Cooking with Mommy

All four of our boys are all fairly good cooks. They will not starve when they move out of our home, but none of them gravitated to my side when I was cooking dinner. They gravitated to the kitchen when dinner was ready but only once it was ready, not during the process. They learned to cook because I made them learn.

Not so with Anna. If that girl sees me in the kitchen she wants to get her stool out to cook with me. Because of this, and because the stool she used to use was not safe, I jumped at the chance to purchase a learning tower from a neighbor who was moving.  (It’s a thing. Google it.)

We saved it for Anna’s big birthday present. In the following video the brothers had just woken Anna from her nap in preparation for her birthday party. She was a bit drowsy, and that makes the video even cuter to me! In this video we “revealed” her learning tower and after everything sank in (the balloons, the chocolate, etc.) she looked at me and said, “I can cook with you.”  Be still this mama’s heart.

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{Sidebar that is a sidebar only on this blog post. In our life, it’s front and center:
You can also hear her reasoning for wanting a brown birthday… “Because I’m brown.” I do hope and pray we are giving her an appreciation for her ethnicity. She’s white and black. We are intentionally inviting our black friends to speak into Anna’s life and to affirm her blackness. We don’t have to do anything specific to affirm her whiteness as she lives in a white family, but we want to be incredibly intentional to acknowledge all of who she is. We admit that we lack what it takes to speak into that part of her from a place of “I know what it’s like” but we can affirm that she is beautiful, perfect, and made in the image of God. I have so many thoughts on this topic but I will save them for another time.}

One of our most fun cooking days was a day I was preparing homemade biscuits (from Magnolia Table – a cookbook given to me for Christmas!) and Anna wanted to be right there by my side. No worries.  I gave her a bowl, the plastic salt and pepper shakers, flour, a few spices that were going to expire soon, and she was off. By the end she had made her own concoction with the following ingredients:

  • flour,
  • salt, (entire shaker)
  • pepper, (entire shaker)
  • buttermilk,
  • water,
  • all-spice,
  • cream of tartar,
  • mom’s excess biscuit dough,
  • one whole potato.
  • (And to top it all off, one sneeze.)

The activity was fun enough that even Parker got involved.

IMG_5935IMG_5936IMG_5944IMG_5933Every baker needs photographic proof of her effort… flour on the forehead.IMG_5939

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Please note the whole potato she plopped into her batter.

And because I never make breakfast (from scratch) and wanted to document my proud moment, here were the biscuits and gravy I made from Joanna Gaines’ cookbook that Stephanie gave me!!

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Posted in adoption, brothers/boys, family, germany, Probably only interesting to the boys' grandparents. | 2 Comments

Valentine’s Day 2019

You’ll never guess where I am right now?

It’s Friday at 10:45 am, the day after Valentine’s Day.

I’m in a hotel room alone, writing my third blog post of the day, having spent the night alone. Alone. And that word is a beautiful one only because I know that it’s a temporary state of being. I am enjoying the best gift Matt has given me outside all the obvious ones: his love, attention, devotion, and our five children: time away to just do what I want to do, eat what I want to eat, and be responsible for no one but myself.

I’ve wanted to do this for years. The first time I brought it up was after his first deployment… I wanted to find a cabin in the woods and just stay there, alone. In the quiet. I’ve thought of the idea a few more times since then and even started looking for a place around here for me to get away for a night. I gave up my search because it seems such a ridiculous thing to do. And then Matt surprised me with reservations for our on-post hotel for two nights.

He’s the BEST! (He actually just texted me that he loves me. See?!? He is the best!)

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So what did I do with my evening?

I packed up my stuff and made a quick trip to the bakery to stock the family for the weekend and to get myself a few treats that I rarely allow myself. I hit the commissary next, and then checked in to the Kelley Hotel. I had two hours to enjoy before my massage. I was given a massage for Christmas by a special someone at our Chapel. {THANK YOU!!} Afterward, I called in Greek Food from a restaurant I knew I’d pass by on the way home from my massage and got it to go. I ate with the company of a Netflix movie. Then took a bath, and finished the  movie… without doing anything productive during. I generally use movies as a time to get “stuff” done but last night I just vegged during it.

Then I turned on AFN and watched junk while I spent a couple of hours working on organizing my photos and uploading them to Shutterfly. This is a major project that wouldn’t be a major project if I were to keep up with it. So, one of my New Year’s Resolutions goals is to work on this at least three times a month. Once I get caught up this will help me stay caught up.

I went to bed and slept well, until the MPs had a smoke-sesh out back. I almost yelled at them through my open window, but then I realized they’re heavily armed and decided to just get back in bed and make myself go back to sleep. No, really, the reason I didn’t fuss is because I really do appreciate what our MPs do and if they want to get together in the middle of the night to chat, laugh, and swap funny stories, I’ll go back to bed in peace, thankful for those individuals who keep my family safe. (I’m mushy about our service members… I won’t apologize for that.)

I had set my alarm for 0730… two hours later than I usually wake up during the week! I got breakfast from downstairs and then started working on blog posts. It’s pushing noon and I’ve got one scheduled for Monday, another one ready once my kids send me some pics I want to include in it, and this one will be published once I get finished writing it. I had a goal of getting three done this month and by the time I check out tomorrow, (YES, TOMORROW), I will have completed that goal.

I have a few other “for me” goals I’m working on that I don’t often take time for at home, and I am going to start on those once I get this posted.

I can honestly say I needed this. I have looked forward to it since Matt told me about it and I am loving it, but as I said, I’m thankful that I have such a wonderful group of people to do life with. I miss them and can’t wait to hug them and spend time with them… but this is a priceless gift that I do hope becomes a tradition… (hint, hint). My love language is quality time, and I guess I’m learning that that also means quality alone-time.  Interesting concept… something to process.

Oh!! And I get to have dinner with my Valentine tonight! He’s bringing the meal I requested: Korean food from the Korean Food truck!! YUM!!

Last night, when I got back to the hotel, there was a Valentine Card and flowers waiting for me…

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And I know you’re wondering what I got Matt… nothing compares to this, so I lose. I admit that up front, but I am very happy with what I got him. Darren, one of Matt’s battle buddies in CHOBC {and his beautiful wife, Heather} were the subject of a major motion picture last year. The DVD released just in time to get here for Valentine’s Day and we had our friends, Craig and Monica, over for a double-date viewing of Indivisible.  It was really good, well-made, and portrayed reintegration in all it’s (ugly)glory… I’m so thankful this movie was made and that such attention was given to what our many of our service members experience upon returning from war. I’m thankful Darren and Heather were vulnerable enough to let their hard-places, their Sacred Spaces, be exposed to the world. So, Matt’s gift way outweighs mine, but mine was a movie about a Chaplain Matt knows so that’s good, too, right?!? There really aren’t that many movies about Chaplains, and only ONE about a person Matt knows personally… (I’m really trying, here, to make my gift to Matt seem even a little bit comparable… One last-ditch effort… I’ve carried this picture in my Bible for 13 years now. Matt and Darren and their CHOBC battle buddies…

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So… there. (And I didn’t stage what page this was set in. This photo moves all over the place, depending on where I’m reading at the time. Today I opened to where it was and of course, it’s on a page that mentions WARRIORS. Yes, these men are warriors in the obvious sense… they’re soldiers. But they’re also Warrior Priests. The bring God to their soldiers –  wherever the soldiers are.)

And now, I’ll post this and get to work on my other “for me” goals!

Thank you, babe, for the best gift ever! And I can’t wait for dinner tonight! See you soon!!

 

Posted in About my faith, germany, marriage | 3 Comments

Anna’s THREE!

This girl is a source of joy for so many in her life. It is precious to me that my boys still fight to be the one to wake her up in the morning and still ask if her nap time is over so they can go in and get her.

Some of the bigs went skiing last week and just had to wake her up to say goodbye. They were to be gone only one night!

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Fun facts:

  • She weighs 30.6 pounds and is in 3T clothes, though a few 2T still fit.
  • She has the vocabulary and sentence structure that you’d expect of a five year old.
  • She loves blueberry bagels, most fruit, Mrs. Prescott’s chicken noodle soup, Hippos from the brothers, any drink left unattended no matter how spicy, and anything made by Mrs. Amanda!
  • Toys aren’t her thing though we’re starting to see her play more independently with the dollhouse (and accoutrement) she got this Christmas and kitchen that she got a on a previous Christmas. Activities that include words are her jam: pretend-play that works best when with a friend (brother, mom, dad, or her best bud from upstairs).
  • Books are really her jam. All. The. Books. Her preschool teacher just said yesterday, in a conversation I had with her about the fact that I read aloud to the kids for several hours a day, that that explains Anna’s conversation skills.
  • She still love dogs and other animals and we’re still happy to let her hug our friends’ dogs.
  • She’s starting to tell her own story about having two mommies. Be still my heart!
  • Her favorite show right now is Team Umizoomi followed by Little Einsteins in close second.
  • She seems to be very happy with who she is. She loves her brown skin and brown hair and is starting to recognize that she has different skin than us. We have great friends of color in our chapel whom we’ve asked to be a part of her life and to affirm that in her. Just Sunday Anna a black woman at our chapel chatted about the fact that Anna’s brown and that “you’re browner.” This woman is giving Anna something Matt and I can’t… and I simply don’t know how to express my gratitude. Another woman of color there seeks Anna out each week to connect, even for a brief minute, and the two play a short game of chase. Sunday is not complete without a friendly moment with Mrs. Jo.
  • Anna is strong and opinionated. These are great assets and we look forward to seeing how this part of her personality will benefit her and the world she lives in as an adult. {For those of you who are parents, you’re hearing what I’m saying, right? Sometimes it’s difficult parenting a child who is strong and opinionated, but I’m very thankful I’m parenting her at my current age and stage, rather than in my earlier years. I don’t see her strength and grit as a personal affront or a hurdle to overcome the way I may have earlier… I see it as something to direct and nurture, and while that doesn’t necessarily make it easier, it definitely makes me less likely to feel the need to bring the hammer down. There’s a reason she was born when she was born… it was because I needed to grow up a bit before being given the treasure that she is.}
  • She daily surprises us with the things she says. Here were two examples from the past week that I couldn’t resist sharing on Facebook:

We turned left yesterday, twice in a row, while driving to a park. She said, “Mama, you did a double-left.”

Then today, and this is TMI, but you know how kids are… she walked in on one of her brothers going to the bathroom (FORTUNATELY his back was to her and so she didn’t get a view of anything) and she said, “What are you doing?” He said, “peeing.” Her response:
“Peeing sitting down and peeing standing up are opposites.”

 

B02A1126Hayden’s Shoutout:

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“Happy birthday to my favorite sister. I love you Anna”

Birthday Celebrations:
We started asking her back in October what kind of birthday party she wanted. I expected her to name a cartoon character or something easy. “Brown.” That’s it. Brown.

Okay… I waited a while and asked again. Same answer. Time and again, that was her answer. I was sort of stumped and, seeing as how we were sailing through the holidays, I let it go for a while.  One day while Anna, Matt, and I were strolling through the woods, we asked again. Same answer, only this time with a bit more detail: “Brown, like the trees are brown.” Okay, little sister! Now we’re getting somewhere!

I got home and started googling and within 15 minutes knew what our theme was going to be: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? As we didn’t own the book, I ordered it from Amazon, along with a brown tutu, both of which got here in time. I also purchased the Audiobook from Audible (which reads the story four times, back-to-back… Once straight through, once with a ding (to turn the page), once in Spanish, and the fourth time, the author himself reads it). We have thoroughly loved that audiobook! And, when the book did come in, Anna was familiar with the story!

I ordered from Ashley on Etsy a toddler-tee with Brown Bear on the front. It arrived yesterday, just in time for Anna’s party on Saturday!

I’ve purchased and been given ‘tree’ themed decorations and Sunday some friends are coming over to help decorate while Anna’s napping. And the birthday cake? Well, it’s a tree, of course.

We are thrilled to be celebrating today.

And I can’t even think of my gorgeous daughter’s birthday and the celebrations we’re having in our lives without thinking of Mama Kim and the rest of Anna’s first family. This day passes like any other day for them, except for the piece of their family that isn’t in their day-to-day lives. There’s a great theory that the body doesn’t forget trauma and that sometimes it grieves even when the mind can’t explain it. I think of Mama Kim right now and pray that someone in her life is reaching out to her, extending the arms of Jesus, offering the peace that is beyond understanding. No mother places her child in the arms of another mother without grief and time doesn’t necessarily make that grief go away, nor does knowing that the child she gave birth to is happy, healthy, and loved. Before joining the world of adoption my focus was always on ‘me wanting another child’ and the thought just after that was on taking care of a child who needed a family. I am sad to say that the thought of the birth mother (family) wasn’t much on my mind. It is now. All the time. With every new tooth, with every new milestone, with every new “joke” or incredibly smart quip, I think of Anna’s first mommy and the rest of her first family.

With that said, we have had a fun day. I started this blog post before she woke up and now it’s mid-afternoon and she’s down for her nap. She had a good day at school: instead of having her go straight to the PreSchool room, they let her go to “her” class and then they transitioned her once she was ready. I love our little CDC here on Kelley. One of her teachers sang to her and another had a gift for her. Bless! Bailey and Parker went to pick her up and stopped by the commissary for a Hippo. The commissary workers love her and made a big fuss over Anna’s birthday. Then we had a mini-party for her when they got home. Her buddy from upstairs, Alyssa, made her some cards, Nana and Papa had sent one, and both Bailey and Parker had given her gifts (Elmo and a bear, respectively.)

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img_5925img_5924anna and elmo

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Posted in adoption, family, friends, germany | 2 Comments

Happy New Year ~ 2019

We said farewell to 2018 (happily, I might add) with friends. The first half of the night we spent with two families (fourteen kids represented). At this party we ate lots of delicious foods, drank yummy cider, and then shot fireworks at a nearby field. The second half of the night was spent with friend just a few buildings away from our house, which was perfect for Matt and Anna, who went home to bed. Here I chatted with a new friend who is also part of the adoption community. I didn’t get a headcount of children but there were about 20.

I have very few pictures from that night because I just didn’t take many and many of what I have were taken outside! On the First we took the kids bowling and friends met us there for some bowling fun.

We are hopeful that 2019 will be kinder to us than the past year, and we are very thankful to be feeling so much more at home here in Stuttgart.

It is hard to see but from this balcony we could see fireworks being shot across the horizon. We could see pretty well the first five minutes or so but then it got so foggy that the fireworks were mostly hidden in the mist.

Some German neighbors shot off fireworks right outside the gate! That was our kids’ biggest entertainment. (Until Craig accidentally lit the entire pack of sparklers on fire in his hand. That was pretty entertaining!)

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I didn’t notice this while filming the video of Parker holding this sparkler, but it changed colors as it burned. That was super cool!

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Our sleeping beauty… coming up on her third birthday.img_5740img_5741img_5745

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Posted in family, friends, germany | 1 Comment

Other Christmas Fun ~ 2018

I shared a few days ago about the Christmas Markets that we enjoyed but we also did a few other really fun things.

  • Tree-Up Day Hayden had to work but he was there later on to put decorations on the tree.
  • Movies by the light of the tree 
  • Indoor skate park – There’s no good place for the kids to skate here on Kelley for a variety of reasons: the rain, rocks, ice treatment, and the fact that that many of the sidewalks and such are bricked, so we take them around to different skate parks. This was one of the nicest and had a really cool owner. Not the biggest park, but I liked that it had a couch area in which for me to sit comfortably while I did pre-cal work. It’s cleverly named Stuttpark.
  • Christmas Dress – Christmas girl! Oh what fun it is to dress a baby girl for Christmas!
  • A Christmas Carol – We didn’t take any pictures at the play but we did have a fun time! Anna got all dolled up for the Kelley Christmas Market but we hired our first non-sibling babysitter here in Germany so that we could go to this play. We enjoyed our time and Anna enjoyed showing a new friend all of her things.
  • Making COOKIES! – Hollie (a fellow Chaplain’s spouse and battle buddy during our 15-month long deployment ’07-’09) introduced me to Andes Mint cookies. I fell in love immediately and have made them almost every year since. This year, Anna got to help… I  made 360 cookies and distributed them throughout the season. I ordered Andes Mints on Amazon, then found out that our PX and Commissaries had a limited supply. I bought all I could at both locations and still needed to go back for more… they ran out! Next year I’ll let the commissary know ahead of time how many I need and see if they can order extra!
  • Finished my Family tree wall – We have this huge section of wall to the right of our television that needed something and I found a fun family tree vinyl. It took months but I finally got all the pictures ordered and put on the wall! I love that there was just enough space to add Anna’s first family! IMG_5276
  • Anna patting her friends at school – Anna has a fun “preschool” (hourly care) and a few days ago I walked in to see her helping her friends fall asleep. (She doesn’t stay for nap-time and they were a bit ahead of schedule that day.)
  • Aimee and Cory had their second daughter!!! – While stalking all the pictures I noticed baby Hannah has the same shirt that Anna has!
  • Blinging out the Truckster – We bought a used NV and one of its quirks is that it is missing the light switches for the two middle rows. That means that, while we can push the lights on manually, they won’t switch into “Door” mode. It works out beautifully that I put Christmas lights up even before I knew of this quirk… it also  means that we may leave the Christmas lights up year-round so we can light the entire cabin instantly with the touch of a button on my dash board! We have made our gate guards so happy each time we go through! Never have I seen them wave and laugh! They even wave to me when I leave post!
  • Zoo – Going to see elaborate Christmas lights is something of a tradition for many Americans. I grew up driving through heavily decorated neighborhoods, Matt grew up going to McAdenville (Christmastown USA), and while in Texas, we took the kids through Nature in Lights at BLORA.  Germany doesn’t do lights like this so I bought tickets to the Zoo. It hit the spot and we enjoyed walking through with our friends.
  • Winter Breakfast – Funny story: I’m quite confident in myself as a mom now (some sarcasm there), even in the fact that I’m more of an “Amazon.com-mom” than a “Pinterest-mom,” but every now and then I think to myself, “I should be more like so-and-so who does such-and-such.” A few weeks ago as I scrolled through Facebook I saw a very cute idea for celebrating winter. For a nanosecond I considered whipping up the breakfast as pictured and then remembered that’s just not the kind of mom I am. But the picture made me think of someone. I sent a screenshot to Amanda and her reply was, “Funny thing is I always do that!” And in her natural, hospitable way, she invited us to join with them in the fun on the first day of winter.
  • Rittersport Brunch – Girl time is at a minimum here. Homeschooling three high-schoolers keeps me quite busy and so I don’t often get to go hang out with just a bunch of girls. When I got an invitation to go to brunch with a few friends from chapel I was all over it! And, in case you didn’t recognize the synonym for chocolate in bold print at the start of this paragraph, RITTERSPORT is amazing and their factory is here in Stuttgart. Invitation to a girls’ brunch at a chocolate factory?!? Why, yes, thank you!
  • Caroling  – Our neighborhood is full of festive people and one of the families set up the second annual Christmas Caroling Event with Hot Chocolate social afterwards. It started out a touch rainy and by the time we got to the finale “Feliz Navidad” the rain had stopped and we were all ready for hot chocolate, cookies, and gluhwein.
  • Christmas Eve Brunch – And this leads me to the last event before Christmas… I had already planned to make a big breakfast dinner for my family either on Christmas or Christmas Eve. When our friends asked if we wanted to come over on Christmas Eve for a casual brunch we were all in. All except for Hayden, of course. Subway decided to remain open to serve the members of the community who didn’t get to take the Federal Holiday off but he did get to pop in for 15 minutes to say hi. Not related to brunch but to the fact that Hayden had to work all day, we decided to stay home that night and miss the Christmas Eve service. We hated not going but we really wanted to spend some time at home, around the tree, with our whole family. I really treasured every moment we got to spend as a family of seven because this season is slowly coming to a point where it will evolve. Kids will grow and move away, marry, and our Christmases will look different. I’m praying that the next two are similar to this one but just in case, I treasured this one in a special way.

 

December brought to us a stomach bug that rotated and interfered with some of our plans, but overall it was a great month of spending time together, with friends, and remembering the reason we celebrate on the 25th in the first place. We did not feel busy or rushed and yet the month still flew by. I wish December lasted 60 days and not just 31.

Posted in family, friends, germany, military | Leave a comment

Christmas Market Season, 2018

Christmas Markets are one of the aspects of Germany I missed the most while back in the states. We took advantage of the opportunity and saw just a handful this year. I believe had our kids been well, we would have squeezed in a few more. But in light of all the sickness that has passed around our family, I’m happy with those we did get go see, even if we only went to two as a whole family.

Kelley Barracks – the season opener!

The little kaserne on which we live hosted a Christmas market and so to kick off our Christmas festivities we braved the rain and walked around AFRICOM’s parking lot, and enjoyed dinner from food trucks. I have to say, so far, my favorite food truck USAG has on rotation is the Korean food truck. Her food is amazing and she is absolutely a joy to interact with. However, we met a strong contender at this Christmas Market… “Dray’s Taste of Texas.” I actually found this guy on Facebook to find out when he’ll be back. Turns out they’re opening a restaurant in Ulm. I may have to insist on a date night to Ulm in the near future!

We saw lots of familiar faces, some more familiar than others.

You know you live at a rank-heavy duty-station when the Grinch is a Two-Star General. Anna was not impressed… she flat-out told him, “You’re wearing a mask!”

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And just to show she was dressed to the nines under all the layers of warm clothing, here she in her pretty dress:

Strasbourg, France – This market is so big we may have missed an entire section. We were looking for specific foods but never really found them. Either French Christmas Markets focus much less on food than German markets, or we missed the whole food section. Don’t worry. We got full, and enjoyed our time, but we have to say, the crowds were unbelievable. It was one time we should have taken the Ergo and not the stroller.

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Check out all the cute bears!img_5106-1img_5108img_5115img_5111img_5104

Mittenwald – Matt went to this market while he was in Garmisch leading a marriage retreat. I believe Hayden tagged along and the other two teens stayed at the hotel.

Nuremberg – This market was EXTRA SPECIAL because the boys’ youth pastors were in Germany visiting their kids, so we met them there for a reunion. What a treat to sit with them again. They have hearts of gold and we are POSITIVE that one of the main reasons we were sent to Fort Hood is so that the boys could be shepherded by these people for a very important season in their lives.

This was the Family Truckster’s first long-distance test, and I was disappointed that Carson was not feeling quite well enough to go with us. I was disappointed in that for a variety of reasons, the biggest was that he missed seeing Steve and Martie.

img_5422img_8527img_8521img_8526Not Christmas Market related, but after we went to the Nuremberg market we drove to the middle of nowhere, to the BIGGEST music store I’ve ever seen. Bailey got his Christmas present from us and Parker got to try a Saxophone for the first time. The staff member who showed Parker the ropes was amazing! Thomann for the win!img_8531

 

 

Esslingen – Date night! Yep! Just Matt and I went to this market and, while I know the kids weren’t up for a market that night AND Matt and I needed a date, I hated they didn’t get to see this super-awesome market. It was the cutest market I’ve ever been to and had a medieval portion that had unique items and activities for kids. We will definitely take them back next year!

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This was the first time I tried Eir-punsch. I liked it but couldn’t finish this entire glass. It’s stout! I’ll stick to Glühwein.img_5481

Stuttgart – Okay, I shouldn’t say this, but I didn’t really expect much out of this market. I was wrong! It was HUGE, very well laid out, and each stall was decorated so beautifully! It was the prettiest market we have been to.

This is what may happen when you ask a random stranger to take your family photo:

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This is the best we could do in order to get the sign in the shot!img_5501

Here is what made Stuttgart’s market stand out. Check out the roof-tops of the stalls! They were themed and so very elaborate.img_5516img_5490

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Parker loves Penguins!

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There are so many markets we didn’t get to see this year, so they’ll be on the top of the list next year! Until then, I’ll be looking forward to Easter Markets!

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Merry Christmas ~ 2018

My mama taught me that if I can’t say something nice, I should say nothing at all.
I’m having a hard time writing our 2018 Christmas letter… First draft will not be released… While every word of it was true, it just sounded like a lot of complaining.

I’ll simply state that if you want to look back over the year and the many challenges we’ve had, I’ve written about them along the way. Since a Christmas post is supposed to highlight the good that has happened, that’s what I’m going to do.

Each month something fantastic happened to or in our family, and I want to highlight it here:

January – We got our Germany House! Sure, finding a place to live was inevitable. No military family is moved around the world and not given a place to live, but there’s always that time of wondering if it will be a place that is good for your family or just some place that is tolerable. As soon as we found out we were moving to Stuttgart I began the search for a place to live. I researched the on-post option (always our first choice for many reasons) but I also researched off-post homes, as well. Even on Christmas Day in NC I was refreshing the rental listings to see if the ones I had favorited were still available, just in case. Stuttgart is broken into four mini-bases with housing options, with Kelley Barracks being the only one large enough for our family. I was willing to wait an unlimited amount of time to get a place on Kelley for one reason: Parker’s freedom. I knew the teens could get themselves around town, and that Anna would be by my side the entire time we’re here, but I wanted Parker to be able to walk out our front door and find a lot of friends.

When housing offered us the keys to go look at a place on Kelley after only a month in the hotel, we knew we were going to accept it even without seeing it, but of course, we went to check it out. We had two units to choose from, and when we met one of our neighbors in the stairwell as we were leaving, we knew we were home. We have now been neighbors for 11 months with that friend, and the other two families in this stairwell and I could not have picked a better set of people to live with. I could not imagine being in a better stairwell situation than I’m in. As we had prayed fervently, God provided Parker with the ability to walk outside and play to his heart’s content.

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From our window, Parker is center in a camo jacket.

February – While Anna’s birthday in in January, we celebrated with our friends, the Wests, in February.  It is still amazing to use the word “daughter” in reference to our own child. Our story still takes my breath away when I step back for a few minutes from the day-to-day reality of parenting a toddler. I still think that it all seems too good to be true. And how amazing for us to be able to celebrate her birthday in Germany with people who have loved her from before she was born?!? The Wests prayed with us while we waited Anna’s birth and were the first people to babysit her while Matt and I went on a date.

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Also in February, Carson turned 15 and we went to Landstuhl to see Black Panther. Birthday season while PCSing is sort of difficult.

March – I can’t talk about March without mentioning that both Bailey and Carson broke bones 8 days apart. Silver lining? We were fortunate to have great health care and our family, because we were sort of cooped up for a month, grew closer. The greatest silver lining was that our family met another family and our hearts linked immediately. I just spent 15 minutes reading back through texts and found this jewel that I treasure. Here is just a glimpse into the precious heart that Sheri has and the encouragement that she is. These texts were sent while Carson was still in the hospital after his break.

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And of course, just before these two breaks, Parker turned 8 and Bailey turned 14! We basically have a birthday season that lasts from January to May.

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April – Matt’s 41st birthday!!  Hayden played on the Stuttgart JV Men’s Soccer team, and it was an experience. We’ll leave it at that. He was in incredible shape by the end and reinforced the idea that his official soccer career is over. He just doesn’t love it as much as he did before and now that he has a job, he simply doesn’t have time for it anymore.

April also brought us our first real trip since we moved here, Verdun France. Matt had taken soldiers to Verdun when we were stationed in Wiesbaden but the family never went. The homeschool co-op we partially participated in had a book/travel club that was fantastic. They read books and then traveled to see sites in the time period discussed in those books. Here we are in the downtown area of Verdun.

MayHayden turned 17 and he got a job (that wasn’t babysitting his siblings)!

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Parker playing soccer. Cutest thing!

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Our family went to the Bad-Cannstatt Easter market and we rode a very big ferris wheel!

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(I get hearts in my eyes looking at Matt in this picture.)

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And the best thing of all , Matt was able to baptist Parker in chapel.

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June – June healed my heart. The grieving of my Texas people had been really rough and having Stephanie and Hannah visit applied the final bit of salve to my hurting heart. I have definitely noticed a remarkable difference in me since they came.

While they were here we saw Neuschwanstein, Paris, and a few other places nearby that we wanted to show them.

July – Independence Day was spent with our sweet friends, solidifying just how much our families enjoy each other. I got NO pictures that day but here is the outfit our warrior princess wore… until she got ice cream all over herself.

July also brought into our lives another family with whom we click and love to spend time with. They are also a “boy” family and have added their fifth by adoption. (We got to go to Edelweiss with both of these great families in August!) And, since I’m writing this in December I get to pop in here with a fun little note from the present… Monica just stopped by and delivered a Starbucks Cordusio as a treat since I didn’t get to go to Edelweiss with the family. She even wrote a note on the sleeve. Made my day!

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AugustPotty training. She rocked it and has done great ever since!

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Edelweiss: a little bit of heaven on earth. We got to go there with both of the families we have really gotten close to – both families have five kids ranging from teens to tots (well, one has a baby, the other two have toddlers as the youngest). It’s really special to find such a perfect fit and we were super blessed to find two… and two that enjoy each other and that all the kids can have fun when together!IMG_3667

September – Corn Maze! I love fall!

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Hayden was missing – working man!

Three boys played soccer: Carson, Bailey, and Parker.

Trip to Poland for pottery…

Stopping by Berlin while in that part of Europe:

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And a visit from my parents:

While my parents were here my upstairs-neighbor made donuts. Homemade! I told you I have the best neighbors!

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October – Apple picking! (And the results of picking those apples, which I froze to bake later for Thanksgiving…)

And seriously, the cutest Maui and Moana ever:

 

November –  My 41st birthday (frogmore stew!!) and Thanksgiving!

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December

Christmas Markets!!

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Böblingen: (where our friends played an hour of gorgeous Christmas music!)

2018 Christmas Ornament – We picked this up in Poland this year.

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And the Family Truckster!!  YAY!! FINALLY!!!

With that said, I’ll be happy to welcome 2019 and say farewell to this year. I’ve highlighted much but not nearly all of the good we’ve experienced. I haven’t even touched on ChapelNext, which is AMAZING and such a wonderful Chapel Community. All the things that I have disliked about the year can be viewed from a thankful perspective, and I can see the Lord’s hand on our family in spite of those things.

Take some time to revisit 2018, the good and the bad, and find the joy in each month, and also look forward to 2019 and the adventures and blessings it will bring.

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Posted in family, germany, military | 3 Comments

The Family Truckster Arrived!

I have spent the past two weeks tracking the Truckster as it traveled over the Atlantic. I researched and found a website that would give me the coordinates of the vessel as it traveled and I made a map for my own entertainment.

Leaving the east coast:Screenshot 2018-11-25 14.46.35It’s massive trek across the ocean: (Each of the dots in the middle were posted about 12 hours apart… Once the vessel got closer to land, it pinged more often.)Screenshot 2018-12-03 15.42.13Through the English Channel: (It pinged anytime I clicked on the refresh button… I may  have been a little distracted from school work on this day.)Screenshot 2018-12-07 13.57.27

It arrived and I had it all planned out:  I would meet the delivery guy at the Boblingen Custom’s office, deck it out in Christmas lights, wreath, and more, then we’d have the boys+Anna meet us on post at about the time Matt got off work. Depending on the day of the week that it would arrive, it would be sometime between 5-6ish. Just in time to go to dinner and then maybe take a short drive around town.

I prayed HARD for this truck to arrive before our trip to Edelweiss so we could have a comfortable drive down and it would be a FUN first destination. Memories made. Together and in comfort. It arrived two days prior to the trip, on a Wednesday. It worked out well because Matt and I had a speaking engagement that morning, so I was already planning on leaving the house… none of the kids thought that was strange.

We were 15 minutes early to the pick-up in spite of hitting a stau, and the pick up went flawlessly!

Love at first sight:

While handing in our paperwork to the customs agent Matt got a call that the event we were supposed to speak at had been cancelled, so that meant we were free to work on truck-stuff together.

I’ll spare you the boring details but I got the lights up, car seat installed, and then we made a Santa run to the PX. While there I bought the wreath for the front and streamers for the handles.

Our Silver Surfer was in the shop so we were borrowing a car from a friend. (Such an answer to prayer! We’ve never been totally car-less before!)  We returned that car, picked up the Silver Surfer from the shop and within a few hours went from NO cars to TWO. Much easier.

Because it was Wednesday, Hayden had Chemistry class until noon and then work starting at 12:30. I had hoped to be able to show the kids the truck during that window but we just didn’t make it back to Kelley (where we live) in time. Funny story… I knew Hayden would be skating from chemistry to Subway about the time we were coming on post. Our kaserne is so small, and this truck is so big, I knew that if we were to pass him, there’s no way we’d go unnoticed. So, I kept my eyes open for him! Sure enough, as I turned right at the hotel, I saw him skating right toward me. We were still far enough apart and he was in his own world so I took a quick right and then left, and hid behind the gym. I was parked where I could see him pass the gym going toward Subway, and when the coast was clear, I continued on my path to the car wash. (I didn’t have to wash the car, but I did need to vacuum it out… while converting Anna’s carseat from rear- to forward-facing, all the crumbs went everywhere.)

Because I truly didn’t want to show the Truckster to part of the kids and leave Hayden out, we parked the truck at the car wash until the reveal. We rearranged all the stuff that needed to be moved from the Silver Surfer into the Truckster, I vacuumed, put the streamers on, and Matt installed the wreath.

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Now, the hard part… keep it a secret until Hayden could get off work.

I managed to keep my mouth shut, Matt went to work, and then the hiccup…

I had forgotten that Hayden was closing, which meant he wasn’t going to get off work until sometime between 6:15-6:30. Matt and I decided to walk the kids down to Subway at dinnertime, telling them that I was too tired to cook and that we were going to meet Hayden as he got off work and walk over to get Hunt’s Brothers Pizza.

We got there a little before 6:00 (because Matt and I wanted Korean food from the Korean Food Truck) so we had a long wait. After a while Matt and I adjusted plans and took the younger four to the Shoppette. We ordered the pizza and tried to kill time. Eventually, I sent Matt and the kids back to Subway and, when the pizza was ready, I went to the car wash and picked up the truck. I parked it in the parking lot of Anna’s preschool, across from Subway and yet, out of their line of sight.

Parker was not feeling 100% as he was on the tail end of his stomach bug. By this point he was freezing and miserable. I went into the Subway and asked Hayden’s manager if we could borrow him for just a few minutes and told her why. Carson had totally picked up on the weirdness and he came in and asked, “Is the Truckster here?!?!” He had already told Bailey that we must have something to tell them because we were acting weird. He flew out of the building and spotted the Truckster across the street and took off running! Parker and Bailey following close behind. Hayden sauntered out still not sure what was going on. And when he saw it he ran, too. We only had about five minutes before he ran back in to finish work and so I didn’t get to take everyone on a ride together, but we did ride around post for a few minutes until he did, officially, get off work.

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Because I’m paranoid someone will think we let Anna ride around this way, she was just sitting in there while we showed them the truck. She had her coat off and was buckled before we went anywhere.

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Our first ride with all seven of us was actually a ride with eight of us! The first time we’ve ever been able to take our whole family PLUS a friend. When we picked Hayden up at work we took one of his co-workers along. She was kind enough to take a family picture for us!

I parallel parked the Truck in the spot above. Yep! I’ve got this.

I was super pleased with how excited everyone was. The teens called it “dope” and everyone was genuinely thrilled to have it here. I was excited for myself, as it really is the car I’ve been hoping to someday have, but I was more excited that my kids were happy about it. I got to enjoy their enjoyment of it.

Thursday we didn’t really do anything but let Parker continue to recover from his stomach bug, a little bit of school (least productive week Jackson Academy has ever had), and looked forward to our long-awaited trip to Edelweiss the next day.

Friday morning we did a bit of school, prepared for our trip, Matt packed and loaded the Truckster. (PLENTY OF ROOM for our luggage, our people, and the stroller!)

We got about three miles away when Parker needed to use the bathroom. Like, ASAP. The closest bathroom was back at the gate guard building of our neighborhood. While there, Parker made the call… we didn’t need to go to Edelweiss. It was a good call, as time would tell. Being sick away from home (and trapped in a car for several hours while wondering when the need for a bathroom would suddenly strike) is no fun.

We pulled back up to our house, unloaded our suitcases, put Matt’s and the teens’ suitcases in the Silver Surfer and sent them off to Bavaria, while Parker, Anna, and I stayed home to enjoy our Christmas tree, Christmas movies, and lots of snuggle time.

To say I was disappointed that we didn’t get to take the Truckster on this trip is an understatement and, while it’s been easy to be pleasant with the littles, I’ve been grumpy in my head and heart. With that aside, we are super excited that whenever we do get to travel together as a family, we have the space to stretch out and enjoy the time getting to the destination.

RESPONSES to the Family Truckser:

I expected to get some looks while driving this thing, especially in Germany, but I’ve already had two interactions that made me smile.

  1. When we were at our repair shop getting the Silver Surfer I waited in the Truckster for Matt to go in and do the paper work. A man came to my window and I thought he was going to tell me I couldn’t park where I was. (I was not legally parked.) I told him in my broken German that my husband was at the auto shop getting our car. He shook his head, knowing I hadn’t understood him. We then proceeded to have a choppy but lengthy conversation in German: he has six kids, five boys and then a girl, ranging from 10 to 2. He asked how many seats and was shocked when I told him 12. He only has a 9-seater, as German citizens are not allowed to drive 12-seaters without a special driver’s permit. He was in love with my truck. Told me he paid 69,000 EUROS for his Mercedes 9-seater… I felt bad for him! That’s a LOT of  money! Anyway I opened the Truckster’s sliding door so he could look at the interior and I have a feeling he did some Googling when I drove off.  That was one of the longest and most detailed conversations I’ve had in German and I was pretty pleased with myself. And I liked that my Truckster was getting a warm welcome.
  2. Friday, as we were driving through a little town nearby, we stopped to let a pedestrian cross at a crosswalk. She was an elderly lady and she saw the wreath, smiled, looked at me, and pointed at the nose of the truck, making a circle in the air. She liked my wreath.
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Halloween 2018

We don’t “celebrate” halloween but we do let the kids dress up and give/get candy.

This year was fun because we joined the three other families in our stairwell for a chili dinner while we sat and handed out candy in front of our building.

We really are blessed with the families in our stairwell and thank God for them! Parker teamed up with an upstairs friend to be the Mario Brothers. In the chaos of the night, neither mom got a picture of this duo!

Months ago we met a new family and we fell into step with them very easily. They are another “soccer-loving, large family, teens-to-tot” and, to top it off, they’re also another family by adoption. Their youngest made a wonderful Maui and so we couldn’t resist having Anna be Moana.

You’re welcome:

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Oh, and this little Maui’s hair is naturally stick-straight, long, healthy, and gorgeous. The curls were done with overnight sponge rollers! HOW ADORABLE?!?!?

 

 

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Public Transportation: Stuttgart

We have a great duty bus that runs in the area, allowing our kids the ability to get from our kaserne to any of the others for free. It’s pretty reliable and runs from early morning until evening, though I think it needs one more evening run. Soccer practice ran 30 minutes after the last bus, so during that season Matt stayed at work really late, or ran back out to get them.

The duty bus does a great job of getting the boys around to the different kasernes and we are thankful for it, but we knew that they would need a bit more freedom than it could provide. I have now taken public transit here in Stuttgart a few times and have found it to be worth learning. It’s complicated to read and try to understand, but once you take it it gets easier.

The first time I had to take it was to go to the airport to pick up a rental car. My van was in the shop and the nearest rental place was the airport. I can literally see the airport from Kelley Kaserne, and if you take the transit, you travel in two different zones. I needed a one-way ticket for two zones.  I only had one misadventure: When I got off the first bus to transfer to the second, I saw the second passing before I could even get to the other stop. I had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. I listened to my podcast and enjoyed being on an adventure.

I arrived at the airport, picked up my rental car, and felt very accomplished. I grew up in a community where everyone has cars and few people use transit daily. My experience with it has been while traveling in foreign cities. I guess this is a foreign city, so I don’t really know why I was so intimidated by it.

The next phase of this was to teach the boys how to make use of the public transportation system: Bailey was up first. He picked a location he wants to know how to navigate to/from and we were off. We grabbed a snack at a local bakery and then headed back home.

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Phase two was to teach Hayden. One night when the other brothers were still at soccer, Hayden, Anna, and I make a split second decision to take the train downtown to a record store he saw one day as we were driving through town.

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This picture of Anna with her passy is the last one we have. We genuinely thought we dropped it on the bus that night and so we broke her of her “van passy.” A week later we went cold turkey… no more passys.  {I ended up finding this passy later so I’ll save it in her baby box.}
On this trip, we went a fun record store and then back home.

I still need to take Carson on a training trip…

Hayden has since used the system on his own twice. The first time he and a friend went to a concert and it was on this adventure that they had a misadventure. I got permission to tell this fun story! First, on exiting the kaserne, Hayden got stuck in the box, and the MPs and Ponds guards had to come rescue him. Once at the bus stop he and his friend got help from one of Hayden’s regular customers at Subway. They got to the concert in time, had a blast, and on the way home, accidentally got on the train going the wrong direction. They figured it out in time to get back to our nearest train station, about 4 miles away. However, the next bus that was to come was 4 hours… the buses had quit running by then.
I could have gone to rescue them, but, since I knew they were safe and together, I let them figure it out. (They didn’t ask me to come to the rescue… they had this under control, but were keeping me informed of their progress.) They ended up calling an Uber to get them back to Kelley.
Such good lessons! I asked if he had any pictures from his travel adventures and his response was, “No! Too busy trying to find where to go!”

My purpose in having my kids learn this system is so they can have freedom to go and do what they want, when they want. If they were in the states, they’d have drivers licenses; here they have public transportation.

Mel from “Living in Stuttgart” wrote a fantastic blog post that helped me figure everything out. Check out her Guide to the Public Transport in Stuttgart

 

 

 

Posted in brothers/boys, family, germany, travel | 1 Comment