Monday, May 31, 2010

Thank you to all who have served!

I'm so proud of our military and their families, and I take this opportunity to share this song as a THANK YOU to all of you, both past and present.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Picnic in the Swabisch Albs

Annika and Josiah running up the Alb.

Rachel, Hans carrying Will in the backpack.

Yes, I made it up unassisted - but quite a ways further back. The car is parked in the lot in the distance.

The trees at the top reminded me of Julie Andrews in a beginning scene from The Sound of Music.

Berg Tek

The kids really had fun running around.

Hans and his family

Today Rachel packed a nice picnic and we drove to the Swabisch Albs where we climbed one of the Albs (I brought up the caboose!). Annika and Josiah were to the top in no time! Oh, to be young again. We had a wonderful time up there. Will rolled around a little in the grass. Annika, Josiah and Hans walked down a ways to see folks who were flying model gliders. What a lovely area.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau, Germany

Famous inscription at the entrance gate to the concentration camp.

Long hallway in the prison cells. In some of these cells, 70 people were made to stand in a room built for 20 for days on end. A hot meal was given once every fourth day.

Execution wall. This was sobering for me to see.

Bronze statue depicting some of the suffering.

I was amazed at the size of this concentration camp. It is said that some 216,000 were imprisoned here during the years of 1933 until May 1, 1945. At least 31,000 were recorded as having died here. At the beginning and end of each and every day throughout those years, mandatory roll call was taken in this big, open area. They were made to stand here for an hour or more. Often fellow prisoners carried out those who were too weak to walk any longer for this inhumane exercise. The guards would make "examples" of those that were near death.

Sculpture representing men mixed with barbed wire.

Those who could work in the factories on the property (making ammunition, clothing, porcelain, etc.) lived in housing. There were at least 58 very long barracks. This is the typical bed arrangement - 3 levels high, perhaps 12 to 15 beds long in one of the "bedrooms." The eating area was very basic, as were the rooms with toilets and washing troughs. For meals, one was lucky to get a plateful of nearly clear soup, and then expected to work 12 or more hours that day. They became people of thin skin stretched over bones. Many died when disease took over due to filthy living conditions. There are three large monuments honoring many who died there: a Jewish, a Catholic, and a Lutheran.

One day they might be led to what they believed to be a room with showers, but was actually a gas chamber. After they were gassed to death, their bodies may be put in one of these crematoriums. Many hundreds of others were loaded onto carts and buried in deep pits out in the country.

Hans and I chose to do the self-guided tour, since many of the areas had English descriptions. We also watched a 20 minute movie in English, which showed footage of Hitler when he came into power, of actual prisoners and many aspects of the concentration camp, including the time when the prisoners were set free in 1945. The movie made quite an impact on me.

On my way to Dachau, and while we were there at the concentration camp, my mind kept going to Corrie ten Boom of The Netherlands, who was imprisoned at Ravensbruck, Germany, for commiting the "crime" of hiding Jews in her home in 1944. Her story is told in the book and movie The Hiding Place. She and her sister Betsie were taken there in a cattle car, separated from their father and brother, both of whom they never saw again. Betsie would later die in the camp. One of the lines I remember Corrie saying is, "No pit is so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." Corrie survived that camp, and later in her life, she went on to forgive one of the guards that came into contact with her after she moved to the United States.
I've been privileged to have visited Germany on six occasions. I could have passed up seeing anything so depressing and sad as this, but I felt the need to witness part of the history that took place here. Thank you for taking time to drive me to Dachau today, Hans.

Three of My Six Angels

Josiah, Will, Annika

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Family Photos

On Sunday we went to a lovely park in Stuttgart. Annika enjoying being twisted in this basket-type ride.

Josiah spent a lot of time with this pail and chain lift, filling the buckets with sand and dumping them into a strainer. The boy on the left spoke only German. Josiah was trying to communicate with him, but the conversation was going nowhere.

One day Annika played one of her reading and learning CDs for me. Both she and Josiah are smart as a tack! They are good singers, too.

Rachel and Will - so sweet!

Last night Hans took Annika and me to the PX at another base. It is similar to a small department store. Annika had $1 to spend and knew even before we got there that she wanted to buy lip balm. It was so funny - she knew exactly where to go. We wound through several cosmetic aisles before we came to the lip care products. She has no concept of what things cost, so she chose a package that had 8 lip balm tubes in it. "This is the one I want." Hans took it to a scanner and it was way more than $1. He then checked those with 3 tubes, 2 tubes and 1 tube. The packages with 1 tube were what she could afford. She was so darling when she opened her little Hello Kitty purse and took out the dollar bill and gave it to him. I treasure these times!

Since I have been here, Will has begun sitting up by himself for 20 minutes or longer. He is changing every day in one way or another.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pippi Longstocking

Not all of my vacation is being spent touring Germany. I've had the privilege of walking Josiah and Annika to their respective schools and walking Will in his stroller. Just last night Josiah, Annika and I watched Mary Poppins. Annika thought it was lasting too long, but Josiah seemed to enjoy most all of it. We had the English subtitles on so that I wouldn't miss any of the conversations - plus the British English is sometimes missed by me. For Josiah, he was able to sing along with Feed the Birds and Let's Go Fly a Kite. I heard him humming Let's Go Fly a Kite as he went to bed right after the conclusion of the movie.

Last week I started reading Pippi Longstocking to Annika and Josiah. This is a book I missed reading in my childhood. After reading a couple of chapters, I was into it and decided to finish it. What a character Pippi was! Astrid Lindgren was a fantastic author. This book was first published in 1945. I guess it was about time I read it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


The Rathaus

Puppet Store

This darling canal ran through the city. There were tiny bridges that crossed it to the stores.

Look at the painting on the building in the center!

Gondolas on the Neckar River

Rachel is in much better shape than I for climbing these coblestone hills.

Today Rachel drove me to Tubingen which is a Swabian university town about 20 miles from Stuttgart. It was fortunate to have been saved from any bombings during the war, leaving wonderful cobblestone streets, charming buildings, and beautiful churches.

We wandered around the town central and went into some interesting stores. In one I bought a small carved goose and a carved tree. I also bought a small porcelain church which resembles the architecture there.
We were blessed with a gorgeous day - partly cloudy skies - and temps in the low 70's. What a treat. And speaking of treats, we stopped in a restaurant where I ordered a piece of delicious raspberry cheesecake and a Coca Cola.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Will, Rachel and Annika

I got to see Will today before and after his bath. I couldn't resist taking a picture of him and Rachel. Annika posed for me too.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Josiah's Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday, Josiah!

Bill and Ben (Thomas trains) are some of Josiah's new gifts.

Delicious birthday cake!

The Alps and Garmisch


Annika and yours truly in one of the gardens in Garmisch.

Aren't these mice cute! Annika is much cuter!!

I love the Bavarian paintings on the buildings.

So many cute kids clothes.

The Alps are seen at the center of the photo.
Annika gazing at Zugspitze.
One of the most beautiful sights in Germany is down in Garmisch where the German Alps meet the Austrian Alps. In this setting is the beautiful Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. For the past three Mays, I have been privileged to go there with Rachel and Hans and my sweet grandchildren.

This year the weather was a bit cooler than before, but it was still very nice. We got there Tuesday afternoon and stayed there until just before 11 today. The view outside our windows was the Alps, including Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in the German Alps. A few times during our stay, one could see the entire mountain.
On Wednesday Rachel, Annika and I went downtown to shop in the charming downtown of Garmisch. I had in mind to buy a Bavarian sweater, as I did last year, but this year they were too expensive for me. I saw many beautiful things, but settled on only a couple of small items - a pretty candle and some napkins.
We went to the pool the two evenings we were there - including sitting outside in the giant hot tub where at one end the view is the Alps. You just don't get that in Minnesota.
We tried to take Will into the pool last night, but he didn't like it at all. Rachel and I took turns sitting out with him - and he was excited to see the children at play.

This whole experience was very nice, and I really appreciate getting to share this experience with them.

Last Day of Being Five/Turning Six

This picture speaks for itself - true happiness!

Annika was really good about Josiah getting all of the gifts and attention.

Oh, to be six again!
Will enjoyed the little party.

Josiah is very sweet.

On Tuesday night we were staying at the Edelweiss Resort and Lodge. It was Josiah's last day of being five, and he asked to sleep in my bed with me. Okay, that's fine. Little did I remember the excitement a five year old would have knowing he was turning six the next day and could open his gifts in the morning.
At 5:30 am he began sitting up in bed and looking at the clock. Up, down, up, down. Scratch the sheets. Deep sighs. Up, down, up, down. Eventually I told him he couldn't get up until 7. Soon he lay his head toward the foot of the bed where he could watch the clock. Sit up, lie down. Sit up, lie down. Sigh. Sigh again. He was about to burst. At 6:59 he sat up and watched the clock. 7:00. "Yay! It's my birthday!" He, Annika and I got up and went out into the living room of our suite. Soon Hans, Rachel and Will came downstairs and the gifts were given to Josiah. Needless to say, Josiah was pumped! He opened one gift after another. He was pretty happy with his new treasures.

Monday, May 17, 2010

School Day

Annika at her schoolroom door

Reading before school

Josiah listening to his classmates singing Happy Birthday!

The children enjoyed this special dessert.

He's happy!

Annika at preschool

Josiah jumping the hop scotch after being shown how by Hans.

Here's Hans!

This morning was the first time ever for me to walk one of my grandchildren to school. I work with several women who have grandchildren nearby and they attend a lot of programs at their grandchildren's schools. I finally got to feel a little of what it is like. A little later in the morning Rachel and I walked Annika to her preschool, also on the base. Then we walked over to Josiah's school to have lunch with him in the school cafeteria. We brought cupcakes along for the class to celebrate Josiah's 6th birthday which is on Wednesday. We're taking the kids out of school for the next few days to go to a resort on the Germany/Austria border.