Telling the whole wide world you’re going out of the country is not really wise – so though I wanted to blog about this trip to Germany as it happened, I needed to save up the posts until we got back.
This afforded me a unique opportunity to treat it more like an old fashioned journal. I’d write up the days experiences for later reading in a notebook – old school paper and pen!
The first thing on my packing list is running shoes. I’m hoping it’s going to be that sort of vacation. I’ve had similar ideas in the past and though these trips aren’t exactly sedentary, I usually only get sporadic runs in. The kids kill the plans, to be frank – they don’t sleep, they get sick, they get us sick and I’m too exhausted to train and it’s not fair to make my wife take them both when she’s just as tire, if not more so. It’s her vacation too.
There was a a good deal of me that was afraid of this trip – the exhaustion and disappointment have detracted from the journey the last two times. Still I looked forward to visiting my brother and his family near Frankfurt and my Father-in-Law and his wife in Berlin and being on vacation beats digging ditches. The one thing that scared me more than anything was THE FLIGHT: 8 hours overseas with a 3 year-old and an 18 month-old. When Shark Boy was 18 months old we made the same trip and 3 adults weren’t enough to control him on the plane and now it was the Lightning Kid’s turn and there would be two of us, still with Shark Boy to contend with.
It’s been my experience that airlines don’t do that much to help the parents of small children. I don’t want special treatment per se, but I figure you can’t expect toddlers and babies to be reasonable so making them comfortable ends up helping make everybody more comfortable. We had two things in our favour this time compared to previous trips:
A direct flight
Lufthansa as an airline
We’ve had problems booking seats together on other airlines (KLM and British Airways to name and shame) and/or getting the bassinet row (up against the bulkhead – the airline gave them to tall passengers instead) but Lufthansa did both by default before I was able to do our online check-in. That was nice, but common sense is still not that common; the period when a man is rocking a baby to sleep might not be the time to ask him about menu choices in a loud voice, Ms. Flight Attendant! We basically pulled an all-nighter and the kids didn’t sleep enough but they kept their misbehaving (especially loud screaming/crying) to a minimum.
Between being up all night and jet lag, the first Saturday was basically a write-off for accommodating fatigue and allowing recovery. The only activity I can claim is lugging suitcases and chasing children… but our rewards were a filled-zucchini, wheat-beer, and plenty of chocolate.
|The Zucchini was for lunch, traditionally the warm meal, whereas dinner is lighter.|
Between a nasty cough and jet lag the Lightning Kid gave us a rough night but thankfully Shark Boy adapted to the environment of his cousins’ bedroom with ease. Seeing the cousins (ours 3½ and 1½, theirs 4 and 2) get along and play together is one of the biggest appeals of this trip – better than the beer and chocolate even!
After taking the kids to a playground and lunch, my brother and I were able to go for a run. I remember grabbing my heart rate monitor strap while packing, but I couldn’t find it in my suitcase (flashforward: it was found in a box of diapers when we got home) – luckily I still had the Garmin watch unit to track and quantify the run. My brother led the way – luckily he let me know it would be a lot of climbing early on, so that three-quarters of the time would be spent on half the distance – otherwise I’d have thrown in the towel early. We got 10km done in just under an hour – pretty good considering the hills.
In the afternoon we made an outing to downtown Bad Homburg for ice cream – running and spaghetti ice cream were the two things I wanted to have regularly on vacation – things were off to a decent start!
|I didn’t do any food photography or else I’d offer you a better view of Spaghetti Ice Cream. Note the Lightning Kid’s smeared face and trademark electrified hair.|
On Monday the weather was terrible and fatigue levels were high so we didn’t get up to much besides visiting my brother’s sister and brother-in-law (does that make them my in-laws squared?). It gave the kids a change of scenery and a chance to play with other kids (though I suspect the novelty of different toys is the real draw for them) and the adults got to partake in the German tradition of coffee and cake (though maybe I should have tried harder to emphasize more of the former and less of the latter.
With the long weeknd over we had a prime opportunity to take the kids to a local pool. We took Shark Boy and his younger cousin and kept the Lightning Kid at home due to his lingering cough and a possible ear infection.
Community pools in Germany are like shopping malls with different size pools instead of stores – warm pools for kids, lap-swimming pools, outdoor pools, water slides, wading pools, whirlpools (do I sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump yet?)… enough to rival some full-on water parks in North America. It’s frustrating to think how often pools back home struggle to survive city budget cuts when they would have a fraction of the operating costs they do in Germany. It seems like the culture embraces physical activity and being in the water more somehow – which doesn’t make me feel any better about the situation back home.
The good news is that Shark Boy had a blast – his favourite was the smallest slide, though he was willing to do the biggest one with me – a long, dark twisting tunnel with lights that flashed on and off – he politely declined a second go round. Non-swimmer kids were required to wear water wings – these gave him some extra confidence to be at arms length from me; in fact, by the time I gave him a flutter board, he was using his flutter kick to swim clear away from me and I had to chase after him. Though it was heavily assisted – it was the first time he moved himself through the water independently and I considered it a milestone to be proud of.
TO BE CONTINUED! STAY TUNED FOR PART 2!