Monday, September 13, 2010

Our Mini-Vacation

Before we left Germany, Jason and I had big plans for a family vacation. We wanted to ship the van off to Baltimore early enough that it would be there when we flew in. The plan was to make a cross-country drive across the U.S. Our projected route would have taken us down to North Carolina, through West Virginia, up to Indiana, through the state of Michigan, and then across every state along the northern border. We would have turned south once we hit Washington (a good idea what with the ocean and all), driven through Oregon, and finally ended up in California. It would have been an awesome trip and we were really excited about it. The whole orders situation kind of messed it up though. We just could not get the van out of Germany in time, no matter what we tried.

So we scrapped that plan and decided to spend a couple extra days in Baltimore instead. This was good for a couple of reasons. It gave us a little extra padding, for one thing. We were afraid our military flight would slip back a day and wreak havoc on our travel plans. (This happened to our friends the month before and we did not want to deal with what they had to do to fix their plane tickets, etc.) Also, it gave us a place and some time to breathe once we hit American soil.

Culture shock is a real and true thing, my friends. And it really is harder to come back than it is to go in the first place. (I promise to get back to this topic.)

Our first night in the states we watched tv (oh my--the channels!) and ordered pizza in. It was so nice to have it delivered to the door! We took baths and showers (water pressure! WOW!) and got squeaky clean. The boys learned how to operate the satellite channel guide, what "real" light switches look like, and how to flush an American toilet (Zander). Around the time that I went from "bone-crushingly tired" to "certified-Zombie" the boys passed out and we finally got to sleep...only to wake up about 3 hours later (5 AM), fully alert and surrounded by bright-eyed children. It was, after all, roughly 11 AM to our internal clocks. Sigh.

Hello, jetlag! Funny how you are never invited yet always show up for the party!

We jumped on the Baltimore metro system (Metro Light? Sounds like a beer but I think that is what it's called.) and rode out to the Inner Harbor. Funny how we never would have thought to look into a metro "type" system before living in Europe. As small town kids, it just would not have occurred to either Jason or myself. It's a lovely, clean system though. For less than $5 all six of us got into and back out of the city. It took maybe 30 minutes. Very worth it! And then we walked around the Inner Harbor area.

We took the boys to The National Aquarium for the day. And yes, it took pretty much all day. I'm not going to lie, it was a little pricey. But it was worth it. The boys had so much fun and we saw so many new and exciting things. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone going through or to Baltimore. Not just those with kids, either. Anyone would enjoy it!

After the Aquarium we took the kids to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe. The little guys were crashing hard at this point, but we got a decent amount of lunch into them anyway. Poor Zander (wearing long sleeves and pants, mind you) just about froze his hiney off. He is not used to air conditioning outside of a vehicle (this is still true now, even after a month in country) and it was rather chilly in the restaurant. He ended up curling up on my lap and falling asleep.

Our next stop was the Barnes and Noble, a two-story bookstore the likes of which the boys had never seen. Or, in Sam and Jake's case, had not seen in 3 years (since our trip to Ohio in 2007) and which they did not remember. Sam said, "I think I'm going to cry." the minute we walked inside. I have to agree; it was a rather nice bookstore even if you haven't been held captive by an AAFES Bookmark for the better part of a decade. Scratch that. It was fabulous!

This whole day was punctuated by the most helpful people on the planet. I swear, every time we turned around someone else was there who was more polite and wonderful than the person before them. Smiles and "excuse me" and just...nice people. (Are you tired of this yet? Sorry! It just amazes me so.) We got back to our hotel room in such a relaxed state; you would have never known that we had just flown across the ocean with four children the day before. It set the tone for our return and I couldn't possibly be more grateful.

I guess I misspoke yesterday when I said that we were in Baltimore for 2 days. We spent two nights there but we arrived so late the first night and left so early the third day that I guess we really only spent one day there. Early in the morning on that 3rd day we boarded a plane bound for Indiana, bidding Baltimore a fond farewell.

Again, it is late at night and I am tired. I will end this here and pick up where I left off tomorrow. Eventually I will be caught up!

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