Five Buoys and a Gull

Reflections on Beach Week 2018:
-Our beach house is on Topsail Island. You might be tempted to pronounce this “Top Sail Island”. And if you do then you will immediately be identified as a tourist. The correct pronunciation is Topsul Island.
-Staying at a house on the beach was fantastic for everyone, and we have little desire to go back to staying off the beach. It is so much easier to allow everyone to follow their own schedule. Also, we can send the kids to the beach to play and keep an eye on them. They weren’t allowed to go in the water without an adult or two on the beach, which worked ok, but at times they couldn’t resist.
-After our week together a couple of the smalls started saying “Oh for Christ sake!” Alarming and funny, and our job is to not draw attention to it.
-The beach house was just like the ones the Chris and Sean remember from our childhood. These are five room houses on stilts with a bedroom in each corner and a large room in the center spanning the kitchen, dining room and living area. Each pair of bedrooms is connected by a full bathroom. The basement contains storage and parking. The towns on the island are small and quiet, without nearly as many things to do as Rehoboth Beach. There is no Thrasher’s French Fries, Kohr’s Custard or Funland. There aren’t anywhere near as many restaurants. However, none of us seemed to miss any of those things very much. We didn’t eat out once during the week, and the adults didn’t even plan date night. The only night we went out was to see the fireworks on July 4th. We spent our days at the house, going to the beach in the morning and evening, and staying inside during the heat of the day. A couple days we watched the World Cup.
-No one got seriously sunburned, which is an amazing feat with 6 children and 7 days of bright sunshine. Good work parents!
-Our kids started a game in earlier in June called Throw Your Parents Under the Bus. This is a game in which the children come up with creative explanations why anything they find displeasing is the fault of one or more parents. It also applies to times where one parent get in trouble for coming up with answers that are contradictory to another parent. During beach week Kathy and Sean got pulled into the game as well.
-Gwen introduced Sean to Pouncy Time. This is a game that Gwen and Chris play most evenings where Chris lays on his back and Gwen jumps on his chest. Sometimes Ted joins in as well. After a couple pounces Sean said “Do not teach my boys this game!” Gwen replied “Too late! I already taught Aidan.”

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July 4th 2018

Yesterday there was a strong wind down the beach and as a result a strong undertow that quickly drifted people down the beach. The wind also created chaotic waves that are difficult for the smalls to navigate. So we rode fewer waves, but also built our largest sand castle yet during this trip.

For some reason Surf City is celebrating July 4th on the 3rd. In the evening we drove to the center of town (which has one traffic light), parked and walked to Soundside Park. The kids played at the playground for a while. Aidan gave out glow sticks to all the kids (he specifically picked out a special one for each of them). We watched the fireworks and then headed home with a pile of kids in the back of Sean’s minivan.

On the 4th we stayed at the house, swam and built a castle in the morning, then had a low key afternoon. Parents napped while kids played Minecraft and other games. In the evening we had a taco dinner and a birthday party for Melissa, Everett, Teddy and Gwen. Everyone opened presents and afterward the kids played on the beach. Ted and Gwen each received a kite from the Colorado Butsons and got to fly them for a while. Then we set off fireworks on the beach (the legal variety, not from South Carolina). Kids were down by 9pm and adult soon after.

Happy Independence Day!

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Waves & Minecraft

The kids are spending most of their time either riding waves or playing Minecraft. So far they don’t seem so interested in spending the day building large castles that occasionally outlast the tides as we have in the past. The surf here is pretty gentle and the waves break over a long distance. The water is quite warm. In terms of riding waves it’s the best beach we have ever visited for beach week. All six of them are able to ride waves here. The older three can do so on their own, and the younger three can do it with some help. All of them have been rolled in the waves from time to time.

Funny quotes from the kids:
“I’m bored!”
“There’s nothing to do here.”
“So let me get this straight. All there is to do here is go in the ocean, play in the sand, play games, play Minecraft and read books?!?” Um, yes?
“Get your horse out of my pool!” The last quote was something we overheard while they were playing Minecraft, and ultimately led to some strange sounding proclamations from the parents who had grown tired of the bickering and arguing which was occurring in the real world over things happening in the virtual world. Such as “No one put any animals in anyone else’s pool, ever!” and when that didn’t work we told them “Everyone get in your own world and stay there!”

The adults love+hate the iPads. The good thing about them is that they provide reliable entertainment for the kids. And one remarkable thing about Minecraft is that all six kids will play it together. They never seem to tire of it, and they are able to work together to create virtual worlds. The thing gives the adults pause is the frequency and amount of time the kids will spend on their devices. We note that Everett recently received the latest Wings of Fire book, which was so engaging that he often chose it over the iPad until he finished it on Tuesday.

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Reflections on Salzburg

-Summertime is hard on knees. The twins each have some major cuts and bruises on their knees from multiple spills during walking, hiking and running. In addition, Ted has cuts on his elbows and several puncture wounds on his forehead from falling in the gravel at the Augustiner. Even Mom has bruises on her leg.
-Chris was able to help Carrie start using the cloud for viewing photos. Of course, this was technical support that wasn’t asked for, an especially delicate situation that requires a strong trust relationship. To achieve this Chris has visited Carrie and her family 7 times over the last 14 years, and during this trip he mentioned each day the advantages of using a cloud based app for viewing photos over downloading each of them with a web browser plus Airdrop. Finally on the night before we left Carrie let Chris install the Smugmug app on her phone so that she could see images from this trip and previous trips. It might be too strong a statement to say this was a breakthrough, but it certainly felt like solid progress. Fortunately we are scheduled to see Carrie and her family again in August in Utah, which will provide an opportunity for additional counseling and encouragement.
-Ted and Gwen quickly became attached to Carrie, Sophie and Anna. About a day into the trip Gwen referred to Carrie as The Other Mom and asked for her name. Ted is almost always the first of our children who is out of bed in the morning, and by the end of the trip he was having long conversations with Carrie in the kitchen in the morning. Sometimes he would even sit in her lap.
–Ted: “I remember your house but now I don’t remember my house.” He was also comfortable enough around Carrie to tell her that her head was too small for her body, which she rectified by letting her hair down from its ponytail.
–Gwen asked around 10am one day: “Carrie are your girls already at school?”
–Carrie made dinner for everyone each night, and Ted and Gwen seemed to eat seconds of whatever she cooked. Amazing! Carried joked that her girls would do the same with food cooked by other Moms.
–Sophie and Anna shared their Barbie collection with Gwen and spent lots of time with her. They also spent a lot of time playing board games with Ted and Gwen.

Funny quotes from the kids:
-Everett, after someone spoke to him at lunch and he didn’t respond: “I’m lost in my knödel,” referring to the delicious knödels that Carrie made for everyone lunch.
-Ted one morning soon after we arrived: “It smells like fresh cow!”

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Schaukelweg & Augustiner

This morning Melissa and Everett went with Carrie to Freilassing, while Chris took Teddy and Gwen to the schaukelweg in Anthering. We have walked this path during several of our previous visits. We parked by the kindergarten and went to the first station, then slowly hiked through town and up to the fourth station with a picnic lunch on the way. Then we hiked back to the car and drove to visit the last two stations before coming home.

In the afternoon we went to the Augustiner in Salzburg. This is one of our favorite places on earth. We each had a beer and some food while the kids played. It was delightful.

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This morning Chris and Melissa went to Globus while Carrie watched the kids at her house. Globus is the local megastore. It’s in Freilassing, Germany, and because the rivers formed international boundaries for many years, there are only a couple bridges and no direct routes to get there.

In the afternoon we went to Salzburg to shop for clothing we can’t find at home. Melissa found a sweater and Chris picked out a jacket from Trachtenstadl. We stopped at our favorite children’s clothing store (Crai) where Ted picked a viking t-shirt similar to the one Everett picked during our previous visit in 2016, and Gwen picked out a skirt with bird houses. Everett has now outgrown this store and couldn’t find any clothing he wanted so instead he got a leather pouch. Then we hiked on the Mönchsberg for a while before coming back to Wald for a lasagna dinner.

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Hohenwerfen Castle

Today we visited Hohenwerfen Castle. The older kids were up late last night playing Monopoly and were difficult to rouse this morning, so we didn’t get an early start. We arrived a little before noon and took the funicular to the castle. As we arrived we realized that there were two birds of prey shows, one that had started a half hour earlier and another in about three and a half hours. We were worried about how to keep busy until then, but there was no need. There is much to do here. First the small kids played throw the ring on the unicorn while the older kids of all ages learned to walk on stilts.

There are many neat parts of the castle that we say on the tour, but the highlight for most of us was the birds of prey show. It was amazing in every possible way: the venue, the number of birds, the skill of the falconers, and the alpenhorn players.

During the show the falconer would throw treats up into the air for the birds to catch. This was often successful, but at other times dead mice and baby chicks would fall into the crowd. You don’t see that at Disney world. Once an eagle missed a catch and immediately afterward a vulture swooped down and ate it off the ground, then decided that it would be better to walk up the hill rather than fly. For a few moments he was walking directly toward Everett.

A few more photos:

After we left the castle Gwen we came home for dinner. They kids played games and then watched 101 Dalmatians while the adults chatted.

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Today we got up around 9am and spent some time at the house in the morning. In early afternoon we visited Dorotheum, which is essentially a high class consignment store where you can purchase treasures being sold or auctioned by other people. These include jewelry, antiques, paintings, ceramics and vintage weapons. We didn’t find any treasures that we felt we needed to travel home with. Then we went to GEA on a secret mission by Melissa to look at shoes for Chris after seeing some nice shoes that Armin bought recently. This had to be done carefully because there is no way Chris would consent to go shoe shopping, partly because purchasing shoes might subsequently result in wearing them (the word “shoe” is derived from a Germanic word meaning “foot prison”), and partly because the shoes he brought on this trip have hardly even been broken in after 12 years of gentle use (yet somehow the soles are worn off). Anyway this strategy worked because somehow he came out of the store with a new pair of shoes, Melissa got a new bag, and the kids got some very neat and clever change purses. Masterful work on Melissa’s part!

Afterward we took the kids to Zauberfl̦tenspielplatz at Mirabellgarten. Visiting this playground has been a tradition every time we have visited Salzburg with children Рwe have pictures of the kids here during every visit.

In the evening we had dinner at Kernei’s Mostheuriger. Three of us ordered Brettljause. Ted had a Bauernomelette and Gwen had Grillwürstel mit Pommes. After dinner we looked at the cows and pigs in the barn next door, and spent some time at the playground out back. Later we played games at the house and when Sophie and Anna got home from choir practice they played Monopoly with Everett. Apparently the new version has credit cards, which the kids seem completely comfortable with.

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Travel Misadventures

Today (06/19/18) we left Paris. We recently realized that it’s difficult to travel to Paris without sounding pretentious. As in: we had some great times there, but over the last couple days we grew apart and thought it would be best if we saw other places. So goodbye Paris, we are leaving for Austria.

I (Chris) got up early today, followed by Ted, then Melissa, and finally Everett and Gwen. The last two were particularly difficult to rouse. Around 10:30 I walked a few blocks to pick up the rental car, which turned into an odyssey that took nearly two hours. First I found out that they don’t actually keep the rental cars at that location – they deliver them when the customer arrives, which takes a bit of time. After I got the car I drove back to the apartment to try to find a parking space, but in retrospect I would have been more likely to find a unicorn. I drove around for about an hour. Our apartment is on a one way street that is the width of a single car plus 1 cm on each side and there is almost no place to pull over for a moment to load the car. Plus we don’t do anything quickly. I eventually found an empty curb about a half mile away and put the car there, but no one nearby (including people who worked in stores right there) knew if that was a legal parking spot or not.

It was a rough travel day. Our plan was to leave the apartment in Paris, drive to Sèvres to see the house where Melissa’s family used to live, and then drive to Strasbourg to stay the night. This should have taken about 4 or 5 hours. Instead, all three children were vomiting before we left Paris, and only one of them used a bag, so we had to stop twice to clean up the car and children as best we could. Then we drove for about an hour and during the next stop to clean up vomit Chris took a close look at the car navigation system because it was giving some very late estimates for when we would arrive in Strasbourg. It turns out that its default behavior was to take us on roads with a speed limit of 50km/hr to avoid tolls. We turned off this option and got on the highway, but in retrospect this was no better. Over the next two days we traveled roughly 1000km from Paris to Salzburg at an average speed of about 35mph. Travel times were 2 or 3 times what was estimated by the navigation system, which we eventually abandoned in favor of Google Maps. Interestingly, the navigation system was aware of many lane closures and accidents around France and Germany but reported exactly zero delays of any kind on our route, which is odd because they occurred about every 5km.

We stayed the night in a cottage at a campground in Strasbourg, which was lovely and perfect for our family. There was a playground and lots of open areas for the kids to run around. They spent about a half hour laying in the sand in the volleyball court. We washed some clothes and blankets from the car. Around 9pm we went into Petit France for dinner at La Corde à Linge and were seated around 10pm. Two of the kids ordered burgers with Münster (a.k.a. monster cheese, according to Gwen) but due to a mistake by the parents we ordered burgers with blue cheese instead, and they immediately spit out their first bite. We did our best to recover and in the end had a lovely dinner on the canal. The kids were in bed sometime after midnight. We had to sleep with the windows open because it was hot and there are no fans or air conditioning, plus there are no window screens France, so we were covered in bug bites in the morning.

06/20/18: We got on the road around 10:30am and Ted threw up before we got out of Strasbourg. So we stopped at Monoprix for trash bags and wipes, and instituted a rule that iPads are not allowed in the car unless we are on the highway on the theory that this was making them carsick. Nonetheless, Everett threw up a couple hours later. Rough.

The next day we had another long day of driving. There is a misconception among Americans that you can get places quickly on the Autobahn because there are no speed limits. This is sort of true but only in the sense that if you drive across the country there may be short stretches of a few kilometers at a time where you can drive as fast as you want to, but 99% of the time it’s not possible because of lane closures, reduced speed, traffic, etc.

We arrived at Carrie and Armin’s house around 7pm. The kids got to run around and get some wiggles out. We had a lovely dinner on the porch (salad, barbecue beef and polenta). Then the kids ran around more until it was dark. Finally showers and bed. The three of them are sleeping in Anna’s room, which she graciously gave up during our visit.

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Reflections on Paris

We have found that it’s difficult to talk about traveling to Paris without sounding pretentious. We first became aware of this from listening to other people during the trip, and also noticed it about ourselves. These conversations sometimes sound like people who have grown tired of Paris and are ready for something new, like Provence or Normandy.

The weather in Paris has been spectacular. It has been cool at night and during the day with occasional rain. So comfortable for our family!

The Paris Museum Pass has been fantastic. We bought the 6 day passes for 74 Euros per adult; the kids are free to almost everything. Navigo Metro pass has worked out great. Chris and Melissa each have one which provides one week of metro access starting on Sunday night. The kids are still at the age where they need reduced price tickets which we buy in packs of 10 or 20 (0.75 Euros per child per trip) within the Paris area (we had to buy separate tickets to Versailles).

Paris is by no means an inexpensive place to travel, but this was manageable. Beyond flights, we paid about $400 per night for a 3 bedroom, two bathroom apartment near the Arc de Triomphe with 4 adults and 3 children. This apartment has had more than its share of problems, but this is still a much more comfortable way for us to travel than staying at a hotel.

This is an unbelievably rich city in terms of culture and food and we have thoroughly enjoyed it!

French Air Conditioning: A new invention that occurred to Chris after the trip. It’s a self contained box, powered by an RTG, that prevents any air movement yet somehow makes living spaces hot, humid and full of biting insects no matter the season or conditions.

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