Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Little Christmas and an Update


This was not at all the way we ever wanted to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
It was emotional and exhausting and overwhelming.
But our dad knew we were there.  He responded to us by opening his eyes and mouthing a few things to us.
He even smiled when he saw my big baby belly. 
(The last time I was home, I was only 12 weeks along.)

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(Christmas Day 2012: Day 14 in Intensive Care)

After days and days of bad news, he made some improvements and things were looking up.
We were hopeful but we know not to get let our guards down just yet.

We tried to make Christmas as normal as possible for Hannah.
That’s what our dad would want us to do.
I think we did a pretty good job.

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And then today, a major set back that involved another surgical procedure.
Ugh.
Panic and dread take over every time the phone rings and the caller ID shows that it’s the hospital.

But we are pressing on, trusting and praying for a miracle.

My mom, sister, and I are overwhelmed with the amount of support we’ve received.
From childhood friends, former co-workers, my dad’s college fraternity brothers to people that my sister and I haven’t seen since high school…the food, flowers, cards, offers to babysit, the messages…all of it.
It means the world to us.


“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them;
he rescued them from the grave.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”
Psalm 107:19-21

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tiny Traveler and Stuff From the Home Front

We all arrived in the US late last night, safe and sound.
Everything went smoothly except for some turbulence over the Atlantic and a slight delay at takeoff because a chump sitting in the exit row tried to pull an Alec Baldwin and wouldn’t turn off his “mobile device.”  Seriously, people.

We drove from Luxembourg to Brussels and flew into Atlanta, and then to Pittsburgh and then drove an hour and a half to my parents’ house.  That’s 17 hours of drive, flight and layover time, not to mention the 6 hour time zone change.

Oh, and I’m 27 weeks pregnant.
Shawn was his usual amazing self and handled every single detail so that I could just relax.
Hannah made a friend inflight – a little French boy named Julian.
They shared markers and snacks across the aisle.
She even offered him a cracker in French, “Voulez-vous?”  Would you like…?
(We didn’t know the word for cracker in French.)
And introduced herself, “Je m’appel Hannah.” 
Then she kept calling him Monsieur Julian, which cracked me up because he was all of 6 years old.  She thinks all French people have Monsieur or Madame at the front of their name.

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At the Brussels Airport.  Ready to go to America.

Before we left, we had some fun Christmas stuff to do in Luxembourg.

Hannah visited Santa.
She didn’t seem to notice that his jeans were sticking out from the bottom of his costume, but she did ask why he was wearing tennis shoes.
I told her the elves were polishing up his boots for Christmas Eve.  Whew, quick save.

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And she had her Christmas program at school.  She’s the little elf on the far left, at the back of Santa’s sleigh. 
It may have been the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, a group of five year olds singing their little hearts out, dressed up and just so darn excited about Christmas.

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Now we’re home, but Christmas isn’t going to be the same this year.
(I have lots of other things for the blog – pregnancy updates and a bunch of silliness and nonsense, but now’s just not the time.)

My dad had his surgery about two weeks ago.
The surgery went well and the following two days were better than expected, but then some major complications set in.
He’s been in critical condition in Intensive Care for the last ten days, on a ventilator and feeding tube.  Without going into all the details, we’re in a very serious place.

But we’re praying and hoping for a miracle and still trying to have somewhat of a
“normal” Christmas around here.  That’s what my dad would want.

So thank you to all of our family and friends for the emails, text messages, FB messages, phone calls, cards, food and other favors that have helped me, my mom and sister out over the last week.  They may seem small, but they are big to us.
We cherish all of you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Broken

I had a post all ready to go, but I’ll put it on hold for now. 
After hearing what’s happened at home, it felt all kinds of wrong to be posting about nonsense and little antics from our day-to-day life.

I’m shocked, overwhelmed and heartbroken for the families of the victims of the Connecticut school shooting.  As a mom, I can barely breathe when I think about the horror and panic.

The news reached me via social media at 4:00 on Friday afternoon Luxembourg time (that’s 10:00 AM Eastern Standard Time) and by then my five-year-old was at home with me, safe and sound, happily setting her tiny horses up in their barn. 

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I certainly don’t want to make someone’s tragedy about me, but I don’t think a parent can help but reflect and think what if? when something likes this happens.
So today I’m putting aside stuff that doesn’t matter and giving some extra snuggles and cuddles to this silly, goofy little girl of mine. 

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Right now, she’s little – too young to understand that the world is broken and messy and full of hate. 

One day, she’ll have questions and I’ll tell her that we’re not guaranteed a tomorrow, nor are we promised a life without troubles.

But I’ll also keep on telling her of that which I am certain:

Jesus loves children.
And He is our rock, our refuge and our help in trouble.

But Jesus called the children to him and said,
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Luke 18:16


God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and
the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.
Psalm 46:1-2

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Story About the Photo

Last summer, I updated to the Timeline on Facebook.
Actually, Facebook did it for me and they kept prompting me to add a cover photo, so I did.
I added this:

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And then I got some comments from friends that made me laugh hysterically and realize that I should tell how this photo really came to be.
Some of the comments included phrases like “euro chic,” and “famous looking.”
Lest you think we are either of these things, I can assure you WE ARE NOT.
In fact, we pretty much always look like goofy American tourists.
And we embarrass ourselves on a daily basis over here.

So, here’s the original SOOC (straight out of the camera) photo, taken by my aunt when she and my uncle were visiting us in Luxembourg and we spent the weekend in Paris. 

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As you can see, she was trying to take a picture of the man playing the violin in the street and Shawn, Hannah and I just happened to be in the way.  An unintentional photo bomb, if you will.

However, I love candid, unposed photos, so I cropped, changed to a sepia tone and antiqued it a bit. 

I love the way the edited photo turned out.  In fact, I think I’m going to frame it for our living room.

But.

Let me tell you a little more about what’s happening here:

We had just walked up the old, windy, wobbly cobblestone streets to the highest point in Paris.  Shawn was pushing Hannah in a stroller that was not made for wobbly cobblestone streets.  Not long before this photo was taken, Shawn stepped on my foot, tripping me and ripping the heel partially off of my left boot.  It was like I was wearing one boot and one flip flop.

If you look closely you’ll see that Shawn is wearing a backpack.  A sure sign of a tourist.  Oh, and in my hand?  A folded up, pocket sized map of Paris and a granola bar from which Hannah took three bites and handed back to me.
It’s all very fancy, isn’t it?

Shawn’s grandpa always says that photos should tell a story.
But this one kind of needed an explanation. 

(In case you were worried, my left boot is now good as new.  When we got back to Luxembourg, Shawn fixed it with a dab of Gorilla Glue and a clamp.)

And if you still weren’t convinced you that we are just a couple of goofy Midwestern Americans, that probably cleared things right up.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Weekly Bump: 25 (And We Are Nowhere Near Prepared)

Well, Wednesday, we hit 25 weeks.
I was just telling Shawn last night that I can’t believe we only have 15 weeks left, but possibly less if this baby decides to make his/her appearance earlier.  (Hannah was born at 39 weeks.)

Then we both just stared at each other and Shawn said, “Wait a minute.  How many weeks is a pregnancy?”

”Forty.”

More blank staring.

”Ok, so we really don’t have a whole lot of time, do we?  Did we bring any of Hannah’s baby stuff to Luxembourg?”

”No.  We don’t have one single baby item in this house.”
We’ve got some work to do, my friends.

This is what I’m looking like this week:

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The belly is really growing!

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And here’s what’s been happening:

The Baby: This week the baby weighs in around a pound and a half and is about 13 1/2 inches long.   His or her hands are fully developed and over the next few days blood vessels in the lungs will form.
Maternity clothes: I’m still wearing normal shirts if they are long, some maternity shirts and maternity jeans/pants. I did wear regular leggings this week, but they are getting tight.
Movement: Lots and lots of movement this week.  Shawn’s been able to feel the baby move for a while, but a few days ago, Hannah got to feel it as well.
And now, it’s a regularly scheduled part of our evening. 

IMG_1599                                     Waiting patiently for baby brother or sister to kick

Sleep:
I’m sleeping pretty well. I’ve been waking up every few nights but haven’t had much trouble falling back asleep.  I’ve also been sneaking in a little nap a few days a week before I pick Hannah up from school. 
Food Cravings: None, really.  I’m still liking salty foods far better than sweet things and I’m more thirsty than normal.  
Symptoms: A big belly! I still get out of breath easily and I feel like everything is moving upwards as my belly grows.  I also feel stretching and tightness in my belly, and a few Braxton Hicks here and there, but other than that, I’ve been feeling great!  I haven’t had any heartburn, no aches or pains and I have good energy during the day.  I’m enjoying it now because I know that as the weeks progress,  I will probably start to get achy and tired.
Gender: It’s a surprise!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Visitors

Somewhere in the ballpark of oh, I don’t know…say…SEVEN MONTHS AGO we had some special visitors at our house.

I wanted to wait until they were home to write about it, you know, for safety reasons, and then I started to put a blog post together, got lost in sorting through the pictures and then never posted it.

Oh, the shame.

Anyway, last spring, my aunt and uncle came all the way from the US to spend their vacation with us.

So, what did we do?
Oh, lots and lots of things!

We toured all over Luxembourg and showed them what a great little country it is.

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We even rode the Hop On, Hop Off tour bus.

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And took a ride on the P├ętrusse Express, a petit train touristique (little tourist train).  You can’t miss it.  Seriously, you can’t – it’s painted a bright lime green and travels at about 4 miles per hour around the city (I have no idea how many kilometers per hour that is) holding up and blocking all kinds of traffic.

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We took Tinkerbelle to Vianden Castle for the afternoon…

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…where we ate sandwiches out of the back of the car in the parking lot.
(How very American of us.)

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We took the high speed train to Paris.  Pictures from my cell phone are here.

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(Nice photo bomb, Shawn.)

We ran into a wee leetle problem when the subway line we needed was closed for the weekend, without signs or warnings.  Basically, the train stopped and everyone was told to please exit…

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But we managed.  About an hour and 2 miles on foot later, we made it to our hotel where we took pictures of each other out the window.

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We took a walking tour of the city with this chap as our guide. 
Loved his vest and socks.
(And skinny jeans.)
(And hair.)

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Sometimes you do what it takes to entertain your kid.

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We hung out at La Tour Eiffel…

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And did the obligatory tourist pose.  Oh, yes.  We did.

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Hannah and I ran laps around the fountains.  Again, sometimes you do what it takes to entertain your kid.

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We rode bikes…

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Then we took a day trip to Trier, Germany and showed them Porta Nigra, a large Roman gate that was built around the year 200 A.D.  That’s one old gate, yo.

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We couldn’t leave Trier without having a traditional German meal.

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We also did some this-is-our-real-life-not-just-a-vacation stuff.
Like grocery shopping and laughing about how many men hang out at the bar at the entrance of the store while their wives shop.

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And noting how the “USA” section really is not much more than a bunch of Old El Paso brand items. (That taste nothing like they actually do in the USA, by the way.)

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Dropping off/picking up Hannah at school…

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…playing with her at the park…

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…and eating at our favorite Friday night spot.

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Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. 
Our time together in Luxembourg went way too fast.

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Thank you, Chris and Jerry for such a wonderful visit.  We loved having you.
(In fact, we all moped around for about a week after you left.)
But what a time we had!
You are the first of our family to see what our life is really like over here.

Let’s do it again, shall we?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A (Strange) New Take on Holiday Decorating

If any of you are looking for a fresh, new way to display some greenery for the holiday season, there’s a house ‘round the corner from Hannah’s school with just that.

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I mean…I just…I can’t even…

The lower half of a mannequin.
Holiday foliage with pinecones planted just above the buttocks.
At the end of a lovely cobblestone driveway leading to someone’s house.

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

But I did circle around the block three times to make sure I was actually seeing what I thought I was seeing.  Then I held up some traffic so that I could get a picture. 

I wonder what it looks like at night, all lit up?
You bet I’ll be going back to find out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Weekly Bump: 24 (6 Months!)

Today marks 24 weeks, or 6 months!

Here’s what I look like:

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The Baby: This week the baby is gaining weight, lung and brain tissue.  He or she is about the size of an ear of corn.
Maternity clothes: I’m still wearing normal (long) shirts and maternity jeans/pants.  I can still wear normal leggings if I adjust the waist low below my belly, but that’s starting to be a tight squeeze.
Movement:  I feel lots of movement, but have had some days of quiet with just a few kicks and rolls here and there.  Baby must be tired from all the growing he or she is doing.
Sleep: I’m sleeping pretty well.  I’ve been waking up every few nights but haven’t had much trouble falling back asleep.  I’m still having a lot of strange, vivid dreams.
Food Cravings:  None, although I’m still liking salty foods far better than sweet things.  I’m more thirsty than normal and eating a lot of hummus and cucumbers, although I promise you when we get to the US for Christmas, I will be having Taco Bell.  Probably more than once.  I’m noticing that I feel full pretty fast, so I’ve been trying to eat a bunch of small meals/snacks instead of big meals.  I ate a lot of comfort foods over Thanksgiving so this week I’ve been snacking on veggie sticks (boring) to try to make up for it.
Symptoms:  A big belly!  I still get out of breath easily and I feel like everything is moving upwards as my belly grows.  Today I did my workout that I’ve been doing for a few months now and got tired much faster than I did just two days ago.  It might be time to adjust a bit because my body was definitely saying SLOW DOWN, SISTER.  Other than that, I feel great.  I have good energy during the day.
Gender: It’s a surprise!

Monday, November 26, 2012

5 Years and 1 Year

About a month ago, our family hit two big milestones.
Hannah turned 5 and the same day marked one year that we’ve been living in Luxembourg.

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Oh, hey.  I’m five.

Because we were on holiday on the actual day of her birthday and then Shawn was traveling for work, we had to wait until this weekend for her party.
It was a simple, small party.
Just the way we like it.

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Two things that you won’t find in Luxembourg stores - graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate – were sent to us by Shawn’s mom, along with a bag of big, fluffy marshmallows.
The only thing Hannah wanted to do was make American s’mores for her friends.

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I spent the day after Thanksgiving hunting down all the stuff to make American cupcakes and frosting.  Success!

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Hannah waited patiently for her guests to arrive…

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Shawn built a bonfire and we taught our British friends how to make s’mores.
Can you believe they’d never had them before?!

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I am so, so grateful for this group of friends.
(My heart hurts a little when I think about when the time will come for us to move on to other expat assignments or return home.)

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The kids played until they were knackered (that means really tired) and the adults chatted around the campfire until late.

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The American s’mores and cupcakes were a hit.
Can I tell you a secret? 
I don’t really like European chocolate. 
I know, I know. 
But it’s too dark and rich and has too much cocoa for me.
I’ll take a light, sweet Hershey’s any day.

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                                              It was a very happy birthday!

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In marking our one year anniversary as Luxembourg expats, I thought I’d show you a couple of things that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned (or shown you) that have taken me a while to get used to over here.  This is not meant to complain about Luxembourg, or Europe in general, and I hope that it does not come across as if I think that how things are done in the US is better.
It’s not that at all.  Because listen, if I were hung up on these things, well, I’d be a pretty miserable expat. 
And I’m quite happy here.

After one year of living abroad, I can honestly say that I think all three of us are well adjusted, and besides family and friends (of course…because we miss them terribly) there are just a few things that I look forward to reclaiming when we return to the US. 

1. My vacuum cleaner. This is the only kind that I’ve ever seen over here.  Oh, it gets my floors clean and works very well, but between the power cord, the hose and the main part of the unit that looks like a robot, I pretty much trip over and fumble around like a buffoon every time I use it. It gets the job done, but deep down, there’s a Hoover-Upright-shaped hole in my heart.

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2.  Large refrigerators and milk sold by the gallon.   Refrigerators in Europe are generally small because Europeans shop so frequently.  It took me a long time to get used to this, but now, without sounding dramatic, it’s just a part of who I am.  (I grocery shop every other day or every two days.)

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Have I ever told you about how milk is sold here?  It only comes in liter cartons, which can take some getting used to when you’re accustomed to buying by the gallon.  And my people - they drink a lot of milk.  The only metric system conversion that I seem to have a handle on is the liter to gallon.  Oh, I know that one well.  It takes 3.78 liters to equal one gallon.  Which means that some weeks I buy more than 12 of these.  But 12 of them won’t fit into that little refrigerator without taking up too much space for other essentials, so I’m constantly taking inventory and rearranging to make sure we have enough milk on hand.  It’s a game of strategy, really. 

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The last year has probably been one of the best experiences of my life.  We’ve been so blessed with finding a great church, making friends and sending Hannah to a school with which we are happy.  We’ve gotten to travel, learn about and live amongst other cultures and languages.  We’ve had a lot of challenges, but mostly a lot of fun along the way.
And now, as our second baby will have Luxembourg as the country of birth on his or her birth certificate, we will always have a special tie to this place.

I asked Shawn what are some of the things that he misses the most from home.  Without hesitation or contemplation, his answer was simple:  Chipotle.
Then he paused a minute and said, “Customer service.  Sometimes I just really miss good customer service.”

Then all of God’s people said, “Amen.” 
(Please don’t get me started on that one.)