Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The castle...sortof.

This past weekend we went to see the castle. Schloss Neidstein (schloss means castle) is only located 30 minutes from us. It was recently owned by Nicolas Cage (he sold it in april 09) We were so excited to see this:

So imagine our surprise when instead we saw this:

Hmmmm...big difference there...so we asked around, "Wo ist der schloss?" All hands pointed right to the big red building that maddie described as "It looks like a barn." We just happened to be there on the same day as the town's blumenfest - or garden walk. Town residents had opened up their gardens for people to walk through and admire. We walked through a few and enjoyed the beautiful grounds and then went to the castle. A pleasant surprise...they were doing tours!

Eric in front of a bee hive building...bees were buzzing all over the place.

Maddie in front of a beautiful rose bush

So inside the castle we went...still wondering why google images displayed such an impressive castle while the one we were in was anything but... We did see some incredibly beautiful things...

Eric was just a little disappointed...he thought this castle was boring. "I expected more armour and axes...there were only one of each!" John especially loved the door handles and locks. I loved the twists and turns and hallways that led to nowhere. Maddie loved the trinkets and knicknacks that she found all over in every nook and cranny and bella loved matching one of the fireplaces...it was as green as her sweater!

When we got home I looked up Schloss Neidstein again on google...oops...you mean its one more town down the road? So, we went to a castle...but it wasn't THE castle. I think we may try to get to THE castle again this week.

Off the first medication...

We had our first appointment with madmad's new doctor here...Dr. K is a child psychologist. He agrees with us...we should take her off the medications to see if environment will be the key to her behavior issues.


He gave us a huge vote of confidence. After meeting alone with her he said, "Well, she's definitely in the right place." It was good to hear that.

She is currently on two different medications. The first is to help her concentrate and the second is to help her aggression. We have now officially taken her off the first medication. Its been 24 hours and according to Dr. K that is how long it takes to leave the system...so Maddie is now medication 1 free!

So far its been interesting...I haven't seen anything in her behavior that she wouldn't normally do... she's actually a little somber and sullen today.

Medication 2 will be done in a couple of weeks. Dr. K wants to see how she does without medication 1 first.

Keep your fingers crossed...ultimately we want what is best for her and I'm hoping this is it!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Toe sucker

I always wanted a pet...

The 24 giant snails that are now "pets" and reside in the backyard fort.

Me: Don't they get away at night while you guys are asleep?
Eric: Oh, don't worry. They go really slow.

I just wanted to watch her play...

It looks like so much fun.

(mom...have I told you lately that I'm still in shock and awe that you survived SEVEN of us?)

Nasty Gram is missing...

After Maddie's summer haircut, Maddie asked me to forward photos to Cruella and Cruella's mother...so I did. I figured we were in a new era of "friendliness" now that the custody arrangement is final so I could do that small favor.

Oh...did I forget to mention that? THE CUSTODY ARRANGEMENT FOR MADELINE IS FINAL! Woooooooooooohoooooooo!

Well, apparently a nasty gram was sent back to me because Cruella had previously told us not to cut her hair. Sorry. You don't get to make that decision anymore. muwahahahaha...

Just let me bask in the irony...

Anywho...I get an email back "apologizing" for the last email. It said something along the lines of - I reread my last email and realized I may have come across as sounding angry. Now that the shock of her hair being gone has worn off I wanted to make sure we were clear that I didn't mean all that. Oh yeah...and can you please send me a bunch of photos of the kids?

Hmmmmmmm.....I didn't get that nasty gram email...but I have to laugh because I know now that one was sent and I know now the gist of what was said. And of course she had to apologize because she wanted a favor from me.

So, just to be a little catty...mostly because I can and I'm in the mood for that...the next post will be all those photos she wishes she had. Hmpfh...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oh to be seven...

I cooked pork and beans for dinner.

Maddie asked how I made such a delicious dish. I replied, "I opened a can."

Her response, "Can you teach me how to do that?"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Locks of Love...

Maddie decided to donate her hair to Locks of Love... She was going to do it during a school assembly last year, but chickened out. We talked it over here and decided that it would be a good idea for a summer haircut that was easy to take care of. Maddie was nervous, but now she loves it!


After! Twelve inches of ponytail being sent to Locks of Love.

Aaaaaah! Put it back on!

Tell me how cute this is!

The back of my new "do"...its layered because of where we had to cut the pony tail.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An apple a day...

We just had Bella's 6 month well-baby appt...yes, I know she is 7 months old...I'm just a slowpoke procrastinator because I hate those darn immunizations...

We have a new Dr...well, duh, of course we do...we're in Germany now... Dr. Zoesh (pronounced Zesh) prefers to just be Dr. Z. He's a regular comedian and a great pediatrician. Bella took right to him...screamed and cried the entire appt. He said it didn't hurt his feelings...he had so much rejection in junior high and high school he is immune to it now.

Our little girl is soooo tiny! Dr. Z is concerned because her weight continues to move further down the % charts...she's now barely over 1% for weight (13.2 pounds today!), but he also said its not too serious because she has great skeletal growth (25% for height (26 inches!) and 75% for head).

He told me to find the healthiest kind I could and start feeding her yogurt to make her fatten up a little. I thought dairy was off limits until after age 1, but after a little research learned that yogurt and cheese are ok? I find this a great excuse to be able to go searching for delicious yogurts...can't wait for this shopping trip!

She also had her shots today...poor little thing..

Grow baby girl...grow!

Maddie and Eric both had Dr. visits today too. We just moved them under our insurance so this was their initial evaluation. Their doctor said they are too skinny...then she heard what medication they'd been on, rolled her eyes and said, "well, no wonder." HA! I think I'm really going to like her.

We've got a referral to have Madeline evaluated by a psychiatrist here and so far the Dr is on board with trying to get her off the meds she is on now. We found out today that one of them is what they currently prescribe for PTSD psychotic episodes and bipolar disorders. Aiya...for a 7 year old! I know there is a better way...fingers crossed, prayers said, good vibes...send them all Maddie girl's way!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Eric's summer haircut

Baby girl is 7 months old today!

It was a beautiful day for Bella's 7 month birthday. Maddie picked a flower for her hair and we sat out in our backyard for the photo shoot...

And today was the magic day...she SITS! Woohoo...well, we still have a tumbling over problem, but she managed to stay up for at least 20-30 seconds by herself.

Ain't it the truth?

Monday, June 08, 2009


U - Underwear is in which box?
N - Need curtains that aren't just sheers...the neighbors are peeping...
P - Please tell me that isn't really broken...
C - Can't find my other shoe... :(
K - Krispie Kreme ...where are you when I need you?
E - Everything is a mess...
D - Dead on my feet...have one more day of this and I should be done.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Rain rain go away...

Anna's tired of staying inside all day...

Her and Bella want to play...

Outside in the grass some day...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Flossenburg Work Camp

**warning - may contain what would be considered gruesome content and photos**

It feels inappropriate to say that I was "excited" to go see my first concentration camp...I've been fascinated for years. As wild as this may sound...I think I get it from my mother, who is also fascinated by WWII, concentration camps, Nazi Germany, Hilter's hold on people's mind and heart... I started out with the Diary of Anne Frank then moved on to the Hiding Place...two books on my must read lists still today. So, it was with "excitement" that I learned that a tour of the Flossenburg Work Camp would be available to me on Memorial Day. After talking to John, we decided it would be a most appropriate activity to remind ourselves how truly thankful we are for freedom and those who fight to keep it that way...

There is conflicting information regarding the actual numbers of prisoners that lived and died here, so take the following as what I was told during my visit. Flossenburg Work Camp was opened in 1938. Its about 30 minutes from Vilseck (where I live) and set in a beautiful valley surrounded by green forest and hills. It was the fourth concentration camp to be built in Germany, however, they didn't call it a concentration camp...they called it a work camp because the prisoners were set to work cutting granite out of stone quarries....as you see the photos below you will see that all of the rock was from this quarry. Now, even though they called it a work camp while others such as Dachau and Auschwitz were called "Death Camps", do not be fooled...as our dear tour guide, Herb, put it...instead of just being shot or gassed or hung or burned these poor souls were worked to death.

The original camp was built for 1600 prisoners, however by the end of the war, over 100,000 prisoners were housed in Flossenburg and its sub camps (approximately 18,000 in the main camp) located around the quarry. There was an estimated 73,000 prisoners killed at Flossenburg and when it was liberated in April 1945, the US Army found only two thousand sick prisoners left in the camp. An additional 14,000 had been forced on a "death march" for three days...4,000 died in those three days before the US Army caught up to them and saved the remaining 10,000...

Here is what is left of Flossenburg in photos...

The SS Headquarters building located in the SS barricks area...this was built after the camp had been opened for a few years when it was growing quickly with more and more prisoners being transported here.

Our tour guide - Herb is a Prestbyterian minister...his family is from Flossenburg and his parents and grandparents remember well the days of the concentration camp. It was fascinating to hear his family's recollections and stories...probably what is most interesting to me was his comment about how the German people that lived less than a mile from this terrible place could not have KNOWN what was happening.

Herb told me that these German people had been told that this prison was for criminals, murderers and rapists that were dangerous. He reminded me that the people from the city were not invited to tour the facilities or even go near the various camps or quarry. He asked me to imagine living near a prison in the US...would I try to liberate or free those prisoners even if I thought they were being mistreated? He also reminded me that there was no television in those days and newscasts were all pro-nazi and would never tell the truths about camps like Flossenburg. As unbelievable as it sounds...many of these townspeople really did have no idea the true evil happening in these camps. His explanation opened my eyes just a little more to how these terrible things could be allowed by good people.

As you enter through the Headquarters building you look off to the left and see a tall hillside. This hillside is now covered in german homes, however it was the location of 16 prisoner barricks. They were built to house approximately 100 prisoners each. By the end of the war there were more than three prisoners per bunk...

How does it feel, I wonder, to have a home built on soil where those barracks once were?

This is the small garden that was the original memorial created for the survivors of the concentration camp. Anybody looking at these crosses would assume a religious Christian significance, however, what I learned is that these are actually nazi symbols that were in the concentration camps. In 1995 there was a reunion of survivors. Up to that time only a small garden filled with these crosses has been created as a memorial. It wasn't clear if it was the survivors that complained or I wonder if their silence said all that needed to be said because shortly after that the German government put about 2 million $ into a new memorial site. For whatever reason, they chose to leave this section alone and build around it instead of tearing it down.

Now we turn to the far southwest corner and one of the last two corner guard towers that are still standing. Those homes built on the hill are shadowed by this site. I wonder what they must think as they look out their windows in the morning....or do they think of it at all? The building is a church that was built later as part of the new memorial site. I was taken back by how truly beautiful this area was...can you imagine it as a concentration camp? I couldn't...

And then, we look to the northwest corner...and I saw the smokestack...the crematorium...I was surprised by how small the building was at first...no more than the size of a living room. How, did it handle the number of deaths that occured in this camp? Herb told me that the camp originally had contracted the services of the funeral home in the city of Flossenburg, but as more and more prisoners were sent to the camp and more and more deaths occured they built this crematorium.

Inside the building were three small rooms. As I turned into the first room I was shaken from the site of the oven. It sat in the room and seemed to suck the air out of it and the reality of this place settled heavily on my shoulders.

The second room was empty...I learned later that it was where they "cooled" the bodies. They threw them into a pile before burying them or burning them...the photos of what was found in that room at the liberation of the camp brought tears to my eyes.

The third room, I discovered, was the "operating room" for hurt or sick prisoners. If they died then it was a short toss into the cooling room...it was also where they laid the dead prisoners to remove their teeth. As I stood in there I found that I was hugging myself. I didn't want to touch that table. I didn't want to touch the walls. I knew there had been terrible suffering in the place where I was standing.

After leaving the crematorium you see a large valley with the church on one end and the crematorium on the other. In the middle is a remembrance for those that died. First, a long flat area with a sign that says, Prisoners were shot in mass here. Then a mound of earth with a sign that says, "These are the ashes and bones from mass-burnings." Because of the significance of Memorial Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars were conducting a memorial service. I stood silently and watched the group of soldiers I was with standing at attention as Taps was played out by a bugler...

Day is done, gone the sun, From the hills, from the lake, From the skies.
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep, May the soldier or sailor, God keep.
On the land or the deep, Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go, When the day, And the night Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar Goeth day, And the stars Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone, Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days, 'Neath the sun, Neath the stars, 'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know, God is nigh.

The sign the prisoners saw as they entered the gates of Flossenburg read, "Work shall set you free." As I read the letters and stories of the survivors I couldn't help but wonder how so much evil could occur in a place that was so beautiful. The sun was shining and birds chirping...there was a slight breeze that whispered through the trees and the flowers were in full bloom...

ON A SUNNY EVENING - Third poem in the Terezin Concentration Camp Children's Cantata

On a purple, sun-shot evening
Under wide-flowering chestnut trees
Upon the threshold full of dust
Yesterday, today, the days are all like these.

Trees flower forth in beauty,
Lovely too their very wood all gnarled and old
That I am half afraid to peer
Into their crowns of green and gold.

The sun has made a veil of gold
So lovely that my body aches.
Above, the heavens shriek with blue
Convinced I've smiled by some mistake.
The world's abloom and seems to smile.
I want to fly but where, how high?
If in barbed wire, things can bloom
Why couldn't I? I will not die!

--Michael Flack, 1944