't bear to look at them.  But I was feeling brave last week (actually the memory card in my camera was full) so I downloaded the photos and am now ready to tell the story.

Late one night as I was going to bed, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something flutter by.  My first thought was that it was a moth.  But it was WAY too big to be a moth.  It dawned on me then what it had to be:  a bat.  Brave woman that I am,  I screamed at the top of my lungs, gathered up my sleeping daughter (who was in my bed since Roger was, as usual, out of town), and ran out of the room.  I raced up to Kate's room, deposited her on her bed, slammed the door, then started to gather my wits.  I knew I had to go out there.  I had to find the bat and get it out of the house.  

So, after a quick stop in the bathroom for a shower cap (you know what they say about bats getting tangled in your hair.  A myth?  Maybe, but I wasn't taking any chances), I made my way downstairs.  And then it (or was it them?  It seemed like a flock!) flapped right by my head.  I screamed again and ran back up to the room.  Gathered my courage, stepped back out, it flapped by me, I retreated to the bedroom, screaming.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I finally got it together enough to venture out again.  I made my way slowly down the stairs.  It flapped by my head again and flew into the living/dining room.  Quickly I shut the doors.  It was trapped.  But, of course, it couldn't get out of the house that way.  So I plucked up my courage again, raced into the living room, slamming the door behind me, opened the sliding glass door to the outside, dashed back into the safety of the hallway, and waited for it to leave.  But it didn't.  It was so disoriented (or, as I imagined, out for my blood) that it wouldn't fly outside.  It just did circles around my living room.  

At a loss for what to do, I glanced out my window and saw my neighbor -- whom I'd actually never met but saw around on a regular basis -- and so I raced outside, yelling in my terrible French, "Excuse me, could you please help me?  There's a bat in my house!!"  He was kind enough to take pity on the hysterical woman in her bathrobe, came in and chased the bat around the living room with a pillow for 20 minutes.  The stupid thing would NOT leave!  Finally, he said he thought it was gone but he wasn't sure.  

I decided to call it a night and try to get some sleep.  So I went back up to Kate's room and tried to go to bed.  But, naturally, 10 minutes later I really needed to use the bathroom.  I tried to ignore it and go to sleep but it didn't work.  So I cautiously ventured out.  And right there, sitting on the floor right in front of the bedroom door, was a BAT!!  Again, I screamed and ran back into the room.

So this meant that either a) the bat had escaped the living room; or b) there was another bat in the house.  Hoping beyond hope it was option a, I went downstairs to check.  Nope, there was bat number 1 still flapping around my living room.  So where was bat number two??  I plucked up my courage, and set off to search the house.    I looked everywhere from the ground floor to the attic, looking under beds with flashlights, behind curtains, picture frames, furniture.  No bat.  At a loss, I called my brother who gave me some good bat hunting tips but then advised me to go to sleep and look again in the morning.  "If you're worried," he said, "go to bed with a rolled-up towel stuffed under the door, because you know they can slip in through holes the size of a quarter, right?"  No, I did not know that.  Thanks a lot, Sean.

So, taking my brother's advice, I tried to go to sleep.  Not much luck, but I was feeling significantly braver once the sun came up.  I searched the house in the morning again but saw no sign of either bat.  Where could they have gone??  The second bat was nowhere to be found, nor was the one in the living room.  In the U.S., I would've known who to call, but here?  Not a clue.  Roger was gone for the whole week and there wasn't anyone I could think of to come and de-bat my house.  So I called our relocation company.  They handled everything else for us, so why not a bat invasion?  They were stumped but told me they'd get back to me.  A few minutes later, they called back and told me that basically, I was on my own.  Bats, apparently, are protected here in Luxembourg, so you can't call an exterminator as you would for mice or rats.  There was one guy, a biologist, who could come and remove the bats, but he was on holiday.  For two weeks.  So the relocation company wasn't very helpful at solving the bat situation, but they were able to book us into a very nice hotel for the next night. :)  There was no way I was up for another night of bat-chasing.  Not on 30 minutes of fitful sleep...

The kids and I had a playdate scheduled that morning, so off we went.  I, for one, was relieved to be out of the house. I related the story to my friend who -- very generously -- volunteered her husband to come over and search the house for us.  I leapt at the offer.  So the kids and I went home and waited for him to arrive.  As we walked in the door, there was bat #1 flapping around the living room.  I cowered in the kitchen while the kids watched, transfixed, with their noses pressed up against the sliding glass door as the bat flew around the living room.  Fortunately, our friends arrived just then -- my friend, her husband, Bryce, and their two kids.  As I once again cowered in the kitchen, everyone watched as Bryce slipped into the room with the bat.  He snuck up on the bat, who was at this point, exhausted, and slipped Kate's princess hat box over it.  He then slid a plastic cutting board under the box, trapping the bat.

Here's the bat on the living room floor.  Note:  Don't be fooled by how little it looks.  It was MUCH bigger when it was flapping around my head in the middle of the night.

The bat was then taken outside and released on the deck.  The poor little thing was so exhausted and dehydrated, he just sat there, lapping up rain water:

He sat there for a long time, not moving, and I started to worry he might be sick.  Bats do carry rabies, you know, and he'd been flapping around the room with my defenseless, sleeping daughter.  So, I called the pediatrician, just to see if I should be concerned.  She connected me with the local center for infectious diseases, who advised me that it was unlikely we had reason to be worried, but if it would make me feel better, I could take the bat to a local animal rescue center where they would observe it for 10 days to make sure it was healthy.

At this point, the bat was not looking too good*:

Not that bats ever look "good" in my mind, but you know what I mean.  By this point, our very brave and helpful friends had left, so if I was going to take the bat in, it was up to me.  Once again, drawing up my courage, I slipped out there, slapped the basket of my salad spinner over the bat, then slid the plastic cutting board underneath it.  The bat was trapped.  My sweet children were concerned it was hungry, so they gathered up dead bugs and slipped them into the basket with the bat.   Of course, we couldn't transport the bat this way to the animal rescue center -- about a 20 minute drive from the house -- so we came up with this:

The bungee cords were my idea.  Will was delighted that the box said "hats" and I had to talk him out of changing the "h" to a "b."  So then we all got in the car and had a very tense drive to the animal rescue center, with me convinced that every bump would liberate the bat so he could once again flap around our heads.  Fortunately, we made it there without incident and handed the bat over.  Phew.

Since Bryce's exhaustive search of our house hadn't turned up bat #2, and for all I knew, we had a whole colony roosting in the attic just waiting till nightfall to invade, we decided to spend the night in a hotel.  In fact, we didn't come back until Roger came home at the end of the week.  Call me a coward, but I can't handle bats.  No way.  I called the landlady who was shocked by the incident and, to my relief, informed me that this was not a regular occurrence.  She found a bat expert to come out and check the house to make sure we didn't have a colony living with us.  Fortunately, he found no signs of this and told me he that it was most likely a fluke.  He found one possible entry point, which we promptly plugged up.  I hesitate to even write this, but we haven't had any visitors since.

I have to say, even two months later, that I am not over this little incident.  I seriously think I'm suffering from post-traumatic bat syndrome.  Every night for two weeks I made Roger search the house for bats with a flashlight.  Occasionally, he had to search multiple times per night.  At one point, I was convinced bat #2 was living in our box spring.  I woke up more than once from a vivid dream convinced that a bat had just brushed by my face.  I still say a little prayer every time I walk up the stairs to kiss my children good night that there are no bats in the house.  Why do they scare me so much?  I don't know.  They're harmless (except for the remote possibility of rabies).  They eat their body weight in insects every night.  They don't actually get tangled in your hair.  They're good for the environment!  They're fabulous little creatures.  Fine, but NOT when they're in my house.

And bat #2?  We never saw him again.  Where he went, I have no idea.  I just hope he came out the way he came in and informed all his little bat friends that this house was NOT a good place to live. 

* I cannot take credit for these photos.  As the bat-trapping was going on, I was once again cowering in the kitchen.  My very brave friend, Katy, took those pictures.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A few summer adventures

I have to say that the only thing better than spring in Luxembourg is SUMMER!  With the exception of a few dreary, rainy stretches, the weather has been lovely -- warm but not too hot, and not a bit of San Francisco fog in sight.  The summer has gone so fast, partly because the kids didn't get out of school till July 15, but we have been doing our best to make the most of this all-too-brief season.  A few of the things we've done:

Visited Strasbourg, France -- a beautiful town near the German border:

The grownups enjoyed walking around, looking at all the beautiful old half-timbered houses, and the kids loved blowing off some steam at a nearby playground:

Plus, there were storks, LOTS and LOTS of storks.  We knew the town was famous for this because they had things like this all over:

But we had no idea the incredible number of storks in the city.  They were EVERYWHERE!

In the park:

On the treetops:

On chimneys:

They were literally everywhere.  We loved it!

We've also gone to a few medieval festivals, a big hit with the kids:

The kids got to play at being princesses:

And knights in chain mail:

To participate in medieval magic shows:

And admire lovely castles:

More to come!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Still here...

I know it's been a long time since I've posted, but we have been very busy having lots of great summer adventures.  I'll be back in the next few days with tons of pictures and updates, but in the meantime, here's a picture of Kate modeling her newest Mommy-knitted dress: