Jan 29, 2010

I'm a Mac

The first computer I can remember using was my dad's Apple II. It was a little cube with a green screen and had a rainbow colored Apple logo. We graduated to the Apple 2C at home, while I used Apple 2E's in the computer lab at my elementary school, and we eventually upgraded to the Apple LC (I think) at home and school. As I was testing the waters of graphic design, I quickly learned that there wasn't another contender in the industry and all of our work was done on Apples.Then the Apple season came to an end. Matt and I finally saved up enough money to buy our own computer and it was a PC. What can I say? We were poor and we were buying our first computer around the time that Apple was tanking.
Then last summer our laptop battery died and it was going to cost $150 to replace it. Since the laptop was about 8 years old and weighed 30lbs, we decided to just buy a new one. We planned to spend about $500 to buy a new laptop . . . . Our new found love of the iphone, ipod touch, and ipod helped convince us that Apple technology is just smarter. . . so we joined the Mac family again with a macbook. So much for that $500 laptop.
Two days after Matt fell in love with his macbook, he decided that when we replaced our desktop, it would be with a Mac. I didn't comment. Our desktop is only a few years old, so we wouldn't be crossing that bridge for a while.
But, a few days ago Matt came home from work and said "I want to buy a new BWM this summer." I explained that the BMW he has is perfectly fine and we are NOT going to buy a new one this summer.
But, since we were talking about "wants" I said "I want a Mac." This is the point where he should have said "you have a desktop that works perfectly fine and we are not buying an iMac " but he didn't, instead he said "OK."
And today, he brought me home my very own really cool iMac. I still have no idea how to use it. Since I am fluent in M*&^oso&t and speak very little Mac, it is going to take some time to adjust, but learning the new language will be worth it. Yep, I'm a Mac.

An Apple a Day keeps the virus away!

Jan 27, 2010

A Dark Day

Today was a dark day.
It didn't start off bad. I walked Eli to school in the snow, came home made a fresh pot of coffee, drank coffee, checked email and news, watched Gabe play so sweetly that I canceled homeschool so he could continue his battle between his M&M Nutcracker and newly constructed Lego beast. . . . all good things.
And then around 4pm I went down to the laundry room to switch the wash to the dryers and the sky grew dark, a wind howled through the trees, an ominous cloud moved into place right above the apartment building and my world came to an end. Not THE world, but MY world.
For the past 4 months we have enjoyed a peaceful coexistence with our awesome neighbors. We have mutual respect for keeping the noise down, keeping common areas clean, and taking care of laundry in a timely manner. With just two families in a stairwell of 6 apartments, we have room to spread out a little. We each have our areas for laundry supplies, shoes, clothes that hang dry, bikes, and extra storage items. We take turns cleaning our spare bathroom, and we take note when someone leaves their car lights on or car door open. It is a good situation, it is a fabulous situation!
I should say, WAS a fabulous situation. Today on the way down to the laundry room I noticed someone struggling to get in the front door. At first I thought it was my neighbor's daughter but then, I realized it was new neighbors.
Horrified, I helped them in offered to help unload their car, introduced myself and then raced down to the laundry room in a panic. They are invading our territory. They were not invited to live here. Eli sensed by bewilderment and asked "mom are you mad that those people are moving in?" Uh yeah!
I finished the laundry and came inside my apartment. My thoughts became flashes of messy, loud, rude people taking over our little peaceful stairwell. I was outraged.
I grabbed some books that I borrowed from my neighbor and headed upstairs. I knocked, she invited me in and I exclaimed "we have new neighbors!"
Down from my fit, I realize I was overreacting a tad. I don't have to move my stuff or rearrange my laundry schedule. Other than passing them in the hall and in the laundry room, I probably won't even notice they are here. Maybe it will be a good thing.
To be continued . . .

Jan 25, 2010

Parking 101

Within a few days of turning 16 I took my drivers test. I passed with a 99%. My only deduction was for converting a "3-point turn" into a 5 point turn. Not bad.
While I am a pretty good driver, I'm a horrible parker. I have never successfully parallel parked my car with an actual obstacle in front and in back of it and the only time I have ever attempted to park on the street has been when there is enough room for about 5 cars. And even then, it looks like a 10 year old parked because my van is sticking out into the road, on the curb or possibly facing against traffic.
Parallel parking sends me into a little panic attack, even if I am not the driver. The scenario goes like this: Matt approaches potential parking spot, I start freaking out, I close my eyes and scream "Matt Matt Matt Matt", and then I bail out of the car and wait on the curb until Matt finishes parking.
I also have serious issues with parking the van in general. I will park a million miles away to avoid a tight parking situation and when I do get in a tight spot I convince myself that there is no way I can get out of a parking spot without hitting the cars beside and behind me. I once sat in a parking lot for about 10 minutes waiting for people to return to their cars and leave so I could leave. I finally gave in and backed out.
Today, I had a parking panic moment. I parked on the street (more like an alley) in front of my friend's house. No worries, there were no cars in front or behind me. But, when he came time to leave there was trouble. The street was a dead end and there was no turn-around. I was in the van, there was snow on the ground and the alley was so narrow - how was I going to get out? Easy, pull into a driveway and then back around. Wrong. Not easy. The driveways here are insanely narrow with pretty brick columns on each side. So, I pull into a driveway and start to maneuver my beast around in order to turn around when panic sets in.
"I can't make it, I'll be stuck on this street forever. I'm going to block traffic and die here." I didn't have time to panic though because Eli was minutes from getting out of school and I had to get the van turned around and home fast.
I did a 35 point turn and was headed back up the street when I realized my friend was standing out in her driveway the whole time watching me. I left a hat in her house and she walked out to the street to give it to me when I passed by, but I wasn't passing by. I was having a panic attack 4 doors down in her neighbors driveway. The shame. The horror. The disgust.
Raise your hand if I have jumped out of the van and required YOU to park my car for me. Raise your hand if I forced you to get the van out of a parking spot for me. Raise your hand if you were in the van with me when I had a panic attack and accepted the fact that we would just have to stay in the van forever? Anyone? Put your hands down, I know who you are.
What is my problem? I need to take Parking 101. I need to learn how to park so that I don't end up freaking out in parking lots and narrow streets. The van isn't getting any skinnier and the roads and parking spots here are not getting any wider. I must learn how to park!

Jan 20, 2010

Little Things

I have been on Eli's case about chewing his nails and fingers for over a year now. He has always been a little nail biter, and when those are gone, he goes for the skin around his nails. It is nasty, I know, I should have a *graphic content* warning. I didn't really notice how bad it was until he got out of the tub one day, and his little shriveled tub-fingers revealed all the places where skin was missing. I begged him to please stop.
I know it is hard to break a habit like that, but I continually stressed the importance of trying. The funky stuff he touches was in his mouth, germs, disease, plain old dirt. Yuck.
About a month ago, out of the blue, Eli said "mom, look at my fingers". I looked expecting to see his dirty and extremely short nails, but to my surprise I saw healthy little 7 year old fingers. They were still a little dirty, he is a boy after all, but other than a little nail dirt, they were beautiful. I actually cut his nails for the first time in over 4 years.
So, I made him a deal. If he could keep it up and not chew his nails for the whole month of January, I would buy him a DS game. He is just 2 weeks away from a new game, and a broken habit. It is a little thing, but I am so proud of him.
A few months ago I sat down with Gabe in the school room and read from the script in our new reading curriculum. It went like this:
Say this to your child
"I am going to teach you to read. We're going to work every day for about fifteen minutes. The work is hard, but I think you can do it ......"
Gabe cut me off and said "I don't want to read!!!" and threw a pencil at me.
There was no information in my curriculum on how do deal with THAT response.
But we worked on it anyway. Just 15-20 minutes a day, on a good day. Some days were longer because Gabe had to throw a fit and "quit school" a few times before we could get through the lesson.
This week something magical happened. Gabe read "sat". And then he read "see", "eat", "ram", and a few other words. He was so excited, he didn't want to stop. Today we did three lessons because he just wanted to keep going. He is sounding out words and actually enjoying it. He is writing really well and actually asks for more homework. He still gets a little frustrated when things get hard, but he is on his way to reading and learning to control his response to being faced with academic challenges.
He doesn't have to read right now, he will start kindergarten in the fall and I'm sure they will teach him. But I wanted him to read. I wanted to sit down with him every day and give him a foundation for math, reading, writing, and memorization. We accomplished just that, and we still have 16 weeks of school left to go.
I'm proud of the little guy for coming to our school room every day with a willingness to learn (even if just for the first few moments) and for letting me teach him.

Jan 14, 2010

13 Years

January 18, 1997 in a little church in Roseville, California, Matt and I stood before God, family, and friends and said "I do".
We promised to stand by each other through the usual "sickness and health, richer and poorer, and the good and the bad." So far, we've covered all those... and added "in peace and war, in Hawaii or Alabama, and living under the same roof or separated by thousands of miles".
We have managed to stick by each other through all the challenges while falling more and more in love along the way. I loved that guy I married 13 years ago, but I love the guy I'm with today even more.
We argue, we are not always kind to each other, we don't extend grace the way God calls us to, and we have our share of "issues" but at the end of the day, we can't imagine living without each other.
I'm blessed to be loved by Matt far more than I deserve. I love him for who he is to me and to the boys. I love him for his grace, patience, and unconditional love. I respect him for being our provider and for sticking with a tough career in order to give us financial security and the gift of living all over America and now traveling throughout Europe. I love that we have a ridiculous amount of immature fun together and that despite the wrinkles, extra pounds, and loss of bone density - he still thinks I'm beautiful.
13 years in, and we're just getting started.

Jan 9, 2010

Pictures, finally.

I finally posted a few of our pictures from recent trips. By "a few" I mean over 130, and that is barely scratching the surface of all of our pictures. We have a ton. I don't take a lot of pictures inside museums and cathedrals so you won't see any of that. I like to spend my time in those places looking around. I found that photos just really can't do these places justice, so I don't waste my time taking very many. As I was scrolling through the thousands (not exaggerating) of pictures I just picked out random ones that struck my fancy.
I am too lazy to label every picture, so the first picture of each set has a caption with the location and time frame of travel. And it is highly likely that things are spelled wrong because I was also to lazy to check out the spelling.
The best way to view the photos with captions is to follow the link to "view pictures larger" and use "ourphotos" as the password, then either view them as a slideshow or click through on your own.

Fall Travels

Click here to view these pictures larger

Jan 6, 2010

Easy as Riding a Bike

Matt bought me a bike for my birthday. Actually he put his Amazon Visa in a lovely birthday card and then told me it was for a bike. His plan was to take me down to the bike shop and pick out a bike. I want a $100 grandma cruiser from the PX. They have baskets on the back for your goods and the frame is so low that you barely have to lift up your foot to step across. It is perfect for wearing a skirt while biking to the market to pick up some veggies. Not that I do that, but I would look super cool if I were in a skirt and wanted to go get a fresh loaf of bread or something. Anyway, Matt thinks I need a snazzy hybrid. I don't think he is concerned about my comfort or how well the bike fits my needs, he will just be too embarrassed to hang out with me if I'm on a Huffy cruiser.
So, weeks went by and we finally went to Stadlers bike-mega-store in Mannheim. It is a rather cool shop with a million bikes and two indoor bike tracks to test out the wheels. The long track is just a path that goes around the whole store and then the short track has little obstacles on it to test out mountain and bmx bikes. It also has a subway sandwich shop, yum.
We looked for bikes for him first, naturally, and then headed over to the hybrid section for me. Cruiser have been ruled out, but I still think they are cool. I found a hybrid (cross between a road bike and mountain bike) that looked good and headed to the track to test it out. This is where things get hairy.
I told Matt the bike was too tall because I couldn't just swing my leg over and sit on the seat. He explained the I needed to put one foot on the pedal, push off a little, and then swing my leg over. I gave him the look ... seriously? And he lowered the seat.
With it properly adjusted I sat on the seat and started to pedal. Matt was hanging on to the back of my seat and walking briskly along side me saying "peddle, peddle faster!" Imagine the sight of a 30+ year old woman getting riding assistance from her husband, in a store. I was seriously unstable. The last time I was on a bike was in spin class a year ago and I would have to go back at least 15 years ago to picture myself on a real bike.
I managed to get through the aisles of bikes and get on the open road (the track). But there were so many obstacles: three years olds whizzing by me on their trike, random shoppers crossing my path to look at bike models and clothing, and those darn corners that kept popping up. People wrongfully assumed that I could actually ride a bike, and instead of leaping out of my way to save themselves, they just stood there, challenging me to hit them.
Matt said I looked like I was "on the verge of a major catastrophe". He envisioned me crashing into one of the aisles of bikes and taking out an entire line of $6000 road bikes. I rode like a 5 year old who just shed training wheels. Though I never actually crashed, I looked the fool! So, embarrassing.
Matt will eventually purchase a bike for me. I don't feel the need to test drive anymore. I clearly need an open field to practice my bike skills before I'm allowed to move about in confined spaces . . . or anywhere near people, roads, or small animals.
Easy as riding a bike? Yeah right.

Happy New Day!

The New Year is celebrated as a time for a fresh start. It is a chance to set goals and plans for the future, a time for change.
Like a refiners fire, January 1st, is set aside to burn away the chaff in our lives and become a new person. Typical resolutions are to lose weight, save money, spend more time doing the things you should and less time focused on the things that don't really matter and travel all over Europe. OK, I admit, the last one might just be one of mine.
A few weeks or months into the new year people often start to stumble. On our own, we are failures. We cannot drop 10 pounds, change our daily routine, or spend more time with loved ones without the changing power of God. In Mark 14:38, Jesus tells the disciples "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak". So, should we just bag the idea of resolutions? No. Jesus didn't intend to discourage the disciples, he was simply reminding them that without seeking God, we are not much more than well intended beings. If we ever intend to really change, we must invite God along for the journey.
When the journey is tough or you flat out turn back at some point, don't worry all is not lost. Lamentations 3:21-23 reminds us that God's mercy is new every day. In His eyes, every day is New Years, every day is a chance to walk back to His throne, lay at His feet, and invite him to help us with our struggles.
"This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness."
So, lets say you ate a quart of ice cream, skipped your devotional time and gossiped . . . don't give up, tomorrow is a new day.

Jan 5, 2010

To my future daughter-in-law:

No, my son was not born in a barn despite his tendency to leave the door open.
I taught him to close the door, turn the lights off when he leaves the room, take his dishes to the sink when he is done eating, throw away his trash, take out the trash, clean his room, put his clothes in the laundry hamper, take his shoes off before he enters the house, hang up his coat, and to take everything out of the car upon arrival home.
I also taught him to shower regularly, pee in the toilet - not around it, put the toilet lid down when he is done, and to brush his teeth at least two times a day.
So, when he fails to do any or all of these tasks, please don't blame me.

Jan 3, 2010

Lessons from Rachael

If you don't know that I have a friend named Rachael, then you either a. have never spoken to me b. are reading this blog for the first time or c. you mentally block out people's names to protect their identity.
Rachael is not only a great friend to me, but also a teacher. As we spent time together over the last few years I learned so much from her. She personifies the Fruits of the Spirit, and is truly an amazing mother, wife, and friend. As I watched her in daily life, I saw attributes of her personality that I wanted to strive to make my own. She proved to me that it is in-fact possible live righteously even in difficult, stressful, and busy times.
I've learned a lot of things from Rachael: how to bake an apple pie from scratch, how to order a drink at Panera in order to secure a cold drink for dinner followed by a nice cup of Joe to-go, and plenty of other time-saving, money-saving tricks. But the things that admire most about Rachael are her words, her trust in the Lord, and her joy.
Proverbs 16:24 "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Rachael's speech is quite possibly the sweetest, most healing I have ever heard. Her words of encouragement are always well timed and heartfelt and the way that she speaks to her children in stressful situations leaves me in awe. She responds with such a sweet, calm tone, even when the kids need a little correction. I don't think I have ever heard her complain. OK, the barista at Starbucks slipped her some regular coffee instead of decaf and she was a little miffed, but as far as expressing unhappiness with a circumstance - I'd be hard pressed to find an example. Rachael's words are always uplifting . . . healing . . . a honeycomb.
Psalm 91:2 "I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." God is truly Rachael's refuge and the One she trusts. In her toughest battles and most stressful times Rachael goes to her knees to spend time with God and dives into his Word searching for his promises. Her faith and trust in God isn't something religious, it is the real deal. Last year she was technically homeless as her husband was on the job hunt. She believed God was going to take care of them, and He did. While I was wasting my time thinking about what their "plan b" could be, she was on her knees trusting that they didn't need a plan b, God had everything under control.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun."
Rachael enjoys life. She finds joy in the small things and takes time to really enjoy her children and family. She also finds joy in the tough times. Instead of focusing on the current struggle, she embraces the transformations that take place because of the challenge. She enjoys all that God has given her, daily.
Today is Rachael's birthday and I'm truly blessed by who God created her to be and that He placed her in my life a few years ago.

Jan 1, 2010

A Year in Review

The first half of the year was spent living life to the fullest in Virginia. I truly enjoyed every moment that I had with friends there, especially in the last few months before we moved.
Then came the last week of June - one of the most difficult times in my life. I had to say goodbye to a home, church, and friends that I had grown to love so dearly. The "lasts" were heart-wrenching. Last dinners, last bible study, last church service, and the list went on and on. I made it through, barely. I have to admit, a little piece of me is still in Virginia. That place, or more accurately, the people changed me, and stole a chunk of my heart. Not a day goes by without me thinking of something and someone that I love in Virginia. I can't wait for the day that I can go back and visit. In fact, it is the only place I have lived that I think about returning to.
On July 1st we boarded a plane to California, and spent the next 28 days enjoying one of the best vacations ever! We spent nearly a month in California visiting with family and friends. Last night we were talking about our favorite memories from 2009, and this trip was the overwhelming winner. We all had such a relaxing, much needed, time of rest and fellowship with our loved ones. It was a great way to say "goodbye" to our life in the States and prepare for living in Germany.
We arrived in Frankfurt on July 30th and our German adventure began. In the weeks that followed we adjusted to our house conditions, living and driving here, and being time-zones away from our family and friends. Our stuff arrived safely, Eli started school, we did a little local sight-seeing, and Matt left for Romania/Bulgaria for 6 weeks.
We welcomed our first guests in November (the Shrums) and headed to Rome, then Paris and a few stops in between. Matt went to Olso for 10 days in support of a bunch of Nobel Peace Prize activities, and when he returned his mom was here to spend a few weeks with us. We spent the weekend before Christmas in Berlin and spent the rest of the year close to home.
We had a wonderful year and are so thankful for the many blessings God provided for us.
As we enter into 2010 I am filled with excitement. I know that so much is in store for us this year. We have quite a few fabulous things planned already. We are looking forward to our trip to Prague for our anniversary in Jan, a weekend trip to the Alps in Feb, my parents visit in April, the Mlacks moving here in May, the Enrights' visit in the summer, and Matt's dad's visit in the fall. Those are just the things that made our calendar so far!
I fail miserably at New Year's Resolutions - but one thing I do hope and pray for is that I will be better in 2010. A better wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, grand-daughter, student of the Word, and child of God.
Last night as I was stealing my last few moments of Christmas music I listened to the Reliant K song "I Celebrate the Day". The lyrics tell how (on Christmas morning) "here is where You're finding me, in the exact same place as New Year's eve. And from a lack of my persistency we're less than half as close as I want to be." My only prayer, hope, and resolution for this year is that as I stand before God a year from now, I am not in the same place as I am today.