Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Briefing the Troops

(Kai at Parade Rest... AWESOME)

With our family trip to Germany looming just about 2 weeks in the future, we've decided to step things up a notch. For FHE tonight I put together a Power Point presentation, focusing mainly on our German family and heritage.
Being the genius that I am, it just now occurred to me that it might be a good idea to show the kids pictures of my German relatives, in an attempt to make my kids a little familiar with them before we move into my Oma's (likely NOT childproof) house for a week.
Even though I was competing with the bedtime crazies that seem to peek around 8pm, it was a great experience!

(1st powerpoint slide, showing our car route to Virginia and then flight to Germany)

This is obviously showing the rough route we'll drive to get from Ramstein AB up to Husum, the little town where my mom's mom, Oma Gisela, lives with Opa Lothar. She lives in the house her parents lived in who inherited it from her father's family. Such a cool, old house!
The car is an Opel Zafira, the 7 passenger (in sardine mode) glorified sedan that we will be renting, as well as my parents (hence 2 pictures). We'll divvy up the 5 adults (my parents, brother, Fred and I) and my 4 children between the 2 vehicles and save oodles of money by not having to rent a minivan *shudder*

I had actually intended for this slide to be in next weeks powerpoint, but it was still a fun perk to throw out- CASTLES! I'm sure we'll see at least 1 while we're there!

I was so happy to find I had this picture! It's of me with my mom's mom's dad, my Uhr Opa Friedrichsen. I told the kids about how he was a train conductor. I didn't mention the part about it during WWII, but I did explain that it was dangerous and that he was a brave man (I also omitted the fact that he was a POW in a Russian concentration camp... someday they'll learn what an amazing man he really was).
I did tell them about walking with him to the docks to visit his fisherman friends and about his house that we'll be staying in.

It was fun to let them hold the jacket I'm wearing in the picture- it's sure held up well for the past 25 years!

I quizzed them by asking them to identify people in this slide. Of course they knew Fred and I, and even guessed Leora (taken on our trip to Germany February 2009). We then told them a bit about Oma Gisela and Opa Lothar.
Someday I'll tell them the whole story about how they were sweethearts when she was a teenager, but that when her father didn't approve, Lothar respectfully withdrew. They both went on to marry other people, never having any contact until a few years ago when Oma Gisela happened to read the obituary in the local paper for Opa Lothar's wife. Her husband had died years before, and Lothar has a somewhat unique name, so she took a risk and called him per the contact info in the article. Lo and behold, it was the same Lothar she had loved so many years ago.
They reunited and are now one of the happiest couples I have ever met in my life, all lovey, dovey like a pair of newlyweds. It's adorable!

The kids enjoyed this slide. While I really do like this picture of my parents (I think it captures their fun personalities well), I really only used it because I found out I hardly have any pictures of them! It must be remedied.
The other man is my mom's brother, Svenn, who we hope to see on our trip. He's posing for the picture with his daughter Sandy, who is my brother's age and who we may also see. The picture is taken in my Oma Gisela's back yard.

Then we talked about family traditions and explained a little bit about what "heritage" means. I explained to the kids that the special clothes that German wear on special days are called "Trachten". The boys' Trachten are Lederhosen. I was SO excited when I discovered that I had a picture of my brother in the same Lederhosen that Gregory is wearing in this picture! I hope the Lederhosen are in Tucson, because I have searched every box here trying to find them.

Then we talked about how the girls' Trachten are called Dirndls. I ADORE this picture of my sister Anja wearing the same dirndl I wore when I was little. Hopefully I can get my hands on it before my girls outgrow it!
We also talked about the Schulteute and how both Gregory and Charla took one to their first day of Kindergarten, just like I did, just like my mama did, just like her mama did... And that Leora and Kai will both do the same and that when our kids grow up and have their own kids someday, they may also do it. It was a great illustration of how a tradition works.

(no, we won't be flying on one from the Royal Air Force, but Fred assures me all C-17's look the same, regardless of what country they're flying for, and I just liked this shot)

Finally, I ended the slideshow with this picture of a C-17, the plane we hope to hop out of Andrews AFB in 2 weeks. There are various planes that fly to Germany every week, but I'd like to take this one since there will be room for the kids to move around and lie down to sleep, if it's an overnight flight again.

Next week we'll talk more about Germany itself... and Legoland Denmark, which is not quite a 2-hour drive from Husum!! We plan on that being Charla and Fred's birthday present (September 23rd).

We ended by singing "We Have a Happy Family", reviewing ALL the people we talked about in the briefing, including our little family. Then the kids "accompanied" me while we sang, "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus" which they'll be helping to sing at church in 2 Sundays.

Well, I think this post has gotten long enough.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


This past Friday we were walking home from the bus stop and Gregory was begging to have some neighbor friends over. I told him it was fine with me as long as he finished his homework first.
He eagerly replied that he didn't have any homework.
In a very sympathetic voice Charla told him, "It's ok Gregory! I've share mine with you!"
Dang, I love these kids.

(This is a picture of them doing homework after their first day of school... excuse the messy table and dinner prep :P)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Leora Turns 3

On August 17th our sweet lil' Leora turned 3 whole years old!

ON her birthday we had some family fun. In the morning I stuck candles in her french toast and we sang to her. Later I took the 3 youngest to Chick-Fila for lunch and to play in their toddler-fun area.

(Kai loved the toddler play area!)

For dinner we took the kids to a McDonald's with a huge playplace. Leora usually keeps her feet firmly planted on the ground, but she ventured up and up and up. I was so proud of her, until Gregory's ominous announcement that echoed around the entire area:


Yup. And just to make sure my mortification was complete, Gregory yelled it out several times, and a there was soon an impressive puddle on the tile a few feet from our table. I offered to clean it up myself, but they pulled some poor guy off his lunch break to take care of it. So sad.

From McDonald's Fred dropped me off at home to grab Leora's present. I met up with them at the neighborhood basketball courts by the playground. A couple weeks earlier Leora had fallen in love with this tricycle, so I went back later and got it. She was no less in love with it that night!!

At home we had a store-bought chocolate cake with candles and a song. It was so fun!

That Saturday we had her official party. It was technically a "Princess" party, but we invited plenty of boys, too. In fact, I think we had at least as many princes and princesses. Luckily I was prepared!

(I sewed the top part and the skirt is actually the petite coat from my wedding gown)

In the beginning the kids got to decorate either a wand or a sword. We had a whole bunch of little PVC pipes from a tent that had long since lost a few essential connectors. I'd been holding onto them, telling myself I'd eventually modify it to make it work. Well, they worked beautifully as wands and swords.

It's no secret that I love the rain. We've been sorely missing it these past few weeks. So of course, it made it's one-day appearance on the day of Leora's party. Luckily, it really only sprinkled until about 10 minutes after the party ended, when it then poured.

Once kids were done with their PVC pipe, we booted them outside. Can I just say how grateful I am for a big, grassy back yard! The boys had a blast, waging an epic battle against each other. The girls daintily danced around and pretended and played on the swing-set.

(I loved her her dress poofed out as she bounced! I sewed it for her this past Spring, but she wasn't interested in it until now)

We had made a play-list of Disney princesses songs and we had fun dancing to them. Fred had the foresight to set up the canopy so when the sprinkled get harder, there was a place to wait it out.

Our gazebo imploded this past winter when the snow made the canopy collapse. I've stubbornly held onto the remaining frame and finally put it to use. Unfortunately, with the less-than-perfect weather, it wasn't as pretty as it had been the day before. Oh well.

I gathered the kids to play "Frog, Frog, Prince"- my variation on "Duck, Duck, Goose". It was actually pretty fun.

(they were such eager little helpers the morning of the party!)

(My quirky hubby)

My kids had helped make the treats for lunch- they were all a hit! Kind friends helped me whip up the sandwiches that we then cut out with various cookie cutters. I mixed Strawberry drink-mix with sparkling water for our drink and it was all just right.

Dessert was the best! Classic ice cream cone cupcakes (on the right of the picture)- virtually no mess and oh-so yummy!

Present time! She got some super-cute gifts!! She was definitely pleased!

I love how the girls crowd around the present opener! Luckily, she didn't seem to mind.

It was really a wonderful experience. We made some new friends, had some laughs with old ones. The food was yummy, the kids had fun, and (most importantly) I had one happy little 3-year old princess!

Charla's First Day of School

Last Thursday, August 19th, was Charla's first day of Kindergarten! Gregory had started the previous Thursday, so he's been a big helper showing her the ropes.

She had requested pancakes but time got short really fast, so I popped a few waffles from the freezer into the toaster. We still made them special with whipped topping.

We carried on the German tradition of the Schulteute. On the first day of Kindergarten children take a decorated cone to school filled with anything from school supplies to treats for their classmates. We stuffed Charla's with these little packs of Teddy Grahams.

(I sewed her skirt and was relieved that it turned out so cute!)

They take the bus together, but we wanted to walk her to class on her first day. Fred was even able to make arrangements to go into work late.
Charla was such a little natural. She walked straight into class without hesitation. Her teacher, Mrs. Hamlin, seems very nice. She's been teaching there since the school was founded 8 years ago and she just had her first baby.

Charla is thrilled about riding the bus. She tells me her favorite part about school is lunch time. Gregory always finds her on the playground at recess and gives her a great, big hug.

They're attending a K-8 charter school called Pathways Heritage Academy. After trying out the local public school for the past 2 years, we are so far immensely pleased with the switch. They place a very heavy focus on morals and character development. There's homework every day and lots of communication between parents and staff. I look forward to helping out in both classes this year, now that I'm not pregnant or nursing.

I was so excited about my 2 oldest being engaged in school that I didn't realize how much they entertain the 2 younger ones! We're adjusting, though. It's like taking a step backwards, just having my 2 little ones. Before we know it, those 2 little ones will be in the full swing of school, too.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Giving Tree

I'll make something for you!

Here's the good news: I will commit to making something for you and four other people. A friend of mine on FB has sent out a similar note and, as a soon-to-be recipient of "something" from her, I agreed to pay it forward.

The first five (5) people to respond by commenting on this post will get something made by me.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations so please read carefully:
1. I make no guarantees that you will like what I make. Whatcha get is whatcha get. If you'd like to send me 15 words naming things you like, I will probably play with that.

2. What I create will be just for you, with love.

3. It'll be done this year (2010).

4. I will not give you any clue what it's going to be.

5. In return, all you need to do is post this text (you can alter it because I did) into a note of your own and agree to make 5 things for the first 5 to respond to your note. You can make whatever you want - cookies, paper airplanes, sock puppet, a poem... whatever you want.

6. Send me your email address.

7. It doesn't matter who you are - if I talk to you every day, or once every 10 years, worked with you, if you are a man or woman, or both or neither - if I talked to you twice in high school and have only just now gotten reacquainted it is because I LIKE you and have always thought you were COOL in some way or another... SO please if you want to participate, DO!

8. If you aren't one of the first 5, you can still start your own Giving Tree!

IMPORTANT: This offer is null and void if I do not see you post your own note to pay this forward. For reals.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pioneer Sunday

I've been the Primary Chorister for 2 years now. I started out the calling terrified, but now I absolutely LOVE it.

I baked several dozen mini rolls for the butter the kids made during our activities.

I'd also been looking forward to making salt water taffy for the kids. I had looked up several different recipes and chose one I felt was doable.

I have 2 words for my taffy making attempts:

(the wax paper bonded with the hard taffy)

(Using the candy thermometer)

(You could stretch that candy for ages!)

After 5 batches and 3 different recipes, I had only managed to produce rock-hard candy. It was certainly tasty, but NOTHING like taffy! Fred and I stayed up into the wee hours of Sunday morning, desperately trying to make that taffy for my Primary kids. Our hands were literally raw and blistered by the time we were done.

It's not actually touching his mouth- he blowing on it to help it cool down)

Fred, the candy Wolverine

In the end I had to consign myself to bringing them hard candy. They got super excited when I told them I had brought Pioneer Jolly Ranchers.

I felt a little better when a friend in the ward told me how her mother, an experienced candy (and taffy) maker, was unable to make taffy when she was visiting here. I had read that taffy recipes won't work with certain weather conditions. I plan on attempting it again in the winter.

I wore my full pioneer get-up, complete with apron and bonnet. I decided that the story of the pioneers needed to be told from the beginning- from conversion. So I had assembled a succession of stories from LDS.org to help illustrate the pioneers' journey from Europe to the Salt Lake Valley.

I planned on Fred reading the conversion story of a boy from Whales, but he reminded me of Brother Pete Unnitt, a member of our ward who immigrated from Great Britain when he was a young man in the military many years ago. At the last minute Fred asked Pete if he would be willing to read the account to the kids.

He was PERFECT! He put on a great Whales accent and really got into character. At the end he even shared about his conversion and immigration story, and that he is a modern pioneer. It was SO great!

We sang several more songs and read several more stories. It truly was a beautiful experience.

At the end the kids loved the rolls with butter and the candy.

Once at home, we enlisted the kids in helping us harvest our carrots! This is our first garden ever, for each of us, so we weren't certain f the carrots were truly ready.

The vast majority of them were 1-2 inches long, with a few exceptions that almost looked like normal sized carrots. It was more fun than anything to watch the kids earnestly pull out those carrots.(sweet big brother playing with baby Kai)

Charla had a blast digging through the dirt with her fingers in search of elusive carrots.

I cleaned, diced and cooked the carrots. In the end the entire harvest yielded one cereal bowl-full of carrots. Oh well, they were yummy. I think next year we'll thin them out more...

(Our most impressive mutant carrot)

Charla even got to pick a strawberry!

Gregory helped pick basil leaves for our chicken bake, which was delicious!

At the end of the day I was a little sad about Pioneer Week coming to an end. It had been a beautiful experience, sharing our heritage with the kids. Even now they still ask questions about pioneer life as compared to ours today. I hope this is a tradition we can keep up indefinitely :)