Monday, December 31, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We've been back to regular internet for a week, but just haven't had a chance to spend much time online. The time with friends and family is so precious! We will put some pictures on the computer later today or tomorrow, so I'll update you with those soon, as well as how our Christmas went!
Hope your Christmas celebrations were wonderful and you all have a very blessed start to 2008! Drive safely tonight!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Maryland Picture Album- Part Two

Love Bug in front of the hotel lobby Christmas Tree. They've really done a great job decorating and it's made us feel right at home!

At the fireplace in the lobby- a quick picture before pulling her away!

A festive little one in her Reindeer PJs. There is a Car.ter's Outlet at the mall across the street from our hotel. I'm in heaven and my credit card is burning.

We went to an indoor play area with some friends and Love Bug was excited to play in the sand again.

Again in the play area... it's amazing to see her interact with kids who are so much older (E is four years old) and it reminds me that she's growing up so fast!

In the courtyard outside our hotel dining room, a view of Love Bug's first real "sticking" snow!

Playing in some snow the next day!

Once we arrive at my in-laws later today, we won't have much access to the internet. I have some posts already written, so I'll try to post those during our attempts to get online. Stop by, but if you don't see anything new, have a blessed Christmas. We'll be back to my Mom's and normal internet on Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Maryland Picture Album- Part One

These are some pictures of our last two weeks back in Maryland...

Last Saturday we went to the boat parade in Annapolis. It was really neat, but the pictures didn't turn out very well. This is the only one that actually looks like boats!

These are the lights from Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. We might be the only place where the light display starts with crabs waving! Yeah for Maryland Crab!

Santa's cottage in the North Pole display area...

One of the areas was really bizarre and displayed lights with an alien theme! They had a big futuristic, scary igloo and spaceships...

The girls sitting in the back. My friend and her daughter on the left, with Love Bug and me on the right.

We will be flying to my in-laws tomorrow. Please pray for our safety and an easy flight. I'm a little tired of lugging around 6 carry-ons, 4 suitcases, 3 pieces of baby gear, and a partridge in a pear tree. We have been extended in the US for a few more weeks, so the flight to Rome has been set for the beginning of January-
25 days and counting!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Top Ten...

... cultural issues after moving back to the United States.

10. We stare at the TV with a blank stare and say, "Cable is very overwhelming- there are so many channels!"

9. Instead of hugs, we try to kiss everyone on both cheeks.

8. Wanting to weigh my own produce and bag my own groceries at the store.

7. Honking the horn and then remembering that it's rude here!

6. Walking to the bank, then to lunch, and people saying, "you walked THAT far!"

5. Saying excusez-moi in a stupid French accent after bumping into someone.

4. Looking for a flush button on the top of the toilet.

3. Obsessively checking the sidewalks for signs of dog dirt.

2. Using too many phrases like "come round my house", "bloody", and "snarky" before realizing all the friends you saw daily were British.

1. Finally asking what Webkinz were at the mall yesterday since everyone else seems to know.

This could be a homage to Dave Lett.erman, but I'm not that funny. But there is something funny about this list... that after 85 days in the United States I still do most of this stuff! Oh well, on to Italy in three and a half weeks to learn more ways to be culturally confused.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Your Christmas List

This isn't actually a meme, but I got it as an email from a friend. I usually don't send out forwards or these lists, but I loved this and wanted to share it with you! I'm trying to do more to get into the holiday spirit. If you feel so inspired, please fill it out yourself and post it!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I usually use wrapping paper and real ribbon, but this year will probably be whatever I can find in my nomadic travels!

2. Real tree or artificial? I prefer real, but we keep our tree up for so long that we have to have an artificial one.

3. When do you put up the tree? The Friday after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down? Just after the Feast of the Kings on January 6th.

5. Do you like eggnog? No

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A new purple bike with a unicorn on the banana seat.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, and I'm one of those dorky people who doesn't put Jesus out until Christmas Eve.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My husband's brother.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Love Bug and my Mom (it's a tie).

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Once I got the same gift from someone two years in a row. It wasn't that great to begin with, but at least they thought of me.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Elf (I've already watched it three times this year!)

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Around the middle of September.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Not that I can remember.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Christmas cookies

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? We use clear at our house, but I love a good, colorful light display.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Angels We Have Heard On High and Silent Night.

18. Travel for Christmas or stay at home? Travel if we're living in the US, stay home if we're living overseas.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Are there people who actually can't? Pick up a copy of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas or listen to a Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, people!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A big glass star with silver trim. I love it- it's the first thing I bought when I had my own tree with my husband.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? In the morning, but we always got an ornament and new Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Everyone rushes around instead of showing some Christmas spirit, by opening doors for other people, etc. I also wish people said Merry Christmas more, instead of Happy Holidays.

23. What I love most about Christmas? The music... new favorite album this year Josh Groban's Noel... it's just edging out last year's favorite James Taylor at Christmas. I know I've already said this, but check these albums out!

24. Favorite Christmas Cookie? Ohio Buckeye, which is a peanut butter/confectioners sugar ball dipped in chocolate. It's heaven on earth, but only if you use smooth peanut butter... crunchy just ruins it.

25. Favorite decoration? Wonderful advent calendar that my aunt & uncle got us when we first got married.

26. If you could have anything in the world what would it be? To talk to my Dad, even just for a few minutes...

So spread the Christmas spirit around and post your answers to these questions. Comment back here if you join in, so we can check your answers too!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Life Without Regret

Five years ago my husband first asked me about moving overseas. A job opportunity came up and we had to decide what to do. For me, it was a really easy decision, and basically revolved around living life without regret.

I couldn't think of many situations that would make me regret my decision to move. The places I would see, adventures I would have, would all easily squelch the pain of missing my family.

But what I knew was that if we didn't go, we would regret it forever. I doubted that I'd ever say, "oh, I wish we wouldn't have moved to France- it was awful". What I could picture more realistically was saying, if we didn't go, "Remember when we could have moved to France- I wonder what our life would've been like if we had gone."

I knew I made the right decision, especially after my Dad died last year at the age of 52. He had accomplished so much, even in his shorter lifespan, and I know he didn't regret anything. His professional life improved every year, and my brother worked for him following his college graduation and made him very proud. He loved me so much and loved my husband as his own son and was excited that we were expecting his first grandchild. Everyone who met him loved him in return, so much so that we had nearly 900 people at his memorial service.

Many people approached me at the service or afterwards and wanted to tell me about the last conversation they had with him. These conversations were always good, always positive. The main thing that people remember about him is his response to the question, "How are you doing?" He always said, "I'm doing great!" If he spoke first, he wouldn't ask how you were doing, he'd say, "Tell me something good" and he expected a positive response. He wanted everyone to live life positively, committing to make themselves one day better in whatever they pursued, and have no regrets.

The experience of losing my Dad, someone who regretted nothing, and my decisions in life, for which I have no regrets, make me happy. But it also makes me feel a lot of pressure. I want to always make the right decision and live life so that I have no regrets.

Right now I'm struggling with something that is putting me on the verge of regret. I really want to have another baby, but know I'm about 20 pounds heavier than when I got pregnant with Love Bug and that just isn't healthy. Given my trouble getting pregnant (no treatments, but it took 2+ years), I feel that I should get moving on trying, so my plan is to work on eating better, with the hopes that it helps me lose weight and get in better shape for the next baby. In reality, the weight loss and better eating habits will help me get pregnant too (see here). I've asked Susan about some training plans and she has kindly responded, encouraging me all the way. But I'm just finding no motivation and need some encouragement. Could you all pray for me as I start this process? I need to quit giving into bad food temptations and get myself up, moving, and exercising. If I don't do this now, I will regret the time I spent out of shape and not as healthy as I could be for myself, my family, and especially Love Bug.

Any other struggles going on out there? What do you think about regret? Do you have any decisions that you regret or anything you are so glad you did to avoid regret?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Why I Hate Cell Phones

Do you remember my 100 things? If you remember it at all, number 51 is that I hate cell phones. I only borrow my husband's when I'm driving a long distance and want to make sure I can call a tow truck if I have any problems. I never want one, but I will concede one day so my children can get ahold of me. They will not have one themselves, but I want to make sure they can always call me if they need anything.

So, someone asked me, why do you hate cell phones so much? Hate is a strong word. Saything that I dislike cell phones would be more accurate.

Well, it started four years ago. I had a cell phone in the US and boy, did I love it. My commute was long and I talked to everyone on my way home. Once I got to France, you had to have a bank account and a resident card to get a phone. We wouldn't get a resident card for a few months, so we just sat back and tried to live without cell phones.

We quickly found out we loved it. We loved that we could go on vacation, go sight-seeing, go to dinner, and never be bothered again. We weren't embarrassed in the movies or at church, because it wasn't our cell phone ringing. We could live life, really live, uninterrupted. We have so many distractions and our lives are so busy, but we deserve some time away. I see many of my friends' spouses with mobiles/blackberries working on evenings, weekends, and vacations. It makes me sad that they already spend 50+ hours at work, and only come home or go on vacation to work some more. Our cell free life has influenced us to make a "no work at home" rule in our house.

Now, I notice people who talk on them. Many are respectful of when they use them and seem to maintain respect for the environment around them, but not all people are like this. A few people have almost run me over when I cross the road. A few talk so loud at the table next to me that I can't hear myself think. One woman even answered her phone when I was trying to use the bathroom in the very next stall.

I would love to say, at a moment like that, "Excuse me, can you please hang your phone up so whoever you're talking to won't hear me pee?"

But I would never do that... because I DO have respect for those around me, and I want to set a good example for Love Bug. Not by judging others, but by behaving in the way that I think is appropriate.

Unfortunately, I don't think throwing some one's cell phone down the commode would be considered appropriate. I just wish that small percentage who acted disrespectfully with their cell phones would stop using them everywhere. Some places, like church, quiet restaurants, and bathrooms just aren't a place to talk on the phone.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The last month in pictures...

Celebrating Love Bug's birthday at the beginning of November!

Love Bug asleep in Daddy's arms at a football game. We went to four games and she loved it. Her "touchdown" is better than ever!

On to my in-laws in Ohio...

the boys play Cribbage...

... and Love Bug cuddles with Mommy!

We fly to Florida the week after Thanksgiving...

Love Bug gobbles up cantaloupe and honey dew.

The two cutest people I know!

Little cro.cs in the sand...

... and the girls eating dinner on the beach. Me, Love Bug, Nana (my mom) and a good friend with her daughter (who I used to baby sit all the time when she was a baby- she's 11 now, which makes me feel so old)!

Works-for-me-Wednesday: The What-Do-I-Fix? Edition

My last minute meal idea is "Almost Expired Pizza". It's works really well in France (where we lived for four years until September 2007) where you can just pick up a cheap baguette on the way home. I'm sure you all can modify this for any almost-moldy bread you have around the house... bagels, English muffins, etc. You cut the bread however you like to lay flay, spread some pizza/pasta sauce on it (either works), and then some shredded cheese. Now the final touch... check the fridge for anything that's about to go bad... regular pizza items are always good like some ground meat, a green pepper, a few olives in the bottom of a jar, but be creative... some pretty crazy stuff tastes good on pizza. One of my favorites is leftover BBQ pork or chicken. Put anything you want or find over the cheese and bake in the oven at 250-300 for about 10 - 12 minutes... but watch it because cooking times varies based on ingredients and the type of bread used.

This is a favorite of mine when we're moving to help clean out the fridge! I labeled this post as a WFMW and as a recipe... I use the term recipe lightly! Want some more quick and easy recipes? Go check out Works-for-me-Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Christmas Version of Seven Things...

I saw this posted on Carrie's blog (I seem to get a lot of inspiration from her, so go check it out if you haven't yet...) and wanted to join in!

1. My favorite thing about the holidays is music... some favorites if you'd like to check them out are Josh Gro.ban's Noel (Angels We Have Heard on High is my favorite on this album) and James Tayl.or at Christmas (Some Children See Him is my favorite song here).

2. I collect nutcrackers and Nutcracker themed items. I have some music boxes, books, a blanket and... at one time, 72 nutcrackers. After losing some to a basement flooding, and acquiring more, I'd guess I have around 50.

3. My husband and I make cookies for our friends every year. To make sure we have enough for everyone, we make a total of about 30 dozen cookies.

4. I love to lay under the tree and look up through the branches at all the lights and ornaments.

5. We always open two gifts on Christmas Eve... winter/Christmas pajamas and a new ornament.

6. I was always the first one awake on Christmas morning when I was a kid.

7. I have rarely seen snow on Christmas and it's my dream to live a few years in a place where it snows every Christmas.

I tag anyone who wants to participate!

A question regarding this post... any suggestions as to what Love Bug could collect? I collect Nutcrackers and my Mom collects nativity scenes. I think all kids should have a collection and a Christmas theme seems to work for our family... any ideas? Of course, we won't start until she's a little older, but it would be fun to start thinking of ideas now to help her find something she likes...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cozy Swap

A few weeks ago I participated in the Cozy Shoebox Swap, organized by Carrie and Monica. I have finally had internet access and the chance to get my husband to download some pictures for me. So here it is... what I received from my wonderful swap partner Kimberlee!

She sent some warm cozy slippers (in lavender, my favorite color), and some gloves. A cookie recipe book, and another recipe of her own, which is perfect, since we usually (not this year in our nomadic state) make cookies and breads to give as gifts to friends. A book for Love bug, a bunch of Mary Engelbreit (love her) journals, notepads, a pine candle, and a "Love, Faith, Hope" wall hanging. Finally, my favorites- some tea and cider mix, some homemade apple butter, and some nutcracker Christmas ornaments, since I collect nutcrackers. Whew! It was very full of wonderful things and so sweet of her!

To go see all the other wonderful swappers, click over to Carrie's blog here, and to see what I sent Kimberlee, check here! A special thanks to Carrie and Monica for organizing this, and a special thanks to Kimberlee also, for the wonderful swap goodies.

This last week we've been in Florida vacationing, which explains my lack of posts despite access to the internet! We'll be flying back to Washington, DC tonight, so please pray for us to have a safe flight. I'll post pictures of our time in Florida this week!