Friday, December 30, 2011

second is not so G O O D

For Justin and the Ramstein Hoops Team, it was a three-day basketball tournament this week down in Stuttgart. The base is still in Germany, but about a 2 1/2 hr drive each way. We decided to make a day trip yesterday for the end of the tournament.

Coleman and Ty weren't too keen on the idea of traveling or watching basketball, so they stayed home and hung out with our good friends all day. Caden wouldn't think of missing his brother's game, or any game for that matter. So, he went with us.
They did really well and ended up in the championship game. They didn't do quite as well in the final game and ended up taking home the 2nd place trophy.

You would have thought they came in dead last- there wasn't a smile on any one of their faces. Caden was a little upset as well. At one point, I thought he was going to cry.
This is nothing new in our house. Justin is highly competitive and a very sore loser. He'd probably be the first to admit it. He hates to lose at anything.

I love that he has such an intense drive, but on the other hand wish he was a little more accepting when things don't go his way.

We've been working on it his whole life and he still struggles with every single loss from a game of Uno with the little brothers to a championship football or basketball game.

That's our Justin.

As soon as we got home, Caden decided he had a basketball game of his own. He changed his clothes and got his ball out. Game on. As much as I hate a bouncing ball in the house, we let him play upstairs for a short time. Sometimes, you have to let that energy out.

He came downstairs sweaty {this is no joke for him- it's a real game} and sat down at the table for a late dinner.

He let us know that he finished his game. Then, he turned to Justin and said, "Except, we came in 1st place instead of 2nd place like you did. We won our tournament."

Oh, no.

Where did he come from? What are the chances of getting two out of four kids so much alike? I reminded Justin we're sending Caden to him once he's a teenager, he better get ready.

I'm thinking summers at the very least.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

lots of O P T I O N S

I'm not feeling great today.

Not super sick, just not great. Justin and I somehow managed to avoid the bug that everyone else caught this month. I haven't had a cold in a year- I think.

Jim convinced me to get into the clinic- something I avoid if at all possible. Maybe, they could zap whatever is zapping me. Congestion that's moved into my chest, coughing, blah.

So, I called. I hate calling the clinic.

She let me know she didn't have anything available for today. Could I make it tomorrow? No, I can't. Tomorrow- we're heading down to Stuttgart for Justin's basketball tournament.

She then offered me January 5th.

What? January 5th? Nope- I intend to have this knocked out long before January 5th. Like, tomorrow.

So, using my nicest voice possible {as opposed to the "please-work-with-me-right-now" voice}- I asked if I had any other options. Could I see a German doctor on the economy? Could I go to the other hospital?

This was her response:

"No. I've already given you many options which you've turned down. I can put in a phone consult with a nurse." Ok. I turned down tomorrow's appointment and kind of laughed off the option of January 5th. But, many options? Seriously?

The nurse has 72 hours to return my phone call.

This is probably why I hate calling the clinic. I'll keep sipping my ginger tea.

And being sick-ish. Moms don't have time to be sick.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

the greatest G I F T

Merry Christmas!

There are more things than I can list that I love about Christmas.

Silver.
Baking.
Family.
HOT Apple Cider.
Josh Groban's Christmas CD. Cranberries.
Clementines.
Christmas Tree Farms.
German Christmas Markets.
The excitement.
Christ.

One of my other favorite things about the season are snowmen.

I don't love being in the snow- but it's hard to deny the beauty of falling snow and the sweetness of little snowmen.

My mom knows how much I love them and always seems to find the cutest snowman decor.

A few years ago, she gave us this card. I finally put it in a frame this year and I love it. It's all about love. On the subject of love...
How sweet is this note that we found on the fridge the other day written by our little Caden?

And this hug- pure love. I think if I could freeze time- I would. I love this stage of life. I LOVE it.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

gingerbread H O U S E S

My aunt Sarah was well known for making the most beautiful gingerbread houses. You know the kind you see in magazines?

Beautiful detail. Perfect all the way around. I have her gingerbread and icing recipes, but still haven't gotten brave enough to attempt making them.

I do however love the tradition of gingerbread houses.

Usually, my boys get to do the graham-cracker style houses and don't care or possibly don't even know they're not really gingerbread.

This year, I bought these cool kits ready to just be glued together with icing and decorated with candy. I still struggled to get them together and they were by no means anywhere near perfect. Lots of candy covered them up, and they were perfect in their eyes.
But, the boys didn't care. So, I didn't care. It was fun, they were happy. Life goes on. The candy started coming off before I even got the finished pictures. I'd consider that success.

Maybe next year I'll attempt baking them from scratch. Or, maybe not.

Happy Christmas Eve... the littles in our house were up at 4:20 this morning- so excited for Christmas Eve. Ugh. I have a feeling tomorrow morning will be an early one in our household as well...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

and I put them U P

Took me four months of living in this house and putting the tree up to see that I had two different length curtains up on this window. Geez- and I put them up. They all looked the same to me. This now explains why some are dragging on the floor in other rooms.

Guess I should maybe vacuum behind the chairs more?

Monday, December 19, 2011

fresh out of W A F F L E S

Stuck in a traffic jam of people, we saw what we wanted to see and turned to head out of the market and back to our van.

The lights were on and there was a beautiful little band on the corner playing music.

As we first arrived, Jim saw huge waffles that looked yummy.

He even passed up a crepe for the waffle he was going to be endulging in later.

Fluffy, hot waffles- fresh fruit and a huge dollop of whipped cream on top. Delicious.

He wanted to find his brat first, so as we headed back we stopped by the waffle stand on our way out.

After Stacey {our friend} and Jim made their way to the end of the line it was waiting, waiting, waiting. I think we waited at least thirty minutes. Probably longer.
All for a waffle. As Jim was the next in line, he ordered his waffle only to be told they were fresh out of waffles.

What a shame. He was a bit upset. Jim says, "When Germans are done, they're done. Plus, they are too slow." Life lesson I took from it- eat dessert first. Always a good idea in my opinion.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

santa G E R M A N style

German Santas look much different from the chubby American ones. Don't you think? We found these two at Sankt Wendel at the market. They're pretty tall, too. I like their beards. We even caught a glimpse of a couple of their reindeer.
Seven days until Christmas... the boys are keeping track on their Advent Calendars. Should be a pretty exciting week ahead!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

cute C R E P E maker

On from the little gnomes or dwarfs... we found the food. The boys were much happier I must say.
Perhaps the best part of the Christmas markets is the FOOD. Justin and Coleman love the brat and brotchen. Ty tried the Currywurst here and liked it, too.
Simple enough to eat even without mustard- they are pretty tasty. I just wonder why the brot isn't a little longer to fit the brat. No matter what- they're so good.
Caden and Ty LOVE the crepes. Nutella, chocolate, chocolate and banana, cinnamon and sugar.. you pick your toppings. Today, he was making a cinnamon and sugar with apple. Yum.
We watched him slice up the apple, then without hesitation he chomped down on the rest of the apple.
No sense in wasting a good apple, right?
Isn't he the cutest little European crepe maker you've ever seen?
I think so. I'm kind of kicking myself for not trying his ham & cheese crepe or even the fresh vege and creme crepe.
Not sure you could go wrong with anything on his menu. They make them to order- I'm sure they're all delicious!

Friday, December 16, 2011

st. W E N D E L market dwarves

To finish out last weekend for us- we headed with friends to St. Wendel for their Christmas market. I'm a little slow to post and there's more to come. What a beautiful little spot in the world just about 45 minutes from our house!
Here, the stands with handmade crafts are nice, but the dwarf village {according to a little research} is supposed to be the highlight.
I knew before hand that thousands and thousands of hours have gone into this project that is always being improved and added upon.

I read this before going- thinking it sounded kind of cool. In 14 little houses, they have built a village of dwarves- all doing something and many of them with moving parts.

I think their site said there were nearly 200 of the little guys- all in different settings.

When we first stepped on the cobblestone downtown street in the midst of the market, there were quite a few people but still room to move.

The lines weren't too terribly long.

Within a couple of hours, the streets were packed. Way too many people and the lines were ridiculous.

When the Autobahn hits a stand still with congestion from construction or an accident- it's called a Stau. While walking the market streets, I heard several Germans refer to it as a people stau. It was horrible!

Anyhow- we made our way to the dwarf village entrance {following the mobs of people} and this is what we found !

The boys kind of looked at me like, "Really, mom? We came for this?" It's all about the culture.

So funny- I couldn't stop laughing.

Justin let me know I was being a little immature.

 I really did try to not act so childish in front of the Germans.

I am still trying to kind of fit in with them. But, I couldn't help myself. It was as much fun watching Justin as it was watching the dwarves.
This was the little sauna house. The towel the little guy in front was holding moved up and down to expose his little pee-pee.
Justin doesn't like clowns to start with {at all} so he didn't find any of it very enjoyable. They were a little scary looking. This one was kind of normal- a bike race. Typical Europe. We missed the hospital and the breastfeeding mom in the corner.
Why should I have been surprised if there were naked parts showing? Why do I always seem to laugh or giggle when there's public nakedness? I don't know- it just always seems funny to me. Real people or figures.
We couldn't figure out what this one was supposed to be. Maybe fanning the hot or sick grandma? But, the tongue sticking out?

The next one was obviously bath time. Do you think they really hang out there together? I'm not so sure.
It is a way of life here- I'm tellin' ya!

"Of course, mom would take pictures," as Justin so confidently stated.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

justin I S eighteen

Today is Justin's birthday. He's 18. I just can't believe it.

Last night, as we were saying good night to him, I looked at the time and said, "It was right about this time that I headed into the hospital the night before having you."

He kind of laughed and said, "You were there all night?" Yep- 12 hours, and that was kind of normal for a first baby.

I remember staying up all night watching the monitors just waiting for my little guy to be born. When my doctor made his first rounds, I was sure he was going to stay and he was going to be born.

Instead, he let me know he was going to go out and get a few more Christmas presents and he'd be back. Justin was born just before noon.

I was so excited- I couldn't stand it! My first baby and he was absolutely perfect. Three days later, I jumped on a plane and headed north to Alaska to meet his Grandma, Grandpa and Aunt Starr.

A couple years ago, I was having a conversation with a good friend in Kansas. I'm sure we were sitting in bleachers in some gym watching our boys play a game.

Her oldest son is also a senior and friends with Justin. She said something that I think about often. Being a young mom when having her first son- she felt that she grew up with him. The bond is super tight.

I hadn't ever thought about my mother-son relationship with my big boys in that way before. I know there is something special about having boys and I am very close to them all.

Once I looked at it from this new perspective- I couldn't agree more. The bond is super tight.

Being just twenty when Justin was born- I was so young. Ty came along pretty quickly after. As a super young mom- they got to endure my trials whether they liked it or not.

I didn't know what I was doing and made more than enough mistakes along the way. No matter what, I had my family and I always had my boys. Thankfully, the bond has remained tight.

He might be 18, but he's still my baby- can't help it! On our menu tonight- probably the same thing he had when he was two and every year since... steak and shrimp.

Happy Birthday, Justin! Oh, we love you so much. xo

Monday, December 12, 2011

chris D A U G H T R Y

It was a free concert- what a cool thing! Those don't come around too often in the states.

Occasionally, super stars make the rounds to different bases performing for those of us in the military and families of those in the military overseas.

In September, Trace Atkins was here and we missed him.

This weekend, Chris Daughtry was here and we made it. He put on a great show!

Justin & Josie stepped up and stayed home with the little guys which was nice. We gave them the option- they were fine staying home. We didn't complain.

We went with a good friend {her hubby is on a work trip to the states} who shared her seats with us. Ty was up super close- right in front of the stage and took these great photos. Fun times.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

st. N I K O L A U S tag

We are in full Christmas mode here in Germany. I love it.

The gal the cuts my hair told me, "You do know... Christmas did start in Germany."

The traditions are really beautiful here.
We're trying to soak it in.
For German kids, December 6 is one of the best days of the month- St. Nikolaus Tag.

The evening of the 5th, children put their shoe outside the door in hopes of receiving treats.

For the good kids, it's candy and maybe a little toy. For the not-so-good kids, it's sticks.

Coleman says if you're kind of good, you get sticks and candy.

Being in Germany immersion, Coleman was especially excited to put his shoe out and made sure all our boys were set for candy.

The boys found another treat on the front step later in the day. Each got  a 4-pack of Kindereggs- a super cool German chocolate {with a toy inside} for kids.

I'm pretty sure our wonderful landlord played St. Nickolaus as well. I do love her.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

clean W I N D O W S

It's not often that I have to fill up my van with gas. It's one of those super cool husband things that Jim usually takes care of so I don't have to deal with it. I sure do love that man.
Earlier this year while he was away on a couple of his work trips, I was stuck taking care of the task on my own.
The gas-station attendants quickly got to know me only because they loved watching Caden as he had to wash windows  e v e r y   s i n g l e   t i m e  I went to fill up. Any stop on any road trip- he has to get out and wash windows. It's easier to just let him do it than to turn him down. He loves it.
This last trip while filling up, Caden jumped out as usual to grab the squeegie and get washing. Before we knew it- Justin was out there too. Side by side. Again, they couldn't be any closer genetically. They sure do make us laugh.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

our B L U E spruce

It's looking like Christmas around here.. pretty exciting. We {probably mostly me} really wanted to get a real tree this year.

We started the tradition in Kansas of going to the Christmas Tree Farm and picking out our tree.

The whole experience is wonderful. I love it.

That year, we gave our artificial tree away and decided never to have the fake variety again.

After asking Alexandra where we should go to buy one- we headed to the next village over to find the German farmer. She drew a map showing where he lived.

After asking one German neighbor who didn't know English or where the farmer was- we found a row of pines and took the chance by driving up to their driveway.

A girl was in the yard. I approached her in German and she quickly ran to get her mother who also spoke no English. The mother told me they do sell trees, but only one day- December 10th.

We couldn't wait that long. So, we headed on base instead and picked ours out from the Boy Scout fundraiser stock.

A German farmer was making his delivery as we showed up, so it's almost like we bought it straight form the Germans, right? I'd like to think so.

The trees here are a little funny looking. Not the typical- full firs. We picked out a Blue Spruce and are actually quite happy with it. We trimmed it a little making it fit in the corner perfectly.

It smells great, but is very, very pokey. It's real- I'm pleased.

Monday, December 5, 2011

we're playing B A S K E T B A L L

It's basketball SEASON! The football All-Stars game {that Justin was supposed to play in} was on a Saturday night.

Basketball tryouts and conditioning started the following Monday- less than two days later. Not much of a break.

We are proud and super excited that Justin made the team. After a year off and only three years experience {his whole life} it's definitely out of his comfort zone.

He could play football with his eyes shut. Basketball causes him to think a little.

With late practices from 5:30 - 7:30 every night and conditioning in the mornings before school- he's tired, but he's playing.

They had their first game this Friday night. It was a two-hour drive to the gym for a 9:00pm game start time.
We didn't get home until around 2:00am. Craziness. I remind myself- I wouldn't want it any other way.
It was a tough loss to start the season. Hopefully, things look up this week with another two games.

Justin's not the only one playing basketball this season...

A couple weeks ago I think I said, "I'm well known for being quick to take on lots of projects and volunteer whenever the opportunities arise."

I think I've done this my whole life- it's me. I like to be involved- especially when it comes to our kids. I can't help it. Right, mom?

I've done it again. We signed the little guys up for basketball through the Youth Sports program here.

Coleman is on the 7-8 year olds and Caden on the 5-6 year olds.

After receiving two or three emails that they were still looking for a volunteer to coach Coleman's team- I responded that I'd be happy to help out as an assistant.

The response I got back from the youth director was to come pick up the paperwork. We did the background and security checks. Long story short- Jim and I are now coaching. Funny thing is- he's listed as the head coach, I really am the assistant coach.

He reminded me that he knows nothing about basketball- not even paying attention to know what position is where. He watches our boys- that's it. Guess he's going to learn, right?

Fortunately, they moved Caden up so we will be coaching both Coleman and Caden- they're thrilled. We'll see if it lasts. It's not exactly what we had in mind going into December but, it's ok.

I'm excited. Now, I need to go get a whistle and clipboard to make it official.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

ready for W I N T E R

In a random conversation the other day, I reminded Jim how important taking a German class is to me. Initially, I planned to take one this fall once Caden started school. Now, I would really like to start one after the holidays.
His response was something like, "That's great- go ahead and do whatever you want to. But, you know everyone here speaks in English."

When I have to speak in German, I can sort of make do- but, more than anything it makes me want to speak and understand better. I have a super long way to go. I also think there's no reason for me to not be fluent by the time we leave- it's all around us.
We happened to have this conversation while headed to visit a German man in our village who has a lot of wood in his yard.

We took a chance that he'd sell us some and walked through his gate to approach him.

There are no signs anywhere- just lots and lots of wood.

Jim spotted him once we made it half way across the yard. We had to turn our backs for a second as  he was standing up peeing.

This is Germany after all- very typical. Once situated back in his wheelchair {he's missing part of a leg}, I asked if he spoke English {in German, of course}. Nope.
We went back and forth for a while adding in a little sign language along the way. Somehow, we came to an agreement to purchase a half cord {or maybe it was two cords} of firewood that he would deliver the next morning at 9:00.
We tried to pay him up front and he let us know- no, you don't do that. In Germany, you receive the service or goods first- then pay.

Never the other way around. Good to know.

As agreed to, he showed up the next morning and dumped our wood.

We didn't chat long- he did say how nice our area is and our landlord too. I'm sure he's been here forever as many of them have.
I told him we'd be back in a year or two or whevever we get through it. Jim says we got too much.

I think it's perfect. The old man just laughed.

He's just around the corner. I'll have to add him to my list of older German grandpas that I'll give a friendly halo or Morgen to on my walks.

We couldn't be more thrilled with our new firewood which burns SUPER hot.

We've had a fire going every single day and the heaters in the living room have been off which should result in a lower gas bill {we hope}.

Everyone is excited and can't walk past it without stopping to feel the warmth.
We're pretty sure Lady has enjoyed it as much as any of us. When a new log is put on with bright flames- she'll go over {if she's not already} and just stare. Otherwise, she's sprawled out in front of it. Oh, it's wonderful.