Friday, February 24, 2012

So a couple of weeks ago we took a quick trip to Berlin.  Why you ask?  Well, at the end of this summer, we'll be packing up our things and moving to Berlin!  It'll be a big change for us but we're excited... or most of us are.  Will, who's older and fairly settled in his school now, is more than a little apprehensive about the move.  

This trip gave us the chance to see the city (first time for me and the kids!), check out a couple possible schools, get a feel for the various neighborhoods and even tour a few houses, but even more importantly, it gave us the opportunity to introduce Berlin to the kids in the most positive way possible.  This meant no boring museums, no long treks to crowded touristy sites, not one thing that could be construed as boring to the little ones.  So did we see the Brandenburg Gate?  Checkpoint Charlie?  The remnants of the Berlin Wall?  No, no and no.  We hit exactly zero of Berlin's must-see tourist destinations.  But we did manage to do some pretty cool things during our visit:

  1. Walking on a frozen lake:  Berlin was cold.  Colder than any place I've ever been in my life!  While we were there it got down to -19 degrees Celsius (that's -2.2 F) with a wind that I swear swept straight in from Siberia.  Brrr!  Not such good weather for sightseeing but perfect for sliding around on one of Berlin's many frozen lakes.

I can't believe I'm smiling in this picture.  I literally could not feel my face.

2.  Visited the Berlin Aquarium  -- We'd intended to go to the zoo but then we decided it was just too cold.  Perfect weather for the polar bears but not so much for us.  So instead we stopped by the adjacent aquarium to check out the aquatic creatures.  It's not as impressive as the Monterey Bay Aquarium but the kids loved it anyway.

This is actually just outside the zoo.

3.   Stumbled upon a Carnival parade --  This had to be the highlight of the trip for the kids.  As we were walking back from the aquarium to our hotel, we happened upon this incredible parade:  

Tons of floats, marching bands, dancers and, best of all, people throwing CANDY and TOYS!  

Kate was literally stunned with joy.

Will was so overcome he even forgot to be annoyed when his sister hugged him.
The kids were in heaven.   They ran around like maniacs filling their pockets and ours with as much candy as they could scoop up.  We're still working our way through it two weeks later.

The best part of this was that, in preparation for our trip, I had bought a couple of children's books about Berlin, including this one about the Berlin Airlift.  It's a charming story about a little girl living in Berlin shortly after WWII when the city's supplies were cut off and American forces had to drop in goods by air to keep the people alive.  Much to the delight of local children, one pilot started dropping chocolate bars, each with its own little handkerchief parachute. It's a lovely book, very moving, so much so in fact that I kept getting choked up as I read it.  The kids loved it too.  Kate in particular was enthralled by this story, so when we found this parade and -- upon being hit in the head with a chocolate bar -- she actually shouted, "Mom, can you believe it?  They really do throw candy at you in Berlin!  I LOVE it here!"  :)

She may be in for a rude awakening when she realizes that candy doesn't actually fall out of the sky every day in Berlin.

But, all in all, it was a successful trip!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Perfect Snow

I have a love-hate relationship with snow.  I love to look at it, I love to watch the kids play in it, but I hate driving in it, I hate how cold it is, I hate when it turns the sidewalks into treacherous sheets of ice, I hate the inevitable brown slush, and most of all -- did I mention? -- I hate driving in it.

But this week we had what I'd call a perfect snow:  just enough to cover everything with a light dusting, to let the kids fling snowballs at each other, but not enough for all the other unpleasant things that go along with snow.

Everything looks better with a light dusting of snow!