Monday, August 27, 2012

Kill the Poor! Or maybe something along those lines?


When I last left you, our little family was roaming around Europe wearing nothing but some old drapes.

Well, maybe not old drapes.

But we definitely were doing some roaming.

It was with sorrow that we said goodbye to Switzerland, and joy that we found ourselves in Salzburg.   Where, sadly for those traveling with me, I found occasion to use every Sound of Music quote in my repertoire.  My vast repertoire.  Like. I have confidence in sunshine!  I have confidence in rain!

(I did, however, think Chase's umbrella might not have instilled a lot of confidence.)


(Are you tired of the Sound of Music references yet?)

(So is the city of Salzburg, I'm sure.)












Highlights included:

*  The Frauline Maria Bike Tour.  Highly recommend it if ever you're in Salzburg.  You ride all through the city and countryside, taking in the historic Salzburg sites, as well as the filming locations for the Sound of Music.  It's nearly impossible to resist singing the ever-familiar tunes whilst careening past the spots that Julie Andrews made famous.  Even the Husband gave in to temptation and muttered a line or two against his will.  It was fantastic.

* Seeing the places where Oma and Opa fell in love when they were young.  Though I'm sure the boys found it less romantic than the girls, it was thrilling to see the places firsthand that we've heard about for years.  I reminded our kids that this city is part of their story, too.  Then and now.  It's pretty cool to see it come full circle.

*  My boys in mullet hats.  I'm still kicking myself for not buying them.  They pretty much rocked.

*  Die Festung (or The Fortress).  Fantastic view, from bottom to top.  Though the eight pounds of sweat dripping off me after hiking up the hillside to get there made me sort of wish I had taken the train instead.  Note to self:  LISTEN TO OMA.

*  The Salt Mines.  Very fun, and probably informative.  Unfortunately, our English translator headsets only worked half the time, so we got a lot of the information in German.  Which was pretty much useless to most of us.  Except to the Husband, who speaks 20 languages because he is secretly a spy in the CIA has a knack for picking up foreign languages.  Weird and uncanny.

*  The Eagle's Nest.  Hitler's birthday present from the Nazi Party.  Spectacular, chilling, and unbelievably high up.  Favorite part for me:  The history lesson at the top from our resident historian.

*  Staying at the Weisse Taube Hotel and playing cards in the lobby until after midnight because our rooms were too small.

*Also at the Weisse Taube:  No air conditioning (eek!) or screens on the windows in our room on the third floor.  I about had a heart attack every time one of my children poked their heads out to see the sights.  Which was about every eight seconds.  We were probably in greater danger of me dying from worry than from them actually falling out.  But still.  The mama in me cannot be contained.

*  Doing laundry in a shop run by the ONE person we ran into over the two weeks who spoke no English.  Thankfully, it had been enough days of German immersion that I could tell her we were doing fΓΌnf loads.  (That's five for you non-Deutsch speakers) like me.  Know what also helped?  The fact that both my boys have taken German at school and kept counting with me like I was a pre-schooler. 

*  And though it is slightly horrid, I laughed hysterically when I saw this sticker on a street in Salzburg.  I have no idea if it means what I think it means, but it made me laugh:


*  One of my favorite Salzburg encounters came at Die Festung.  I was admiring the spectacular view and taking more than my share of photos.  Next to me, a man and his wife noticed my camera, and asked if I would take a look at theirs.  It was locked up and they were unable to take any photos.  I fiddled with it for a few minutes, and could not figure out how to get it working for them.  He shrugged his shoulders, reached down into his camera bag and pulled out this beauty, full of film, and ready to go:


We shared a laugh at the wonders of modern technology.  His new, high-end digital camera was useless to him; yet this old film camera from the 1940s was still in tip-top shape.  He snapped a photo of the city and we prepared to part ways.  I asked to look at his camera one last time.  The photographer in me could not let him miss what was truly a once-in-a-lifetime shot.

And wonder of wonders, it worked!

I was so happy to have helped him, but I loved his old film camera.  I told him I have several like it on a shelf at home.  He told me to bring them along next time in case the new camera stops working.

Wise words.

All in all, Salzburg was fantastic.  Would that I had months to spend there instead of days.  I love the dirndls, the food, the architecture, and the charm that hangs on every street corner.  Heaven.

Stay tuned:  Wienerschnitzel ten meals in a row and a piece of the Husband's childhood.  Lots more to come.

Monday, August 20, 2012

For the posterity

I am asking your forgiveness in advance. The next several posts here are going to be a recap of our vacation to Europe.

I know. It's like I sort of invited you over for dinner, and then pulled out a nine-hour slide show of my vacation.  I can't imagine anything worse. For you OR for me.

But it was truly the trip of a lifetime and begs to be documented. Check back in two weeks. I should be done by then.

I hope.

Also? If you follow me on Instagram (@clhalverson), it's like you get to relive my vacation TWICE.

My apologies.

So. The trip began with a flight to La Guardia Airport in NYC. This resulted in Hannah's dream of taking a taxi coming true.  Which, coincidentally, was my worst nightmare brought to life.  Due to the fact that we booked this trip on frequent flier miles, and they never make it easy on you, we had to take a cab to JFK for our flight to Zurich. We were a little delayed arriving at La Guardia, so it was going to be a tight connection.  I was DYING at the thought we might not make it in time.  And then when we hit NYC traffic?  I about got out and started running several times.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), our flight was delayed out of JFK and we had HOURS to spare once we got there.  Blech.

Fast forward about 12 hours (hooray!), and we arrived in Zurich. Where we met up with our favorite Oma and Opa, and took a train to Lucerne.


This photo pretty much sums up how that first day of jet lag felt for all of us:


Exhaustion beyond belief.  Every joint and bone just aches and begs to have sleep.  But how can you complain when you are walking around a city that looks like this?



(I love the look we are getting from the old man on the right. Yes, we're idiot tourists. Deal with it.)

After a good meal, where Opa translated the German for us all, we took a boat ride out on Lake Lucerne. Anything to try and stay awake without having to walk around. It was stunning, I tell you. Absolutely stunning.



The next morning, we took the cog train up to the top of the Jungfrau. I think this view speaks for itself, though I could wax on about it for hours.  Probably one of the most beautiful places on this planet.  The photos just don't do it justice.


Along the way, we met up with one of my BFFs, Jennifer, her husband, Mike, and their three ridiculously adorable puppies. They are living in France for a few years, and kindly drove several hours to meet up with us. Clearly, Hannah was in puppy heaven:


As was I to get to see these faces again:


And, as we display class wherever we go, the boys promptly stripped down to their bare skin at the top of the Jungfrau. Why? I'm still not sure. I'm guessing it was because they can.



Plus, I was wearing the ever-appropriate flip flops on top of a glacier.  Were the view not so breathtaking, I might have noticed the frostbite sooner.

Ah well.  There are worse problems to have, I suppose.  I mean, what if I had been wearing my diamond shoes?  Oh, the horror.


I could go on and on, but I'm going to let these last two photos speak for themselves.



Switzerland is breathtaking, and there is nothing like it anywhere in the world.  Not pictured (because I couldn't bear the thought of going) was when Josh and the boys parasailed off the top of the Schilthorn.  Yes, they strapped themselves in to a parachute and just started running off a cliff.  As you do.

Not illogical at all.

And then, if that wasn't enough manventure for one trip, they took the tram back up and HIKED down from the top of the Schilthorn to Lauterbrunnen.


We also visited Ballenburg and Brienz.  If you go to Switzerland, I highly recommend stopping at both places.  Spectacular.

Stay tuned for Salzburg, Munich, and York.

And try not to gouge your eyeballs out in the process.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012



Today, my newborn baby boy started high school. It's a little hard to imagine how he is getting from class to class, what with his being like FOUR DAYS OLD and all. But maybe someone gave him a piggy back ride? Helped him open his locker with his tiny, peeling, newborn fists?

I do hope so.

Because I'm sort of a wreck just thinking about it.

All day long, I've been chomping at the bit, anxiously awaiting his arrival home.

And, thanks to the cross country practice, he won't get here until dinner time.

By which point, I expect he's grown a full beard, has a job, and four kids of his own.

Don't mock.  It feels about that long since he WAS a newborn. They always told me it would go so fast. When I had three kids under age four, I fervently hoped it was true with every fiber of my being.  The days were endless, and the nights - anything but restful.  It was one long sleep-deprived millennia, dotted here and there with moments that made it all worth while.

Like when they were all asleep at the same time.

But now that they're fun, interesting, and like the same movies as me? I'd sort of like time to just stand still for a moment.  To freeze the laughter that fills the air like a thick fog when we watch Seinfeld re-runs together.  To remember their sharp wit, and bottle up the occasional hugs from their long, gangly bodies.  To hold on to them for just a little longer.


The other two were much more nonchalant as they headed out the door this morning.

The middle child is smack dab in the middle of his middle school career. He knows the ropes, he has his friends, and it's all not nearly as exciting as the 900 hours he taped for Shark Week.

But, man, do I love him something fierce.


And my baby girl.  Starting what will be our final year of elementary school. She is as dramatic as she always has been. What with the ASSIGNED SEATS AT LUNCH, UGH. And actual HOMEWORK required of her. But still. I forgive her for growing up because she flies into my arms with a choking squeeze as soon as she gets off the bus.  Never knowing which one of us really needs that touch more.


I think it's going to be all right.

Plus?  We're now one day closer to summer vacation next year.

Sunday, August 12, 2012



Well, hello there.

I only have a few minutes to slap a few photos up here, but I cannot let another day pass by before doing so.

We just returned from a ridiculously lovely European vacation.


We visited four countries - Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and England. It was as heavenly as you might imagine it to be.

Made more so because we had the good fortune to go with these people:



We came home jet lagged, exhausted, well-fed, and happy. It's been a bit of a mad dash this week because we had house guests coming, a wedding to attend, two photo shoots for me, and the kids start school on Tuesday.


Lots more coming, I promise.