Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter/Birthday Recap

Easter Sunday just happened to be Will's 7th birthday, so we had two reasons to celebrate.  Here's our day in pictures:

This is actually the day before -- egg dyeing.

Will really got into it

Not sure what brought about this spontaneous show of affection.

First thing in the morning we had our Easter Egg Hunt

That crazy Easter Bunny left Will a bow and arrow!
He had to promise not to point it at any living things -- especially his sister.

After the egg hunt, it was time for birthday presents.
Here's Will opening his birthday card from Kate.

She gave him bubble gum (or gubble bum, as she calls it).

He liked it enough to give her a hug -- a sure sign of a good gift!

My science book got a more mixed review.  He'll appreciate it later, I'm sure.

But the biggest hit of the day?

One that requires a helmet?  And lots of padding?

Roller blades!  We wasted no time testing them out.

While Will tried out his new skates, Kate rode around on her bike.
And picked flowers in the forest.
Finally, we had some cake -- Easter Bunny birthday cake, carrot, of course!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How to survive a long road trip with small children ... Or why there's no such thing as being too prepared!

I was a little worried before we set off on our road trip to Austria since it was, according to Google maps, a seven-hour drive -- and that's without traffic.  Long drives and small children?  You know how that is... With memories of not-so-pleasant journeys ("Mom, I'm bored!  There's nothing to DO!  How much longer till we're there?  Mom!  Kate touched me!"  "Mom!  Will's looking at me! Make him STOP!") echoing in my head,  I got to work preparing activities for the kids so we could have a peaceful, relaxing trip.  Busy kids are happy kids, right?  And happy (quiet) kids = happy parents.  

First up:  Each kid got an art binder with a brand new notepad, crayons, pencils and stickers.
Kate was so disappointed that hers wasn't pink.  But she got over it.

Lacing cards and lots of thick, fun yarn:

Sandpaper and yarn for creating fun designs:

Kate's favorite -- "Felt Land" -- just a sheet of felt for a background and then various shapes and objects cut out of felt. Apparently, felt sticks to felt so it's easy to design all kinds of scenes and designs. So simple but she loved it!

The castle was Will's idea.  He suggested a princess too but that was beyond my scissor skills.

And Will's favorite -- a map and list of all the countries in Europe for playing the license plate game.  Each time he saw a car from a new country, he'd locate the country on the map, write in its initials, then cross it off the list.  Entertaining and educational!
He spotted cars from 18 countries, and upon pulling onto our street actually saw a car from Andorra. Andorra?  What are the odds of that!
Each activity went into its own manila folder, all of which were neatly contained in a box to be seat-belted into the space between the two kids so no one could knock it to the ground if they both dove for the same activity at once.  Yes, it happens.
Toss in a couple of travel pillows, a few books and a huge bag of snacks, and you've got some very happy kids!

Just to be on the safe side we brought along just a bit of technology too:  an iPad, an iPod, two iPhones and a Nintendo DS (most of which was barely touched).  But in my mind* you can never be too prepared, especially when a "seven-hour" drives turn into nine hours... or longer**.  

And, how did it go?  I'm happy to report that the kids were happily engaged for the entire trip.  Roger and I even got to listen to This American Life podcasts the whole time.  The kids were so quiet I had to keep looking back to see if they were asleep (they weren't).  In fact, when we arrived in Austria they were actually disappointed because they hadn't had enough time playing with all their new activities.  Can you imagine?  After SEVEN hours in the car?  Silly kids...

Anyway, the travel box, as it's come to be known, was a huge success and I'm insisting, much to the kids' disappointment, that all the activities included are only to be used on road trips, never at home.  So the box has been relegated to the back of a closet patiently awaiting our next long drive...

* Roger thought I was crazy.  "Just put a couple of extra movies on the iPad and be done with it!" he told me.  Okay, that probably would've worked too... but it wouldn't have been as much fun for me.  For the kids?  Who knows.

** Yes, it took over nine hours to get back.  Despite the fact that we attempted to drive fast enough that those Germans didn't blow us off the road when they zoomed past at 150+ km an hour, we hit several spots of bad traffic.  


A few weeks ago we took the kids out of school for a few days (shh!!) and headed to Alpbach, Austria, for a quick ski vacation.  It was beautiful!

There wasn't a ton of snow, and upon arriving, we weren't sure whether we'd be able to ski or not.

Better stay on that path!
 But, not to worry.  The top of the mountain was covered:

Roger skied all day, both days.

The kids went to all-day ski school both days we were there.
Kate found a new best friend there.  They called each
other "Briar Rose"-- clearly a match made in heaven.
Will was ready to tackle the mountain.  But the ski instructors said no way since there weren't many beginner slopes because of lack of snow.  But, by the end of the second day, he was ready.

And me?  I skied in the morning (if you could call it that; I'm kind of pathetic on skis.  I need beginner slopes, baby slopes, really), and in the afternoon I read outside by the pool, admiring the view, snuggled in a warm blanket, or I hiked.  Way better than skiing!

While I couldn't get enough of the views, I also loved the architecture.  All these little buildings scattered around:

Check out the rocks on the roof!

Are they holding the roof on??

Can you spot the kitty in this one?
There he is!
Hiking in these mountains was one of my favorite things we've done since moving to Europe.  I can't wait to go back!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Frogs in love

This morning I stepped out my back door nearly right onto this:

As the kids said, "Look, Mom!  They're hugging!"
After I screamed (and grabbed the camera), I had to answer many questions about what the frogs were doing.  We decided these two little frogs just like each other so much that they're giving each other a big hug.  A big, slimy frog hug.  Ick.

Now I know what to expect on my lawn in a couple of days:
These showed up on our lawn nearly exactly a year ago.  No little frogs ever emerged.

Poisson d'Avril

It turns out they celebrate April Fool's Day here too, but it's a little different.  They call it Poisson d'Avril (April Fish??), and rather than playing random jokes, people try to stick a little fish on someone without being noticed.  (I did see a couple of people walking around with paper fish on their backs yesterday.) Fortunately for me, no one told my kids about this.  It's right up their alley.

In addition to pasting fish on the backs of unsuspecting victims, people here seem to celebrate the 1st of April with all kinds of delicious fish-shaped foods:  cakes, pastries, chocolates.  To make up for the breakfast prank, I decided to surprise the kids with this cake:

Of course, in the spirit of April Fool's Day, I couldn't resist telling the kids that the cake was actually made of fish.  (It's not.)  But it's not too much of a stretch, since, as Will reminded me, "They do eat frog's legs here, after all."

Will was going to eat it no matter what, but Kate?  She wasn't so sure.
 But then she gave it a try...

The verdict? Delicious!

They said they'd eat fish cake anytime.  And me?  I'm already busy dreaming up even better pranks for next year...

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fool's!

We love April Fool's Day around here.  Usually Will and I spend weeks thinking of the best pranks to play on Daddy.  One year we replaced his hair gel with lime jello (he didn't notice); another, we parked his car around the corner so he would think it was stolen (this one he did notice).

But, since Roger's currently in Canada, we can't play jokes on him, so the poor, unsuspecting kids bore the brunt of my April Fool's humor.

This was their breakfast today:

Looks perfectly normal, right?

Well, it's not.  The milk is actually gelatin and the cereal?  Frozen!   With the spoon right in...

The kids were so confused.  Poor Kate said, "There's something wrong with my milk.  I think you put egg in it instead."

After Will tried to eat his cereal and the whole bowl came up when he lifted the spoon, he clued in:  "Wait a minute, what day is it?  AWWW, MOM!!"


I crack myself up....