December 31, 2012

Sailing to Procida

Sunday after church we had yet another adventure!  Thanks to some friends from church, we were able to get hooked up with a group who were going to the Island of Procida.  We met at the Support Site and boarded a small bus--hindsight made us realize we should have followed the bus, as we drove right past our exit, but oh, well!

Anyway, we boarded sailboats and sailed to the island, maybe a 20-30 minute ride?  I stayed in the bottom with the little guys while the older kids and Ted rode up top with the others.  It was quite chilly and breezy, but of course they loved the adventure!

The island is beautiful.  The colorful buildings are so typical of the area.  While in some respects we were reminded of Capri, there were some differences: lots more sailboats where we docked, for one thing!  It's not as obvious of a tourist destination either.  But walking through the streets had a similar feel.

The movie The Talented Mr. Ripley (or something like that) was filmed in large part on the island.  We walked to the top of the highest hill, where there is a monastery and a former jail (which somehow reminded me a bit of Alcatraz) that apparently housed Nazis during the war!  Great overlook--we enjoyed the view for quite awhile before heading back down.

Then we sailed back to the mainland, to the city of Monte di Procida, where we warmed up in Stappo, a restaurant, with some appetizers and wine--we even were greeted and toasted by the mayor!  (Click here to see a video done by the local web channel!  You can see our kids on the sailboat at about 1:45 and a shot of Zaden and me in Stappo about a minute later. About halfway through you can hear the mayor's address, which was translated for us, so you can hear some of what we heard!)  We were given a lovely gift--a hardback book with photos of an area "Art Explosion" from 2011.

Then we went to a street festival, where we were treated to zeppolini (fried dough balls with bits of seaweed in them--YUM!), pasta, and soup (they were raising funds for a child who had been in an accident and so gave the food away for donations), and wonderful music from this band pictured below.  We were especially fascinated by the drum/tambourine (or, as Tobin dubbed it, the "drumbourine!") and its player, who was most enthusiastic!

The music was incredible, and the people of Monte di Procida are so very warm and welcoming and friendly.  Oh, how I wish I could speak fluent Italian!!  The girls and I visited the few crafty booths, and I bought earrings for Charis and bracelets for Kenna and myself.

We boarded the bus feeling very happy, full, and tired!  We waved to our house when we passed the exit, drove an additional 30 minutes to the Support Site, then packed everyone up and drove back home, where we promptly crashed.  Thank goodness we had the sense not to plan anything for today!

We have been so blessed with amazing sightseeing opportunities and are thankful for the new friends we are making here in Napoli!

Lucan Funnies

Kenna:  Lucan, let's play Princess and Knight!
Lucan:  No, let's play Kenna and Lucan.


Lucan:  Daddy, you're my daddy and I'm your Lucan!
Mama:  Lucan, are you my Lucan, too?
Lucan:  No!  You can have Charis.  Is that all right?


Mama:  I sure do love you, Mr. Lucan!
Lucan:  I love YOU, Mr. Mommy!

December 29, 2012

Mt. Vesuvio Adventure

We opted not to travel anywhere during this holiday season and instead take some day trips around the area.   Today's adventure: hiking to the top of Mt. Vesuvio!  (Yes, that would be the volcano we know as Vesuvius that erupted in 79 A.D. and destroyed Pompeii!)

First part of the adventure involved FINDING the right location.  Our GPS initially took us to a different part of the mountain, where there was a road that clearly looked national park-ish (and indeed, we followed brown signs pointing the way to Vesuvio) but had multiple DO NOT ENTER (or the equivalent) signs at the entryway.  So we wound our way back down and tried again after Ted did some map investigation, and before long we were winding our way up, up, up a much more promising road.  There were unique and interesting sculptures along the way, plus signs that, to my semi-trained mind that has always been intrigued with word roots, indicated people were not to leave the beaten path in order to preserve the natural park area.

Sure enough, we eventually found ourselves at a parking area (2.50 euro to the attendant) and tumbled out, exclaiming over the chilly wind that greeted us.  We hustled into the little building that boasted a "toilette" (0.50 euro per person to hover over an ice cold bowl) as well as postcards and panini.  Since we hadn't actually started our driving adventure until 12:15, we decided ham and cheese panini were in order before making the hike.  We downed the sandwiches as quickly as possible, realizing that the park was supposed to close 2 hours before sundown, which around here has been anywhere from 5-5:30.

Then we packed everyone up, paid the entrance fees, and started the climb, falsely advertised as "only 500 meters."  Whatever!  We rested at these little lookout areas.

I was very proud of Lucan, who was a trooper on the way up.  The older boys were not so trooper-ish, and I could in fact say a lot more about their un-trooperish attitudes, but I will leave that to your imaginations and instead say that there was much encouragement and reminders and admonitions from Scripture about persevering, doing all things through Christ's strength, and not being filled with fear.  (Poor Kenna and Lucan, we learned later, were terrified of falling off the mountain.)  With that said, it WAS cold.  It WAS windy.  Terribly so.  And it WAS a long, steep hike.  (The picture below doesn't really give you a good perspective on how steep the grade was.)

With much relief we sighted a building at what we were sure was the top, and we used the visible goal to encourage everyone the rest of the way.  It was indeed very close to the crater.  Just a short ways past the tourist stand (where they were all sold out of hot chocolate, sigh) was an overlook where we could see down into the volcano.  In fact, we could see steam/smoke coming out of part of the rocks!  Amazing!  (The second picture below shows the steam--can you see it?)

The steep part of the hike was over; the trail continued to the other side of the rim of the crater, which, had Ted and I been alone, we would have done in a heartbeat.  As it was, we had two screaming little boys and older kids who were also more than ready to head back down the mountain, so that was that.  One last picture to showcase the view, and then we were off.

If I thought the climb up was excruciating, it was nothing compared to hiking down with a screaming, frantic Lucan.  I thought carrying him would help--I knew he was cold, and his nose was running like crazy.  He stiffened up when I held him, though, pressing his feet into the front of my thighs instead of wrapping his legs around my hips.  After awhile, I finally figured out that he did not WANT me to carry him; he was afraid of falling.  Poor little guy!  I held his hand firmly in mine, encouraging him as much as I could, but he still wept and wailed and shook all the way down to the parking lot.  I had encouraged Ted and the other kids to just keep going, because poor little Zaden was so cold and was most unhappy.  I don't know how long they ended up waiting for us, but by the time we got to the Suburban, Ted and Charis were back inside the little shop buying hot cocoa for everyone.  Hooray!  It was a nice way to end our excursion!

So, the good news is we now have that parking lot programmed into our GPS, so when we bring our visitors (hint, hint!), we'll know exactly where to go!  And the drive will be closer to an hour than 90 minutes!  And next time we'll be prepared for the winds.  And we'll probably leave the little ones either at home or else exploring the parking lot with whoever doesn't want to make the hike!

December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

Whew.  I can't keep up with everyday life, let alone blogging about it!  Here's my attempt at describing our festivities and celebration of Jesus's birthday...

Sunday, December 23
During the service at the base chapel our 4 older kids participated in the Christmas pageant, which was a short but sweet description of "Christmas in a Word," with Christmas being an acronym.  Tobin and Arden were soldiers; Kenna was an angel; and Charis had a couple of narrations along with being one of the Marys.  What's Christmas without an adorable, kid-filled pageant?!

Christmas Eve

Let's see...finished wrapping presents, prepped a bit of food, played games with the family, took a nap, went to the Christmas Eve service at the base chapel.  During the service our family got to participate in a meaningful time of remembrance for those who were killed in the terrible tragedy in Connecticut.  A man read the names of each victim, which were written on paper angel ornaments, and we hung them on the tree. There were several families who helped with this, and it was a sad and sober time as we prayed for the families and friends who have experienced loss and begged God for His tender mercies as He reveals His glory in the midst of all of this.  (To read Charis's thoughts on the tragic events, please visit this blog entry.)

Ted and I took turns holding Zaden, as there was no nursery or child care for the evening.  The kids did pretty well, but by the time we got to the end--the traditional "Silent Night" sung as we light candles--let's just say we were having a not-so-silent night in our pew!  Zaden was done for the day, and Lucan was yowling after holding the candle a bit too close to his nose when he was huffing and puffing trying to blow the flame to make it dance.  Sigh.  Well, just keeping it real, folks!  I'm sure it wasn't all that quiet the night Jesus was born!  (I speak as a mother who has delivered naturally a couple of times, albeit minus the animal attendants.)

Ted herded children to bed once we arrived home while I sneaked over to a neighbor's house to pick up the beanbag chairs we had purchased for the kids.  There is literally NO place in our house to hide something so massive (5 beanbag chairs take up a LOT of space, let me tell you!), so we kept them in the Suburban until the appropriate time Christmas morning.

Christmas Day
Our day began a BIT earlier than planned...the 3rd floor balcony door (the one with a broken latch) blew open at around 6:30 a.m., setting off our house alarm.  Ted and I were sure it was the boys, waking early and throwing open the shutters!  But they were bleary-eyed and indignant at having their sleep interrupted (not that that prevented them for being prepared to jump like maniacs through the house once they realized it was actually CHRISTMAS MORNING!).

We made the kids stay in bed (or at least in their rooms) until 7:00, so we were MOSTLY ready for them!  We do stockings at our house first, then breakfast.

Breakfast consisted of sausage and eggs along with the most amazing cinnamon rolls I have ever eaten.  When reading the instructions on the Pioneer Woman's blog, I was laughing out loud, so I figured this particular concoction was worth a try!  We all agree it is a keeper of a recipe (although I did use about half the butter and half the sugar in the rolls themselves!).  Lucan mowed through most of his stocking contents as part of breakfast, too.  Even Zaden got in on some candy action, failing to remove the wrapper of a candy cane kiss before attacking it!  Good thing it's hard to swallow foil...

Following breakfast clean-up, we read through the Advent Book and did our Advent Calendar.  (New this year: an additional Advent Book so we don't have to fight over turning the pages and opening the doors!)

Zaden thinks he's participating, too!  Love it!

For the Advent Calendar, we shut the kids up in the kitchen so Ted could read the story with them while I frantically grabbed the beanbag chairs from the Suburban and brought them in.  The big reveal happened next and was our segue into family gift-opening time!

I totally forgot to get a picture of our little Italian tree with the gifts under it! So here's a shot with it all naked underneath. We opted, as usual, for a real tree...yes, it was overpriced...yes, we should probably just purchase a fake, pre-lighted tree...but it smelled amazing and was our contribution to the Italian economy!  What cracks me up is that you purchase them here with the big bucket containing the ball of roots!  That worked just fine for us, as we didn't have any of Ted's tools for slicing the bottom of the trunk neatly to fit into a more traditional tree stand.  So we just left it in the bucket!  You'll notice it's a little sparse; we left all our ornaments in storage, figuring we could make and/or buy more here.  Well, our plans to make ornaments kind of fell by the wayside, but we scraped up a few here and there, and the kids enjoyed the red lights and the star at any rate.

 A few pics of kids with presents...

Lucan loves the sticker book from Grandma J

New Lego set for the boys

Kenna is pretty in pink in her new Hello Kitty robe and scarf from Afghanistan!

Charis made hats for EVERYONE!  Zaden doesn't have his hat on, but he does have his adorable little sneaker booties on that Charis crocheted!

No pattern at all for the tam Charis made me...she just did it!  That girl is amazing!

And a video of Zaden with one of his presents because he's just too darn cute:

We had a leisurely afternoon, enjoying presents and naps (watching the new Veggie Tales episode The League of Incredible Vegetables was a hit!), and then we went to the R family's house for heavy appetizers and visiting.  It was so nice to not worry about doing a big meal!  Our family contributed hummus and flatbread, veggies and dip, and tortilla chips with Hot Mexican Dip.  There were also meatballs, crockpot beans, deviled eggs, chicken bites, fruit salad, jalapeno dip, shrimp cocktail, and tons and tons of desserts.

Truly, a very joyous, memorable Christmas!  The day after was just as wonderful, with Ted having the day off to stay home and play games, watch movies, and eat our huge, yummy meal with us!  Our roasted turkey with homemade gravy and mashed potatoes turned out better than I think I've ever done--and I didn't even have a mom or mom-in-law here to help!  Maybe I've finally learned how to do the holiday cooking thing, LOL!  Sweet potato and green bean casseroles completed the sides, along with our "pink fluff" salad that Charis made.  We've been munching on leftovers all week, which is a Christmas gift to myself, ha!

We hope your celebration of our Savior's birth was also wonderful and meaningful!

December 19, 2012

So Close, Yet So Far Away

One of the things I expressed thanks for during November was the fact that we have the internet as a tool to keep in touch with loved ones.

Let me qualify that now by's just not enough!

This morning I was opening a stack of boxes containing Christmas presents from a dear loved one (who is blatantly ignoring our request to save money to visit us instead of sending presents, ha!).  As I hid the brightly colored packages so lovingly wrapped, with season's greetings in familiar handwriting for each individual in our family, I couldn't help but feel a wave of sadness.

Colorado and Wisconsin are so very, very far away.  They are a considerable distance away from Ohio, Nevada, Maryland, Idaho, and Texas, our previous duty stations.  But they are a whole world away from our new home in Italy.  None of us can pack up a vehicle and drive to an address in a different state to spend a holiday together.  And as of yet none of us has been able to check a bag, hop on a plane, and greet family at baggage claim on the other end.  While we anticipate visits from our close family members at some point during our tour in Naples, the simple truth is that it just isn't as easy (or cheap) to visit anymore.

I thought I was doing all right with the whole culture shock thing, but not being able to pick up the phone any time I want and call my mom just to chat is a lot harder than I expected.  Not passing the phone around so the kids can talk to their grandparents and keep them updated on their various day-to-day priorities is a lot harder than I expected.  Not getting together with friends I was used to "hanging with" is harder than I expected.

Taking out the trash is harder than I expected.  (We have to make an effort to drop off our trash at any number of locations, some of which are full and overflowing so that we have to heave the bags and boxes across a sea of waste.)

Finding certain products is harder than I expected.  (Thank God for Amazon with free shipping, but you'd better plan waaaaaaay ahead.)

Living in a place with a rainy season is harder than I expected.  (I didn't realize how depressing it can be to see gray skies day after day after day.)

Not having the option to go out for a relatively quick meal is harder than I expected.  (Eating out as a family here involves anywhere from $100-150 and 2-3 hours of time.)

Driving in a different country can be harder than I expected.  (Driving in Naples lesson #64:  In a traffic jam, 2 lanes of traffic can become 6.  Or more.)

At the same time, I realize the amazing gift we have been given in the opportunity to live abroad.  We have already experienced and seen incredible places.  We've built relationships with some dear Italian people.  We've eaten new and delicious foods and are learning (very, very slowly) to communicate in a new language.

But even though I love and treasure our life here in Italy, I love and treasure the part of our lives that is back in the States.  So this morning, while children are still sleeping, I indulge the tears that spring to my eyes as I think of and pray for those whom I love so deeply whom I will not see in person during the Christmas season of 2012.

I love and miss you all!

December 08, 2012

Air Force Christmas Party

Ted's work party was held at a beautiful Italian restaurant on a Friday evening.  It didn't begin until 7:30 p.m., so we hired a babysitter for Lucan and Zaden.  I'm so glad we did!  It turned out to be a very long evening, as we didn't get home until midnight!  But it was so. much. FUN!

Getting there, however, was an adventure all on its own.  We had our first experience with the GPS going psycho on us and sending us up steep, narrow paths.  It was dark and raining, and we missed a turn before we realized what had happened.  We were on a dirt road with no end in sight and no way to turn the Suburban around, so we had to go back almost 200 yards.  I stuck my head out the window to help guide Ted, as there was NO light at all and the rain made it very difficult to see.  We finally reached the "road" where the GPS said we were supposed to go and blindly followed its directions.

Bah!  Worthless directions they were!  The stupid thing led us up and up and around and around until we had dead-ended in a family's back yard!!  We worked at backing the Suburban around so we could retrace our steps and found a couple of wondering Italian guys coming outside to see what the heck was going on!  They helped guide Ted into making the turnaround, and then we crept back down, adding a few more healthy scrapes to the sides of the Suburban as we made sharp turns that were easier to make going up than down!  Ted went back to the main road, where the GPS calmly "recalculated" the route and took us straight to the restaurant on nice, NORMAL, wider, well-lit, main streets.  What the heck?!  Why didn't it take us that way to begin with?!

We were only a few minutes late, hardly even worth calling "late," considering our harrowing adventure minutes before.  The kids were ushered to a play area, though Charis chose to stay with us and ended up sitting at our table rather than at the kids' table.  We settled into our seats and began visiting with those around us.  I met a delightful young wife whose husband and Ted already knew each other, and the two of us enjoyed visiting throughout the evening.  They have one little 3-year-old girl who is just precious.  She cleaned her plate--we were amazed at her persistence and capacity to consume so much food over the course of the evening, but then we learned that someone had told her Santa wouldn't come unless she ate everything on her!

The first food didn't appear until nearly 8:30, but then it just didn't stop coming!  Appetizers, soup, pasta, more pasta, meat/potatoes/ each course I was sure we'd be getting dessert, but no, it was more FOOD!  And it was all AMAZING!  So while our first Italian ristorante experience was actually in Capri, this was our first REAL, sit-down, multi-course, Italian RISTORANTE experience!  I loved it, even though I truly hated to see the uneaten food go to waste. :-(  (It's considered rude to ask for carry-out containers; they simply whisk away your plates when you're not looking, it seems, and return with a new plate of different yummy food!)  The dessert was some kind of amazing creamy goodness with chocolate and coffee sprinkles, all covering a sponge-cake that positively dripped with rich coffee and who knows what else.  Oh, my!

During all the feasting were various games and giveaways, interspersed with musical numbers from a talented musician (and a bit of dancing from a major who apparently likes to entertain others!).  Ted and I each won a bottle of wine (I picked a lucky chair with a "wine" tag taped underneath, and he knew a trivia question).  I also won a flash drive, which I may very well take to the NEX and exchange since we don't really need another one, and at the end of the night I won one of the big prizes, a fancy, expensive purse that I would never in a million years even think of purchasing!  It actually is practical, though, being waterproof, and with this being the rainy season, I can put it to good use!  The name brand means nothing to me, as I have never heard of the brand before even, but I'm thankful nonetheless for a surprise blessing.  (Indeed, many surprise blessings!)

The kids were in and out, trooping outside to play with the teens the restaurant had hired to keep kids occupied and coming back inside to eat more food.  (Their dishes were different from ours--definitely more kid-friendly, but still way different from fries and McNuggets, LOL.)

Toward the end of the evening "Santa" made an appearance (Ted's boss was the lucky "winner" who got to don the outfit!) to give gifts to the children.  Our kids had no idea that we had been in on the Santa plan and were surprised but delighted to hear their names being called.  We had decided to get them all slippers, as they had been saying they wanted/needed some with our hard, cold, tile floors.  (Tobin had even been known to steal mine from time to time!)

This is the best reaction we got--Kenna's face!

All in all, a very enjoyable evening and a fun Christmas event we'll remember for a long time.  In fact...I think I'm already looking forward to next year's Air Force Christmas party!

Tree Lighting Ceremony at JFC

Yesterday afternoon families were permitted to take tours of the new Joint Force Command buildings at the new NATO headquarters.  (The old headquarters building is pictured at the end of this post.)  The move to the new place has been over a decade in the making...there is a fun story (well, fun for those who aren't involved, I'm sure) about the yellow house that sits, empty, on JFC property.  Because it took so long to get everything in order, someone built a private residence there before the gates/fences were erected.  Once everything was put together, it became apparent that there was a family living on government property!  They had to move away, and there the house sits...inside the fence!

Anyway, we were excited for the opportunity to tour the building where Ted works.  As you might guess, this is not an everyday opportunity, LOL.  The building is still fairly sparse, but a number of offices have already made the move, and it is a much nicer place, owing no doubt to the fact that it is decades newer than its older counterpart!  We even got to see the "situation room" that looks very much like scenes from movies!

We also toured the wedge-shaped building next to Ted's building, which is the large Community Center.  It will be wonderful once it is completed!  There will be a miniature "commissary," post office, fitness facilities, swimming pool, cafeteria, etc.  So nice!  At the old JFC headquarters there were all these amenities, but they were spread hither and yon.  It was never worth it for me to make the trip down there (the old place is south; this is just a few minutes north of us) to shop.  But it WILL be nice to do so in the new place!  They say January or February it should officially open.

After the tour we enjoyed music from the Navy Band, seeing our friend "Tuba" (guess which instrument he plays?!), Italian cake, and real hot chocolate--I mean, REAL!  Oh, my, deliciousness in a cup!  It was raining, so the ceremony was moved indoors, which was nice since all 6 kids were with us, but not nearly as impressive as the real tree lit up outside.  Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable outing.  We went home and had a couple of hours before we left for the Air Force Christmas party that night.

Beginning to Look Like Christmas...

Zaden gets introduced to our kid-friendly nativity set!  I LOVE this thing and wish I had bought a dozen sets at that craft sale in Ohio so very long ago!  It is simply precious, and I'd love for all our kids and nieces and nephews to have their own.  Sigh. Maybe one day I'll make them for our grandkids...

We all agree: this is the PERFECT place for our stockings!  (You can see from the picture of Zaden that it would be difficult to fit 8 stockings on that fireplace mantle...)

Ahem.  Kenna got a hold of the camera, but this is a precious picture of Lucan in Dad's Santa hat!

Happy Thanksgiving!

It was belated, but we did have a Thanksgiving feast!  We invited our friends Geoff and Carla K and their family to come on Sunday evening after Thanksgiving for a joint dinner.  Since the K family had just moved into their own home (FINALLY!) two days before, it worked out very well for them to leave the stress of unpacking and get away for a sit-down dinner!  The Ks have 4 girls and a little boy, Caleb, who is 2.  The girls are Emily (13), Braidyn (10), Sasha (8), and Hope (5).  Kenna and Hope are fast friends, and Charis adores spending time with any of the K girls!  She has taught a couple of them to knit, and they have joined her in her crafting passion.  We are delighted that the K's house is about two minutes away from us!  Though we aren't in the same parco, it is so nice to be able to carpool and know that we have Christian friends so close.

Here are a few pics from our dinner together, the "buffet" line, the "grown-up table," and the "kids' table."

30 Days of Thanksgiving

Last year I participated in the Facebook 30 Days of Thanksgiving challenge, posting one thing each day in November that I was thankful for.  It was a delight to see this idea resurrected again--reading people's status updates was so uplifting!  I decided to once again record my 30 days here on the blog.  It's interesting to look back over the month--at the beginning, we were still in a state of semi-chaos, having just moved in, and toward the end we were enjoying a blessed time vacationing on the island of Capri!

So here is my list for 2012's 30 Days of Thanksgiving.

Nov. 1:
Starting small :)
I am thankful for my steam mop and a CLEAN FLOOR (on the ground level anyway).

Nov. 2
That feeling I get when I throw open the shutters (after disabling the alarm system, of course), breathe in the fresh air, look around, and think to myself, "I'm living in ITALY!"

That is what I'm thankful for today. :-)

Nov. 3
I'm thankful that this time it's only 13 days apart, not 13 months. And we're just over the halfway point.

(Hurry home, Ted! I miss you!!)

Nov. 4
Thankful for the right to vote, despite the hassles of trying to get it done overseas. My vote may not be counted on November 6, but it WILL be counted!

Nov. 5
I am thankful for the internet, which allows me to feel close to family and friends who are in other countries (or even down the road).

(And an iPhone isn't bad, either. ;-)

Nov. 6
I am thankful for so many friends, family members, and mentors who are so passionate about our country! I am grateful for freedoms fought for and preserved, for opportunities to express my political opinions without fear of retribution, and for blessings so abundant in our country that we have plenty to spill over onto those who are in desperate need.

Nov. 7
I am thankful I get to share life with 6 precious, noisy, messy, giggly, silly, amazing people--the children God has seen fit to bless me with. Starting tomorrow I will give each one a spotlight, but today I thank God for the whole crew!

Nov. 8
I am thankful for my sweet, cuddly, still-crawling-but-close-to-finally-walking, 14-month-old Zaden Ezekiel. Though young, he already has a testimony of God's grace, and I am so humbled and grateful as I reflect on how Zaden's life and God's mercies are intertwined. From his birth at the beginning of Ted's year-long deployment to his struggles with eating and weight gain, God's hand in this boy's life is so evident. He is still my big-eyed boy, taking in all the activity around him, sharing toothy grins with his adoring fans but still preferring to snuggle on Mom's shoulder. Since his name means "sower of seeds," I thank God in faith for the seeds of the gospel that this little guy will sow in the hearts of those who cross his path.

And my mommy friends who followed our journey will understand my awe and delight in the fact that I still get to cuddle and nurse this sweet boy every morning!

Nov. 9
I'm so grateful that God knows better than we do! I thought the perfect thing in March 2009 would be to take the kids on a free vacation to Hawaii (courtesy of Stampin' Up!). God gave us something that lasted a lot longer than a vacation--He allowed Lucan Thaniel to join our family instead! Lovable Lucan lives up to the meaning of his name ("light"), bringing joy to our hearts and home. He loves Jesus, Veggie Tales, pirates, one ratty stuffed dog named Doof, singing, humming, building, jumping, and snuggling. He has his own time table and teaches me much about patience and gentleness. He tells me multiple times a day, "Mommy, I just wuv you!"

Why did I ever think I wanted to go to Hawaii?! I can't imagine our lives without our Lucan! Thank you, Lord, for this blessing!

Nov. 10
I’m thankful for Kenna Joelle, who arrived on the scene with a bang and hasn’t stopped since.  “Little Miss Independent” often helps herself to whatever it is she wants; she is an “ask forgiveness rather than permission” kind of a gal, which keeps me on my toes!  Kenna dances and prances just about everywhere she goes, twirling around to the music in her head or to the “demo” setting on our electric piano.  She loves princesses but can wield wooden swords with the older boys while bossing them around, even though they are twice her size.  She is loving and gentle with her little brothers and insists that we have twin girls soon so the girls can “catch up.”  For all her zest, she has a tender, sensitive heart and cries when she gets in trouble because she is genuinely repentant.  She loves Jesus, family, friends, and soon-to-be friends, as she has never met a stranger.  Thank you, Lord, for the breath of fresh air that is my Kenna!

Nov. 11
I am thankful for my “gentle giant,” Arden Daniel.  At 9 years old, he is bigger than his older siblings but not too big for Mom’s hugs and cuddles! His tender, sensitive spirit touches the hearts of those around him every day.  He truly enjoys playing with his younger siblings and works hard to include them and make them comfortable and happy.  He loves to laugh and be silly but continually amazes me with his thoughtful input during our Bible lessons and discussions.  His talent for engineering is evident in the complex structures he builds out of whatever set of toys happens to be on the floor (for Lucan to play with!) during our school reading time, and his gift for memorization blesses me every time I hear him quote a Scripture passage.  I know God will use Arden’s sensitivity to others’ needs to expand His kingdom and bring glory to Himself, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for my boy!

Nov. 12

We interrupt the statuses sharing thankful thoughts about my children. Tonight, I am extremely grateful that God allowed our paths to cross with Stella, Emelia, and Salvatore! Our family is teaching 9-year-old Salvatore English two days a week. This amounts to great fun for Tobin and Arden and takes me back to my days of teaching English in Hungary! In exchange for our "services," Stella, Emelia, and a co-worker clean our house once a week. Today was our first lesson and the first time this house has been clean top to bottom since long before we moved into it! And it took them less than 1.5 hours! Our family looks forward to building relationships with these dear people that God brought into our life. I hope we bless them even half as much as they have already blessed us!

Nov. 13
I am thankful for the chance to get a glimpse of what my husband surely was like as he grew up—because Tobin Michael is so much like his daddy!  From his sharp wit and keen sense of humor to the ability to lose himself in a good book (with a reading level far above his age), from his blonde hair and blue eyes to slight stature that is just bursting with the effort of waiting for that Growth Spurt that will help him surpass his younger brother, this kid makes me laugh and keeps me on my toes.  He dearly loves to scare me out of my wits or try to pull one over on me, but being married to his daddy for 15 years has taught me a thing or two!  Tobin is a wonderful big brother and a huge help with his younger siblings, often reading stories to them or teaching them new games (and tricks, ha!).  He is just as quick with an apology as he is with a pun, showing his tender heart as well as his preference for keeping things light.  I love seeing the growth and maturity that is (finally!) happening in Tobin’s life and am excited to see what God has in the years to come!

Nov. 14
I am so thankful for Charis Noelle. Stealing a line from a friend of mine, I give this apt description: "Mature beyond her years and innocent beyond her peers," Charis is indeed a gift of grace (the meaning of her name). She capably handles the responsibilities of being the firstborn of a larger family without complaining (too much!) and already has much wisdom as a result of earnestly seeking the Lord. She is not only thoughtful and creative but also thoughtfully creative, choosing to bless others with the many gifts and talents God has given her. She is proving to be quite the little wit, tossing off saucy quips that could only come from being Ted's daughter. At the same time, there is no denying that she is my mini-me in too many ways to count! We love to laugh, cook, read, and play together. I am so blessed by the young woman that she is becoming and look forward to our relationship developing into a deep friendship in the coming years.

Nov. 15
The last few days I have thanked God specifically for the children He has placed in our family. Today I thank Him for the opportunity to home educate these precious souls and the everyday blessings we experience together.

Nov. 16
If you're reading this status, it's because I am thankful for YOU! I can't make a list of what I am thankful for without being overwhelmed by God's graciousness in bringing so many wonderful friends into our lives. A bittersweet part of being a military family includes so many hellos and goodbyes. The good thing is that we have such a diverse, far-reaching network of dear people with whom to share life's joys and trials. The bad thing is that we can't always share those things in person.

So I'll add a little P.S. to my day 16 thankfulness post: Dear God, Thank you for Facebook and the internet. Amen.

Nov. 17
Was going to be thankful for my first real date night out with my hubby since moving and the first time to enjoy a real Italian restaurant. (Yes. Believe it or not, we have not yet eaten out in Italy!)


"Give thanks in all circumstances..."

So. Instead. I am thankful that we never lack for food, homemade or restaurant prepared. I am thankful that I have a wonderful husband with whom I adore spending time, whether out on the town or curled on the couch. And I am thankful that our quality time together does not depend on everything always going our way. (Thank goodness!)

And let's not forget to thank the good Lord for the ability to download episodes of Downton Abbey so we can have something to enjoy together.

Nov. 18
I am thankful beyond words for the capital C Church. No matter where in the world we live, God always puts us with a local body of Christ so we can worship, fellowship, learn, and serve together. Believers in Christ are my forever family, and I'm so glad we get to have all of eternity together!

Nov. 19
I am thankful for the living and active Word of God, an unchanging revelation of our holy and eternal God, a God who loves us with an everlasting love.  I am thankful that true wisdom can be found in the pages of Scripture, that there is purpose and unity in this most sacred and awesome story, and that there is absolutely nothing we face that Scripture does not speak to.  I am thankful for parents who taught me to reverence and hunger for the words of life and for all those who have encouraged me to memorize verses and passages that are now as much a part of me as physical DNA.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John 1:1

Nov. 20
I am thankful for my godly parents who will have been married 40 years this December!  What a legacy they have given to my brother and me and in turn to their grandchildren!  I am so grateful for their sacrifice and commitment to our Christian education and for how they have lived out their faith in good times and in bad.  I am thankful for all the fun family memories we have from growing up and road tripping all over the U.S.  I am thankful for the way they fueled my passion for reading and learning and for how they have supported me in the various whims that catch my fancy, whether big or small.  I am thankful that they have never said, “What?!  You’re having ANOTHER baby?!” when we’ve announced our pregnancies but that they have celebrated with us joyously as God has expanded our family.  I am thankful that I can talk to Mom or Dad about anything on my heart and they listen without judgment, and I am SO thankful for the thousands upon thousands of prayers that I KNOW have arisen from their hearts on my and my own family’s behalf!

I love you, Mom and Dad!!!!

Nov. 21
I am so thankful for our current assignment! A year ago we were slogging our way through a deployment, and all I wanted was for our family to be together...anywhere. But God, in His infinite mercy and grace, blessed us with the opportunity to experience life abroad. Our adventures are just beginning!

Nov. 22
A month ago today we moved into our Italian casa!  I am so thankful for God’s provision of the perfect home for our family.  He has led us all over the world, and we have always had a place to live that has been just right for us.  As God has blessed us, we pray we can bless others through the gift of hospitality, sharing our home, food, and fellowship as often as possible.

Nov. 23
I'm thankful for the breathtaking beauty of God's creation and the opportunity to explore a small part of it with my family.

Nov. 24
I am thankful beyond words for the amazing gift God gave me in my husband Ted! He is my best friend, my partner in crime, my forever and always love, my joy, my laughter, my shoulder to lean or cry on, my prayer partner, my encourager, my fellow adventurer, my whole world (on this earth). 15 years and counting...and the best is yet to come!

Nov. 25
I am thankful for rest.

Nov. 26
I'm thankful for my one and only sibling, my "little" brother John. While I thought he was a pest during our growing up years, we got a lot closer after I moved out and went to college (go figure!). We don't get to see each other very often, but I love him and I'm proud of him!

Nov. 27
I am very, very thankful for wonderful in-laws! I love my extended family and am so grateful for their prayers and support as well as the privilege of praying for and supporting them. I am very thankful for the amazing mother-in-love God gave me in Rhonda and for the close relationship we share. I am thankful for the privilege of knowing Jim and seeing the impact he made on his family and community before God called him to heaven. And I am thankful for the brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and cousins and aunts and uncles that have appeared in my family tree through marriage!

Nov. 28
As this month of thanksgiving draws to a close, I want to take these last few days to attempt to put into words the gratitude in my heart for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today I am so thankful for His sacrifice--for His humility in coming to earth, God in flesh, forsaking the riches of heaven to embrace poverty for our sake, becoming obedient until death: the death required as a once-and-for-all sacrifice to atone for sins. The amazing, overwhelming love He has for us continues to take my breath away; oh, Jesus, may I never take for granted what we sing to our little ones every night: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Nov. 29
I am thankful that God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His Word is timely and timeless; His Truth is everlasting and never needs revised or updated.

Nov. 30
I am thankful for the eternal hope we have through Jesus Christ.  We can look forward to everlasting life and joy with our Creator; this anticipation helps me have a wiser and more thoughtful perspective of the temporal things related to life on earth.  It gives me purpose and meaning for the time God has given me, for I know He created me for a reason.  Oh, that I may be worthy of the calling I have received.