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 When I get out of the habit of writing here on a semi-regular basis, it seems like a very hard thing to come back to it. Like, I get anxiety and stress about it, so I avoid it. Yay, me?

It's December. It's cold and dark. The societal pressure of the holidaze is upon us. 

Also, the world is continuing to fall apart at the seams. What the hell, 2016? What the hell?

My hair is amazing. This short reverse bob thing has continued to be a good decision. I'm spending more time on my hair each day, but I'm way happier with the results. 

Work is still crazy. This is neither new nor surprising.

I have a whirlwind trip to Dallas on Monday and Tuesday of next week. How whirlwind? My plane leaves at 7 Monday morning and I get back about 5 Tuesday evening. Yeah. I'll be in Dallas for about 26 hours. This is somehow a good use of my time. I has a confused, but am resigned to my fate.

This weekend is for maybe freshening up the henna in my hair, sewing, and coffee with the girls...assuming we don't get Snowmageddon on Sunday again this week.

The next weekend will be in Illinois. Again, assuming no Snowmageddon. 

Then the next weekend is Thanksgiving. I decided that we're grabbing a nearby hotel room instead of trying to find a place to sleep at Grandma's house. It'll be better for Alex, especially, to have a quiet place to retreat to. Also, my folks are grabbing a room in the same hotel, so we could maybe even split up the kids between the rooms if necessary. We'll see.

We'll be home on the 26th. I have a pedicure on the 28th and work on the 29th and 30th.

Then it'll be January. Maybe 2017 won't be quite the dumpster fire that this year has been. Or maybe it's gonna be even more "hold my beer, watch this" than 2016. Who knows? 
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Arrived safely in Dallas, checked into hotel room. Found two of the five blades of my ceiling fan on the floor. Shrugged and decided to deal with it later.

Went down to breakfast. My keycard didn't work on my return to my room, so back down to the front desk to get it fixed. Later, a group of people bang on the door, insisting that it's their room. I send them away. I work out, read my book, do my spanish and meditation, and do homework.

Later in the afternoon, I attempt to take a nap. I'm startled out of bed by a loud pounding on my door. It's hotel management, insisting that their computers say I shouldn't be in this room. I insist that I checked in last night and should be in their computer. The woman recognizes me by my tattoos and hair and says she'll fix it.

I skype with the kids for a bit and then attempt another nap. Thanks be to the listening gods, I actually got a couple hours' sleep. I went down to the hotel quick-e-mart for something to eat for dinner and heard about the computer issue that confused everyone. They gave me my dinner for free, which was nice.

At 11, we headed over to the offices to start work. I didn't have a lot of actual work to do until 3:30. I did some CS work and hung with my analyst crew. We had snacks and coffee, but it was still rough. There were a couple tiny things for me to help with between 4 and 5, but got it ironed out. Ended up leaving the office at 5:15. I got to bed at 5:30 and just stared at the ceiling for a while, too tired to sleep.

Slept until 11. Got up. Worked out. Did more CS homework. Got hotel maintenance to fix my ceiling fan. Read. Killed the world.

Went out to dinner with coworkers to a lovely, eclectic "gastropub". Had an amazing sour lambic beer. Also had the bacon lollipops that I'd been dreaming of since the last time I was down here - super thick cut bacon, maple hollandaise, and funnel cake crispies. And a selection of other amazing, weird, wonderful flavor combinations.

Stayed up a tiny bit too late and had trouble sleeping.

Onsite again. I'm wearing a dress I made - Moneta with pleated instead of gathered skirt, self-drafted v-neck, and self-drafted flutter sleeves in a buttery soft Nicole Miller jersey from JoAnn's.

Things are going wrong, but not so wrong they can't be solved. DEEPLY annoyed at some people who know DARN WELL that I'm not in office and not at their beck and call, but are still demanding impossible miracles.

I don't know if I'll get to go to the sparkly store, which is sad, but not a terrible thing. I really want more sleep. I'm excited that I get to go home in a couple days. I'll miss the elliptical machine, but I want to see my kids, get a hug from my husband, and spend some time with my sewing machine.

Happy daydreams
For his birthday, I'm getting Alex a train toy that he really wants. I'm probably going to get Emi her own sewing machine. That way, if she breaks it, she's done and I'll still be able to work. I've told her for YEARS that I'll teach her to sew when she's seven. That's in two months. Holy buckets. I'm going to see if the grandparents can go in together to get the kids bikes. We'll see.

Costa Rica may happen next year. Need to figure out if we want to go in the summer or over Thanksgiving, so I can get the request in.

I'm a week ahead on my CS homework. So far, it's been tricky and a lot of work, but not super difficult. I kind of like this.

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I had a dentist appointment. Nothing new is wrong. They're having me come in to have a very old filling replaced before something goes horribly wrong with it. Since I have dental insurance, I'm okay with this plan.

The rubber on my Fitbit is starting to pull away from the hard plastic display. I checked out the Fitbit forums to see what to do. Unanimously people said, "Contact Fitbit support. They'll send a new one." So I did. And they are.

I haven't started packing for Dallas yet. I'll do that tonight, I guess. I haven't contacted any of the people I know down there. Feeling guilty about that, but after an overnight shift and long days, I know I won't be good for much. I should, I know. listening to anxiety brain. Not good.

I've bought more musical soundtracks. Now I can listen to Hamilton, Repo! The Genetic Opera, and Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. There might be something wrong with me.

My hair is shorter and super cute. I can pull it up off my neck in a very small ponytail and the layers on my face look like anime. Super-duper adorable. Also, my stylist is still jealous of my henna. Apparently I'm not supposed to get as good of results with it as I do. I am an anomaly. I am okay with this.

Downwood is sick. I'm leaving town tomorrow. And the kids are home on summer break.

I'm kind of sick to my stomach, but that could be the extra coffee talking. And the lack of water. I'm feeling better today, probably because I got almost enough sleep.
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 I am home. I woke up in St Louis. I made it back to our town in time for Emi's Spring Concert.

Alex demanded to be taken home after Emi performed. It was HOT in the gym and he was done. I was done, too, so I didn't fight too hard. Downwood stayed at the concert through the Grand Finale for Emi.

I get to be home for two weeks. Then I have to travel again. But home for TWO WEEKS. I've been gone for almost two weeks, so this seems miraculous. 

Alex had a panic attack and had to come home from school early on Tuesday. Because Momma had been gone for so long.

I have tomorrow off. I may go to the fabric store and check out the holiday sales. I may just hide in the basement and sew what I already have. I may henna my hair. I may take a walk to the local coffee shop for a fancy coffee. THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

But mostly I'm home. Finally home. Thank all the listening gods.
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Jerkbrain is trying to tell me that I'm fat, lazy, useless, and awful. Logicbrain and Headspace brain are fighting back.

I was in Florida for work from the 14th to the 18th. I then had to cram the rest of my customer work into Thursday and Friday, since I'm out all this week, too (work, then recovery). Over the weekend, I did yard and house work, made rhubarb jam, and did science experiments with the kids on Saturday. On Sunday I did a metric ton of laundry, hemmed a bunch of things*, cut out a new dress (another Megan romper, but a dress), and took my family to the movies.** We got the kids signed up for their summer programs. I also packed because work trip today.

Also, I not only got my steps in on both weekend days, but used the exercise bike while doing my Spanish. So there.

Yes, I'm chubby. I like ice cream. I've also had two babies and work crazy hours. I'm getting healthier and am trying to make better choices. I need to be a good example for my kiddos, but not preach to them (like my mom did me). It helps that I know how to make clothes that fit my body as it is now, which makes me feel pretty.

Um, HELLO?! While in Florida last week, I may have told a sysadmin that I didn't care if it was hard to fix, he just needed to do it. I also pulled together the things we'd need on the database side to fix it. And wrangled the other vendor into helping. All with a smile on my face. This week is going to be mostly answering questions and keeping everyone on task. And going to a baseball game with my team. Go Cardinals!! Woo!

Also, I got all the laundry done, folded, and sorted. I didn't get it all put away because the kids were already in bed, but I got it done.

Also, I need to pay UW for my summer classes. This is the first time in my college career that I've actually had to pay, so it feels a little weird.*** I'll get most of it reimbursed at the end of the summer, but it's a good chunk of cash up front. It'll be worth it, though.

Nah. I could be a better person, but so could everyone else. I've just finished the Change pack on Headspace and it was SUPER helpful. Very, very good tools. I'll do that one again later. Now I'm onto Pro Pack Two, then Creativity. I'm working my way through Duolingo Spanish and am getting exercise while doing it. My hamstrings are terribly mad at me, but they'll get over it.

My kids are generally happy and healthy. I spend time with them and am actively trying to not warp them in the same ways I'm warped. All new mistakes = my goal.

* - Capri leggings with attached skirt for Emi, T-shirt for Alex, Ruffle skirt for Emi, Cut-off shorts for Emi (huge hole in knee = cutoffs), Cut-off shorts for me (too-short pants = cutoffs). I have skillz.

** - I was originally going to take Emi to see the new Jungle Book, but decided to take all of us. Alex did okay, but got squirrelly toward the end. He's four. It's to be expected.

*** - Community college in HS was covered by the school (I ran out of classes to take). Undergrad was covered by a full-ride academic scholarship (I r smrt). Grad school was covered by lab work. Yes, I know how lucky I've been. I also worked my butt off for most of it, but I'm still very, very lucky.
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 Sept 24 - Found out that Berlin has the same Metro app as Munich. We made it from the Berlin train station to our hotel. We got in late enough that we didn't feel like going out to find dinner. So we ate protein bars and trail mix and watched Criminal Minds dubbed into German. Also, the hotel we ended up with had extra charges for their breakfast buffet and for having maids straighten your room daily. Not really what I hoped for, but what we ended up with.

Sept 25 - Sis and BiL booked a walking tour of Cold War Berlin, which sounded like a really depressing option. Also, when she booked the tour, Downwood's foot was still very bad, so walking for 4 hours sounded like a terrible plan.

Instead, we wandered around the neighborhood for a bit. The hotel wanted 12 Euro per person for breakfast, which seemed completely unreasonable when we saw their offerings. So we found a bar just down the block that had more options for half the price. Score! Also, it's a cool-looking bar and quite relaxing.

After walking for a while to find an ATM that would work with our poor, chip-less cards, we made our way to the train station and then to Berlin's model train store. It's a rather big store and FILLED floor to ceiling with model train stuff. Downwood was THRILLED. He made some friends and found some train cars to bring home for Alex. This completed Downwood's only goal for Berlin: go to train store.

My only goal for Berlin was to go to the Pergamon Museum. We got a little turned around out of the train station, so we wandered lost for a couple blocks before finding our way to Museum Island.

Lots of museums. Lots of choices. Whoa.

We found the Pergamon and I was initially distressed by the sign at the entry that said the altar room was closed for repairs. "That's disappointing, but fine," I thought, "there's still a LOT to see". So we paid our entry and went in.

It wasn't *just* the Pergamon Altar that was closed. It was the ENTIRE GREEK AND ROMAN SECTION. The ONLY Roman stuff still on display is the giant market gate from Miletus. Everything else is either in storage or in construction. We got to go through the Hittite, Assyrian, and Islamic exhibits, but I never studied those areas of the world, so I didn't really care all that much. Also, a LOT of the display cabinets were empty, since the vibration from the construction in the adjacent wing could hurt the items on display in those cases. 

I has a disappointed.

We found lunch and ice cream and decided to hit just a couple more tourist photo ops - Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag - before heading back to the hotel. 

On the advice of Sis and BiL, we went to a nearby Irish Pub for dinner. Downwood had some amazing Irish Stew and I had traditional Berlin currywurst - think hot dog coated in curry sauce. It was weird. They had the best fries of the whole trip, though, so that alone was worth it.

Sept 26 - Took Sis and BiL back to our bar for breakfast. It was busier than the day before, but still good.

Through a miscommunication, we didn't go to the Museum of Science and Technology like we'd expected. Instead, BiL took us to a museum all about the history of video games. It was surprisingly cool! They had lots of old consoles up and running. They had displays with old computers and games. They had videos and all sorts of other information. It was a nice change of pace from what we'd been looking at.

After playing Frogger too many times, we went to find the best ice cream in Berlin (according to Sis's tour guide from the day before). It was darn tasty stuff - gelato in All The Flavors. We also found a mall to walk through. They had a toy store that was both expensive and thorough. The store isn't aggressively gendered like an American store. I saw Munchkin card games in German and some other card games that I couldn't figure out what they were about. They looked cool, though.

At this point, we were sort of at loose ends. We'd all accomplished everything on our list. Finally, we just picked a direction. Sis wanted some souvenirs and I remembered where we'd passed a souvenir shop, so we went back out. The shop is on one of the main plazas in former East Berlin, but when we got off the train, we headed into Berlin's version of Oktoberfest.

It was...sad. It might be a tiny exaggeration, but I'm pretty sure the small town I live in has a bigger Oktoberfest celebration than Berlin. We certainly have better beer options. We drank beer and ate street food anyway, but it was just not impressive in the slightest.

We took a short break back at the hotel to get bags packed and feet rested. We grabbed a quick dinner at the little Italian place across the street from the hotel and then headed back into town for our final event - a Craft Beer Tour.

It was...sad. The four of us in our little group all knew more about craft brewing than our guide. He was trying to talk up how Berlin's experiencing a boom of craft breweries, but we live in Iowa and Wisconsin. We know all about craft brewing and good beer. The beers they gave us were good, but not earth-shattering.

Downwood and I didn't actually finish the tour. We left at 9, since we had to get out of bed at 4 to get to the airport. Many hugs. Much anxiety. Very little sleep.

Sept 27 - Coming home was good. I was getting homesick and missing my kids like crazy. Also, I was tired of Febrezeing my clothes every day.

Actually getting home was a hassle. Leaving Berlin, we had to wait for the airline to show up to check us in for the flight and then go through security. Once we got to Heathrow, we had to transfer to another terminal, go through security again, wait in a VERY long line to get our passports checked, and then wait around for them to finally announce the gate for our flight. From Heathrow, O'Hare was an even bigger nightmare. It took almost an hour to get through customs (the LINES, dear gods, the LINES) and then we had to go through security AGAIN before we could get into the right terminal.

We made our connection from Chicago to Madison with a couple minutes to spare. It was stressful and awful and I don't recommend it.

We got home about 22 hours after we woke up. Both of us were exhausted, so it was a good thing that Mom'd gotten the kids ready for bed before we got home. So many hugs. So many kisses.

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 Sept 23 - Rough morning for almost everyone. We got out of the hotel and made our way to the train station. We missed the commuter train to Fussen by 10 min, so we had to wait around for almost an hour for the next one. Ugh. It was rainy and a little miserable.

The is also the only time in this entry that I'll put the umlaut over the u in Füssen. It's a complicated key entry, so I'm going to give up on it. Still, that's how it's actually spelled, so for reference and respect, here you go.

The train ride to Fussen took about 2 hours. The train was full of teenagers who seemed to be on a school trip. We wanted to strangle the lot of them by the time we made it there. Stupid kids. 

Once we got to Fussen, we had to figure out how to get to our hotel. It was a VERY long walk, including along a narrow road through a break in a cliff. Weird, scary, rainy, and pretty much miserable. Then we had to wait for our hotel rooms to be ready so that we could ditch our stuff.

Then we went to find lunch and waited and waited. Then was the bus ride from Fussen up to the area around Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. We had to walk up a hill from the bus stop to where we could buy tickets for tours of the castles. We were there late enough in the day (2 pm) that the only tour we could get was at 5:20. We decided that Downwood's foot and Sis's leg problems meant that we should really only go to one of the castles.

Getting to the castle from the ticket booth is an issue. You can either take a bus or a carriage most of the way, but there's still quite a bit of walking to do before you get to the castles. We chose the bus and it was TERRIFYING. Holy crap. I thought we were going to die a couple of times. 

The walk to and around the castle was beautiful, but then we had to wait for almost 2 hours before we could go in. It was windy, cold, and still miserable. We were questioning our judgement in wanting to do this thing.

We ended up waiting and going on our tour and it was lovely. The castle is intense, luxurious, and still unfinished. We couldn't take pictures inside, but it was cool and worth doing. 

Then we went to leave. Our plan had been to take the carriage down the hill. But, since we were there late, the horses went home to bed. So we had to walk. Down a mountain. In the cold. On a steep switchbacked trail. This did NO ONE'S feet/legs any good. 

That evening, we opted for dinner at the hotel. Very exhausted. Much trees. So walking.

Sept 24 - Travel day. We got up, had breakfast at the hotel, then took the train back to Munich. On the train, we saw how real Germans go to Oktoberfest. They get up early, dress up in their drindls and lederhosen and take the train in from the surrounding areas. The guys each have a six pack of beer. The girls each have at least one bottle of wine or Boones. They drink during the hour or two ride into town, then hop a Metro over to the Oktoberfest grounds. We're amateurs. They're professionals. 

Sis and BiL went to the airport and flew to Berlin. Downwood and I took the high speed express train from Munich to Berlin. We got to see pretty much all the countryside of western Germany from south to north. It was cool and all, but felt like a wasted day.

Note to future travelers: don't do what we did. Instead, keep your hotel in Munich and book a day trip to Fussen and the castles through Viator or some other website. They'll take care of getting you there, getting the tickets, and getting you to and through both castles. Way more worth it. It was cool to stay there, but it would have been better all around to have done it through a tour. Live and learn.
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Sept 21 - We arrived in Munich in the afternoon. While at the Copenhagen airport, we found a pseudo-American sports bar and had beer and lunch. We also found free wireless, so I was able to download an app for the Munich metro system. This is an important, wonderful thing.

Thanks to the app and my guide book, we were able to quickly and easily get from the airport to the hotel. We had to walk a couple blocks, but this meant that we could get a little bit of the lay of the land on our way in.

We were tired, but made it out to a delightful Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. Off the beaten path (literally), we were lucky to find a couple of people who spoke decent English. The German lessons I'd been doing on Duolingo paid off in FULL at this point. Since I learned a bunch of animal names and food words, I was able to figure out what was on the menu and order something and get what I thought I was asking for! Win!

Overall, the German that I learned from Duolingo was very helpful. Almost everyone we ran into spoke at least a little English, but the signs, menus, and whatnot are all still in German. Having some German vocabulary helped a TON. Yes, I could have worked harder at it. Yes, finding a real teacher and lessons would have been good. But I got a surprisingly large useful amount of language training out of this free website. Fun and educational and useful. 10/10, will use again.

Sept 22 - Goal 1: Find breakfast. We went to a cafe in one of the main squares that Sis found either in a guidebook or a website. It was amazing. We had apple strudels and seriously strong coffee. Very fortifying.

Side note: Pretty much everywhere we went, if we ordered "Coffee", we got a double shot of espresso. There was pretty much no regular drip coffee to be seen. This is a wonderful, magical thing. I miss it.

Goal 2: Find some cathedrals for Downwood to look at. We found 3 churches and some other interesting buildings. It was gothic and wonderful. We had to walk a bit in between each place, but there was lots of standing and oohing and aahing involved. Gorgeous masonry, wood carving, and stained glass.

Goal 3: Have a beer at Hofbrauhaus. This is the tourist trap beer hall in Munich. It's three gigantic floors of wooden tables and mugs of beer the size of your head. We got some giant pretzels (so good) and each had a liter of beer. Yes, they serve the beer by the LITER. It's ridiculous and awesome. Also, they don't go in for fancy beer there. You have just a couple of choices, but it's still good beer. Munich has no time for bad beer. 

Goal 4: Experience Oktoberfest. This was quite a thing. It's basically a combination of the Iowa State Fair (for size, crowds, and shenanigans) and Ren Faire (for costuming - seriously lots of drindls and lederhosen). It's at a big fairground area. There are spinny rides (OH GOD WHY), a ferris wheel, and other state fair deathtrap rides. There are people selling food onna stick and inna bun. There are games and many booths with cheap souveniers.

And then there are the beer tents. 

Calling these places "tents" is misleading to anyone who's not been to my Werk Conference of Doom. These are GIANT constructions. They have actual floors and ventilation systems. Most have full kitchens and wait staff areas. Some have multiple levels for seating. They're only tent in that they're not actually fully permanent construction. Also, they're HUGE. My town could fit several times over in a couple of these. Just insane. All the tents had a stage for live music of some kind. Mostly brass band polka, but the last tent we were in greeted us with Polka Elvis and then covers of 80s rock hits. It was amazing and wonderful.

We were there on a Tuesday afternoon. It was very crowded. I have NO desire to be at this place on a weekend. Batshit insane, yo.

Still, we had amazing luck. We ended up visiting four tents and drinking at each. In each tent, we were able to sit at a table nearly immediately. The chances of this are astronomical, but we managed it. We drank SO. MUCH. BEER. The first three tents all served beer in liters. The boys had full liters at each place. After the first one, Sis and I split a beer. The fourth tent was actually the "Wine Tent". Most of the menu was wine, but they had some good beers, too. That place served beers in 500 ml glasses, which actually seemed a little small by that point.

So, for those of you playing along at home, by the time we left Oktoberfest and including our earlier stop at Hofbrauhaus, the boys each had 4.5 LITERS of beer and Sis and I had about 3.5. EACH. I really can't stress this enough. 

Halfway through the afternoon, we joined a line that we really didn't understand. Turns out that it was good we didn't understand, since the line was to climb to the top of the Bavaria statue that overlooks the Oktoberfest grounds. The view was amazing and impressive, but the stairs are...tricky after visiting a couple of tents. It was a neat experience, but one that we didn't expect in the slightest.

Throughout the day of drinking, we didn't actually eat much. We had several giant Oktoberfest pretzels (so, so good) and a cheese plate at the first tent, but no real food. I fell into bed when we staggered back to the hotel, surfacing only to drink a bunch of water and take off my shoes. Sis and BiL went to the Vietnamese place again, where he had yet another beer.

Final tally: BiL - 5 L, Downwood - 4.5 L, Me - ~3.5 L, Sis - ~3.5 L

So much beer. Entry on bucket list checked off. Worth it.

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Sept 17 - Get up, get kids ready for school. Start to panic about not seeing them again for 10 days.

Drive to Madison airport. Get there in PLENTY of time for flight. Downwood's foot is still hurting, so drop him and our bags off at the terminal before going to find parking in the economy lot.

Our flight from Madison to Chicago gets delayed and then delayed again. Apparently ALL of American Airlines' computers went down at once. Sheesh. We eventually got on a plane and got to Chicago, where we met up with Sis and Brother in Law. We then sat in Chicago and waited and waited.

Our flight from Chicago to London got delayed due to weather. First we couldn't board, then we ended up just sitting and sitting on the tarmac. Eventually we took off. I think I got a couple hours' sleep on the plane. Not sure. It wasn't restful sleep, in any case.

Sept 18 - Arrive in London. Our flight from Chicago was delayed enough and the terminals and security at Heathrow are far apart and slow. So we missed our flight to Brussels. The agents eventually got us on a new flight, so we got to hang out in Heathrow for four hours waiting for it. Ugh.

We eventually made it to Brussels. From the airport, we figured out how to get a train to the city. Luckily for all concerned, our hotel was across the street from the train station. 

We went out that night for an early-ish dinner, mostly to try to stay awake long enough to make it to a reasonable bed time to prevent too much jet lag. First, we ended up in a Spanish soccer bar and drank some beers. Then we went to a Greek restaurant where the staff spoke Greek and French but not much in the way of English. I, of course, couldn't remember please/thank you in Greek until 2 days later. Naturally. The food was amazing and we went back to the hotel to pass out.

Sept 19 - Our first "real" day abroad! We breakfasted at the hotel and were initially confused by some of the offerings. Sliced meats and cheeses and baked beans. There was good coffee and lots of other choices, so we were able to load up and head out for the day!

First item on agenda: Figure out subway system. This done, we hopped a couple trains into the center of town and proceeded to walk ALL OVER IT! We saw palaces and the grand plaza. It was Cultural Fest weekend, so we saw cultural things that were...odd. I'm sure it would make sense if I'd lived there my whole life, but...odd. We found chocolates and fancy sandwiches. We found more coffee. We found a street vendor with the best waffles in the history of the world. We also discovered just how much the people in Belgium love french fries and that the ketchup is really weird.

We walked and walked with very little in the way of sitting still. By the end of the day, Downwood was about to kill all of us, his foot was hurting so badly.

That evening, I'd booked a Belgian Beer Tasting Tour for the four of us. Our guide was Mick from Ireland. He knows a LOT about the history of beer in Belgium and can talk about all the kinds of beer and what to look for in really good beer. We ended up walking quite a bit between the pubs for the tour, but we had good beer and it was nice.

At the end of the tour, we were all buzzed and starving. On our way back to the subway, we found a food truck selling burgers. We immediately ordered cheeseburgers. They were the BEST cheeseburgers. They would have been the best anyone's EVER EATEN, but the cheese wasn't perfect. It was melty, but forgettable. Everything else about the burgers was wonderful. It was the perfect ending to the day.

Sept 20 - At breakfast, we discussed options for the day. We could go to Antwerp, Bruges, or Ghent. Or we could walk around Brussels some more. We eventually decided to continue exploring Brussels, since our beer guide had pointed out the one place in Brussels that serves Trappist Westvleteren - widely considered to be the Best Beer in the World. 

We wandered the streets of the lower city and eventually found the place. From the street, all you see is a door in a wall. Go through the door and you're in an alley. There's a fairly non-descript door in the alley. Go through the door and you're in a pub straight out of a D&D novel. It's all dark, polished wood and stained glass. I fully expected to see a hooded figure in the corner who would give us our Plot. It was super neat.

We ordered the beer and...yeah. Not quite a religious experience, but close. It's an INCREDIBLY complicated beer. Lots of layers of flavor, very interesting. Lots going on there. We're not wine people, so we don't have the full vocabulary to describe this beer. Let's just leave it at "This beer is very good. If you like beer and you get the chance, you should try it. It's interesting and complicated and good."

We continued wandering. There was chocolate, waffles, and lunch. In the afternoon, we decided we should have a goal. The goal? The natural history museum.

It was a trek to get there. It has no nearby train stations, so we had to walk and walk and walk and walk. It was hot, sunny, and up and down many hills. Downwood's foot was killing him by the time we made it to the museum. We went in and found DINOSAURS! They have many dinosaur skeletons, including a flock/murder/congress/something of EIGHT full-grown iguanodons. Super cool. I squee'd. We went through a couple of their other exhibits before heading out.

I asked the ladies at the front desk of the museum how to easily get to a metro station. It turned out that our map didn't show a short cut tunnel under one of the big government buildings, so it was MUCH easier to get to the station than we'd thought.

Back at the hotel, Downwood collapsed and I watched some Belgian TV. It was interesting, though I don't really know what was going on. Game shows are weird when you understand neither the rules nor the language.

For dinner, Sis, BiL, and I went out in search of take-away. Downwood still couldn't walk. We checked out some kebab places and a deli-ish place, but settled on BFC - Brussels Fried Chicken. It was cheap, plentiful, and really tasty. The cole slaw was very weird and the fries were excellent. We grabbed a couple cans of Jupilier - what seems to be the Belgian equivalent of Coors: generic but still way better than generic beer in USA - and some sodas. One of the sodas was Mojito 7up. It was mostly terrible, though Downwood drank it. 

All in all, much exploring, much walking, and a pretty good day.

Sept 21 - We took the train back to the airport and flew from Brussels to Copenhagen and then to Munich. More about this day in the next post.


Sep. 28th, 2015 08:06 am
sabine: (Default)
 We are home. We are not unpacked.

I have SO much laundry to do, but came home to a SPOTLESS house and MANICURED yard. There are advantages to having my extremely Type A mother watching my kids.

I've gotten many, many hugs from my kids. I have about 500 pictures on my phone to go through.

I will type more later, but right now I need some coffee, water, and to catch up on life in general.
sabine: (Default)
 Last night, Alex had a coughing fit that ended up with vomit everywhere. He was then coughing for most of the rest of the night. No school or soccer for little buddy today. 

This morning, I got to sleep in by almost an hour! This isn't as decadent as it sounds, since my habit lately has been to leave for work no later than 6:30. 

After seeing Emi off to the bus, I went to get my hair did. My stylist was wonderful, as always. She was showing a new girl how to do a layered cut, so I got to hear all the technique that goes into making my hair amazing. I had NO idea. After hair (and a PSL from Starbucks) was therapy.

Basically, the message from therapy today was: Try not to worry. Accept that there will be curveballs, but overall you will find a way to have fun on this trip. Everything will work out and you will enjoy it. Remember that the kiddos' grandparents were PARENTS first. They will take care of the kids just fine. You will have fun, even if everything isn't exactly as you expect.

Then it was to the Sprint store to get my account reset - so I could call the international department and figure out wtf to do with my phone - and HyVee for refills on fruits, juice boxes, and pepperonis.

Then laundry. And hemming. And packing - laying out all the things that I thought I'd need, figuring out what can go in my rolly bag, what in my backpack, and what in my smaller, supposedly anti-theft purse. I'm fine on space. The protein bars will get eaten, so that's space I'll have back. I'll also pack dirty clothes into a compression bag, so that will be smaller. I've been told that a requirement of leaving Germany is the purchasing of a cuckoo clock. So there's that.

I have audiobooks, podcasts, and Kindle books downloaded. I have my guide books and travel docs in the bag. I think that I'm as prepared as I can be.

Now, back to getting some snuggles from my kids. I'm going to miss them very, very much.
sabine: (Default)
Nine more hours and I can stop thinking about work for almost 3 weeks. Nine more hours and I can go home and snuggle my kids, even the one who helpfully gave me this head cold. Nine more hours and I can go home, eat dinner, put kids in bed, and put myself in bed.

Tomorrow I will be running around like a madwoman. I have a haircut at 9:30 and a therapy visit at 11. I have to do laundry - mainly sheets and towels, but whatever's in the baskets since Sunday is fair game. I need to hem two pairs of pants and a skirt. I need to hug my kids over and over. I need to clean - mostly just picking up mess in the bathrooms, kitchen, and den. I need to pack. I need to not panic.

I also need to get rid of this head cold. I'm in the "fuzzy thoughts" stage, which won't help the next nine hours any.

I know this trip will be amazing once I'm on it. Right now, I'm terrified and wishing I was just taking this sabbatical as another stay-cation. Those aren't as adventurous, but also not NEARLY so anxiety-producing.
sabine: (Default)
Friday - Got to work silly early and worked hard. Left work at 3:30 (WHAT?! I KNOW, RIGHT?!) and went to meet Downwood and kids at the doctors' office. Switched cars with Downwood, kissed him, hugged Emi, and bundled Alex in the car to go to my folks' for the weekend.

Much caffeine, some podcasts and Felicia Day's audiobook, and several "conversations" about big trucks later, we arrived at my parents' house. I was both wired and exhausted. Alex was super happy to be out of the car and was a total squirrel until I got us both in bed, rather late by our standards.

Saturday - Alex and I slept in LATE. Mom just let us sleep. We eventually staggered upstairs for breakfast, coffee, and a start of a busy, busy day.

Alex got my mom's Potty Training Boot Camp. He got frustrated with it after a while, poor guy. He still freezes up if asked to do a hard thing many times in a row, at which point you need to sit back and let him calm down before asking again.

He got to open his birthday present - a Cars scooter! We went to watch the town's Founders Day parade. There were FIRE TRUCKS and people throwing CANDY. Given that their town is tiny, there were about 4 floats, a handful of classic cars, the fire trucks and police cars, and that was it. It was just about perfect for Alex.

We washed and vacuumed both Mom's car and my car. So. Many. French. Fries. We had lunch.

Then we walked to the park for the rest of the Founders Day things. Alex wanted to be carried the whole time. I'm wondering if his shoes are uncomfortable. It's a bit of a walk for a little dude, but he wanted to be carried before we got out of the driveway.

We toured the library. Alex enjoyed TWO bouncy houses. We looked at all the fire trucks. Alex got to CLIMB INTO one of the fire trucks. We played at the park and he climbed all the things. He even got brave and decided to try the spinny tire swing. We walked home and Alex got piggy back rides or carried most of the way.

We went to church in the evening. I...don't think I love Jesus the way the priest wants us all to. I mean, I like a lot of what he teaches, but I can't handle most of the other stuff with the religion. Alex slept the whole way to church and actually behaved pretty well during Mass.

Sunday - I managed to get up at a respectable time. I read through the results of the Hugos voting. While I'm sad that "The Goblin Emperor" didn't take first prize, I was very glad to see that the Puppies got NO AWARDED right out the door. I drank coffee and talked with my parents.

When Alex finally got up, we got him some breakfast and went out to run some errands. Alex LOVES the hardware store and my folks needed to go to Menards anyway. It was obviously paradise for little dude. He adored it. We then went to the elementary school's playgrounds, where he got to climb, slide, and dig in the pea gravel. Again, he adored it.

After lunch, I packed the car and we headed for home. Alex slept for the entire first half of the drive.

Once home, I got engulfed in unpacking, doing laundry, picking up, reading to kids, more laundry, decide about dinner, bath, bed, argh! Emi also got a scooter, but hers is Frozen, not Cars. They plan to go to Target today to pick out helmets so they can practice in a nearby parking lot (our driveway is STEEP). Emi was very excited to see us. I think Downwood was, too.

Today - Work, which has been surprisingly chill for a Monday. We're entering the Two Weeks of Hell. Next week is our Giant Work Conference, where parking becomes a nightmare and you shouldn't try to eat out anywhere near WorkTown.

I need to get a lot done this week. Next week Monday-Wednesday will be mostly taken up with Giant Work Conference stuff. Monday and Tuesday, I'll be dressed up as Lucy, as in Lucille Ball, which is TOTALLY EXCITING. Then, it's only 2 weeks until my sabbatical and our trip! Woo!

This week -
Tonight - Dance. I'll be there tonight, but not next week, there for 2 weeks, then out for at least one, maybe two, depending on how jet lagged I am on the 28th.
Otherwise, not a whole lot. I need to talk to the bank and the phone company about international usage. I also need to order some new shoes (my poor shoes are getting holes in) and get some red lipstick. And hairspray. And see if I can get my hair to do the updo thing or if I'll be wearing a wig.

I'm starting to freak out about the travel. I haven't done something this big and expensive since our honeymoon. I haven't been away from my kids this long EVER. It's just...a lot. There's a lot.


Aug. 18th, 2015 06:42 pm
sabine: (Default)

Work. Lots of work. I actually left a little early, but since I got there Really Early, I still worked a lot. I came home and basically collapsed, much like any other Friday.


Slept in a little, then got ready to host the Scion game. I had to do some research and a little bit of preparation for what I expected my players to want to do. They fooled me a little, but not terribly much. They actually chose to NOT pick a fight. They probably would have won, but someone would have died a little in the process.


Woke up reasonably early and packed the car and the kids. We drove to Chicago and the traffic, naturally, sucked. We made it to the Field Museum right about noon and spent the entire afternoon. We saw DINOSAURS and stuffed ELEPHANTS and SPARKLY GEMS and all sorts of other things. By the end of the afternoon, we were all very footsore. On the way back to the car, Ox demanded to be picked up and carried. He then dropped his head on Downwood's shoulder and was asleep about 3 minutes after getting in the car.

We didn't buy the tickets that would let us go into any of their special exhibits. The only one that Downwood was even tempted by was the Vikings exhibit. On the way out, we found out that Vikings will close in November. The incoming exhibit to replace it? All about ancient Greece. I WILL BE BACK, FIELD MUSEUM!!! I WILL BE SO BACK FOR THAT!

We made our way out to a nearby suburb and to our hotel. The hotel, including dinner at Portillo's, was the cheapest part of the weekend. Ugh. But they had a pool and we went swimming. It was nice.

No one got a good night sleep, though. I forgot to turn on my podcast. Emi talked in her sleep and woke up Ox. Ox talked in his sleep and woke up Downwood. Downwood tossed and turned and woke up me. Vicious cycle all around.


The hotel breakfast was respectable. Ox ate 5 Frosted Flakes. Emi ate three bowls of Froot Loops. We sang Happy Birthday to Emi. We packed up the car and drove back into the city to hit the Shedd Aquarium. 

The line to get in the Aquarium was long. It took about an hour to get from just outside the front door (where we started) to buying tickets. I took the kids over to a bench and let them snuggle/play on my phone. Downwood took one for the team and stood in the line the whole time. 

Once we got into the aquarium, Emi started being a pill. Her feet probably still hurt from the day before, she was hungry, and she was thirsty. And some of the tanks were too far up for her to see. Ox had to be picked up for most of the tanks. There *are* tanks that go down all the way to the floor that he could easily observe, but many of them are up on the wall at grownup height. We saw sharks and fish and turtles and more fish.

By the time we left, the line to get in was down the steps and across the block. It was 95 degrees and muggy. Ox demanded to be carried again. We got in the car and headed for home, once again through very slow traffic.

Overall, the value for the Field Museum was FAR, FAR SUPERIOR to the value of the Shedd. Field has more things to look at, cheaper tickets, and wasn't nearly so crowded. There were probably more people actually in the Field than in the Shedd, but it's so huge that it still felt wide open.


We sang Happy Birthday to Ox. I did a bunch of laundry and got a couple Hogswatch sewing projects cut out. We took Ox to the elementary school for his pre-4K teacher meeting. Our school district is completely amazing. He'll have the same teacher pair that Emi had, so they're totally down with handling food allergies.

We played a lot of Lego - both kids got multiple sets - watched Mythbusters, read books, made lotion, and generally relaxed. It was a pretty good birthday, according to Ox.

I just...I've no idea how my kids got so big so fast. The days and hours are long, but the years are just flying by. Ox is still my snugglebug. He's still the one who will climb into my lap and demand cuddles. Emi will snuggle sometimes, but it's getting rarer. They're just so big and changing so fast. I know I sound like every other mommyblogger out there, but it's still true. I love my kiddos and am excited to see the people they'll grow into. I just need to soak up these snuggles now.

This week:
Wednesday - Paint Nite at a bar/restaurant in town
Thursday - Nothing. Woo!
Friday - Take Ox and drive to my mom's for a potty-training intensive weekend. 



Jul. 23rd, 2015 09:07 pm
sabine: (Default)
I am home. Long half day of on-site work (6 hr), then Dallas traffic (UGH), then airport waiting, then airplane, then the extremely long drive from the airport to our house.

Somewhere in the trip to work on Monday or to the airport, my wonderful Subaru clocked over 100k miles. So that's a thing. I think it means my car is officially middle-aged.

I made it home in one piece. The kids each got a treat (Skittles for Ox, Bubble gum for Emi) and a postcard. Postcards are portable, cheap, and colorful. I can make this a thing for them.

I hurt. I didn't really eat dinner, so that's not helping. I spent too much of the last couple days all knotted up and never really slept well. I think I've forgotten how to sleep. This sucks. 

The kids were overjoyed and are now both in bed. I am in comfy clothes. I have tomorrow morning off work so that I can watch the kids while Downwood goes to the dentist. I have piles and piles and piles of work to do when I'm back at my desk and meetings straight from 1 to 5. 

But I'm home. And I will continue to be home tomorrow. That doesn't suck. The lack of a maid service sucks, but it's home.


Jul. 22nd, 2015 08:53 pm
sabine: (Default)
 Poor Ox. We sat down to Skype tonight and he melted down. I asked why he was sad and he just shook his head. I asked if he wanted me to come home tonight instead of tomorrow and he nodded. So Daddy came to give him a hug, Emi grabbed his every-night-bedtime book ("Goodnight Moon"), and I "read" it to him.

Side note: when I'm traveling, I often "read" to the kids. So long as they pick a book that I have memorized, this works out pretty well. It's when they grab a book we haven't already read a thousand times that it gets tricky.

Ox calmed down and went to bed. I talked to Emi for a bit, then sent her off to get ready for bed. She called for her bedtime story.

Emi: "I want a story about a real girl who turns into a mermaid. in the day she's a girl and at night she's a mermaid".
Me: "A were-mermaid?"
Emi: "No. A MERmaid."
Me: "Okay. Does she use science or magic to turn into a mermaid?"
Emi: "Magic"

So I spun her a story about a girl finding a necklace at Goodwill that would let her turn into a mermaid and how she used her amazing swimming powers to save aquatic wildlife from getting tangled in pollution and suchlike. We don't so much have stories about how princesses just sit around being pretty or being in love. No siree bob. 

I'm tired of being away. Tomorrow's going to be another long day - meeting customers for coffee, then working all morning, then grabbing lunch, then heading to the airport. I have my bag mostly packed. It's going to be fine, but I always have anxiety about travelling. Just...stressful.

Tomorrow night I'll be home. Tomorrow night I can hug my kids. And then go to work on Friday and dig out of this hole of OMG!URGENT that I've been ignoring the last couple days. They can deal.
sabine: (Default)
After Staff Meeting, I went to hang out in a conference room. I ate lunch and sent some emails. Then, people invaded the conference room and my purpose for being there became clear: I got to put my handprints into a clay slab. This will get fired, glazed, and hung on the wall in our training compound. All hail A DECADE of werk! Hail!

Then I went to the airport. And got on a plane. And got off a plane. And picked up a rental car. 

Yes, I'm safely in Dallas. On the way to the hotel, I decided that hunger was going to win out over common sense, so I got Whataburger. I can get a salad from Eatzi's tomorrow.

I've Skyped with kidz and am considering early bed. It's stupidly hot here and I need to be cheerful and ready to go at 8. Given that it's about 45 min later with a much shorter drive than usual, I'm not worried. Just a little anxious still.

Also, my phone apparently hates the hotel wireless. It says it can see it, but is refusing to actually connect. I'm going to blame iPass for this, Ugh. WTF, phone, WTF? 
sabine: (Default)
Friday - Newer Dancer Night and Teacher M dancing! Downwood brought the kids up and we had dinner together. Then, he took a wheezy Ox to Walgreens and I took a hyper Emi up to Med Hookah. We sat with Au and family and RH and family. And it was wonderful. During the first Newer Dancer, I crowded into billzilla's personal space - this dancer has never had a good relationship with where she is in space and nearly smacked me in the head multiple times with her grand, sweeping gestures. Ugh.

But overall it was fun. I have friends! Interesting friends! And my Wonder Woman Moneta dress got many compliments. And there's a picture out there of Teacher M trying to lick my tattoo. Good times. :)

Saturday - Hot and muggy. It was Werk Picnic day, so we got sunscreened up, grabbed swimming stuff, and headed up to town. We met my folks and then trekked over to werk. The picnic food was DELICIOUS. We about had to use a crowbar to pry a very, very sweaty Ox out of the bouncy houses. Emi got a balloon octopus and likewise loved the bouncy houses.

Then, the rain finally started. Hooray for cooling down and giving us an excuse to go inside!

So I took my folks and Downwood on a bit of a tour of campus. I showed our new-ish auditorium. It's impressively huge. Downwood wants them to move GenCon to it. I then took them over to our new buildings. Emi was ASTOUNDED by the new train-station-themed cafeteria and wants to come have lunch with me every day. The grownups were impressed both by the pretty of the buildings and the scale of this construction.

After walking, walking, walking, we went back to the hotel and went swimming. Best. Plan. Ever. Then we just hung out in the hotel room. The kids snacked and played with Grandma and Grandpa. I chatted with my folks. Downwood nearly napped.

The kids were SO TIRED that bedtime was a battle. Too tired to chill out.

Sunday - I fell back into the depression/anxiety pit. I tried to play some Guild Wars, but had the start of a panic attack at the loading screen, so gave up on that. I did a TON of laundry and a bunch of sewing instead. I hemmed many things (test shorts, test capris, dress, skirt, 2 emi dresses, skirt, probably something else), since hemming doesn't really take a lot of brain. I nearly finished two dresses for Emi, but either have run out of or lost my package of 3/8" elastic. Drat.

I also did a lot of picking up with the kids. We got the TV room organized. I also went through both kid rooms and put all the books on the shelves correctly. My former librarian nature came out, though I didn't even bother trying to alphabetize. Instead, I sorted by size and got almost everything stood up with the spines pointing out. Ox thought this was GREAT and spent a lot of the afternoon looking at the books and pulling out favorites that he hadn't been able to find. :) So we got a lot of reading in, which was lovely. It'll probably be a disaster soon, but it made me happy to bring order to a little bit of our chaos.

Bedtime was difficult for Emi. She picked up on my overall sad/anxious mood and it all came out at bedtime. Then, she noticed that I was packing and I told her I'd be gone for a couple days. Cue the meltdown. So sad.

Today - I've got travel anxiety happening. In about 10 min, we'll go over to staff meeting. Then, I'll grab lunch, get my hand prints in clay (WOO! 10 years of werk here!), and race to the airport. I'll get on a plane, go to Dallas, get a rental car, get to the hotel, and then look for dinner. It'll either be Whataburger or Eatzi's, depending on how healthy I feel like being.

I'll come home on Thursday. I've got my standard pre-travel freakout. What if I miss my plane? What if I get lost? What if I get stuck? What if, what if, what if...

Yeah. Welcome back anxiety. I didn't miss you.

sabine: (Default)
Filling out the forms to get my passport renewed. It's been expired for more than 5 years, so I have to apply (and pay for) a brand new one. Joy. Also had to set up an appointment with a Post Office to go through the renewal. Their appointment hours are generally 1-3, in the town halfway between work and home. Luckily, he had an opening on Saturday and took the time to review all the things I need to have with me.


But it'll be good for 10 years, so I won't have to think about it again for a while.

It was actually surprisingly easy to navigate the government website. I'm still a little chilled by that.
sabine: (Default)
I've gathered together most of the stuff we need for the weekend with my parents. I have some anxiety brewing about this visit. I'm not thin, svelte, or in shape, so there will likely be criticism or comments about it from my mom. She also dislikes my tattoos and wishes I'd stop getting them. But she loves her grandbabies, so maybe she'll be too distracted by them to nag at me.

Emi's skin is very broken out. Like, big open sores behind her knees. If she wears shorts on the bus, she gets all sorts of things on her skin - milk, dog hair, lotions, food, etc - and her skin reacts violently. But if she wears long pants and gets totally sweaty, the same thing can happen. Just not good. Summer will be better. Swimming lessons will help this heal. It's just bad now.

Alex is his usual self. He's expressive and funny and I wish he'd talk because he has so much to say. I'm worried about him getting enough to eat and not having a vomit fit because we didn't read a label and OOPS! it had soy in it.

My Fitbit is disappointed in me. So is my hemming pile. Duolingo thinks I'm doing an okay job and am now 35% fluent in German. One out of three is not bad.

I'm listening to the full cast recording of The Graveyard Book and it is a lovely thing. I started reading a book called Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor, but the humor is scarce and it's a lot of stories that hit far, far too close to home. So I stopped that one and started reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik. So far, it is good.

Today is a sad day. Work is frustrating and a little evil. Emi doesn't want to go to bed and is coming up with every excuse under the sun to avoid it. I need to go practice my German, attempt my GW2 daily, and get sleep. This "waking up just as tired as when I went to bed" thing is getting old, fast.


sabine: (Default)

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