Our friend, Steve, takes issue with the fact that Ender is shirtless for a great deal of his photos.  What can I say, I just can’t seem to keep clothes on the kid!  Truth of the matter is, he sleeps in only boxer shorts each night, and doesn’t ever get dressed properly unless we are actually going somewhere, thereby resulting in a lot of shirtless time for him.  We seriously don’t even notice, but I suppose that when you live somewhere as cold as Wisconsin, so much bare flesh seems rather strange…in Wisconsin right now it would result in hypothermia!

Anyway, here’s yet another picture of my exhibitionist kid.  Stuffed in a bucket, no less!

We had a wonderful time in Florida, even if it was only for 4 short days. It felt as if we packed a whole 2 week vacation into those 4 days, but unfortunately weren’t able to see everyone we wanted to see.  We will come again to Florida in the summer, where we plan to pack a whole year into 1 month, and we hope to see everyone again then.  We miss everybody so much!

Here’s a brief rundown of what we did those 4 days.

We:

Reconnected with our spouses. (yes, they really tell people that they are married!)

And went swimming with them.

Got our ears pierced.

And found it didn’t hurt so much with good friends around.

Learned to draw.

Fed the fish.

Attacked Daddy.

Celebrated the New Year.

Had Lunch with Friends.

Got Arrested.

Broke out of Jail.

Became a firefighters.

I, myself, managed to spend lots of time hanging out and chatting with my friend Maureen, who even accompanied me to the salon to get a new hairdo and kept me from falling to pieces on several occasions.  (Thanks, Maureen!)

It was a wonderful time, and it was incredibly hard for us to leave again.  The scene in the airport when Maureen and Kaylee dropped us off was emotional and difficult, and the flight home was quiet and reflective.

Thank you to everyone who came out to make our vacation to the US so fantastically memorable.  Its the thought of all the wonderful people that I will someday come back to, and the support that you give me while I am here, that keeps me sane from day to day.

Let’s just say, summer can’t come too soon!  We’ll see you all then!

Scott and I seem to have bad luck with plumbing.  It seems that at every house we have ever lived in, we have, at some point, detected a catastrophic leak in some part of the plumbing system, usually involving the bathroom.

In South Milwaukee, in a 80 year old house, we had horrible troubles.  Every time we turned around, something was leaking somewhere.  The toilet alone (presumably as old as the house), developed an undetected leak that eventually led to a complete reflooring and subsequent remodelling of the bathroom.  Scott became so touchy about plumbing at that point, that I was able to pull the best April Fool’s day prank on him ever by running screaming into the bedroom, waking him from a sound sleep, and frantically telling him how water was spraying everywhere in his newly remodelled bathroom.  You’ve never seen somebody move so fast in all your life!

After that experience, Scott swore he would never have an “Old” house again.  However, in South Elgin, Illinois, in a brand new home that had never been lived in, we had water coming through the ceiling from a second-floor hot tub.  So much for new homes having good plumbing.

In West Palm Beach, our little 80’s house was shoddily made (but well-loved!), and had its fair share of problems with the plumbing as well, again resulting in a complete re-do of one of the bathrooms.

Scott did a beautiful job with this bathroom, even going so far as to take out a closet to increase the size of it.  He redid all the very poor plumbing into a beautiful work of piping art, almost a shame to cover it all by a wall.

Lucky for us, during our trip back to the US this Christmas, we got the pleasure of seeing it all again.

It seems that by some twist of fate, the beautiful plumbing job decided to start leaking just as we arrived in Florida on Sunday night.  We didn’t detect it until the next morning, when a puddle of water on the floor in the living room alerted us to the problem.  Upon further inspection (which involved me putting my ear to the wall), we found that it wasn’t just leaking, it was SPRAYING out. (Hearing water spraying inside a wall is never a good thing).  My exact words:  “Scott, Open this wall…NOW!”

So, a good portion of Scott’s time in Florida was spent repairing this problem.  Here’s a nice view of Scott’s plumbing handiwork.

I am sorry to say that the plumbing curse has followed us all the way to India.  In the year that Scott has been here, leaks have been detected on 3 separate occasions.  Water marks line many of the walls, and poor paint jobs are unable to conceal the previous damage.

Last week, I heard dripping outside.  I went to the kitchen to find that water was leaking down the wall and through the door from a damaged pipe above.  We thought it was a pipe on the outside of the house leading up to Ender’s room, but it turns out that it was actually IN Ender’s bathroom and was just leaking so much that the water was now spraying out of the hole the pipe went into, on the outside of the house.  By the time someone came to take care of this, the leak had spread to the stairwell, causing one whole wall to be wet and water to be dripping from the ceiling. (Not to mention the fact that we ran out of water due to the fact that we only recieve a set amount of water each day).

Here’s what Ender’s bathroom looks like now:

As you can see, its the same idea as in Florida, however it is much harder to get to due to the fact that you have to chip away BRICK in order to find the pipes.  Scott is thanking his lucky stars that he’s not responsible for fixing THIS house!  With the Indian sense of timeliness, I expect Ender’s bathroom to be usable by May or so.

Hmmm…perhaps the US and India are not so different after all, at least not when it comes to plumbing!

(My internet -or, more accurately, internet explorer- has apparently decided to take a holiday, making it almost impossible for me to write anything due to the intense lag.  Therefore, you are being treated to a post I created last week for future posting instead of a post about Florida.  Hopefully my beloved machine will be in a more cooperative mood tomorrow and I can actually get something written.)

The other day, I came across this news article while looking for an account of Satyam’s spectacular fall from grace. (Satyam being a prominent offshore services provider in India that is involved in a scandal even more obscene than the US Enron scandal).  Here is what I happened across.

How incidents of dipping babies in ‘boiling’ water or oil be avoided in Hubli?

The text reads:

“Believers are queuing up before temples to dip their babies in what appears to be boiling water or oil. Priests say a divine miracle ‘saves’ them. Rationalists say that is not a miracle but ‘a magic trick’.”

What should the civic society and the government do to avoid such incidents?

Yes, you heard correctly.  Boiling water or oil.  Babies.  Just when I think I’m getting used to things in India, I am confronted with something like this.  Yes, apparently some people would willingly dip their child in boiling oil, relying on magic to save him.

Not only this, but the article in the paper asks how these incidents can be avoided, as if this is a topic for a public discussion and eventual vote.

The mind boggles.

If the link is still working, read the comments below it.  It turns into a flame war between Muslims and Hindus.  We are led to believe that the two groups get along nicely here, but things like this make me wonder where the truth lies.

On the Saturday after Christmas, we were scheduled to go to Florida, leaving at 7:30Am from Chicago.  We decided to spend the night with our friends in Milwaukee, and leave at 4:30 to head to the airport.

Everything went as planned.  We all got up and out of the house on time, and even congratulated ourselves on our timely departure as we drove through the very thick fog.  Of course, we commented on the fog as we drove, but neither of us ever thought to check the flight status…that would have made too much sense, right?

We got to the airport in plenty of time, returned the rental car, and headed into the ticketing area.  We were first struck by the huge number of people waiting in line at the counters for Southwest Airlines.  The lines were stretching halfway across the building, with hoards of irritated passengers waiting patiently and impatiently for their turn.  “Good thing we aren’t flying Southwest”, we thought as we passed them.

Ender would make a splendid carry-on. Why do we always buy a seat for him?

The line for our carrier seemed quite short, and it still wasn’t until we noticed that the line was NOT moving at all that we began to wonder, along with the others around us, what the problem was.  Finally, as the time ticked by and we still hadn’t moved, the realization dawned on us all that the flight had indeed been cancelled, as had many others at the airport, due to the thick fog that morning.  Of course, nothing was said to us, no one came and told us, they just allowed us to stand without a word while a single clerk at the desk worked very VERY slowly to arrange new flights for each traveller, a process that seemed to take at least 20 to 30 minutes per person.

The kids were good in the airport and kept busy drawing while we waited
The kids were good in the airport and kept busy drawing while we waited

At this point, cell phones were hastily dialed, as everyone tried to bypass the desk and rebook their tickets via the phone system.  Scott was put on hold for about 45 minutes, and was one of the first ones in line to actually get through.  Then came the arguing…”We can get you a flight on Wednesday,” they said.  “NO!”  “Well, how about Monday then?”  “NO!”  Finally, he settled for a morning flight the next day, leaving us with a surprise day in Chicago.

Julie and I at the Crab Shack

Back for another rental car we went, and when we got in it, we looked at eachother and said “Now what do we do?”  My first impulse was to call our old neighbors from Chicago, Julie and Tom.  If they weren’t available, I was planning on torturing Scott by taking him to the museum.  Lucky for him, they were available and eager to meet us for lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack.

It was wonderful to see them again, as you can see by the kid’s smiling faces.  We had a nice lunch and a chat, and we left them with the promise of spending more time with them in the summer.

After that, we decided to head back up the Milwaukee to Heidi and Paul’s house once again, for one more short evening of visiting.

The next morning, we checked the flight status BEFORE leaving the house, and looked forward to an uneventful flight to Florida.

Now, a little background here.  Due to the new rules, you have to pay for each and every bag you check.  However, each person can have 1 personal item and 1 carryon.  So, due to the tremendous amount of luggage we were carting around with us, we decided to carry on as much as possible.  A lightweight, easy thing to carry on seemed to be Addie’s new Pottery Wheel, that she had gotten for Christmas.  We wrapped it in brown paper and carried it with us to the security screeners.

When they paused at it and started examining it closely, we thought it might be due to the fact that it had some plastic tools in the shape of blades.  They were plastic, though, so shouldn’t have posed a problem.  However, as the time ticked by and we stood there feeling more and more freaked out.  People were coming over to look at the screen.  They were discussing it quietly amongst themselves.  I was getting more and more irritated and kept saying “JUST OPEN IT!  IT’S A POTTERY WHEEL!”.  It was at this point that  Scott told me to shut up because I was embarrassing him.

Finally, Scott, after listening closely to what they were saying, figured out the problem.  It seems that bag of air-dry clay looks suprising like a bag of C-4.  Government watch list, here we come!

After at least a half an hour of this, with me convinced that we were going to jail, they finally opened the brown paper, to find, yes, a Pottery Wheel, along with 2 bags of air-dry clay.  After putting them through whatever bomb test they put them through, they promptly confiscated them.  One of the attendants snottily asked us why we didn’t check that with the luggage, and I snottily replied “If they didn’t charge us $20 bucks to check each freaking bag, we would have!”, prompting Scott to pull me away quickly before my mouth got us in more trouble.

Addie, charging her Nintendo DS, joins the ranks of the geeks in Minneapolis
Addie, charging her Nintendo DS, joins the ranks of the geeks in Minneapolis

After that, we actually were able to get on a plane and fly to Florida.  My friend, Maureen, picked us up from the airport in Orlando on Sunday evening, (THANK’S MAUREEN!), and we got to our house in Florida about 30 hours later than was originally scheduled.  It was good to be home, if only for a few days.

Tomorrow (Or whenever I get around to writing again):  Its raining….IN THE WALL!

Oh, by the way, if anyone knows where to get some air-dry (kiln not needed) clay in India, Addie would be very appreciatiative.

Today, Scotty turns 39.  It seems like yesterday when I first saw him, surrounded by his uncle’s dogs in a little house in Wisconsin.  It seems like yesterday that I joked with him in the car on the way to the fair.  It seems like yesterday when we shared a lunch and a soda and talked for hours  It seems like yesterday that he stole a kiss when no one was looking.

Yesterday, I saw him surrounded by our children in a big house in India.  Yesterday we joked in the car on the way to the store.  Yesterday we shared a nice dinner and conversation, albeit with 2 added guests.  Yesterday he stole a kiss when no one was looking.

Glad to see that he’s still the YOUNG man I fell in love with 16 years ago.

Happy Birthday, My Love!

The kids awoke bright and early on Christmas day, but not too early for the adults.  Guess all that swimming wore them out the day before!

Ender discovered that Santa had indeed found us in Wisconsin, and the little tiny tree was well-provisioned with a variety of brightly-wrapped delights.

We managed to get the three kids to stand for a quick photo before the unwrapping began…I’m sure the anticipation was killing them!

Vincent was thrilled with his Guiness Book of World Records 2009, and Santa brought one for Ender also.

Addie found quite a few art and craft kits among her boxes, most of which she has already worked on since we’ve been back.

The baby got the good old staple of toddlerhood….the Little People farmhouse.  Its seen many changes over the years, but it still remains a landmark gift in nearly every child’s life…

Ender was delighted when he got the gift he has been asking for for months and months-a rock tumbler.  Unfortunately, after only 3 days running, it is currently sitting upstairs in the closet in need of oil before it can continue its slow spin toward gem creating utopia.

The present-opening was followed by a hearty breakfast of all the leftovers that we had from the night before, and a bit of play with some of the toys.  Heidi and Paul had to leave by around noon that day, so we said our goodbyes and spent the rest of the day relaxing around the fire and packing up our stuff.

The next morning it was time to go.  Before we did, Addie got the opportunity, thanks to Grandpa, to play on a 60 year old original Les Paul Guitar.  He has had it sitting in his house for years, and we’ve all strummed it a few times whenever we would visit.  It was only on this trip, when he threw it in the car for Addie to try, that he learned of its true value.  Though he was informed of what a rare and valuable item he has there, the true value of it became apparent as Grandfather played and sang for his grandchildren, and then allowed his 8 year old granddaughter to strum a few cords on it without reservation.  You can’t put a price on that.

Tomorrow:  Getting to Florida…The Hard Way (AKA:  How we almost ended up on the federal no-fly list)

Christmas Eve Day was celebrated at the condo with family and friends.  Along with ourselves, our parents and our friends, Heidi and Paul and family, our other friends Steph and Steve had come up the evening before to spend the day with us.  The condo easily accomodated all 13 of us, and we had a wonderful time.

We began the day by cooking ourselves a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast and of course, BACON!  Afterwards, we found the snow, which had been coming down steadily for the better part of 2 days, to be absolutely irresistable.  Those of us willing to brave the cold headed outside for a bit of frosty fun.

Here we are with Stephanie and Steve, who, incidentally, are the ones who “set us up” in 1993 on a sunny August day, starting the craziness that became the Fluegge family, which spawned 2 strange but beautiful children and a 15 year oddessy that has brought us to where we are today.  Without them, there would be no Fluegge family, there would be no Addie and Ender, and there would be no Fluegge blog about India!  Thanks Guys!

Here, Scott and the kids decided to bury Steve in the snow.  He’s a good sport!

Meanwhile, my mom deviously prepared snowballs for throwing,

While Scott, Ender and I posed for a photo op.

Afterwards, Scott began work on one of our fondest childhood memories…the snow tunnel.  With a little help on and off from the rest of us, Scott and Addie worked diligently to creat this awesome sight in the side of a large snow pile.  Each one of us eagerly took a turn slithering our way through.  Above, you can see that Addie is loving it!

Ender, amazingly enough, was not nearly as interested in the tunnel as the rest of us, and instead busied himself with shoveling snow.  Go figure.

Following our snowy fun, Stephanie and Steve had to leave to get to Christmas Eve with Steph’s sister.  Before they left, we got this cool group shot.  I LOVE this picture!  Notice our tiny christmas tree in the background.

Afterwards, Heidi, Addie, Vincent, Ender, my Mom and I decided to sneak off for a bit of pottery making in the resort, where the kids made a great puppy and kitten, Vincent made a car, and Heidi and I made some ornaments.

When we returned to the condo, Paul, Scott, his dad and the kids immediately headed off for the water park, while the rest of us stayed back for some R&R.

Upon their return, the kids played games with Grandma…

…while the baby snuck off to take care of that little toilet paper problem that we’d been having.

In the evening, we donned our India clothes for all to see.

The rest of the night was spent talking, eating shrimp and other appetizers, and making Reindeer food (above), which we spread outside in the clear starry night to attract Santa’s reindeer and let them know where we were staying.  We went to bed anticipating a visit from Jolly Old St. Nick.

Tomorrow:  Christmas Morning

After we spent a day in Milwaukee, mostly searching for last-minute gifts, we headed up to Wisconsin Dells on the 22nd (which just happened to be my birthday), to spend Christmas in a beautiful condo that just happened to be part of an indoor waterpark resort.

Now, for those of you who have never seen one, an indoor waterpark is a slightly smaller version of a real outdoor water park, complete with body slides, raft rides, a wave pool, the big, chaotic water-spraying kid’s area and even a lazy river.  It is located in massive, noisy rooms, and many of the slides actually take you outside as you hurtle downwards, leaving the outside of the building to look like it is being attacked by a giant, colorful squid.  You can feel the temperature drop inside these tubes as you slide through the outdoor part, only to rise once again when it curves back into the building.  The whole place is truly an engineering feat, and I would highly recommend it to anyone, winter or summer. (in the summer you can partake of the outdoor water park as well!)

The condo was big and roomy.  It has the look and feel of a cozy log cabin, with northern, outdoorsy decor to match.  It had 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, several pull-out sofas, a nice-sized kitchen, and a splendid gas fireplace, perfect for sitting front of after a long day of tube slides!  I was quite impressed with it, and wished that our home looked more like this.

We arrived in the early evening, but decided to let the water park wait until the next morning and just enjoy the warmth of the fire and the company of friends and family.  Oh, there might also have been a birthday cake and some singing, but holding true to our usual style of picture taking, there are no pictures of that event.  Thanks, guys! 🙁  (Just kidding, I really don’t need my birthday documented anyway, as I’m now officially closer to 40 than to 30).

Here are some pictures from the first 2 days there:

The first morning, we went to a brunch at the resort.  Our party consisted of us, my mom, Scott’s parents and our friend Heidi with her two children, Vincent and Anastasia.  We were told that Santa Claus was going to be there, but it all turned out to be a cruel lie.  Still, the children weren’t at all broken up about it…they were so happy to see a large layout of non-spicy food that nothing was going to get them down.

In fact, the children were so excited about the buffet that they grabbed the camera to take several pictures of it.  When I later looked at the pictures, I was delighted to find that our obsession with bacon continues…among the pictures of the restaurant, the decorations and wide-angle views of the buffet table, they also had this nice close-up of the tray of bacon.  My God, what have we created??

Following the delicious buffet, we headed straight to the event of the day, the water park.  Following a harrowing ride on a rather scary family tube slide (above), Scott, his mom, and the kids headed off to…

The indoor/outdoor hot tub!  While you can’t really see it there on the left, you should know that this hottub opens out to the single-digit temperatures of the great outdoors.  The kids were running in swimming suits into the snow and then jumping back into the tub.  I believe there was also some dumping of snow onto daddy’s head for entertainment purposes, and the necessary retaliation that followed it.  If you have never had the experience of hot tubbing in the dead of winter, I would highly recommend it as one of the things you need to do before you die.

When we became too water-logged to continue, we headed back to the warmth of the condo, where Addie, her friend Vincent, and the grandmas (and Grandpa too!) got busy preparing appetizers and treats for Christmas Eve.  Here you can see Addie arranging a beautiful tray of salami, while below you can see…

Addie and Grandpa creating delightful spritz cookies that were pretty much all eaten up before Christmas Eve even rolled around.

Meanwhile, Ender cuddled up on the couch with Daddy, and tried to sit for a nice photo shoot of 3 generations of Fluegges, though he’s not looking so well in his totally exhausted state.  (remember, we had only been in the US 3 days at this point, and we’d been going non-stop)

I believe that Ender passed out shortly after this picture was taken, storing up energy (otherwise know, in his case, as Endergy) for the excitement of the next two days.

We also got a nice photo of Scott, myself and our friends Heidi and Paul and their little one, Anastasia, who stayed with us through Christmas Day, making for a very fun time indeed!  (Oh, and just look at my skinny Scotty!)

Join us tomorrow for the continuing Fluegge Vacation Saga:  Day 4:  The Gang’s All Here/Its Snowing (Again!)

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to it.  I’ve just been very tired and jet-lagged this week.  That, coupled with the responsibilities of my teaching position, have made me not at all “into” posting this week.  While I am still tired, I feel that I am getting back on track now and will attempt to resume my prevous posting schedule.

Let’s start with the trip to the US.  For the most part, the travel to the US was uneventful.  There was the last-minute packing and scrambling in order to be ready to go to the airport, but our ticketing went smoothly, the flights were on time and the kids handled themselves remarkably well throughout the whole thing.  Even a year ago, they might have been an absolute nightmare on the plane, but this time around they did much better than we expected.

There was only one tense moment as we travelled across the world…about halfway through the first flight, the stewardess takes the microphone and says “If there is a doctor on board, please contact a flight attendent.”  This caused a momentary flutter of panic for me, as all I could think about was the movie “Airplane”.  Surely they couldn’t be serious! 😉  If you’ve seen it, you’ll have to agree that it was necessary to quickly assess whether I had had the chicken or the fish.  However, the flight continued on without incident and we never did find out who was sick or what was wrong.

When we finally made it to Chicago, we were tired but excited.  Our first order of business was to head out into that cold, cruel city and obtain a rental car.  Now, if we actually had winter jackets, this would have been no problem, but we had nothing of the sort, and the temperature was in the low teens.  (Farenheit).  The kids wore sweatshirts and lightweight jackets, but that wasn’t enough to keep out the cold.  We were glad that the bus for the rental car place came quickly.

When we got off the bus, we were greeted to the most amazing sight.  Snow, lots and lots of beautiful, white, falling snow!  It covered the walkways, insulated the railings, and caused havoc on the roadways.  We were in the middle of a winter wonderland…just what two warm-weather kids had dreamed of.  They didn’t remember snow at all, and they were eager to get reacquainted.  (unfortunately, we remembered well what snow was all about, and the memories aren’t nearly as fond as the ones that they made on our trip!)

The following pictures are of their first, excited foray into winter, taken as Scott waited to pay for the rental car.

A two hour drive to Milwaukee put us at Grandma’s house where there were proper cold weather clothes waiting thanks to my mom’s bargain hunting skills.  Even though it was late, we had to don jackets, hats, boots and gloves and enjoy the snow a bit more…

There’s nothing like a beautiful snowfall on a crystal clear evening.  What a great time.  After we had had enough of the cold, we headed over to the home of our good friends, Heidi and Paul for some catching up and well-deserved night’s sleep.

Next up:  The condo in Wisconsin Dells.