Happy 1st Birthday, Baby!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Happy birthday, baby!I’m sure I’m not the only mama out there that breathes a HUGE sigh of relief at the arrival of baby’s first birthday.  I always feel like it’s such a miracle to make it to one.

This special moment is a milestone of the best kind, one that can’t be criticized, analyzed, or compartmentalized.  No matter what your baby is doing – eating, sleeping, crawling, walking, somersaulting, bungee jumping – the first birthday is a day for the whole family to celebrate.

Big Foot’s arrival was a bumpy one; but, I thank God every day that through it all, we made it through with a healthy baby.  I know we are so blessed, so lucky, to have the biggest complaint lie in almost 8 months of sleepless nights.

This is a season of wonder for us.  This cranky baby who took 7 months to decide that life outside the womb was okay, even good, now shrieks with laughter and joy.  We are amazed at his determination to walk as early as possible and to perfect his balance in order to chase after the big boys.  As the big 1 approaches, we are so thankful for this bright-eyed boy built of solid muscle and trimmed in pinchable pudge.

In his first year of life, our wee traveler-in-training has visited 8 countries and 4 US states, crossed the Atlantic four times, traveled by train/bus/car/and plane, made his mark at 8 castles, and sneezed at one of the highest mountain peaks in Europe.  That’s a busy 12 months for such a little guy!

We love you, Big Foot, and we look forward to the many adventures to come over the years.  Happy birthday, baby!

P.s. – In case you are wondering about the photo… For all the emotions this kid has in him, he barely blinked at the sugar high served to him on a plastic orange platter.  No glee – no tears.  I guess this is preparing me to expect the unexpected from this little man!Signature-Marigold

Getting My German Driver’s License: The Test

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - Drivers LicenseAgainst all odds, thanks be to God, both Doc Sci and I passed our written German driver’s license tests!  Whew!  I am so glad that is over.

A little about the test… The written (theory) exam is 30 questions, 90 points total.  The questions range in point value from 2 to 5 according to the seriousness of the question.  In order to pass, one must get at least 80 points.  Less than that, and you’ll find yourself re-taking the exam.

Doc Sci and I used http://www.my-fuehrerschein.de/ to study.  It was recommended the most among Toytown forum posts, and it utilizes the exact same English questions as the official test.  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get the precise English translation that will be used for the exam.  Some questions literally make no sense as translated.

Unfortunately, we greatly underestimated the amount of time required to complete all the practice tests.  There are 900 questions in the pool, and though we had studied all of them, it’s hard to remember all 900 at once without taking practice tests.

We both felt we were not ready, so I called to reschedule our exam.  As it turns out, it’s possible to reschedule the test four days prior, but after that, appointments are locked in the system.  Whether you show up or not, you will owe 20,83 euro for your time slot, payable whenever you do actually take the test.

Doc Sci determined that we should study our little non-German-speaking hearts out, and do our best to pass since we would have to pay for the slot anyway.  And study we did. all. weekend. long.

But, we passed!  Hooray!

In order to show the absolute frivolity and hilarity of some of the questions, I’ve posted a few of them below.  I find it rather interesting that Germans have to know things about drugs, the environment, trailers, total mass, etc. that would never appear on an American exam.  So, enjoy!  I’ll post again when I receive my actual Führerschein.

Miracle: How It All Shakes Out

Before we went to Korea, I mentioned we had this crazy don’t-know-where-we’ll-be-living-in-a-few-weeks thing going on.  Well, now we know, and this is how it all shakes out.

The skinny: we’re staying in Germany!  And, we’re staying put in our apartment!

The details: A friend of ours gave Doc Sci’s resume to a new professor in town.  And, not just any professor, but one with lots of funding (€€€€€) and no researchers on his team yet.  The field is a bit outside of Doc Sci’s very narrow focus (apparently that’s what happens when you get a PhD).  But, he’s wanted to break into this subject for a while, and this new job is a perfect opportunity to do just that.

After two interviews, Doc Sci was offered and accepted the position.  The job is for 2-3 years with the same or higher pay (not sure exactly since the contract hasn’t been signed yet, but that’s typical for it to be done at the last minute).  The office is five minutes from his old one, and the same distance from our apartment.  The boss is okay with speaking English, and he is willing to let Doc Sci take time out for German courses.

Could we ask for anything more?  Not in this market, no way!

And, then, about the apartment… I mentioned in my previous post that our current home had already been re-rented.  Doc Sci sent an email to inquire about any other openings of furnished units in our city.  This is the reply that we received:

Dear Doc Sci,

It is your happy day. The person Mr. So&So offered the flat has refused the offer and today he wanted to offer it to the next person. Because he hasn´t done that so far we are able to extend your contract.

Please contact Mr. So&So for the extension.

Best regards,

Nice Lady at the International Office*

*names have been changed to protect friendly people with funky Germish language construction

So, there you have it.  We prayed, God answered.  Just not in a way I would have ever expected!  It figures that the only thing I thought I knew for sure was still not for sure.  Only God is for sure, and I think he wanted me to know that.

Though part of me would love to have a place a bit more home-y, I am thankful to not have to move.  My kids are thankful too; they just don’t know it.

And, since we get to stay in the steal-of-a-deal cheap apartment, we will be hitting up IKEA to make this place more like home for the next two years.  Merry (early) Christmas to me!

Miracle: Marathon!

What a week for my beloved macbook to crash and burn, almost literally.  I do not know who (other than me!) is praying for my machine, but it has suddenly resurrected itself.  I’m backing up files and sneaking in a few blog posts before I anticipate the final blue screen of computer death.

Though my computer wiped out, I did not!  I made it!  I finished the marathon last Sunday!  Thank God!

Eat it, 26.2!

(or 42 and some change if you’re into the whole metric thing)

And, how did it go?  Well, it just wouldn’t be like me to not have a story to tell.

So…

After my 19 mile run weeks ago, my iliotibilial band (say that fifty times fast) started hurting.  It got a bit worse, but I ran my 22 mile run anyway because my travel schedule afforded no alternative date for such a feat.  I iced, I stretched, I prayed.  The pain eventually stabilized, neither increasing nor decreasing.

When my injury first manifested, I wanted to visit a chiropractor because apparently iliotibilial band issues can be traced to faulty pelvic mechanics (nothing to do with wrenches, mind you).  My insurance didn’t cover chiropractic care; self-pay would cost me 120 euros PER VISIT.  I have a history with chiros and know they want you to come 3x/week for the rest of your life.  This is Thrifty Travel Mama, not Rollin’ In It Travel Mama.

During a conversation with a German friend the weekend before the marathon, I found out about such thing as an orthopedic doctor.  This doctor seems to be some kind of sports medicine / osteopath type person, but it is a regular kind of dude that does not cost more than a month’s worth of kindergarten tuition for one visit.  I prayed for an appointment.. and got one.

(Are you getting the prayer theme yet?  Do not attempt such a ridiculous stunt without it.  Or, life in general for that matter.)

This particular doctor was very nice, and seemed to be a runner himself.  I got an ultrasound on my leg, two shots of cortisone, and the advice to slow my finish goal to 4 hours, 30 mins.  Screech got a free truck.  I walked away with less pain and the hope that I would be able to make it through the entire race.

We left on Saturday since it is impossible to get from my city by train in time to make the 11:11am start.  During the first train ride, T-Rex complained of stomach pain.  On the second of the three trains we took, he barfed a bit on Doc Sci’s jeans, just enough to be annoying.  We cleaned it up and moved to the end of the train car since we were going to get off in about 10 minutes.

Again, T-Rex said his stomach hurt.  I didn’t think much of it until he started to moan and then BLECK, wretched all over the train car floor.  I just looked at it, dumbfounded, trying to figure out what to do when BLECK, up came the next round.  And the next.  And the next.  No one moved.  No one helped.  Just a lone, “oh great,” was heard from somewhere in the car.

We quickly grabbed some paper towels to clean ourselves up (I was the lucky recipient this time), and then haphazardly scattered the rest of the paper towels on the sea of vomit.  Boy, was I glad to get off that train.  But then the real freaking out began.

For those who don’t have kids… Stomach viruses are very common in kindergartens.  Unfortunately, they move fast and can lay an entire family low for a week (case in point).  To kill it, you have to clean with bleach.  Nothing else will do.  Not only did I not have bleach but considering the circumstances, I couldn’t even quarantine myself off from the potential bug.

So we prayed.  A lot.  And God answered.  T-Rex didn’t hurl again, and neither did anyone else in our family.

We arrived on the island of Lindau (still in Germany) in the afternoon and followed the well-posted signs to the Sparkasse DreiLänder Marathon convention where I picked up my participant packet and dropped off my homemade gatorade.

Marathon convention!

For sale at the convention.. this awesome lederhosen compression running suit. Gotta get me one a these!

I was impressed with how well signed everything was. We easily found our way around without a map.

Lindau was a cool little island. This building housed the health symposium. Sweet.

I have no idea if US marathons do this, but in European marathons, you can have your own nutrition (food and/or drink) dropped off at a designated point along the race route.  Nice to not have to carry your own all the way or just rely on the sustenance provided.

Think spaghetti and tomato sauce can't be screwed up? Try it in Germany. Even the pile of Parmesan couldn't help.

We then stuffed our faces with some seriously awful pasta and took a ferry to Bregenz (Austria) where we had reservations at the Pension Sonne for the night.

Pension Sonne - en suite bathroom. The floor below us had shared bathrooms.

Triple room - 3 beds and that's it.

Pension Sonne was totally overpriced (126 euros per night) because of the marathon, but it was the best I could do for a triple room.  It was old and basic for sure.  However, I was surprised to find out that our room included breakfast (which for Doc Sci also means lunch because German breakfast is basically sandwich fixin’s).

This helicopter was at the start and followed the winner to the finish.

After breakfast, we headed for the port where I would take the third of four ferries back to Lindau (the start location).  Thirty minutes before, the place was packed with runners.  Luckily, I got on the ship.  I stretched and then stood in line for the bathroom.  Total mistake – I should have stretched in line since I had to wait at least 30 minutes for the port-a-potty and barely made it to the start in time.

All these people are waiting to get on the ferry!

The ferry between Lindau and Bregenz.

While in the loo line, the girl in front of me turned around and asked if I spoke English.  Why yes, yes, I do.  Turns out Jenny (hi, Jenny!) was from New York but is living in Germany with her husband and two boys who would wait for her at the finish line.  It was nice to have a conversation and start the race with someone, though we only ran together for about 5 minutes.

My start block was right next to this funky tower with Rapunzel accessory.

A note about the Sparkasse DreiLänder Marathon… It’s billed as a “marathon for the eyes” and supposed to be a great scenic course that starts in Germany and runs through Austria and Switzerland.  While it is true that it does go through three countries, only the beginning sports super amazing scenery.  Some parts are ridiculously boring (industrial plants and typical residential streets), and some are seriously smelly (cow pastures, mmmmm).

Crazy, weird, ginormous statue we ran past in Bregenz.

Pretty part of the route by the Bodensee (big lake).

This crazy fog came in Saturday evening, stayed through the morning, and lifted for 3 of the 4 hours I ran.

Also, most runners for this race are half marathoners or quarter marathoners and everyone starts at the same time.  This means the route is very crowded at the beginning and after the half marathoners wimp out and finish, very few marathoners are left and it can feel like you are running alone at times.

Rounding the 10k mark.

Anyway, I made it easily to Doc Sci  and the boys standing at the 10k mark.  What a boost to see three handsome men cheering me on!  My iliotibilial band felt fine – I couldn’t believe it.  From 11k to 21k, I could tell I was tired.  I didn’t run as much in the last four weeks as I should have due to the injury.  I felt myself dragging but pushed to remain running continuously for at least the first half.

For running nerds (and electrical engineering nerds), this sticker on the back of my race number kept track of my time! No more champion chip on the shoe.. this sticker is all I needed. Doc Sci thought it was totally cool I would be wearing an antenna and RFID device.

Almost to 21k, I saw a girl holding a sign that said, “Yes You Can” (in English).  She smiled directly at me, and call me silly but somehow I felt that message was for me.  It was a boost I needed and a moment I remembered through the rest of the race.

Somewhere in the third quarter of the race, I started walking through most of the water stops.  I would have liked to run the entire race, but my injury pretty much dictated that would be unrealistic.  Plus, I would have to go to the bathroom at least once and there’s no way I’m going to run while doing that!

This is what my kids did while I ran.

So many times, I wanted to just quit.  Sometimes I’d walk a few paces and then remember inspiring quotes I’d seen, like “I don’t stop when I’m tired.  I stop when I’m finished.”  I thought about how nice a shower would be and how I wanted to see my boys again.  I would see people limping and unable to finish.  I’d pray for them and then pray that didn’t happen to me.  I only plan to do one marathon, and this is it.  Finish well, finish strong.

At kilometer 40 (of 42), someone passed out and an ambulance came.  I had to run around the vehicle as it took up the entire path.  I just kept praying and running past all the walkers (so many stopped running!).

I reached the finish stadium which was a tease because the route actually goes around the outside, then inside, then halfway around the track.  Sheesh!

Before going in to the stadium, I saw my boys!  Yay!  T-Rex came out and ran the last bit with me.  I could have had a little bit faster time, but I was glad to have my son cross the finish line with me.

Here I come!

About to enter the stadium with T-Rex.

Running to the finish with T-Rex!

All of my men have been so supportive in this adventure.  For five months, Doc Sci rode his bike next to me on my weekend long runs and the boys put up with long rides in the bike trailer.  I had no one to actually run training routes with me (except 12 miles with Sarah – hi Sarah!), but these boys were with me the whole way.  I know I could not have completed training or the marathon without their support nor without God’s strength and goodness.

By the numbers:

  • 500 miles of running (including the race)
  • 5 months of training time
  • 4 countries where I trained: Germany, France, Bulgaria, USA
  • 2 pair of running shoes
  • 4 hours, 23 minutes, 1 second finish time

 

Miracle: I’m No Longer Invisible

Portrait of me, courtesy of T-Rex.

The last few weeks completely whizzed by in a traveling blur.  Because of this, I barely had time to realize a very exciting milestone.  We have now lived in Germany for a whole, entire year!

Some days I feel like I’ve lived here for many years.  Other days, especially the ones where I find myself back in the US driving a car and shopping at Target, it seems like I exist in two parallel universes.  One is real and one is fake, only I am at a loss to identify which is which.

I received an unexpected gift on Monday to celebrate the milestone.  The mother of one of T-Rex’s classmates actually talked to me.  Sounds so pathetic, doesn’t it?  Whether she really is nice or just didn’t want to ride the tram in awkward I-know-you-and-I-have-to-say-hi-but-don’t-know-what-else-to-talk-about silence, I’m not sure.  But the fact that she initiated a conversation in German just has me blown away.

I’m thankful for my handful of friends here.  They are wonderful and without them, I could not have made it through the past 365+ days.  I’ve tried to be outgoing (which is unfortunately totally opposite of my personality) and expand my circle of acquaintances, but I wound up discouraged so many times.  Most exchanges begin and end with “hallo” and a smile.  It’s no secret I speak English, and mein Deutsch ist schlecht.  For cultural or personal reasons, it seemed obvious to me that other mamas just didn’t want to make the effort.

So you can only imagine my surprise when this mama not only started talking to me but kept the conversation going and even tried to speak some things in English when I fumbled auf Deutsch.  When I apologized for my horrific German skills, she told me not to worry – last year I didn’t speak ANY German.

How true, and how kind.  Happy one year in Germany to me!

Miracle: The Littlest Cyclist

Since we’re fresh out of friends lately, we have to do something to pass the time other than munch through our entire peanut butter cracker stash, right?

I’m charging ahead with Rosetta Stone German and will have an update on that for you next week.  Screech is now starting to use the BIG potty (with a little seat) and is almost accident-free.  He’s also waking up dry from naps which just blows my socks off.  Not that I wear socks in summer, but if I did, they’d be a-flyin’.

And, T-Rex, well, he’s also decided to man up and learn something huge.  He’s riding a pedal bike!

I’m not really sure what age most kids start riding a bike.  I’m almost certain I was at least 6; Doc Sci thinks he was 7 or 8.  But that’s because we’re Americans and our parents used those pesky things called training wheels.

When T-Rex was two, I tried to teach him to ride a tricycle.  It was despicable, awful, a fate comparable to the plague.  How the junk do you teach a two year-old to turn, much less pedal?  If you’re thinking your hair’s a bit thick and could use some pulling out, borrow a two year-old and a tricycle and have at it.

I’m now a big believer in two European toys: the Bobby car and the balance bike.  Both of my boys learned to steer on Bobby cars, and the Puky laufrad(walking, no-pedal bike) definitely taught T-Rex to balance.

T-Rex on his Puky laufrad last fall.

Funny though, when I googled “when do kids learn to ride a bike,” I came up with this guy’s website that says, “There are a number of companies pushing re-invented draisines [no-pedal bikes] as an intermediate step between tricycles and bicycles. These are a waste of time and money. You can achieve the same effect simply by unscrewing the pedals from a real bicycle.”  While I agree that you could just unscrew the pedals from a real bicycle, I think the wasted item is the tricycle, not the balance bike.  I’m not bitter.  Really.

We took the advice of a friend here who told us to go straight to the real bike and skip training wheels altogether.  I’m so glad we did!  We found a small pedal bike at a flohmarkt (yeah buddy!) and forged ahead with the task.  Because T-Rex already knew how to balance, he was able to learn pedaling in about 3 days.  I was totally shocked.

I still am.

About to try out the bike for the first time.

A little help from Doc Sci/Daddy.

And, away he goes!

It has been such fun to teach my little boy something that he will know for the rest of his life and he truly enjoys.  He seems all grown up to me at only 3 1/2.  Sheesh.

However, one thing we have learned in all of this is that ability does not necessarily equal responsibility.  After T-Rex had been riding for about 2 weeks, I let him ride his bike with me to the public pool, about 2 miles away.  Though most of route consisted of bike paths, we still had to cross some intersections and go up and down a few hills.  He was completely unprepared, and we both ended up frustrated.

We’ve since scaled back and now mostly have him to ride it to the grocery store or nearby park all the while practicing riding up and down hills, emphasizing which side of the path to stay on, and remembering to look up not down.  We’ll get there, slowly but surely.

P.s. – The best part is that T-Rex takes a REALLY good nap after he practices.  Score!

What age did you learn to ride a bike and/or what age did you teach your kids?

Miracle: New Fridge!

Herr is the word for Lord, and Lieb can mean all sorts of things, but it reminds me of the word for love, Liebe. My fridge tells me to love God. How cool is that.

Oh man gracious, I am so excited about this.  I just have to tell someone!!! So I’m telling you.  We have a new fridge!

And, we didn’t pay for it.  Score!

The old one. We'll still use him for leftovers 'n stuff. And, yes, I totally do have dirty dishes in my sink. Doc Sci really should do something about that.

I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about my hotel room-sized fridge before (maybe they thought it would remind me of traveling?).  Well, the thing started freezing the food in the back, and the butter on the door was practically room temperature.

If I turned down the temperature (warmer), much of the food went bad.  Fast.  If I turned up the temperature (colder), almost everything froze.  Iced salad anyone?

Don't open too many condiments at once. Like my washing machine hoses that decorate the institutional floor?

I protested to the hausmeister (building super) that this was not normal or economical.  Appeal to the German values, right?  He tried to say that it was just because I had items too close to the back of the fridge.  Hogwash.  Then, out of the blue (no prompting from me), he decided the fridge was too small for four people.  Right on, cowboy.

Mr. Hausmeister man said he would order us a big one.  Okay.  A week went by.  Two weeks.  I thought surely we’d have the big one in time for Doc Sci’s birthday.  Four weeks.  I was dying to make iced tea (impossible in the old fridge unless I made it by the tupperware-ful).  Five weeks.  When I’d ask for an update, I usually could not understand what in the world the dude was telling me, but it didn’t sound good.

Lured by the idea of cold soda(whoa), I pulled a few strings with the student leasing office and voila!  Our new fridge arrived Tuesday.

This bad boy is AS TALL AS ME!!! Okay, that's not saying much, but whatever.

I’m STOKED.

Do you KNOW how much milk I can buy at the store now.. at one time?  I might even be able to.. grocery shop only once a week!  Living dangerously, I know.

This is like movin' up from the Motel 6 to the Ritz. The only catch? It doesn't fit in the kitchen! It's in the living room, right next to the dining table.

Okay, okay, enough with the recipes and fridge stories.  I’ll write you something travel-ish soon.  Until then, enjoy some ice in your drink.  For me.  Cheers!

Miracle: My (Surprising) Lack of Culture Shock

Maybe I just don’t notice.  Maybe I am just too busy to notice I’m not noticing.  But one thing’s for sure.  The words culture and shock have not held hands nor gone together through, in, out, under, or over my brain in quite some time.  It’s in the not noticing that I actually realized how much I have grown accustomed to living here in Germany.

A friend commented today on how brave I was for toting my kids all over God’s green earth.  Well, actually, she didn’t say that.  Germans don’t use that expression.  But, she did say I was brave.  I definitely don’t think of myself as brave.  It’s more that I think if I sat in one place for too long, God’s green earth would start growing out my ears and over my eyeballs instead of on the ground as it’s supposed to.  And while I definitely haven’t been in this country long enough for that to happen, I guess after almost eight months, Germany just doesn’t seem all that different.

Granted, they do have weird toilets, eat way too much pork (I still have yet to see a single pig here, alive), selectively choose when (and if) to wear deodorant, drive manual transmissions, take Sundays off for real, and participate in a socially-accepted clothing-optional policy for bodies near bodies of water.

But, I look like they do (except when we’re next to each other on the lake shore), and as long as I don’t open my mouth, nobody knows I’m not from ’round these parts.  Actually, it’s really as long as my kids don’t open their pie holes.  They always give me away.  Every time.

And speaking of those kiddos, for being as young as they are, they have adapted marvelously.  T-Rex loves his kindergarten and his teachers.  He seems to enjoy figuring out German and when to speak which language and with whom.  He has started learning what it means to be friends.  And, Screech, well, as long as there’s warm milk, bread and his family, he could set up camp just about anywhere.

When I lived in Russia, I watched a friend’s mom get diagnosed with cancer and shortly thereafter pass away in a dirty hospital with questionable care.  A prominent member of our church here (in Germany) has been diagnosed with cancer and is now fighting for his life.  Why-do-bad-things-happen probing aside, it doesn’t feel unfair.  I don’t feel frustrated that he might receive better treatment if he were in the US.

I’m not worried my boys (or their parents) are going to contract some hideous, serious, dramatic disease.  We have clean water to drink.  In abundance.  It’s safe to ride a bike alone at 11pm.  And though it may get old to get stopped constantly for having a cool pram and cute kids, I am not stared at constantly (or in danger) because my skin is a different color.  If I lived somewhere else, these things might not be so.

I really do have so much for which to be thankful.  We have a church, a home group, friends, neighbors, book club buddies, and provision for all our physical needs.  And perhaps it is out of this thankfulness that I have grown so accustomed to this place.

It’s possible I won’t always feel this way about Germany.  It’s definitely not implausible to think that next week I’ll want to go home (wherever that is).  But, for now, we’re enjoying our adventure abroad.  And man-oh-man are we trying like mad to learn German to help others and be helped.

And, so even though we happen to be very unshaken by this culture at this moment in time, I know there are those in our community – and yours – who are just trying to figure out which way is up.  Who have you noticed around you that needs help?  You’d be surprised how much you can communicate without a common language.  So bake some cupcakes, put on a smile, and offer your friendship to someone new near you.

Miracle: I Survived the Hair Salon

And I don’t even have anything cool to tell you.  I thought it would be kind of crazy trying to explain what I wanted.  I thought I’d come out with hair four inches shorter than I intended.  I thought I’d have to use wild (animal) gestures to give details about the ins and outs of my locks.

Nope.

I walked in, found a girl who speaks English, made an appointment for 1 hr later, came back, and got it chopped.  It even looks decent. (note: this is NOT my usual result when trying a new stylist)

But that’s boring.  Way to ruin my blog post for the day, hair lady. But way to get my hair cut right, hair lady.

The only weird thing was that having the stylist blow dry your hair almost doubled the cost of the cut.  If you don’t want to pay for her to do it, they’ll give you a blow dryer and a brush and you can do it yourself.

So ha!  I found a bargain.  But it’s still not the wild & crazy, hair-brained adventure I envisioned.

Baby, it's cold outside!

Instead, I’ll show you our snow.  That’s my littlest pumpkin, er I mean that’s Screech.  He’s being hounded by a really determined snow swirly.  What’s a snow swirly?  It’s one of those pockets of wind that just blows the white stuff around and around until it gets in all the cracks and crevices, finding your open scarf, the gap between your gloves and your sleeves, and your exposed ankles in order to make you as miserable as possible.

I should mention that the little man attracted this much snow in about 90 seconds.  I’m (pretty) sure we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Since my hair story was so, well, um, not a story, let’s hear your stories.  Did you get a frizzy poodle perm?  Six inches off instead of one?  I had a lady drop a curling iron on me once while doing an updo.  Did anything freakish like that happen to you?

Travelzoo Wednesday

Wednesday is list day – Travelzoo Top 20 List, among other things.  I actually had a list going yesterday of a million and one not-so-smooth moves, downright dumb stuff I found myself doing.  Only I didn’t write them down.  So now I can’t remember the million.  But I can remember one.

T-Rex is starting to go to gymnastics on Tuesdays.  Before you get all giggly about men in tights, this isn’t really gymnastics.  It’s more like Coordination for Preschoolers.  It’s fun for both boys and great for me.  Except for the bike ride back.  Pedestrians galore, mad gobs of traffic, and uphill the whole stinkin’ way.  It’s brutal.

Back to the dumb thing… I didn’t check my phone.  If I had done that, I would have seen a text from my friend that the teacher was sick and therefore no gymnastics today.  But I didn’t.  Because I was in a hurry.  I’m usually in a hurry.

But voila!  My stupidity turned to opportunity.  God gave me a little miracle outside the closed door of the gym.  I met an American mama.. from Texas.. with two girls.. the same ages (within weeks) of my boys.. who lives 5 mins from me.  Wowie.  I would say that’s worth the sweaty ride home.

p.s. – I also got a sweet deal on flights to Praha.. for the exact dates I wanted.. and a flat.. for the same exact dates I wanted..  That made up for the remaining million.

Top 20 Picks – US Edition

Ireland Luxury Getaway: Four Seasons Hotel incl. Air : Warning.  This week’s edition has lots of dream trips.  Not too much in the way of practical, low-budget stuff.  I’m sorry.  I don’t make the list.  But I do make Christmas lists – still!  And you should too.  Put one or two or more of these on there.  I love Dublin.  If you haven’t been, it’s a great place to start.  And who could go wrong with the Four Seasons?

India 3-City Vacation incl. Tours & Airfare : I think this price is probably pretty good considering airfare alone can be $1,000 or more.  But, the trip is only one week.  If I went to India from the US, I’d probably make it at least 10 days, if not 2 weeks.

Dubai Vacation incl. 5-Star Hotel & Nonstop Air : Mmmmm, Dubai.  On Emirates.  With 5-star accommodations.  Sign me up.  Now.

Top 20 Picks – UK Edition

Lapland Adventure w/Santa & Snowmobiles, Save £470 : Do you know where Lapland is?  I only happen to because of The Snow Queen.  This deal sounds like a dream come true for kids who (1) know who Santa is, (2) know what snow is, and (3) like both.  Mine don’t qualify.  Yet.

Fly Around the World with 4 Stops : Do you have a bucket list?  I don’t yet.  But I want to make one.  And flying around the world is going to be in the top 10.  This deal starts and ends in London, so it only makes sense for those in the UK.

Croatian Island-Hopping Cruise inc Tours, £320 Off : I did mention that it is Christmas List Dream Trip week, didn’t I?  Croatia is on my Top 10 want-to-visit-while-I-live-in-Germany list.  I heart Eastern Europe.  But I am not big on sailing.  Even with motors.  And I don’t live near Gatwick.  Boo.

Top 20 Picks – Germany Edition

€ 29-39 – Advent tickets for train travel to Paris : Oooo, tempting!  This is a super price.  But we are hosting Thanksgiving, a party for T-Rex’s 3rd birthday, and going to Prague.  Hey, deal makers, how about something for January?

from 495 € – Flights: Africa, Asia and Mauritius, to 360 € OFF : I told you it was dream week – “”Dream Deal” is called the current special for Emirates flights to Africa, Asia and Mauritius. Dreams come true in fact at these prices.”  And on Emirates no less.  But I love my boys more than I love to travel so until they both have all their immunizations, I won’t be going to Africa or Asia.  Sigh.

139 / 159 € – City Trip Budapest in a 4 *- hotel from Stuttg. & MUC : Finally!  A do-able, affordable deal!  I usually never do package deals because they have the tendency to charge the wee ones the same price as adults which is utter hogwash.  I sent an email to the company (in English – ha) to see what they have to say.  Goulash, here I come!