November 1, 2012


Omaha Beach, Normandy, France.
Our family had the opportunity to visit the Normandy region of France recently. This was something we definitely wanted to do while here in Germany. Hub is a major history buff, especially of military history, and one of his favorite parts of living in Europe is the chance to visit some of the sites he has read about. It is always a fun family trip, but also very somber, and my sweet husband becomes quite serious and gets choked up standing in these places where so many lives were sacrificed.

Utah Beach, Normandy, France
Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, France.
While in Normandy, we visited Omaha and Utah Beaches, and Pointe du Hoc. We also visited the Normandy American Cemetery, which contains the graves of 9,387 American military members, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day operations, and a memorial wall with the names of 1,557 missing.
Looking out over Omaha Beach to the English Channel.
Before we went into the cemetery, we told our children that it was a place where we needed to show reverence. As we were walking on one of the beautiful paths, we came near a fork. My three-year-old whispered, "Mommy, I want to tell you a secret." So I bent my head to his ear, and he whispered, "Mommy, there are two pathways." I whispered that he was right about that, and then we kept walking toward the part of the cemetery where all the graves are located. As we walked, what my little boy said lingered in my mind and caused me to think about the choices that we have in life. We have many choices, but I think they can pretty much all be placed on one of two paths... the path of remembering and the path of forgetting. We either remember the past and learn from it enough to come to a resolution, and have it make a positive impact in our lives; or we forget it and lose the opportunity to have those important lessons shape us. This is true on a personal level, with our own life experiences, and also on a societal level, with the experiences of people throughout history.

"To these we owe the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live."

With both Veterans Day and the presidential election nearing, I was thinking about the freedom that we have to help choose the person that leads our country, and the many who have sacrificed their lives in order to preserve that freedom. Politics and politicians can be very irritating, to say the least. Whenever presidential election season comes around, I hear a lot of people say that they are not happy with either candidate. I totally get that. I always agree with one candidate on some issues, but the other candidate on other issues. Sometimes I like one candidate more as a person, but think the other would make a better president. And then there is all the negative and immature behavior of politicians and everyone else toward people who disagree with them. It's enough to make me want to just forget about it and ignore the political process. And with our high-tech lifestyle these days, it's easy to distract ourselves and live in our own little world. It's easy to choose the path of forgetting. But, if I forget about it, I'm also forgetting about all those who sacrificed to make it possible for me to have the right to be involved in the political process. I'm forgetting the lessons of the past, when people didn't have the choices we have.

I hear people sometimes say that they are not going to vote because they aren't happy with either candidate and they want to send that message. The problem is, when people don't vote, it reflects apathy, rather than dissatisfaction. If you are like me, and don't just stick with one party or the other, it can be very hard to decide who to vote for. So, when I believe that both candidates are good people, I vote on the issues. I usually have to narrow it down to one issue that I believe is the most important one at the current time and vote for the candidate that I believe will best handle that issue.

I hope that we can somehow get the message to politicians that we don't like their negative campaigns and we would really appreciate some good old-fashioned honesty, but let's do it by being involved and remembering the sacrifices that have been made to keep us free, not by giving up in frustration.

And let's also teach our children to remember.

 The Allied forces in Normandy were fighting to liberate France from Hitler, who was seeking to build an empire by stomping out the liberty of millions of people. Because of their sacrifices, France and the rest of Europe are now free, and American liberty was also preserved. I like to think that as we and others stood somberly on Omaha Beach, but also smiled, laughed and played with our kids, there were some spirits of the past watching and witnessing evidence that all they gave made a tremendous difference, not just in the large scale course of history, but in individual lives. And that they see, in the faces of children, a future that will be blessed by the lessons learned from the past and freedoms preserved by those who lived in it. I hope they see a generation of people that will choose to remember.

October 31, 2012

Fall Fun

Our neighbor's beautiful flowers.
I love fall! I love the crisp air, the beautiful clear skies and especially the food! It's been really fun getting into some of the German fall traditions this year, now that the kids are in the German school. A few weeks ago, my big boy and little boy sang with the Kindergarten in the village church for Erntedankfest (Thanksgiving). I couldn't see my little boy's face very well, but in one of the songs the kids waved their arms above their heads while singing the chorus, and I could see his stubby little arms sticking up by his head. He was also being a clown and dancing and clapping, so I got a few glimpses of that too. My big boy did a great job and was taking it all very seriously. :) Our boys were so cute!

Pumpkin fish!
We also visited one of our favorite parks that has a "Kürbisfest" every year. They have themed pumpkin displays set up throughout the fall season. Last year, the theme was fairy tales. This year it was marine life. So fun!

Three out of four Jack O' Lanterns. I need to carve baby boy's today.
For Family Night this week, we carved pumpkins while listening to Wee Sing Halloween, had french onion soup (and cereal) for dinner, and then pumpkin cheesecake and eggnog for dessert. Yum! It was a fun night. The kids drew pictures to show us what kinds of faces they wanted on their Jack O' Lanterns (my little boy just said that he wanted his to have a baby face), and then they danced to the music. Wee Sing Halloween will always make me think of Halloween with my kids because last year we checked it out from the library and they listened to it almost every night at bedtime for about a month before Halloween. And during the day they sang the songs all the time. I loved it!

Something else going on this time of year in Germany is preparation for St. Martinstag on November 10. The kids make lanterns at school and then carry them in a parade. Baby boy and I went to my daughter's class yesterday morning to help make her lantern. It's a pretty big deal here, so it will be fun to participate in that.

For breakfast this morning, I got started early to make Pumpkin Pancakes. Unfortunately, I didn't have any pumpkin, so I just made regular pancakes. As it turned out, most of them burned on my cast iron pan, and the texture was different than my actual pumpkin pancake recipe so the faces were hard to cut out and looked like a mess. And then, after finally getting one that looked good, I dropped pancake batter all over it as I was scooping some batter onto the pan for the next pancake. Fortunately, the kids didn't care. :)

Once the kids get home from school, we'll get their costumes ready, get the house cleaned up a bit (hopefully) and then make some Halloween Soup for dinner.

What are your favorite Fall/Halloween traditions or recipes?

July 4, 2012

Happy 4th!

This is our little tradition for the 4th every year. We make flag toast (or just bread, since we don't have a toaster right now, and I just don't want to turn on the oven). It's pretty obvious how to make it, but here are instructions anyway.
Acquire some fresh blueberries and strawberries or raspberries. Cut the strawberries or raspberries lengthwise into quarters. Spread, no slather (of course), some cream cheese on a piece of bread or toast. If you want, you can sweeten the cream cheese first, to make it a little more desserty. Then arrange the berries as pictured. As you can see, the kids arranged their own berries on these 4th of July toasts we made last year. Have fun with it. :)
Making these with your kids gives you a chance to talk to them about the importance of our country's flag, or about the Pledge of Allegiance. My kids are eating this year's flag bread as I type this, and they were quick to point out that I did not put enough stripes on it. :) I'm glad they've at least learned how many stripes the flag has and why. Hopefully, each year, they'll learn a little more and gain a greater appreciation for our country and our freedom!

June 26, 2012

And four months later...

I know, it's been a very long time. I am still working at making this blog part of my routine. I have asked myself if I should even continue to try... there are easier ways to keep in touch with family and friends. And I could just write in my journal, rather than put my thoughts online. But the truth is, I enjoy keeping this blog. I love that I can easily add pictures right along with my thoughts, and I love that it helps me focus on my priorities in life. This is a place where I can consolidate all the jumbled interests, ideas, and hopes that I have floating around in my mind. And I think that later in life, I'll be glad that I have this record. That being said, I am going to try to make this a habit. I have a lot of catching up to do, but for now, here is a glimpse of life around here these days.

Sheets hanging on the line on a breezy day... one of my favorite things about summer.
I used to love walking through them when I was a little girl. I still do. Now she does too. We had to leave our old house and awesome backyard because our landlords wanted to move back into it. I was sad when the news that we had to move sunk in. I wasn't expecting to have to cross that bridge for another year. But it has turned out to be a blessing. We found another great house in a beautiful village. This house has a lot of clothesline in the backyard, and that just makes me happy. :)

My good little helper.
 We were able to move in time to get a vegetable garden planted and some flowers in pots going so that they'll have plenty of time to grow before the summer is over.

Five-year-old discoveries.
This guy found a cool rock with a plant growing on it. It's amazing what you can discover in your own backyard when you're five.

February 24, 2012

6 Months Ago...

 this was my baby boy. 
Well, this was me... but obviously, baby boy was there too. 

When I took this picture, I was very ready to hold my baby in my arms instead of in my belly. And a couple of days later, that is exactly what I got to do. And since that day, our life has been very topsy-turvy, but so full of happiness. It is amazing to me how love is something that you just don't run out of. Our baby boy is our fourth child, and with each new addition to our family, my heart gets a new addition of love. I guess that's why, even though our life just seems to be getting more and more challenging, it is also getting more and more joyful.

 This is my baby boy now. I love that happy smile. It adds such delight to my day.

And there are so many more little delights that come to mind as I think over the past six months. Like baby boy nestling into my neck and sleeping (that stage was over too soon *sniff*)... the sound of his little grunts and squeaks when he's waking up... listening to his soft breathing as he sleeps next to me (sometimes that seems to be the only way he'll sleep)... hearing his happy gurgles and coos from his bed after he wakes up from a good nap (good naps don't happen often around here, but happy gurgles and coos still do)... seeing him watch and listen to his sister and brothers and then seeing his huge grin when they look at him or talk to him... breathing in his fresh milky scent... feeling his soft little hand wrapped around my finger as he falls asleep while I'm holding him... listening to his big baby belly laughs when I take off his onesies, or tickle his neck or armpits... watching him fall asleep in his daddy's arms while they listen to music... seeing him try to figure out how to work those little hands and grab a toy... feeling his little gums chomping on my shoulder... hearing his sister and brothers laugh at the cute things he does... having him in his swing or baby carrier, keeping me company in the kitchen while I cook or wash dishes... seeing his face light up whenever I look at him, unless he's hungry, bored, or tired. Then he fusses if I look at him, but even that is a delight, because it lets me know that he needs me and I can help him feel better soon. 

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I love being a mom! I feel incredibly blessed to be a mom. It's the most difficult thing I've ever done, but it's worth every second of sleep deprivation and all that other hard parenting stuff. I don't always feel my love for parenting in those difficult moments, but at times like these, when I can reflect on my deeper emotions, all the blissfulness of motherhood comes bubbling to the surface.

December 19, 2011

Coming Home

As the last of the troops come home from Iraq, I have been thinking a lot about the Iraq war and the impact it has had... on the world, on the Iraqi people, on the military, on our family, and on my husband (who also happens to be my hero, by the way). We all know there is plenty of debate surrounding our country's involvement over there, and I don't want to get into that... we've heard it all before. That's not to say, however, that we should ignore the issues surrounding our involvement there. It's important to learn from past experience. But, I hope that all the debate and division regarding Iraq will not be the only memory people have of our years there.

I hope that people will remember that although the troops are home, it is not over. It is not over for many of the troops and it is not over for the people of Iraq. The injured and the families of the fallen still carry this war with them everyday.

I hope that people remember that while the rest of the world may have been obsessed with politics, most of the troops were just trying to do their part to turn a bad situation into something good... or at least not so bad, and to keep each other and innocent Iraqis safe. Hub's deployment was during a time when the violence in Iraq was really bad, right before the troop surge. It was all over the news with constant debates about pulling the troops out, or adding more. While he was there, people often asked me what he thought about our involvement there. When I'd ask hub that question, he'd say, "Whether or not we should have come in the first place, it's a good thing we're here now."

Most of all, I hope that people will remember that America is still good, that most people all over the world are still good, and that war isn't. But sometimes, there are reasons why we should fight, and it's good to know that there are still people out there who are willing to sacrifice to preserve what is good. In fact, I think that most people are willing to do that, given the right circumstances. In an ideal world, we would only go to war for the right reasons. We don't live in an ideal world, but I hope that people will still remember to believe in the potential of humanity.

As I was trying to figure out how to put my feelings about all of this into words, I remembered a song that hub listened to while he was over there. It think it does a great job of capturing the spirit of sacrifice that I hope will not be forgotten... and the feeling that we are all in this together.

Sandstorm in Iraq.
I will drink the cup, the poison overflowing.
I will lift you up, watch over where you're going.
The first one in, the last one gone.
I'll be the rock to stand upon.
For you.

Hub in Iraq.
My spirit aches and I can't stop this river flowing.
In fear I take each labored breath I draw in knowing
That this could be my last, my final hour.
But faith and hope and love give me the power...

Together at last!
For you.

Visiting the grave of Hub's friend.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for you are with me.
You are with me.

I'll be your salvation, though the storm's surrounding.
There on our own conditions, lay my body down. 
In the wake abandon willing sacrifice.
I'll walk through the canyon, bring the shadows life.
For you.

Song lyrics: For You from the We Were Soldiers soundtrack.
By the way, Johnny Cash and Dave Matthews sing the song together. Can't go wrong with Johnny Cash. :)

December 4, 2011

Asleep on the hay.

Here is something that we are doing during the month of December. My family did this while I was growing up, and a couple of years ago I decided I wanted my kids to do it too, so I used some fabric scraps and craft sticks that I had on hand and made one for us. The idea is to make sure that there is enough hay in the manger to make a soft bed for baby Jesus before Christmas Eve. It's so easy to make. Here is how:

Mini crafts sticks (or you can make a bigger one with regular sized popsicle sticks)
Glue gun or wood glue and fabric glue
Two small pieces of fabric
Some kind of stuffing (cotton balls are great)
Hay (or yarn, garden twine, etc.)

Make the manger by gluing three sticks together for each side. Once they are dry, glue them together on one edge. Then use four craft sticks (two glued to each side) to make the legs. For the baby Jesus, wrap one of the fabric pieces around the stuffing, making an oval shape, and glue it closed. Wrap the other piece of fabric around the first, like a baby blanket, and glue it closed.

During the month of December, set the manger up somewhere and put the hay close to it. Every time someone in the family does something good for others without being asked, that person can put one piece of hay in the manger. Baby Jesus will need a soft bed on Christmas Eve, so hopefully, everyone in the family will do lots of nice things. For me, this is a lot of fun and a great way to help our little ones feel and understand the true Christmas spirit.

I love this too.

Just wanted to share another one.

November 17, 2011

I love this.

I watched this video several weeks ago, and ever since, I have looked to it as a source of strength and inspiration. I just wanted to post it here to make it easy for me to watch again and again. Take some time to watch it of you haven't yet. It's definitely worth it.

November 9, 2011

Playdate Granola Bars

The kids have some friends over to play once a week, and last week I was in the mood to make these granola bars for a snack for all the kids. I love this recipe because it is so flexible. You can use any combination of dry ingredients to make them different every time if you want to. Making these granola bars is a great way to clear out all those little bits of stuff left in the pantry that you don't have enough of to make anything else with. I had a little bit of coconut left in a bag, and some sunflower seeds, so I threw them in with some oats and rice crispies. I didn't have vanilla, but they tasted just as good as they did when I made them with vanilla before. Here's the recipe:

Granola Bars

 Oats or cereal combined with your choice of other dry ingredients such as wheat germ, sunflower seeds, crushed peanuts, dried fruit, etc. to equal 4 1/2 cups.
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 T. butter or peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt*

*If your butter or peanut butter is salted, 1/2 tsp. salt may be too much.

 Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Cook the sugar, honey, butter or peanut butter and salt together until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Mix with dry ingredients and press into a wax paper coated 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Let cool completely... putting them in the fridge so that they're very cold when you cut them works well. Turn them out onto a cutting board. Remove the wax paper and cut them into bars.

My kids love these, and it's no wonder because they are very sweet... great for a snack or even dessert!

The Boys

Big Boy, Little Boy, Baby Boy.
Sometimes, I can hardly believe that I have three boys. I'm so proud of my big boy for being such a good brother. He plays so well with my little boy, and he loves my baby boy so much. He's so interested in everything baby boy does. Whenever he catches him awake, he talks to him and shows him toys, or reads to him... just like he's doing in the picture. My little boy also loves his baby brother and shows it by always wanting to give him kisses, and saying things like, "He wuvs me, and I wuv him!" I just love my boys, and I sure hope they always stay such good buddies.

November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Curry Soup

All washed and ready to be made into soup.
Our next door neighbors are a really nice older German couple that have a beautiful garden. They gave us buckets full of apples this fall, and one day, the husband brought this lovely pumpkin to us. The husband may very well be Santa Claus. He has a beard, a twinkle in his eye, and he's one of the nicest people I've ever met. He doesn't speak any English, but with his friendly determination to communicate, and my very, very basic German skills, I came to understand that this Kürbis (pumpkin) was from his garden and it was the kind that's good for eating, not carving. And so, I decided that I would use this pumpkin for soup to take to our ward Halloween party. I had made this soup earlier and loved it, so I was excited to make it again. This pumpkin was the perfect size for a double batch of the soup. Here's the recipe.

Pumpkin Curry Soup
(4 to 6 servings)
2 T. butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15 oz. can)*
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth**
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (1 12 oz. can)

*I like to add a little more pumpkin to make it thicker.
**I've just used water before and it's still yummy. Just add more salt and seasonings.

In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in butter. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper. Then add pumpkin puree and broth. Simmer. Puree in blender to make a smooth soup. Add evaporated milk just before serving.

For the party, I cooked the soup on the stove, blended it in batches, and put it in the crockpot on low to stay warm until the party. Now, just as a warning, getting this soup to the party in the crockpot was quite the adventure. I held it on my lap on a baking sheet on top of my jacket while hub drove. The crockpot wasn't even very full, but every little bump made soup slosh all over the place because it's not a very thick soup. If I ever take this soup anywhere again, I'll use a sealed container. By the time we got to the church, my jacket was out of commission for the night.

In my opinion, a bowl of this warm, spicy soup with some bread to dip in it, is the perfect meal on a cold day. I'm sure I'll be making this soup many more times this fall and winter because it's so easy.

November 1, 2011

Two Months...

seems more like two weeks... and forever.

It's already been two months since our baby boy was born. I think it's been the fastest two months of my life. When my third baby was born, I felt like the months following his birth were the fastest of my life. With each additional child added to our family, the time just seems to be passing more quickly. But even though the time since having this sweet baby boy enter our lives has flown by, it seems like I've known him for an eternity. I have a hard time remembering what it felt like to only know three of our children, rather than four. It just feels like he's always been part of our family.

I'm sure that the reason time seems to be passing more and more quickly is because we just keep getting busier. I'm not sure how this happens, but even though two months seems like just two weeks, one day can seem like forever sometimes. I must admit, I have moments when I dream about the days when my kids will be all grown-up, and my house will be as clean as I want it to be, and I'll be able to do whatever I want or need to do without interruption, and do all those things that just seem too hard to do while raising young children.

But when I imagine that future clean and organized home and life, I am very much aware that I am really going to miss all those little dinosaurs, ponies and cheerios strewn all over the place. I'll miss the sticky hands and chins to clean. I'll miss the little hugging arms. I'll miss the noise... because with all those cries, whines, and yells come laughter, singing and cute conversations, so yup, I'll even miss the noise. Adding a fourth child has not been a huge adjustment, but it does mean more to do throughout the day... one more mouth to feed, more diapers to change, more messes to clean, more noise, and more hair pulled out... but also more joy.

On the surface, our life seems messy, loud and stressful. But just a little deeper, there is something else. And I'm the lucky girl that gets to feel it, even among all the chaos. It's not always easy to find, but if I just remember to try, I can always find it. It's a feeling of serenity and love, that despite the speed of the passing time, is eternal. Our life may look like a mess, but in that mess there is bliss.
Blessed bliss.

September 5, 2011

Our Baby Boy!

Our baby boy is here!
The ECV was successful, and baby boy was born later that day. We love him so much and we're so happy to have him with us.

August 24, 2011

The good things in life...

are all around me.

We had a great weekend, filled with swimming, picnicking, pedal boating, carousel riding, flammkuchen eating, and just enjoying life. Hub also had to squeeze in writing a research paper, but even that was a good thing because it was the last thing he needed to do to finish up a very difficult and time consuming class he was taking. 

We are now very much anticipating the possible arrival of our baby boy this week. He has been breech or transverse (he switches between the two) since the nurse-midwife first checked his position at 32 weeks. He was head down for a short time at 37 weeks. He turned just in time to avoid an external cephalic version. I guess once he felt like the danger had passed, he decided to move back into his comfort zone because a couple of days later he was no longer head down. At 38 weeks, the doctor and I agreed that we should schedule another ECV, and if it is successful, induce labor so that the little guy will be born before he turns himself the wrong way again. So that is happening this week. In a way it's hard to have this much control over my baby's birth. Whatever the outcome is, I feel like I am fully responsible. Not that I am anticipating a negative outcome, but I just know that inductions sometimes lead to more complicated births. But after much thought about all the options, I feel like this is probably the best way to go. But the first step is to do the version and see if it works or not. It would be nice if the baby boy would once again decide that he'd like to avoid that procedure and turn head down on his own. :)

I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful family and a beautiful world all around me. I'm so thankful for every moment that we get to spend together. I'm so thankful to have a new little one joining our family soon. I know that it is not something to take for granted. I know that life is about to get a little busier and stressful, but my goal is to continue to recognize the good things in life that are all around me everyday... every moment.