Monday, August 31, 2009

Bubble Storm!

Catherine found a bubble machine that was pretty cool. She took it outside to give it a try and the kids went crazy! Ian and Leah were running around like crazy yelling "bubble storm!" while trying to pop the bubbles.

Here is a photo of Ian running around, chasing down a bubble.

And Leah chasing after some bubbles.

Finally, the two of them chasing bubbles together.



Saturday, August 29, 2009


Our morning tour we originally planned on was changed to an afternoon tour. That gave us a good chunk of the morning to check out more of Bayeux. Here are Ian and Leah directly behind the Tourist Information building.

We had a nice small group (3 other people) for our tour, and the guide was knowledgeable and helped to keep the kids engaged. The photo below is from an old German battery able to fire on both Omaha beach and Gold beach. This particular gun was damaged to the point where it wasn't usable - you can see where some shrapnel made it through the steel plating "protecting" the gunners. Not a place I'd like to be with the US Navy firing back! Apparently these guns have a reach of 12 miles.

We made it to the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. It was a beautiful place, very quiet with only the hushed voices of nearby people and the sound of a gentle wind blowing audible. It overlooks Omaha beach, and I can't imagine making a daytime assault on the place. Those soldiers were incredibly brave.

There is a memorial directly on Omaha Beach commemorating the Allied Forces incredible assault on D-Day.

Second only to the American cemetery for me was Point du Hoc - the place where Rangers scaled the cliffs to take out a German gun emplacement, only to find out the Germans had moved the guns inland. The Rangers had to hold on for 2 days for reinforcements. Out of the 225 that started the assault, only 90 survived. The site was left as the Rangers left it - completely devastated with the German bunker system totally disrupted )though some bunkers were still partially intact. The site of the German ammunition bunker that was blown up was pretty awesome. HUGE chunks of steel-reinforced concrete were blown 10-20 yards away from the force of the explosion.

That's the end of our French vacation. I hope everyone has enjoyed seeing photos of the kids and where we've been. I'm headed back to the desert towards the end of next week. Thankfully it will be a short couple of months. I can't wait to get back for good!

I hope all is well out there,


Bayeux - that's in Normandy, France

This was a big trip for trains . . . we took a train from Paris to Bayeux, which is a town in the Normandy area of France. It was spared from bombing and an assault during the D-Day invasion because the Germans hadn't occupied the place with an active contingent of soldiers. We took a taxi to the hotel and tried to rent a car, but no dice. So we decided to walk around Bayeux and sign up for a bus tour of the Normandy beach/D-Day invasion sites.

The photo below of Ian is from the museum where the Bayeux Tapestry is held.

The Bayeux Tapestry commemorates the Battle of Hastings when William (Duke of Normandy) defeated the English and became King of England. The photo of Leah below is from the same place.

This photo below is of Catherine, Ian, and Leah standing in the window of the hotel room where we stayed (Hotel d'Argouges). The hotel was phenomenal!

The front drive to the hotel (our room was on the back side).

Friday, August 28, 2009


We took the train out to Versailles on the next day. It was a full day excursion, followed by a trip to the Luxemburg Gardens for a nice picnic dinner with my mother, aunt, and cousin. We took a nice guided tour of the Chateau - I'd say closer to Hohenschwangau than Neuschwanstein. Unbelievable how much money was thrown into the place - and we didn't even see the quite extensive gardens.

I took the opportunity to get plenty of photos of Catherine and the kids in typical touristy shots, but it works for me . . .

This first one is of Catherine, Ian, and Leah in front of one of the gardens, taken after we'd stood in line for over an hour to get our tickets for the guided and self-guided tours. Both well worth the wait.

Here are Catherine, Ian, and Leah in the main courtyard.

We had some time to kill between lunch and the start of the tour, so we let the kids blow off some steam and energy running around in the courtyard. Who would've guessed that Leah would fall asleep for about 45 minutes during the tour? Little stinker : )

The tour ended after we made our way through the Hall of Mirrors - Ian's and Leah's highlights of the tour. I even managed to catch myself in the action - enjoy!

France, Day 2

For our second day (our first full day) in Paris, we decided to take the hop on/hop off bus tour suggested by Rick Steves (that guy has NEVER let us down - can't say enough good stuff about his suggestions). It was pretty typical, and fairly informative - and it is a fun way with the kids to get a good overview of a city. We started our tour in front of Notre Dame and made our way to Champs-Elysees. We got off so I could get this photo of the Arc de Triomphe, but while I did that the kids played in the garden near the Place de la Concorde. We walked a ways down Champs-Elysees to catch the next bus and continued out tour.

We went around the Arc de Triomphe and then made our way to the Eiffel Tower. We hopped off after the Tower and made our way to Rue Cler (another Rick Steves suggestion) where we had a very nice cafe-style lunch. I absolutely love European sidewalk cafes, and this one definitely did not disappoint, though I figure none of the cafes on Rue Cler would disappoint.

After lunch we got back on the bus and finished the tour at the Louvre. Since it was a Monday, the Louvre was closed, but that didn't prevent us from enjoying the fountains in the old courtyard and in the gardens. In fact, Ian and Leah had fun playing in a sprinkler in the gardens. Here you can see them having a ball playing in the water with the glass pyramid of the Louvre in the background. This shot reminds me so much of our time in Miami when we went to Vizcaya and the kids only wanted to play in the fountains : )

The bus tour took up a good portion of the day (with all of the on and offs we did). I took the opportunity again that night to tour the city after the kids went to bed (thank you Catherine!). I went to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed the steps - beautiful view of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and back towards Sacre Couer. Another thanks to an Army buddy that suggested the climb.

After the Arc I took the metro to the Eiffel Tower for the photo below. This shot took several attempts to catch the spot lights in just the right place - I definitely think it was worth the effort. I made it home a little before midnight, so all in all a very long day.

We're back from France!

We just got back from France earlier this afternoon and I'm ready to start posting some of the photos. Our journey started at the train station in Kaiserslautern. For whatever reason, they had this statue on one of the tracks and the kids thought is was neat. So Catherine and I took them to that track for the photo - Ian and Leah decided to hold the nice dinosaur's hand : )

The train was one of the bullet trains, and went faster than 320 km per hour! It was a very smooth ride into Paris (and back). Once in Paris the real fun began as we deciphered the metro system, which really wasn't difficult at all. We found our hotel and then we were off for some early sightseeing and met up with my mother, who happened to be on vacation with an aunt and cousin of mine. We all met up and went to see Notre Dame, Ile de la Cite, and Ile Ste. Louis. It was on Ile Ste. Louis that we found this chocolate/ice cream shop and my mom treated the kids to a super special treat. Every day after that was a constant barrage of "I want ice cream", "when can I have ice cream", "can I have ice cream now", "what about now", well - you get the idea. It didn't matter if they had JUST eaten and complained about a full belly, but as soon as they saw an ice cream place (sometimes even that was not necessary) the questions started right up.

It was a late day for the kids, and I wanted to check out Sacre Couer - a friend had told me that she had seen some neat stuff there after dark (fire jugglers, etc.) and I was not disappointed. The area immediately around Montmartre and Sacre Couer was gorgeous, and the "show" on the steps in front of the church was very fun. However I decided to walk to Moulin Rouge and encountered the seedy side of Paris in a hurry. Nothing dangerous, just seedy. Glad I saw it, doubly glad there was a metro stop immediately adjacent to the Moulin Rouge so I didn't have to walk back through that mess to get to my original station.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Ian!

We celebrated Ian's birthday today. Hard to believe my big boy is already 5 years old and will start kindergarten this year. We invited several of the neighbor kids (one from upstairs, the other right across the hall) as well as some of Ian's friends from pre-school. Catherine went all out with food, party games and fun, goody-bags for the other kids, and all that.

Ian received a couple of transformers - which he absolutely loves. It just means when Ian wants to play transformers I have to as well. This first photo is of musical chairs. All the kids really enjoyed it, none more so than Leah.

This one below is of Ian and Chloe from upstairs playing with the balloons. Amazingly the only ones that popped were when I was blowing them up.

And finally, this photo below is of Ian blowing out the candles on his birthday cupcakes.

Tomorrow we are off for Paris. Getting packed and ready. Ian and Leah are looking forward to the ICE train, should be interesting. I'll post photos as long as we have internet access along the way, otherwise I'll catch up when we get back next week.



Thursday, August 20, 2009

A walk in the park

Yesterday I took the kids for a walk on a local nature/fitness trail. It was a great way to burn some energy and help wear the kids out while taking in some of the local scenery. We've been there before as a family to pick berries and just go for a nice walk, but yesterday was a shorter walk than normal - I think the fun meter was pegged for the kids earlier than normal, which was fine.

The photo here is of Ian and Leah sitting on a bench along the path.

Today is Ian's birthday, so look for more photos later today . . .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Home with the Family

Hello all! I have been home for a full day and already making up for lost time in the photo department! Which is hopefully good news for everyone out there. So amazing to be home.

So I arrived yesterday morning about 6:20 am in Frankfurt, and then hopped on a train to Neubrucke where Catherine and the kids picked me up (about a 15 minute drive to home). The kids were beside themselves - but I luckily only went into sensory (auditory) overload once. Catherine had an optometry appointment so I made use of the time to catch up with my friends at the clinic. Then it was home where the kids and I played tickle, tag, tickle tag, freeze tag, tackle, tackle tag - and about every variation on those games ever conceived. Ian and Leah both collapsed for the night and I got to enjoy a nice cold Grimbergen - a Belgian beer popular with the Belgians on Ramstein.

This morning Catherine was running some errands so I watched the kids. We went for a nice walk out at the local castle (Frauenberg Ruine) - actually the Nahe River that runs through the little valley there. The kids had a nice time running up and down the path, but the biggest bonus of that outing was the complete motherload of blackberries we found! They were too tart, so hopefully another week or so on the vine will ripen them up nicely. The photo here is of Ian and Leah together looking back in the direction of the ruins, under the bridge and on the other side of the hill in the background.

This next one is a photo of Leah earlier in the day, just hamming it up for the camera.

The last one is from Ian's second soccer practice (my first!). He did an okay job of listening, and a really good job of having fun and giving it a try. He is working on running and kicking (dribbling), but does really very well considering this is only the second time he has played soccer.

I hope all is well out there for everybody. Expect more posts to follow. We have Paris, Versailles, and Normandy coming up starting this Sunday. Cheers!