We were so happy to see our first snow flurries in Freiburg this morning! Days of cold rain got us down, and snow is easier to manage in our car-less lifestyle.
Yesterday Thom was super-impressive and ran to the bakery with €2 and bought a bread man in the four minutes before our tram arrived.
This wasn’t planned--I had forgotten to pack a snack, but it reminded me of the rare occasions when Dad or Grandpa would pick me up from East Elementary. They’d stop at the bakery for 25 cent after-school donuts. Glorious fried cinnamon donuts.
On Sunday we celebrated Thanksgiving with our friends from Virginia. It was lovely. They live in a nearby village, and they took us on a hike into the forest before dinner. It’s pretty spectacular to see the snow line. We saw several families at the train station with their sleds and dressed in snow gear. You don’t have to ride too far to be up in winter.
Errol thought I was a bit nuts, but I decided to take the kids to Frankfurt on Saturday morning. Errol had been there since Thursday night, and we could ride the train back to Freiburg together. Plus, we’ve already been to the Frankfurt airport several times but had never spent any time in the city.
The train ride is around 2.5 hours, and the kids did a pretty good job. Our seat reservation was in an enclosed family cabin, and that makes traveling with this brood much easier. From Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, we took a short ride on the S-Bahn to the Frankfurt Kinder Museum.
This children’s museum was great, but it wasn’t like others we visited. Instead of a pretend grocery store or rescue vehicles, this museum had stations that helped teach kids the central theme of the exhibit. Apparently, the themes are temporary, and the current one is “Kids Have Rights.” There were stations about your rights to privacy, your rights to an opinion and protest, your rights to information. Everyone’s favorite part was making their own protest signs. Lee and Ned didn’t quite grasp the point, but they loved participating. There was a small play area for children 5 and under, but this museum is better suited for elementary students.
We spent the rest of the day walking around. Some of the Christmas Market shops were open, but most were closed. It was pretty crowded as is so I was thankful we got to experience some of the festivities without having to deal with the people they draw.
We stopped in a Lego store, and the kids were thrilled to take catalogs to pour over. Before walking back to the main station to meet Errol, we went to Hugendubel. It’s a large bookstore with a good-sized English section.
The area around the Frankfurt’s Main Hauptbahnhof isn’t the most family-friendly. It was before five on a Saturday afternoon, but as we were walking through it in darkness, I thought that we probably should have taken the S-Bahn.
However, going this way lead to a conversation with Thom about lust--what it is and how it’s different from love. It began with, “Mama, what’s an Eros Center?”
Once we got to the station, we all deserved a treat. The kids were happy to see Frankfurt has a Dunkin’ Donuts, and some of the munchkins were filled with Nutella. I got excited at the idea of an iced beverage.
Our train home was delayed over an hour, but, thankfully, we had the family compartment again. Sometimes animals belong in a cage.
Kids and adults handle situations so differently.
It rained during Thom’s soccer game tonight. It was a cold November rain that I wasn’t expecting. Almost immediately I began to fantasize about getting back to our flat and taking off my wet shoes. I wrapped my scarf tighter around my face so only my eyes were visible.
While I sat on a wobbly chair under the awning, Vinnie and the twins spent the 2.5 hours playing some strange team frog game. I kept hearing Vinnie call for water breaks. I thought it odd since the only kid water bottle was on the soccer sideline. When I mustered the courage to turn around and see what they were doing, I found three kids completely soaked. Water breaks…
Remarkably, the kids held true to their attestment that they weren’t cold and wouldn’t fuss if they became cold. I felt colder just looking at them.
Today is Thanksgiving, and my first instinct was to ignore it. Then, my parents visited and the Piersons sent the Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving book. Thom and Vinnie started to get depressed about missing the holiday.
I remembered the restaurant my September German class visited raised turkeys. I couldn’t deliver pumpkin pie, but we could find some turkey!
The weather was supposed to be beautiful, and Errol okay’d the plan. The kids didn’t stay for lunch at school, and we took a 25-minute train ride to the village Ihrigen. The restaurant was another 2K hike from the train station.
It took longer than expected, but we made it. The food was great, and the three littles enjoyed climbing up the side of a mountain at the restaurant’s play space.
Unfortunately, we missed our train back to Freiburg by about thirty seconds. Lee and I could have boarded, but the rest of the group was about half of a block behind. The trains come every 30 minutes, and missing the 4.13 meant Thom missing soccer.
Missing that train got me down. I may have said that today was the worst Thanksgiving ever. These days of managing the family schedule, constantly breaking up squabbles, while navigating a new country in a language I don’t understand, are hard days. Today was another hard day that happened to be Thanksgiving in America.
I needed to make a quick run to the grocery after my class. As I scanned the shelves for Errol’s special Icelandic yogurt, it hit me: I am in a grocery store the night before Thanksgiving. Another first!
All of us went to Paris last weekend.
We left Freiburg Saturday morning for a brief tour of Paris--very brief, 27 hours. The weather cooperated, and we had quite a bit of sun.
When I was there in September, Lauren suggested the restaurant Hippopotamus as a family-friendly option. The food was good, and it was our first time in Europe to be served by someone with no English. Lee wasn’t bothered by the language barrier and begged to return.
From lunch, we took a city bus to the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t make it to our desired stop because of a protest, but it was a nice walk. Mom and Dad decided against the lines and the climb to the top. We took the mandatory photos and then rode another bus to Notre Dame.
We were pleasantly surprised on how much longer Parisian days are. Despite having a wait for the bus, we made it to Notre Dame before sunset. Mom, Errol, and Thom went into nearby Shakespeare and Company. Meanwhile, Lee gave me the difficult mission of finding a toilet quickly. I failed and persuaded him to take another option.
After regrouping, we walked down Rue Saint-Louis for crepes and delicious Berthillon ice cream. A positive of a late fall family trip to Paris is the opportunity for kids to see the city sparkle without staying out late. It’s a beautiful place anytime, but it seems extra special under darkness.
We only took the Metro once. It was very crowded, but it got us back to our hotel. We stayed the one night across the street from Gare du Nord. The kids were thrilled the hotel TV offered their favorite German channels.
Errol escaped German kid TV and our tiny room to find wine and cheese. He was very successful. When the kids fell asleep, we dined on our balcony and watched the scenes below. Errol educated me on the new eco-friendly urinals that are supposed to civilize street peeing. Who knew this subject would come up again!
Sunday morning we walked to the Louvre with a breakfast stop at a Pret A Manger. Like Hippopotamus, it wasn’t the most authentically Parisian choice, but it was perfect for our crowd. The twins and I headed to the Tuileries Garden while the rest of group explored the Louvre for a few hours. We met up at the carousel and started back toward the train station. I had hoped to eat at a nearby diner, but a tardy bus dashed those hopes. Instead, we had a Marks & Spencer picnic on the station floor.
Both ways, we took Deutsche Bahn instead of the more convenient French-operated direct train from Freiburg. Children travel free on Deutsche Bahn! Taking Deutsche Bahn meant a transfer in Karlsruhe, and they were easy.
On Sunday, Errol and my parents went to the Frankfurt airport from Karlsruhe while the kids and I went back to Freiburg. Our train had no open seats, and we camped out on the floor in front of a door. I’m glad we did the work to take this trip, but it sure felt great to walk into the Freiburg flat.
While Mom was wrapping up a storm in the flat, we took Dad on a bike ride to the soccer field. After supper, we ended Mom and Dad's time in Freiburg with the signature dessert of the region: Schwarzwald Kuchen. They liked it!
Thom’s trainings are 5-6.30. This time of year, that’s 90 minutes of complete darkness. The last few weeks, the boys return red-faced and shivering: “Very cold bike ride,” Errol reports. I am so happy to stay at home with the three littles and make supper.
Errol had a trip to Hamburg this week. Sadly, he wasn’t back in time to take Thom to soccer tonight. My parents, all the kids, and I dutifully escorted Thom to training in the cold and dark. Thom and Errol ride bikes, but we rode the tram and walked. While Thom played, we took refuge at a nearby McDonald’s.
Next Tuesday, when it’s time for soccer, I will be even happier to stay at home with the three little and make supper.