All About Amelia, Simon & Hannah

All About Amelia, Simon & Hannah

Thursday, January 2, 2014


This one's got it.  She has her Dad's fearlessness about new situations...the jump right in, give it my best shot, life's a game attitude about things.  She proved it to us during two 'performances' this Christmas season.

First off, she came home on a Friday and told me that she was going to be the angel in her class' performance of the story of Christ's birth.  She needed a costume.  Probably for Monday.  Lots of things get lost in translation around here, but I didn't want to be on the losing end of this gamble, so we scrounged up some white fabric and cotton balls and went to work.  Fast.  Oh, and she needed to memorize four lines of German.  When all was said and done, we finally nailed down some details and made plans for the family to attend the special performance.  I was simply blown away.  The simplicity of the storytelling, the sweetness of the kids, the whole community of parents together acknowledging the sacredness of the season.  And then this:

She was so brave and confident.  Later, her teacher told me that she had originally planned for Millie to recite her lines in English.  But Millie told her that she wanted to memorize it in German like everyone else.  Man I love her.

She was also asked to participate in our church's Christmas Eve service.   She worked hard and memorized a good chunk of Luke 2 and recited it in front of the whole congregation.  Although it was in English, I give her lots of credit...she was the youngest child up there and held it together enough to go last and not miss a beat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Building Something That Lasts

You know something that's exhausting about moving around so much?  Finding and really digging into a new church.  It took us a couple of months, but we've found a good one (Stuttgart Military Community Church).  We have joined a small group and are building relationships and making friends.

Also happening around here: our little village has banded together to design, fund and now build a new playground for the kindergarten.  Beginning last year the parents dreamt it, the kids helped design it, the entire village raised more than 70,000 Euro for it, and now they are spending nights and weekends constructing it.  I am amazed and the very real example of what it means to live in community with each other.

These two forces in our lives collided last weekend.  Our small group wanted to find a service project to work on together...our kindergarten needed laborers.  Voila.  It was a fun, exhausting morning joining with our German neighbors and working alongside our new American friends.  

The next day (as I was hobbling along on my sore back and creaky knees) I realized that we have a place now in this country.  We have a place that we can come back to and look at and say "I helped build that."  Another real example of leaving a piece of ourselves behind when we continue this journey.

Monday, October 21, 2013


So our first big trip...out of our home country, pack the passports, crazy adventure kind of trip...was to Lake Como, Italy at the end of August.  It was a bit unsettling and suspenseful -- we planned the whole thing just two days before our departure (we didn't know whether or not Christopher would have duty and need to stick close to home).  There's no better way to set expectations reasonably low -- just fly by the seat of your pants!

It was perfection.  Such a magical place for us.  I can't help it, I love Italy.  I also love lake houses.  And mountains.  This had it all.  We stayed at a FANTASTIC apartment hotel in the tiniest little village on the north side of the lake.  The family who runs the place took us in like family, made me a cappuccino upon arrival and plied the kids with lollipops for three straight days.  They sent us to their favorite restaurants, gave us tips for our first soccer match, and just took such great care of us.  As Simon told us a few weeks ago, "I like going to hotels.  People are so nice to us at hotels."

So here's the trip in photos:

A gorgeous six hour drive through five countries (Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Italy) and some close encounters with a few cows as we climbed up and down the alps.

The lake, just a short walk from the apartment, was crystal clear and surrounded by mountains.  

In a trip filled with memory-making moments, this was a highlight.  We rented a boat, packed a lunch, and took off on a two hour cruise.  I'll admit it was one of our riskier parenting moves.  Christopher, despite his naval career, is not a boating man.  We were in a foreign country with three small children in unfamiliar water.  Those life jackets were strapped on TIGHT!

The kids loved every bump and wave.  I had to pinch myself to believe it was real.

Here's our little village, Domaso.

Each morning we hopped on bikes and rode through the cobblestone alleys to get coffee and pastries at a bakery by the lake.  Heaven.

Another slightly insane outing...side trip to an AC Milan soccer match at the famous, century-old San Siro stadium in Milan.  It was a Sunday evening match, so we figured it might be tamer than others.  Milan is about an hour away from Lake Como.  As a side note, if you're planning to hit a European soccer match, bring your passports.  We were not allowed to buy tickets until we showed ours (which involved a 2K sprint to the car and back to fetch them...I'm so thankful they weren't left behind at the apartment! I would have been more thankful had I worn sensible shoes.).

We were all captivated by the spectacle.

On our final day, we headed home via Switzerland and yet another beautiful lake town.  We love a good funicular, and the view at the top of this one was just stunning. 

I felt like I was on top of the world.

Growing Pains

Our life is so different here that I can almost hear the creaking and groaning of the new reality trying to take shape.  It's really not so easily summed up by the fact we are living around the world from all that's familiar.  It's more in the pace of our days, how they stretch into a quietly lived week, how I fight against myself to try to accept and thrive in it.

Most dramatic is the kids' school schedules.  We all manage to get ourselves up and out for the walk to school by 8:20.  No sweat.  Normal.  But then it's all over and kids are home at 12:30!  WHOA.  Si goes back to school on Monday afternoons from 2:00 - 4:00.  I think I should be signing Millie up for after school activities, but honestly, I am currently too overwhelmed to figure this out just yet.  And baby Hannah's even in the mix.  She started at the kindergarten this week, and once we've made it through the weeks-long adaptation process (which involves me staying with her at school for increasing lengths of time until she's ready to stay on her own), she'll probably spend three mornings a week there too.

So all of this leaves me with approximately one hour a day to get out of the house with any less than three kids to run errands.  Gone are the days of traipsing the mall with a stroller and cup of starbucks.  If I manage to get out of here, it's a panic filled dash through the market to get some groceries (or maybe boots, coats, school supplies, shovels, or whatever crazy other thing is being sold smack in the middle of these Euro grocery stores).  Today it was the completion of the shockingly complicated process of printing out some pictures for a required photo album for Hannah's school (imagine asking where to find a photo-printing kiosk in another language.  Then actually figuring out how to use it.)

My days and weeks are becoming what they should have been all along, I suppose.  Home-focused.  We stay here all week.  The kids play, I unpack and make lists and hang pictures.  In the good times, I bake or cook.  In the best times, I plan and work with the kids on reading, math, and history lessons (lots of supplemental schooling needs to happen here so they can keep up for our eventual return to the States).  I have great dreams of reading more, figuring out how to exercise outside in the snow, cooking meals with the kids, hosting my German neighbors for coffee.  Wow. A real German haus-frau, I am.  I figure I'm really not far off from knitting and canning things.  I am unrecognizable.

In any case, if you know me well, you know how different this is and how difficult a transition it has been.  Task oriented, on the move, out to see the world.  There's no good way to check things off a list when you go days without leaving the house.  But I hope this is what the kids need: more of their mom, more comfort at home, a slower pace.  Time will tell.  Perhaps this will be the real gift of our years here in this foreign land.


Another move, more pieces of my heart left behind.

Here's what memories will flood my mind when I look at these photos:

A spontaneous girls' night with women who were strangers to me two years ago.  Now I don't know how I'd live without them.  All of us military wives and moms, four of us moving this summer, two of us leaving the country!  My dear Sara taking the photo -- as always, in service to us in some way.

Beautiful, waterside runs with Kim and Yasin -- time for us to sort through lives and relationships and get recharged for the work ahead.  Warm, easy friendships that came quickly (whole lifetimes shared in two years).  These were sweet years.


This is simply heartbreaking.  We had to leave our girl behind.  She's thirteen now, slowing down and just too good of a dog to ask her to make this uncomfortable journey with us.  She is with my mom and dad, living the extra sweet life in Colorado, already hiking and swimming in the mountain streams.  What a gift they have given us -- to care for our girl in her final years.  You can imagine the  sadness, can't you?  Casey was simply meant to be ours, to teach us and our kids about love and gentleness and loyalty.  Goodbye sweet girl.

A sweet goodbye.

Final Family Photo. 

A boy and his dog.  Their last walk.

Greer Farewell

Just before we left Norfolk we had a final, wonderful visit with Grumpa, Gamma, Gampa and Uncle Joshua.  We hit the Portsmouth waterfront and appropriately, a German biergarten.  A fun farewell!

Monday, September 16, 2013


We did it.  THEY did it.  First days of school are conquered.  There may yet be rocky days ahead, but to have these first uncertain steps behind us is just a huge accomplishment.  I can tell you now that they are much braver than I am.  Walking into a room filled not only with people you don't know, but also filled with words in a language you don't understand.  I can't even imagine the anxiety these two have overcome.

But here we are, at the end of Millie's first day in German schule.  I'll try to capture these amazing memories:

Ahh.  The Schultute (shool-too-ta).  A German tradition especially for children entering first grade.  It's a cone filled with treats.  Millie's had chocolate, pencils, hair gear, cookies.  We made the tute together.

Millie with her teacher (Frau Schroeder is on the right in the black sweater.  She is WUNDERBAR!) and her classmates.  They all gathered together in preparation for the special worship service in the village kirche.  Parents dropped them here and headed across the street to the church.  Frau Schroeder herded them into their classroom to drop their gear before joining us in the church.

We should take note here of the schulranzens.  These are some SERIOUS backpacks.  I had no idea what we were in for here. Thankfully we were forewarned that ALL the kids would have them so we should make the investment for Millie as well (an investment it is...these things run from 100-200 Euro!  WHAT?).  Take a good look.  This thing is lasting her for years.

The worship service was breathtaking.  The church is over five hundred years old with a lovely recent renovation.  We were up in the balcony with both kids on laps.  The kindest German gentleman took it upon himself to translate all the songs in the bulletin for me.  Soon we had the two rows in front of us joining in to aid in the translation!  What an awesome memory.  

In Germany, it's a very big deal for kids to enter first grade.  Here it is the transition from playschool (which is what Kindergarten is here) to real work.  The community really invests in making this transition special for the kids.  Our sweet landlady even dropped by with a gift and some homemade cookies for Millie for her big day!

Outside of the church.

Hands down my favorite photo of the day.  Look at the light in her eyes!  This was the first time we saw her after leaving her on the street with her classmates.  She had just spent two hours on her own with her new friends.  My heart leaps at this.  She is not broken and afraid.  She is happy, confident, hopeful.  What a brave child.

This is today, Monday morning, on our way to school.  

Daddy stayed home from work for the big event.

First we drop Si at the Kindergarten.

And then we walk next door to Millie's school.  Which is also the firehouse.  And also the town hall.  Did I mention that we live in a very small village?

Her classroom.  Kids up front, moms in the back for a little pep talk.  There are 11 kids in Millie's class!  YAHOO!  Other items of note: we have figured out that she will have lessons in religion, math, english, german, art, music and gym.  Once a week they will meet at the school at 7:15am and take the bus to the indoor pool for swimming.  She keeps a special pair of "hausschue" (house shoes) at school and changes into them each morning once she gets inside.  For these first two weeks, her school day runs from 8:45 - 11:45.  After that it will be slightly longer, but will still end around lunchtime.  She will always eat lunch at home.  We haven't figured out yet if there is an afternoon component to this whole thing.  Details, details.  

Here we go!