Monday, July 27, 2009

Y3W9 - Lleyton has Mad Skills

After a few weekends in a row traveling, we laid low and watched a bit of the Tour de France finale. Being here in Europe, coupled with the return of Lance Armstrong, and the lack of massive dopping suspensions, the Tour seemed to receive a bit more interest. Things seem to be shaping up for a nice show down next year as Armstrong has announced his move to a new U.S. based team sponsered by RadioShack (are they still around?) and this years winner, Alberto Contador will searching for a new team. Hopefully, Lance can regain even more of his past form and test the theory that cycling is a truly great team sport.

A few firsts for the "der kleiner man". He is starting to stand up without the aid of surrounding objects. He is not yet attempting to move his feet without the aid of something semi-stable, but we're pretty sure it is coming soon...

Next, he decided that he will not be intimidated or contained by a flight of stairs. This traverse was naturally completed with Ellyn still sleeping. She would have never condoned of such behavior.

Lastly, we think Lleyton is developing one of his most critical skills. An ability to sleep. Thus far he has followed his dad's lead - sleeping poorly. You'd think that the son of Ellyn would have some natural talents in this area. After rather meager attempts in other methods, we utilized the... dump his crib in the closet area (small room in our house), close the door, and visit him in the morning. Thankfully, after a couple days, he seems to be getting into a rhythm. Our pediatrician has always said, "If my favorite person came and visited me in the night every time I made a noise, I keep on doing it too..." There must be an age limit on that rule because I've tried it many times and I never get a response from Ellyn.

For you soccer fans, the Bundesliga begins in just a week and a half. FC Köln fans cannot wait for the return of favored son Lukas Podolski (Poldi). Hopefully, I'm able to score a couple tickets for their first home match of the season against defend league champions, VfL Wolfsburg. I've got my people working on it... English Premier League is begins the week after.

Lastly, while I've had an easy time developing appreciation for many non-traditional American sports. One I'm still working on is Cricket. I did catch a small bit of the world 20/20 Cricket Championships a couple months ago, but the thing to watch right now is the England v. Australia battle for 'the ashes'.

Test Cricket (the most traditional form of the game) consists of 5 - five day matches. Winner of the best of 5 gets to keep 'the ashes'. Have to love it and embrace the diversity.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Y3W8 – Le Tour de France

During the week, El snapped a few pictures of Lleyton as he passed the 10 month milestone. He is really finding himself comfortable on two feet moving all over the furniture.

On a bit of a whim, we hastily planned a weekend visit to see the Tour de France. I was browsing the official site a noticed that the race was scheduled to stop in Colmar on Friday. Colmar is located in the Alsace Lorraine region of France. To my surprise, Ellyn's first reaction was absolute agreement that we should make it happen. This is an atypical response to a inquiry on my behalf to attend a sporting event. The girls, coming off a F1 racing weekend, were definitely game (before you know it I’ll have all of them joining me to watching sports on TV).

After spending Friday evening in a quant little hotel in the small German town on Endingen am Kaiserstuhl some 30 km from Colmar, we headed for the Tour fairly early in the morning. While in Colmar, we ran into some friends from Ford and enjoyed some of the pre-start festivities.

We ended up just meters from the starting gate and the rolling start allowed us to capture a few pictures of the riders without them passing in such a blur.

The first picture is from the lead group heading out of town. You can see the yellow jersey rider (overall race leader at the time) Rinaldo Nocentini and green jersey sprint leader. On the far right, one of my colleagues from Ford snapped a great picture of Alberto Contrador, the current leader and likely winner, futher down the stage, and in the center picture is the man, Lance Armstrong, buckling up his helment as he heads out from town. Bailey caught Lance while she was taking video and this is a snapshot from the clip.

As the party was breaking up, we strolled the streets back to our car and prepared to drive a couple hours to the Bodensee (Lake Constance) on the border of Switzerland and German. Along the way, we visited Rheinfall. The largest waterfall in Europe, Rheinfall is most impressive due to width/breadth than sheer vertical drop. This area of the Rhein river as it departs from the Bodensee is dotted with Medieval towns and villages.

That evening, we strolled the streets of Stein am Rhein, a small village on the Rhein river highlight by classic Swiss buildings with interesting frescos.

One word of advice. If you think you can get an affordable meal in Switzerland (or Scandanavia for that matter), forget about it. We search to the point that the girls where ready to attempt a complete mutiny when we finally found what appeared to be a solution with small Italian restaurant located along the river. After being convinced by the waiter that the kids could eat for nearly free, we received our $100 bill. Apparently, Ellyn and I ate $50 worth of spaghetti. I told myself that it didn't matter since I had $80 in Swiss Francs left in my pocket from our last trip that needed to be spent otherwise...

The next day was highlighted by visits to the city of Konstanz on the Bodensee and a small island named Mainau – traditional known as the ‘island of flowers’.

It was a nice opportunity for the girls and Lleyton to play on the extensive grounds and see the animals at the working farm in addition to natural beauty of the island.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Y3W7 - Happy 7th of July?

As I said last week, we weren't able to celebrate the Fourth properly, so we made good on our celebration on July 7th. We were all decked out in our Red,White, and Blue with sparklers to boot.

The week was rather uneventful but the weekend was filled with Formel Eins. Greg took the girls to the qualifying on Saturday which was a long day for them but Bailey especially thought it was very cool. Greg went with some friends from work to the actual race. Greg will have to enter some commentary here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Y3W6 - Balance

This week I have lost my cell phone, my Church bag, and something else that I can't remember right now. After deep reflection I have decided that the issue is balance. With so much on my mind all the time, I can't possibly keep up with all of the mundane things. My girls have recently been giving us the business and telling us that we are mean because we are not doing what they want at every given moment. The WE in this sentence is HUGE because usually when this kind of stuff starts, Greg gets off easy and it is usually mom that is mean. We have had several conversations about what constitutes being mean and how not getting your way does not necessarily make your parents mean. It does make me reflect though, we expect so much from them and don't always consider what they would like to do on a given weekend, trying to capitalize on our time here and seeing as much as we can see.

After spending several days this week finishing school, going to going away parties, going to the pool, then seeing Ice Age 3 in English, we thought we were handling the balance thing quite well. It turns out that they didn't want to go anywhere on Saturday and they ganged up on us trying to sabotage our Saturday in the Netherlands plans. We made a last minute change of plans and went to Burger's Zoo. It was a nice day and I think the girls had a great day. On the way home we stopped at the town we intended to visit, 's-Hertogenbosch, unfortunately most shops were closed but it was still cool to walk around the city. It's all about compromise. I keep telling myself that if they don't learn about compromising now, they won't ever expect to have to compromise with anyone when they are older. Then, I go back and forth in my head thinking they are only kids - this is really the only time in their lives they can make a fuss about what they want.

Obviously, I am confused about the best way to have balance in our lives. Here are some pics from the week...Enjoy!

Oh, I almost forgot. For years we have met my family up north Michigan at our cottage for a long weekend over the Fourth of July. This year, especially, we were missing having that opportunity. In case we had any doubts about whether we were missing the fun up there, they left this message (click on audio file below) for us while we were in the Netherlands.

We didn't really celebrate the Fourth properly yet. Most of the other American families were already on Holiday and we just had to take advantage of the good weather and free weekend to go and see something new. We are planning on a pseudo 4th of July celebration next week.