Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I N N S B R O O K austria

All together, there were six families that spent the Thanksgiving weekend together. All with high school kids, some in middle school and Coleman and Caden the youngest in elementary school.

All together we had 19 kids, 6 moms, 4 dads, 1 grandma and 1 grandpa.

Three of the families were skiing families. The other three {including us} weren’t.
The non-skiing families made a day trip to Innsbruck, Austria for the opening day of the Christmas market.
Where the Army hotel that we stayed at sits, it’s on the south-eastern corner of Germany with the Austrian, Italian and Switzerland borders within a few minutes.
As I've mentioned before- the country is beautiful- the churches, rolling hills and charm of this Bavarian region is really amazing.

It's all so old and full of architecture. 

It's hard not to look up in awe at every single building. Really makes me want to read more about these areas we are visiting- it's just fascinating to me. 

The fact that there was no snow didn’t bother us one bit- made the driving and walking much easier.
On the way to Innsbrook, there is a passage that is literally straight down- steeper than any mountain side that we’ve been on- EVER.  A friend warned us- we can’t even imagine with a little ice how treacherous it is.

Jim had our van in first gear- the engine was revving up. A crazy drive.
Our friends in front of us had overheated brakes- the white smoke filling the entire space under their vehicle. Coleman had the hardest time with the smell- it was awful.

Once we made it to the city, parked and walked to the market- we weren’t disappointed, it was charming. I can't think of another word to describe it any better.

Walking down the cobblestone streets looking at the stands and decorations made for a perfect afternoon.
One of the coolest things was live human statues situated at the end of the street at the entrance to the market. 

Moving almost like robots, you had to watch carefully to see the slightest movement. They were amazing. Painted and dressed all in silver from head to toe, this lady had her dog at her feet sleeping in his little bag. I can’t figure out how they could stand there all day- absolutely mesmerizing.

I know my picture is blurred- but it's hard to describe how cool they were- I had to post it. Look at that little pup- we still can't believe he stayed there all afternoon.
Another highlight was the decorations. They had huge chandeliers down the old alley ways and decorations hanging out the windows.

We saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a Hans Christian Anderson window, the Big Bad Wolf and several others. As you can see from our pictures- we had a lot of much-needed fun. It was the perfect destination to start the Christmas season. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

skating at the O L Y M P I C ice center

When Justin and Ty were little, I think they could ice skate just about as good as they could walk. Anchorage is a hockey town- it’s just what you do up there.  It's also a very expensive sport to play.

Justin especially wanted to be a hockey player from a very young age. It didn’t help that G’ma and G’pa had neighbors with five boys who all played hockey.

We hit the ice on the local rinks and iced-over ponds any chance we got. We had a favorite pond- always groomed that we almost always had to ourselves. It was the perfect escape- calm, peaceful and beautiful even in sub-zero temperatures with numb toes.

It’s been at least ten years since any of us have been anywhere near a sheet of ice.- other than driving on the streets of Anchorage. 
Coleman and Caden have never even laced up skates- until this weekend. We spent part of our Thanksgiving morning at the local skating rink in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where the 1936 Olympics were held.
The venue was obviously older, but the ice was perfect. Olympic anything is pretty cool. We had a blast- definitely created some memories. Coleman and Caden were captivated as soon as they were able to stay up on their skates.
Caden didn’t want to leave the rink. There’s a reason we call him our little Justin. Since our outing, they’ve both been begging to go back.

Justin and Ty were in heaven. Ty kind of forgot how to stop and racked up the most {and hardest} wipeouts. I stopped counting after about ten big wipe outs. It didn’t slow him down any- he just kept on crashing providing the most entertainment of the day. As we were leaving, a skater was warming up doing laps around the rink. A woman there told me he was the #1 figure skater in Bavaria.
Too bad we didn’t get to see him practicing- it still felt like we were in the midst of a celebrity and didn't even know his name.
Friends told us we have a rink close to our house in Kaiserslautern. We’ll definitely be finding it- they’re hooked. {maybe, we are too...}

Thursday, November 24, 2011

happy T H A N K S G I V I N G

Happy Thanksgiving from Germany! We're spending a few days away from the world in the beautiful Bavarian region of Germany. We think it might be one of the most amazing places we've seen- ever. We are thankful for so much...

While family is so far away from us- our good friends here have already become our family. That's what you do when you're part of the military in a foreign country. It's new to us, but we're learing.

Our dinner will be at the hotel- no cooking a turkey in our easy-bake oven. I might get used to making reservations for dinner rather than making a turkey! I'm thinking we might have to make this our Germany Thanksgiving tradition.

Caden had his first school program and Thanksgiving feast last week. Painfully shy {like his oldest brother} he almost couldn't stand being up in front of everyone. I'll work to get some video loaded. He had us laughing.

I'll be back in blogging mode next week with plenty of new pictures, I'm sure! xo

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

i need a H A U S frau

Monday through Friday from 7:30 until 3:00- there is a little white car parked to the side of our house in front of our garage. I often see her pull up and occasionally catch her leaving. As I notice her car {every single day}, the same thoughts enter my mind.

Who is she?

The owner of this car happens to be our neighbor's {Alexandra's brother's family} Haus Frau. Full-time hired help. How in the world would that be? That's the thought that enters my mind E V E R Y single day.

While I can't obviously see everything she does- I've seen enough to know that I'd love one of her in my life. From the little guys' bedroom window, you can occasionally see into their kitchen, so- I've seen her doing dishes.

She leaves with an empty basket and comes back with it full, so I'm sure she does their shopping. Some of it, if not all of it.

They have only two kids- both teenagers, but I've seen her pick up and take the son different places. So, she drives. She might even do errands for them.

She takes out the garbage cans, she recycles their glass. Surely, she cleans everything else in sight including their toilets. Of course, she cleans their toilets. Perhaps even every day. How wonderful would that be? Clean everything, every day? Heaven. Maybe, she even cooks or bakes for them.

Wow- I can't even imagine. Not saying I wouldn't love it. I'm sure I could get used to it fast.

Monday, November 21, 2011

one long Y E A R in europe

I've been reflecting a lot this last couple weeks. Earlier this month, we hit a year since we left Kansas and set off on this adventure. This last week, we hit our one-year mark since landing in Germany.
I've said {repeatedly} leaving Kansas was one of the hardest things we've had to do as a family. This picture of Caden from last year kind of sums up how all of us were feeling. Blah.

I think our first six months in Germany were perhaps one of our toughest of all time, as well. Looking back, I'm so grateful for where we are. For the holidays this year, I'd like to forget last year ever happened and have this be our re-do.

A few other thoughts I've had on this last year:

T H E N  and  N O W

We were driving on bike paths................... we now hike and walk on them and love them.
We never thought we'd learn our way around- ever................... we still use our GPS a LOT even if it's to a place just 10 minutes away.
I was especially afraid to drive.......................... we fit right in and actually like the way Germans drive- it's the Americans who are frustrating.
We had no friends................... we've been blessed with an abundance of friends who will be friends for life.
We were in culture shock................. we're learing and even enjoying the culture.
We wanted to start seeing Europe.................... between all of us, we've seen parts of eight countries {Germany, France, England, Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Austria and Croatia} and can't wait to see more.
We were living in a hotel and unsettled for months................ we're settled and enjoy our house every day.
We were really, really sad............................. we're much happier now and in a good place. That doesn't mean things are easy- some days are still really hard.

That also doesn't mean we don't miss our friends and family. We do- terribly miss everyone. But, life is good. We're ok and are going to make it.

Hopefully, the next couple years cruise by as well and we can get back to our house and life in Kansas!

In the meantime, we're trying to do and see all we can while we're here.

Up next... a mini-vacation this week for us back down to Garmisch for Thanksgiving. It's one of the most beautiful places we've been- ever. To combat the lack of family and mini-bake ovens that most of us have- it's a popular Thanksgiving spot especially for those who ski.

For us, it will be fun with friends as several families are going to be down there with us. We also hope to sneak in some ice skating and possibly a day-trip to Munich to hit the Christmas market set to open this weekend. It's less than an hour's drive from the hotel. We can't wait- everyone is so excited.

Wow, what a difference a year makes. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

the E N D of the season

What a week!

We had a doctor's appointment for Justin on Monday along with a new blood draw.

Thankfully, his levels are all back to the normal range.

After four days on the couch and in bed last week, he asked me {toward the end of the week} if he felt better- could go work out the next day.

Of course, I said no way- but, we knew then that our big kid was on the mend.
It was some kind of nasty virus. We're grateful it wasn't anything more.

Last night, we had the football banquet to finish off the boys season. I'm well known for being quick to take on lots of projects and volunteer whenever the opportunities arise.
Most of the time, I don't think it through and often take on more than enough to keep me busy! It's my nature. I like to be involved- especially when it comes to our kids. This latest project is one that I didn't volunteer for.

Tradition at Ramstein is that the football captain moms are the ones who plan the end-of-the-year banquet.
Justin's a captain, so I was in. In the end, while it was a lot of work- I probably wouldn't have changed a thing and loved working and getting to know my two new friends.

We had right at 200 people- a great turn out to plan a party for! We rented a facility and had a restaurant cater a nice German dinner.

Schnitzel with cream sauce, yummy cabbage {my favorite German side}, potates, noodles... 

I took on coordinating and picking out the gifts. We had 15 seniors, 5 managers, 15 coaches {including our academic coaches, team doctors, team trainers, video lady}.
It was a LOT of work, but we pulled it together with help from other moms as well.

The program itself was very nice. 

For Ty, he earned his first high school varsity letter. SO exciting!

He got his R and football pin. Having not played football since middle school, we were not only proud of him for trying out but, for making the team and quickly working into a first-string position on offense.

He worked really hard all season.
Both boys were named to the All-Conference Academic Team- something we're also proud of.

For Justin, the last couple weeks have been tough. The season didn't end how any of them wanted.

Last night, might have made up for a little of it.
For Europe, he was named All-Conference 1st team for defense and All-Conference 2nd team for offense. The coaches named him the Defensive  MVP and team co-MVP.

He was presented with two framed certificates and two large framed photos. The head coach also gave each of his captains a football signed by the coaches. In the end, the four captains split up the coaches and took turns presenting their gifts. None of them wanted to do it. They all did really well in spite of being super nervous.
It was so cute watching the four of them whisper and help each other through it. So cute. I think he's glad it's over, too. Now- it's really on to basketball.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

s i d e l i n e d A L L - S T A R S

It was disappointing to say the least. Selected to play in the first European All-Star football game since 1982, Justin was forced to watch from the sidelines. With his platelet count low, the doctor told us on Tuesday he absolutely couldn't play any contact sports until we figure out what is wrong.
He's definitely rebounded- feeling much better, still he didn't have clearance to play. He gets more blood drawn tomorrow. We are hopeful that it was just a nasty virus and everything checks out good.
We made the four-hour trip to watch the game and were grateful he could at least feel a {little} part of the team.

Teammate and friend Jaap {19} was also sidelined after a serious concussion that he's still feeling the effects from- more than a week later.

I was grateful they at least had each other to hang with while watching a game they would have both jumped into with a second's notice- if given the chance.

It was a fun {long} day for us. A friend kept our little guys, we took the big kids and caravaned with other friends who had a son playing.

Almost to the Czech border, it's a beautiful area we wouldn't mind going back to visit. Cold, but beautiful.

We had a really great dinner at a nice Italian restauraunt before FREEZING in the stands with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees.

Guess we were close to Poland, Russia, Siberia... Alaska.

I was quickly reminded- I'm an Alaska girl who doesn't miss those Alaskan temperatures!

We were aching and numb.

Too cold- even with layers and lots of blankets. This mama is ready for basketball season.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

his first I V

It's been a long week. A long week of worry that is finally easing up a little.

At the end of the football game, Justin told us he thought he had a concussion. He wanted to throw up, didn't remember parts of the game. As much as they're hit, we didn't doubt it. One of his buddies does have a concussion from the game. It's no joke, I've worried about him all week as well.
Football is scary- maybe this is why I love it when track season comes around.
The trainer said he had fluids in him, just thought he needed some food. He told us to get an orange, snickers and some Gatorade in him- then real food in thirty minutes.

We signed him out so he didn't have to ride the bus and off we went. We figured he was tapped. Both he and Ty were exhausted and Justin played the entire game- offense, defense and kick-off return. We figured dehydration and exhaustion- mental and physical. It was a huge game.

We let him spend the night with a friend after the game- figuring it would cheer them up a little to hang out together. Sunday morning when he walkked in the door- I could tell he was still not right.

He fell asleep sitting up, then moved to the couch. He was clothed from head to toe with sweats, a hoody and two quilts and his hands were still freezing. Still- we suspected exhaustion and tried to get fluids in his system.
The chills, sweats, fever, splitting headache, body aches and nausea were all to follow making for a long Sunday night and a super-sick kid.

Monday morning, he thought he wanted to go to school. I fed him Tylenol at 7, then let him go back to sleep. Around 9:30, he got up, showered and headed off to school. Huge mistake- I never should have let him go.

After just two hours, he walked back in the door trembling out of control. Obviously, sicker than he's ever been, he crawled into our bed in an attempt to warm up. With two football-mom friends over for lunch, the helped me make the {easy} decision to forgo lunch and head straight to the hospital.

Six hours in the ER, we were told it was a virus. They pumped three liters of fluid in him, started his first IV, drew tons of blood and ran a few tests. The tests came out showing low white blood cells, low red blood cells and low platelets- the later the most troubling.

We went Tuesday for our follow-up appointment at Family Practice where she said he is absolutely not to play any contact sports until we figure out what is going on.

Her quick assessment- it could be anything from a virus to leukemia.

I'm still not sure how I feel about her throwing that out there. Ten minutes in the office, two blood results- why even put the idea of leukemia in a mom's head without further assessment? Fortunately, I'm not panicked. Justin said, "There's no way I have leukemia. It's just a virus."

Still, it stopped my heart for a minute. These unknowns are the most scary. If he could have been bruised or purple- he would have after the game he played. She did agree to draw more blood to see if they had increase- instead they're a little lower.

Most upsetting for Justin is that he can't play football this weekend. She said absolutely not. If he were to get hit, he could bleed to death with his platelet count this low.

He was selected to the All-European All-Star team. It's the first all-star game to be played since 1982. They're playing in Grafenwoehr, Germany- about four hours from here, two hours from Prague. A huge privilege, he's been looking forward to it for weeks since being told he was selected.

We're still planning to make the trip Saturday- a little shorter than planned. Hopefully, he'll still be able to be involved in the team.

For now, we're grateful he's improving. The temperature is gone. Body aches are still there. Maybe, it's just the flu. We'll have to wait until next week for more blood work and a visit to our regular doctor. Hopefully, it was just a virus.

On the good side- last night, {after four days on the couch or in bed} Justin asked,
"If I feel better tomorrow, can I go work out?"

A good sign. No, he's not going anywhere yet, but it's a good sign. I'm once again reminded of what a blessing it is to have everyone healthy and happy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

a tough L O S S

Justin and Steven heading off to the game
They fought hard, they gave it everything they had but still came up a little short losing the championship game by just two points.
It meant a lot to us that our family and friends could watch them live online. It almost felt like we were closer to family and not quite so far away.

We don't have to explain how emotional it was- those of you who were able to watch were able to experience it first hand. It has been a special time.

The entire game was close. Justin and Ty both played their hearts out.
It was an emotional night. An emotional weekend with really sad boys.

Sunday, {at different times} both Coleman and Caden approached the big boys unprompted and said, "I'm really sorry you lost your game."
Everyone was just a little down in our house.
I didn't really break down until I read the following Facebook post from one of the sophomores on the team:

We worked so hard and came so close. I'm sorry we couldn't bring it home for you seniors. Jon Grotelueschen, Young Oh, Jaap van Gaalen, and Justin Dickey you guys were the greatest leaders and it was an honor and a privilege to play under you guys. Thanks for a fantastic season.
RIP Brendon. I'll always be playing for you.

Watching Justin and Ty play together this season has been the biggest treat for us as parents.
From the time they were super little my big boys have never gotten along. They're extreme opposites and seem to argue or disagree on most things.

For some reason, they've both mellowed out a little this school year. Maybe, they're maturing. Maybe, they're realizing it's their last full year to live together.

Maybe, it's been playing football together for the first time since elementary school. Whatever it is- I don't care. I'm just grateful for this time. Beyond grateful.

As a mom, my heart is full.

Most upset that he couldn't help the team win for Justin- being his senior year, Ty was especially torn up. Saturday night, Ty posted the following on Facebook:

It took me 16 years and the last game I will ever play with my big brother to realize how lucky I am, how amazing and how proud I am of you Justin. I will never know anyone like you, with as much passion as you have, as driven as you are. You're the best and I love you bro
How could any mom ever wish for more?

Friday, November 4, 2011

championship G A M E tomorrow

We're so excited. Super nervous, my stomache is already in knots. Tomorrow night is the championship game for football. The Super Six as they refer to it here in Europe. It's a triple header- division III, II and I.
They're streaming it LIVE on so EVERYONE can watch it! YEAH! It will also be live on the Pentagon Channel on cable if you have it.

Our game is scheduled to start at 5:00pm Central Europe Time, which is 11:00 in Kansas, Illinois and Colorado. We had the end of daylight saving time last week, so we're only six hours ahead of you- this week only.

Here's a link to the promo commercial they have been playing on tv. Justin did the photo shoot for it at the beginning of the season. It's a little hard to see throughout the clip, but Justin is at the end of it as well- standing tall. His game jersery is #18, his practice jersey is #17.

The seniors in the student body decided to make it a black out- with all the students wearing black and bringing light sabers. They call Ramstein the Royal Empire... kind of a Star Wars theme going on. Coleman will be in heaven. It's football, so Caden will be in heaven- Star Wars or not.

SO exciting... hopefully, we'll end with a championship. I know nothing would make our boys happier!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

feeling R E F L E C T I V E

I think the boys are {maybe} over being mad at us. Maybe. It's been a long year, but it feels like we're finally getting in a groove and finding our place here in Europe. We've tried to keep a positive outlook from day one, but it's taken a while to truly feel happy over here.

Today, I feel like we're there.

Friends have helped immensely. Friends for the boys and friends for us. As a mom, my first concern is always for the boys to meet and make good, solid friends. In high school and in elementary- I think it's huge.

I love that I'm friends with the parents of the boys our boys hang out with.

Meeting people and making friends has never been too difficult for me. I've never been tagged as a shy girl. I can usually fit in with a variety of personalities. Moving here has reminded me of the importance of good friends.

The isolation and distance from family and friends in the states has caused me to really reflect and appreciate those I'm getting to know more than I ever have. I've met and learned {already} from some really strong, wonderful women here who I already consider friends for life.

Right now, I find at this stage in my life I am relying on friends- both new friends here and those at home than I probably ever have in my life.

When we found out we were moving with just three months notice, we felt so much regret with regard to our friends. We love our KS friends and only then did we realize how often we were too busy working or caught up in other things that we didn't take the time to enjoy our friendships.

When we did get together, we had a great time. We were only sad we didn't spend more time together. What a life lesson for us.

It's all about priorities yet, enjoying and living life with meaning.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

yummy C H O C O L A T E

We've discovered- we really, really like German chocolate. We haven't even tried it all, but we're sold on what we have tried.

Upon arriving here {almost a year ago}, the German orientation guy told us- if you're invited to your German neighbors for dinner- take a gift.

Something small. If you're going to take chocolate- take our chocolate- it's better than the US chocolate and we know it. True.

It's dangerously yummy.

While we went trick-or-treating in the new part of our village other wise known as little America, it was cool to find some good chocolate in their bags.

Too bad I found it- I'm sure it completely wiped out any benefit I was trying to gain from a two-hour hike this morning. Oh well- tomorrow is a new day, right?

The chocolate- another thing on my list of things I'm going to miss over here once we go back. Good stuff.