Archive for December, 2010

Our trip actually started off in Munich, even though Ivan got Neuschwanstein blogged first. We took a night train to Munich, which was an adventure all its own. Avery was so excited it took us nearly two hours to get her to go to bed. It’s a great way to travel, even if you don’t get the best night’s sleep.

First off, I’d like to say that I really like Christmas Markets. We went to the markets in Munich, Salzburg, and of course, Budapest, and they’ve all been really fun. At Munich’s we bought some pretty ornaments, including one made of wood from the Black Forest and had some warm honey milk and ginger bread milk. My only complaint is that I don’t particularly like the smell of Glühwein, and it was everywhere.

Along with the main Christmas market at Marienplatz, we found a smaller Medieval themed Christmas market a few blocks away. I can’t even say how fun this little market was. They had drinks that they sold in medieval style tumblers and people dressed up in robes and cloaks. They sold animal horns and medieval clothes and knives. Even the stalls were medieval style, which was kind of funny when you stepped over the huge plastic speed bump that protected all electrical cords coming out of them all. Unfortunately Avery decided to wake up and complain about being hungry and cold not too long after we walked into the market, so we didn’t get to stay very long or take very many pictures, but we got to wander around once and glance at everything.  It reminded me of Scarborough fair at home, but smaller and colder. I would really like to go see it again.

Avery’s favorite part of Munich was “the bells.” We got to see the Glockenspiel ring and play at 11:00. The whole show and song are about ten minutes long and it’s definitely worth waiting around a little bit for. I stood there like a dorky tourist and videoed the entire thing. Actually, not quite the whole thing. I stopped toward the end because my fingers felt like they were about to fall off from cold.

The music is really pretty, I didn’t realize I liked bells so much, but the characters moving around and dancing are possibly even more fun. Toward the end there’s a joust and one of the men even falls off his horse.  And the new Rathaus (city council building I think is what that translates to) is pretty stunning in and of itself.

After the Glockenspiel played we wandered around for a little bit. Ivan found a lovely statue of a boar that required a picture (obviously…). We saw Karlsplatz where you can see the only remaining gate to the original Munich city wall. There was a memorial standing where a synagogue used to be before it was torn down just before or during WWII. We saw the old Rathaus and Peterskirche, although we didn’t go in. Next time maybe. We checked out a mall and bought a book in German for me to read.

We walked around Frauenkirche and wandered inside. They weren’t doing tours and wouldn’t let us take pictures of the inside, but it’s a neat building with a huge crucifix in the middle of the center aisle inside. They’re doing some kind of construction and one of the towers of Frauenkirche was covered.  Frauenkirche kind of defines the skyline of Munich, so I was a little sad not to get to see the whole thing, but it was neat to see anyway. So very gothic.After a long morning and early afternoon of wandering the city in the cold we went home to our hotel and Ivan took a nap while the rest of us relaxed a little bit. We ate some unexceptional Thai food down the road, went to bed and woke up to Ivan’s favorite part of Europe: continental breakfast. The hotels here sure know how to do breakfast. Even the cheap ones. Ivan was in heaven with eggs, rolls, tea, bread, fruit, yogurt, jam, and even individual sized portions of Nutella. Life was good, and then we ran to catch our train to Neuschwanstein.


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Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle is the childhood dream I never had. As a child I couldn’t get enough of castles and knights and dragons and wizards. Every time I saw a picture of a castle in England or France I wanted to visit. But for some reason I was never overly attracted to Neuschwanstein castle. Perhaps it was too fairytale-esque. Or maybe I just didn’t believe that it really could look like the pictures. I don’t really know, but having visited, allow me to tell all the children out there who like castles that this is definitely worth seeing. I still want to see a castle or two in the middle of a Scottish loch, but visiting Neuschwanstein should be one of your dreams.

Neuschwanstein through the snow

Neuschwanstein from the trailhead.

Given that the castle was conceived and built in the late 1800’s and served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s castle, it certainly can be criticized as being a fairytale castle. Unlike a “real” castle, it was never under siege or captured with the help of traitors, never saw the torture of political prisoners, or the return of it’s lord from a hunting expedition–in fact it was never even finished. It had running water, a telephone (of sorts), an excessively ornate canopy, and was turned into a museum within weeks of crazy king Ludwig’s death. So it is undoubtedly a fairytale castle. Unfortunately for the purist in me, Ludwig’s vision of a beautiful location and romantic architecture are spot on. Le Mont Saint-Michel and Chenonceau are the only “castles” I’ve seen that compare, and they are even less castle-y. I guess when it comes right down to it nostalgia is always better than the real thing.

The tour of the interior was the only part of the trip that disappointed. Because only 15 of the 200 interior rooms were finished it was short. There were several attractions however: the ornate canopy, a fake cave, a secret lavatory, a swan humidifier, and a crown chandelier. Of course Rachel liked the huge oven in the kitchen, and I decided that I wouldn’t mind sleeping in the servants quarters with the handmade furniture. Nevertheless, the interior just can’t compare with, say, the recently visited Schönbrunn (which is a palace not a castle, but still).

Hohenschwangau Castle in the snow

Ludwig spent summers in Hohenschwangau Castle built to replace Schwanstein Castle.

If that’s not enough to satisfy the medievalist in you, then you should know that there is another, older, castle less than a mile away (as the crow flies). We didn’t have time to tour Hohenschwangau castle (probably spent too long in the gift shop trying to justify purchasing everything there), but it’s nice to know that it’s there. Some friends that we met there stayed in a hotel at the top of the hill, so they had plenty of time to see everything. I don’t know how much it cost, but it might be worth it next time.

Marienbrücke in the snow

Marienbrücke (Mary's bridge) is older then the castle.

The problem with most of the pictures that you see everywhere is that they are taken from the mountains instead of facing the mountains. I love mountains, and those on the back side (or perhaps it’s the front) of Neuschwanstein are gorgeous, at least if they are covered in snow. There is a bridge (Marienbrücke) between 2 nearby mountains that makes me think of Rivendell. Unfortunately, like so many large places, photos simply cannot convey how pretty the mountains are.

Rachel snowed upon

This is Rachel on our way down the mountain

As I mentioned, the mountains were covered in snow. What I didn’t mention is that it was snowing the whole time we were there. Big, fat, wet flakes. The kind that make you wish you weren’t pushing a stroller through them. Especially when you get to the top of the steep hill and they tell you that you can’t take strollers on the tour anyway! I think the snowfall made the castle prettier, and it also gave us an opportunity to prove that we’re hard core: we made it up in 30 minutes whereas the guide says that it’s a 40 minute walk, or 45 with a stroller. That’s right we made it up the hill faster, while hauling an infant on my front and a toddler on Rachel’s back, walking, or in the stroller. All the while getting snowed on, taking pictures, and moving to make way for the snow plow and horse carts.

Do not mess with clan Andrus.

On our way back to Munich, the train we were on stopped and made everyone get out and transfer to another train (after waiting half an hour). We overheard some people talking who may have understood the announcement and it might have been due to a fire somewhere. But while we were waiting Avery didn’t whine about how cold she was like another little girl who was also waiting. Instead she played hard-to-get with some Malaysian teens. We raise them hard core from the beginning.

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Quick Update

A few weeks ago we watched the “swashbuckler” ad from the church on Youtube and Avery loved it. It’s been a while and we haven’t really talked about the ad since, but today Avery woke up from a nap and was playing with Ivan and pretended to be asleep again. Ivan said “oh, shhhhhh, the baby’s sleeping.” I responded “The Princess is sleeping!” like in the ad and Avery perked right up. “Yeeahh!” she said. “The princes is sleeping!”

We heard a really funny story on Sunday from a friend in our branch. This friend is from Ukraine, but she’s lived in Budapest for 10 or so years now and she teaches English and Russian here. At one point she had a group of Chinese students all studying together that hired her to teach them English. One of the assignments she gave them was to read a paper about the American Independence holiday and answer some questions about it. The next lesson they all came to class and she asked the first one to explain a little bit about Independence Day.

He said some things about making barbecue and other typical things and at the end he said “and the Americans fry a frog.” Our friend thought this was a little strange, but moved on to the next student who explained Independence day and also mentioned that Americans “fry a frog.” After 7 or 8 of the students mentioned frying frogs for Independence Day she finally asked why the students thought Americans fried frogs for the 4th of July. “It’s in the text” they said. In the text it said Americans have barbecues and fly a flag, which, of course, with a Chinese accent sounds like “fry a frog.”

In other news, I’m way behind in my blogging. This saddens me, but happens when Christmas coincides with the existence of a toddler and an 8 month old. So. Quick update. We went to Munich, Neuschwanstein and Salzburg two weeks ago. It was a ton of fun and we got to see our fabulous friends Mark and Gretchen while we were there. Pictures are coming. I got them up on Facebook, but haven’t gotten them organized enough for a blog post yet. It’s a lot easier to throw captions on them and dump them all on Facebook. We’re going to Istanbul in a little over a week, so I’m hoping to get the pictures from our last trip up before our next trip.

Christmas was simple but fun this year. Hopefully I’ll have pictures up of our Christmas soon too. We (re)discovered beigli this year, and ate way too much of it. I’m slowly falling in love with poppy seeds. I still prefer the other Hungarian obsession, walnut, though.

Evelyn is super close to standing. She spent 10 minutes or so today leaning on my hands and standing up and sitting down and standing up and sitting down. I let go of her the other day and she stood on her own for a couple seconds. I love this stage where they’re learning to move and balance. Everyone says they’re excited for their first child to walk and after that they know better, but I think I’m about as excited for Evelyn to walk as I was for Avery. I love it when they walk. It’s the cutest thing ever. I love how short they seem when they stand and walk on their own. You don’t notice so much when they’re crawling or on their bellies.

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Here’s a story that I wrote in high school and which won a writing contest.  It may also soon be made into a non-major motion picture.  I hope you enjoy it.  Merry Christmas!

The story you are about to read is true.
The name has been withheld to protect the juvenile delinquent.

Our story begins a few weeks before Christmas in a suburban mobile home.  Our young kindergarten delinquent was up and about, while his family was ‘nestled all snug in their beds’.  If we were to enter the criminal’s mind at this point, we would find he was torn between his parents’ trust in his honesty, and his burning desire to know what was inside his presents.  They had been pleading with him from under the Christmas tree for nearly a week!  He couldn’t stand it any more.  “I’ll regret it, if anyone finds out.  But if I hide it well… I can use tape to make it look unopened…”

“Ah, what the heck, just this one.”  After having handled, shook, eyed, pryed, smelled, and yes even licked his presents, he still could not figure out what was in any of them.  But this one really bugged him.  Just one little rrrip!  He looked around nervously.  No noise.  Nothing.  “Whew.”

He looked inside, nothing but black.  “All right,” he thought, “I’ll make another tear in the other side and hold it up to the light to see through.’’  That didn’t work either.  Whatever it was blocked all the light and he couldn’t see anything!  He made the rips slightly longer, but still blackness.  He ripped again, crosswise, and pulled back the flap to reveal a transforming Go-Bot watch.  “Wow!” he thought, “Just what I wanted!”  *

He went and got the tape to fix it.  As he tried to pull the paper together, however, it tore again.  Luckily, it was still attached by, oh, at least a centimeter. He put a piece of tape to hold it.  Then another, and another.  None went on straight and soon the present was nearly laminated in scotch tape.  “Uh oh,” he thought, “they’ll know for sure.  I can’t open the rest, but I have to.”  Then a sudden brilliant idea hit him.  He could practice on the gifts he was giving his family.  They’d never know he hadn’t intended it to be that way!  He grabbed one and carefully made a small tear…

After coating nearly all of his family’s presents, and using 3/4 of a roll of tape, he began with the rest of his packages.  He found he had a small Transformer.™  He also had a Star Wars action figure; he loved Star Wars.  He had a stunt motorcycle powered by a friction motor, and many other things, but his favorite were to be these four.

As he rewrapped them, he realized his roll of tape was low.  He didn’t want to use a whole roll, for fear of detection, but he couldn’t spare any tape now.  He used the rest of the roll and some of another.  He was going to throw the roll away outside in the garbage can, to escape detection, but it was so cold outside.  He just threw it away in the kitchen.  Which proved a mistake.  “No one will know,” he thought smugly as he viewed his handiwork.

“Mom!  Dad!  Can we open our stockings?” the impatient Kindergartner pleaded.

“Can’t you wait till we get up?” she said tiredly.

“Oh Mom,” then reading the look on her face he added, “alright, (sigh) but hurry up!”

He ran out to the living room to wait for his parents to come.  He couldn’t figure out what was in his stocking, it looked like a jar and a tree branch.  He didn’t know what it could be.  What kind of a present would be in a jar?  He almost looked but he heard a door open. His mother and father walked out, confidently, almost smugly.  Everyone got down their stocking.  “What do you have son?”

“Well,” he paused, “a jar with some water, a stick, a piece of paper with writing on it, and a black rock.”

“Let’s see.  It’s a letter from Santa.

Season’s Greetings,

I know that you opened every present under the tree.  I have to tell you how naughty that was of you.  That is why you only got a snowball, spank-stick, and lump of coal.  I put the snowball in the jar so it wouldn’t melt and make a mess on the floor.  Please discuss this with your parents.

Signed, Santa”

Mom read out loud. “Now, throw that snowball outside before it leaks.”

They later had a long talk about patience, obedience, honesty, etc. etc., and I’ve never done it again.  I mean he’s never done it again!

* He later ended up dropping it in the toilet so the watch no longer worked, but he still has it to this day.

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The Princess and the Orange

We have a babysitting group with a couple families in our ward. We each take turns babysitting each other’s kids. We went to another family’s house to babysit a couple weeks ago and they had these adorable dress up dresses. Avery and the two other little girls her age all dressed up and ran around the house for a couple hours. Of course she wasn’t a princess, she was a “banareena” (ballerina for anyone that doesn’t speak the language…).

My Dad used to play a game with all of us kids when we were little. He’s say “open your mouth and close your eyes and I’ll give you a nice surprise!” and we’d have to open our mouths and close our eyes to get a treat. I remember him yelling it as he came up the stairs occasionally at bedtime. So we had some mandarin oranges and I used the rhyme on Avery and this is what Ivan and I saw:

Way to go Ivan for getting that on (digital) film. The even funnier part was that a minute later she decided it was her turn to give the treat, so she said “Open your mouth and close your eyes!” I did. And so did she as she tried to stick and orange slice in my mouth. She missed by about 3 feet.

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Evelyn – 8 Months

Evelyn spent her 8 month Birthday being hiked up a really big hill in the snow to Neuschwanstein castle. She stayed nice and toasty warm in her new mei tai that we bought to carry her around a few weeks ago. She seems to like it better than the sleepy wrap because it gives her a little more room to wiggle without making me nervous that she’s going to flip right out. We loved the sleepy wrap bunches, but I’m afraid we’ve grown out of it.

Evelyn has two favorite tricks. She loves to pull herself up on things. The crib is her new favorite toy because it has handy bars that are easy to pull on when you want to stand up. Daddy’s rocking chair and Mommy’s legs are also excellent options.

She has also learned to blow raspberries, which she thinks is just the best thing ever. Pretty much anytime she’s not crying is a great opportunity for a raspberry. We now do everything to background raspberry music. Breakfast, making dinner, watching a movie, it’s all accompanied.

Unfortunately, along with her new skills have come some risks. Her best friend the crib turned traitor last night when Evelyn slipped while standing against it and banged her little eyebrow right into one of the bars. She’s got a nice little gash across her eyelid and her eye is a little dark underneath and red up above. The weird part is that she must have slid down the bar or something because after the fall about half her eyelashes from that eye were stuck to her upper eyelid and she’s got a big gap in her eyelashes now. It’s so sad to look at. I know they’ll grow back, but it’s sad all the same.

Also, breaking news, Evelyn just learned to clap. Just now. I took a potty break and she started clapping at me and I said “Good Girl! Clap!” and she looked and her hands and did it some more. She’s pretty darned cute sometimes, I’m not gonna lie.

So, she’s growing. Unfortunately our success with solid food was actually quite short-lived. She’s back to pretty much exclusive breast feeding. I feed her some solid food every couple days or so and occasionally she’ll eat an inch or two of banana, but usually she takes about three bites and then pushes it away and turns her head. I guess she’ll eat it when she needs it. She’s doing better with sleep, though, and almost never gets up more than once in the night (except when we’re on a trip, when everything’s all over the place anyway). She sort of keeps a bedtime. Sometimes.

Oh yeah, she also loves to turn the lights on and off. I showed her how one day and she was pretty tickled about it. So much so that now anytime I pass a light switch with her in my arms she lunges out toward it. It can throw me a little off balance sometimes.

Oh yeah again, she also started giving kisses a week or so ago. It’s about the most heart warming thing ever. She sticks her lips up to your cheek and says “uuuuuhhh.” We play the kisses game every once in a while where I give her kisses and then ask her to give me kisses and put her face to my cheek. It’s a game I started with Avery when she was very small, but the best is when Evelyn gives me kisses spontaneously. It makes me melt into a little puddle.

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Avery – 30 months

Avery is officially two and a half! As a mature 2 1/2 year old, she feels qualified to tell anyone who will listen exactly how her world should be run. Should you deviate from this worldview of hers she will loudly tell you how it should have been done and then tell you she’s being “po-lite.” She will also tell anyone and everyone how everyone else’s world should be run. For example, when Evelyn is upset and we tell Avery this, she will often correct us by informing us that Evelyn is not upset. This is often leaves us wondering what the loud noise coming from Evelyn is, since it’s also a fact that Evelyn is NOT crying.

Ivan and I are really excited that Avery is sleeping at night much better lately. For a while there she was getting up a couple or three times most nights and at least once almost every night. We never figured out for sure what was bothering her. We think maybe a combination of teething and leg cramps. It was fairly clear that she was hurting somehow or somewhere, we just couldn’t figure out where or how. Hopefully this recent trend will continue and we can all get some more rest.

Avery’s struggling to learn obedience. Being up all night and tired all day hasn’t so much helped this process, and we’re all having a hard time convincing her that she needs to do anything that she doesn’t want to. She comes by it honestly… her mom’s pretty stubborn and single minded, but we all have to learn I suppose.

She’s also very loving. She tells me she loves me, but she always says “I love you, too.” Even if she says it first she always adds the “too” at the end. Lately she’s asked me “What do you like?” a couple times a day. She figured out a day or two ago that I usually say “I like you” and since then she asks a lot more often. She likes to snuggle with Evelyn, but usually gets yelled at for it, as she always manages to end up snuggling on top of Evelyn.

Avery’s been really into words lately and asks what everything means. She’s at that stage where she asks about any kind of word, even the ones she knows, like train. For her language has been a little more complex, I think, though as she’s fairly regularly exposed to Hungarian, English, sign language, and sometimes Spanish. Sometimes when there’s another language going on somewhere she declares that someone is speaking “Garin” (Hungarian). She seems to know the difference between the languages, though, because anytime Ivan speaks in Spanish she says “Hola Pocoyo!” Pocoyo is a Spanish cartoon that we found that Avery really likes. She’s a clever little monkey.

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