Monday, December 24, 2007

Chattanooga / TN Aquarium

After 3 days in Michigan (in my parent's basement), we were on the move again. This time to Chattanooga to see Ben's mom, sister, step-dad, and other extended family. We flew into Altanta and drove to Chatanooga. The flight from Detroit to Atlanta was a disaster. Without going into much detail -- we were stuck on the plane in Detroit for over 4 hours before we even took off, had hydraulics issues, then the FAA and Federal Marshal removed 3 passengers from the plane. Ugh! We were only in Atlanta for about 15 hrs but we were able to catch up with The Knoop Family and Greg Turner.

We had a great time in Chattanooga. Besides being able to see all the family, we had trips to a Train Museum and the TN Aquarium. At the Train Museum we were able to take a short trip on a steam train. Carter loved it and watched out the window intently, announcing "more clouds" as the steam engine produced more steam. The pic to the left is from the train ride. If you actually want to see the train (and not just Carter), you'll have to follow the link at the bottom.
The following day we went to the TN Aquarium with Aunt Rowan. This is a pretty amazing place that recently added a second building that is primarily dedicated to salt water species. Carter was especially fond of the pengiun display, the sea turtles, and all the "Nemo" fish.
Because we were going to miss the big McGregor Clan gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Alex and Leslie were kind enough to invite the whole clan to Signal Mountain on the 23rd. It was absolutely wonderful to see everyone...especially since it had been since Easter of 2006 since we had seen most of the family. I don't have many pictures from the party as I spent all my time talking. Carter had a blast with his second cousins, Sophia and Olivia, even though it meant having to share his cars with them.

Click here for all the pictures from our trip to Tennessee, including more from the train museum, the aquarium, and Carter and Ben assembling Legos.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Home, Sweet Home, USA!

It's good to be home! OK, so we really don't have a "home" in the US, but it's good to be back regardless.

We arrived in Michigan on a Saturday evening and first thing Sunday morning we were at Einstein Bagels. Yummy! We were going to give Carter a choice: bagels or cereal. Ben wasn't even able to finish saying the word bagels when Carter voiced his opinion with a big "Hooray!" Of course we also hit Target and Costco right after breakfast. We wanted to take full advantage of American mass consumerism...especially on a Sunday. We stocked up on all sorts of goodies and are already wondering how to get all this stuff back to Germany...and Christmas hasn't even come, yet.

A big snow storm hit Michigan that first night we were back. We tried to take Carter out for a ride in a sled. As you can see in the picture, he wasn't too thrilled about it.

We are going to be in the States for about 3 weeks and we've got a ton to do. So many friends and family to see. Stay tuned for more...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Hanukkah

It's interesting how being completely surrounded by Christmas here in Germany has made me miss my Jewish friends and family back in the States. I'm sure many of you have laughed at the TV stations and advertisements in the US that say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Feliz Navidad. I always thought that was a little over the top, trying too hard to be politically correct. Just say Season's Greetings and get it over with!

Suddenly, I am living the other extreme. Here in Germany, there is only Christmas...nothing else. And, it's very Christian -- unlike the US where it has become so commercialized. There are no inflatable Santas in the front yards or Jingle Bell Rock. There are songs about Jesus, Advent calendars and wreaths, and nativity scenes. The Catholic part of me is somewhat moved, but the Jewish part of me (hopefully I'm not offending anyone by saying that), finds it extremely exclusionary and lonely. No menorahs to be found (fortunately, we brought ours from home). Never before have I appreciated so much the attempt in the States to recognize all the holidays.

Just as I was at my low point, a box of Hanukkah goodies arrived from my good friend Alana. Thanks to Alana, Carter got his first dreidel and chocolate gelt. Carter loves having Daddy spin the dreidel for him and now thinks that all coins can be opened to find chocolate. Carter still thinks that all candles are birthday candles, so while Ben said the blessings and lit the candles on the Menorah, Carter sang Happy Birthday.

Whether you celebrate the Festival of Lights or the Birth of Jesus Christ, keep an open mind and spread the Holiday Cheer.
Happy Hanukkah
Merry Christmas