Birthday Buble’

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For my birthday, Steve bought me Michael Bublé tickets (not bubbles, Bublé)!  He went a step further and said that he knew I’d have more fun going with a friend instead of him.  Not sure that was true, I’d have the same amount of fun with Steve or a friend, but I’m sure my friend Wendy had more fun than Steve would’ve!

So we hopped on a charter bus arranged by the base, and headed to the Festhalle Frankfurt!

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(gorgeous on the inside and out!)

Wendy and I enjoyed a two hour conversation, uninterrupted.   But we were excited to see MB start his concert.  We had amazing seats just to the side of the stage

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We were pleasantly surprised by the opening act, Naturally7.  They were an a capella group from NYC.  What was so great about them, was that each guy “played” an instrument (think air guitar, air bass, air piano, air drums, etc.) as he sang.  They were incredible.

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Michael Bublé was such a great entertainer though!  He engaged the crowd (of mostly women, yes), and was so funny in between acts.  At one point, he had signed a few posters that people had been waving in the crowds, but got permanent marker on his face.  He stopped mid intro to the next song because people were waving him down trying to tell him he had black on his face!  So then as he sat and tried to remove it, they did band intros.

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Despite not getting home until 1:30a.m. the next day, Wendy and I had a spectacular time!!  Cheers to my husband, who continues to give incredible gifts that I never ask for!


Passing The Time

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We’ve found ourselves settling into a weekly schedule here, which provides for a bit of familiarity for us all.  Most of our week revolves around school–Briana in the morning and Mikey heads off to preschool in the afternoons.  Briana is fervently reading now, and I often find her stowed away here with a new book!

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But squeezed into our week are some fun activities that the kids seem to enjoy!  Briana, Mikey and I have started horse back riding at a small winter barn not far from our house.

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Evie goes to day care that day because she’s terrified of horses still, and it’s enough work for me to get Mikey to stay on a horse as it is!  Briana seems to be enjoying it tremendously, and our instructor, Petra, seems to love working with her too!

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(Anyone notice that we’re all riding bareback?! Oh my booty…)

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We also go swimming once a week–both to teach Briana to swim, but also to get swim therapy for Mikey.  Over time, it should help with his coordination and muscle tone.  His swim instructor is so sweet–she came over to the house last week to play so he’d know her better and not associate her with the fears that come with water.

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Also, once a week, we go to occupational therapy for Mikey.  I’m so glad we found this place–his OT is fantastic, super observant and patient!

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But it’s hard to not have the girls want to climb all over the play equipment and distract Mikey from what he’s supposed to be doing.  A few times, we’ve had a friend watch them, but sadly, they’re moving back to the U.S. next month!

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So this week, I treated the girls to a trip to the Eiscafe around the corner from our OT.

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We shared ice cream, crepes, and a cappuccino.

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It was a fun time to break away from the hustle, and sit and watch a large group of Italian men heatedly discuss!

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We’re excited for the Christmas season to begin! We’re heading to Christkindlmarkets in a couple weeks, so until then, we’ll enjoy what autumn we have left!

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Cemeteries

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     In honor of Halloween approaching, I thought I’d share a few pictures of the cemetery in our village.  I saw one in another village and it peaked my interest if they were all like the one I saw.  I was right!

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German cemeteries seem to place a high value on a plot.  Look at how beautiful some of these are kept!

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Ours is just on the outskirts of town, but has a gorgeous view all around, and is surrounded by a very old stone wall and iron gate.

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I see an old man here a couple times a week–and there are probably others who come frequently to tend to their loved ones’ graves as is seen by how clean and nicely kept they are!  There’s even a water supply to use for free to keep the flowers alive.

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Definitely not a spooky place, but a very beautiful and respected place in our village.


Happy 4th Birthday Mikey!

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Happy Birthday to our sweet little boy.

bornMy biggest cuddler.

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My earliest riser for the past 4 years without fail.  He does not sleep, he charges.  When his batteries are full, he is awake and ready to go and expects us to be too!  He is showing that he is a lot like his daddy and memorizes songs in just one go around, and then repeats it in the best timing sometime later!  He loves to make friends, and has even memorized each kids’ parent’s name at his new preschool, and it’s only been 3 weeks!  I peek in on him, and watch him play with puzzles and let other kids in his space, kindly.  He has overcome hurdles that make us super proud of him, and we’ve seen him take what he’s learned and share it with his sisters (“Evie, just take a deeeeeep bweaaath”).  I’d say he has a pretty great relationship with them, and has really blossomed in how he plays together with both girls differently!

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He’s really loving exploring our area and constantly asks if we can “go on an adventure” today

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He spent an awesome day at LEGOLAND Deutschland as his present, and even daddy won him a purple minion!!

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WP_20141018_181He opened up his gifts from grandparents this weekend, Skyped with Grandmas, and spent the rest of his Sunday assembling Legos and playing with Grandpa Tufano’s old matchbox cars he sent him along with a Blackhawks Zamboni!!

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This year will be busy for our growing boy, but we can’t wait to see what he learns, accomplishes, and teaches us.  We love you big guy!!


Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival

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Germany is home to the largest pumpkin festival in the world!  With it being a mere two hour drive away, we couldn’t miss it!  We joined up with two of the three other Microsoft families, and headed out in a big caravan.  Girls in one car, boys in the other–a great decision by the wives ;-)

Once we found street parking (free on weekends, yeah!), we started our trek to the palace of Duke Ludwig.

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Wow.  It is the largest Baroque palace in Germany, and it’s stunning.  The gardens are meticulous and no detail is overlooked.

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Like most places to tour, children under 5 are free, so for our family, a little higher entrance fee is worth it!

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We decided to head to the right of the palace which is the Märchengarten–Fairy Tale Garden.  It was a windy path down the hill side–first it began at Rapunzel’s tower where her hair lowered and raised up every few seconds.

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It was great to hear the children call for her!  Then as you head down steps, you enter more garden and fountain areas with a carousel and café.  Once you stop to make sure you’re not lost…

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 …you keep heading down the winding path which had a small hut every few hundred feet.  Inside each hut was an animatronic recreation of many different fairy tales.  At the end was a wishing well that had a voice coming out of it

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By the time we made it to the bottom of Märchengarten, it was almost 1p.m., and the adults were hungry!  As you can see from the pictures above, there were many a carried children at any given point–regardless of the family they belonged to!  So we sat down at the biergarten and of course enjoyed chiliwurst, brats, bier, ice cream, bread, and schnitzel!

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We are so thankful for each of the Microsoft families here in at Ramstein with us.  Mikey has befriended Holden, and they have a hysterical time together every time!

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Briana has befriended Lyric and Ryder too, and enjoyed having a slightly older gal pal around!  And of course, Steve and I really like Mike and Wendy!

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The other family that came has older children–and only half the family is here, but his oldest daughter Alex was a HUGE hit with Mikey.  I think we’ve found our new babysitter!  She and her older brother are professional ballerinas, so I can’t wait to see Briana get into their minds!!

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Alright, after food we were off to see the pumpkins!  At the start, we passed by the pumpkins waiting to be judged

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What was more impressive, was the theme–Royale–and the different stations that kept with that theme!

Chess Kings

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King Frederich the Fat

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Even the King of Rock and Roll made an appearance!

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King of the Dinosaurs, with a couple of mini dinos too

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And our little trio in front of the Frog Prince

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I think that everyone had a great time!  The kids all behaved well together–so much so that us wives are planning a Christkindlmarkt trip to France for us all again this winter!  No one even complained that we walked over 11km that day!

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Happy Fall from our family!


Back in the US of A

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Last year, my cousin Kathleen got engaged to her best friend and boyfriend, Cam.  We couldn’t be happier for them–their love story is one for books.  Their wedding was to take place atop the mountain where he proposed

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We received their save the date card, around the time we received word we were moving to Germany.  We made the decision that we would still make the trip because it really meant a lot to me, and I knew it would to my Colorado family.  So off we flew: Frankfurt to Chicago first!

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(Evie sporting her new airplane harness–worth EVERY penny!)

My mother in law, Jo, was so incredibly awesome to offer to watch the kids the five days we’d be in Colorado.  Uncles Mike and Joe pitched in, and Poppy even did some solo babysitting while we were away!

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This ensured us a relaxing vacation for more than a day away…and it’s been a few years since that’s happened!  We can’t thank them enough.  The kids had a great time while we were away–they went shopping for Legos, they went to Disney on Ice at the United Center, and they took walks and went to Lambs Farm too!  Busy babies!

Ok, enough about the kids. We were on VACATION!  We flew into Denver late, and my aunt Judy and uncle Clark picked us up and headed back to their house for the night…bright and early the next morning, we were off for an EIGHT hour drive into the Rockies.

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(we needed more coffee!!!!)

We stopped in Gunnison, where my cousin Tarryn went to Western Colorado State–and I could totally see why she chose that school!

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We had the party car–my great aunt Barb and great uncle Frank rode back seat and were great conversationists!

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Steve earned his saint halo by riding in the car with Clark and his mom, who is a character to say the least.  I know Clark enjoyed the company!

Before we knew it, we entered into the little hidden gem of Telluride, Colorado.  This was our “non mountain view” room’s view

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We wasted no time getting down to the spa area of the resort and hung out with the other family members that had already arrived!  Steve and I enjoyed a nice cocktail and happy hour burger, but even more, my cousin Mandi and her husband Toeknee joined us!  If you have kept up with this blog, you’ll remember Mandi was present during most of my labor with Briana–keeping it jovial the whole time despite some of the things she witnessed!

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It was great to reconnect with them!

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and then sad to say good bye a few days later

The next two days were full of hanging out in Telluride

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enjoying new and old faces, having some amazing food

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but also having some good cries over missing Kathleen’s twin brother Jake, taken too soon in a car accident in 2009.

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But as Kathleen said in her vows, through Jake’s passing, Cameron (his best friend) made it into her life, and she has to believe that he had quite the hand in that!

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Kathleen and the best man, Jake

The wedding day was more than any one could ask for (especially for September mountain weather expectations!)!!  It was sunny, 70, and perfect.  Steve and I got to help out with set up and decorations, and doing a little running around with my aunt Debbie to get dresses back and forth for photos.  Once seated, it was time to enjoy watching Kathleen’s dreams come true, and they surely did.  We had an amazing time!

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The next day we even got to enjoy the Blues and Brews Festival!  We received a glass at the entrance and got to try many different beers from microbrews all over the state.

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It was a great time to spend post wedding instead of rushing off to get back.

But come Sunday, it was back to Chicago  to see our babies again!  We headed down to Lombard to see my family, and also spend my 31st birthday with them!  We had a great time getting all the nieces and nephews together, and also seeing my grandparents.

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My grandma fell while we were in town, so we were able to spend some time with her while she recovered in the hospital (she’s out now).

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We also got to meet the newest Tufano, baby Benjamin.  Adorable, squishy, looks like my brother Dan, and going to be a sweetie, I can tell!

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We even got to squeeze in time to see some faces that we love and miss to pieces!

The kids got to see auntie Jaime and her crew, but after this picture was taken, I got to spend an afternoon shopping with my first shopping partner in life! It was a great time of catching up and hanging out alone!

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We were able to attend my old church while we were in town and surprised a lot of folks, but none more than Diane who doesn’t have Facebook! Ha! So we arranged a visit when we got back from Colorado, and she even baked me birthday cupcakes–still trying to feed me after having fed me dinner when I was single each week!

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On one of our last nights, in Lombard, my parents gracefully babysat the kids, and I was able to hunt down my old pal from Middle School through all these years, Sam and her husband!  We had a great dinner out and enjoyed some gelato and laughs too!  They were one of our first house guests after we were married, in the area by a chance road trip, so we always seem to find each other again when in town!

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And then like that, back to Germany we flew.  Back to home.  We did miss our new home and were happy to settle back in, and see our new friends again.  Happy to have seen our family and friends so soon, and now we look forward to all their visits to Germany this coming year!


Car Woes

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Before I start diving into our trip back to the U.S., and other fun happenings around here, I must state that you probably should never let us borrow your car.  At least not in Germany.  In fact, it appears that the whole Microsoft Air Force team here has not had the best of car luck in this country!  I think one family even had a road side fire?!  Lots of flats on the Autobahn.flat

(when this friend of mine rode with me after her flat above, my tire pressure light went on…

we are to be feared when in a car together!)

Well, our woes began a mere two days after getting home from Chicago.  Steve and Mikey went to go to the base craft shop to check out the wood shop in there.  On their way back the car stalled while driving twice.  The second time he was barely able to start it again.  Once he got home he was able to find that a hose had come loose.  Back on it went.  Car started great!  On Monday, I got a wake up call from Steve.  He had barely made it off the Autobahn and into the parking lot of a Burger King.  He heard a pop and the car was kaput.  Thankfully, we didn’t need to call for a tow–there’s a guy on Steve’s team that has a loaded Jeep, and was able to tow him to his reputable mechanic (thankful for car guys on his team!!).  Diagnosis?  Cracked engine!!  The fix would be far more than the car was valued at (we both bought used cars).  Bye bye BMW!WP_20140620_012

Enter in the rental.  A week later, Steve found a nice replacement.  A newer model, 2007 Ford Focus wagon, German spec.  Really low miles too.  He was much happier.  Until last night.  Steve went to the hardware store to get wood to build a side table for our new Big Green Egg.  He loaded in the boards and the back hatch gate wouldn’t close.  Rearrange the boards, slam the gate shut.  ….Shattered the windshield.

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Then today, while Steve’s car was at the auto glass repair shop, I took the girls to the library.  Upon pulling out of the parking lot, I was unable to reverse.  Got out to look why, and my bumper had caught a piece of concrete sticking up and caught on the curb.  So despite my efforts to free the plastic piece of my bumper free from the catch, I couldn’t.  So I moved forwards and back again, and was finally free…except I pulled the bumper’s piece from the sides.  Steve thinks it’s an easy fix…let’s hope so!!


Lucky Number 7

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Put it on the boarrrrrrrd, yes!  We’ve tallied year 7 into our story book, and what a year it’s been!  My matron of honor recently shared the quote, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough.”  Well, Steve definitely made sure we put some big dreams ahead of us this year with our move to Germany, selling a lot of our things, saying goodbye to friends, and then looking at me in the car on the way to Dulles Airport and saying, “You know, for the first time in our marriage, you’re really stuck with just me!”

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I wouldn’t want any other man to walk (or get stuck) with in this adventure, or during any boring times either!  In fact, Steve and I quite like those boring days of sitting at home doing nothing.

While Steve will leave here at dawn for another round of helping the USAF during Combined Endeavor, thus, not getting to properly celebrate our anniversary, we’ll be getting a great gift here in a few days…

We leave for a visit to America on Saturday!!  Steve and I will be dropping off the kids in Chicago so that we can attend my cousin’s wedding in Telluride, Colorado.  Alone.  For five days.  Our first vacation for more than a night since Briana was in utero!  Seeing how Steve swept me off my feet and proposed in under 100 days, and then we had Briana a year later–our opportunities to get alone time were very few.  So we are going to miss our babies (ok, I already have two books sitting to be packed so I can read through them without stopping to change or feed someone!)….and then we’re going to party like it’s 2007!

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My mom gave me a picture frame when we got married that says, “Let the adventures begin…”

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(the picture in the frame)

I knew Steve was the man for me the weekend I met him.  I knew we’d live a life different than I had ever known–just to be with him after we were engaged required me to leave a condo I had JUST bought, drive across the country, and live in a new state with a new job!  But I have loved every minute with him–he makes me laugh daily, roll my eyes pretty often at his silliness, and even has me movie quoting more than I ever thought I would.  But he kisses me every evening when he walks through that door, bear hugs me even more, and always makes sure he’s told me he loves me before he leaves for work in the morning.  What more could a girl ask for?  I ask for 70 more years of THAT.

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And I hope that one day, our picture above looks like this picture:

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My Grandma and Grandpa Tufano will be celebrating 67 years together next month.  A lifetime of love, working together, and friendship–a wonderful model for Steve and I.


Not Always a Vacation

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Living in Germany can seem like a never ending vacation with all that there is to do around here–but we also have to live our real lives too.  As we’re nearing our three month mark here in south west Germany, reality is hitting most of us–and knocking us to our knees.

Briana has good and bad days–most of them mixed in depending on the minute.  Poor Steve, he is dreading the teenage years from what he’s currently watching unfold before his eyes when it comes to her emotions.  She broke down crying at the park yesterday because one girl wouldn’t talk to her; turned out she didn’t speak English (we were on base, so we didn’t expect that barrier).  But we moved her up to the K-5 group at church this morning and she had a thrilling great time and was chatty for the rest of the day.  She talks about how Purcellville is still her all time favorite place in the world and talks about how we’ll go back there when she’s 8…or 11…or 14.  Thankful that she’s not quite got a countdown yet.  It’s also hard for her because our girl neighbors are 10, 9, and 7.  None of whom are really interested in playing with a 5 year old that doesn’t speak their language!  Such tough lessons for a sweet hearted girl. She has made a few great buddies–and we’re thankful for them!!

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There’s a USAFA family that arrives in Germany this week, and I talked to Briana about being a nice buddy to their little girl because she might miss her old friends too and need a new buddy who knows how she feels.  Hoping that focusing on others will help stave off the “I don’t like Germany” moments.  She’s also been doing a lot of her own free hand drawing in her much needed alone time, and I can usually tell her mood by what she shows me–this was on a “I miss Ditka” day

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Mikey also struggles but in his own ways.  He has his highs–walking up to kids and introducing himself like a boss; and his lows–where he’s nonverbal and back to grunting and screaming.  Those days are hardest on us all, because there’s nothing much we can do until he comes back to a calmness and can be talked to.  I’m fine getting those “looks” when they see a boy who looks too old for his pacifier and bear–because he is a tactile soother, and even when he doesn’t have it, I can tell when he’s upset because he’ll chew on anything.

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Mikey also did soccer camp with Briana, but he hated it.  Hated it so much he still starts to cry if I ask the kids if they want to go play soccer (as in, down the street in our little field).  He had anxiety attacks all week during camp–he only made it one day it got so bad.

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We did make quite a few friends at that horrible week of soccer camp, and there’s quite a bit more boy buddies around here than girls, so Mikey’s made a few friends despite the experience of screaming at soccer!

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Mikey also takes a lot of comfort in looking at pictures–he has a pile of pictures on his night stand that he goes through often, as well as a book of pictures from his classmates that his teacher sent him!

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Evie is starting to talk more–both in German and English–but she’s also a screamer who isn’t a fan of others in her personal bubble.  Not sure how she feels about this place yet.  She does love the outdoors quite a bit, so that’s a plus!  So far, she’s just along for the ride and happy as long as we’re nearby.

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We gave her bed tent to another family in the area that was in a similar situation we were six months ago.  Tonight is night two in a bed without any restraints…I think she didn’t sleep much last night because she fell asleep sitting up on the couch today.

Steve got a little overwhelmed with our travel heavy first few weeks, and soon he’ll be going TDY (temporary duty) to help out somewhere in southern Germany.  He’ll just get back the day before we leave for the U.S.  I feel like he and I will both need our little vacation we’ll get by attending my cousin’s wedding in Colorado!

It’s the little things that are starting to get to me–we’re thankful we can make it to my cousin’s wedding, but we’re also missing other weddings this fall.  We’ll also miss the birth of a few babies to friends that we’re very close to in Virginia, and that’s digging at my heart the past few days.  It’s extremely expensive to fly our family of five back to the U.S., so this trip may be our last U.S. trip as a family for quite a while.  It was such a stressful flight coming here (thanks Evie!), and we won’t be able to afford the back and forth for every event.  I miss my girls too, raising babies and living crazy lives was easy with them around–one of kind!

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And this week, it’s been in the high 40s/low 50s in the morning, and low 60s by the late afternoon.  That’s not how I’m used to August–you can’t blink because you’ll miss the summer apparently!  I do love the fall, but this came almost overnight!  I might need a trip to South Africa this January!  I feel ya Mikey

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Then there’s our yard…

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We really need to cut it back, clear it of weeds (hahahahahaha) and get it ready for the spring so we can utilize the most of it.  Our land lord came by yesterday to look at the progress on our new covered patio, and even said he’d brick out the rest of the patio so the first level is all brick! But that we can also do what ever we want–including plant trees!  We know stuff grows in plenty here, we just need to get ahead of the weed game…and it’s tiring!  I can only do so much with the kids, and Steve only gets about an hour of yard work in after work work.  It’s a tough balance!

Lots of hard work going on–both physical, emotional, and spiritual.  We’re still glad we made the decision to take this opportunity, and we knew it would be a tough one.  Those rough spots are starting to show as the kids realize this permanence.

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At least these guys are mostly getting along, and are learning to rely on each other for companionship

Pray for us!


Gartenschau Kaiserslautern

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In the busyness of everything, I completely forgot about our spur of the moment trip to Gartenschau Kaiserslautern–which people here happily refer to as the Dinosaur Park!  We made new friends at Briana’s soccer camp, and the Taylor kids love them; so when their mama suggested us meeting them there, we went without knowing what awesomeness lie ahead!

As we walked up to the ticket booth (we’ll be getting a season pass next April and making great use of this place), we encountered a gorgeous fountain with dinosaur statues

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Then as we walked towards the pedestrian overpass, we’re greeted with a warm welcome from T-Rex himself.

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This place was a hilarious juxtaposition of gorgeous gardens and décor, and dinosaurs.

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After you cross the highway, there’s a skate park for bigger kids and a sunken soccer field (I’m definitely starting to get acclimated to the new names of things–I kept wanting to write fußball!).

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Then you get to walk through your own little Jurassic Park

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The kids had a blast here.  We crossed a tiny stream (which we later learned the children are allowed and encouraged to play in), and played on the playground until our friends arrived.  Mikey and Briana loved this acorn swing so much!

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We played for over an hour, then headed to lunch at the biergarten.  After lunch–which was ordered with my ever growing yet still horrible German–we decided to test the physics of these slides with fully tummies

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The kids tried out some Archimedes screws, pumps, and other fun items up on this rocky hill.

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The crazy extremes some of these parks have, and that there’s no need for waivers or warning signs–it’s expected that you understand the bounds and dangers of what you’re doing.  It’s also encouraged for kids to do these things by themselves!

Briana ended up wading through a creek with her new friend Michael, looking for rocks and fish–while his mama and little brother and my little ones played on the other side of the park.  Kids here walk to their school at a very young age, so most parents sit in the grass sunning while their kids play when at a park.  There’s really no helicopter parenting here–it’s a lot about freedom and independence, and I’m slowly learning to give that to my kids (Briana digs it; Mikey would rather hang with me).

Thankfully, they still think their mama is fun, so we still do a lot of playing together so I can get pictures of them

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We had a great time at this gorgeous place, and we’ll happily take visitors the next time any of them come to town–you can’t miss this!

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