Thursday, June 09, 2016

Memorial Day

In Germany, holidays fall on a certain date and don’t change. Many times a state holiday would be on a Thursday and then all would need to be back at work and school on Friday. Except on the occasions when we took “bridge” days, bridging the holiday to the weekend. In the throes of homework and no sleep, all kids have asked where are American bridge days? Well, we finally found them! They are unused snow days! Our school district had three unused snow days which were tacked on to Memorial Day Weekend to make a very nice six day holiday. Practically a bridge week.
The time off was just what we needed. We happily joined our neighbors for dinners. We joined our local outdoor pool and got over there a couple times. The twins were pleased to learn that 13 year olds can go to the pool on their own, without a parent present. They went many many times. Tori went less often but perhaps because she is tired from many late nights taking a lifeguarding course. She hopes to be employed by at our pool in the very near future and we can already tell she is looking at the pool with new eyes. Dollar signs in her eyes rather than flips of the diving board. Probably a good safe thing.
The kids had wide ranging games with neighborhood kids, most involving the trampoline and water balloons, all week long. Most times, weekend or otherwise, when you look out in our yard, the trampoline is in action…kids and our dog! During this weekend, a neighbor popped by to let us know our kids were on the roof and running and lobbing water balloons. We think the concern was for our roof, as our house apparently has a tree fall on it during Hurricane Sandy. And we appreciated it!
While our kids are definitely wild, wild New Jersey continues to surprise us. Just beyond our house is the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Someone told us that thirty years ago this area was considered for Newark Airport. Community leaders banded together, founded the refuge and pushed the airport to Newark. And we are appreciating it. While walking the dog, we commonly see deer, wild turkey, fox and all sorts of birds (barred owls, hawks, red winged black birds, woodpeckers, swallows). Less desirable, to me, are the huge prehistoric looking snapping turtles and the snakes and the dreaded ticks. And somewhere in the middle is the black bear. Neighbors have been telling us of bear sightings all year long. And over the weekend, we found bear scat in our backyard! Silver lining of the kids’ loud play; the bears stay away when we are outside! We will let them remain loud and proud a bit longer.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Twin Teenagers!

We recently celebrated the twins’ 13th birthdays. We experienced the usual throes of nostalgia, accompanied by a few nights of looking through old pictures. But honestly, the twins are so big now (both in height and personality) that it is hard to think of them as anything but teenagers. I made the usual poster board of birthday pictures, with the twins looking babyish in Hong Kong, chubby and long haired in early Germany days but now they were looking like the teenagers they officially are.
Birthday parties went off well, despite us not having contact info for a single seventh grade family in our town. Adam invited some boys over after school for pizza and games. He insisted on a cooler with bags of ice…and Gatorade. As a special request, he listed Mountain Dew and we happily complied. The boys played and talked all afternoon and Adam was thrilled. In the end, we took the boys to a minor league baseball game. Adam was again thrilled, chasing down foul balls while the other boys sat more sedately. Hot dogs and fireworks and his name on the scoreboard. We really worried that no one would show up but they did and we will forever love those boys for it.
Royce had a more traditional party, inviting a number of girls over for crafts. Again, we have not seen the girls and were mildly surprised when cars pulled up and dropped girls off. These new girls all gave Royce adorable thoughtful gifts, a purple monster stuffed animal, a goldendoodle dog puzzle, a Hamilton book. We realized with a start that these girls knew Royce and she knew them.
For both parties, we had some neighbor kids in the mix. Honestly, if no additional kids came, the neighbor kids would have been enough for both Adam and Royce. They are thrilled with the constant play mates. Royce said she loves having kids that live close and speak English! Two things that never happened in Germany. For the special teenage moment, and because we are caving to the constant requests, we gave Adam and Royce phones for their birthdays. They immediately set up a neighborhood group chat with the neighbors. One girl sent them both pictures she had taken of our dog. And the pictures they took on her phone of a robin’s nest and hatching eggs. It all seemed very child-like and again nostalgic but with a tech twist. I hope it stays this way a good while longer.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Jersey Shore

Over the kids’ spring break, we headed to the Jersey Shore to explore a little more. We had such a great time there walking around in December that we thought we could handle the not so hot temperature wise beach scene. Well, we lost and retreated back to our home in northern New Jersey. On the drive there, we had snow. Actual sticking on the ground snow. We wandered around the white (snow) beach and then quickly headed inside to warm up and stay there.
Temperatures aside, we had a good time. Cold weather meant plenty of board games and movies, all the things we don’t have time for during the school week. When the sun did come out, we headed over to the Ocean City boardwalk.  We bought saltwater taffy, cheap sunglasses and pizza. Adam had his hopes on a shooting arcade game but it was not yet open for the season. We settled for Haunted Golf, which was tons of fun. And since we won a free game, we’ll be back.
A highlight of our exploration was Cape May, an old resort town of Victorian gingerbread style houses, a light house and lots of city beaches. Cape May is the southernmost tip of New Jersey, right where the Delaware Bay enters the Atlantic Ocean. We have friends in Germany who talk about Cape May, so it was a weird experience to be there and not be with those friends. We filled the time without them, on a whale and dolphin watching tour, heading about seven miles out into the ocean and then looping back to Cape May.
The tour was great, with lots of information coming our way from the captain and more importantly, lots of dolphins. We saw our first dolphin right when we entered the ocean, out of a salt marsh. And that was a good omen at least on the dolphin side. We’ve been on dolphin tours before and struggled to see a dolphin or two all afternoon. Here, the tour guide estimated that we saw over two hundred dolphins in the first hour of our cruise. We stopped trying to take pictures of them and just randomly clicked the camera. Dolphins in the photo regardless.
It’s been a crazy transition time, back to all things American, back to navigating a new sports schedule, earlier school starts, less vacation time for all. We don’t yet know where to get our bikes fixed or buy kid’s swim suits. So it is particularly nice when a dolphin just falls into our photos. We all knew instantly to appreciate it and the afternoon of sunshine.