Saturday, May 25, 2013

{last day of school}

The girls' last day of school was this past Wednesday.  Their class celebrated with a picnic at Beech Acres Park.  It was so fun to watch them run around the park with all of their friends and amazing to think about how much they have grown and learned over the past 9 months.

Kenzie & Lexi adore their teachers, Mrs. Berry and Mrs. Putman, and as they thanked them and hugged them I couldn't help but think of their first day of preschool back in September when they screamed for an hour after we dropped them off and Kenzie tried to bite Mrs. Berry.  I can't thank them enough for the patience, love and support that they have given Lexi and Kenzie this school year.  Thanks to them my girls have become more confident and social little girls.  I also feel so lucky that the girls had such a great group of kids in their class.  They have built some wonderful friendships and I hope that many of them will continue on together in the same 4 day class next year.

Mrs. Berry & Mrs. Putman made the most wonderful book for each child in their class. It included artwork and photgraphs from throughout the year, as well as a Preschool Interview ... Kenzie & Lexi's responses shown below.

I will treasure this book and so many wonderful memories from this first year of preschool!

{starting to feel like summer}

The days are long, the temperatures are getting hot and it is starting to feel like summer around here.  We are celebrating the season with runs through the sprinkler, frequents trips to the park and visits to the farmers market. 

Last weekend we visited Tobi at Lilian & John's house.  The girls were so excited to go see Tobi and to meet Lilian & John's new puppy, Migo.  They love their four legged brother so much and I don't think they stopped giggling the entire time we were there. 

Randall and I were lucky enough to enjoy a date night with great friends and great food & wine at the new Boca downtown.  It did not disappoint. 

Kenzie has finally mastered the tricycle and now wants to pedal everywhere ... really fast!

I am loving this time of year!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

{visiting dad: a trip down memory lane}

A few days before my trip I started to prepare the girls for my departure.  "I am going to fly to Germany to visit my dad, your Opa," I told the girls. 
"Why are you going to visit Opa?" Kenzie asked. 
"Because he is sick and I want to spend some time with him," I replied.
"Why is he sick?" questioned Kenzie.
"Because he choked sissy!"  replied Lexi before I could speak, giving Kenzie her best all-knowing look.
"What do you mean he choked?"  I questioned.
"Because YOU said he choked," she insisted.
I was puzzled and my lack of confirmation immediately made Lexi want it that much more.  Then it hit me.  Lexi had overheard me telling lots of people that my dad had had a stroke.  But instead of stroke, Lexi understood choke ... since that is a word that she actually understands.  After explaining to them in 3 year old terminology what a stroke is they both wanted to know why they couldn't come with me to visit Opa.  I explained that it is a very long flight and that Opa was still very weak and wouldn't have much energy to play with them.
"But he will get better and then we will go visit him and he will play with us."  Lexi said.
If you're reading this Dad, that's your motivation to keep working hard every day. 


On Wednesday afternoon I departed Cincinnati. The plan was to meet up with Inken and Mom in Newark and then the 3 of us were to fly to Hamburg together. We were going to visit Dad and to be there for our cousin Caroline’s civil wedding ceremony. Unfortunately flight delays caused me to miss my flight in Newark by 5 minutes, I was rerouted through London, where I almost missed my connection again and finally arrived in Hamburg ... while my suitcase did not for another 48 hours. Not an ideal start to the trip but once I finally did arrive I was just happy to hug my mom and sister and to be surrounded by family that I hadn’t seen in many years.

Our first stop was to visit my Dad at his new nursing home. It was shocking when we first walked into the room, as he looked so gray and little laying in that hospital bed. I have never known my Dad not to have a tan and here he was so pale and appearing so much older than the last time I saw him. But his face completely lit up when he saw us. While his physical state shocked me in a negative way, his mental alertness and ability to converse with us in both German and English pleasantly surprised me. We visited Dad every day, taking him for walks in his wheelchair, sitting outside in the garden in the sun, showing him pictures and videos of his grandchildren. I honestly think our visit did wonders for him. He looked so much happier and stronger and a little color had even returned to his face. It was so hard to leave. I am afraid that without our daily encouragement to do his exercises … to practice swallowing so that he will hopefully no longer need a feeding tube, to massage his right hand often to promote bloodflow, to use the exercise ball to build up strength … that he will forget to do them or not be motivated to do them as often as he should. I pray that he finds the strength and motivation to keep going and working hard when we aren't physically there to encourage him. We did get him an iPad so that we can stay in better touch and send videos and pictures of Kenzie, Lexi and Grady (We had also hoped to be be able to facetime with him, but unfortunately the nursing home does not have wifi.).  There are also apps designed especially for stroke victims to help rebuild fine and gross motor skills so we are hoping that those will also help him. My cousin is planning a big wedding celebration one year after her civil ceremony and we told Dad that we want him to be dancing by then. He has a lot of hard work ahead but I am hopeful.

Besides spending time with my dad at the home, I had the chance to relive parts of my childhood while in Germany. I spent most of my childhood summers on Fehmarn, and while I had been back a few times in the not too distant past when we lived in Geneva, it had been over 15 years since I had been there with my sister and over 25 years since my mom had been there. From competing to see who could yell “Ich seh die Bruke!” first as we approached the bridge to Fehmarn, to going to the grocery store to pick up a replacement toothbrush for me (since my suitcase did not arrive for over 48 hours) and returning with all of our favorite childhood treats – Frucht Zwerge, pudding cups topped with whipped cream, Balisto, Haribo Licorice, Ritter Sport Yogurt, to getting quark and “pommes mit mayo” down by the beach, to going shopping at Stolz in the “Stadt” they all brought back great memories.

My cousin Caroline was a gorgeous bride and the wedding was beautiful.   It was intended to be just a civil ceremony followed by a small reception, but it was a great celebration.  The weather was perfect and the reception was right on the beach.  There was a delicious dinner with family that evening and of course the celebration continued late into the night (or early into the morning for some) at Mopsy's.  We had a great time catching up with family and old friends.

We enjoyed relaxing in the "Strandkorb" (translation: beach basket) - another wonderful childood memory.  They have these beach baskets all over the beaches in Germany and they are meant to shield you from the wind while on the beach.

I am so happy for Caroline & Moritz and was honored to be there for this special celebration.  I hope that if we come back for the big celebration next year that Dad will be able to join us.

The other special part of the trip was catching up with cousins.  I loved spending time with Wibke and her Paula who reminds me so much of Wibke at her age.  We had so many fun times together when we were young and watching Paula and her friends reminded me so much of those days.

The other special part of the trip was getting to spend Mother's Day with my mom & sister.  Inken and I got up early and walked to the bakery to pick up fresh "broetchen" for breakfast.  After breakfast we visited the woman that my mom worked for as an au pair and "bar maid" when she spent the summer between her sophomore and junior year in College on Fehmarn.  We got to hear some fun stories about my mom during that visit.  Like the time that Helga's husband decided at midnight that my mom HAD to go to Oktoberfest.  and they drove the 10 hours to Munich through the night with my dad and Mopsy (now the owner of Mopsy's).  Then we went on a bike ride down to the beach and along the coastline.  After visiting my dad that afternoon we had "kaffe und kuchen" at my cousin Birte's house and then dinner with Gert & Telsche in town.  While Inken and I missed being with our babies on Mother's Day it was a great mother-daughter day. 

It was a visit filled with mixed emotions.  Highs and lows.  Old & new.  I am so thankful for everyone's hospitality during our visit and for all of the love and support that they provide my Dad while I can't be there in person. 

I love you Dad - think of us often and keep doing those exercises 5 times a day, everyday!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

{spring concert 2013}

The girls had their spring concert at school last Tuesday.  They were very excited and had been practicing their songs at home leading up to the big event.  When we arrived in the Little Theater at our church I was surprised at how large of a production this was.  The stage was so nicely decorated with flowers the children had made and there were easily over 100 people in the audience.  When the children marched onto the stage, Kenzie and Lexi were front and center. 
They looked so cute in their new floral dresses.  I could tell that they were a bit overwhelmed by the size of the crowd as they scanned the audience for a familiar face.  When they started to sing Lexi immediately started singing and swaying and doing the hand motions.  Kenzie stood tight lipped and still beside her, occasionally clapping.  She was still a bit unsure and overwhelmed.   Then she made eye contact with her Daddy and a huge smile spread across her face and she started to participate.  She then pointed out to Lexi where we were sitting and they were both full of smiles.  The whole production was really so cute and they girls did a great job, especially during Baby Beluga – their favorite song.  The girls were so proud of themselves and so happy to see mommy, daddy and Sara after the show.  We treated them to a special lunch at the Bonbonnerie to celebrate their first musical performance.  What a special day!


Randall ran in the Flying Pig relay again this year and despite the rain we were out on the course and the girls were his biggest cheerleaders! So proud of Randall and all of the runners.

Besides the rain that we had during the marathon the weather has actually been pretty nice and we have been enjoying the warmer temperatures and longer days by doing some gardening and going on walks each evening after dinner. Kenzie & Lexi’s destinations of choice are the new house, the park and our old street to visit Beau the cat :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

{the long journey home}

On Friday it was time to say goodbye to GiGi, Pop Pop, Granny Nanny and Rudy so that we could start the long journey back to Cincinnati. We decided to leave mid-day so that we could break the trip up into 2 days again. Our plan to wear the girls out that morning before getting into the car was successful and Kenzie was asleep within 5 minutes of being on the road. Lexi was awake but happily playing with her baby doll.

Since we weren’t in a rush we decided to stop in Hattiesburg, MS to have lunch at a restaurant that one of Randall’s friends from Southern Miss recently opened. The Depot was a fun coffee shop & bistro and we enjoyed some delicious sandwiches and soups. Randall got the chance to catch up with an old friend and it was a perfect lunch stop.

We were making pretty good time and the girls were being very good and then it started pouring down rain. Our plan was to make it to Franklin, TN before stopping for the night and the last 60 miles or so were slower going because of the rain. We checked into the hotel at around 10pm and the girls were very excited to be staying in a hotel again.
The next morning we had planned to check out historic Franklin in the daylight. While it was light, it was still raining hard. It happened to be Main Street Festival which would have been such a fun experience had we not been soaking wet. Due to the weather we really only checked out a couple of booths and one very cute home store before heading into Puckett’s Grocery for lunch (but really more to escape the rain and to dry off a bit). Lunch was yummy and the skillet chocolate chip cookie that we had for dessert was to die for.

After lunch we decided to get back on the road. It rained off and on, but we made it home by 6pm. The girls’ first request was to stop and check progress on the new house. The foundation and footer had been poured and the basement walls and rafters completed, so we were able to step foot into our new home for the first time. Kenzie & Lexi were so excited that they insisted on getting their babies from the car so that they could show them their new house.

While we had a great week away, it felt good to return home to Cincinnati.

{west palm beach getaway & new orleans play}

Randall and I had a great little getaway to Palm Beach and while we were there the girls had a blast in New Orleans with GiGi and Pop Pop.

Randall was in Florida for a sales conference so on the evening that I arrived we had a P&G dinner to attend. While a “work” dinner is not my top choice when on “vacation”, we did have a fun evening. The next day Randall had to work again, so I had a “no obligations” day. I slept in, went for a run, did a little shopping, met Randall for lunch, went and had my hair and makeup done at the P&G Innovation Studio, read. Not a bad day. The next day Randall was also on vacation and we enjoyed a relaxing day together. We had breakfast overlooking the ocean, relaxed by the pool, had lunch poolside, went to the spa, and then joined another couple for a fun and delicious dinner. The next morning we again enjoyed our beach breakfast, followed by a run on the beach, before we sadly had to pack up. On the bright side, we were looking forward to seeing our girls again.

While we were away they had been having fun in New Orleans.  Pop Pop and GiGi had an impromptu Crawfish Boil (complete with crawfish dresses for the girls) and the girls had fun playing with their “New Orleans cousins.”  They took trips to the park and to Audubon Zoo.  They went out to lunch with friends and enjoyed homemade red beans & rice.  They went to watch Bryan play baseball and visited Pop Pop’s office.  They got spoiled and stayed up late.  They were pretty good, but I think they still wore GiGi out. 

When we got back to New Orleans on Wednesday evening the girls greeted us with huge smiles and bear hugs at the airport. The next day we all had some New Orleans style fun! We went down to the French Quarter and our first stop was CafĂ© Du Monde for beignets. Putting powdered sugar on our noses has become a tradition for our New Orleans visits. Next we walked around the quarter, stopping to say hi to the Blue Dog. We walked back around to Jackson Square and Kenzie insisted on taking a horse and carriage ride. The girls were excited to say hi to our horse (or technically mule) Cash, but Kenzie was sure not to turn her back to him as she did not want the “horsey to bite her butt.” This time both Kenzie & Lexi stayed awake for the entire carriage ride and we all learned a little something new from our great tour guide. Our next stop was for Po-Boys and a little local shopping. Once we returned home we went for a walk to the levee and along Lake Ponchatrain. A good, busy day.

We enjoyed one last morning in New Orleans before packing up for the long journey back home. The girls were sad to leave and GiGi and Pop Pop were sad to see them go. I think that even though the girls might have worn them out, that GiGi and Pop Pop thoroughly enjoyed their week with their granddaughters. And Randall and I were so grateful for the little break. Thank you Gail & Gene!