The Hyatts come to Europe

In the military life, it’s no small thing when friends and family make the effort to come visit you, so when six people load up and fly to Germany you know you are loved. In 2019 we had BOTH sides of our families do just that! In April, the Hamrick side came for two weeks, just in time for Hayden’s high school graduation. In December, the Hyatt side arrived!

To summarize the entire trip I could use the word: chill. (Notice, this is the word I would pick, though not necessarily what my brother and sister-in-law would pick! Stay tuned to find out why.)

For my part, I got to stay home, sleep in my own bed, skip jet-lag, and take time off my full-time job as homeschooling teacher. I still cooked most nights but those with large families know it’s easier (not to mention cheaper) to cook than go out and making a meal for 13 is no more difficult than for seven. 

Here is a fast look at what was a lovely visit filled with sleeping-in, coffee constantly being brewed, and lots of BFF time (Parker and Mason, Anna and Madi.)

The skinny tree was my attempt at putting some decorations in their AirBnB. I brought garland and THE only place to hang it was on the coat rack!

By the time everyone got to our house they were pretty exhausted. They had already been traveling for a week. They had flown overseas, done London together, and then parted ways. Josh, Ashley, and their kids, Mason and Madison, headed to Paris. My parents went to Venice (because they’d already been to Paris and because, well… Venice).

Our local fun included a castle (Hohenzollern), the Rittersport Museum, a Christmas Market (Esslingen), Rittersport Museum, and Rothenburg.

The green sign said to get in, so we did.

The choices at the Rittersport store are staggering so I really wanted to take everyone there. We made purchases that we snacked on throughout the visit, and found a new Christmas Market flavored one we love.

Of all the nights to take my family to the Esslingen Christmas market, I picked the worst. It was the most crowded place I’ve ever been… we had to fight to take turns at any activities, bullishly protect our spot in line to buy dinner, and getting from one place to another in a large group was miserable. I think I ruined Christmas Markets for them!

I had heard about the man-powered Farris wheel in medieval part beforehand and really wanted the kids to do that. All four kids shot arrows, the boys threw axes, and the girls (+ Hayden, for safety reasons) rode the Farris wheel. I wish I had videoed the man and woman who were physically spinning this thing!

My parents’ favorite place in Germany is Rothenburg. They make it a point to stay overnight each time they come. We went down for the day, saw all the things, and then left them there for the full experience. I am mad that I didn’t get a picture with the photographer of our group shot! We ran into the Byers family!!

Grocery Shopping with cousins (REWE)

Christmas Eve service…

Christmas Day!

The day after Christmas Josh and Ashely took off on a 2nd honeymoon to Italy. While they were seeing all the sites the kids were here having fun with cousins! (This is why I can pick “chill” to describe the visit while they would have pick something more like “whirlwind.”)

We had a blast and I believe the Hyatts went back with fond memories! I know how cool it was for my kids to be able to recognize famous locations in movies and TV after we lived here the first time. Now my kids will have some of those experiences in common with their cousins! Big Ben, Tower of London, Crown Jewels, Mona Lisa, Eiffel Tower… Priceless Christmas experiences all around!

Next time the cousins will see each other should be over the summer… the countdown is on!

PS: My brother officially (and legally) got to drive the Autobahn!

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Christmas Day, 2019

Our Christmas this year was different from any other, as we had family in town. Literally, that was a first!

Here are some pictures from that special day and another post will be coming soon to journal our time with family.

The boys were given money ahead of time to buy what they want – no one in our family can be accused of having “Gifts” as their top-love-language, which works out well because literally everyone is happy with the way we do gifts.

  • Hayden bought some vinyl that he would have never spent his hard-earned money on.
  • Carson spent time with friends earlier in the month and bought a few shirts that were splurges. I bought a light box for him for art.
  • Bailey ordered shoes. (My kids got their love of shoes from their dad!)
  • Parker got a Christian McCaffery jersey, some Pop Figures and Legos.

Anna is not much of a toy girl. She doesn’t really play with dolls or Little People but she will have us read books to her over and over again. One of her gifts this year was a box of magnet manipulatives, but she also got a toy horse (with all the goodies that go along), a VTECH phone that plays songs, and a Polly Pocket. Beyond that: books. And looking back she’s her favorites are the phone that sings songs and the books. (Especially the Usborne “shine-a-light” book!)

Her reactions to these gifts has led us to decide on a Book-Swap birthday party rather than a traditional, “bring-more-plastic-things” party for her 4th birthday which is just around the corner. Check out this funny reaction to another book!

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Merry Christmas, 2019

2019 was a good year for The Hamricks. I’m signing off the blog for now, ready to welcome my family to Germany until the sixth of January!

Until I am back, please enjoy this year’s Christmas Card! We had a great photographer who did every bit of it so I will take no credit.

Highlights of our year:

January: Anna turned 3!
February: Carson turned 16 and we had lots of fun snow.
March: Bailey turned 15 and Parker turned 9.
April: Our Hamrick-family came to visit!
May: Hayden turns 18 and graduates from High School! Matt and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary.
June: Matt and I went to Venice to celebrate our 20th Anniversary.
July: School prep and answering tough questions for Anna.
August: Started School: Carson 11th grade; Bailey 10th grade, Parker 4th grade, and Anna 3 year old preschool hourly care 4-5 days a week.
September: Visiting the United States and Jen joined the Lifegiver team!
October: Club Beyond (having Bob and Martie here was a special treat straight from God)
November: Invited to Guest Post at another blog! Jen got to go on a girls’ trip to Poland!
December: Hyatt-side of our Family coming! (As of this moment, they will arrive in eight hours!!)

With that said, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The cutest little thing.
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NC 2019: Heading home to Germany

While we were loving our time in NC, we had something back home that we wanted to get back for: A weekend in Garmisch (which was to start on Friday, September 20th). Follow our journey from North Carolina back to Germany…

Monday: I knew (based on tracking flights) that Charleston didn’t have any overseas flights, which would have been the best case scenario. However, I saw several flights on the horizon from McGuire to Ramstein (the route we had taken to get to the states) so we needed to get from Nana and Papa’s to McGuire, NJ. Fortunately, Charleston was flying to McGuire on Monday (the 16th) and we were able to get on that flight. We met a family taking their first Space-A adventure, and they were hoping to get to Germany, too.

On this flight we were near the front and had seats. Carson and Bailey were in the row behind us.

We landed in New Jersey and watched the Air Force jump into action. Our luggage was in the back along with sensitive items. The Airman in charge came onto the aircraft and gave directions to the flight crew as to what was to happen and in what order. She stood out to me for two reasons: 1. She looked a lot like a grown-up Anna (she was stunning) and 2. she looked a lot like a friend of our boys back in Texas.

We received our luggage and found our way to the hotel. We got settled into the room and slept well, knowing that we didn’t have a flight to catch the next day.

Tuesday: We woke up rested and I posted on Facebook that we were at McGuire and wondered if we knew anyone there who would be willing to drop us off at the bowling alley and then pick us back up later on. As it turned out, the daughter of our friends in Texas was stationed there, didn’t have to go to work until 2:30, and was more than happy to help friends of her parents. (I want my kids to have this mentality when they grow up! So kind!)

She pulled up to our hotel and guess what?!? She was the Airman from the plane yesterday! The one who was giving directions to the crew; the one I thought was very beautiful! This military world shrinks with every passing year.

We bowled and then walked to the commissary where I picked up a few things to make for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning.

Those shoes!

That night we ate a hotel/homemade dinner while watching Miss Congeniality. Note which state Sandra Bullock’s character was representing!

Wednesday: The flight to Germany had a 1710 Roll Call which meant wanted to be there around 1630 or so. To kill time we thought about going swimming but…

What am I supposed to do with that?!? Irritating.

While packing our room for check-out Anna noticed that the sequins on her shirt were reflecting onto the wall. I was able to video her without her noticing… toward the end she hears the show she’s been waiting for starting.

Not sure why there’s a huge white space here. Sorry!

We ended up finding a wonderful youth center within walking distance of the hotel and the hotel had a luggage-storage room for us. We left the bulk of our stuff there while we spent much of the day playing pool, video games, and pingpong. This facility was attached to the Subway… convenient. I took the littles down the road to a massive playground in the middle of the day.

Our hotel also had a great playground.

Anna wanted a turn with the camera.

Here was my mentality at around 2 pm:

When it was time to head over to the hotel to gather our luggage (so that we could catch the shuttle to the airfield) we passed by a husband and wife in a truck who offered to load our luggage up and deliver us to the hotel because they were also on their way to try for that flight. The Space-A community is a fun and helpful one! They had enough room for our luggage and the teens, but not for me and the littles, so we took the shuttle and met up with Carson, Bailey, and our luggage.

As a back-up measure I made a reservation at the hotel in the case that this flight was full/cancelled. We knew that there were three flights on the schedule for Thursday and another one on Friday.

We waited, along with the family we had met on Monday, for Roll Call. Their names were at the top of the list as their service-member was a) active duty and b) traveling with them. Our five names were on the list in spots 10-14 and there were only 14 seats, and they had a delay which meant that at 11:00 pm I was still not 100% sure if we were going to make the flight or not. Honestly, I wanted to make the flight MOSTLY because I dreaded getting my kids and our luggage back over to the hotel. I think if they would have let us crash at the USO all night I wouldn’t have minded waiting for the next day’s flights, but that’s against their policy. After midnight we loaded and took off. Relief does not begin to describe the feeling!

Check out the Airman sleeping in the hammock in one of the pictures in the slideshow below.

Thursday: Got back to Germany, through customs, and went straight to the car to put our luggage away before heading to the food court for breakfast lunch. Found the shoes we couldn’t find when we landed in the US… on top of the van! ⬇️

No joke: this was the fortune in my cookie:

Not likely… still had a 2.5 hour drive followed by packing for Garmisch and getting a jet-lagged toddler to sleep.

Friday: Here’s Anna at 0230… I decided it would be best to let her snack on dry cereal and watch Netflix while I dozed on the couch. This was the only rough night we had readjusting to the time zone.

From North Carolina to home, approximately 56.5 hours. I forgot to start it when I was still at my mom’s house.

So thankful for the opportunity to go back and see a handful of special people. It’s a great deal of work so I doubt I’ll do it again while on this tour to Germany, but I consider it a great privilege to fly Space-A.

✈️ Thank you, Air Force, for getting us safely to our destination and back home! ✈️

Missed the earlier installments in this series?
1. To the US
2. Mama Kim
3. North Carolina
4. You are here ➡️ Back to Germany

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NC 2019: North Carolina

After visiting with Mama Kim, eating Chick-fil-A, and getting a good night’s sleep, we headed to North Carolina. This post is going to be a FLYBY of our visit. As I prepare these posts I realize I took very few pictures the two weeks we were in the US. I told very few people we were there and I didn’t go far from my parents’ house. This visit was not intended to be a trip to reconnect with all the people we love, and so, for those we didn’t get to see, please know it was really hard NOT to make all the plans and go to all the places.

The first thing we did was pick up the cousins from after school. We got the BEST VIDEO of Parker surprising Mason and Madison but since it shows all the other kids in the classroom and I won’t share it here. Here’s Parker the second he tapped Mason on the shoulder.

We spent hours upon hours just hanging out at Nana and Papa’s house. Mason and Parker resumed their BFFriendship like no time had passed and Madison was an incredible help keeping Anna entertained and playing with things that were supposed to be played with. The two girls made a game out of catching tiny frogs and tossing them into the pond. Only two frogs made it into the house, one of which I found in my bathroom. UPSTAIRS! (Well-known fact: I detest frogs.)

We played fun outside games.

One day I checked my tracker after riding the 4-wheeler and got a kick out of the image.

Cracking rocks by Papa’s big equipment.

We played fun in-the-garage games. (See that MG? That was my dad’s car when he was 16! He tracked it down years later and restored it.)

We had the whole family over for FOOD and fun. Anna has a great scowl! (My grandparents were there, too, but had left by the time we got this picture.)

Because it took a few extra days to get to the states than I thought it would, we arrived at my parents’ house and thirty minutes later I turned around and drove straight to the airport to get Aimee and Hannah. My sweet friend and her family have been praying for this miracle baby for many years and I was honored to meet her! What a sacrifice it was for Aimee to fly across the country (in the hopes that I would actually make it from Germany) with a 9-month-old, leaving her other family members in Colorado to fend for themselves for a few days. Our visit was a treasure and there was plenty of coffee consumed.

She totally looks like a doll!
Anna’s face 💕 and Hannah’s determination to get the coffee 💕!

Aimee was so kind join us on several family outings… we wanted to see one of Mason’s soccer games so she went with us. The coffee shop was on the way so of course, the girls left early for some girl-time. (This is my mom’s favorite coffee shop. They hire autistic adults and consistently make amazing drinks.)

Oh yes, we were matching.

My grandparents are actually quite healthy and yet somehow, both of them managed to be in separate hospitals/rehab centers while I was visiting. We totally bombarded both locations. What you can’t see in this picture is that Josh, Ashley, Mason, Madison, Aimee, and Hannah were also in the room!

Anna was not sure about all the cables and scary medical equipment.

On this visit I also got to meet my second cousin, Levi. This was at my grandmother’s rehab facility (nicest one I’ve ever seen!!). LOOK AT HIS EYES! He’s gorgeous!

When our family goes anywhere we take over the place.

Matt’s brother and his sweet family met us for dinner in downtown Charlotte just before a game! They were decked out!

I really should ask Grammy for some pictures of our time at Chuck E. Cheese’s. We had a great time carrying on a tradition that started with the bigs were littles.

The only traveling I did was to Fort Bragg to meet up with my dear Fort Hood friends. These women welcomed Anna home and walked our family through that sacred time in our lives. (I have to admit that during dinner I realized I had several other friends at Bragg I should have seen but in preparation for the visit I had only contacted friends who were all together at Hood and were now at Bragg! I’m still kicking myself for that oversight!)

These kids have grown up so much!
Band reunion with a new member!
Fort Hood Reunion!

Our time in North Carolina was a treasure even though there were plenty of people we didn’t get to see. This military life has its perks and I want to make it known that I appreciate those perks. (Hello! I’m writing this during Christmas season in Germany having spent the weekend at a Christmas Market in France.) But those great things don’t take away from the fact that our family misses out on a great deal and spending extended amounts of time with loved ones is top of the list. Just getting to my parents’ home, while technically free, cost me four days of waiting around in an airport with four kids, eating out a lot, flying on a C-17 (cool, but not comfortable), then not having a phone or a rental car when we landed. The “cost” of getting there is nothing compared to not being able to spend quality time with all the people we could see if we just had the time. There is no perfect answer but even in light of all it costs us we know we are where we are supposed to be. Not just in the Army serving as a Chaplain family, but here, in Stuttgart. For now we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

Only one more post in this series. The one that gets us back to daddy and Hayden… back to the place we currently call home.

Posted in family, friends, germany, military, travel | 1 Comment

NC 2019: Mama Kim

Yesterday’s post details our adventure in getting to the United States. In this post I’ll tell about getting from NJ to VA to NC.

After a good night’s sleep we were really hoping the weather would cooperate. Hurricane Dorian was threatening to make everything extra difficult.

On September 5th we woke up in the hopes that we could catch a flight to Norfolk, VA. There was one on the list but with the hurricane coming I felt certain that the flight would be cancelled. We got there at 8:00 and waited in the fantastic family room at McGuire.

We were the only people competing for the seats so when our names were called, we were the only passengers on the flight. Not only that, but Parker got to sit in the cockpit through the entire flight!

We landed safely (ahead of Hurricane Dorian) at the naval base in Norfolk. Unfortunately, the USO was closed but the base did have a family room that was open with plenty of toys for Anna. We had a few hours to kill before Mama Kim could meet with us which gave us time to get lunch at the flight line. We still had no phone so I used Facebook messenger to chat with Mama Kim and my parents.

After some downtime we took a cab to the restaurant where Mama Kim works: she wanted to introduce Anna to her boss and co-workers.

A treasured moment of mine was watching Anna run full speed toward Mama Kim only to stop dead in her tracks when she got right to her, look her square in the face and cock her head quizzically to the side. (Mama Kim and I were both expecting Anna to jump into her arms and were surprised when Anna froze in her tracks.) As soon as Mama Kim realized what was causing Anna’s reaction she burst out laughing and said, “She does that every time!”

Turns out Anna had noticed Mama Kim’s lip & nose piercings and they always fascinate Anna: it’s a fun history that the two of them have. This picture is blurry but it shows little-bitty Anna noticing them.

We walked in and got cookies right off the bat. Anna warmed up instantly and Mama Kim said, “We know she gets her sass from me!”
Yep! What a great trait… we are never bored!

We sat and visited over a meal for about two hours. Anna made sure to show Mama Kim her booboo:

For dessert, a “pink” milkshake! As soon as she got one sip she was done… she wanted pink, not strawberry. (The chunks were NOT her favorite.)

Also, please notice Anna’s shirt! It was given to her in a bag of hand-me-downs and since we were going to visit Mama Kim in Norfolk/Virginia Beach she wore that shirt.

Hugs when it was time to leave. This part of our particular open adoption is never fun because we know there will be another extended period of time before we are able to visit again. When we are stateside we try to visit every six months, but the ocean makes that impossible.

Anna’s face… She didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to say goodbye, either.
In a perfect world we’d live near each other. (And I do have permission to share her picture and name or I wouldn’t use them.)

I could write for hours about the time we spent with Mama Kim but that time is private and special to us. You are welcome to peek into our Open Adoption but the intimate details are ours… and specifically, they are Anna’s and Mama Kim’s.

I do want to take this opportunity to say once again that we are so glad to be a part of Mama Kim’s life and that she is a part of ours. We see her as a part of our family… she’s not just the person who gave birth to the little girl we love. She is and always will be Anna’s first-mom. We like the term “first-mom” because it indicates that Mama Kim was not just a part of Anna’s life for the pregnancy and birth. I think of it like this: Hayden is my first son. When I had my second son, Carson, Hayden’s position as my first son didn’t evaporate. He’s still my son. Anna has two moms… she has two dads. And they are welcome in Anna’s life to the extent they are comfortable and as is good for Anna.

After our visit I left Carson in the restaurant guarding our booth-full-of-luggage and walked over to Walmart which was in the adjacent parking lot. I purchased a phone while the rest of Norfolk was stocking up on bread, bottled water, and toiletries in preparation for the hurricane.

With burner-phone secured we headed back to the restaurant where I called my parents (who were heading to pick us up) and ordered an Uber. Once settled into our hotel for the night and tried a new tool: Doordash! Chick-fil-a delivered to our hotel-room door! It was as good as we remembered. (I have kids who are extra and order their sandwiches with American cheese and no pickle.)

Got some wiggles out before bed at the pool:

Because of the storm our hotel was a filled to the brim with power company employees in place to prepare for the worst. On the drive from VA to NC we passed dozens of these trucks heading toward the storm.

Very thankful for a safe journey from McGuire, New Jersey to Norfolk, Virginia.

Off to North Carolina!

Posted in adoption, family, military, travel | 5 Comments

NC 2019: Space-A to USA

Space-A is always an adventure. I spent two months tracking flights in color-coded pens and highlighters. Things were looking good! When it was time to head to Ramstein, let’s just say the pattern didn’t hold.

Thankfully we have great friends who let us stay with them for a few nights while we waited for our flight. We went back and forth a few times hoping to make flights only to have them cancel the flight, open no seats, or open only a handful.

On September 2nd the flight disappeared but we spent the day at the USO just in case it was a mistake on the board. Free popcorn, donuts, and movies for all, and video games for the teens. (Fun fact: Anna still remembers a donut she ate that day that was filled, not with cream, custard, or chocolate, but apple sauce. It was GROSS!)

That evening we spent a few hours with the Wests enjoying a German fest before we headed to their house for a sleep-over.

On September 3rd we really thought we were going to make the afternoon flight but they ended up releasing only 45 seats for the 110 people there. We were hopeful that we would make the flight scheduled for the afternoon of September 4th and were not even planning to attempt the 0300 flight. When we left the airport on the afternoon of the 3rd there were only five seats listed for the 0300 flight. We were dejected but still knew we had a good chance of getting to the states.

So that we wouldn’t be too much of an imposition on the Wests I took the kids to the Vogelweh to bowl. After Anna finished her one game (that’s about all she has the attention span for) I took her to a nearby playground where she climbed and ran and danced to her heart’s content. Parker came along (though he would have been happy to play a few more games) and the two of them really had a good time.

At bedtime, to get her to sleep I had to lay with Anna… otherwise she’d mess with Belen’s cool stuff! When we snuggled up there were still only 5 seats for that 0300 flight. At 11:00 PM, when I was actually about to go to sleep myself I checked the Ramstein Space-A page one more time and saw this:

40 seats!! At 0300! Surely the five of us would be in the 40 selected! We had been on the list for 55 days at this point (at 60 days you have to start your sign-ups over). We were Cat V, which is almost the lowest but not the lowest. I sent a text to Matt to get his thoughts on whether or not I was stupid to even be considering waking my kids 0130 and driving to the airport.

I took the info out to the boys, who were having the time of their lives – sleep-over mode for the third night in a row – and presented the possibility to them. They were unanimous: we were going to try for it!

So, I woke the boys at 0130 and we packed up as quietly as possible and at 0215 we were on the road. While just outside of the Baumholder gate I started my stopwatch. Anna had to potty on the side of the road and she was not a happy camper, but by the time we got to the airport she was semi-content.

As we walked toward the building at 0250 I noticed 3-4 other people walking but they were all much older than me (which was good news for me because that meant they were Cat VI). The guy at the desk said that there were 41 people signed in and we were numbers 26-30. We just needed NO MORE CATs I-IV to show up and no more CAT Vs who had signed up earlier than us.

At 0305:

What a 3-year-old looks like at 0305 after being wakened from a dead sleep to HOPEFULLY get on an overseas flight.

At 0319 they started calling names three at a time.

At 0349 they called our names!

At 0355 we were in line to drop off our bags. (You can see Anna’s leg in her car seat… she wore pajamas that entire flight.)

At 0520 we had gone through security and Customs.

At 0544 we were on the bus to the plane.

The flight was great and we rested as well as a family can rest in this setting. I had packed an entire suitcase full of bedding and heavy winter coats so we were prepared. Dum-dums helped ears adjust to the altitude and all sorts of electronic devices to keep people entertained. I had an airman come strap Anna’s car seat to the floor so that once we’re at cruising altitude I could strap her in and she was as comfortable as if she were in her own car.

We had quite the adventure upon landing:

First, no one had alerted McGuire that we were coming so they hadn’t sent anyone from Customs to clear us. We had to wait in quarantine (sequestration?) for an hour before someone came in from Philadelphia. Then, no one told the airmen that we were cleared and could have our luggage. We waited about 45 minutes before someone noticed we were sitting there NOT leaving. He said:

“Where’s the customs guy?”
“He left 45 minus ago.”
“Really?!? I had no idea he had even come! Sorry. I’ll go tell them to unload your luggage.”

10 minutes later he comes back very apologetically to tell us that the crew had left for lunch and secured the plane. We had to wait for them to come back.

We were all pretty DONE by this time but eventually we got our bags and a USO volunteer (bless his heart!!!) took the kids and me to the hotel (about a mile away from the flightline).

By this time we were so tired. A quick walk to the nearby Shoppette for Pizza and then were in bed for the night around 6:30 PM. Here’s the countdown from the time we left the Wests until we were in our hotel:

Stay tuned for the next post about this trip! Big day: Seeing Mama Kim!

Posted in brothers/boys, family, friends, germany, military, travel | 3 Comments

Guesting-posting over at SallyMatheny.com!

It’s always an honor to be asked to share what is on my heart in someone else’s space. Sometimes I’m asked to speak at an event, write an article for a magazine, or guest-post for a friend’s blog. No matter the format I feel a responsibility to share the truth in love, and to respect the audience by doing so with as much transparency as possible.

One of my friends from North Carolina, fellow blogger and mom by adoption, Sally Matheny, invited me to write for her this month as November is National Adoption Month. Long before Sally contacted me I had a post-it note on my white board with a blog-post idea and as soon as I got this invitation from Sally I knew that that idea was finally going to find its way to the page. It was to answer the question I am most often asked:

“So, how do we go about starting the adoption process?” 

If you know our story you know we didn’t start it at all. God directed the whole thing and adoption found us. Please take a few minutes and head over to Sally’s website to check out what I want to tell everyone who is even starting to consider the POSSIBILITY of adopting.

Thank you, Sally, for allowing me to share!
~Jennifer

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family | 2 Comments

20th in Venice – Matt’s Thoughts

Matt’s turn to talk! He took some fun pictures on our trip and they brought up all sorts of new memories from the trip. I loved going back through our trip seeing things from his perspective. So, without any more from me, I present Matt:

20 years together! Actually we’ve been together for 24 years, but on this trip we celebrated 20 years of marriage. I could not have asked God for a better partner, friend, wife, mother to our children, and traveling companion on this nomadic journey we call Army life. We looked at several locations for this trip, but settled on Venice because it is beautiful and we’ve been there before which means we felt no pressure to see all the sights in a new place. This was a relaxing trip that we both thoroughly enjoyed. St. Marks Square is an amazing place. There are tourists everywhere, yet its beauty cannot be hidden…much like the Beauty beside me in this picture.

We had amazing weather for this trip. It was hot and humid, but we weren’t wading through 2 feet of water like our last visit. I think it is unbelievable that this city has no cars (where would they drive?) or bikes. I cannot imagine another city like this anywhere. It truly is amazing.

We went to swanky mall near the Rialto bridge. It felt like we were very underdressed, but everyone else was too. The mall had a security guard at the door who greeted everyone. I found the watches (I love watches) and was drawn immediately to the IWC Big Pilot. I remember watching the commentary on John Mayer’s “Any Given Thursday” concert DVD back in 2004 and he mentioned his first nice watch: the IWC Big Pilot. This is the first one I’ve seen in person and they let me try it on. It was amazing, but I still can’t see how a watch can cost 13,700 euro. I’ve never owned a car that cost that much. It was neat to try it on and see how the other half live. At the end of the day I ordered an homage off of Amazon for $100. Occasionally I put it on and play my PRS Silver Sky John Mayer signature model guitar and pretend I am a rock icon… in my bedroom.

We found a couple vantage points to see the sights from that were spectacular, but quite honestly I can’t look past my wife. I’m still amazed she’s mine!

We are Americans. We love the Hard Rock Cafe. It is an institution, possibly an institution dedicated to American decadence and overpriced hamburgers, but they have free refills, all the ketchup you want, loud music and rock memorabilia everywhere. Jennifer graciously indulges me in the rite of passage for every city we visit. I unashamedly love it!

Having a son who is very artistic has opened me up to all this art. Hayden and I saw a Banksy on display in the Stuttgart art museum that was really cool. This painting was even more remarkable because it was found in the natural environment that Banksy usually paints. We just happened to hear about it in an off-hand comment so we researched it. Banksy had just painted it the month prior.

The Bridge with no parapet. No rails! This is how many of them were originally, and, because there were no street lights in Venice, many people fell into the water. There are only two bridges left without rails.

Thanks, babe, for stopping by with your thoughts on our trip! Looking forward to the next to 20+!!
~j

Click Below for:
Part 1: Why Venice?
Part 2: Day 1 in Venice
Part 3: Day 2 in Venice
Part 4: Day 3 in Venice
Part 5: Day 4 in Venice
Part 6: Day 5 in Venice

 

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