Thursday, October 18, 2007

Maybe Freud was right...

A recent conversation in our house:

Papaya: Mommy, you're going to get a new husband!

Me: A new husband?! But I don't want a new husband! I love the one I already have! I plan to keep my current husband as long as we're both living.... (out of curiosity)... who would my new husband be?

Papaya: ME!

Me: But if you become my husband, then who would be your daddy? Right now my husband is your daddy. Wouldn't you be sad if he weren't your daddy any more?

Papaya: I will be my daddy!

Young sexist

Since I got pregnant, we've been teaching the Papaya a simplified version of the birds & the bees. As a part of this, we explained to him that the Banana & I both have wombs - places where babies can grow inside our bodies - but that he doesn't.

After some thought, he dealt with his womb envy by composing the following song and singing it to me (my brother-in-law the poet will be gratified to see he didn't feel the need to make it rhyme):

"I have a brain
And you have a womb
But when you look deeper
We both have a head!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So much to share!

After a shameful and eventful 2-month hiatus from this blog, I'm finally back - with a lot of news. It's always hard to know where to start after having been away so long, so I'll use the easy method of showing pictures (each worth 1000 words, so as to make up for all my non-blogging) and filling in the gaps in-between to share about our lives for the last 1/6 of the year.

Soon after my last post, in which I gleefully introduced our new family member (the Honda Pilot, still not named), we decided to try her out with a family camping trip to Oak Creek Canyon.

All our gear fit beautifully, and we were happy to learn, after a strong thunderstorm erupted right after we got it set up, that our tent really was waterproof, as advertised.
Our campsite was right next to beautiful Oak Creek, and we could hear the creek as we went to sleep at night.
The hot air balanced the freezing creek water nicely, and was great fun to wade and spash in. The Papaya & his Daddy tried their hardest to do things that would put a bit of a scare into my heart:
We started off our first morning with a scrumptious pancake breakfast, accompanied by real maple syrup and great coffee made in a French press (yeah, we really rough it on these camping trips)...
...and then we hit the road, excited about taking the Pilot on a Sedona back road we had always wanted to explore with the Corolla but been unable to. Passing all the professional Pink Jeep tours as we drove further into the backcountry made us feel adventurous.

The Pilot & the model:
We parked our vehicle and hiked to one of Sedona's famed "vortex" rock formations. New Agers believe vortex sites have especially concentrated cosmic energy & seek them out. All we've noticed about them is that they're all unusually beautiful. Despite the plebian name of this vortex site ("CowPies"), it was no exception. It was full of shallow depressions that had been filled with water during the thunderstorm the day before and reflected the red rock spires all around:
The kids, surrounded by enormous puddles surpassing their wildest dreams, drew their own inspiration from the scene:

Things gradually got muddier and muddier...
We did the best we could with baby wipes and less-muddy water from the puddles. But it's safe to say the kids have done as much to break in our new Pilot as the bumpy roads we drive it on.

The Monday after our camping trip was Labor Day, and we celebrated it with our church by a cookout at the edge of Third Mesa. This has been the best workout for our new Pilot so far. We really navigated some big rocks & grades! But we made it, transporting a few people while the church's pick-up and attached trailer took the rest:
The kids clambered all over the boulders & had a wonderful time, while the adults built a fire, cooked hamburgers & brats, chatted, & hoped their kids wouldn't plunge off the edge of the mesa. Save for a few minor falls, nothing of the sort happened, and it was a wonderful and beautiful evening.

Here are a few of the cute church kids (including ours):
Labor Day this year is eventful for more than the church cook-out. Spurred on by some problems the local mission school has had this year as well as by observing the somewhat fun atmosphere of the homeschool going on at our church (they're now schooling 10 kids, including one high-schooler still reading at a 2nd grade level after going through the local schools here), I had started to consider, just a little bit, in the back of my mind, the idea of homeschooling. On Labor Day I decided to use my free time (Papaya Daddy had both kids) to browse online and see what kinds of homeschooling curriculum were available. I ended up finding a literature-based curriculum (it has an unfortunate name, in my opinion) that I fell in love with. I showed Papaya Daddy & he was very impressed, as well. Their educational philosophy mirrors our own and boy, do they have a great selection of books! We also love how flexible they are, while at the same time saving their customers a lot of work putting together their own curriculum. We're impressed with their intercultural & international focus. It seems a little pricey, but you're paying for a lot of great books that will be in your house forever, plus it's completely re-usable for each successive child.
To make a long story short, we ended up ordering the Core B package for the Papaya, as well as some extras (language arts, handwriting, math) that will allow me to stretch it out over two years to cover his kindergarten year next year. We also ended up getting most of the fabulous Core A books (pretty much everything we didn't already own). Since we live 2 hours from the nearest decent library and rarely get there, I'm thrilled to suddenly have a great preschool literature collection! We've been doing informal "school" since then - basically, just reading & a little other work each day. It's been great fun & it's nice to have a little more structure to our days. We all enjoy it. The kids love the books & it's fun to see Papaya interacting with (acting out, talking about) something other than the Cars plot & characters! Papaya Daddy teaches a little bit of math some mornings before he runs off to work & this, I think, is the Papaya's favorite part of the day! I'm so impressed with this curriculum & am having so much fun with the idea of homeschooling that I'm ready to do it indefinitely. I think it will be good for the Papaya, especially, and it will really fit in with Papaya Daddy's schedule (he often works a weekend, followed by a four-day comp weekend. With homeschooling, we can do the same thing and enjoy his time off together without pulling kids out of school!) I'm excited about getting into some of the more advanced cores (like this one) - I want to read the books myself!

Receiving all the fun boxes of books, getting started with a bit more of a structure in our house, and planning out the next few years of homeschooling pretty much consumed the next few weeks our my life. It is nice to have something a bit more focused to do with myself & the kids during the day - they go much faster!

Before we knew it, the Banana's second birthday was upon us! She's grown up fast. Sometime I really will write a longer, more pointed entry just about her and what a fun little girl she is. Here she is, enjoying the birthday cake we took to the church potluck a few days before her birthday:
On her actual birthday, she got sweet cereal for breakfast & that evening, some ice cream with candles stuck in it as well as presents. She had a great time opening them & said a satisfying "Whoa!" after tearing open each present or card.

Despite having reached the great age of 2, the Banana remains petite and can actually fit into a smallish mailing box:
Here's the Papaya, looking dapper the morning of the Banana's birthday:
On the weekend after the Banana's birthday, we began to suspect that our lives and family might be changing dramatically and unexpectedly in the next year (and for many years after that). As the days continued to go by, our suspicions deepened. Finally, by Wednesday, I couldn't stand the suspense any more. Not wanting to drive 80 miles to the nearest grocery store or pharmacy, I made a trip to our local shopping metropolis - a tiny, rather dingy, and overpriced convenience store. With great embarassment and little hope, I waited until all other customers were out of the way and asked the man behind the counter if he had any pregnancy tests (since all pharmacy-like items were stored off limits). He actually did, and sold me a "Western Family" test on the spot. Despite our attempts at family planning, it was decisively conclusive, and the Papaya Daddy and I have been adjusting to the news (with increasing degrees of of happiness and excitement) ever since. Our new family member is due just about the time of the Papaya's birthday next May.

The day after I found out I was pregnant, we left home for an intense 16 mile round trip hike down to Supai and back. Supai is a small town on an Indian reservation at the bottom of a contributary canyon to the Grand Canyon (not the national park, but a portion of the Grand Canyon west of the national park). As well as being the only place in the United States where the mail is still delivered by mule, it's also famous as being an access point for the breathtakingly beautiful Havasupai waterfall and a couple other waterfalls formed by Havasu Creek. We were fortunate to have two good friends (formally mission school teachers) who are now living there and doing some tough teaching work at the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) elementary school. And we thought we were isolated - they have to hike 8 miles out of the canyon and drive 1 1/2 hours to do their grocery shopping, then drive back & carry everything 8 miles back down to their apartment!
We took Papaya Daddy's brother, both kids on backpacks, and all of our stuff for two nights, as well as 8 quarts of water and some snacks. Papaya Daddy & his brother carried a child each, while I took everything else. Since I was pregnant, they also tried to take most of the water - kind of nice for me (although I still ended up carrying close to 30 pounds)! We also brought a ton of groceries with us for our two friends. These 2 women hiked up 8 miles from their home in the morning, carrying a ton of the school's recycling with them (it only took them 2 1/2 hours!), loaded those into our vehicle, loaded down their backpacks with 50+ pounds of groceries & school supplies, hiked back with us, and still had the energy to cook supper for us while we collapsed in their apartment in various states of exhaustion and pain! They're our heros.

It was a tough but beautiful hike. We had to watch out for the mule trains, which paused for nobody, but that also added some interest. Here's the view from near the beginning of our hike. Our trail follows the canyon and our stopping point is right at the foot of the smallish butte you can barely see in the distance.
Here we are, taking a much desired break:
The next day, after a refreshing night in our friends' apartment, we hiked a couple miles further and came to the beautiful waterfall that made it all worthwhile:
The travertine (a kind of mineral) in the water makes it that incredible blue-green color. I've never seen anything like it! The water was a little cold for me, but Papaya Daddy went swimming right up to the foot of the waterfall. It really was paradisically beautiful (a sharp contrast to the enormous and ugly social problems our friends deal with in their classrooms every day.)

The hike back up (2000 feet elevation gain, 8 miles long) was not as bad as we thought it would be (although the final climb was still fairly brutal), and we made it in five hours.

The part of the trail that followed the creek in the early morning was, again, breathtakingly beautiful:
We were disappointed that no matter how long Papaya Daddy's brother & I waited at this point, mid-hike, the bus never came.
A few days after returning from the hike (right around 6 weeks pregnant), pregnancy hit me full-force. I have been dealing with constant, all-day nausea and exhaustion ever since. It really is not pleasant, and seems a lot worse than with either of the other two children. And it's going to continue for several weeks to come (I'm not even at 8 weeks yet)! I try to take it a day at a time.

Luckily, there are still distractions from the unpleasantness, like this recent hailstorm (anyone who knew me from childhood will understand my fascination with hail):
Last weekend, we took a trip to Flagstaff and drove up into the mountains to see the fall colors. And to you folks in the East complaining about a brown autumn, I have to say: come to Arizona. It's beautiful here!
It's a good thing you can't tell how we're freezing our toes off. The temperature was hovering around freezing, with stray snowflakes, and all we were wearing under those fleecies were short-sleeve shirts. There was also a cold wind blowing. After a decreasingly pleasant mile of hiking in which we just got colder and colder, we turned around and had an increasingly miserable hike back to the car. It took about three hours for me to thoroughly warm up!

It's much more comfortable to admire the beautiful resulting photos from my warm living room.
And that brings us pretty much to the present. In just two months, we've not only had numerous varied adventures, but we've become pregnant homeschoolers. I hope to have some less eventful months in the future!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Quick update & introduction

Wow, it's been a long time since my last entry. I don't have a lot of time right now, but here's a quick update, as well as an introduction to our newest family member and a farewell to a long-time, much-abused but faithful-to-the-end family member.

In the last few weeks, the following notable things happened to our family:

*I bravely caught a wolf spider & humanely removed it from our house, instead of squishing it flat. Although I'm not yet comfortable with the idea of cohabitation (especially since it crawled out of a toy the Banana was holding), I've come a long way since this entry.

*A psychiatrist and his family (currently living in Alaska) came here to interview this week. They like it, and will probably move here in early December. They have a 4-year-old! Boy! And they're nice! It's hard to tell who's more excited - the Papaya or I. Either way, it's an answer to prayer, since he's been getting lonely lately without any playmates.

*The Banana completed her last free airplane flight as a lap child. Since her birth, she has taken 11 free roundtrips through the skies, including one all the way to Germany & back (actually, we had to pay a little for the international portion of that). I'd say we've gotten our money's worth. I can also say that my lap is looking forward to being empty on the next airplane trip.

*We had a great trip to North Carolina that included a lovely night with appdaddy & Queen Felicia (aka our wonderful aunt & uncle) and a fabulous week in an oceanfront Kure Beach house with all my family.

*We survived yet another on-the-road vomiting virus, which struck the Papaya first in the middle of the night and spread (with varying degrees of intensity) to most other family members.

*We received word via cellphone, halfway through the beach vacation, that our '98 Toyota Corolla workhorse, dropped off at a garage in Phoenix prior to our departure in order to have an oil leak assessed, required extensive repairs that would cost more than it was worth.

*We spent several hours over the next couple days employed in the following fun beach activities: huddling over my brother-in-law's computer in McDonalds (where we could pick up wireless), analyzing vehicles on Consumer Reports; engaging in deep discussions with each other & soliciting advice from the extended family; making scores of calls to various Phoenix car dealers & waiting for them to call us back; and agreeing to buy a particular vehicle (sight unseen) over the phone.

*We arrived back in Phoenix last Saturday evening & picked up our faithful Lydia (Corolla) from the garage. The next morning, we drove her to Showcase Honda to trade her in & buy our pre-reserved Honda Pilot 2007. To our great relief, the vehicle was as described (brand new), and the absolutely incredible price was as promised. Within three hours, I was transferring all our luggage & junk into our beautiful new SUV. Soon afterwards we were driving away, slightly dazed that it had all been so easy. We didn't even have our checkbook or the title to our old Corolla with us (we hadn't been planning to buy a new car). No problem! We were still the proud owners of Papaya Daddy's dream car. (We did promise to actually mail a check to pay for the vehicle when we got home.)

*Within the first two hours of driving the Pilot from Phoenix to Flagstaff, we accomplished what it took six years of driving Lydia to do: we doubled the mileage (it helped that the Pilot's mileage was 126 when we bought it, as opposed to the 80,000 miles that were on the Corolla when we purchased it!)

*I have become something I never thought I would be (and still regard with some sheepishness): the owner of a new SUV. We will, however, use this SUV for the purpose for which it was intended: we hope to explore the many enticing dirt roads that surround us, that have hitherto been denied us (or should have been denied us). Although so far, I haven't done anything more than try various dirt roads (about 100 meters long) connecting the main highway to the post office.

*We now have a vehicle that is actually large enough to accommodate guests (it seats 8)! No more renting cars for visitors (if they number more than 1) or contorting my body in a poor attempt to crookedly and uncomfortably squeeze my hips between the two car seats in the back of the Corolla (if it is a single guest). No more jigsaw puzzle maneuvering to fit our mammoth grocery purchases in a small trunk & roof box! And, most tantalizing, we now have ample car space for a third child - a possibility that creates emotions in the Papaya Daddy ranging from ambivilence to palpable fear & trembling.

Farewell, faithful Lydia...

Welcome to the family, [still unnamed but definitely male - any ideas?]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You never know what a day will bring...

This morning, the kids were still dragging on with their breakfast at 8:30 a.m. (they had been up since 5:45). We had already mopped up almost a quart of homemade hummingbird nectar (sugar liquid) that the Banana pulled off the counter, spilled all over herself, slipped, & fell in. I had showered the Banana & started a load of laundry. Papaya Daddy had spent a good hour pulling spent sunflower plants from our yard, shaking out the seeds on the barren areas of our property, & throwing them into the desert behind our yard. He had run off, late, for work, and I was sitting with the kids in a grungy T-shirt & pair of sweat pants, alternately interacting with them and working on a Sudoku puzzle before tackling the dirty breakfast dishes. In other words, it was a pretty normal morning.

Then I got a phone call from our pastor's wife. "They need a piano player at a K-town funeral at 10:00 this morning!" she said. "Can you do it?"

A little background: we don't go to the K-town church, nor do I know anybody connected with the funeral (they don't know me, either). I'm not that excellent a piano player, and not that great a sightreader. I never practice these days, although I occasionally play on Sunday mornings at our church. K-town is about a 20 or 25 minute drive away, it's already 8:40, & I have two small children who can't just take care of themselves during a possible 2 hour funeral service. The songs requested are all from the Hopi hymnal, & there's only one that I know I've encountered before.

So I say, "Sure! I think I can get there on time! Can you guys help with the kids?"

I jump into hyperdrive - I call the Hopi man in charge of the service to let him know I'll be there, dress the Banana, stick the kids in front of a video, shower & dress myself & try to look presentable as a funeral pianist, get the diaper bag & water ready, sunscreen the kids, get the Papaya to the bathroom, buckle them in the car, and head off with time to spare. I hope I'll have a chance to try a couple of the hymns on the church piano before the service begins.

Lest you feel overly impressed by (or shocked at) my alacrity at accepting such an invitation, know that I've done this once before - when the Banana was exactly 6 days old. My mother was there to help with the preparation & child care, which made that instance a little easier - but at least this time, I don't have to squeeze a freshly post-partum body into appropriate non-maternity funeral attire, or cross my arms over my chest to avoid let-down midservice when I hear the Banana crying in the back of the church. I also have a little less stage fright at facing around 100 mourners & knowing that I'm completely unprepared and will probably make mistakes.

Once I arrive at K-town church, I do have about five or ten minutes to look at the songs & practice before the service starts. I practice in fits & starts, as family members begin to trickle in & my kids pound on the treble & bass regions of the piano. It turns out that from the four songs selected for the service, I am familiar with two, slightly familiar with one (translation of "Oh, Happy Day!" with some difference in the rhythm & a line or two of Hopi musical addition thrown into the middle of each verse - I end up accompanying the church choir for this during the service), and have a hard time feeling like I "get" the meter & rhythm of the final song, which I have never heard before. I end up having some serious problems with this in the actual service, since it appears that the way it is actually sung differs from the way it is written (i.e. long pauses over several of the notes, an actual meter change from 3/4 to 4/4 for a couple of bars.) By the time we get to the last stanza, I am basically on the same wavelength as those singing. It's a pity it was the final song!

During the long service (it turned out to be almost 2 hours with spontaneous eulogies in the middle & the viewing at the end), the kids have a wonderful time with the 20 year old pastor's son & a pre-teen girl (a member of another family living & helping at the church) who show up to babysit. Such a good time that I start to tense up as the kids' squeals of enjoyment from the Sunday School room attached to the sanctuary threaten to distract from the eulogies. I finally stick my head in & they end up moving the operation outside, to my immense relief.

After the less-than-successful final song & a prayer, the service leader coordinates the viewing - something like a receiving line at a wedding, except the open coffin takes the place of the wedding party. As people begin to line up, I sit awkwardly on the piano stool and wonder if I can sneak away. But no - one of the organizers leans over to me and says, "Can you play something?" This is very awkward - I don't know many songs from the Hopi hymnal, have no idea how to find the songs I do know (because I don't remember their Hopi names), & definitely don't want to pick one at random and struggle through sightreading it during the viewing. After some quick anguished reflection, I start to play through the songs we have already sung (except for the last one). By the time I get through those, I feel a little calmer, find a Hopi song I know from church, & start to play it. Unfortunately, the melody ends up sounding a little too upbeat and I get the uncomfortable feeling that the Hopi words are expressing how happy the singer is (by this time, people are crying pretty hard as they look into the coffin only about ten feet away from me). I quickly finish that, play what had been announced as the deceased man's favorite song again (ironically, the Hopi version of "Oh, Happy Day"), and search for new inspiration. By this time, people are wailing & throwing themselves on top of the coffin & I am really feeling awkward. I pick up the English hymnal & look up "Amazing Grace", because at least I know it well, then work on from there. Finally, it looks as if things are winding down, so I ask the orgainizer if he needs more music. He says no, so I thankfully slip out, pack up the kids, and drive home while heaving large sighs of relief. I haven't felt so much displacement in a while!

At least it was a break from the ordinary!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rain at last! (Photo essay)

The kids rush out joyously to greet the first real rain of the season (no thunder). Rain dance time!

As the rain lessens, the kids venture past the safety of the driveway and the garage shelter to the alluring gutter puddles.

The Banana removes her shoes for maximum gutter puddle enjoyment.

Ready to join the gang!

Making big splashes. A kid's life during an Arizona summer doesn't get much better than this.

A brisk wind picks up & the Banana heads, shivering, to the shelter of the garage...

...but ventures out again (sans wet skirt) to check out the Papaya's stationary gutter bike riding.

"Okay, this is it - I'm cold & I want inside!"

Warm & clean at last

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A hot holiday

Arizona is experiencing a heat wave. Near record temperatures. An Arizona heat wave in July is pretty brutal, let me tell you. We've been having temperatures over 100 degrees for the past few days, coupled with an intense sun, no clouds, and a burning, dry wind. It hasn't rained in a month.

We recently planted some grass & wildflower seed in our front yard. Every evening, we water the area we planted until it is sitting in a pool of water. By noon of the next day, the ground that held a puddle the night before looks like this:

At least there's some green there - a near miracle, in this weather!

Papaya Daddy is off today, but it's too hot to do much. Understandably, Independence Day is not a huge holiday among the Hopi Indians (although it is more popular than Columbus Day). They do seem to love fireworks, though, so we might see a few of those if we sit out in our yard tonight. Hopefully, the pyrotechnics won't spawn any real fires in this crispy environment.

Here's hoping that the summer monsoons begin soon! Even a few clouds would be welcome!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


We are back from Germany. We loved it! A beautiful, fascinating, green, clean country. I am certain that my sister, a comfirmed Anglophile, might also become a Deutschephile after a visit (especially considering her love of good beer, great bread & cheese & chocolate, bratwurst, Ikea style furniture, and lovely gardens).

Considering the challenges of long airplane travel, a 9 hour time difference, a virus that got us all but hit the Papaya especially hard, and a painful emerging incisor for the Banana, the kids were great travellers. We spent the first few days (at a friends' house in Kaiserslautern) mostly enjoying the green humidity, walking to the excellent local bakery & buying cheap, fresh bread, watching the five kids (ours & our friends') play together, and admiring the beautiful flowers everywhere. We spent the next few days in the green, rolling hills region of Bavaria, staying with Papaya Daddy's folks & visiting small villages, castle ruins, and large cathedrals in bigger towns. We did a beautiful, short river cruise with towering cliffs on either side of us and enjoyed a little bit of Germany's wonderful rail system. Then we traveled to the mountain region of Bavaria & took in the breathtaking scenery of the Alps. We rode a cog rail train that ascended a couple thousand meters towards the peak of Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak (on the Austria border), then got on cable cars that took us almost the rest of the way up (some stairs, a ladder, and a few well placed cables facilitated our climb to the very summit). We rode more cable cars to an indescribably lovely alpine hiking base called Alpspitze. We toured the bizarre Wagnerian-opera fantasy castle that Mad King Ludwig built in the late 1800's. On the way back to Frankfurt for our flight home, we stayed the night in a converted monastery inside Rothenburg, an amazingly preserved medieval walled city.

We packed a lot into a short two weeks! And we are tired.
Things we loved about Germany:

1. Nice mix of the old and the modern. Lots of history - almost every town has its own castle ruins, cathedral, or both. But the houses had (on the indoors) a nice, modern, clean-lines, Ikea-like style that we favor. There were all kinds of well-made, convenient features - like heated floor tiles, roulades at all the windows, cool toilet flush mechanisms (you could choose big flush or little flush each time), big bathrooms, heated towel racks, etc.

2. Child friendly. There aren't enough children being born in Germany, so the government actually subsidizes (generously) its citizens to bear them. The corollary to this is that the country itself felt welcoming to children. Kids under 6 years old were pretty much free of charge everywhere and on all public transport, which is usually not true in the States (although the States wins out as far as kids meals in restaurants go). There were lots of public playgrounds everywhere.

3. Good, cheap bakeries. Good cheese. Great cheap produce. Cherries everywhere, basically falling off trees (it was the season for them). Very good, cheap chocolate. You can buy great food from all the EU countries without paying import tax.

4. Relatively green (as in environmentally friendly) - compared to most places in the States, anyway. (The fact that gas is about $7.00/gallon probably has something to do with this.) Bike & pedestrian paths everywhere. Great train & public transport systems. Huge windmills everywhere. Lots of solar panels. Subsidized biodiesel at the gas stations. Smart cars are ubiquitous. Virtually everything is recycled, even garbage scraps.

5. Small fear of dumb lawsuits = more fun for kids. The play equipment available in parks, as well as the super-fun preschool attractions at the Playmobil theme park we visited, allow kids to do fun things that they never could in the States, because of the possibility of hurting themselves & suing the pants off somebody. Basically, Germans expect parents to use their common sense & be responsible for their kids rather than trying to ensure safety by allowing only boring, safe play equipment.

6. Wonderful gardens & beautiful flowers everywhere. Fragrance & the smell of verdancy in the air. (Of course, we came at the right time.)

7. Friendly people (on the whole). Nice to Americans (at least to us), even though we speak almost no German.

Things we didn't like about Germany:

1. The beds. After sleeping in three different German "double" beds, we can see why the government is paying such a premium for babies. It seems like Germans really like their own personal space at night. All the "double" beds we saw or slept in were really two twins pushed together, with seperate fitted sheets & separate twin duvets on top. Invariably, either Papaya Daddy or I would sleep (badly) in the crack in the middle, and both of us would end up with uncovered legs at some point(s) during the night in our effort to sleep with our bodies touching while using two personal-sized covers.

2. The small, slow washers and dryers. It takes about 4 hours to do one small load of laundry. I was very glad to get back to my own nice equipment. If I lived in Germany, I might not enjoy doing laundry quite so much.

3. Icky meat stuff (mostly pork tidbits) mixed together & encased in tubes. Everywhere. Lots and lots of it. I asked a waiter about a "salat" I saw on a menu, only to find out that is was a salad of cold, sliced sausage in a vinaigrette. My sister, who craved bratwurst in pregnancy, probably would have loved it - but we, vegetarians-that-eat-meat-on-vacation that we are, couldn't quite stomach them.

4. The Frankfurt Airport. What a mess! We arrived 3 hours early for our return flight, and by the time we got to the gate they were already boarding the plane. During those 3 hours, our passports were checked & scanned four times, we went through three different security-type checkpoints, and each one of us was wanded & frisked thoroughly. And I mean thoroughly. The security lady even squeezed the Banana's diaper, front & back, to make sure there was nothing scary in there (besides the expected, which is often scary to us). She stuck her hands down my pants & underneath my bra & made me remove the scrap of paper she detected in my back pocket & show it to her. The next time a security breach happens concerning air travel, it will probably not be at the Frankfurt Airport.

5. Second hand smoke. This is the non-child friendly part of Germany. They are still in the dark ages as far as non-smoking areas go. There is smoke all through the airport and hanging thick in the air of almost every restaurant. In fact, restaurants have cigarette vending machines at the entrance and they are also ubiquitous in hotel lobbies. We were very glad it was summer so we could eat outside most of the time.
6. Germany is 9 time zones away. Enough said. We are zombies.

Money saving tip in case you ever visit Germany: Learn to pronounce leitungswasser (tap water) well enough so that waitstaff can understand you. You will save a fortune, since a glass of bottled water costs the same as beer.
Okay, enough disjointed reflections. On to the pictures! What follows is but a sampling of the wonderful things we saw. (Any of the pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Waiting in the Phoenix Airport, full of energy & excitement (at least the kids are).

On the 767 in Chicago, destination Frankfurt. Energy is beginning to wane.
An ancient ruler of Speyer - and us

The jetlagged Papaya sacks out in the Speyer Cathedral. Roman emporers are entombed in the catacombs beneath him.

The small, nontouristy village of Kalmunz in Bavaria (we were climbing down from the castle ruins)

Skipping rocks at the destination of our short Donau River cruise from Kelheim

The Banana amuses herself on long van rides.

Num-num fountain in Regensburg

View of Eibsee from cog train (on the way up to Zugspitze)

Standing on top of Germany (summit of Zugspitze)

View into Austria from Zugspitze cafeteria (Austrian side)

Heaven (aka Alpspitze) - see the cable car?

More heaven. Hiking trails everywhere, from easy to expert

Not a bad place to kick up your feet

Coffee & cake break

"Climb every mountain..."

Picking a dandelion bouquet for Mommy

Walking the old city walls in Rothenburg