Disneyland 2010

ur second family trip to Disneyland took place Sat Nov 13 to Sat Nov 20. During the trip we celebrated Ruthie's 2nd birthday on the 15th.

Here's a handful of memories from our fun week, roughly left to right:
1-Lambson kids on the teacups. Their family went to Disneyland a month before us.
2-Austin found a map of the future of California Adventure. He spent 20 minutes comparing his map to the one on the wall.
3-The 'A' boys. Anthony and Austin.
4-Austin showing Pluto his remote control "Shiny Pluto" toy.
5-Anthony buried the kids in the sand at the beach. We spent our last day at the beach.
6-Ruthie started out scared of the characters, like she was last year. On the second day we met up with Koda and Kenai. They didn't have a line, so it gave Ruthie a chance to approach at her speed. She spent 20 minutes watching other kids approach while the bears tried to encourage her to come over. Finally she had the courage to give them both hugs. The silent, perma-smile bears clapped and pumped their fists and coddled her. It was so cute.
7-The 'R' girls. Ruth and Heidi Ruth.
8-Ruthie digging the Playhouse Disney show now that she knows what the shows are.
9-Ruthie has recently adapted Donald Duck as her favorite character. My mom, who came with us, got Ruthie a stuffed Donald for her birthday. When asked, "What are you going to name it?" she replied, "Um... Mickey Mouse."
10-Autopia cars. Austin and grandma rode, but we didn't. Every afternoon one or two of the adults took Austin around to play while another one took Ruthie back to the hotel for a nap.
11-At CA Adventure park with Minnie. We tried to get Austin on the Soarin' ride, but he was still too scared to ride some of those 'unknown' rides.
12-Austin with, who else, Buzz Lightyear! That morning we bought Austin a magic trick so he spent a moment showing the trick to Buzz.
13-Partners statue. Is there a story there?
14-What if I'd married a man my own height? Ruthie helped bury Anthony in the sand. It was cold and cloudy on the beach that day. I kept my jacket on and didn't get in the water above my knees. Anthony and the kids were braver.
15-It sure was fun having my mom on the trip with us. Good times, great memories. Plus we got a date night in the park. While mom watched the kids Anthony and I rode some of the best coasters - Space, Screamin', Tower of Terror.
16-The bubbles on the Nemo ride elicited the biggest reaction out of Ruthie last year. But this year it was just so-so, but still a fun ride.
17-A future princess.
18-Our trip family photo. If I was a Christmas card sender, I probably would've used this picture.
19-Lambsons with Mickey.
20-Ruthie and I enjoying yummy treats. Ruthie was absolutely coated in it by the time she was done.
21-Austin on his big afternoon with grandma. They rode so many rides and had such a fun time together.
22-Stuck in Prim Nevada. Our car broke down on the way there. We were set back 4 hours and got to Anaheim around 3am. Grrr! I'm just glad we got it figured out.
23-Lambson's family Christmas card picture.
24-Dinosaurs. Austin can name all of the dinosaurs! He takes after his mother. I used to love naming the dinosaurs when I was 5 and now my little 4-year-old does it. (Thanks Dinosaur Train).
25-Anthony and the kids braved the cold November ocean water for about 30 minutes before they were totally blue and numb.
26-Ruthie at Minnie's house.
27-My triumphant moment of the trip. Austin rode my favorite ride with me - Splash Mountain! It took a bit of convincing, though. We first had to ride the Matterhorn, then bribe him with popcorn on the walk over and even use peer pressure telling him that even Makayla had gone on the ride! His take? It was fun, but wet. He was willing to ride again, but we never got around to it.
28-Darling wiped out kids. We actually spent long days at the park, crashing around 8 or 9 pm. By the end of the week we were a bit back logged on sleep.
29-Austin wrote his name in the sand. He's gotten so good at that this year!
31-Austin's surprise favorite ride of the trip: Alice in Wonderland. He requested this about 3 times a day.
32-Goofing off in Toon Town.
33-Playing in the Brother Bear area.
34-My boy was just barely tall enough to ride some coasters this year. Scraping the 40" sign at 40.25". He loved Thunder and Splash, but wasn't ready for some of the others. That's ok. It's fun to have something to look forward to.


Rona and Other Sundries

  • Ruthie has become quite the little miss independence lately, and she won't stop at irrationality to assert her new attitude. Case in point, take our latest bedtime conversation:
    Dad - Ruthie, it's time to put your PJ's on.
    Ruthie - No!!! I want Rudolph (the current alias for Austin).
    Dad - OK, if we get our PJ's on, we can read books with Rudolph.
    Ruthie - No!!!
    Dad - Well what do you want to do then?
    Ruthie - I want my PJ's.
    Dad - Great, let's put them on.
    Ruthie - No!!! I do myself.
    Dad - That's fine, go ahead and put them on yourself.
    Ruthie - No!!!
  • The other day Heidi was in her bathroom putting on makeup and Ruthie grabbed the eye shadow from her. Heidi said kindly, "Ruthie, would you like to put on the eye shadow." Ruthie replied "No!!! My shadow!!!"
  • As indicated above, Austin's latest obsession has been Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. That's all he wants to watch 24-7. The other day when he got sent to timeout Heidi overheard Austin quietly brooding in his room, "Why am I such a misfit? I am not such a nitwit. Just because my nose glows, why don't I fit in?"
  • The Red Nosed Reindeer fad has also rubbed off on Ruthie. Whenever she sees Yukon Cornelius she hollers out "Yuuu-konnnn," mimicking Rudolph and Hermie calling out Yukon's name as he falls off the cliff with the abominable snow monster. Ruthie has also nicknamed the snow monster "Rona." Yes, that's Rona as in Mona with an R. Whenever she sees him in the movie or in our Rudolph book she claims matter-of-factly "That's Rona." Tonight we played the ambiguous wrestling game of kill-or-be-rescued-by-Rona. I'm absolutely lost as to how she picked up that name. TV says: "A-bom-in-a-ble Snow Mon-ster." Ruthie hears: "Ro-na."
  • "Cooperate" has been the word of the house for the past couple months. "Now, Ruthie, if you don't cooperate...", "Thanks so much for cooperating...", "Are you ready to cooperate?" And the kids have caught on pretty well. And yet, it just sounds out of place coming from a 2-year-old. "I no co-op-e-wate" sounds like we skipped all the middle chapters and jumped to the back of the handbook on language development.
  • A few weeks ago Heidi was in the church bathroom trying to convince Austin that "this is Jesus' house, so we should be reverent and treat it nicely." Austin's reply was "Wow, I didn't know that Jesus had so many potties in his house." And when one failed to flush he added, "And one of his potties is broken."
  • Yesterday we went to see Tangled in the theater. When we got back Austin proceeded to turn off all the lights in the house. After singing a little song, he informed us, "See, my hair is glowing!!!" Then he made Ruthie sing (her version: "ladl-adl-adl-adl-adl-adl-adl") "Look Ruthie's hair is glowing!!!" In truth, it was pitch black and Austin's hair was definitely not glowing.
  • At church I was sitting on the foyer couch between two others holding Austin for a time out because he screamed at the top of his lungs during the sacrament. Austin was wriggling so I had to hold him down pretty firmly. After struggling for a while he called out "Dad, you're hurting my penis!" Promptly followed by a blush from a Dad and two couch sitters. Yes, he has no qualms about discussing his body parts.
  • Last month on our trip to Disneyland we were taking pictures in front of the CALIFORNIA letters at California Adventure. Ruthie got pictures in front of the R while Anthony and Austin got pictures in front of the A. Then Austin climbed up on the A and yelled out "Take a picture of me inside the A-hole."


Page Turners

I don't know why, but I foolishly started reading The Hunger Games last night. I'd been warned it was good. Anthony read book 1 on a flight to Germany, book 2 on the flight home and neglected the kids for an entire Saturday while I was gone so he could finish book 3. It's not like I have that kind of time. So why did I even start? Maybe I thought I was stronger than that. Maybe I haven't read a good page-turner for a few months and I'd forgotten the ocean-tide-like pull. Actually, I just wasn't expecting it to be that addicting. I started last night and was able to put it down for bed when I finished 'Part I'. I woke up this morning and spent the entire rest of the day neglecting the kids and the house till I finished the book around 5:30pm. For some reason the kids were extra extra good today and I managed to get away with it. I'd take a picture of our tornado house but it's all too embarrassing.

But, this has me thinking - what are the best page turners you've read, recently or not? Here's my list, though I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

1. The Hunger Games (I don't think I've ever ever done a 1-day read like this)
2. Angels and Deamons
3. Ender's Game (The first page turner I ever read back in 9th grade)
4. Harry Potter book 1 (The other 6 weren't quite as "new" as that very first for me)
5. Twilight (and Stephanie Meyer's other 4 books, although caveat: I was pregnant when I read them so I was only too happy to indulge in an escape!)
6. The DaVinci Code
7. The Dark Divine
8. Echo (an unpublished book by Brodi Ashton - I can't wait for Everneath to come out next year)

What am I forgetting? What is your top ten?


Happy (Utah) Halloween

Halloween comes early in Utah when it falls on a Sunday. Many trick-or-treaters were out and about tonight - including us. Austin selected our costume theme again this year. About a month ago he got super into the new PBS kids show "The Cat In The Hat" - hence The Cat, The Fish, and Thing 1 and Thing 2. I actually get a big kick out of doing family costumes. It'll be sad someday when they want to do their own separate things.

I discovered tonight that I must be a sugar-indulgent mother because this horde of collected candy meant nothing to my children. Austin got home, dumped his loot on the floor, looked at it and announced, "Here daddy, you can have it." Ruthie, on the other hand, wanted to at least try the candy, but only one bite from every package. "Open this, mommy." Bite. Toss. "Open this, mommy." It's ok though, Anthony and I didn't mind eating it all for them.


The Weepies (I Got Bounced!)

Welcome to "The Weepies"! This has been Anthony's favorite group for about a year now. They did a concert here Saturday night and Anthony got us tickets. I am now totally hooked too! It was a great concert; the only downside being that they only played 10 or so songs and we were well prepared to listen to their entire musical library. If you are reading our blog (not just reading this on an email) you can hear some of their best songs. Click here to check it out. Or watch our concert recording below (if the link is working).

[Us in concert-bought t-shirt and beanie].
Oh, and I got bounced from a club for the first time in my life. (Yes, it was the first time I've ever been to a club in my entire life!) Whenever Anthony and I go out he always drives and pays for everything. I drag along my wallet, hanging conspicuously around my neck like a janitor's keyring. So for once I decided to be free of the burden and leave my wallet at home. Turns out the concert was held at a small music club (with a bar) that held about 300 people. As we approached the front of the line to get in I noticed people showing their IDs. I laughed and said, "Guess I won't be going to the bar tonight! Ha Ha." No ma'am, you won't even be going in. The bouncer dude refused to let us in! Ack! We raced 30 minutes back home, grabbed my stupid wallet, raced 30 minutes back to the concert, missed the opening act and made it 2 minutes before our band took the stage. Phew! Listen up people - never leave your wallet at home!

(Please no commentary on why you should never go without wallet or ID. Believe me, I felt plenty small and stupid about it so just laugh
and don't rub it in.)


Cutest Girl in the World

Many thanks to Amber for the adorable hand-made dress (seriously - is that amazing or what!?).


My Favorite Picture Of Summer

This summer we discovered two things:
  1. The kids have more fun playing in our oscillating sprinkler than in their kiddie pool. They even manage to get me to join in the fun!
  2. We love cucumbers! My over-ambitious garden was worth it if for only one thing - Austin figured out how to pick ripe cucumbers and eat them straight from the garden. He loves to cut them in half with his bare hands and share with Ruthie. One vegetable they eat gladly. Yay!


Teaching Children

Austin's primary teacher called me yesterday morning about an hour before church asking me to pinch hit for her in teaching his class. This is what I love about teaching 4-year-olds: the lesson took me 5 minutes to prepare - then we had snacks - and played with play-do. It's nice when it's that easy! Alternatively, three weeks ago I was asked to teach the Relief Society lesson. Teaching adults is definitely tougher - that lesson took me 5 hours to prepare.

But I just learned that teaching 4-year-olds and teaching 40-year-olds can have something in common. One thing I love about teaching kids is that the lessons are so basic. In Austin's class we learn very basic principles of religion and morality - like being kind, being honest, loving our family, how to say a prayer, etc. I truly love leaving behind the complex and the complicated that we often get in Sunday School and going back to the simple and sweet that surrounds children. This year the lesson manual for the adults is awesome because it actually goes back to the basics. I am really enjoying revisiting simple religious principles. I actually hope that I'll get to teach some more this year (though not too often since an extra 5 hours can be hard to come by).


We Love Gymnastics!

Summertime was gymnastics time for Austin. He attended the Lehi Rec center program weekly April-June and had a great time learning new ways to move his body. They do a stellar job there - rotating sets of 4 kids through 3 stations with different teachers, sampling each of the major gymnastics events. At the end of each class all the kids put their arms in the center and shouted "We Love Gymnastics!" Austin had a great time with this and I enjoyed 1) watching him try new things and 2) practice taking teacher instructions. Although, after 3 months, he started to resist going so we had to call it quits then.

In May we were treated to a gymnastics "meet" where the parents got to come in the evening and watch these little ones show off their stuff (older kids had a real meet later in the week). In the pic below you can see Austin (L to R) doing tumbling, vaulting, parallel bars, marching in, and balance beam. At the end of the meet each kid was awarded a medal. I included my favorite moment of the night in video - Austin's "Buzz Lightyear" vault.


Happy 4th

This is something I haven't done in a good 6 months - blogged an event right after it transpired! Well I'm all caught up baby! Go me! (Of course, I stopped taking pictures for about 3 months to help with that...)

We started our holiday traditions Friday night with a visit to Provo's Freedom Days. The kids made crafts and Anthony and I grabbed some lamb gyros, which were delightfully reminiscent of German duners. The festival didn't do much for me this year - not sure if we'll attend next year.

Saturday morning (the "official" holiday in Utah) we took the kids swimming in the morning. In the afternoon we dropped Ruthie off at Lisa's (she had a great time) and met up with the rest of the fam to see Toy Story 3. As you can see, Austin was so excited, he wore his Buzz Lightyear costume for 2 straight days. Take on the movie? I loved it. Pixar is great. Toy Story 2 is still my favorite of the trilogy. Poor little Austin was deeply disturbed. At one point the bad guys capture Buzz and tie him to a chair. This is were it started to get hard for Austin. He leaned over to me and asked, "Why does Buzz have to go to time out?" Then the bad guys flipped Buzz's reset switch and turned him into a "bad" guy. Austin crawled into my lap crying and asking, "Why is Buzz being mean?" I kept reassuring him that his friends would save him and to keep watching. He did, ducking his head into my arm several times and at one point telling me, "I just want to see Toy Story 4." He made it through the movie and was happy with the ending, but confessed to everyone after, "That movie was just a little bit scary for me."

Following the movie we dashed off to Debbie's house for some evening nummy BBQ and fireworks.

Anthony overate. I lit my traditional parachutes. Ruthie stayed up till 10pm. And Austin got a girlfriend. A neighbor of Debbie's (whom she doesn't know) hooked up with Austin during the course of the evening. Wherever he led, she followed and he seemed quite content with her company. He didn't know her name (Lacey) and she kept calling him Buzz (which makes me wonder if she was won over by the uniform), but they sure were cute to watch. Her dad ran over to snag pictures of the duo too. Anthony thought we were watching the Austin and Lacey show more than the Stadium of Fire.


Ruthie is 18 months

On May 15th, Ruthie was officially 18 months old. This little girl seriously AMAZES me. When you ask her, "How old are you?" She quickly responds, "Two." Most days, I believe it. I tell people she is 18 months going on 3 years. Here are a few of the amazing things Ruthie can do:

(I wish I had pictures of everything. Perhaps I'll take some and retroactively add them).

  • At the park, she can climb from the ground to the top of the big slides and go down in a sitting positions - all by herself.
  • She can run - and she and brother love to play chase every day.
  • Every morning, she feeds herself a bowl of cereal and get 80% of it in her mouth. (I've gotten accustomed to the daily clean up of the other 20% ).
  • When we put on the "Oo and Ah" song in the car, Ruthie sings along. "Oo Oo, Oo Oo, Oo Oo, Ah Ah." It is so stinkin' cute.
  • To this day she's still not really a night-time cuddle-bug. If she'd let me, I'd hold her and sing to her for much longer stretches, but when reading time is done, she starts to cry and wriggle. Maybe I just haven't mastered the bed-time routine the way Anthony super-dad has.
  • That said, Ruthie is (and has always been) the easiest kid to put to bed. She actually asks for naps. No joke!
  • She has her routine. Every morning she greets me with, "I cererereal now." Immediately following breakfast she announces, "T B" (for tv). She and Austin watch one or two PBS kids shows while I get some things done. Then we're out of the house and playing. We come home in time for lunch about noon, at which point she announces, "nap." It's a tough life.
  • Ruthie is a very happy, pleasant girl. She's super easy and often does her own thing quite happily. The things that upset her, though, are 1) brother trying to bend her to his will with pushing, pulling, or sitting on her; 2) her morning routine thrown off; 3) waking up from naps early; 4) diaper changes.

  • She is definitely a girly-girl. When I let the kids wander through the toy aisles at the store, Austin heads toward the Toy Story, Batman, Leggos kind of stuff, while Ruthie heads for the babies, strollers and purses. I have not pushed this at all and her supply of girl toys is still severely under par. But it's amazing to me to see the natural gender differences in these two.

  • Ruthie definitely talks like a 2-year-old. She uses over a hundred words (I can't count them all) and frequently uses 2-word, sometimes 3-word sentences! Nursery leaders, the gym daycare workers and many other adults often comment on how well and how much she speaks. We never bothered teaching this little girl sign language because she's been communicating her needs since she was 1.
  • Some of my favorite funny words are:
    • "bank-bank" = blanket
    • "cuppy" = drink
    • "bop-bop" = grandpa
    • "ma-ma" = grandma (and I'm "mommy")
    • "cerleerreeal" = cereal
    • "weee" = swing
    • "tank oo" = thank you
  • Some of her clearest words are:
    • "Debbie"
    • "Tyce"
    • "shoes"
    • "socks"
    • "nap"
    • "car"
    • "hungry"
    • "ta-da"
    • "doggie"
    • "alright" (this was one of her earliest words too and it cracked us up every time!)
  • Some of her best word combinations are:
    • "play car"
    • "stop it"
    • "I did it"
    • "No, I do"
    • "Daddy, are you?" (where are you?)
    • "Daddy work"
    • "I oo oo mommy" (I love you mommy)

My precious daughter is a blond-haired, deep-brown-eyed, cherub. I'm so so glad she's in my family. What would life be without having both a boy and a girl to enjoy? Ruthie, your mommy and daddy love you fiercely - never forget that.

Gardening 102

Year 2 of gardening is underway! My gardening efforts actually began in February with a technique I learned 2 years ago called "winter sewing". Cut open a milk jug, fill it with dirt, plant your seeds, tape the jug shut, water well, leave the cap off, toss it out in the snow, and don't bother with it until May! The first 2 pictures below are our February gardening efforts. The next is the result in May: beets, onions/carrots, peppers, squash. Here's what I learned about winter sewing this year: 1) don't start until St. Patricks day - all my plants out grew their containers a month before planting time. 2) plant peppers indoors and start them in January - they just don't grow in the cold and they grow slow. 3) plant only one type of seed per jug - when they get big they're hard to separate. 4) for big items, like squash, only plant 1 or 2 per jug so they have plenty of room to grow. Winter sewing is a blast though. It's like having your own nursery starts for super cheap and very little effort.

The last photo (above) is the zucchini plant Austin started from a seed in preschool. When it got big enough, he planted it himself in our backyard. Today, it's got a few little zucchini's starting to grow (picture 4 below).

Here's how our garden looks today: Our new honey crisp apple tree, our new garden plot, our new lemon Elberta peach tree, Austin's zucchini, last year's expanding raspberries. This year our garden contains: watermelon, zucchini, rosemary, raspberries, winter squash, summer squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, carrots, onions, beets, tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. We've harvested all 10 of our miserable strawberry crop already (here's hoping I can do better next year). Everything else is just starting to bloom and I can't wait to start eating it!

First Preschool

This past year Austin was part of a little neighborhood playgroup/preschool. We met once a week, rotating turns between the moms. This was sooo great for Austin - to make good friends, and to be exposed to other "teachers" and "lessons". It was good for me too - to enjoy teaching and to see Austin in comparison to his peers. (Which is probably important to me because he's my first to go through everything).

Our adorable group of kids (L to R): David, Inza, Nate, Austin.

Austin writes

My little man is growing up in so many ways. In the past few months, his art work has changed drastically. He now draws recognizable faces and bodies and will tell me who is who in his art work.

He's also started writing his name! How do kids pick this stuff up? I never taught him how to write a single letter. Yet somehow, one day, he stumbled onto making an 'A'. A few months later, the other letters started to appear then suddenly - bam! - he was writing his whole name.

Supper Nanny to the Rescue!

Boys will be boys. Right? No way! Back in April I stumbled across an episode of Supernanny that changed our family. If you're a fan, this was the episode about The Johnson Family (fitting, eh?). In that family's 3 rowdy boys, I saw a reflection of my own adorable son. So after that show, I made Anthony watch it online, bought the book and cracked down on time-outs. It's helped A LOT. On the one hand, it has reduced Austin's physical lash-outs, which typically land on Ruthie or his cousins, by half or maybe even in fourth. The other big thing it has given me is a way to react to him calmly. I used to get so frazzled when he just wouldn't stop and wouldn't listen to me. But he responds to time-outs (if I use the Supernanny technique). It has cut my "loosing it" by a good 98% - and that is heaven sent! Thank you Supernanny!


So Easter was, what.... 3 months ago? Ni yah. Just a few fun photos from our celebrations. We got sooooo much candy, that we actually only just finished it off about 2 weeks ago! Go Easter Bunny!

Rex Lee and Susan G

Another Rex Lee in the books (end of March). Debbie was my buddy this go round. We had a great time - and I actually won something in the raffle for the first time in 8 years! I got $10 to Hogi Yogi - after donating $240 over the years. Remember kids - gambling is dumb.

Debbie and I walked the race this year (5K in just under 1 hour) because I'm still nursing a bum knee from an injury over a year ago.

A month later (May), Heather, Debbie and I all walked the Susan G. Komen "race" in SLC. That was some experience! It was curb-to-curb people for a solid mile. We couldn't have run, or even speed-walked, if we'd wanted to!


A Conversation Between Father and Son

Austin struck up the following conversation with me while lying in bed before bedtime.

Austin: Honey, wanna hear a joke?
Anthony: Sure.
Austin: What did the pineapples say before eating themselves and eating themselves again and then they go to bed?
Anthony: What did they say?
Austin (in a high-pitched three-year-old this-is-the-punch-line voice): We are going to eat ourselves and eat ourselves again and then go to bed.
Anthony: {Laughing to himself}
Austin: Honey, what's the funny part of that joke?
Anthony: {Laughing to himself some more}
Austin: Honey, what's the funny part of that joke?
Anthony: I don't know, you're the one who told it, what's the funny part?
Austin: I don't know... Wanna hear another joke...


Goodbye Thumb... NOT

On Sunday March 7, we wrapped Ruthie's thumb, told her her thumb-sucking days were over and cried with her. She stayed up late that night watching Baby Einstein because she couldn't fall asleep without her thumb. We did this same technique with Austin at the exact same age. He gave up the thumb after only 2 days. I thought Ruthie would be easier. For 2 solid weeks we wrapped her thumb. Every nap and bedtime she wailed for 20-60 minutes. This was extra hard to take since Ruthie has been soooo easy to put to bed her whole life. Chuck her in the crib with her thumb and her favorite blanket (in the picture) and she basically goes right to sleep. Without her thumb, she soon learned to suck on her finger, or fingers, or her hand or arm or other hand. What were we to do? Put her in an upper body cast?

So yeah, Ruthie won the battle. The wrappings ceased. The thumb returned. Sleep returned. And everyone lived happily ever after.

(We figure that when she's 3 or 4 we'll try to help her give up the thumb using sticker charts and all that good stuff).

Bits and Pieces

Some old old updates (super quick):

1. Austin has a cat. It doesn't belong to us. I don't have to change it's litter box. But he loves it like it was his very own (aka - sporadically). It belongs to our backyard neighbors and comes to visit every so often. Austin has named him "Filbert". It's either after Calliou's cat Gilbert, or Sid's dog Filbert - or both.
2. We went to Thanksgiving Point's Cornbellies in October (ancient news, yes). The kids loved it and I am totally planning on getting a membership for it this year.

3. I came in to my kitchen one day to discovery this.... Austin used the step stool to climb up the wall, to the fridge, to the cupboards, and eventually made his way in to the pantry. Hopefully he got in enough trouble to never do it again (but not before I could get a picture to remember how secretly proud I was of his bravery and skills).

4. We carpeted our living room in December. Love it! It has cut down on the echos in the house 10 fold. We roll around and wrestle on it pretty much daily. It has made our home so family friendly.

5. A month ago we wrapped up our singing group. We went every Wednesday for 6 months to Brie Frank's "Cherubs" group where we sang kids songs, played instruments, danced with puppets, and had fun. Pictured below is our Valentine's Day party.



Ah, the perfect vacation. It will be a long time before we can do something like this again. Anthony has been wanting to take me to his old mission for a while, but between finances, pregnancy and nursing babies, it's never been a good time. This year, he had a work conference in England in January, so we thought, "why not?" My parents heroically accepted to watch our kids for 10 days. So we met in Germany after his conference - Jan 18-27 (counting air travel days).

Day 1 (Tuesday) - Stuttgart

Anthony wanted to see a little of south Germany, but still be close enough to get to Berlin. So Stuttgart became our starting point. Turns out it's not really a tourist site, but it was a great place to catch up on jet lag, see a busy modern German shopping district, buy a fun new game, and get some insanely delicious doners and gelato (I'd return to Stuttgart just for those)!

Riding the Rails

One of the big treats of Europe is experiencing superb public transit. We used the U-bahn, S-bahn and Strassen-bahn (did I forget one Anthony?) to get around. (Anthony informs me I forgot the Regional-bahn). I loved traveling by train from city to city. We talked, ate, read and slept without any driving stress. It was also fun to see the countryside of Germany - even if it was covered under feet of cold January snow. I got a kick out of seeing the rented gardens along the rail. People in cities who want to try their green thumb can rent a 50-square-foot garden in the country to tend. Clever idea. And it makes me grateful for all my free backyard dirt!

Our travels took us from Stuttgart, to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, to Dresden and finally Berlin.

Day 2&3 (
Wednesday-Thursday) - Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Recommended by the Duffin clan, we were so delighted by our stop here. Rothenburg over the Tauber river is a well-preserved medieval city. The houses, streets and protecting wall all stand much as they did 500 years ago. We stayed in the atmospheric Gasthof Goldener Greifen (the mayors old house). I discovered one of my most favorite German meals here too - Spaetzle.

We spent Thursday visiting the church and two famous museums in town. I learned some crazy things about old-time laws and punishments. In some ways it sounded barbaric, in other ways it kind of made sense. I mean, if you were caught quarrelling with a neighbor, you both had to stand in the town square locked to each other for a day. How many poor sport soccer parents would we have with punishments like that? It kind of makes me wonder how people 500 years from now will view our system of lawyers and courtrooms to "prove" (or artfully convince) one's innocence. The big claim to fame of the city is the original well, which brought life-giving, fire-stopping, water in from the river. It's underground canal was kept top secret so enemies couldn't destroy it.

The most unique feature of Rothenburg is the fortress wall surrounding the entire city. Significantly bombarded in WWII it has since been restored. It's a blast to walk along the ramparts of the wall looking down into 500 year old history and out the loopholes (windows) at modern day Germany.

Day 4&5 (Friday-Saturday) - Dresden

Moving further north, Dresden gave us a taste of German art culture as well as WWII destruction.

A few fun pictures from Dresden I took to show my kids.

Home of the famous Saxon king Augustus the Great, this is where he commissioned and collected hundreds of amazing vessels and sculptures in all different forms. The vault consisted of 10 rooms each with a different theme - such as bronze, silver, amber, crystal, etc. This was perhaps my favorite art collection I've yet seen. We also visited the famous "Old Masters" painting museum, where I discovered that I'm not a big fan of looking at the same 5 Biblical stories painted over and over again in various forms of nudity. Sculptures rock. Paintings bore. And so we moved on to...

Day 6-7 (Sunday-Tuesday) - Berlin

The city where Anthony served his mission. Anthony planned to be in Berlin on Sunday so we could attend the East Berlin ward he served in. (I nearly froze to death in my nylons walking to the church on the coldest January day Germany has seen in 100 years!) Anthony had a great time being back and reminiscing with familiar people. We were invited to the home of Werner Riedel for dinner (authentic German cooking!). He spoke fair English, his wife spoke none, but still I hardly felt the language barrier as we enjoyed talking about their many travels. On the way home we snagged pictures of Anthony's first mission apartment and the familiar street he walked everyday.

On Monday we explored the city. We started with a freezing morning walking tour (which we almost skipped because of the cold and we're both glad we didn't). We stopped in the U-bahn to see pictures of the burning Reichstag, visited the Jewish memorial, the Bradenburg Tor and of course, the Berlin Wall. We spent the afternoon at Checkpoint Charlie and then swung by the Reichstag that night (next collage). That picture of my feet - that's me standing on the Berlin Wall! Red bricks mark the original path of the ripped-down wall throughout the city.

With all the build up of 14th century Rothenburg, 17th century Dresden, it was at the Berlin Wall that the great panorama of history gelled and came alive for me for the first time. On Tuesday we visited the German history museum where I saw for the first time the great cycles of history. Peace, war, new maps. Over and over again. The world I once imagined was stable and flat is actually volatile, cyclical and round. Amazing. Unsettling. It made me anxious to want to learn more of the story. What will happen in the next 50 years? 1000? It's exciting. Too bad I won't know (except in the afterlife), but cool that I get to see so much of that history now.

A few more fun pictures: Alexanderplatz and the TV Tower (think Bourne Supremacy), the top of the Reichstag, old school pinball and "cannons" at the German History museum. Washing our clothes, German "art" (aka graffiti), the famous home of the missionaries' favorite doner spot, rotegrutze (raspberry gelatin in vanilla sauce).

One of the best bonuses of the trip was that we came home with new friends. Irene and Oliver Luedtke and Irene's sister Tine. Irene and Tine grew up in the ward where Anthony served and Anthony helped teach Oliver the first missionary discussions. Anthony was surprised to discover that Oliver is now the ward clerk and that Oliver and Irene had gotten married. They graciously hosted us at the German History Museum and then took us out to an authentic DDR (old Communist) restaurant. All three spoke excellent English. I had a blast getting to know them, hearing their perspective of the fall of The Wall (when they were about 10) and learning all about German vs American culture. Hanging out with them made me want to learn German because I think it is awesome to be able to make friends half a world away.

Of course, while we were away, we missed our kids terribly. We talked with them online most nights - the only way to go with kids so young. They wiped my parents out, but they also bonded like never before. Thanks Mom, Dad, Austin and Ruthie for letting us have this magical trip to Germany!