Aug 162012
Tree is 10 feet from our window, Tower about 100.

Lightning and Weather Woes

This last week has been nasty hot and humid.  My dad would call it “Muggy”. I call it “unpleasant”. Yesterday temps climbed to the low 90’s.  My Santa Clarita self laughs that this temperature would be alarming!  Especially since I know many of my CA peeps have been braving temps in the 110+ range for the last two weeks. But, without access to AC, no breeze at all, and with humidity that allows for almost no evaporation, the low 90’s is enough. We are sticky and smell funky no matter what we do. Plus, now we have pets incapable of perspiration and susceptible to heat-related illness.  Thus, generally, uncomfortably not fun heat.

So, it was with some relief that I opened the window last night to catch the breeze as a thunderstorm finally hit. I lay down on the bed to read and enjoy the flashes and rumbles of the storm.

About 30 seconds later my heart skipped about two beats and life went into slow-mo.  I leaped the bed (in a very dignified way, of course) and calmly walked into the living room, where I proceeded to crawl up into my husband’s lap and whimper like a frightened puppy for the next half hour!

Why?  Well, as the header indicates, LIGHTNING, of course.  But, this was easily closer, louder and more fantastically explosive than any lightning I have experienced before!  There was a huge ball of light that filled the window and a deafening POOOM like a gun had gone off in my room.  No rolling. No thunder roar.  This was immediate, sharp and *close*.  So, too, the light.  It looked nothing like a bolt.  It looked like a TV special effect meant to indicate nuclear holocaust.  The window was filled with brightness, starting as an intense ball, then flashing out in all directions.

I was convinced that tree next to the window had been hit.  But, it was too dark last night to tell. I could only check to make sure it wasn’t on fire.  This morning we walked around to try to find where the strike occurred, but we saw no sign of it.  My current theory is that it may have hit the transformer tower in the middle of the field.  That would have been directly behind the tree in my line of sight last night.  And, if it had been a large enough hit, could explain the rest of what we experienced. 

David was caught in another storm last year as he got off the bus coming home from work.  A bolt of lightning struck a post just across the street from him.  That one took out our power and cable for several days. He says this strike was louder and seemed more violent than that one.  I am quite glad this one seems to have had no lasting effect (other than on my nervous system).  But, I gotta admit, German Lightning ain’t messin’ around, yo!  Once a year, like a major league pitcher, it feels the need to brush us back.  Thor, Zeus, and all other Storm Gods- Please note- *not* trying to crowd the plate!  Happy to stay out of your business.  Warnings taken!

French Shopping on a particularly French Day

(Stole this photo from the web, but it is our Cora from what I can tell)

Since yesterday seemed like a wonderful day *not* to be outside, I figured we might as well make the trip to France and check out the giant shopping center called Cora.  It looked, from what I could tell, to be something like a Super-Walmart or Target-Monstrosity.  But, the online info is pretty sparse. I do know that the kids’ supplies list for the school year mentions that several of the items can be found at Cora. And, hey, a superstore could be very useful!  Honestly, I miss Target very much.  Convenience is worth some work here.  So I figured it would be worth the 45 minute drive.

I checked the hours online (open every day but Sunday, most nights until 9!  Rock on!) and headed out.  When we got there we were funneled into a parking maze that reminded me of the old Disneyland entrances before their mondo-parking structure was built.  Wind around, follow the arrows, etc.  Only… Not much of anyone around.  We followed one car into a pretty much barren parking lot.  Entrances were numbered, like at a  regulation mall.  I figured maybe the main entrance was somewhere else.  But… hmm.  No, that is Entrance 1.

There were a couple closed up carnival rides in the lot, but almost no cars.  The car we were following parked and a lady got out and walked to the entrance.  A couple other cars were parked with drivers waiting in them.  Maybe Cora was closed for lunch and I didn’t know?  I looked at the clock.  Almost 2.  Most places that close for lunch are open at 2, so maybe they were just about to reopen?  The lady walked to the dark, closed doors, read the signs, looked at her watch and shrugged.  She almost talked to the man in the car next to me, but they wound up just exchanging looks.  Then she got back in her car and left.

But, the guy was still waiting. So, I sent the kids to see if there was a sign with hours or an explanation posted.  No, the hours are the same as the ones I read online.  No sign explaining today’s anomaly that they can find.  Ok, fine. I get out to look myself.  I also see no sign.  But as I am approaching the doors, a side entrance opens and several men walk out.  One looks up at me and shouts “Nous sommes fermés!” (We are closed!) Then he hops in his car without further explanation.  And, he drives away.

Ok, then.  Once again foiled by the French being French.  Guess we will have to try again another day.

The trip home would not have been unpleasant except for the fact that, enclosed in a small space, the kids decided to play “How Pissy Can You Be?”  DD won.  So, DS decided it was time for a melt down.  Driving in France is still a challenge.  Driving in France with two pissy kids- one in full melt?  That is Difficulty Level David.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t around.  So, I just had to up my game and deal with it.  Made it home safe, and the kids got large pieces of my parental wisdom as we drove. Not sure they would agree with it being a productive day, but, I felt accomplished by the end!


We finally got DS’s landschulheim photos!  Woot! And, really, they didn’t come out too terrible – well, except nothing he took inside came out at all.  I don’t think he knew how to use the flash and single-use cameras are rather limited in their lens quality.  No matter, though, the most impressive stuff was outside. 

For instance, would you send your kid to camp here:

 And here:

In a second, right? Yeah, us, too.

So, one Monday morning in June we dropped him off at the train station with 60 of his closest German friends, wished him a safe journey, and forced our parental legs to walk away.

All ready, double checked, and soon to be packed

Happy but nervous

The Journey:

They took 3 trains and a bus to get there.  Goodness those teachers were brave!

Throwing rocks at the train tracks, apparently
Three of DS’s buddies.  They liked standing on the trains and buses

The Hostel:

The kids were happy to have arrived!

another view

This is where DS got to spend his landschulheim week.  Landschulheim literally translates to “land school home”, but basically it is like Eco-week or something similar in the states.  You go with your class on an adventure away from home for a week, growing together as friends and classmates, and growing individually as you face the challenges of being away from home.  His class went to the youth hostel southwest of Freiburg, in the mountain town of Feldberg.  It is the hostel at the highest altitude in our region.

So, you have sixty 12 year olds up in the mountains.  What do you do with them?  You wear them out, of course!  They did a LOT of walking.

They went swimming:

And got sunburned….

They climbed trees:

And they climbed boxes!  (DS’s favorite activity)

DS was very proud of getting to 15
Looks fun! (He has one box hanging off his foot and
one in his hand after the rest fell)

Then, one day they went for a 10 kilometer hike.  Up the mountain.  Until they reached, this:

The Hasselhorn Coaster:

Yes, that is a roller coaster coming down a mountain!

This is one of many mountain coasters in the region, I am told.  But, apparently, it is one of the best.  DS says that with 60 kids going down the mountain- each pair of them with control over their own speed, it could be a frustrating event when the person in front of you was a bit too timid for your daredevil nature!  On the other hand, it is a *really* long ride down- and an awesome view the whole way.  DS forgot his camera that day, so I stole the images above from one of the sites below.  I definitely want to try some of these, though!  How completely cool!

Here is one link for it: The Hasselhorn Coaster

Here is another: Hasselhorn Coaster

They did a bunch of other stuff, too.  Designed rolling runs for balls, watched Germany lose the European Cup (sad football fans!), ate weird foods, giggled in their rooms, watched the stars, etc. etc.  It was a nice long week filled with experiences to take with them.  So grateful he got to go!

Home Again, Home Again
So, Friday afternoon, a group of very tired adventurers returned to the train station.  Their train pulled up:

Where are they?

 And then it pulled away:

There they are!

Looking a little bedraggled

Waiting for the crossing (DS spoted us)

And they hobbled forth.  DS was exhausted, a-buzz and a little sunburned.  But, otherwise no the worse for the wear.  Definitely a wonderful experience!

24 hours later, he was at the top of the
Arc de Triomphe- can’t fault the kid on
lack of energy!

So glad to have him home!

Degu Update:

Our little degu friends are adjusting well.  And, they have new names!  We tried all sorts of naming schemes but nothing seemed to gain any traction.  Until someone suggested naming them after Yordles.  Yordles are gnome-like creatures from a game that David and the kids like to play called League of Legends.  They each have personalities and silly sayings and the like, and they generally make everyone smile and giggle.  So, we tried out various gnome-gnames and came up with the following:

Meet Tristana (formerly Number One):

Tristana is mostly identifiable by her outgoing
personality- but she also has a little tuft at the tip of
her tail that helps.

She was devouring DS’s literature
Exploring the carrying cage

In the game Tristana is the Rocket Gnome.  She is gung-ho, zippy and likes to make things explode!  In our little clan, she is still the go getter, and definitely the one who likes people the most.  She is the one who rushes to the opening of the cage every time we come close or open it.  She is identifiable by the tuft at the end of her tail, and mostly by her outgoing personality.  She is the hardest to photograph because she Never. Holds. Still.

Meet Veigar (formerly Number Two, pronounced Vee-grr for some reason):

Veigar is the largest of the three. She also has the furriest tail. 
And she is a little redder in color than her sisters.  But that is tough
to tell in photos because the color isn’t true.

She is currently the most wary of us.  Plus, she is on the outs with
her sisters because she tried to bully them out of the wheel and they did
not like it!

See all the fur on her tail?

Veigar is the “tiny master of evil” in the game.  A bit of a crazy goofball.  In real life she seems to be the most emo of the three.  She changes loyalties regularly, and gets in tiffs with her sisters.  She is most motivated by treats, but least likely to want to come out of the cage.

Meet Teemo (formerly Number Three):

Teemo has the stumpy tail

Here she is hiding a treat- in the toilet

Exchanging intel with Tristana on a room romp

Just kickin

This is the “Happy Boyscout Gnome”.  In the game he runs fast and hides well.  In real life, Teemo is coming around.  She was most cautious with us at first, but now she is the second one out of the cage every time and seems to be gaining trust quickly.  She and Veigar appear to be having a bit of a feud at the moment.  She is the easiest to identify because of the distinctive shape of her tail.

Random Degu Shots:

Cuddling on a cool (messy) plank
(that is dust from eating their food)

Teemo and (I think) Veigar

DD coaxed Veigar out to say hi

Checking us out

What we have learned:

  • They talk and squeak a lot.  For the most part it is pretty quiet and sounds a little like bird chatter.  But they also have some clicks and knocks- and one really amusing squeak that sounds just like the squeaker in a squeaky toy for dogs! (that one is a pissy distress sound that they use when bickering)
  • They take care of each other.  When one of them is afraid and hiding, the others will make sure the coast is clear, then coax her out and about.
  •  Their food is really cool- It is made of sticks, leaves and dried flowers.  How fun is that?  True plant eaters.
  •  They like to run.  A lot.  The wheel is the single largest point of contention because it is really the only thing that is a limited commodity.  They can get all three of them running at once, but that is tricky.  And, usually one will try to run the opposite direction of the other two and mayhem will ensue.  It is not unusual for one to plop over backwards and do a leap worthy of Gabby Douglas.
  • Tristana likes to explore.  A lot.  She runs to the cage door and makes a break for it whenever she can.  She doesn’t mind going back, she just likes to get out and play.  She did give DD a pretty good nip today.  DD accidentally squeezed her too hard/grasped her wrong in an attempt to get her back in the cage.  I think they both said OUCH.
  • Most of the time, though they are very very gentle.  Rats when they test your finger to see if it is food can put enough pressure to cause a little pain.  These guys are much softer and more gingerly. Usually, they just tickle.  Especially when they are sniffing your toes!
  • Even though they can (and do) leap long distances, they don’t seem to rely much on their vision to find food.  They follow their nose and sense of touch.  If you put a treat on your hand, they won’t look at it.  They smell their way to it.  A trick we have found is to lead them where we want them to go using a piece of food.

Upcoming: Still figuring out possible trips, lake, braces, and, far too soon, the start of school….

  3 Responses to “Landschulheim, Lightning, Degus, and Shopping Failure”

  1. So glad you guys have pets again. The next school year is looking up already. :)

  2. I think you will like them, Kerstin. Not quite as cuddly as the rats, yet. But, then, they are still babies. I am thinking equivalent to a 2 year old right now. David is intent on getting them to sit still for a belly rub, so I know they will come around :) Unfortunately, shoulder rides have so far resulted in Shoulder Diving. No pools necessary for these little guys. They fling themselves at the ground and land happily on the run.

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