Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baby calendar

I've decided that I'm going to get one of those gigantic yearly wall calendars to keep up with all of the birthdays and due dates.

Babies? Yeah - a lot of them!

It's wonderful really - why complain? Damn my bad luck - I can't keep up with all the good news!

But I'm starting to lose track of when everyone is expecting. And now just within the last 2 weeks I've had 3 new additions to the baby calendar (that for now is in my head).

Our friend Jim became a new dad on the 19th (welcome to the world, Harrison Wayne!), my best friend Sarah is expecting her 2nd baby sometime in March, and now I find out that Curt and his wife are expecting. Wow!

So congratulations everyone! And before I get one of these giant calendars, forgive me if I forget a birthday along the way!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy Birthday... to everyone!

I'm being swamped by birthdays right now - it's all just snuck up on me!
So, to make sure that I don't miss anyone...

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear...

Papa Steve (July 25th)

Sylvia (July 30th)

Mom (August 2nd)

Grandma (August 2nd)

Jena's son Jake (August 4th)

Camille (August 10th)


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Places we sang

Since the main purpose for our trip was singing with our choir, I need to devote one entry solely in honor of the utterly fabulous places that we were able to sing as a group.

Prague: St. Vitus Cathedral. With it's towering spires that you can see from almost everywhere in town, it has an tremendous presence whether you're standing outside or inside. I was so struck by emotion walking into the cathedral that I nearly dropped down to my knees to pray just inside the door. Singing there and being able to partake of the eucharist during mass is one of the most holy moments of my life. And I'm really not exaggerating - it was that amazing of an experience.

This picture shows the side of the cathedral with the choir loft and the organ. If you look carefully just under the organ, you can see our group in the choir loft singing.

Vienna: Karlskirche (St Charles Church). In the historic city center, directly on the Ringstrasse. It was an interesting experience all around. I didn't see the front outside of the church that evening - it wasn't until the next day that I saw the splendid architechture of the building itself. We were late for our arrival at the concert because of the awful traffic in the city that evening. We were taken to the back of the church, directly to the back entrance and rushed in to begin our quick rehearsal. We found ourselves ushered onto the main altar area of the church and suddenly surrounded by a lavish, ornate and beautiful church. Very much Baroque in style - white marble, gold accents, rounded archways and domes. The pictures of the inside is actually a picture of us singing.

Stift Melk: A Benedictine abbey in Austria. The monastery was founded in the 11th century, and the Abbey church that we had the priviledge of singing in was built in the 18th century. I thought Karlskirche was impressive? The Melk Abbey church was more incredible. Not in size, but in design and decoration. And out of all the places we sang, it had the best sound.

Traunkirchen: The beautiful little village in the Salzkammergut region of Austria of the Lake Traunsee. I still need to tell the full story of this visit, but the church in the town dates back to 1022 and it is a quaint little church. We sang a quick song there for the experience, as our visit was unfortunately under a time constraint.

Salzburg: Kollegienkirche (University Church) and Salzburger Dom (Salzburg Cathedral). Quite honestly, the University Chuch wasn't entirely impressive. It was difficult to judge it because of what we had to compare it to. We had already sung in much more amazing sites. But it was the central point of the festival that we were taking part in. The Dom Cathedral, however, was incredible. Historically interesting because of it's many rebuilds and renovations. It originated back to the 8th century, and was even bombed during WWII. Also, Mozart was baptized there, which was relevant especially to our performance because we sang Mozart's Credo Mass with the resident choir and orchestra. Very cool.

100% mom moment

At the end of the day, I was washing dishes while making dinner, and Catherine was running around at knee level. Usually she's excellent at playing on her own, but apparently she decided she had enough of not getting attention from me. She tugged hard on my pant leg, and when that wasn't enough she pushed and pushed at my leg until I was compelled to turn and face her. And then she threw her arms around my legs and grinned up at me.

There I was, washing dishes and making mac and cheese with hot dogs and veggies (a staple of motherhood), and my young daughter was tugging at my leg to beg for attention. I swear, if I had an apron on she would have been tugging at my apron strings. I realized that mothers for generations back have likely had the same exact moment. Details may have changed, but I can imagine that for centuries moms have had a moment when tending to the home and meals, and their small child has tugged on their dress or apron (or loincloth?) to get attention.

And it warms my heart. A moment when I feel 100% mommy.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Things I learned in Europe

- Americans don't know any concept of true history until they've traveled abroad. You just can't comprehend all that history entails until you are standing in a building that has been around for over 1000 years.

- When a kind waiter realizes that you are struggling with your German and asks another kind waiter who actually speaks English to come over and that kind, English-speaking waiter asks you *in English* if he can help with anything, don't reply with "no thank you" in German. It's just rude. (In my defense, I was so caught up in trying desperately to keep up with the German that it didn't occur to me that he was actually speaking English. I felt like such a dumb American!)

- Teenagers are the same in Europe as they are in America.

- Smoking really doesn't make you look cool, regardless of which country you are in.

- Americans are not the only dumb tourists out there.

- People put gum under the pews in Europe, too.

- Don't assume that you are putting money into a change machine if you can't understand what the sign says, you could lose your money very easily.

- If you open your mind, your eyes, and your ears, you can write your own history book by discovering history that they don't teach in school.

Pictures and stories, part Zwei

A few more select favorite pictures. I now have many pictures loaded up to a collection available to view online, if you would like to see more. Only pictures from Prague and Vienna are up, more to come shortly. I'll also be posting a few more in the next few days that are associated with special stories. Site for pics:

Schonbrunn Palace gardens in Vienna. This was the summer home for the family of the Hapsburg Empire. Very lavish and beautiful.

Stefansdom (St Stephen's Cathedral) in Vienna.

Prater (park) in Vienna. The ferris wheel there is over 150 years old and is still in working order. It is the main attraction in this enormous amusement park, which also had the best beirgarten in the world.
Traunkirchen - a little town on our way to Salzburg that we got to stop for lunch. More stories of this beautiful stop to come because it was quite an experience.
Salzburg wound up being my favorite place during our travels. Amazingly beautiful, so much history, and it still has the small town feel - nothing like Vienna at all. It of course is a huge tourist stop, so you couldn't get away from tourist signs and attractions the whole time, but I forgave that for the quaint beauty that it is.
Our tour on our first morning in Salzburg included Mirabell Palace gardens (where many of the Salzburg sites in Sound of Music were filmed), St Peter's monastery, the fortress/castle, Dom Cathedral, and Mozart's birthplace. And everything in between! This shows our group walking through the garden and cemetery at St Peter's with the view of the fortress up above. Phil at St Peter's garden and cemetery, with a view of the spires of the Dom Cathedral peeking up in the background.

Sunset of the river in Salzburg.

Gone again, back again

** We interrupt your program of Europe stories and pictures to bring you a real-time update **

The few days after coming back home from Europe were a whirlwind. We were recovering from jetlag and culture shock, and as we were unpacking we were re-packing for our camping trip for the weekend. The Sackinger Family Reunion (Stephen's mom's family), affectionately called "Sack Camp". Camping for the weekend with 30 of your closest family. Normally lots of fun. But camping with a toddler? Not so fun. She refused to sleep much of the night, and it took us an extra 2 1/2 hours to get home yesterday because she was so miserable and screaming much of the time. It only took us 5 hours to figure it out, but it turns out she had a low grade fever and some bad gas. Finally - FINALLY - she slept the last hour of the trip.

But now we're back home again and not planning any other major trip soon. Whew!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fab Five

In keeping with promises, I need to post a few favorite pictures. Can I actually narrow it down to 5? Or will I be changing the title to Fab Fifty?
Changing of the guard at Prague Castle, just inside the main gate.
I asked Stephen to take a picture of me on Charles Bridge in Prague (a historical bridge dating from 15th century and is now crowded with tourists and vendors of every kind), and he got a nice pleasant shot of me walking among the crowd with a nice view of the castle in the background. Then he kept take pictures and wouldn't stop. So he got me laughing at him because he was right in my face with the camera. I forgave him when I saw how great this shot was.

This was in a little town in between Prague and Vienna called Durnstien. We only stopped for lunch, but I could have stayed for days. Very quaint and beautiful, and set in the primary wine area of Austria.

Another shot from Durnstein, just a little out of town - quite possibly the best shot I got the whole trip.
Taken at the Melk Monastery/Abbey. It is a working monastery and school that houses 33 monks and around a hundred students. The library has over 100,000 books, some dating back 5-6 centuries. Wow!

I need to post some more, I can't narrow it down to just 5. These don't even include pictures of Vienna or Salzburg, or the great little town Traunkirchen that we stopped in. Arrghh!! I will soon.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Culture shock

As if culture shock while we were in Europe wasn't enough, I'm getting culture shock at home now. My mind has been constantly focusing on music, currency exchange rates, and thinking/speaking in 3 other languages while we were gone. It's hard to turn that off. A dozen times this morning at the grocery store I started to say something in German and had to stop myself. I'd look at a price tag and start to convert it in my head as if I was still converting from Euros to dollars. And I still can't get several of our songs out of my head. Crazy!

From 11 days of not making any of our own food or having to drive anywhere while traveling and exploring, we are back to the life of diapers, bedtime lullabyes, paying for gas and "crap what's for dinner tonight?". Quite a change to say the least.

Home Sweet Home

We are exhausted and jetlagged, but we are safe and sound at home. I think 21 hours of traveling would make anyone tired, no? Yes, that's how long it took us to get home. And the second we got dropped off at home, we ran right back at the door to pick up Catherine.

Wrapping everything in one statement: it was an amazing experience that we will never forget for as long as we live. I have an insanely huge amount of stories and pictures to share. I've been debating as to how I want to go about it. I don't have the time or the energy to put everything into one big long post - and quite frankly I'd like to spare everyone from having to read that. I think what I will do is break it into chunks, with a bunch of pictures mixed into everything.

Unfortunately I'm not quite ready to do that. Give me a day or so to get over my jet lag and weed through the 2000+ pictures I brought home (no joke - I really have that many right now). I'll share as soon as I'm ready.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bon voyage

It shocks and distresses me to say this, but in 12 hours we'll be at the airport waiting to take off to Europe. It only distresses me because of the last minute stuff that needs to be done and just hoping that everything leading up to the plane works out well. And the plane ride itself - that's a totally different story...

But anywho... for the most part we are ready to go. And we are so excited. I'm still having emotional problems with leaving Catherine, but what mom wouldn't, you know?

For most of the next 12 days, I won't be posting. I may be able to, and if I can I will. But we won't know until we get there really how easy that would will be possible. We'll see.

Either way, I will have tons of pictures and stories when we get back, so look out!

Bon voyage to us! =)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More numbers

I can't seem to think in any other way right now...

Days until Europe departure: TWO!
Hours until plane leaves SeaTac: 54
Total hours we'll be away from Catherine: 270 (that hasn't changed unfortunately)
Weight loss to date (in lbs): 29
Hair cut off in inches: actually it's closer to 8 or 9 - my mom doesn't like how short it is!
Items on my to do list this week: down to 15
Mariners record this season: 31-51
Times Catherine has said a new word in the last week: about 6 or 7 (WOW!)