Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013

We’re midway through our visit home, Christmas behind us, New Year’s still ahead.
We’ve had some sad moments, this being the first Christmas after losing four family members this year, but we also had some really great ones, too.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story:

Luxembourg sure was deckin’ some halls.  This one made me smile every time we drove by.

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Hannah was a snowflake in her school’s Christmas program. She said her line perfectly and with gusto.

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An evening at the Medieval Christmas Market in Rodemack, France.

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Christmas morning with Aunt Traci.

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It’s gonna be hard to top the Christmas pajamas next year.  They’re my favorite. 

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Whose idea was it to buy voice changing mega phones for all the cousins?

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Never mind.

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Santa baby.

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We took the kids to see Santa.  Hannah told him that they flew all the way from Luxembourg to see him.   

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Hannah is well past the age of being scared of Santa and Finn smiled the whole time.  I have to admit, I was kinda expecting (and secretly hoping) for something like this:

(Christmas 1980)

We had a wonderful Christmas, this being Finley’s first.
I love being home with family and celebrating the birth of our Savior.

Christmases past here, here, and here.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Home For the Holidays


We arrived in the US last Sunday night and while Shawn, Hannah and Finley are sound asleep right now, it’s 5:13 AM and I’m pretty much wide awake.  I’m not sure if it’s the jet lag or that my mind just won’t turn off with all the stuff I need and want to do while we’re home for the next week and a half. 

You see, the last three times I’ve been here it’s been for the funerals of close family members and I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends outside of a funeral home and eating Mexican food, wandering aimlessly around Target and you know, doing things and going to places THAT ARE NOT FUNERALS.

Our travels were uneventful and dare I say it? Enjoyable, even.
We flew from Luxembourg to Paris to Detroit to Akron Canton without one delay or hitch in our plan.

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Ready to board.  We’re comin’ to America!

Luxembourg has just a tiny regional airport so we usually drive to Brussels or Frankfurt so we can fly directly to the US, but this time it worked out better to fly to Paris and then to the US. 

The flight from Lux to Paris was 42 minutes from take off to landing. 
I have a strict clothing requirement for Finley when we fly: footie pajamas with zippers.  No onsies and pants and socks, and certainly nothing with all those silly snaps.  It just makes it so much easier for doing diaper changes on the plane.   And if he needs a clothing change, we only have to worry about one piece of clothing instead of three.

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The big flight over the Atlantic was smooth and easy.  Finley slept (and played) in the little bassinet that the flight attendant set up for him.  

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Hannah watched movies, colored, and at one point I looked over and she had on the the slipper socks that they give you, pulled high up over her knees and was wearing the eye mask like a headband.  She likes to get cozy and take advantage of all the amenities.

We had a quick layover in Detroit (DEE-troit, as we like to call it) and then the shortest flight to Akron.  I’m not kidding – it was 26 minutes from the time we taxied onto the runway until we landed.  By now it was dark outside, so Hannah and I spent the entire time in the air at the window, hoping to catch a peek of Santa in his sleigh.

I’ll be back later this week with pictures of our Christmas.
It was Finley’s first…and a really, really good one.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

9 Months

Finley is nine months old!

I also want to mention that one year ago this week my dad had surgery that went terribly wrong.  When we arrived home in the US, he’d been unconscious for about a week, but had been intermittently alert enough to communicate with my mom and sister.

When I got to his ICU room, 26 weeks pregnant, he opened his eyes slightly and my mom said, “Tina’s here.  Look at her belly.”

He couldn’t speak, but he mouthed to me, “Boy.”
I wish he could’ve known that he was right.
Sometimes I wonder…in heaven does God tell him about Finley?

Hannah was my dad’s world and I can’t even tell you how much he would’ve loved him, too.

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Finley’s still sweet, calm and easy going.
And this boy loves to eat!
He’s had just about every fruit (except citrus), vegetable, meat and pasta in puree form and feeds himself peas, bananas, bread, cooked carrots and broccoli.  It’s a big mess and most of it ends up on the floor.  He’s also tried drinking from a cup…and that usually ends up on the floor, too.

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Finley had a doctor appointment last week and he was 19 pounds, 8 ounces and 27 inches. 
His rate of weight gain has slowed down, and I asked the doctor about that but she said it is completely normal at this age.  Then she laughed and pointed out that his belly was hanging over his pants and said, “Dees ees nosing to worry about.  Dees ees a healthy baby.”

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His favorite game is peek-a-boo!
He has seven teeth – four on top and three on bottom.  The doctor also said that “dees ees time to do goot washing of zee teeth.”  

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He gets up on all fours and scoots backwards, but hasn’t quite figured out how to go forwards yet.  I don’t think it will be long, though.  Diaper changes and getting dressed have become a circus act because Finley rolls and wiggles all over.  I think he likes to be wrestled in and out of his clothes. 

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We put up our little Christmas trees and he LOVED the lights.

Finley’s still a great little sleeper and sleeps 11-12 hours at night, but naps aren’t as consistent and I think it’s because we’re on the go a lot with Hannah’s school and activities.  He still takes two naps a day and some days he sneaks in a little cat nap around 5PM.  On the days when he’s not sleeping during nap time?  This is what he’s doing.  It’s like he knows we’re watching him.

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Finley’s started to wave and he really babbles a lot. He says, “dada” all the time, and “mama” every so often.  (My mom got him a pack of four of the striped onsies he’s wearing below.  They are the best – so soft and comfortable and they wash well and go with everything. He’s going to be living in them until he outgrows them.)

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He has a great laugh.  See?

(The video is dark because we had just pulled the car into the garage and Hannah had him laughing so hard in the backseat that I couldn’t not take a video.)

Happy 9 months, Finn! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

In The News

Last Friday was “Christmas Jumper” day at Hannah’s school.
(A jumper is British for a sweater.)

The local newspaper showed up to cover the story and I would’ve missed it had it not been for a comment on the Instagram photo I posted of her in her Christmas jumper.

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And there she is on the bottom left.

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“Hey Mom.  Can you believe that I’ve been on the telly and in the newspaper in Luxembourg?  People in America are gonna fall to pieces when they hear about this.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Matchy-Matchy Christmas Pajamas

I’ve kinda been planning this since Finley was born almost nine months ago.
I reckon it’s the start of a new Christmas tradition ‘round here.

And I’m gonna continue it till they’re old enough to refuse.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Called it “Fakesgiving” and we Gobbled Till We Wobbled

It all started with a Facebook status update of an American friend of mine who lives here in Luxembourg.
Long story short: she borrowed my car and then invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner.

Only we called it Fakesgiving because we didn’t have it on actual Thanksgiving, but the Saturday after.
There was good food, good drinks, and the good company of other Americans and a few Europeans who were experiencing their first, real live Thanksgiving.

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I spent the afternoon before baking both pumpkin and apple pies and while I was upstairs, Shawn sent me this picture.  (Is it just us, or do other couples text each other from different rooms of the house?)  Anyway, for a second I panicked because I thought he had helped himself to a big piece of pie that was supposed to go to the Fakesgiving dinner but then I calmed down when I realized that this was not my pie dish. 

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I printed some Thanksgiving photo props and we set up a little photo booth.
The kids took it very seriously at first.

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Our fantastic hosts…

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…and some new European friends.
They told me that the flavor of pumpkin pie is very unusual to them.
I’m sure that holding a pilgrim hat, a Native American head dress and a turkey on a stick is, too. 
But they were good sports, no?

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When we got home and the kids and I were already in our pajamas I realized that we didn’t get a family picture.  So Shawn set up the camera on the tripod, we arranged ourselves on the steps and set the timer.

This is what we got.
Now, we don’t usually let our baby play with kabob skewers, but he was supposed to be holding the turkey leg.  Somewhere between getting situated and the camera flashing, he destroyed it. 

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Our third (and maybe last?) Thanksgiving in Europe is over and I’ve never been more thankful for this little family.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving from these little turkeys!

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This is the third Thanksgiving that we’ve lived in Europe (and Finley’s first!) and I have to say that I’m a bit homesick today.  It’s a strange feeling to be in a place where there’s no Thanksgiving and even if we live here for the rest of our lives, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.  It’s also weird to watch everyone carry on as if this is just a regular day in November – going to work and school and the grocery store.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m making a big effort to do American holidays up big for my kids.  I don’t ever want them to miss out or not understand or appreciate holidays and traditions simply because of where we live.  So, on Saturday we’re having a big ole Thanksgiving celebration with some other American families and I can’t wait!

I did run into a bit of a snag with the Turkey Day preparations, however, when the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg, who has always gotten turkeys and other American groceries for members, was unable to do so this year.  We did manage to find turkeys elsewhere, but some of our other fixins may be less than, um…traditional this year.

Sometimes being an expat requires resourcefulness and flexibility.

I also wanted to mention that last week we hit the four month mark of the autoimmune breakout that Hannah had during the summer.  The doctor told us that if we make it four months without a recurrence, chances of it coming back are much lower.  That doesn’t guarantee that it won’t ever happen again, and she’s still being followed closely by the doctor, but so far we haven’t had any trouble.  For that, we are so thankful.

To our friends and family in the US -
We miss you.  We love you.  We’re so thankful for you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When My Mom Came To Europe

We’ve had a very special visitor at our house for the last three weeks.  When Hannah, Finley and I returned to Luxembourg from the US, my mom came back with us!  This was her second trip to Luxembourg – she was also here just before Finley was born and stayed with us for the first few weeks to help out.
I didn’t mention it on the blog, for security reasons, but now that she’s back home safe and sound I wanted to document a little bit of her stay here.

But first.  Before you go thinking that my mom was here on vacation, that wasn’t the case.  Flying 9+ hours from the US to Luxembourg with me, my 6 year old and 7 month old and then spending the next three weeks at our house doing everyday life things with us could hardly be called a vacation. 

I don’t think she minded.

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We spent most of the time she was here doing normal stuff – making dinner, going to dance class, packing lunches, ironing shirts, changing diapers, bathing kids, cleaning messes, and dropping off/picking up Hannah from school.

But we also did some shopping in Luxembourg and Trier and went to our favorite spot, The Chocolate House.

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We also tried to make the guard at the Grand Ducal Palace crack a smile.  (We failed.)

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Luxembourg officially kicked off the holiday season with the opening of the Christmas Market, so we shopped, enjoyed the lights, sampled Swiss cuisine (and gl├╝hwein!) and took in the culture. 
Christmastime in Europe is like a winter wonderland and I’ll miss it when we move back to the US.
(I’m also gonna miss this gapped tooth smile when her adult teeth grow in.)

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One day while Hannah was at school, my mom asked if there were any nearby Holocaust memorials or museums that we could visit.  I’d never been to one, so after a quick email to a good friend and a few text message exchanges we found ourselves on our way to a WWII concentration camp in Hinzert, Germany which is about 50 minutes from us.   My multi-lingual friend made a few phone calls for me to find out what time tours are offered and if there’d be one in English.  Besides some standard greetings and pleasantries, the only thing I know how to say in German is one dog (don’t ask) and that really wasn’t going to do us any good.

It’s so pretty here.  It’s hard to believe that a concentration camp used to be right at this very spot.

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From inside the museum, you can look out the window and see what the view was like in the early 1940’s.

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My mom (and Finley) listened to survivors recall stories from their time at Hinzert.

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At the end of the war, when Hinzert was liberated, bodies that had been buried in shallow, mass graves were exhumed.  Those that were able to be identified were returned to their countries for proper burial.  Those that couldn’t be identified were moved to a newly created cemetery, to be buried in a respectful manner.

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*****

Before she left, we took my mom to Bacchus, another of our favorite restaurants in Luxembourg City.  We love it because it’s kid friendly, the owners treat us like we’re family and the food is delicious.

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On Saturday morning we drove my mom to Brussels to catch her flight home.  Of course, no one in our family travels without incident and this was no exception.  As her plane was taxing out to the tarmac, the pilot slammed on the brakes because a vehicle pulled out in front of him.  This resulted in a three hour delay only for the flight to be canceled altogether.  The good news is that they put all the passengers up in the (very nice!) airport hotel and gave them vouchers for dinner and breakfast the next morning. 
So, I guess my mom did get a little vacation out of this after all?

Anyway, she’s home and settling back in.
Thank you, Mom.  For everything.
See you at Christmas!