5 Days in Fellbach (is not enough)

Our European vacation was a little different this time around: we moved places 4 times in 2 weeks: first visiting Fellbach, a town just outside of Stuttgart, then we drove 3 hours east to Mittenwald, and after that we flew to Split, Croatia. The fourth place doesn’t really count, as it was an airport hotel at Heathrow in London.

What we learned / confirmed: traveling with a 13 month old is hard. Alistair, at 4, is a really calm and enthusiastic traveler – he needs his down time a couple times a day, but as long we factor that in he’s generally up for anything and surprised us with how well he adjusted to the time difference (+8 hours from Denver). Jurgen did great, for a 13 month old. It’s just kids between 9 and 18 months are really hard to travel with. We knew this going in and were prepared for it and even with the added challenge of a squirmy, wiggly baby-toddler, it was totally worth it. (More on traveling with kids in the 9-18 month age bracket another time.)

At the Mercedes Museum. I have no idea why Jurgen doesn’t have on shoes.

Here were a few of our favorite things from our 5 days in Fellbach, my dad’s hometown:

We stayed, and ate, a lot, at Hotel Alte Kelter. It’s a smaller hotel (15-20ish rooms), right on the edge of the vineyards at Kappelberg. We ate dinner most nights at their restaurant since it was not only the easiest thing to do, but also very delicious. My favorite was the maultaschen, which is similar to meat-filled ravioli, but in a clear broth.

Lunch with my mom and the boys while Jordan and my dad were out driving a 911 – photo by Ali!

Aside from eating amazing food, during our time in Fellbach I had 2 goals:

1. Hoof it through the town with my dad’s hometown with him as a tour guide.

2. Hike to the tower in the middle of the forest and eat a bratwurst at the snackstand there.

We thought five days in Fellbach would be plenty, but as the days ticked by I found myself frantically trying to squeeze in the two things most important to me. It seems to be the nature of travel, especially with little kids battling a time change, that time just sort of goes by. Every morning in Fellbach we struggled to get out of bed before 11, missing the hotel breakfast all but 2 mornings. For a family that generally wakes up on the earlier side, this threw us off bigtime. It meant shorter days to do all the things, hunger pangs striking at bizarre times, and strategizing optimal times to get the kids to sleep at night – early enough so they’d adjust to the time, but not so early their bodies would mistake it for a nap.

One, literal, step closer to keeping up with his big bro!

In sum: I wish I had more time. Which is pretty much the status quo for everyone with two little kids, whether they are traveling or not. I always wish I had more time. I’m pretty sure that the meaning of life is entwined with time and that it pretty much all boils down to how we elect to spend our most valuable commodity. But, that’s for another post.

Little Jurgen and Big Jurgen near the Kappelburg tower.

I did accomplish both my goals, though of course wish I could have lingered a bit more during both as those were, easily, my favorite parts of the trip. To amble up and down the same streets that my dad, aunt, and grandparents walked daily in the 40s and 50s, with my dad and his cousin by my side was the highlight of the trip. To walk through the woods where my grandfather wandered on Sunday mornings more than half a century ago (and where I got hopelessly lost in 2002), was divine. And of course, I wanted more of each, so we left Fellbach with my thoughts churning, “I’ll come back someday. We’ll do this again, someday.” I hope we do.

Starting our walk (scooter) through the woods.

If you ask Alistair what his favorite part of visiting Fellbach was, it would be riding the Strassenbahn. One day, while Jordan and my dad were out driving around a brand new 911, on rental from the Porsche Museum, my mom, the boys, and me hopped on a streetcar with no destination in mind. We got off at a nice-looking park, and spent the better part of the afternoon wandering around parks and neighborhoods, while Alistair scootered around and played with local kids.

Scootering at a park in Cannstatt.

Since Alistair is all about trains these days, we also took a proper train ride to Crailsheim, where my college friend Theresa, lives. Crailsheim is one of my favorite places to visit and Jordan and I jump on any chance we get to visit Theresa in her hometown. This was our 4th time visiting her, and her and her family truly offer up a herzlich willkommen. While only 90 minutes, navigating a foreign train system was an adventure that I’m looking forward to repeating for a bigger journey when the boys are older.

Jurgen really started walking on this trip, which was so fun to see. Here they are outside Kafe Kett in Crailsheim’s town center. Alistair is an amazing big brother.

Since we were short on time, and Theresa was in the middle of helping at her family’s cafe during their busiest weekend of the year — Volksfest — we only spent an afternoon with her and her family. So we left Crailsheim with that same, “I’ll come back again.” sentiment. And, I guess that is why we keep going back to southern Germany. It feels good to be there – to run on those trails, to eat the food, to engage with the people (even if my heart races every time I try to conjugate my German verbs correctly). So yea, we’ll be back.

Jurgen and Ali on the famous horse in Killesberg.

The deets:

The tower on Kappelburg.
Who is happier to be on the seesaw?
Outside Kafe Kett with two of my favorite people.

Next week’s post: Climbing the Zugspitze! (Going to try publishing 1 post per week on Sunday or Monday…we’ll see how long I can keep it up!)

Thanks for reading,
Amy

40 Inch View

“Mom, can I see your phone?”

Ugh…it’s starting already. At the age of 4, Alistair is already requesting my phone. He’s no stranger to technology, we’re not no screentime kind of parents. We’re realistic, but this gets me. We’re in Stuttgart, Germany, starting our walk through the closest thing we have to sacred grounds: the Mercedes Museum. We’ve been building this up to Alistair since before we left home, and I figure even with the hype there’s a 15% chance he’ll love it. But to be bored, already?

There are pictures of most of the vehicles in the Benz Museum (which is saying something). Photo: Alistair

“Why? What do you need?”

“I want to take some pictures.”

And I remember: in the frenzy of packing up 2 wee ones for a trip to the other side of the globe, less than 24 hours ago, Alistair had asked to bring his camera. I told him no, and felt guilty about it – it’s rare that he wants to flex an artistic muscle, and here I was shooting it down. I promised him that if he wanted to take pictures on the trip he could use my phone. I figured he’d forget about it and I wouldn’t actually have to hand over my phone to a sticky-fingered preschooler.

In the garden of Hotel Alte Kelter. Photo: Alistair.

But he didn’t forget (he never does, I should know this by now). I handed him by phone over and over, whenever he asked. We have hundreds (!) of photos from our 2 weeks in Germany and Croatia taken from the vantage point of 40 inches off the ground. Handing over my phone, repeatedly, was scary, but I love the result. I have the closest thing I can possibly have to what it looked like through Alistair’s eyes. What did he think was important? What caught his attention most? In most cases, it’s different than what stood out to me, and I love that. I love the moments he captured, whether it’s a photo of my dad and I strolling through the Mercedes Museum, or a photo of Jordan mid-blink at dinner…this is what Alistair sees, and I love having a glimpse into his world.

At the Benz Museum – Jurgen and I checking out the World Cup team bus. Photo: Alistair.

My main parenting goal for 2018 was to do a better job of seeing the world through my kids’ eyes, and by doing so hopefully having more patience and understanding with day to day meltdowns and temper tantrums. As an adult it’s easy to get frustrated when a kid inexplicably loses it over nothing. But is it ever really nothing? Not to them. There’s lots of talk about taking a “40,000 foot view” of life, but I think we can learn more from a 40 inch view.

Here are some of Ali’s snaps for our time in Europe in September:

September Gubbins

A new segment on All the Gubbins, coming at ya fast on this Monday morning, which just so happens to be Jordan’s and my 8th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, Jordan – this new segment is dedicated to you. Each month I’ll recap the gubbins from our lives.


Not gonna lie – September was pretty great.

We finally pulled the trigger and bought the eBike that I have been lusting over for the past 2 years. It’s a Radwagon, from Radbikes out of Seattle, and it’s everything I ever hoped it would be. It’s worthy of its own post, and that will come once we get it outfitted and accessorized.

Rad Wagon Build
The boys building the Radwagon. It had been a long day: I had just brought Jurgen home from the doctor for a suspected ear infection. It was a false alarm. He’d been waking up every 45-60 minutes during the night and I was exhausted. We pulled in the driveway to find the bike had been delivered and Jordan and Ali were hard at work putting it together.

I took off on my first trip sans kids since February 2016 to race the 5th Avenue Mile in NYC with my brother. The race was meh, but the trip was great. And by meh, I mean my personal performance – I highly recommend running the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, it was a really cool experience to run straight down 5th Avenue. I was only away from home for about 34 hours because 48 hours after I got home…

The inaugural ride to preschool! We’re in the process of accessorizing it so it’s comfortable for Ali – though he loves riding it like this too. (Note the belt I’m wearing just so he has something to hold on to…probably not ideal.)

We were off to Europe for 2 weeks. We met up with my parents in my dad’s hometown, risked life and limb climbing the Zugspitze, and then spent time on a tiny Croatian island doing a whole lotta nothing. More on that another time – it was a great trip.

Jordan closed out the month with a win at the Bear Chase Trail Half Marathon and the boys and I were able to see it! Getting to his races this year has been harder than in the past (2 kids + early wake-ups + race locations not just down the road), but this time the jet lag was on our side. Alistair woke up early very excited to see dad race — it was adorable.

How cute is this? They were so excited to see Jordan running.

My reads this month were mostly in two categories: management / performance reviews and family travel / life. I loved this HBR book on performance reviews. We’re working on updating the way we do performance reviews at Powder7, so I’ve been spending a good amount of time researching best practices. I went on a Tsh Oxenreider kick for my mellow reads, and I enjoyed her story of traveling the world for 9 months with her husband and 3 kids: At Home in the World.

Re-entry

A recap of our Europe trip is coming, but I’ll start with the end – the reentry phase – since that’s what we’re dealing with now.

And it’s a bit of a bear.

We returned home on Tuesday afternoon and now, Friday morning, I’m finally feeling close to normal. Jetlag is cruel, and even harsher when young kids are involved. Even if I’m sleeping ok that goes out the window if one of the kids decides to wake up for the day at, say 2:30am. This week’s return was made more challenging by Alistair getting sick on Wednesday, running a high fever with some stomach issues thrown in for good measure. Finding ourselves at the pediatrician 24 hours after returning home was certainly suboptimal. (For those concerned grandparents: he’s fine. The fever went down on its own eventually, he’s still on a bland diet for the GI stuff, but is back to his normal self.)

Given the challenges of returning home, and to all of the demands of home (work, school, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc etc), it’s easy to think that we must be totally nuts to attempt crossing so many timezones with two little kids, let alone to have done it so many times before, and to be planning on doing it again in the spring. I’ve found myself thinking no never again. Not until Jurgen is at least 4.

But today, having managed to stay in bed til 6am (even if awake, nursing a fidgeting Jurgen for 90 minutes prior to getting up), I’m already feeling better. I’m feeling like it’s worth it. The kids are happy, healthy, and happy to be home, but we also have so many great memories from 2 weeks of togetherness, exploring new places. Hearing Alistair talk about the trip to others has been especially fun this time – an auditory glimpse into his highlight reel. Maybe we’re crazy, but we think the positives of travel with the littles vastly outweigh the negatives.

A Weekend at Mount Princeton Hot Springs

We’ve had friends get married in some pretty cool places and whenever we get invited to a destination wedding, we do our best to go. As far as destination weddings go, at only 2  hours and 15 minutes away Mount Princeton Hot Springs is on the closer side. In early June we loaded up the VW and headed down there to celebrate the wedding of our friends, Lauren and Kyle.

Wedding reception at Mount Princeton Hot Springs.
Wedding reception at Mount Princeton Hot Springs.

We booked one of the resort’s cabins, plenty big enough for our family of 4: a bedroom, bathroom, small kitchen, and living room downstairs, and an open loft with two more beds upstairs. The cabin was close to the quiet pool (no kids allowed), but just a short walk to the lower pools where kids are welcome. The waterslide was a solid 1/2 mile walk, and we never actually made it to that pool. Partly due to the walk, partly due to the cooler temps on our dedicated pool day, partly due to my major snafu. Next time I’d consider staying in the cliffside rooms just to be closer to the slide (our love of waterslides runs deep in our family).

Jurgen loving life – his first time in a pool!

Now for that major snafu. I left Alistair’s suitcase at home. It had all of his clothes for the weekend, including his bathing suit inside. It was, dare I say, an elusive perfect pack: well thought out and perfectly organized, the loaded up Trunkie was a work of art. So perfect that I placed it in the corner of my bedroom so no grubby little mitts would find it, open it, and disrupt the perfect pack. And so there it sat, in the corner of my bedroom while the rest of our luggage got loaded into the car.

I didn’t realize my blunder until we parked outside our cabin at the hotsprings. That night, Ali wore his play clothes to the rehearsal dinner, and the following morning the boys and I traipsed to Salida for a big cup of coffee at Brown Dog and a visit to the local Walmart (killing a part of me inside). On the bright side, we snagged an $8 suit that, while cheaply made, looked great on Ali for the wedding.  On the funny side, Alistair was/is convinced Walmart is a destination for “people who forgot stuff” and the whole time we were in the store he pointed out various wares saying things like, “Oh look, and in case someone forgot their microwave, they can get that here too.”

Hugging it out at Brown Dog Cafe while I steeled myself for a trip to Walmart.

(While the boys and I were in Salida Jordan was out getting lost on a run. Hopefully he’ll post about that on his blog eventually!)

We all reconvened in our cabin, in good spirits despite the mornings ordeals (visiting a Walmart 40 minutes away with 2 young kids in tow is not dissimilar from Jordan’s ordeal of a 10 mile run turning into 18, and facing debilitating dehydration and the like). Per our typical fashion, we tested the limits of time, playing in the pool all day, then made a mad dash to get ready and presentable for the wedding. No surprise: the wedding was amazing with great food, beautiful scenery, and fun people. Jordan and I each tried (and failed) to learn the Floss, and the boys enjoyed cutting a rug in their own wild ways: Ali on foot, Jurgen in the Ergo on me.

That sun is bright, boy I tell ya. But how great is Ali’s suit?!

Mt. Princeton Hot Springs is, excuse the triteness, a hidden gem, and one that we’ll hopefully go back to again some day. It was fun for the kids now and will only be more so as they get older. The food at the restaurant was good, the cabin set-up meant we could prepare some of our own meals, running routes abounded, and the pools were an easy crowd-pleaser. Next time, we’d like to go later in the summer when the runoff from the mountains slows and they open up the creek to bathing and splashing – that sounds like perfection.

Insert heart-eyes emoji here.

Vermont Photo Journal

Vermont highlights: playing in Lake Champlain from the shores of South Hero, impromptu magic show at our friends’ neighbor’s house, eating really good tacos, seeing the kids play together, all of the greenery, lots of friend time.

A few days on Vashon

Know what never happens? Me, cracking open my laptop on a flight. But here I am – flying from Seattle to Newark. Alistair to my left, napping in his own seat. Jurgen to my right, napping in the Ergo on top of Jordan. I’m just sitting here in the lap of luxury.

We’re in the midst of what I’ve dubbed the 2018 Joneswolf North American Tour. We started out on Vashon Island, and now we’re making our way to visit my family in NJ. Then, we’ll wrap things up in Vermont, where we’ll spend a long weekend visiting friends. This isn’t a typical vacation for us, but so far we’re loving it.

Alistair, on lookout.

Our time on Vashon, surrounded by Jordan’s family was really enjoyable – especially for Alistair who had a lot of other young kids to play with and a lot of adults who doted on him. Vashon is an island in the Puget Sound, just a few miles west of Seattle. It’s only accessible via ferry – so even though it’s within sight of a big city, it’s rural. Some trip highlights so far:

Snapdragon – a restaurant in the little downtown area of Vashon. Everything is scratch made and vegetarian, and the flavor combinations are incredible. The baked goods are some of the best I’ve ever had. My favorite dish (ok, the only one I tried…I got it twice) was the potato flautas.

snapdragon vashon
A real life meal: need not be fancy to be delicious.

Our rental house on Quartermaster Harbor was the perfect launching point for all of our daily excursions, plus the water in the harbor is warmer than that in the open sound, so we could enjoy a refreshing dip after our runs each day. It’s a big house (6 bedrooms!) and was perfect for our big group. There were 3 sets of French doors on the front of the house that opened up to the harbor and made the inside feel like the outside. It was also the most fun color scheme I’ve ever seen inside and out – purples, yellows, blues, and gold everywhere – it felt celebratory, which was good because we were there to celebrate Alex’s life. It felt appropriate, and I could easily imagine him there with us.

Our view every morning.

That’s really it. Our days on Vashon were simple, and often capped with quality family time. On Wednesday, we spent the early evening with one of Jordan’s stepbrothers and his wife, in their gorgeous yard that backed right up to a lagoon off the harbor. Before dinner we all went for an impromptu paddle, and it felt paradisiacal.

Jurgen at home in the rental house.

Another simple highlight was playing with Alistair and the garden hose in the big front yard of the rental house. It felt quintessential American summer – it’s a little hard to feel that in Colorado where I feel immense guilt running the hose (constant drought) and the grass just doesn’t feel the same on my toes.

Alistair and Carrie on the ferry to Vashon.

We’re talking about coming back next summer, and I hope we do. Not only would I love to spend more time with the family, but there’s a lot we didn’t do, that I’d love to. Such as:

  • more berry picking. We picked a lot of blackberries from bushes that run rampant everywhere on the island. I’d also like to try some organized strawberry picking on a farm. There’s also lavender picking, which sounds novel and I can just imagine the smell. Mmmm.
  • On the above note, I would like to be here for the annual Strawberry Festival sometime. We just missed it this year.
  • More paddling – I’d like to kayak from the rental house to Jordan’s stepbrother’s house on the other side of the harbor (about 3 miles). This will be a fun adventure to do with the boys in a few years.
  • Explore other islands in Puget Sound, maybe via ferry, or dream scenario: sea plane.
  • I’d also like to kick around Seattle, as I’ve never really been, aside from a few hours one afternoon in 2007.

The thoughts flooding my mind as we leave Vashon: good vibes and the desire to enjoy the simple, most basic things in life, namely family and shared experiences, and to try to slow the pace of our lives overall so that we can enjoy those things and afford ourselves the indulgence of time well spent – time not spent yelling “Hurry! Get in the car! We’re gonna be late!” It seems – and there are always exceptions – that Vashoners (is that what they’re called?) really enjoy the simple things in life and have their priorities straight, and I really respect that.

I’m so glad we get to continue on the trip, to New Jersey, for more family time.

Alex.

I wrote varying forms of this on Facebook and in an email to friends and family. It didn’t feel right to me to continue this blog, however fledgling, without acknowledging the loss our family has recently suffered. Alex was a traveler and a writer, and I’ll continue this blog as way of honoring him. 


It’s been a month since we lost Jordan’s younger brother, Alex, to suicide. A month of mourning, asking why, wondering what must have been going through his mind in those final moments, a month of watching Carrie, Jordan, and George manage this immensely painful loss with the utmost poise and grace.

Continue reading “Alex.”

Day 5: A Quick Sojourn in Rio Castilla

This is the last post in a four part series about our recent New Mexico roadtrip. The previous posts are linked at the bottom of this one.


Rio Castilla was empty, all 80,000 acres of it. Our van was a tiny white speck amidst a vast canyon with a winding river, bright green fields, and dark green mountains. When you have your pick of any campsite, it’s hard to choose. We parked the rig in one near the river as the rain pounded down, and cozied up in the back. At that point our iPhone and iPad charger was officially kaput, so we settled on old fashioned fun: books. Translated into the parlance of 2 boys under 4, that meant roughhousing, tickling, and using Jordan and me as jungle gyms.

Our campsite.

When the rain let up a bit, my own stir-craziness kicked in and I ventured out for a run. Nothing major, just a swift 2 miles to get the blood flowing. I came back to the van with tales of an even better campsite, just up the road. Confession: I have no sense of what the van can handle. Its undercarriage clearance might be 3 inches, it could be 16 inches…I really have no gauge for what’s reasonable.  This complete lack of awareness resulted in the van bottoming out on what I assured Jordan was a smooth, albeit earthy, driveway. My bad. Was the move worth it? Inconclusive, though it did satisfy the mama bear in me by being farther from the rapid waters, a paranoia disguised and presented to the papa bear in the form of “a better campsite.”

Jurgen somehow managed to not put a rock in his mouth for the 2 seconds it took to take this shot.

I think I would like to go back and spend some time in Rio Castilla. It was tough to gauge what it would be like in the peak of summer when we were, literally, the only people in the vast expanse.

New Mexico Adventure Van Roadtrip with the Youngins:

Part 1: Motorin’ to New Mexico

Part 2: Bandelier National Monument

Part 3: Santa Fe