Monday, November 30, 2015

Rejkavik, Iceland

We spent another amazing Thanksgiving experiencing a new country. Iceland. It was cold, but beautiful. Our trip was a perfect mix of relaxation, family time and tours. We had scheduled a cruise to see the Northern Lights on Thanksgiving Day, hours after we arrived, but sadly, it was cancelled due to snow and wind. We wandered around the hotel a bit, found a delicious hamburger joint and filled our tummies. Afterwards, we checked into the hotel took a much needed nap and gathered our thoughts as to where to dine for dinner. We decided to keep the evening low key and ate in the restaurant inside the Fosshotel, Rejkavik where we were staying. We had a delicious meal--duck, fish, and soup. It was yummy. Definitely the most elegant meal our children have enjoyed! They were critiquing the plating and food as if they were judges on their favorite show--Masterchef Junior. It was cute.
Friday was a day where we hit the ground running! We left around 10 to the Blue Lagoon or paradise as we liked to think of it. The water was crystal blue and so clear. It was perfect! We enjoyed a healthy shake while we swam around the hot spring. People frequently looked at our small children--I think more because who can afford to travel to Scandinavia with children than anything. None the less, they were perfect and oh so happy. Gavin was in heaven swimming around the warm pool. He giggled with delight. Getting out into the 7* Celsius air probably was the low point of the day. We caught our bus back to the hotel then set out again to shop. The area we stayed was the business center, so I wasn't sure how much opportunity there would be to shop. Boy was I surprised. There was a quaint little street lined with shops. Just what I love! It was snowing lightly with Christmas lights lit up all around us. It definitely put us in the mood for the season! We made our way back to the hotel in time for another try to see the Northern Lights. Sadly, three hours later we had made our way around the coastline with no success. We enjoyed a cozy bus ride and the kids all enjoyed a nap, but we were all disappointed!
Our final day in Rejkavik was spent on a small group bus tour of the Golden Circle. It was lovely seeing amazing waterfalls, geysers, beautiful sunrise and sunset, followed up with another dip in a secret lagoon. This lagoon wasn't quite up to the standards of the Blue Lagoon, but was warm and much needed after a long day of sightseeing.
The cost of travel and stay in Iceland wasn't cheap but it wasn't incredibly expensive either. We spent an average of 40 Euro per meal. The tours were easy to book--all on viator.com. We paid a bit more for small group vs. a huge bus but it was SOOO worth it. The tours picked us up from our hotel each day and brought us back too. It made sightseeing very convenient and stressfree. Everyone spoke fluent English and were very kind. We thought it interesting that they put cream cheese on their pizzas, they can bake bread in bowls or cook eggs beneath the ground of the hot springs, childcare is very reasonable--something like 200 Euro per month, and there is paid maternity/paternity leave for an entire year. Iceland was beautiful.
Our children were PERFECT on this trip. Gavin napped alot, just chilling in his seat or in my arms. The girls were engaged with the scenery and captivated by the amazing sites! It was such a great time. A memory I know we will all hold dear to our hearts. We have so much for which to be Thankful. Our family is pretty spectacular!

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Weekend in a Windmill

I planned this trip some time ago--back in April. We have pretty much seen the typical European landscapes, visited our fill of castles and taken in the typical European architecture. I'm now focusing on trips and experiences that are a bit off the beaten path or out of the norm. This one was a huge success!
We traveled the four hours on Friday evening to Utrecht, Netherlands, where we spent the weekend with friends in a real working windmill. It was amazing! The inside was quaint, with rustic charm and modern conveniences. Downstairs consisted of a living/dining area, small kitchen (fridge, sink, microwave and dishwasher), toilet and entry area. The second floor is where we stayed. It had a bathroom and 2 bedrooms, along with a laundry area. The third floor had one large sleeping space and the top floor was the lookout for the windmill. The landscape around the windmill was breathtaking--open fields where cattle and sheep grazed, canals and blue skies. Sooo pretty. The kids had a great time exploring and finding their "secret garden."
Saturday we ventured 40 minutes away to the town of Dordrecht, NL where a replica of Noah's Ark per God's specifications was built. It was incredible. Though a bit expensive--12.50 Euro for adults, 7.50 Euro for children, it was interesting. It had several scenes from Genesis, real animals (wallaby, ponies, chickens, sheep, birds), and stalls filled with huge animals made of plastic.
After a couple of hours in the Ark, we were starving. We found McDonald's not too far away, along with some quaint shops. We looked around and took in the sunshine. The weather was perfect!
Matt did a bit of research and found a lake area to rent a motorized boat. It was only 27 Euro per hour, which was a steal considering there were 9 of us. We spent the next hour watching the children as each took a turn as Captain. They had a blast.


















Superstar

This girl. She is so much like me. Yet she is so much like Chris. This one is a perfect blend of us both. The best and the worst of each. Claire just wrapped another season of soccer. She has grown and changed so much from 3 years ago when we first entered the world of sports. She is aggressive, fast, and decisive. She knows strategy, she's methodical, not afraid, and loves to score, but is just as eager to pass to a teammate. The girl has some mad skills.










Her coach this season was awesome. She actually played at the AF Academy and is a trained coach, qualified to coach any level. Coach Deb actually pulled me aside and asked if Claire was playing club soccer. She noted she has natural talent and was surprised when I shared Claire's deep dark secret.

The girl has a love/hate relationship with soccer--and with pretty much anything she is good at but not perfect at. That is it. Claire is her own worst enemy. She would rather not try if something may require work. Violin, soccer, and now gymnastics. It is a battle Chris and I are trying to figure out how to win. We've tried numerous approaches with none begin more successful than another. Frustrating! The girl has so many things she is good at. She could be an awesome swimmer. She's picking up violin pretty easily considering the mediocre practice routine, and soccer is a joy to watch. She is pretty amazing.

Anyway, each game her coaches chose two players to be team Captains. The kids rotated through until the last game of the season, when the players were selected based on skill, attitude, attendance and motivation. Our girl was chosen. She has a heart of gold and is aggressive like the boys. It is such fun watching her.

Chris and I don't care if she ever chooses to play club, whether she chooses to play any sports competitively. Our only hope, wish and desire is that she doesn't defeat herself. We pray she realizes her potential and shoots for the stars. You can never accomplish something amazing if you are too scared to try.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Decisions, Decisions.

Being an adult is a tough gig. I've never been great at making big decisions. Sure I make them, but more times than not, the days and months leading up to them are filled with stress, worry and agony.
Living life via the military has it's advantages and disadvantages. For me, not knowing where the road may lead was an advantage. All I had to do was hang on for the ride. Sure, Chris and I went back and forth weighing each possible place we'd call home as if we really had a say in where we landed, but truth be told, we went wherever "they" wanted/needed us. Massachusetts, S. Korea and Germany. Now, 9 years later, retired from that life, here we are. Planted temporarily. We know that Germany is not our forever home. Only this time, we don't have a "they" in terms of the government to direct us. To be the grown up. To tell us where to land. Instead, we have little people. Little people who desperately want to land near their Grammy, Papa, cousins and the aunts and uncles who treat them like princesses. It's tough growing up. It's tough to make decisions knowing one poor one is enough to jostle the lives of so many others. No one wants rocks in their road, bumps in their journey. Chris and I have been pretty darn lucky. We have an ongoing joke about there being a dark cloud above him, but truth be told, we've mitigated risks to the point that all onlookers would think we've had an easy life. One without financial stress. One without worry. Pain. Heartache. Sleepless nights. Sure, we've been blessed in many, many ways. Someone looks out for us in all we do. Opens doors that need to be opened, leads us through the fog when we are lost. He has bigger plans for us all. He is once again, itching for us to walk. This time, 3 little people are doing his work. Pushing Chris and I to question our future "landing" spot. Urging us to look down the road and focus on the journey ahead. Such uncertainty in decisions. Such stress. In the end, we look back and everything is so clear. I pray for clarity. I pray for his plan and guidance. I pray for our little family, that we find happiness and constant love.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mallorca, Spain

Two of our best vacations were spent at all inclusive resorts in Guam and Thailand. We attempted to recreate them, European style with an extended holiday weekend at the island of Mallorca. We stayed at the Cala Mandia resort about an hour from Mallorca's major city, Palma. It was definitely a resort catered to Germans, Spanish, or Europeans in general, but we made the most of our time and the beautiful weather. Prior to leaving, the weather forecast included 40-60% chance of rain each day with temps in the upper 70's. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. The temperature held steady at 78-80ish the first 3 days with bouts of full sun.

We lounged at each pool--kids splash pad, family pool, and water park, rotating among them. Each pool had appeal to each of our children. Thankfully, Gavin was able to access the pools independently with Chris & I with an arms reach.

The resort had beach front access as well. It was perfect. Mya discovered sand gets EVERYWHERE, while Gavin learned that sand is not tasty. Both were tough lessons ;) Claire loved jumping the waves. Interestingly, Mya, who is typically the risk taker, was a bit more timid, requiring some coaxing from Chris. She too enjoyed all the ocean had to offer.

We took a snorkeling excursion on Saturday. Gavin and I stayed in the boat, while Chris and the girls snorkeled around the cove. They loved it.

The girls had their hair braided with string woven in. Each was so excited to choose the design and color combinations.

On Sunday, we took a taxi to Porto Cristo where there was a market. I bought some football (aka soccer) jerseys for our soccer loving nieces and nephew, a jewelry dish and the kids picked a beanie boo. Gavin clutched that doggie the entire day, despite not feeling well. The poor guy was conjested and simply wanted to snuggle. Sadly, I didn't bring the Tula, so we were stuck lugging him all around that market. Our arms were tired, but we soaked up the snuggles. In Korea, there were nail salons offering Dr. Fish. I did it a few times, with our girls sticking in their hands. They thought it was so funny. We found a little place in Mallorca too. Chris and I decided to let them relive the fun. The girls giggled and giggled, thinking the fish sucking off the dead skin was so crazy. It was.

All around the resort are stores selling already blown up, inflatable rafts. Mya was especially convinced that we should buy one, but for the hefty price tag of 7+ Euros each, Chris and I refused. We held strong. While at the pool, a little boy from England came up to us with two of his rafts and asked if the girls would like to have them as he was leaving the following morning. The girls were elated. Mya swam for hours with that thing, despite dropping temperatures. She was in heaven.We even allowed them to bring one home. You would have thought we had just hung the moon, they were so excited.

The flight home was not so easy. Gavin was extremely fussy. He was difficult to console and Chris and I wanted nothing more than to get off that airplane. Thankfully, it was only a 2 hour flight. Painful, but brief.

Our Labor Day weekend was lovely, filled with great memories with our littles. Looking back at all the things we did this trip that were replications of previous experiences, it is bittersweet--knowing full well that they are not, in fact, so little any more. We are trying desperately to savor each day, expression, smile. We love, love, love our littles.

**My camera was stolen a few days after writing the post, therefore most pictures are gone. I am heartbroken. So many snapshots of memories were stolen. I did manage to capture a few pics on my phone, so will include those. Far from perfect, but better than none.