Soccer for two, not four. (Part 2)

Yesterday I shared the first part of this story. And it continues…

I shared this screenshot of the text that no mom ever wants to receive:


I went into mom-mode and got to the field around 8:30 PM without knowing how I got there. Lights from two MP cars were flashing as well as an ambulance and firetruck.

Here’s what I saw:

No mom wants to see these vehicles pulled up to the soccer field to pick up her son but, on the other hand, I’m so thankful that Carson got the best medical care possible.


Oh, and because of this the parent meeting was called off.

I was a little unsure of what to do. Carson was in pain and they were taking him by ambulance to Ogla Hospital. I was going to ride with him but they were going to have me ride in the cab so I wasn’t going to be with him anyway, and that would have left my car at the field and me with no way to get home. I decided to drive myself and I left before the ambulance.

I got there at the exact same time they did and even heard the ambulance sirens… not a sound you want to hear knowing your kid is their patient.

It’s been 8 days since this moment and I can close my eyes and I’m right back in it. My kid was in so much pain. The medicine they gave him was basically Motrin. There were a few lost-in-translation moments but the doctor was amazing and went to bat for Carson. They did a set of normal X-rays at 9:21 PM. You can still see his one cleat on. His injured foot had been properly braced on the field but unwrapped for the X-rays. They never got it comfortable again until after surgery. Every bump, turn, hurt… every time his muscles flexed, which was often as he was having spasms.


At one point a particular nurse forgot to put in the order for the second set of X-rays and when the doctor found out she lit into her. They battled it out right in front of me and the doctor won.

At point a very sweet nurse came on duty and if I were to have another daughter I’d consider naming her after this nurse. Ansania.  (Ahn-sahn-ya.) She was incredible: she had a caring spirit, was genuinely concerned about Carson’s comfort and knew I wanted to know what was going on. She was with us (in and out) for the duration of our time in the ER.

Ansania took us for that second set of X-rays (most painful thing… Carson had to sit upright, put his twisted foot into proper position and sit that way for 3 minutes). The first set of “regular” X-rays didn’t reveal the depth of the breaks… just the surface breaks. The second scans allowed the doctor to see just how deep the breaks went.


The look on his face says it all. Misery. Oh, and he only got to wear these pants once before they cut them off of him.  (In the midst of all this pain, the kid had the heart to apologize for the fact that we bought him new clothes and gear for the season and he isn’t getting to use them.)


It was after that set of scans (Pep Scan? – it wasn’t PET…) that Carson could have the good medicine. He had to be lucid and able to get into position for the scan.  That was the reason the doctor was so mad at the nurse for forgetting to put that order in… he was suffering for no good reason. Once he got that medicine he was a new man. I liken it to being in labor before and after an epidural. Pain? Yes… still a lot of pain. But he was able to relax; his shakes went away; his grimace went away completely.

Helpless does not begin to describe the way I was feeling during all of this. There was absolutely nothing I could do for him and I hated it.

Our great doctor came in a time or two and explained why they needed that second set of x-rays and when she said something about surgery it went over my head… It was as if somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking, “There’s no way he’ll need surgery. This is just a broken bone. They’ll give him a boot or a cast and we’ll go home tonight, as  they did with Bailey’s bone.” (Bailey’s was, after all, our first “real” break requiring a cast or any type of real medical care.)

Little by little, over the course of the next hour, “surgery” kept coming in and out of conversation. Words like, “pins, plates, wires, screws” were used. I don’t recall the moment that it became real to me that Carson was actually going to need surgery and that those words were being used to describe what they were going to have to do to my son. I was nodding and saying, “okay,” because I was understanding what they were saying but I was not absorbing… not really.

AT 10:45 I texted Matt that Carson was being admitted for surgery and asked him to call Tricare.

Around 11:45 or so it was time for Carson to go to the operating room I asked for Ansania to go with us. I needed her there… I felt so much comfort from her. She said she would absolutely go with me but would need to get someone else to accompany us because she was just a nurse-in-training. I told her that she is going to make a fantastic nurse someday, that she really has the perfect personality to be a nurse.

They allowed me as far as the door of the operating room where I said good-bye* and then the nurses and I had to leave. In the elevator they told me to go back home and get some rest. Nope! I was not leaving that hospital!  I started leaking at the eyes while on the elevator and both nurses felt so sorry for me. They knew I had been keeping it together for Carson’s sake… (*By this time Carson’s good meds had kicked in and he doesn’t remember me saying goodbye.)

They don’t have a waiting area for the operating room, so they took me back to the ER’s waiting room. With every step I started crying harder and harder. I was vaguely aware that there was a man in the corner of the darkened room but that couldn’t stop my tears. I wept. Like, for real. The flood-gate of the past eight days burst: Bailey’s broken arm; Matt’s pinched sciatic nerve that was keeping him in severe pain (yet in spite of that he had to be a solo-parent at home while I was to be in the hospital with Carson); my PCS grief had really set in and I had come to the realization of what was going on with me just that morning, and now this… the first of my kids to go under general anesthesia, intubated…. It just came flooding out. I didn’t try to stop it.

As I got the bulk of my tears out the phone rang. It was my parents calling to pray for Carson and that was a call from God, to be sure. I needed their prayers and it was as if they were there with me. I know God ordained the exact timing of that call… it kept me from wallowing too long.

I glanced at the clock and saw that the time was 0000… exactly midnight:


They told me surgery could last anywhere from 2-4 hours… it lasted 1 hour 10 minutes. The surgeon came down to speak with me and told me that of all the possibilities they had mentioned, his turned out to need only four screws. That when they went to re-break (set) the bone, it went in place perfectly on the first attempt. {In fact, Tuesday, when Carson went back for a cast-change, the lady doing the cast told me she had been in the operating room with Carson and had put his original cast on. She remembered him and that his injury was a soccer accident. She even pulled up his original X-rays to show me that before they set the bone they were expecting to have to put screws in both bones but because it popped into place so perfectly, they decided not to put any in the smaller bone… that it would heal on its own!}

Four titanium screws in his tibia, no plates, no wires, and nothing in his fibula.

Carson still had to wake up before I was allowed to see him and when they finally came to get me, it was 1:54 am.


The hospital was full so they put him in a room with a 4-year-old girl on the cardiac ward.


We teased that his red toes made him look like the red Incredible Hulk.  They were swollen and red!


Matt brought Carson Popeye’s for lunch and I got to see my other kiddos for a few minutes. They moved him from the cardiac ward to the Orthopedics ward around lunchtime.



If you haven’t read “Sacred Spaces” by Corie Weathers, you should. It’s specifically military marriage related but its concepts reach into all aspects of life. Carson and I have a shared sacred space… the time spent together in the hospital. We were there almost exclusively alone from 9:00 Tuesday night until Friday lunch-time. We had a rhythm that worked for us and it is a time that no one else shares. Because of Corie’s book I recognize that time as a sacred space.

Part of our shared experiences include the food that he was offered and didn’t touch (but I enjoyed bits and pieces of. He’s my pickiest eater… (he doesn’t complain about food much, but isn’t very adventurous.)

One shared experience is of the bull-of-a-nurse who came in at night turning on lights, declaring how bad his English is, and rebuking us because the bed wasn’t adjusted properly… the day nurses set it that way but we were getting the rebuke!  He was the only person in the entire hospital who refused to even try to hear what we were saying… Only once did I ask Carson’s roommate to translate for us… usually we were able to get by with a mix of my bad German and the nurses (little-bit) of English. But I had had enough of this guy’s bullying and had the roommate tell him that we didn’t change the bed, the day nurse did! He was still a bull.

We’ve had broken bones before, but always in places that healed themselves. (Collar bones, toes, a foot bone in Parker’s foot that warranted a walking boot which he wore for precisely 24 hours.) Within an eight-day period we had two fairly serious broken bones requiring casts… one requiring major surgery. Both of those kids out of soccer for the season.

It’s been a crazy week but my heart is at peace. Matt did a great job as a solo-parent. The kids have all been incredibly patient and all have pitched in to help with Anna. We’re good. I’m still sad for the boys they can’t play soccer, but I am praying that Carson will regain the strength needed to play in an upcoming season (USYS, a different league we are looking into for H&C) as well as the willingness to get out there again. He’s, understandably, a little scared to even consider it right now.

Strangers in our community have loaned us a shower chair and a scooter, and Tricare is approving a wheelchair so we can continue with our travel plans. We’re heading to France with a local homeschool co-op to see Verdun and some nearby historical sites.  With these tools Carsons should be able to see most of what is on the itinerary.

A few more photos of our sacred space:

During the worst part of Carson’s recovery he was incredibly sore, his leg was both throbbing and experiencing sharp pain, he was hot, and couldn’t find a comfortable position. The first night (not the night of surgery, but the next night) was rough. We were up about every hour adjusting or trying to find something to make him more comfortable.  Note the ice packs on his skin to cool him down.


Coffee… because even if there isn’t a mug a coffee-girl will find a way.IMG_1462

And when that coffee-girl finds a mug she stashes it away for the duration of the hospital stay.


And I’ve been trained on how to give Carson shots at home every day for two weeks – to help him avoid blood clots. Pressure, much?


Ultimately, I know things could be so much worse. I didn’t want to tell Carson this the night of his injury, nor did I say it to him during his time in the hospital but it was always on my mind. I could see other patients who had much worse injuries. The little four-year-old girl in the cardiac ward broke my heart. At least my son’s problem was a broken bone that would heal, nothing as scary as a heart issue.

When we went in for Carson’s cast-change he mentioned this himself. He came to the conclusion on his own that his injury, though bad, was nothing to worry about when compared to what others are dealing with or even when compared to what could have been his own outcome.

I’m really thankful he came to that conclusion himself… it’s genuine that way.  And we have some sugar cookies that have been promised that we are all looking forward to from some new friends we’ve made here.  Spring break looks different than we thought it would but we are absolutely grateful for everything. For health, healing, strangers who loan us medical equipment, new friends who promise sugar cookies, old friends who are coming to Germany to visit, and for our Savior whose resurrection we celebrated at church as a whole family. That in itself was an answered prayer!

Version 2


Posted in family | 3 Comments

Soccer for two, not four. (Part 1)

Soccer has been a part of our family since Hayden was four.

The only break we took from soccer was when Anna was born and that was a unanimous decision so that we could focus on our squishy. It was hard to say no to that activity, as we knew how much the boys loved it and what good exercise it was for them… not to mention it’s pretty much the only socialization our homeschool kids get. (Sarcasm, there.) But we were all at peace with the decision and enjoyed the calm that came into our lives, not having multiple practices a week and Saturdays filled with games.

Each time the opportunity arose for the kids to play soccer after Anna was born we offered it to them and each time they said, “Not yet.”  Hayden had aged out of the CYS soccer offered at Fort Hood and Texas schools don’t allow homeschoolers to play on their school teams, so he really didn’t have much choice, other than travel soccer and we are not quite that committed to the sport. (Financially or with our time.)

We knew the time we were taking off was good for our family as we are very deliberate in what goes onto our plates.

Even before we left Texas I made connections with a few soccer leagues in Stuttgart in order to make good decisions about what teams our kids would participate in. DoDs schools in Europe do allow homeschoolers to try out for their sports teams so that was one option. There are a few other options that we considered and for the season, here’s what we went with:

Hayden tried out for and made the JV Soccer team at Stuttgart High School. (We’re very proud of him as it’s quite competitive.)  His practices are M-F, games on Saturdays. It’s a big time commitment for him as he rides the duty bus. As for family commitment, we just have Saturday games. It fits in well with our lives.

The other three we signed up for CYS and we were happy Carson and Bailey were placed on the same team. That means they could ride the duty bus to practices and we only have to pick them up, as their practices end after the duty bus stops running for the day.  Parker’s practices are located within walking distance of our house and his practices are on Saturdays. Easy enough.

On March 19th as I was cooking dinner I got a phone call from a strange number. I answered because we’re new enough here that almost all numbers are strange. I remember someone asking if I was Bailey’s mom and I said yes. I figured it was his coach calling to tell me about upcoming soccer practices or something but that’s not at all what he said… I vaguely remember him saying, “Bailey was skateboarding near AFRICOM and had a pretty bad fall. I think he may have broken his arm.”

In my mind Bailey was lying on the ground and this guy was standing over him, calling me to ask me to come to him. I was a bit dazed and I asked him if he’d stay with him until I got there. He sounded confused and then said, “I think they’re probably at your door by now.”

Sure enough, two men, a stranger and a neighbor (who happened to come across the scene of the accident and is a flight medic), walked Bailey in the door. The neighbor stayed 20 minutes or so and helped get Bailey’s arm braced and secured with a sling. The stranger left pretty quickly and the guy on the phone? No clue! Bailey never told him his name, our phone number, and Bailey has no idea how the guy knew to call me. We still don’t know where that guy came from or where he went.

Bailey and I went to Olga Hospital where we spent five hours. I was asked to leave the room when they had to re-break his arm to set it… I cried. Bailey was a trooper through the whole thing.



The way he broke his arm requires that they position it in this awkward position. I will admit I’ve made fun of him a time or two… eating yogurt is quite difficult!


We found out that he wouldn’t be allowed to play any soccer until he had a soft cast, which wouldn’t be until the last couple weeks of soccer. I was sad for him, but he took the news well. Bailey has made some friends at youth, Club Beyond, and on the duty bus (take after me, much?).

In the meantime we went to a couple of Hayden’s games and we looked forward to the start of Carson’s and Parker’s seasons.  We’ve missed watching our kids play!  (See if you can spot some of our family in the picture below… Hint: none of them are on the pitch.)

4. MomDadCarson 3-24.JPG

Carson was really getting excited for the start of his season. I don’t think he realized how much he has missed playing until we started going to Hayden’s games. He even talked about trying out for the high school team next year with Hayden. (I pray that he will…)

On the night of Carson’s first practice I remember sending him off… I was so excited for him but tried to play it cool. I told him to be safe and I remember when he arrived at the kaserne where practices are being held, he called, double-checking that he was in the right place. He was, but he was there 30  minutes early because that’s the way the busses run… you get there 30 minutes early or 30 minutes late.

That night I had planned to go pick him up because Matt had just gotten home from work and I didn’t want him to have to go back out: Matt had a pinched sciatic nerve that was wreaking havoc on his back.  I was on the phone with Stephanie catching up (phone calls with friends in the states are rare treats!) and so Matt told me he’d go get Carson. There was to be a brief parent meeting after practice so that worked out fine and Matt’s pain level wasn’t too bad at the moment.

And then, this:



I’ll continue the story tomorrow…



Posted in brothers/boys, family, germany | 3 Comments

Birthday Season ~ 2018

  • January – Anna
  • February – Carson
  • March – Parker and Bailey
  • April – Matt
  • May – Hayden

We celebrate non-stop for five months, seven, really because mine is in November and Christmas is in December!

I generally like to highlight each of the kids on their birthday but with moving and getting settled in, I’m doing good to get this out there! While it’s mostly about the boys’ birthdays, there are a few other things I’m putting in because they’re just worthy of being mentioned.

Carson’s birthday was in February, the day after we received our HHGS.

We celebrated by going to Ramstein to see a movie with our dear friends, the Wests. We received our HHGS Thursday and Friday and left an hour after our movers drove away. While the rest of the family was in the theater, Anna and I shopped at the Ramstein mall and then we walked over to the USO in the airport and played in the family room. Because it was Valentine’s weekend, Dunkin’ Donuts had heart shaped treats which I couldn’t resist!  Anna had to have one.

img_0824We stayed at the hotel on Baumholder so Parker could spend some time with his buddy.


We forgot Anna’s pack-n-play so she slept with us. She literally covered her face with her blanket and went to sleep while we were getting ready for bed.


When we got home we Carson’s favorite meal, spaghetti, which I did take pictures of us enjoying but promised not to share… teens.  

Our family loves a good meal of schnitzel and fries so to celebrate Parker’s and Bailey’s birthday we went on our first real meal out to a traditional German restaurant. I can’t say it was the most relaxing experience as there was no high chair for the toddler, and ordering wasn’t as easy as it could have been (confusing translation issues) but the food was delicious and the restaurant was adorable.

After dinner we came home and had cake and ice cream. Our commissary is tiny and the only cake they had was a plain white sheet cake. I let the boys decorate the cake and we enjoyed the sugar rush… Anna loved the chocolate ice cream! We didn’t have matches so they laughed when I made them pretend so I could take pictures.

Because we haven’t been here long enough to do birthday parties the way we generally do, we took Parker’s new friend with us to Sensapolis. It was pretty cool! Parker was very disappointed that he was too short to ride the go-carts but other than that, it was a very good way to celebrate their birthdays.

Because we now have a princess, we got to enjoy watching her experience the massive castle.

img_1252img_1205img_1204img_1235img_1236img_1217img_1210img_1230Hayden is a little sore from soccer tryouts/practices!img_1231After the boys tired of the castle, the girls stayed behind and danced in the ballroom. Anna is a dream come true for our family. img_1251Anna saw the “deer” and wanted a picture with it. img_1247Before we toured the rest of the park Anna and I spent an hour in the toddler area exploring. I rarely get to do these things with her so I savored every expression…img_1188Touching a tornado.img_1198

Parker’s actual birthday was yesterday. The night before, he came out of his room for a second hug and said, “Tomorrow after school do you wanna go see my fort in the forest?” The first thing that ran through my mind was, “He’s forgotten that tomorrow is Tuesday and I have PWOC.” The first thing I said was, “YES!” I then messaged my PWOC facilitator and told her that I had a date in the forest and wouldn’t be at PWOC.

Parker and I did minimal school yesterday and we loaded up Anna (in the Ergo), water bottles in his backpack, and off we went. I have to say, I was shocked at just how cool the fort is. He “inherited” it from other kids who built it.


A bridge…img_1296The Fort.  Scale is hard to see but that’s a hole where a tree root system used to be. Those branches are taller than I am.img_1285img_1294img_1297img_1303

After we got Anna down for a nap, I took the birthday boys to the PX where I let them get their traditional Starbucks coffee. They received money from Nana and Papa and from the Eastes Family. Here they are opening their gift cards from the Easteses… I think it’s funny that Matt snuck up on Parker!

img_1307img_1309img_1311img_1318While the boys were off shopping I took what was supposed to be a quick stop in the bathroom. When I finished my business and tried to leave, I found I was stuck. At first I was sure that I was doing something wrong. I tried to text Matt but there is NO service in the PX… at least there wasn’t in the bathroom! I waited until a lady came in who could try the door from the outside. She couldn’t get it either so she went for help.
The Food Court maintenance guy came and he couldn’t rescue me. He climbed up into the stall next to me and had me try the door while he watched.  He agreed that I was trying to open the door the right way and said he couldn’t fix it.
They called in reinforcements who disassembled the door and freed me. Apparently this happened to a woman on Saturday and she ended up having to climb over in order to get out. I could have done that but I was willing to give the staff the chance to rescue me, which they did. I was awarded no prize for getting stuck in the bathroom.img_1319img_1320

The boys didn’t find what they wanted to buy for their birthdays so we went to a nearby mall. At Game Stop they hit the jackpot! They found Pop Bobbleheads and all Marvel was on sale 20% off.  Instead of being able to get two, they were each able to get three! On the way home Bailey said that if the package he ordered was at the post office, it’d be the perfect day. (It had a gift for Parker in it as well as something for himself.)

I went to the Post Office at 5:50 and sure enough, the package had arrived. Just this morning Bailey said, “Yesterday was the best day I’ve had since we got here. It was perfect.”

Parker had requested Shrek Noodles for dinner which I prepared from scratch… pesto and all.

Good times. I’m in heaven over here with the easy pace of life and the cool temperatures. I miss my friends and have found myself dreaming that we are hanging out.  Good dreams, but I’m a little sad when I wake up. Parker and Anna are settled in and good to go. Hayden, OH! I forgot to mention this! He tried out for the high school soccer team and made it, so he’s getting connected and practices five to six days a week. The people on the team are high quality individuals and I love that he’s playing soccer again. The rest of the boys start CYS soccer very soon. Bailey goes on a retreat this weekend with Club Beyond and will return on his actual birthday.  Matt is now the senior chaplain at the contemporary service and we really love the people there. School is going well, though we will be working past May. We usually like to be done by early May… we’re looking at the end of June at this point! Some of the teens feel more settled and content than others, but I know that is to be expected.
Friends will be made in time, not overnight.
Friends left behind will be missed forever… that won’t go away.



Posted in brothers/boys, family, friends, germany, homeschooling, moving, parker | 3 Comments

Camping in our Apartment

So, using the word “camping” is a bit of a stretch. We have everything we could possibly need to make life comfortable. But, we aren’t using our things and therefore, we are feeling the discomfort of being without.  It’s good, though. Every few years military families move and gain an appreciation for the word “home.” We know what it’s like to be in major transition: jobs, friends, homes, cars. I believe it makes us so much more grateful for our things that were we never without. We may live for years not even thinking about how amazing it is to have a vehicle that seats everyone facing forward, heads not touching the ceiling and then we PCS overseas…

So, I call it camping because life as we are currently living it isn’t normal. We only have about 5% of our personal belongings; just enough to consider it comfortable camping.

Something is going on with my computer and I can’t “mark up” my photos at this time, but I’ll come back later to edit. For now, these two pictures show the front and back of our house. We’re the center apartment, third floor. From the front our windows are those between the two gray drainpipes. The stairwell entry is in the middle of our house.


From the back, same thing. Third floor, all windows between the two gray drainpipes.


I wanted to give a shout-out to some pretty amazing people who have helped to make our transition better. I won’t give names because I don’t have their permission but here are a few of the sweet ways we’ve been welcomed.

  • We were able to borrow the Volvo even before we bought it.
  • Flowers!!
  • IMG_0494
  • Pail with treats
  • IMG_0543
  • Basket with the makings for spaghetti as well as fruits, teas, and chocolates
  • Banana muffins
  • Pillows, sheets, and quilts to make sleep possible
  • Fridge
  • Microwave
  • Loaner furniture
  • ACS lending closet
  • duty bus
  • USO – home away from home
  • nail polish remover and a shovel (It’d take too long to explain)


Our van arrived this week and I am THRILLED because it’s so big compared to the Volvo. I no longer have to ride the duty bus, though I’m thankful that it’s available for the kids to run around town. I don’t have to take them all the places anymore!  Sure, Hayden ins’t able to get his license here, but the flip side is that ALL THREE TEENS can come-and-go as they please, not just Hayden. Last week I took the duty bus a few times and twice it never came. It runs on an hour-loop and twice it just didn’t show up. The first time I only had Anna with me and I was heading home from PWOC. (Please let me pause here to say that Matt offered the car but that would have meant I would have had to come back to get him that evening after worship practice and I’d rather take the bus!) We waited for thirty minutes, and, rather than wait another thirty minutes, Anna walked from the chapel to the PX where we took a potty break, I bought some gloves, and then we caught the bus from their. The second time the bus was a no-show I was with Hayden and Carson. We were heading to Panzer (where Matt works) to pick up our van. Matt was jumping through all the hoops to get our van registered and through inspection (Esso card, plates, etc) so he couldn’t come get us. Plus, that’s a waste of gas. So, the bus failed to show so we walked back home to kill the thirty minutes before the next bus. While we sat in the cold waiting, though, I told the boys, “This is what people are thanking you for when they say, ‘Thank you for your sacrifice.’ People can imagine the loss you experience with leaving family and friends behind, but they don’t see these little inconveniences like having to use a duty bus that sometimes doesn’t show. They don’t know that they’re thanking you for the sacrifice of being without your own bed or car for months, but they are. They don’t see these little ways that you sacrifice for the decision your dad to serve the Army. But please know that when they say thank you, they really do appreciate it all, even if they don’t know all the little ways you sacrifice.”


Matt and I knew we’d need some kind of cabinet in the bathroom so we went to IKEA to scout the place. We made a list and then, once the first shut-down ended, we made our purchases. The piece we selected for our bathroom is perfect! Another way we’re making this apartment our home.

Carson and Bailey have a huge wall of closets but Hayden’s and Parker’s room has only one. We bought a shelf for Hayden to display his record player and other things.

The very day we picked up our van we found out our HHGs are here. I was able to call within the three-hour window they allow once the email is sent and got our delivery scheduled for this Thursday! I can’t wait!!  I’ve made our school schedule to reflect this and plan to spend Wednesday preparing; preparing meals so that I don’t have to put much thought into food while I will be organizing the house, and preparing the house by sticking post-it notes where I want the movers to place furniture and taping signs I made before we moved by the bedrooms so the movers can tell where boxes go by the color of tape I placed on the boxes back in Texas.

Because the living room is one huge open space and echoes like crazy, we moved all the furniture into the room we’ll use as an office to make it cozy. Works beautifully!



I struggled in the kitchen when preparing meals because the lighting was so bad. I even asked the inspector why there wasn’t an under-cabinet light under the center cabinets and she didn’t know. None of them have lighting there. Standing and preparing meals my body blocked the light from the ceiling lights and this was just completely unacceptable. So I did my research and found that IKEA had what I needed. I had to use some broken (butchered) German and the grace of an employee and got all the pieces I needed plus a bonus wireless light switch. I can turn them off and on from the same spot I turn on all the rest of the lights. I am even more pleased with this than I expected I would be! (And again, thanks to all of you who suggested I fly with my Instant Pot. That was such a great suggestion! It’s a little dented but the dents were worth it!)

Before images on the left, after images on the right.


Camping in our apartment has been so much easier than living in the hotel, even though our experience at the Panzer Hotel was great. I am so thankful for this house and for our amazing neighbors. We love our location even though we do have a 20-ish minute ride to church/work. We really do feel at home and we know that that’s in part due to the generosity of those who have loaned us things and brought us treats. Soon it will be my turn to bring treats to new people! Until then, I’ll be doing school, cooking meals, and receiving the other 95% of our household goods!




Posted in family | 4 Comments

Celebrating Anna’s 2nd birthday, take two…

When we brought Anna home all of our friends fell in love with her. One of those families cared for her when Matt and I went on our first date without her… that’s always a big step for me: leaving the baby for the first time. This also happens to be the family with one of Parker’s all-time-BFFs, Matías.

We loved watching others love our girl.

Our hearts ached when this precious family moved to Germany just a month before Anna’s first birthday. When we found out we were moving to Germany just before Anna’s second birthday I devised a plan. Since Anna was going to have to celebrate without the dozens of families at Fort Hood and our family in NC, we’d make it a point to celebrate with the Wests once we got settled a bit.

In fact, I mailed a box to them with pink party supplies and a few presents from us to Anna, and Loren took care of the rest. She even went out of her way to find the perfect cake and gift! I would have been perfectly fine with a set of homemake cupcakes but the love and care the entire family (even Jason!) took to put on a perfect birthday party touched my heart!! Not to mention, we got to eat Loren’s homemade food!  She’s an incredible cook!

Singing Happy Birthday – I love Anna’s clap at the end!




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Moving Day (Panzer to Kelley)

Today is a big day… it’s moving day! (We will sleep in the hotel one more night and officially live there starting Friday, but today we take all of our stuff over to our house and receive more loaner furniture.)
We trade one blessing (the comfort and convenience of hotel life) for another (our own space and amazing neighbors).
This is very exciting! We are blessed in that we only stayed in the hotel just shy of one month (29 days). Many people had much longer stays. We will have our own laundry room again and spaces to spread out and have some alone-time! The maintenance crew here noticed that I missed my alone-time yesterday and commented on it! I usually sneak out of the room very early and go to the sitting area on the 4th floor but yesterday I didn’t… they noticed! Our new neighbors are amazing and I found out I’m friends with the SIL of one already! SMALL WORLD! The Commissary where we’re living is a full one rather than the glorified shoppette, for which I’m very thankful, we have here on Panzer.
This move is nerve-wracking in ways: I now have to start buying breakfast foods again; no more housekeeping service; the loaner mattresses are paper thin; Matt will have to start commuting more than 600 feet; the house is basically empty and echoes. (Non-stop noise of five kids with nothing to absorb it.) We don’t have our baby gates yet. We don’t have pillows yet (though a neighbor is loaning us sheets and pillows). I know what to do to keep Anna entertained in the hotel… not sure about what it will look like there. Fortunately I have big kids to help but I do hope that we are able to get our HHGs soon. Shouldn’t be more than 3 weeks… (In the meantime I think I’m going to convert one of the bedrooms to be the living room so that the noise is contained to one carpeted room.)
Matt’s current commute: 633 feet. Screenshot 2018-01-25 05.48.01
In spite of the challenges that come along with camping in a house for an unspecified amount of time with five kids while homeschooling four of them, I am so excited I woke up ready to go at 4:30 am!
(You know what happens when someone is walking when you take a Pano? They look pretty creepy… so, Carson, you’re welcome!  I edited you out! Think anyone will notice?)
With all this extra time on my hands I decided I’d catch up on a bit of email/FB notes etc., write this Facebook-update-that-turned-into-a-blog-post, and then start my new PWOC Bible Study, which is going to be amazing. (Seamless, by Angie Smith.)
I think this watch face is fitting for this morning as I face a new set of challenges.
(Though your prayers are welcomed… pray that I can be a patient mom today!)
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Around town (dates, gelato, school…)

Before I get into today’s post, let me give you a quick update: WE HAVE A HOUSE! I know I’ve said a bit about that already but now we have an officiate move-in date! And by “move-in” I don’t mean with our stuff. Just the stuff we brought with us. Our Unaccompanied Baggage is here and we should be able to schedule its delivery for next week, but until then we begin “camping” in our new house on FRIDAY!!  We are absolutely thrilled with our new place and our new neighbors and I’ll tell you more on that later. For now, enjoy a mish-mash of pictures from around town…

Today’s post is fast and just a few pictures that don’t really fit in a separate or full post.

The first day we took the car out for a test drive was the day we took the boys to a skate park. This gorgeous cemetery was just across the path beside the skate park.


We had dinner with friends from our last time in Germany and I didn’t take enough pictures. I also haven’t asked their permission to include pictures of them on the blog, which is why I’m selecting photos of the massive chocolate-infused Italian cake they served for dessert! Dinner was amazing and my kids ate seconds of everything. That was a delightful evening. It was really nice to spend time in a home again, especially one as grace-filled and peaceful as that one.


We’ve always tried to take each kid on individual dates on a regular basis. Sometimes life gets in the way and we have to take a break from that. Now that we’ve found somewhat of a routine Matt and I are happy we can begin this again.

Last week we took Hayden out one evening and then another night, Carson.  We took Hayden to a nearby mall and, after shopping for a while, we got treats at a cafe. We made a rookie mistake and forgot cash, which sent us to an ATM for Euro. We knew better! URG. Whatever. We had a great time chatting with just Hayden.

img_0275img_0272img_0273And I simply can’t pass by succulents and not think of Hannah! img_0271

Later in the week we took Carson out.  Matt and I had gone on a date to Vapiano (just the two of us) on Friday evening and while strolling through downtown Stuttgart we saw two stores that we knew Carson would love. We took him there on his date and sure enough, he found plenty of things he wanted to buy (and we were able to get ideas for his upcoming birthday). We were very happy to see that Old Bridge Gelato was open. When we were in Rome, Italy years ago, we found the best gelato on the planet at a shop with the same name. When Matt and I saw it on the night we went on a date we were thrilled to see that Stuttgart had a location, but it was closed for the holidays. As the employee was scooping our treats he told us that the owners of the two shops are very close friends so these two shops are sister stores. The gelato was worth every. single. calorie.


Math in the hotel breakfast area.


Sometimes I’m desperate and need to contain the climber. 5-point harness high chair in the breakfast room and Boss Baby to the rescue. This gave me the 30 minutes I needed to compose an email that I needed to send. Check out those boots!


I also do a lot of my lesson planning and grading at these tables. I can spread out all my stuff on the counters behind Anna. It’s usually pretty quiet in the breakfast area on weekend-evenings.

I ran into my friend, Heidi, at the Commissary one day last week and she introduced me to a new friend (and one who will be a neighbor of mine!!). During our introductions she told me about this place to get fresh milk. It’s open 24/7 and is fully automated. The cows live in the barn that is attached to this little area.

You walk in this door…img_0289…and buy a glass jar if you didn’t bring your own.img_0291Then you open the meal metal door, set your glass down, insert a Euro, and press the start button… FRESH MILK!  img_0292

Matt and I have never been the kind of parents who enjoy co-sleeping with our children. We are, out of necessity, sharing a room with our princess. Sometimes this works out just fine. Other nights she stands there and talks to us the entire time we are watching a show!img_0278

Matt was on the hunt for a good doner shop and while driving through a nearby town we passed this building. It was just a normal Friday. You don’t see this in Killeen.img_0317

While half of the United States was shut down for snow, schools in Germany were in session and having recess in the blowing snow. It’s hard to see, I think in my hurry to take the picture I ended up only getting the teachers and one or two kids, but there were two classes outside. img_0302

Saturday we took a walking tour of the city we now call home. There were dozens of interesting places we can’t wait to go back to but the teacher in me couldn’t resist snapping a picture of this fountain. It’s called, “Hans in Luck” and represents a Grimm Brother’s tale by the same name.img_0324Our tour guide was a bit of a foodie. She said that this doner shop is one of the best in all of Stuttgart. I took the photo not for aesthetic’s sake but so that I could remember where the shop is so we can go back! (The sign for the shop is just to the left of the “Subway” sign.)img_0328

And last but definitely not least, LOOK WHO WE GOT TO SEE?!?!?

They were on their way from Garmisch back to Wiesbaden and they were willing to take a brief detour to spend an hour with us! The last time we saw each other, neither of us had daughters… now BOTH families do! There are some friends for which time does no damage. These are those friends. img_0320


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Our girl is two!

Oh Anna! I still can’t believe we are blessed with your presence in our family! We were immeasurably blessed with the four incredible sons we already had and to add you to the family was almost more than we ever dared to think could come true.  We wanted you. We dreamed of you. We prayed for you. We bought baby girl clothes on occasion in preparation for you. But we really wondered if we would ever actually get to hold you in our arms.

Two years and ten weeks. That’s how long we’ve know about you. You were placed in my arms two years ago today when you were just two hours old. At least once a week I look at Daddy and say, “I can’t believe we get to keep her!” All the baby girls I’ve held in all my life I’ve had to hand back to another mommy but you… I get the privilege of being your mommy. When you call my name (even on repeat) I find myself amazed that you are calling for me. I am so, SO, honored to have that title. I find myself beyond grateful that your other mommy trusts me with such a treasure. What a gift… and what a wonderful woman to have the courage she had. It is on today’s agenda to Skype with Mama Kim and I will pray through the entire conversation that you two will have a lifelong bond that will strengthen each of you. I know there will be a bond you have with Mama Kim that is different from the bond that I have with you, and I’m okay with that. I am thankful for your sweet Mama Kim and for her active role in your life.

Here are some things I want to remember about two-year-old Anna:

  • You tell one joke and it cracks us up every time you tell it. It goes like this:
    • Someone in the family says, ‘Anna, tell me a joke!’ and you say, “Joke,” and of course, we all laugh hysterically.
  • You can climb on almost anything and you don’t lose your balance.
  • You are fearless.
  • You are fast.
  • Your vocabulary is closer to that of a three year old (at least).
  • You can speak in complete sentences when you want to.
  • You KNOW what you want and aren’t afraid to tell us.
  • You love the corners of the blankets Ms. Patrice made for you.
  • You still have a paci because I refused to fly on an overseas flight and live in a  hotel for who-knows-how-long without that mute button.
  • You are smart.
  • You can count to twelve.
  • The first thing you say in the morning is, “I awake!”
  • You swing one arm while running just like big brother Carson did when he was your age.
  • You weigh about 25 lbs.
  • You like to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, but if we start singing your bedtime songs (You are my sunshine and Jesus Loves Me) when you’re not tired you shake your head, frown, say, “no! no!” and put out your arm.
  • You love Doc McStuffins, Moana and Little Einsteins.
  • All your teachers love you in nursery, even the new ones here in Germany.
  • You love your boots.
  • You love your outfit. (You call the Minnie Mouse outfit your outfit. The rest of your clothes are NOT outfits. Just the Minnie Mouse.)
  • You love your cousins… a lot.
  • You love to FaceTime with the Easteses.
  • You are the most beautiful girl in the world.
  • Your second canine tooth just popped through… finally!
  • Your brothers fight over who gets to pick you up from nursery.
  • You aren’t especially quiet while we are trying to do school.
  • Hotel rooms are not fun for you because there are so many things you are not allowed to touch.
  • You don’t mind eating a Floorio.
  • Someone let you have a taste of Dr. Pepper and now you want all the spicy drinks in the world and you will spot an open can of whatever and sneak over to it faster than we can get to you. (By the way, Dr. Pepper is the favorite soft drink of BOTH of your mommies!  Mama Kim craved that when you were in her tummy!)
  • We are planning the arrangement of our new house around making it as Anna-friendly as possible.  I mentioned you are a climber, right?!?
  • You love fruit pouches.
  • You also love spaghetti.
  • You say, “I hold you,” when you want to be picked up.
  • You say, “You doing?” when you want to know what someone is doing.
  • Your family loves to sing the Moana songs with you.
  • You like to say, “I pitty” when you look in the mirror.
  • Your Daddy is determined to let you know that you are more than just a pretty face. He says the following and you repeat each phrase one at a time: “I’m pretty. I’m strong. I’m brave.”
  • You wrote a song and Carson sings it with you. It goes something like this: “I yuv ponies, I yuv ponies.”
  • You love bath time (and we love it because you’re contained for 30 minutes or so).
  • You say, “Sit down!” when you want someone to come sit beside you and hang out.
  • You are a great sleeper.  (Thank you for that, by the way! We say that you run at 100% therefor you have to sleep at 100%! We also say, “You have two speeds: run and sleep.”)
  • You have gorgeous hair.
  • Dad sings this to you: “Pretty girl, Pretty girl, you are a pretty girl.” to the tune of Moana’s, “You’re welcome.”
  • When someone says, “What does Maui say?” you respond, “AND THANK YOU!”


Baby girl, it’s time for us to get ready for our day so I have to stop here. Daddy and Brothers have helped make this list and we are all so happy you are in our family. Here are few pictures that can, in no way, encompass your beauty and energy.




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A Hotel Adventure for Anna

Because the hotel can get a bit old for Anna we try to let her get out of the room and lead us on an adventure at least once a day. This is the time where SHE gets to pick which “alligator” we ride on, which floor we ride to, or which set of stairs we take. This is a great way to get her wiggles out just before bedtime!

One of her favorite games is to turn on the motion-sensing light on the walls in the hallways. As she runs down the hallway they magically come on. Another game she enjoys is to climb up the stairs while making loud echoing noises! But her favorite game is to press the buttons and ride the ‘alligator.’ If she runs into a puppy sometime along the way then her day is made.

The following video may make some people motion sick and will likely only be interesting to the grandparents, so consider yourself warned.

(I love the arm swing and the tentative way she steps across the threshold of the elevator! And please excuse the hair. Brothers had done her hair in a man-bun and it was in need of some TLC.)

Hotel Adventure from jennifer Hamrick on Vimeo.

Posted in family, germany, military, moving, Probably only interesting to the boys' grandparents., travel | 4 Comments

Life in the Panzer Hotel

In my last post I shared about the house we are going to be moving into. We really are excited to move into it and start our new life there. In fact, we were out at Kelley for a little while last week setting up our new CMR and checking out the commissary and just being there gave me butterflies of excitement! As I mentioned in that post, Matt and I met our upstairs neighbor when we toured the house. Monday we were thrilled to run into their whole family at the Food Court. We really look forward to being their neighbors! In the meantime we are actually pretty comfortable and making life as normal as possible while living in the hotel.

Life will become more complicated once we move, in some ways. In other ways, it’ll become more simple. In order to explain, let me tell you a little about Stuttgart as a duty station which will be especially helpful for those who haven’t had an overseas assignment. You can take a map and draw a big circle around the area that Fort Hood consists of. Same with Jackson, Carson, etc. However, in Germany our “post” is actually made up of several very small “posts,” so if you look at a map of Stuttgart and you want to craw a circle around the area that is “USAG Stuttgart” you’ll actually have to draw four (five?) different circles.

Patch and Panzer are very close to one another; Kelley is a bit farther away, and Robinson is way out in the boonies.  The BEAUTIFUL boonies, but still, it’s a good distance, especially with the traffic.

Here are the official names of the  mini posts: Panzer Kaserne, Kelley Barracks, Patch Barracks, and Robinson Barracks. “Kaserne” is a German word that means “barracks” so my question is why aren’t they all called kasernes? Or all called barracks? (There’s also an airfield here but I don’t think anyone lives there. I’m focusing on the four that have housing.) Here is a fun article about the location with a bit of history and what goes on on each of the mini posts.

Matt will be working on Panzer, which is where we are currently living in the hotel. His office is two buildings over and takes just a couple of minutes to walk over there. This is quite convenient for us with regards to Matt being able to spend a lot of time with us during these in-processing weeks. It’s convenient in that when we’re bored we can walk over to the PX and we can take advantage of the daily offerings of the USO.

In another post I mentioned that the hotel staff picked out rooms for us that are near the bridge. That has proven to be absolutely wonderful. The hotel’s parking lot is great for parking cars but it is not at all convenient if you need to go anywhere on foot therefor they built a bridge leaving from the third floor that takes you straight to the sidewalk giving you much easier access to everything.

Oh, and we are very close to the “alligators” and the coffee machine that produces Jacobs coffee 24/7. For those who have lived here before you know just how delectable that coffee is. (“Alligators” is Anna’s word for elevators.)

From the bridge:

This is from the bridge toward the parking lot. If you look closely, on the far right of the picture you can see the driveway from the PX parking lot down to the hotel’s parking lot. It is kind of steep. Because of that most people to ride the elevator to the third floor and use the bridge when going anywhere on foot.


If you walk the bridge to the sidewalk and cross the street, the building you’d enter houses the bank, USO, ACS, VAT office, and more. We are in that building 5-6 times a week for various reasons… mostly popcorn and drinks from the USO. They have a movie library and a gaming system that we enjoy as well. The staff are very helpful and welcoming. The picture below was taken from our living room window.


If you turn left at the end of the bridge you head directly toward the PX.  (The PX is the one-level building in the center of the picture which was taken from the bridge.)


Between the USO building and the PX are other buildings that have other important offices: the housing office, for example.

If you turn right at the end of the bridge you are heading toward the Chapel. The first building you pass is for maintenance use only… the next is the Chapel. Beyond that are other things like schools, the commissary, shoppette, etc.

The following picture was taken from inside the hotel at the end of one of the hallways. You can see the angled roofline of the bowling alley. Just in front of that is a half-circle building. That’s the back of the chapel – the part that houses the offices and nursery. The sanctuary is the darker front half, though you can see two vertical stained glass windows.


The following picture was taken from the chapel looking back at the hotel.img_0206

And here are pictures OF the bridge as seen coming from the PX.

img_0236img_0239Poor guy didn’t know I was taking a picture of him. Our windows are the first three to the left of the bridge. img_0241

A few days ago I included the following video in another post, but since this one is about the hotel I’m including it in this post as well. It’s a quick tour of the Family room and regular room we have.

Today we ate lunch at the USO as they serve hotdogs every Wednesday. Tonight the bigs go to their second night of youth.

In about 20 minutes we’re going to ride out to Kelley to check our mail. We checked on the status of our house today and the lady said it could be ready as early as Friday. I’m not counting on it. In fact, I see us being here another week or so, but that’s just my gut talking. I have nothing to base it on other than I know that maintenance and housing offices aren’t known for moving that quickly.

Stay tuned… the next blog post will have an enthralling video of Anna’s Adventures in Hotel Living.


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