Thursday, August 28, 2014

High Adventure, Brand new Scout, and a Youth leader

Joseph turned 12 while at scout camp this year. 

(I know my boys just love their birthday's in the summer time!  Never in school to have them make a big deal of it there, everyone always away so no parties and we are almost always away too!)  Rob had to go up with him for the first few days, because he wasn't 12, yet.  He ended up staying and enjoying camp with them.  He stayed on base in Garmisch and then just biked up to the scout camp every day.  Joseph did great.
Sam only has to finish one more merit badge and do his project to complete Eagle, so he went for the high adventure.  Rob ended up splitting his time.  Sometimes he went on the high adventure with Sam- like the  white water rafting

and sometimes he spent it with Joseph, like when they climbed the Hammersbach.

 Emma and I and Max stayed at home.  Rob wanted us to come down, but it rained so much that I was much happier at home.  Rob and the boys had a great time together and now they have all kinds of things they want us to do as a family.
Emma also went to camp this year.  She surprised me when she said she wanted to go.  I did 2 years of camp and did 2 years of certification each year and passed that sucker off and was done.  She went this year as a YCL- Youth Camp Leader.  She enjoyed herself and had fun with the leaders. 
 And the goofy girls who were all obsessed with the other camp across the road with boys! (Peter/Christen)

I went up one day and taught first aid.  We were doing great until one of the girls decided to have a real life emergency in the middle of it all.  Another time that did not endear me to the German medical system.  She fainted, had a small seizure and then after she was awake, she started vomiting.  2 days before she had complained of a headache and then vomited.  She had no head injury before this and did not act sick in any way other than that.  That screams pressure on the brain to me, but maybe I am the idiot here.  They said she was fine, without doing a CT scan and told her mother some things she could do to keep her blood pressure up.  She has had a history of fainting with injuries.  Yah, not the same thing, but who am I, right.  I'm just some nut job nurse from America which has terrible medical care, according to someone.  I am not sure whom.  I read this medical assessment finally, that was talking about how bad our health care was.  When you finally look at the statistics, we are actually awesome at our health care.  The scores are just lowered, because they add into it how much it costs and the availability of it to all.  But I digress...
This year the girls had camp with the German wards in our stake.  The German wards expected the American ward to do most of the work, which was a shock to the American ward and therefore a lot of scrambling went on last minute.  Also there had to be a "coming to Jesus meeting" at some point when the German's were told to back off the American girls.  Culture clashes, I guess.  When I went, I stayed for lunch and we had to run to the kitchen to get the mayo and mustard.  They brought out butter and ketchup for their sandwiches.  Um, Yuck!  Emma said she watched a girl eat a ketchup and jelly sandwich.  Wow!  They also took them up to a lake and the girl's all got an eye full, as most of them still aren't used to the European way of just throwing off your clothes to take a dip or sunbathe.  It was a learning experience for all!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Samuel turns 15

Samuel turned 15 on the boat, but we still made him a cake when we got home.  

When Sam was little he wouldn't stop trying to tie his shoe until he was crying his little eyes out and I had to force him to stop practicing.  I would hear the beginning of his piano songs tons of time more than the ends, because if he made one little mistake he would start from the beginning, again.  He argues with us, incessantly.  He taught himself to do a back tuck.  And even though he is one of the shortest and skinniest kids in his grade, he is good at football and running.  What do all those have in common.  Stubbornness.  That kid just won't stop until he dies or wins.  Everything is like this big challenge he has to win.  I'm not sure it's the best attitude to have all the time.  In fact when he is trying yet again to win an argument with us, I can guarantee that!  I hope it will soften with age and he will learn that sometimes it's good to give up a little.  He has a cute face and cuter smile and that rugged charm from his face scar, so he gets away with a lot, too!
Emma finally likes him and invites him places with her.  The other day he saw some of Emma's friends and he turned to me and said, "Mom, tell Emma to put in a good word for me."  "Say, What??" I asked him which one he liked and he said, "I'm keeping my options open."  PLAYER!  I never thought I would here anything like that out of that kid.  
We went ahead and secretly betrothed him to this cutie, who left in July.

We were all so sad.  She is a great girl- down to earth, plays hard, willing to do all kinds of fun things, none of the mean girl, manipulative stuff and she is super cute to boot!  Sam and her and Jack were great friends.  

And now he is a freshman, 120 pounds, 5'4, playing football with men who have beards.

The last time he did that, he got that scar on his face.  He comes home every day now and moans.  I'm not so sure this is the best sport for this guy, but he keeps at it.  He won two awards at the all European Football camp he went to.  Most improved Receiver and Most improved Defensive back.  Most improved isn't always the most impressive of awards, but the fact that they knew a freshman by name in that big of a camp made it impressive.  And not just once, but twice- with two different sets of coaches!  They had people from Belgium, Italy, Czechoslovakia and all over Germany there.  This included local national teams.
Next order of business- bulk Sam up, somehow.  They were talking about putting him on the Varsity squad, but decided against it, thank goodness.  Then they wanted to use him as a running back, but decided he just wasn't big enough to break through.  It seems he will play starting as a corner back on JV now.
I wonder if Sam has friends still.  He does his own thing and when we ask him who he hung out with, he says, " everyone."  "Well who did you talk with."  "Everybody."  Emma saw him on the first day of school eating alone.  He said it was because his friend was being slow getting his food.  Everyone knows him, however.  We were talking to one of the 'men' on the football teams' mom and the 'man' came up and she introduced us.  I started to say that we were Sam's parents while trying to point him out and the 'man' stopped us and said, "oh everyone knows who Sam is- ever since football camp."  I guess there was a funny incident where they were playing 7 on 7 and you were supposed to 2 hand touch the receiver.  Sam slipped or dove or something and ended up doing a 360 around the receivers legs, instead.  Their team almost got disqualified for it.  They all think it was a riot.
He still won't attend a dance.  He is going to be just like his Dad in that.  I don't know what I am going to do with that kid.  It's not like I can force his stubborn body out on the dance floor.
He still gets all A's in school and yet still has no homework.  He got put in some AP class this year (I can't remember which one, because I am running hard for Mother of the Year this year and have no idea what any of my children are doing.) and he was not happy.  He would rather not have to have homework or work really hard at school, thank you very much!

Yet every once in awhile I can still get him to pull my hair for me (he used to do that all the time- I love it!)  He remembers his duty and does it without anyone asking at church, school and on the field.  The other day he saw that the Deacon's were low and so he just hopped up and went up and helped pass the sacrament.  Afterwards, he was the only teacher who remembered that their job was to clean and put away the sacrament, so he did it by himself without another thought.  Now if only I could get him to do that at home!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Cruisin the Baltic

Warnemunde and Rostock, Germany

We chose not to take a fast train down to see Berlin at breakneck speed like many others on the cruise, since we live in Germany and can go see it like it is meant to be seen another time.  Instead we took the train to Rostock to see...
Some fun swings outside the train station
 The Max-Samuel Haus sign

 One of the largest astrological clocks which didn't seem to be working- or maybe we just couldn't figure it out.
 And one of the largest organs
and this funny little goat fountain
 Then we took the train back and went to the beach
 It was too cold to enjoy the beach, but that didn't stop some of the Europeans from naked sunbathing.  Eww, don't look now!

It was a fun, relaxing start to the cruise!

Helsinki, Finland

From where we docked in Helsinki was just a short walk to all the major sites.  We heard that we would have to take a bus to some of the farther out ones, but we walked and didn't find it unusually far.  Because we walked we didn't have time to get out to see the Fortress, though.  Instead we saw the Lutheran church- the main religion of Finland 
and the Upenski church which is Eastern Orthodox

and much more ornately decorated.

We saw the Guardians of Gondor or lamp holders outside the train terminal.  I will let you decide

We took the scenic route near the inlet and came upon a large torch which we had no idea what it was for.  All I know,  is it wasn't the olympic torch, but it looked very vikingish, so we liked it.

We finished off our tour by visiting the rock church- which was carved out of... Wait for it... rock.  It just looks like piles of rock were put on the entrance, but I promise, it was really carved out of a rock.

Tallin, Estonia

This is a medieval town that we were going to take a fun bike tour in, but it was raining that day, so instead we did what Kress' do best, we walked it.
 Tallin is famous for being the place where Skype was developed.  You can say thank you to Jaan Tallinn, Mom and Carolyn.
It is also believed that in 1441 the first ever Christmas tree stood here in the town hall square.  Other than that, it used to be under communist Russian rule for a long time and is happy to have it's independence.  It is a super cute medieval town with walls and ramparts still around it.  And of course it has it's share of pretty churches
 and buildings

 The wall
It also has this cool walk that is a timeline.  1154 Estonia first appeared on a world map.  Who knew?

The cobblestone all day long was a killer!

Pretty gardens outside the wall
Emma found a candy shop that did all kinds of fun things with Marzipan.  Cute to look at, but nasty to eat.  Sorry Mom and Lynette, I know you like it, but you are the only two American's I know that can stand it.  I gave all our marzipan samplers from our Rittersport mix away to the Swiss missionary before he left.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is beautiful with all it's hundreds of tiny islands.  It seemed everyone had a summer home out on one of them.
It was the only time they opened the very front of the boat for passengers so that we could see it up close and personal.  Rob and I were the only ones of our family that got up early enough to go see the view.  It was so stunning that Rob wanted to move there.  Since it was July and we still had to wear jackets, however, I was against the idea!
We made it just in time for the changing of the guards.  We followed them most of the way as they played various songs and marched up to the palace.

Where we saw someone get yelled at and pushed by the guard, so that he could properly do his changing of the guard ceremony!
These things are important, man!

We somehow stumbled on the US Embassy.  There were tons of Swedes looking for American Visa's. Guess they like to come look at us.  Also they are probably rich enough to do it.

We went to the Vasa museum on the recommendation of everyone.  It was cool, but we arrived early and got straight in.  Within 1 hour it was packed and we decided to high tail it out of there!  The line was huge by then.  It would not have been worth it for my children if we had had to wait in that line.  After all, how long can you look at a ship that never made it out of the harbor before it sunk?  Seriously, though, they did have some very cool displays all around it, that I would have enjoyed looking at a little more.

 We took a Rick's Steve's walking tour of Gamla Stan and found the Random canon in the wall.
And to top off the day, we ate Swedish fish in Sweden!  Because we are cool like that!

I had every intention of buying us bus tickets here, but when I got up to the counter and asked the lady how far everything was if we walked, she said, "oh 20-30 minutes to here, 20 minutes to there," so in the end, I said, "let's just walk it."  The walk wasn't so bad, but that was because we took it bit by bit.  We went to the Vasa, then the palace and then took the walking tour of Gamla Stan.  By the end of that, we were so far away from the boat that we had to trudge over an hour to get back, so we missed City hall where they give out the Nobel prizes.  Sad face!
The cruise was a fabulous way to see all these different countries.  We would have never done it, if we didn't do it this way.  Everything was very expensive.  We brought lots of snacks with us, ate big breakfasts and ate as soon as we got back to the boat each day.  We did it all pretty cheaply, and probably missed out on some wonderful things because of that, but we were happy with our experience in the end.
 Our favorite part is always the boat, however.  We had the chance to do this tour just 2 days less, but also almost $3000 less with a European cruise line.  We couldn't do it.  Once you get used to the luxury of the North American lines, you can't go back.  As Rob says, "It's all about the boat!"  We went with NCL this time and really enjoyed it.  Sam and Max loved the teen center and kids club.  We all enjoyed the food and the hot tubs.  The boys loved the pool and slides.  I had to do the slide at least once, but man it was cold!
Superhero day
Trying out the Chinese sticks
Sam tried too
I actually learned to juggle using these!  I am so proud of myself
Bunny?  Dog?
Happy birthday, Sam!
Getting down with the crew
The entertainment wasn't as good as some cruises I have been on, but we loved the talent show at the end, especially the finale which was called Fountains and was 7 crew members imitating different water fountains while spitting water from their mouths at each other to Only time by Enya- it worked for Volvo and Jean Claude Van Damme and it worked for the NCL crew!! (definitely a scout camp kind of skit!)  Can't wait for our next adventure!