Dec 30, 2010

2010 Auf Wiedersehen

I was looking through my pictures from this past year hoping to gather just a few that really capture the essence of 2010 for us. It was challenging.
I found pictures from each of the places we ventured and pictures of each of the families that came to visit us. I found pictures of each member of our family that totally revealed our character. I also found pictures of really great events in our lives. But, after hours of reliving the year I was still torn as to what I could post that would tell our story for 2010.
I finally came up with this one. It is quite possibly one of the poorest quality pictures we have but it is the Hernandez family in a nutshell.
Here we are in Wiesbaden a few weeks before Christmas. We were walking to the Christmas market when we happened upon this playground. This is a very bizarre merry-go-round type gazebo. (click on the photo to see it larger) The kids were just enjoying the ride, but Matt and I were trying to run in one side of the spinning contraption and come out the other without face-planting. We never made it, but it was fun trying.
This is us. We travel to cities throughout Europe, test out their playgrounds, and laugh wildly at ourselves. We slip in some sight-seeing and local cuisine here and there but for the kids, it is really about the playgrounds and hotels. We don't take ourselves too seriously, we get out and about as much as possible, and we treasure this great opportunity to live in and experience Europe.
As I looked back at all the places we went, people we visited, and events that took place I quickly realized why this year flew by as quickly as it did....it was a busy year! We are truly so blessed in the big and little things of 2010 and are excited for all that is in store for 2011.

Dec 24, 2010

Change of Plans

Today is Christmas Eve.
The plan: sleep in, make breakfast, watch a Christmas movie as a family, make lunch/dinner and final preparations for our friends to join us for a festive Christmas Eve Party.
Christmas Party: hugs and kisses, lay out the appetizer spread, turn up Christmas music, chat, laugh, eat. Finish lunch/dinner. Begin festive games and chatter. Leave for traditional German Christmas Eve service. Return home. Eat dessert. Laugh, chatter. Read Christmas story from Luke. Sing songs, in the right key, give hugs and kisses and say good night.
Well, we slept in...late. Made breakfast but had no time for a movie. We watched the snow fall and admired its beauty while frantically finishing prepping for dinner. Friends arrive, we exchange fun gifts, laugh and chat. Eat lunch/dinner and contemplate braving the snow covered roads to make it to that traditional German service. We deem the roads to sketchy to travel on and decide to turn on a broadcast of the Nine Lessons in Carols from Kings College Chapel in Cambridge. The boys are running wild, begging for dessert, to play games, and bounce off the walls. Our friends' daughter doesn't feel well and wants to go home. Mom takes daughter home, hoping to perk her up and return for the rest of the evening. We send boys to their rooms to chill for a bit. At home, daughter is in tears and goes to bed. Mom calls to say she isn't coming back. Boys are allowed to come down stairs. Dad fills up on some dessert and then heads home. It wasn't what we planned. The house felt empty. No Christmas service, no games, no late night laugher and sweet moments of reverence as we ponder the meaning of this day.
I expect that Mary hoped to deliver her firstborn son somewhere other than in an old manger. I'm sure Joseph planned to have a less scandalous beginning to his marriage. And those shepherds were probably hoping to squeeze in a few winks that night rather than being interrupted by an entire host of singing angels. Herod thought he could put an end to this messiah talk by taking out infant boys, and Satan thought he could have a fighting chance against God by putting Jesus on the cross. Sometimes, things just don't go as we plan.
After an hour or so of re-grouping we gathered around our beautiful tree, turned off all the lights in the house and played a game. We ate dessert, read the Christmas story and listened to Christmas music. We even attempted a few carols of our own. It was not in key, in tune or on pitch but it was fun and it filled our house. The boys watched NORAD to track Santa and after a bedtime story and last minute instructions on what time they are allowed to wake us up in the morning they headed to bed. Matt and I are jammified and ready to watch our favorite Christmas movie. In the end, although it wasn't how we thought it would go, it turned out quite well.
"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there the time came for the baby to be born and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them."
8 days later Mary and Joseph presented their son at the temple and they named him Jesus, just as the angel instructed them to.
and "God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."
He wasn't born the way a king is expected to be born, he didn't save the Israelites the way they had hoped, but when he reached out his arms on Calvary it no longer mattered how people expected things to go...God had a different plan and the blood that Jesus shed offered redemption, hope, and eternity greater than any earthly plan.

Dec 21, 2010

The Christmas Truce

In the past few days the Christmas Truce of 1914 has been brought to my attention three times through a TV show Matt and I were watching, a commercial, and something I saw online. It is moving to me to know that at some point in history, the celebration of Christ's birth was enough to halt a war and bring enemies together to commemorate Christmas.
This is a public television special about The Christmas Truce of 1914. There are also songs that tell the story as well, here is one by Mike Harding called "Christmas 1914".
This Christmas we have friends who are in a 20th century version of "trenches" in Iraq and Afghanistan. I pray that they will find peace this Christmas.

Dec 20, 2010

Oh What Fun


I want to do this. I don't have a sewing machine here, so that throws a wrench in my plans and I don't sew very well, so there is another snafoo, however at some point in my life I am going to have throw pillows made from old sweaters.
I could have Christmas sweater pillow covers and regular 'ol decor matching pillow covers. Opportunities are limitless.
I plan to collect sweaters from thrift shops and discount stores in the coming weeks and months so that one day my little sweater pillow covers dream will come true. I have to be honest here, project completion is not my strong suit. I am an idea finder, but lack the skills for followthrough. So perhaps when my professional sewing assistant comes to visit (mom) I can put her little sewing fingers to work or something like that.

Dec 19, 2010

What am I making Christmas morning?

Cranberry Orange Scones. They are so darn delicious! Rather than describe how tasty they are, I'll describe the reaction I received when I served them for my bible study ladies this past Wednesday. Shock and awe. That's right. They were so surprised that something that tasty came out of MY kitchen.

Wednesday was the last bible study before Christmas, I wanted everything to be just perfect looking, sounding, and tasting. The day before I ran into the grocery store searching for inspiration for our morning snack. A bright light shone down upon fresh cranberries (and all the other fruits in the misting section but whatever) and it hit me "Cranberry Scones". I searched AllRecipes for something that got rave reviews and found this one. I whipped them up....and was slightly disappointed. They were fine, but nothing special. I started looking at other recipes and noticed a trend of combining cranberries and orange. I sent Matt to the store at exactly 7:45, with just moments to spare before they closed. The next morning I made the scones using the same recipe but added zest from two oranges. I have to say, it took them over the top! Not only are they so tasty you want to eat more and more, they are really quite pretty to look at. The red cranberries give the English pastry a little Christmas kick!

In order to avoid eating them all, I gave about half a dozen to Mika after the party. Needless to say, she is equally in love.

So Christmas morning, I'm whipping these guys up.


CRANBERRY ORANGE SCONES


INGREDIENTS:


BUTTER:

1 1/2 cups butter (no substitutes), softened

1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel


SCONES:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup butter (no substitutes)

1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

1 tablespoon of grated orange peel

3/4 cup buttermilk


DIRECTIONS:


In a mixing bowl, cream butter. Stir in cranberries, confectioners; sugar and orange peel; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cranberries and orange peel. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead 6-8 times. Divide in half. Pat each into an 8-in. circle. Cut into eight wedges. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans to wire racks. Serve warm with cranberry-orange butter.

Dec 18, 2010

Unbroken Song

It is a week before Christmas and all through the flat
Christmas songs are blaring so loud you can't chat!
I want to throw out one more Christmas song, or in this case album, that I find particularly lovely.
Christopher Williams is an indie Christian singer/songwriter that performed a few times at our church in Virginia. I simply love his entire album Unbroken Song. If I had the money I would buy every last one of my readers a cd. It is pretty special! His version of Drummer Boy is fabulous, definitely my favorite of that song, and every other song on the album is stinkin' good to. If I had to pick just one that makes my heart pitter patter it would be this old German carol Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming). Williams doesn't sing all the verses of the traditional carol but I've listed them here, because quite frankly, you need all the verses to get the whole story!


Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,
of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a flow’ret bright, amid the cold of winter,
when half-spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
when half-spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story, proclaimed by angels bright,
how Christ, the Lord of glory, was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found him,
as angel heralds said.

This flow’r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor the darkness ev’rywhere.
True man, yet very God; from sin and death he saves us
and lightens ev’ry load.

O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe;
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know,
bring us at length, we pray, to the bright courts of heaven
and to the endless day.

Dec 16, 2010

Revisited Classic

When I first heard Casting Crown's rendition of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, I didn't realize it was the same song that I had heard a million times before performed by numerous different artists. I recently listened to this song by Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Sarah McLachlan, Mercy Me and Jars of Clay and none come close to the beauty of Casting Crowns's version. One of my favorite Christmas songs!
Watch and listen to them perform this beautiful tune here.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they're singing
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men


And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they're ringing
Like a choir they're singing
And with our hearts we'll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

Dec 9, 2010

The Neighbor

I have the most helpful, friendly, giving neighbor ever in the history of all times. This is good right? Yes, and no. Neighbor doesn't know boundaries and this can be problematic.
Today, we were scraping the snow/ice off of Matt's car when this conversation popped up:
He told me I was "a sexy woman for being almost 40 and having two kids". Almost 40? I quickly corrected him proclaiming that am indeed on the lower end of the 30's and didn't ever want to hear him call me 40 again! Sexy? It is a little odd hearing that from your 60+ year old neighbor.
He also told me I didn't need a personal trainer because I had a great bikini body already. My inside voice said "run....scrape the snow later".
It is only fair that I comment on the great things too. He clears the snow off of our sidewalk, makes his kids mow and rake our lawn, lends us every tool ever imaginable, and ensures that nobody comes and goes from the house without us knowing about it.
My favorite quirky moments include ringing the doorbell at 10:30pm to ask for beer, calling Matt and I "Nate and Momma" because he doesn't know our names, and telling me that he is just sure he saw me at the sauna in Austria last weekend (sauna's are nude).
What can I say? I guess you take the good with the bad, keep your doors locked, and run for the hills if you don't have time for neighborly conversation!


Dec 6, 2010

You are the Light

I absolutely love, love, love this song. It is written by David Hodges. You can download it for free via this website. You'll have to search the list for the song title and then you can download or stream. I love the lyrics. I heard this song at our church in VA about 3 years ago and it just stuck with me.


The world lost in darkness
Dying to see the sunrise
A Savior will come

Heaven is waiting
Glimpses of mercy fading
A savior will come
We've waited so long

You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savor to all is with us tonight
You are the light. You are the light.

Bow in your presence surrounded by angels beaming
A savior has come
A candle to lead us
A flame to destroy the darkness
The Light of your love
Messiah has come

You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savior to all is with us tonight
You are the light.

Now the whole world will not be the same
Cause love has come down and grace has a name
The name of the child is Jesus Christ
You are the light.

Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia
Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savor to all is with us tonight

You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savior to all is with us tonight
You are the light.

Now the whole world will not be the same
Cause love has come down and grace has a name
The name of the child is Jesus Christ
You are the light.

You are the light. You are the light. You are the light

Dec 1, 2010

Ray Charles and The Spirit of Christmas

Nobody else can sing The Spirit of Christmas. It's Ray's song. Others may try, but they will fail...at least in my opinion. I absolutely love this song. It captures so many of the things that I love about Christmas.

Christmas is the time of year
For being with the one's we love
Sharing so much joy and cheer
What a wonderful feelin
Watching the one's we love
Having so much fun

I was sittin by the fire side
Taking a walk through the snow
Listening to a children's choir
Singing songs about Jesus
The blessed way that he came to us
Why can't it remain
All through the year
Each day the same
Heyeah, that's what I wanna hear
Heh heh
It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas

All the kin folk gather round
The lovely Christmas tree
Hearts are glowing full of joy
Sense the gifts that we're giving
And the love that we're living
Why can't it remain
Ohhh all through the year
Each day the same
Heyeah, that's what I wanna hear
I'll tell ya
It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas

Let me hear ya
Why can't it remain
All through the year
Each day the same
That's what I wanna hear
Listen to me
It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas
Ohhh It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas
Ain't it so
It's truly amazin
Yeah, that spirit of Christmas
Oh Christmas
Oh Christmas

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

Our Christmas Movie Marathon has begun! From now until Christmas we'll attempt to watch one movie a day. We have a few new movies for this year including Muppets A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street, and of coarse we'll watch the old classics and family favorites.
We are all looking forward to evenings filled with laughter as we enjoy spending time together as a family watching movies, laughing, and making memories.


Nov 28, 2010

Emmanuel

I love Christmas music. I love that I can type "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" into my iTunes library and then listen to 30 different versions of the classic song. I love when my favorite artists release a Christmas album with a mix of the classics and new song or two that I can add to my Christmas favorites.
I have a small addiction when it comes to buying Christmas music, although I have 43 albums on iTunes and another 20+ in my old CD case.... I want more. I peruse iTunes listening to samples and have to hold myself back from buying every last song that makes me smile.
Instead of spending a small fortune on 99 cent singles, I decided to review some of the songs I already have in my library. As a result of this being my blog and therefore having the freedom to write whatever I want, I have decided to force my reader(s) to enjoy a few of my favorite tunes.
And by the way, I found my pants.

Emmanuel by Chris Tomlin

What hope we hold this starlit night

A King is born in Bethlehem
Our journey long, we seek the light
That leads to the hallowed manger ground

What fear we felt in the silent age
Four hundred years can He be found
But broken by a baby's cry
Rejoice in the hallowed manger ground

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
God incarnate here to dwell
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Praise His name Emmanuel

The son of God, here, born to bleed
A crown of thorns would pierce His brow
And we beheld this offering
Exalted now the King of kings
Praise God for the hallowed manger ground

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
God incarnate here to dwell
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Praise His name Emmanuel
Praise His name Emmanuel

Oh, praise His name Emmanuel

Listen and Watch Chris Tomlin perform Emmanuel

Nov 27, 2010

The Season

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:2-4
This king was not born in a palace or dressed in fine linens, he wasn't treated any different than other kids running around town. Nothing about his appearance would make people desire him, and yet what he did for this world makes him the most desirable man in history. His birth provided the world a Savior, by his wounds we are healed and through his punishment peace is available to us. No other man or woman can make that claim.
Today is the first day of Advent, the season to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah in that manger a few thousand years ago and the promise that he will come again. This season is a time to remember the long period that the Hebrew people waited for their Messiah, and to remind ourselves that He is indeed coming back again.
As I finish up decorating the house, searching for Christmas gifts, and getting ready for Matt's mom's arrival, I'm trying to take time to remember all that Christmas is about. Not just the birth, the star, the shepherds, and the wisemen - but the Cross, the empty tomb, and the gift of salvation. Not just shipping, shopping, and cooking - but the joy of giving, celebrating, and eating! It is a whole giant package rolled up into one season. This is an exciting time of year!
At his birth, and in his life, he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, but one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is indeed Lord.


Nov 22, 2010

Starting Over

1997 was our first Christmas as a married couple.
That December Matt and I were invited to an ornament exchange. On the way home from work one day I stopped by the store and picked up an ornament. Unbeknownst to me, Matt also picked up an ornament on his way home from work. This was before we had cell phones. We had no communication with each other once we left the house!
Matt chose an Operation Santa ornament by Carlton Cards. It was a little bear inside a k-pot and it was dated 1997. I quickly nixed this as an exchange ornament because I didn't think anyone at the party would want an Army themed ornament. I decided to save it for our tree, it was an infantry guy and Matt was infantry so it made sense.
1998. Second Christmas. Matt is in school to become a Blackhawk Crew Chief. I found an ornament at the PX from the same Operation Santa series and decided to pick it up. This one was a Huey decorated with Christmas lights with Santa in the back. How fitting is that? Matt is working on helicopters and I found a helicopter ornament.
1999. For the third year in a row I picked up an ornament from Operation Santa. It is now declared a tradition. Every year from 1998 until 2009 I bought a helicopter ornament from the series. It was always fun to see which helicopter would be given the honor of ornament status. It was always the first ornament on our tree.
There were two years that I found another ornament to add to the collection. (I think it represents the signal corps.) In 2003, I found a reindeer dressed in BDUs on the phone. I bought the ornament and sent it to Matt in Iraq for his tree there. At the time, we thought the only Christmas greetings we would be able to give each other would be over the phone. Again in 2005 when Matt was in Korea, I found a reindeer on the phone.
This year as soon as I noticed Christmas cards and wrapping paper at the PX, I rushed over to snatch up my helicopter but there were none. There are no Operation Santa ornaments at any of the PX's within driving distance in Germany. In the place where my beloved ornaments were usually displayed, American Greetings has produced as sad attempt at honoring the troops with a series called "Proud to Serve" and quite frankly they are not cool.
We figured this day would come, the day where we must start over with a new family ornament, but I wasn't ready for it to be today. Now we are on the hunt for the new traditional ornament.

Nov 19, 2010

Are you kidding me?

51Fm928XImL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

This is the Lego Star Wars Death Star. It is made up of 3,803 lego pieces. It costs $399.99. And it is the number one item on Eli's Christmas list this year.

The thing that came to mind when I searched Amazon for "lego death star" was "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" Legos are still plastic right?

I noticed Eli doing something with his Christmas list today, and asked what was going on. He replied "Scratching off things that are not as important to me because I really, really, really, really, (it went on a long time) want a death star and it costs $399." I guess he was doing me a favor by eliminating all the other items on his list so that I wouldn't have to decide which items to get him.

When I first saw his list and noticed the excessively priced Lego items, I figured he just circled the items he wanted and didn't know how much they cost. But today, when I realized he knew the death star was nearly $400, I was shocked. How much does he think we spend on him for Christmas?

I took a calm cleansing breathe and sweetly said (you know me, I'm not actually sweet) "Eli, I guarantee you nobody in this world is getting you death star for Christmas so I think it is a good idea to go be upset now, so that you are not sad on Christmas morning." He cried.

I then explained that a bike, round trip airfare for four to just about anywhere in Europe, most appliances, an Ipad, a nice chair, 3 days of skiing, a camera, many computers.... all cost LESS than a pile of Legos and even if for some reason I had $400 to spend on him for Christmas I would surely buy one of many other things before even considering the death star.

His response "but mom, on Amazon it is $339.99".

"Sigh"

No sense of beating around the bush. "Eli, nobody is spending more than $100 on you."



Nov 17, 2010

Where are my pants?

I lost my pants. Not the ones I was wearing, but my very favorite, most comfortable, cute lounge pants. I'm not happy about this.
Sometimes I find an item that I love so much I just can't imagine any other brand or style coming close to how wonderful it is. Such is true with my pants. Also true of my very favorite ever in the whole world slippers. I wear slippers 95% of the time I'm at home, and since I am a stay at home mom, that amounts to a whole lot of time. I have a lot of requirements for slippers. I want them to be warm enough to keep my feet warm in the winter but cool enough that I can wear them in the summer. They have to have some sort of tread on the bottom because I have wood floors and death stairs. I also want them to be thin on the bottom, I don't want to feel like I'm walking on a pillow. And lastly, it would be nice if they were at least slightly cute because as mentioned before I wear them all the time. I found such slippers over a year ago. They are excessively priced but absolutely perfect. They are cute Mary Jane style wool slippers with a nice little arch support yet lightweight sole. They look like comfy granola shoes not like little satiny grandma slippers (sorry grandma) I love them. I love them so much that after I bought my first pair, I bought a pair as a gift to Rachael, my fellow slipper lovin' friend, and bought myself a backup pair in case something horrific happened and they were no longer available to me. Good thing I bought that back up because turns out 9 months into pair one, they got a hole and I had to break out the second pair. Much to my horror, my second pair now has a hole in them. I checked out Amazon to replace them and they are no longer available. I looked high and low all over internet-land and had no luck. I'm mending these bad boys, I can't imagine life without them.
Such is the case with my lost pants. Not only did I lose my pants, but I can't get them anymore because they are no longer sold in stores. I hate that. They were purple, with an elastic/drawstring waist, capri length, and had a little "cute factor" added with a cinched band just below my knee. So comfy, so cute, so gone. I think I left them in Garmisch. It is the only practical explanation for their disappearance. It doesn't make the loss any easier, but now that I've determined the last time I wore them, I can justify calling off the search party of all my drawers, closets and laundry baskets.


Nov 16, 2010

34

I turned 34.
My birthday was November 1st. That morning I woke up around 8am in a hotel in Garmisch, Germany. Sleeping next to me was my favorite 6 year old, Gabriel. Eli was in a bed across the room and Matt was in London. The boys and I dined at the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby. Eli noticed that I seemed a little too excited for breakfast and made some comment about how giddy I was. He doesn't understand that I LOVE breakfast and what I love more than breakfast, is breakfast that is hot, that I didn't have to cook! I ate hot waffles, bacon, a made to order omelet, other random breakfast items, and drank coffee and orange juice. I loved it. After the morning feast we hopped in the oversized spa outside to relax from the caloric overload then I watched the boys frolic in the indoor pool in the hotel basement. We checked out of the hotel at noon and sauntered through town before finding the perfect spot for lunch....Pizza Hut. What can I say? The boys were choosing and they can't resist good ol' American greasy pizza. After we finished our lunch, we strolled back through town, took a walk in the park and then loaded up for our drive back home. Seems like an uneventful, yet delightful way to spend a 34th birthday.
October 31st is my sister-in-law's birthday but I didn't call her. Instead, I woke up, loaded the boys in the car and headed to Zugspitze. Zugspitze is the highest peak in Germany and it is where I wanted go to celebrate my birthday. We took a cog-wheel train up to a cable car, and then the cable car on up to the top of the world (the German world). All day I was praying for beautiful weather. The problem with the peaks of the Alps is that they are only enjoyable if you can actually see something once you get there. Clouds were threatening to sock in my view, but they stayed parted long enough for me to see what I came to see, the glorious, beautiful Alps from the tippy top. Once the wind started threatening to blow us over the edge and the clouds began to disrupt our view, we headed down the mountain by way of a cable car. We stomped around the lake at the bottom a little, the boys made their best snowballs out of dirty old snow and then we headed to the hotel to check in, get dinner, and go swimming. All I have to say about this day is, I was on top of the world and it was beautiful.
October 28th is not really an important day. I brought snacks to Eli's class for a fall party, worked with my Awana group, and was very glad to be home at 6pm after a long, busy, day. I pulled into the carport and noticed right away that something was up, Madison and Grace were in the playground behind my house. That's odd. When I opened the door to my house, a few friends' heads poked around the corner and I heard a little voice say "Happy Birthday?" It took a few seconds and then it all made sense. Kids in playground belong to parents in house who are here for a surprise birthday celebration a little early because all the guys were leaving for London tomorrow. I got it.
Mika made a delicious meal for Matt and I, her and Tom, and our friends Alton and Katrina. As a bonus, Matt put a movie on upstairs so the kids would be occupied for our adult dinner. After dinner we had cupcakes, the kids sang a beautiful rendition of "Happy Birthday" complete with very excited "cha cha cha" accents, I opened thoughtful gifts, and we ended the night by rockin' out to the Beatles via karaoke/guitar hero. Good times.
So, I turned 34.
(Here is a link to some photos. Password ourphotos )

Nov 15, 2010

Apples and Oranges

My computer developed a long red line on the screen about 4 weeks ago. I turned it off and then back on again hoping that the long line was just a bad dream, but it was real. I instantly got a headache, called Matt whining, and then stewed about how such a thing could happen to a young pup of a computer. My Mac is only 10 months old!
No worries. It is an iMac! It took a few weeks to determine where the closest Apple Service center was, and another week or so to make time to go there, but last Thursday Matt went to the shop in Mannheim, made hand gestures describing the problem and today I have my computer back.
What did it cost for the repair? Nothing.
Headache trying to convince them to do warranty work? No.
Paperwork? None.
This is why we have Apples and not Oranges.

Oct 29, 2010

I Celebrate the Day

I love Christmas music.
If I was forced to choose between the twinklyness of Christmas or Christmas music, it would be a tough call but I would have to go for the music. I simply love it.
We have a standing rule in our house that you cannot play, sing, or hum Christmas tunes until after Thanksgiving. Although that used to mean the day after Thanksgiving, now it is highly likely that the music begins to play upon completion of our Thanksgiving meal.
New Christmas albums are always one of my first holiday purchases. I scour the internet for new albums and snatch up anything that melts my heart. We have about 40 albums to choose from, but my favorite are the Denton Christmas Mix. Each year our friends Wesley and Kari put together a fabulous collection of new and old songs, country, rock, children's songs and classics. The albums are super! I impatiently wait for the latest edition and try to guess what kind of magic the Dentons are creating with their Christmas mix.
I digress.
A few days ago a Christmas tune popped into my head illegally, and I can't get it out. It is called "I Celebrate the Day" performed by Reliant K, a Christian rock band. I like the song, and I particularly love the lyrics. One of my favorite lines is "And I, I celebrate the day That You were born to die So I could one day pray for You to save my life." This is what it is about people. Magical lyrics, set to rockin' tunes, telling the world about Christ's arrival into the grand scheme of life. Awesome.
26 days until Christmas music.

Oct 20, 2010

Even If...

A few nights ago Matt and I were having a deep philosophical conversation. I'm sure that seems shocking considering the antics we are usually up to, but I can assure you every once in a while we get serious. Although I can't prove that this conversation took place, I just ask you to trust me on this one.
Matt and I were talking about faith and the role that it plays in our daily lives and through difficult situations. We believe that God can protect us from harm and living in fear of something bad happening to us or our family is essentially choosing not to have faith. Worry and stress over situations that we cannot control is actively choosing not to believe that God has every aspect of our lives in his hands.
Matt summed it up well with a reference to the three men in the fiery furnace. He said "and then, just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 'if God chooses not to save us then so be it'." That is not an officially approved translation but it gets to the point.
In Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were standing before the king to account for their actions of not worshiping idols. They said to the king "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
Now that is faith. The three amigos knew God could save them but they also knew that God gets to decide if He wants to or not. They knew that God may choose not to save them from a fiery death but they were still willing to stand before the King and denounce his idols. They said "fine throw us in the furnace, God can save us...but even if he doesn't, he will use us to his glory. The bible is full of stories where bad things happened to people who had faith in God, there are also stories where God intervened and performed miracles.
Faith in God is about knowing in my heart that he can spare me from pain, deliver me from trials, heal my body, my mind, and my heart but even if he doesn't he is still God, he still loves me and I will still worship him.

Oct 17, 2010

House Pictures

Click here to view these pictures larger

We moved into our new place a few months ago but I finally took pictures last night. I was going to wait until it was decorated and clean but at this rate, it may not happen for another year or so, so I snapped these shots and called it good enough.
To see the pictures full size and read all my explanatory captions you may need to log in to our shutterfly site by clicking the above link. The password is "ourphotos". There are other albums on the site for your viewing pleasure as well.

Oct 13, 2010

Mario Sepulveda

Mario Sepulveda was the second Chilean miner to escape from the pit of the earth and rise to freedom this morning. He jumped out of the escape hatch and was shouting, jumping for joy, hugging people, and even handing out souvenir rocks to the rescuers. 69 days he and the other miners were trapped. 69 days of wondering if and when they would make it home.

What does it take to live in those horrible conditions for 69 days? How tough is it to be essentially buried alive? I was struck by Mr. Sepulveda's comments on his ordeal. He was quoted as saying "I was with God and with the devil. And I reached out for God." I'm sure he was feeling hopeful and in good spirits at times while other times he was feeling darkness and despair weighing heavily on and around him. In the end he chose to reach out for the one who gave him hope.

I was moved by this simple statement because Sepulveda acknowledged the spiritual battle that was taking place within him. Although most of us are not trapped a half mile below the earth, we face situations where we find ourselves in a spiritual tug-o-war between God and the devil. Oh the devil is there, but it is simply our choice to reach out for the one who gives us life, hope, and peace. It is our responsibility to reach out for the one who gives us freedom. It is our choice in the smallest or gravest circumstances to choose to reach out to Jesus Christ.

Oct 10, 2010

Hobnail

This is a hobnail milk glass cake plate and I want it. Why? Because I find it uniquely cool and my grandma has some hobnail milk glass so when I see it I think of her.

I can't call myself a collector or enthusiast because I don't actually own a single piece, but I am on the hunt at thrift stores and flea markets. I hope to have a little collection of functional funky serving dishes in the near future.

Oct 5, 2010

Tuscan Cooking Lessons

The ad for our Florentine Villa said they offered Tuscan cooking lessons with Teresa. Not only do you learn secret family recipes for a four course meal, but after you cook it, you get to eat it! Terri and I made arrangements to meet Teresa in her 17th century kitchen for some cooking lessons, lots of sampling, and some wine.
The sun shone in the window of her kitchen and bounced off of the red tile roofs that were stacked against the hillside. The kitchen was small and warm but inviting. It was so beautiful, surely something magical would happen in there.
We jumped right into making a chocolate cake with apples and pears. When I asked if the fruit could be substituted for strawberries or raspberries, I was quickly reprimanded. "NO NO NO" Teresa said "only the apple and the pear". Teresa's English isn't so great but she really gets her point across. You absolutely cannot freeze pasta or focaccia dough, and don't you dare substitute berries in her Great Grandmothers chocolate cake!
We made chocolate cake and pasta noodles from scratch, followed by the filling for cannelloni, some herbed something or other meat dish, and got lessons on how to make the most delicious focaccia bread/pizza crust I have ever tasted in my life.
After we "helped" prepare dinner we were released to enjoy a glass of wine on the terrace overlooking the city of Florence and the family's olive grove. Later, Matt, the boys, and Matt's dad joined us on the terrace for dinner. The view was simply amazing. The weather was perfect. And the food ... oh the food was incredible. All of the herbs and vegetables are grown on the property, and the bread and pasta were so fresh they melted in your mouth. I'll never eat at Olive Garden again and something tells me it will be a long time before I have a terrace dining experience like that again either.
I doubt I'll be able to make any of the recipes we learned in Teresa's kitchen, but cooking and eating there will always be sweet memories for me.

Sep 25, 2010

Once Upon a Time...

Scratch that! This is not a "once upon a time" type story.
I stood on the corner of some street on the outskirts of Milan, Italy and let the hundreds of thoughts pass through my brain. The first moments were overwhelming as I discovered one by one what was missing: our window, Matt's bike, Matt's bag of favorite things (computer, iPad, PSP, iPod), the boys' back packs, Eli's DS, Matt's jacket, make that everyone's jackets, our luggage, our overnight bag, everything, everything except the groceries.
Since taking inventory of what we loss was becoming too overwhelming, we decided to take inventory of what we had: the clothes Matt and I were wearing, passports, money, credit cards, a lot of food, a blender, our phones, and a GPS. We also had a bunch of shoes, Matt's bike clothes, the boys' suitcase and our Oktoberfest outfits. These were all safely tucked away in our cargo rack on the roof and inaccessible to the thieves. We pulled ourselves together a bit and made a game plan.
After stopping by a local Police station, finding plastic and tape to put a temporary fix on the window, gassing up, and getting cash, we hit the road. A few hours later, our weary family arrived at a beautiful Villa overlooking the city of Florence. We were welcomed by Matt's dad and Terri and two of the biggest dogs I have ever not been eaten by in my life.
We unloaded the van, recounted the story and took a deep breathe. We made it.
Maybe not in one piece but we made it. We were quickly supplied with some clothes to wear while we washed the ones we had on, soap and shampoo to get the day off of us, and a nice glass of wine.
What happened in the next 24 hours is a blur of phone calls, roaming the streets of Florence to supply our closets with some clothes, filing a police report, and trying to translate containers of toiletries in an effort to find deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and soap.
Why did we press on? We had a vacation to get to. Turning back wouldn't get us anything, so we hoped that a week in Italy would lessen the pain of one of the most lucrative smash-n-grabs of all time.
This is a photo of our room at the Villa once we got settled in. Note that the only thing in the room is a pile of stuff on the chair. Our "luggage" was a portion of a toiletry bag that contained: nail clippers, pomade, 2 hair clips, Advil, my medication, and a travel container of Bandaids. There is also a pair of Matt's swim shorts and flip-flops - lucky guy.
This experience has taught me a hard lesson about what I need and what I think I need. On the practical side, I have an entirely new idea about what to pack for a weekend getaway or even a 10 day vacation. My life lesson is that I am carrying way more baggage than I need...both literally and figuratively. I may not have been wearing the outfits I wanted to, I had no make-up on, and my hair was definitely not a "do" but I was walking around the streets of Florence with my family and none of that stuff really mattered. I tend to carry things that I think will make me feel or look better, I tend to carry things that I think I can control, I carry things that will not make the Eulogy at my funeral. There is beauty and peace in simplicity and it is a path I plan to walk down.
Once upon a time, a family drove to Italy and had a great time.

Sep 21, 2010

Where to begin?

Eli's birthday and first day of 3rd grade, trip to the French Alps, Gabe's first day of Kindergarten and 10 days of travel from home to Milan, Florence, Munich and back home. This is what I've been up to. However, the details of some of these little adventures are just too juicy to skip over, even though it may be October by the time I get to them.
Trying to get back in to the habit of spilling my guts on my blog. I think my next entry will be about how to pull it together when you are left standing with nothing more than the clothes on your back and the money in your wallet.
Stay tuned.

Aug 25, 2010

Behind the Pictures

Over the past few days I have been switching out pictures from my frames and reorganizing how I am hanging our picture frames. In the process I have found myself lost in memories as I look at the pictures, not the ones on display but the ones I keep behind the pictures.
I never take pictures out of frames, I simply put the most recent one in the front and move the rest to the back. Today, I glanced at the first photo studio shot taken of Gabe at 2 weeks. There were pictures of my nieces, my family, my kids, and Matt and I. Years and years of pictures were hiding behind that glass. I found it so interesting that the really good ones, the ones that jog memories and reveal someone from a different time and place, are the ones hiding.
Maybe I need to start displaying the old ones?

Aug 23, 2010

We've Moved

Our new address is 40 Grant Circle. We have 3 toilets. The end.
In the past 15 days we have successfully transferred all of our possessions from apartment 1-A Jackson to the new place on Grant, went to a friend's musical theatre production, attended the Weinheim Fest (for the second year in a row), went to a U2 concert, cleaned out the old apartment, and decorated the new house....well mostly.
We've been busy.



Aug 9, 2010

Cops and Robbers. Cowboys and Indians.

Nazis and Jews? Uh oh.
It is hard to live in Germany and see so many historic sites without talking to the kids about Nazis and their hatred for Jews. We've taken the boys to the Nazi Documentation Center in Nurnberg, to the Topography of Terror exhibit in Berlin, the Jewish Culture Museum in Berlin, and a number of other sites that have incited conversation about Hitler and Nazis. We haven't talked about concentration camps yet, but still the boys know that Nazi's didn't like Jews and that was a big problem during World War II.
Today the boys were playing and since the apartment is mostly empty (due to the move) they have nothing to play with other than their imagination. Sure enough, leave it to Gabe to start a new game of Nazi's and Jews. He was a Nazi and decided that Eli was a Jew and must be arrested.
Shock and horror overwhelmed me. What is my child thinking? Then I realized he is just playing out what he is learning about. Some kids hear stories of cops and robbers. Other hear about cowboys and indians. Mine have recently heard a lot about Nazis and Jews.
We had a quick intervention and then Matt and I realized we better prepare a strategy for damage control before Gabe starts playing with the neighbor kids.
This child keeps me on my toes.

Aug 6, 2010

Paint Flies

Painting is not my strong suit. Actually, painting isn't even in my closet. I can get the job done, but it won't be pretty and I leave an almost unbelievable path of destruction by the time I am finished.
When we painted nearly every room in our apartment a different color, we knew that we would have to paint it all back to white before we moved. I wasn't bothered by that at all because after three years of hanging pictures, marks, scuffs and dents...chances are the walls would need painted anyway. I figured a little work would be worth having our home feel inviting and warm. However, instead of there being three years in between paint layers, it is down to one and since I was the one who insisted upon painting those pretty colors, I'm the one who has to paint the white.
I started this project yesterday and in just a few hours the dining room was transformed from a beautiful goldish warm happy place to an ugly white walled cavernous hole. And the floor was transformed from a light, shiny wood to a white speckled sticky mess.
My sister can paint in her good clothes, doesn't need to tape off the baseboards or ceiling, and the only drop of paint that will get on her or in the wrong spot is the drop that I slung at her. I just don't have those skill sets. Apparently, I get paint on my feet and then walk around the house leaving a trail of white spots, and although I did tape off the baseboards and had a drop cloth on the ground there is still paint everywhere. I won't even try to describe the mess on my arms and hands and my mom would have a heart attack if she saw the condition of the brush and roller. But, I am a few walls down and a few more to go to having this place turned back into an institutional cave.
While painting I came across something very disturbing. A mass of Fruit flies in my kitchen. Perhaps the more disturbing thing is that I actually left out a bowl of fruit...overnight, but I would like to shift the blame from myself and direct it to the fruit. The scene was soo disgusting I actually questioned if the flies were already in the fruit and just spawned when the fruit was left out or if they just smell the rotting fruit and come from miles away to infect my kitchen. I realize it is not the former but again, I would like to shift the blame. I quickly got the fruit out of the house but I was still left with those itsy bitsy flies. I decided there was no point in trying to kill them all, so I pressed on with my painting project. All was well until the flies got too close to the wall and now I have flies stuck to my wall.
This is why I shouldn't do projects....or be held responsible for putting away leftovers.

Aug 4, 2010

2:00am

The other day my sister told me that she was having trouble sleeping, her mind was racing about things she couldn't control and all that thinking and worrying was keeping her up. So, she came up with a brilliant plan: instead of stewing about her issues. . . she would think about mine. Apparently, she thought my issues would be so boring that she would quickly fall asleep. It didn't work, but I'm totally giving her Kudos for her creative solution.
I'm awake and it is 2:00am. The windows are open and a cool breeze is blowing through the house and the sound of light rain drops fill the air. One may think that these are two very good components in the recipe for good sleep, but one would be wrong.
There are a few reasons why I may not be able to sleep but none of them involve stress or stewing: I had cappuccino after dinner, my friend found a pair of Adorable brand spankin' new Keen shoes for Gabe at our thrift store for ONE dollar and dropped them off on my doorstep -but they don't fit, I have a neck ache, I didn't work out today so I'm a little irritated with myself, and I played Angry Birds before bed time. Yes, I fell off the Angry Bird wagon. That is probably why my neck hurts too, looking down at that darn screen trying to kill that green guy with the bird.
Since I'm up I figured I should do something valuable with my time like write an incredibly insightful blog. However, as I sit staring at my keyboard I realize that although I am awake at 2am, I'm not really insightful.
But I can update you on what has been on our minds the past 15 days. Moving. Before you get too freaked out, we are not leaving Germany. We currently live in a little apartment with one toilet. The size of the apartment, not really a huge issue, but the one toilet thing is incredibly irritating. Long story short, there are some duplexes on post that are set aside for higher ranking people. Two weeks ago the Garrison changed policy and authorized people of Matt's rank to move over there. In order to do so we had to jump through some hoops and peel off layers and layers of red tape and finally yesterday we got the official word that we are approved to move. However, the tape and hoops took so long that there is no longer a house available for us. They put us on the waiting list today and expect that a house should become available any day now. Praise God! The process was really frustrating because everything was taking way longer than it seemed like it should which cast doubts about whether or not we would get approved and every day I would wake up wondering if it was going to be moving day. As of today, we are first on the waiting list and should be assigned one of the four houses that are undergoing some routine maintenance as soon as it is complete.
It almost got ridiculously ugly today when the housing lady told Matt that we had to have two years left on our orders to qualify for the move. We just hit our one year mark this past Saturday meaning we are now inside of two years. Matt was taking a deep breathe in order to completely blow a gasket when the housing lady so kindly said "well, you did start this process quite a while ago so we'll go ahead and move forward". Whew. We turned our paperwork in on July 23 and there was a house available. Our one year mark was July 31. A house was still available all the way up until August 2, but we didn't get our paperwork signed by all 2343 people who had to sign it until August 3. And this really is the short version of the story.
Right now we are thankful that our request was approved and looking forward to moving into a 4 bedroom 2.5 bathroom duplex down the street as soon as it becomes available. We are praying that this happens soon, not just because we want to get this ball rolling but we also want to make sure nobody gets crazy about us no longer having a full two years left here.
It is now 2:30am and I'm still wide awake. I'm going to take some Aleeve for the headache and try thinking about Katina's problems - maybe I'll get to sleep after all.

Jul 29, 2010

Just like Dibs

About 5 years ago Mika introduced me to a little treat found in the freezer section called Dibs. They are little balls of chocolate covered ice cream and they are darn tasty. You don't need a spoon, just reach your hand in the container, pull out some dibs and pop them in your mouth. I tasted them for the first time in Nov 2005. I remember the exact time that I tasted them because it was a difficult period for me. Once I sampled the loveliness of the little dib, I lost all self-control with regards to eating them and it got ugly. I drew the line when one day I realized that my dinner consisted of a can of Coke and a carton of Dibs. I vowed to never eat a dib again. Oh people have tried to break me, but I've stood firm and can honestly say that I only consumed two in the past 5 years. One, Matt physically shoved in my mouth, and the other was just a few days ago. There was a carton in the freezer for weeks and I finally caved and ate one. OK two.
I was recently introduced to Angry Birds. If you don't know what Angry Birds is, take my advise and do not look it up. Don't test it out. Don't under any circumstances download this game to your phone. It has lead to the downfall of all mankind. Maybe not all mankind but at least me. Matt showed me this game on his phone and said "oh you are going to love this game, it is so addicting". Why would I love something addicting? Who knows but I got sucked in and have lost hours of my life and endured serious pain in my neck from hovering over the phone to play this game. To make matters worse, Matt downloaded it to his Ipad and so now I can play it on the super-screen.
I have to draw the line again, just like with the dibs. Clearly, I don't have the self control required for this evil evil game. I'm done. I'm throwing in the towel. No more tossing birds at frogs. Game Over.

Jul 27, 2010

Why stones?

In the story of David and Goliath, a young shepherd boy takes on a 9ft giant and wins. This is a huge victory on its own, but particularly awesome in that David destroyed this giant with just 5 stones and a slingshot. David was out matched in size, strength and weaponry, and yet he was victorious over Goliath and the entire Philistine Army.
Did you ever wonder why he used stones? He was a shepherd boy and part of his job was to protect the sheep from predators. In those days, a slingshot and some stones worked quite well. When David decided to take on this giant who was mocking his God, he used what he regularly used, he chose the weapon that had become second nature to employ, the tool that was required for him to do his job with the flocks of sheep. He used a slingshot and stones to take down a giant.
Why is this spectacular? Because God designed us with certain sets of skills and personality traits, he gave us strengths and talent. And it is those things that are the tools to use to do His work.
God didn't expect David to quickly train up to use a sword, or to manufacture artillery or any other type of weapon to take on Goliath, he expected David to use what he was already using.
This is what we are expected to do. We are called to use the things already at our disposal to reach out to others, to do God's will, and to take down Giants.

Jul 26, 2010

Patience is NOT a virtue....be anxious in ALL things

It isn't Biblical but it is my reality.
While waiting and wondering what the outcome of a particularly frustrating situation will be, I've managed to make myself sick and spend 3 nights tossing and turning rather than resting peacefully. I'm tired of waiting and anxious to find out answers - and I fear my inability to just let it go, is causing me physical and mental harm.
Moses went up on the mountain to talk to God and was gone for about 6 weeks. In those six weeks the Israelites lost their faith and turned to other gods. God had been faithful to them to bring them out of Egypt, he gave them food and water, and he provided the closest thing to a GPS in those days to lead them to the promised land. And yet 6 weeks was all it took for them to turn away from their deliverer and find something to satisfy their immediate desires.
It is easy to mock those crazy Israelites. I mean really, 6 weeks? However today, I find myself making too many visits to the toilet and in a state of complete mental incapacitation after just 4 days. No, I'm not turning away from God, but I surely am not resting in the assurance that he actually has this in his hands. Have I forgotten all that He has done for me and all he has brought us through after just 4 days of waiting and wondering?

Jul 18, 2010

Where has the summer gone?

I can't believe our summer vacation is just about half over. It has flown by so fast...but for good reasons. The last 5 weeks have been filled with travel, trips to the schwimbad, and good times with family and friends. Oh and I should mention a 2.5 week heat wave!
After our trips to Berlin and Belgium we stayed close to the house for a week while we visited a local pool, went into Mannheim to watch Germany destroy England in the World Cup, and the boys and I went to Velberg to visit my friend Katie and her family for 2 days while Matt headed off to Kosovo for a week. Matt's trip took him through Croatia with a 2 day pit-stop in Dubrovnik. Apparently, it is the most beautiful place on earth. If I ever make it down there, I'll do my best to confirm or deny that allegation.
By July 4th Matt was back home and I was on my way to the airport to pick up my cousins. We celebrated Independence Day with a Mexican fiesta? Yes we did. After all, we were celebrating American independence while in Germany, why not throw in Mexican food for the feast?
We spend the 5th of July at the schwimbad with our friends the Mlacks, the Lusks, and my cousins. We couldn't have asked for a better day. We were surrounded by good friends, family, and a relaxing day at the pool.
Matt headed back to work while the boys and I took my cousins down to Rothenberg and Nurnberg for the day, then I sent them off to Heidelberg, we went into Mannheim again to watch Germany lose to Spain in the semi-finals of the World Cup, headed up to Berg Eltz on the Mosul river, and finished off the week with another visit to the schwimbad. Whew! Matt was back in Kosovo again so, the boys and I, my friend Katrina, and the Enright clan took on Paris without him. We took the high-speed train from Mannheim to Paris. Last November we drove to Paris with my sister and family and it took us about 6 hours. This trip on the ICE train took us 3! The first 1.5 hours are not so fast as we travel through cities and have a few stops, however once we cleared Saarbruken the train was going 189 miles per hour. It was awesome! I of coarse got sick, because I do that on trains and boats, but being sick for an hour was totally worth getting to Paris in 3. On the way back I hopped up on Dramamine, Maloxx and took a nap and all was well.
We returned from Paris tired and ready to do nothing for a day...so naturally we went to the schwimbad again. It was truly a wonderful day. We brought blankets and a picnic and alternated spending time in the pool with playing games in the shade and taking naps. It was a very relaxing day and I think a great way to end the Enright's vacation.
Wednesday I took the Enrights to the airport, headed to the schwimbad with friends and then enjoyed a fabulous thunder storm that night. The heat wave finally broke. After 2+ weeks of near 100 degree temperatures with no air-conditioning as a reprieve - this was a welcome thunder storm.
Thursday morning my girlfriends and I plotted our attack on Portugal for our 1st girls only trip, and Matt and I had the pleasure of having lunch with some friends who were passing through Germany on their way to Italy for vacation.
The weekend was cool and quiet. A great time to be refreshed for another week. This week will be dedicated to our summer school program here at home, and doing my best to let boredom set in so that everyone is ready for whatever excitement next week will bring.