Sunday, August 28, 2016


Today (well yesterday really but then today too) I realized that we're moving into our house on Thursday and I don't know how to pay the rent.

I've got it figured out, thanks to some new friends but it just highlights the learning curve that's happening here.  When you move out of the house, you have to learn how to do all those things -- but you have parents that explain the system to you and help you do what you need to do.  

The army isn't a very good parent.  

We now have 2 bank accounts.  We have to transfer money from bank A to bank B (the German one) and then wire transfer money from bank B to our landlord and any utilities.  In Euros.  Which means that we pay one amount, but we have to make sure there's enough money in bank B to cover the additional expense of actually being dollars (since 100 Euros is about $112 right now BUT that rate fluctuates DAILY.  So so fun).  Paying tithing was also going to be a 12-step program (hah!), but the church just got Europe added to online donations and we can still do it in dollars so that's worked out pretty good.

Utilities are an estimated monthly payment and only calculated like once a year.  We either receive a refund of what we've overpaid at that time or have to pay the difference that we owe.

Our cell phones were switched to German sim cards and German numbers which are WEIRD.  Different lengths and you have to add a 0 at the beginning when you call.  That payment is automatically drafted too which is probably good because the statements are in German and I'm not sure I could figure out how to pay it!!

All my baking needs to be converted to celsius.  And you don't just turn on the temperature.  There are like 8 different settings.  The oven directions are in German.

What else?  Oh I'm sure there's more.  I can see why many people just love on base, shop on base, work on base, etc.  It's darn hard to do all this correctly.  And we don't have a lot of those choices for living on base, etc.  We have to be on the economy (that's what living off base and locally is referred to as).  

I haven't found a doctor or a dentist yet.
I'm tired -- and I have a headache.

But I'm still glad that we're here.  Most days!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Freiberg Temple trip!

LDS temples are only open to members of the church who have a temple recommend -- basically you have an interview to show you're in good standing.  There are also some age requirements -- at 12 years old you can get a limited use recommend for doing baptisms for the dead.  Around young adulthood (usually when you go on a mission or get married), you get your full use recommend.

But when a new temple is built, or an existing temple is renovated, the church holds an open house where anyone, regardless of age or religion, can take a tour of the temple.  I highly recommend it if you're at all curious.  

Germany has two temples: Freiberg and Frankfurt.  There are two Freibergs in Germany -- although the other one might be spelled differently.  The other one is in/near the Black Forest and has a famous cathedral or church.  This one is about 2.5 hours from us and maybe a half hour from Dresden.  If you're thinking geography right, it was in the part of the Germany that was East Germany not too long ago -- in fact, it's the first temple to have been built behind the iron curtain and the first in Germany and also the smallest that the church had ever built.  And it is small!!  It's had a few renovations over the years and has been in open house phase for a few weeks so we grabbed the opportunity and drove up!!

There was quite the line waiting for tours and they were passing out white umbrellas to keeps the sun off.  

Abby found a random flower in the grass and really really wanted to pick it and keep it but I wouldn't let her.

I kept trying to get pictures of the Angel Moroni and the German flag together but it was hard with the breeze and the sun.  I resorted to taking funny pictures of William to help keep him occupied while we were in line.

This kid loves to take goofy pictures and then laugh at them afterwards.  But the downside is that now he simply won't smile for a picture, he has to do a weird face.  And weird, wonky, and silly are regular parts of his vocabulary.

Everyone was very reverent and good in the temple -- I was very pleased with them.  They liked wearing the white booties to cover their shoes.  The girl's favorite room was the baptismal font with the font on the backs of the 12 oxen.  They are both excited to be 12 and be able to do baptisms for the dead.  For Megan, that might happen at this temple!  They also thought the mirrors in the sealing room were cool showing the eternal reflections and of course the chandeliers.  

We asked someone to take some pictures of us in front of the temple and this is what we got.  It may not be a beautiful family picture but it clearly shows each of the kids' personalities and I love that about this picture.  

We didn't stay and tour the town.  We had some things that needed to be accomplished so we drove back after we were done.  This was our first experience driving on the Autobahn.  Chopper drove! I'm not that brave yet!  And really I don't think it's too bad.  There are speed limits in some locations but mostly 130 kph is the recommendation.  There is a law that says you cannot stay and drive in the left lane and you cannot pass in the right lane.  The right lane is for driving, the left lane is for passing.  And this is a law for safety really because some people go so fast that they can't stop suddenly and you do NOT want to be in the way.
Just a cool bridge

Can you see we're doing 90?  That's about what the CRV will do.  We took that instead of the van because we heard that there was a parking garage near the temple and knew that on a Saturday there would be quite a few people.  We were right and our informant was as well -- the parking garage was TINY.  The spaces yes, but mainly the ramps and the way they were placed.  We had to 3 point turn a few times to get up and down them (of course the temple parking was on the top floor -- what???) and I can't imagine the scrapes that would have occurred had we driven the van.  We saw a few struggling!  We've been told to expect car damage because we have a larger vehicle.  I'm sure it will happen at some point!

Our GPS took us a different way back to the Autobahn to go home and we drove through some small villages set in the hills and valleys.  It was a beautiful drive on narrow roads and Made me think a lot about the people who were separated from the rest of their nation to live in a communist nation -- and not by choice.  I don't think that it was generally a good situation.  Also, how did they keep things separate and contained?  I know that there are walls in Berlin and at least one other town that was literally divided in two but what about the rest of the country?  We did see a sign with a picture of a fence and a tower just as we were crossing the "border" but didn't see the actual fence.  Its really interesting to think about borders here because it's so difference from the United States.  You cross a border and it's a different language, system, laws, etc.  It will be interesting to see how it it blends and stays separate the more that we travel.

But we felt the Spirit at the temple and had a good trip.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to take the kids and that they enjoyed it as well.  I'm grateful for temples and the opportunity to be an eternal family.  And I'm grateful to have a place to feel peace when everything else seems crazy -- like now!!  Even just for an open house, we could feel the peace and it was wonderful.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

We Have a House!!

Isn't it cute?

We don't move in until Sept. 1 and on that day, we have a small shipment of household goods arriving -- not furniture -- but enough to live on until our furniture and everything else arrives!!

We have signed a contract and received our keys but there are still a few repairs and painting to be done which is why we can't get into it TOMORROW!!  I'm dying here.  Two more weeks, two more weeks . . . .

So a few details (pictures inside to come when we move in):
The house is 2 stories liveable and an unfinished attic.  But even the attic has stairs that go up and flooring so it is completely useable space once it's done, right now it will just be storage. 
The ground floor has a really great kitchen (unusual because most German kitchens I've seen are tiny), living and dining room, spare room (ahem, sewing room), and 2 half baths -- half bath number one is a toilet and sink, half bath number two is a shower and sink.  It is kind've weird.

Go up the twisty wooden stairs (every German has them -- so glad I don't have a crawling or walking baby!) and the second floor has 3 big bedrooms and a huge full bath with separate shower, tub, toilet and sink.  One bedroom actually has a small walk-in closet, the others do not (which is more normal).  The house has high ceilings with wooden beams and is all painted white.  There are roulladens on the windows (metal shades that lower down to keep the light out in the summer nights and the sun since there's no air-conditioning) and the windows of course do the awesome thing that they all do here.  Close fully, swing inward to open, or point the handle up and they lean in slightly at the top.  German houses have to be aired on a regular basis and heated like 2/3 of the year to prevent the growth of mold.  No screens on any of the windows, fortunately the upstairs windows all have grates over the lower half so the kids won't fall out!

There is a front yard (seen here) and a back garden (not yard, sorry) that are both pretty small but I think it will be ok.  We have a 2 car garage and can plant if we want to although there are a whole bunch of grapes already on an arbor on the side that the kids are excited to pick and eat!

We're right in the middle of town so it will be easy to walk when I want to (and am not dragging 3 kids around).  I can't wait to explore!!

The family that owns the house currently lives in Austria.  She built it in 2003 on property owned by her family (and now her), and then life changed.  But she didn't want to sell it because literally across the street is property she and her family owns and behind us lives her parents and her brother who are potato farmers (but started out 40 years ago as cow farmers).  We met her parents and they are wonderful and then they all took us to a festival for Assumption Day -- a Catholic holiday that commemorates Mary being taken bodily into heaven.  There is a small church that is completely dedicated to Mary and so 4 times a year they have religious holidays where everything is closed and they do food and services up at Mary's church (that I don't yet know the name of and didn't take any pictures of -- they'll come).  Anyway we all went up and they treated us to lunch of traditional German foods -- bratwurst, bread, cheese with salt and pepper on it and the most awesome Camembert cheese spread that I cannot remember for the life of me what it was called but it was sooooo good!  We had to explain that we don't drink -- not even a little bit (for religious reasons) and took a look inside the church.

I have a feeling that this family is going to take us in and I'm kind've excited about that -- although they speak no English (our land lady does though thank goodness!).  But that's all the more reason to do the best we can with learning German -- or at least the Bavarian dialect of it!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Weiden in der Oberpfalz

My wonderful car!!  Apparently mini-vans in Germany are considered tactical vehicles, but honestly on some of the old, winding streets I think that anything bigger than a Smart Car or a MiniCooper would be considered a tactical vehicle!  It has passed inspections and is registered with European plates!  I'm not doing a ton of driving still but it is very nice to have.  Just yesterday we checked out 2 giant bags of books because I didn't have to walk them home!  Priorities!!

We had a wonderfully bright and beautiful rainbow after a downpour the other day.  This is from our balcony and that's an apartment building with the base tower in the background. 

Friday was rainy but we finally had the opportunity to go to a movie!  There is an English theater in Weiden but I heard it's expensive.  There are theaters on both bases and they're decently priced but they're not a stadium-seating theater.  I'm sure they use them for other purposes -- this one on Graf side had 672 seats!!!  They only play movies 5 days a week and then it's one movie for 2 days at 2 different times, etc. so it's not super convenient really but they did Ice Age: Collision Course and we enjoyed it.  As a movie it was ok -- lots of slap stick humor.  It was cute but the first is still the best.

Saturday we decided to go out to Weiden.  It's about the same size as Amberg in the opposite direction so the closest larger city for people who are more connected to the Graf side of the base.  I'm told there's a large population of Americans there because of the availability of the off-post housing.

In many ways it was the same but felt a lot more modern to us than Amberg.  We had a great day but I found that I liked the older charm of Amberg better.

We did finally find some postcards though!!  We haven't seen any, especially in the smaller towns (although I need to just look at the post office), but found some in a book store in Weiden.  We also got a wall map to document our travels in Germany and I was very tempted to buy this copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in German.  I think maybe reading it would increase my fluency right??  (Ok correction: This book is actually the Chamber of Secrets which makes A LOT more sense with the actual words and the fact that there's snakes in the background . . . but I'm keeping my original post to show just how far I need to go!!!  Smiley face!)
When I flipped through it, I realized that conversations in German don't use quotation marks -- they use what I'm going to refer to as "triangles" -- sorry, >>triangles<< to set them apart.  
I'm just fascinated by all the little details of another country and culture!!!

Anyway, on to Weiden -- again the central Market area -- Marktplatz -- with the town hall -- Rathaus -- and shops and stalls set up for Saturday shopping.
By the way, no one ever told me how colorful houses are!!  I do love Charleston, South Carolina but Rainbow Row just doesn't hold a candle to this.  Sorry!

The roofs on these houses were just cool!  Also I keep calling them houses but most are shops downstairs and most likely apartments upstairs.

The fountain that specified not to drink the water -- it was pretty murky anyway.

The town hall with a restaurant downstairs that mainly served ice cream and drinks.  Yes, we got ice cream.  It may be difficult to find bathrooms at the places we go but you're guaranteed to find ice cream and a bakery and both of those go a long way towards bribing the kids to be happy!!

I loved this little detail on the Rathaus - the man with the lantern.  I wish I knew what it was!

 The back side of the Rathaus -- not as impressive but a great tower.

Ok so I've realized that I'm usually the one taking pictures but since we've been here, Chopper does too and he has a great eye and a different perspective from myself of course so I'm making more of an effort to include pictures from both of us (although it does also double the amount of pictures you get!!).  So organizing my posts on the laptop isn't the easiest thing in the world so they're kind've mixed up but you don't care right!?!

Despite the moaning and complaining about walking around looking at stuff, we can always find joy in bugs, flowers, and feathers.  We're acquiring quite a collection of that last one at home (thankfully not bugs because I don't allow their collection, especially since Abby decided that she loves to carry around daddy-long-leg spiders.  So gross.

There were 2 churches we tried to see but one was in the middle of a wedding so we only saw St. Joseph.  It was built/finished in the early 1900s and the interior is decorated mostly with art nouveau mosaic.  It used a lot of gold in the mosaic so it glittered beautifully.  We also saw our first nun -- on a bike -- and thankfully the kids didn't point this out as a tourist attraction because we watched The Sound of Music before moving here and talked about what a nun was.  Boy are we getting a religious education as well as a cultural one!

My camera just couldn't capture this wall of tiny gold tiles and how pretty it was!

A close up of mosaic details -- look how tiny those are!!  And they do not look like cheater tiles -- I'm pretty positive they were individually laid!

Just a really pretty peacock detail on a building nearby the church.  We pointed it out to Megan and she said, "I'm not really into peacocks anymore."  Apparently, she's moved on to parrots.

When we stopped for ice cream, everyone got their usual cone but I opted for Spaghetti Eis.  And this is normal sized which was huge.  I should've gotten a small.  Anyway, it's whipped cream at the center covered with vanilla ice cream that's been put through a noodle machine to give it the appearance of noodles.  Then it's covered in strawberry sauce (that was so fresh and good!) and shaved white chocolate for parmesan cheese.  In terms of taste it wasn't fancy or unusual or anything but it was good and it's a staple at most ice cream shops.  

There are dogs everywhere!!  And all of my kids tend to be shy of dogs, especially Megan.  But they're always on leashes and the kids love that they're out and about.  But not just walking -- in stores and restaurants too.  I've never seen so many dogs in public in my life!!  And a lot of more unusual breeds that what I'm used too.  We've seen some really beautiful dogs!

This is Gustav von Schlor - the last Bavarian minister of commerce who connected Weiden to the railroad and so helped the growth of the city.

Religious art is a combination of fascinating and "what the heck".  Especially when I don't really know what it represents so I suppose that part is my fault!

Ok another example of art/sculpture that I don't get but find interesting.  I read somewhere that many towns have plague memorials in gratitude for being spared.  Could this be one?  I don't know!

We've also had a few people tell us about doeners.  It's like a Turkish gyro and Chopper and I devoured this one -- they are really really good!!!

Just an afternoon spent at the park.  Chopper managed to get this really good shot of all of us quiet and content.  Content after I was pummeled by elbows and knees to climb on mommy!!  Overall, the kids are doing well.  William is doing better and Megan is excited for school to start (a week and a half away!).  Abby says she wants to go back to Texas when she's upset but she says it when anything goes wrong so I don't think she actually does.  We've had beautiful weather lately and that has helped to play and enjoy our area!