Sunday, March 28, 2010

Y3W43 & 44 - Life is About Experiences

I'd like to say that Ellyn left me the last word, but in reality, she fell asleep and we agreed that we wanted to get something posted before we fly out this week.

A year or so before with left the US, both my parents and Ellyn's mom were asking us what the kids wanted for Christmas gifts. Ellyn and I responded that what the kids needed more than gifts were experiences. We wanted them to provide memories of things that they did with there grandparents and an opportunity for them to develop talents or interests that they hadn't yet discovered.

This philosophy was amplified when we had the opportunity to live in Europe. It's interesting what happens to you when you're living on a fixed timetable. You begin to live life with a certain type of urgency. You find yourself making the decision to just go for it rather than wait. While to many our past three years may appear as an outrageous travel diary of dozens upon dozens of places visited and checked off a list (and we did have lists), we did try to truly experience the places we visited. We did extensive research when we traveled and tried to understand the history and culture hidden within.

In the midst of it all, we learned a lot about this part of the world and ultimately I hope that those we met learned a little bit about us and our home. Life is about experiences, and more importantly, how those experiences shape ones character. Hopefully, we have become a little more aware, a bit more humble, slightly more informed, a little smarter, more compassionate, and most importantly, a lot of fun to be around.

And oh, by the way, if you are interested in seeing a bit of Europe, give us a ring - We've checked that box. ;)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Y3W42 - Well, it snowed again...

Fortunately, it is beautiful today. But, it did snow this week and everyone was grumbling about it. I never thought when we moved here that we would say that we are tired of the snow. Let it be heard...WE ARE TIRED OF IT! Especially when they are having 60 degree weather days in Michigan. It is just sick and wrong. Global Warming...Seriously?!

Enough of my venting. We spent the week getting ready for our air shipment to be picked up. Well, yesterday we spent the day getting ready I mean. Eight hours it took to sort and get all of the girls packed, making sure we had everything we still needed here and trying to imagine what we will need there. It is certainly starting to seem real when you spend eight hours packing.

Saturday, Greg had a soccer tournament and a Baptism to attend, while the rest of us worked on Eggsibition projects for school. Bailey spent nearly the entire day at art club and then at her friends house. Lleyton did what he does best which is try to destroy as many things as he possibly can in a short amount of time. We managed to keep the project out of his hands though and the girls are thrilled with how it turned out. The joy of painting eggs. It's the simple pleasures, right?

Bailey gave her first talk auf Deutsch at Church on Sunday and everyone said it went well. I tried to listen through the door (being out in the hall with Lleyton as usual) but I couldn't hear her speaking. She was quite nervous about it this time.

Our thoughts have been preoccupied with home this week. And, at the same time looking back. We feel like we accomplished what we set out to do and more and what an amazing experience it has been. We would do it again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.

I also must shout out to all the people who have been helping me with picking up the girls, taking them to school, picking them up from school, and simply just being there when I ask. It has been so nice to have met such great friends here. I will definitely miss the friends! Not to say our US friends aren't great as well of course. We have heard from several old friends recently welcoming us back and offering help. You are wonderful as well and we are excited to see all of you. Does it sound like I'm sucking up...because it kinda sounds to me as if I'm sucking up when I proof read. If it is coming across that way, I promise it is sincere.

In closing, a couple pictures of Lleyton being naughty. He is a holy terror and is into everything. His favorite pastime is pushing chairs or anything else that allows him to increase his elevation.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Y3W41 - Maastricht One Last Time

Don't cancel your subscriptions just yet...I know I am a little slow getting these up the last couple weeks. Lleyton has learned to slide chairs to wherever he wants to get into whatever he wants...needless-to-say, I've been a little busy.

We had a couple of surprises this week. One, our friend Mark came to visit on Wednesday for dinner. He was here on a business trip and he sent us an email and voila. It was so much fun to catch up. We haven't seen him since we knew each other in Pittsburgh. I regret to say that I was slacking a little bit in the area of resident "everyday things photographer." So, no pictures. Sorry.

Then, Thursday night we had the Missionaries over for dinner. It had been a while and it is always so nice to have them, and their energetic spirit in our home.

Saturday, we once again and possibly for the last time made the trek to Maastricht. This time we didn't focus on KFC, or America Today, or Root Beer. We did focus on Waffles, waffles, and more yummy waffles. Oh, and ice cream even though it was pretty cold. Oh, I almost forgot. The second surprise. That morning we woke up to snow, again. SNOW in MARCH in BONN. It is the craziest thing ever. So much for Spring, Spring, Spring.

We seriously cannot believe it is March already and our time is winding down.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Y3W39 & 40 - "It's Spring, Spring, Spring again..."

After it was so cold in Vienna, it is nice to have the weather turning to Spring. The girls had the rest of the week off of school which we spent organizing things for the move. And, playing of course.

And, with Spring, Spring, Spring...comes rain, rain, rain. I have felt a bit like Noah this week wondering if we should be building an ark. Saturday, the sun came out for a while and we walked downtown and found a little park we had not walked through before. Still discovering new things after nearly three years. There were flowers popping up which is sooo nice to see.

Let's see. Highlights over the last two weeks include:

Lleyton giving himself a full body(and I mean full body)vaseline make-over. Yes, this was so much fun trying to wash him with dish soap.

Greg and I giving our final talks auf Deutsch in Sacrament meeting.

The girls getting to play outside in the backyard.

Trying to take in everything we can so that we never forget our time here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Y3W38 - Wien

With our Deutschland experience nearing it’s end, we geared up for potentially our last long distance trip. After exploring the possibilities of warmer destinations, we decided to embrace the cold weather and head for Vienna, Austria. Many of our friends had commented that Vienna was charming in the winter so we went for it. We booked a night train cabin that allowed us to leave Bad Godesberg on Friday evening and land in Vienna ready to go on Saturday morning.

We began our adventure at St. Stephan's Cathedral. Bailey, Avery and I braved the elements and went to the top of the North Bell Tower where we got a grand view of the city while attempting not to freeze.

When we came back down to rendezvous with El and the little ones, we saw her chatting with our friends the Kellers. Amazing how one can run into friends within the first hour of a visit to a huge city. They convinced us that we needed to attend the Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School) performance on Sunday morning. We had entertained the idea of taking the train to Budapest Sunday, but when we were able to get tickets to both the horse riding performance and to the Sunday Mass at the Burgkapelle with the Vienna Boys’ Choir, we decided to commit to three days in Vienna. Classically, the Kellers decided that they didn’t want to buy standing room only tickets and didn’t attend. It worked out fine for us. After the Mass, we attended the riding performance with the brilliant Lipizzanner stallions. Ellyn went for the first half and I the second as kids 3 and under (like Lleyton) were not welcomed.

Much of Vienna centers around the great Hapsburg courts of Austria of the 19th century - primarily that of King Franz Joseph I and Princess Elisabeth. Their residence at the Hofburg Palace and grounds is home to most of Vienna’s museums and cultural sites. We visited many of the great sites throughout our three days in the city. On Saturday, we went to the Albertina Museum and amazing State Hall in the Austrian National Library. The great hall reminded us of the interior of the Trinity College Library in Dublin, and this time we got to take pictures. The girls also enjoyed visiting the Kaiserappartements which served as the primary residence for Franz Joseph I and Princess Elisabeth and today also contains the Sisi Museum which chronicles the life of Princess Elisabeth. Just on the outskirts of town is Schloss Schonnbrunn which served as the Royal Family’s summer residence. It is an enormous place which not only resembles Paris’ Versailles in layout but also houses Vienna’s Zoo and botanical gardens.

One of the must do’s in Vienna is to hop from café to café. Despite our lack of coffee and tea consumption coupled with the fact that we were the only café dwellers with 4 kids under 10 years old, we were undeterred. The phrase, “You have to sit up and act like princesses” was uttered more than once and was marginally effective. We visited one café named Meierei im Stadtpark. We strolled into the café in full winter gear only to find all the other patrons in suits and dresses. We had to laugh as we watched Bryn pick the nuts out of her bread with her fingers. It’s always good to stretch the little ones once in awhile and challenge them to be on their best behavior. I guess we do that once a week at church.

Our favorite café was the Central Café in the heart of Vienna. A traditional meeting place for politicians, captains of business, and society leaders for the past century, this classy place reminded us of a big city café with live piano music and a maître d’ in a tuxedo. We had dinner at the Central Café before catching our return train and it was a great way to finish the trip.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Y2W37 - Theory of Sickness

You have heard of the Theory of Relativity - ground breaking stuff. My theory of sickness isn't necessarily as earthshaking, but a theory none-the-less. I think the body intentionally gets sick when the body simply needs some rest, relaxation, and an excuse to watch some movies. As four out of the six of us have been sick the last couple weeks, I find myself asking whether it was just our bodies needing some good old fashioned rest. When I took two of the four of us to the Doctor, she simply said it was not the Strep Throat that had been going around so it is just a really nasty cold. With nasty cold germs in the house, I don't understand why some of us get it and some of us don't. We are breathing the same air, in close quarters, so while not scientific, I think my theory works. This week we have spent some time buying a house in Michigan and fighting off the yucky germs in the house.

The highlights included, Bailey swimming for her silver patch, seeing the Princess and the Frog in English, watching the snow melt, and having Caroline sleep over before she moves back to the States next week.

Also this week, they had a jump-a-thon at school to raise funds to help in the recovery effort in Haiti. The girls were pumped about this. I am proud that they are socially aware of what is going on in the World and want to help those that need the help.

Short and sweet this week.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Y3W36 - Schneeland

If you are an avid reader of the blog, you will remember our first Winter here where I warned the girls that it doesn't snow here like it does at home. We had a light dusting of snow that the girls referred to as a "Christmas Miracle." Well, let me rephrase. There are some winters where it doesn't snow like it does at home. This was not one of them. It has snowed and snowed, and snowed. Frankly, it has snowed so much that we are getting tired of it. But, last weekend, Greg and the kids enjoyed what we hope will be the last major snow. They built quite the snowman, even by Michigan standards.

I have been trying to remember to write this for a couple months now and I keep forgetting. I found three gray hairs on my head over the Christmas break. I have named them. They will be called Bailey, Avery, and Bryn. I'm hoping there will not be too many more to follow real soon. There will not be a picture of this!

Greg also took some pictures of our common neighborhood views. Some sights we will miss when we leave. He has also been playing with his camera and our adobe photoshop to put some finishing touches on these pics. Enjoy...