Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Several of the kids friends were in the musical Seussical and we were unable to attend the performances before Christmas.  So there was only one performance we were going to be in town for and so I thought I'd take Genna, Isaac, and Drew.  However, it was sold out the day before even.  I got on the waiting list, but Genna didn't want to risk going and not getting tickets.  So just Isaac, Drew and I went and we got tickets!

I could barely get Drew to stop sipping his smoothie for a picture.

"Mr. Mayor" was their friend that had a big part.  He is such a funny guy and did a fantastic job, and this was his first play ever to be in.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

School Days for the Little Ones

I love teaching the younger children the most!  They are like little sponges and usually it is still possible to make things fun and there's not so much resistance to learning as I encounter with the older ones.

Bobby loves his new Kinetic Sand, but even with the "sand box" it still makes a mess in the house.  I tried putting down a disposable table cloth under it, but the kids just end up dumping the table cloth out on the ground or sitting in the sand and it travels throughout the house with them.  It's definitely better than real sand though!  It's just always soaking wet outside right now and rarely can we go outside to play.
Bobby is a joy to teach.  It's all about reading books to him now.  He's learned to recognize nearly the whole alphabet just by reading alphabet books.  He can spell his name, "B-O-B-B-Y."  He also knows most of his numbers up to 10 by sight, but he gets 6 and 9 mixed up frequently.

He also loves our flashcards and goes through them on his own while I'm teaching the big kids.

Double handed coloring is his superpower.
Judah is a true joy to teach.  He is almost halfway through his 100 Easy Lessons to Read book and he is always trying to spell words for me or read words on tags and signs.  He has a real knack for it.  When I have a new sound to introduce, he likes to show off by always telling me the sound it makes before I tell him.  We play spelling games in the van sometimes and he is motivating Drew a bit, because when Drew falters or pauses too long, Judah usually will finish the word for him.  He's learning to add and write all of his own choice.  He LOVES workbooks, and so I have a stack of them he is systematically working through that are all for kindergartners.  He works on them all the time.

The girls and Judah all were selected to go to a classical charter school next year in our new duty station, but, honestly, I am super hesitant to send him.  This time when they are little and they love learning is so precious. and I'll never get it back.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Funny Catechism Lesson

This boy!  Drew is fiery, all boy, and great at math and science.  He can be super sweet, but it's in his own timing.  He's funny and always lands on his feet.  I can hardly wait to see what becomes of him, but I also am savoring this time when he wants mommy to tuck him in and "hug him out."  (FYI  "Hugging out" is what we do when his clothes feel all itchy and uncomfortable, particularly when layers are involved.  I hug and rub him down all over the itchy parts.)

I was trying to get him ready for a slightly early First Communion in Florence next September, but when we were recently informed that the Army is moving us this summer back to the states, that plan was squashed.  Our Italy trip was moved up to this January and there wasn't enough time, or maturity, to do it then.  But we are still working on his preparation during our homeschool time in the afternoons.  

One day we were talking about confession and how one of the requirements to go to confession is that you resolve or intend to not commit that sin again.  He said, "See this is why I need my own phone."  When questioned just how that means that he needs a phone, he replied that he forgets a lot and he needs to tell Google to remind him."  

I asked for clarification, "You want a phone so it can remind you not to sin?"

"Yeah, would that work?"

Oh, how I wish it were that easy!  What a creative guy!  I love to laugh with these little people.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Gutes Neues Jahr!

We arrived home from our Poland trip on New Year's Eve and had a low key good time at our house with turkey soup.  Godfather was still in town for two more days and the men took the kids out to do some fireworks.  At midnight this is what happens all over Germany in all of the villages...

We stood on our balcony and watched all the fun fireworks that our neighbors set off.  It's really very impressive.  Another thing to miss when we leave this place.

Happy New Year!

Poland Trip: Krakow

This was supposed to be our Divine Mercy day and a little bit of Krakow too.  Our friends wanted to go to the shrine of St. JP II, but it ended up not fitting in our day because, well, with thirteen kids and six adults (on mom had to stay in the hotel with two sick kids) it just takes a long time to do anything.

Just a beautiful church we passed by on our walk to the castle.
We first got up and walked about 25-30 minutes to the castle and met up with all our friends.  It took the men a long time to get tickets and be ready to actually go into the museums, treasuries, and the church.  The kids ran around and played with their friends and again, I hardly heard a word of complaint.  The tour had an audioguide which Bobby liked.  I enjoyed the cathedral and the museum/castle tour where the architecture was beautiful as well as the paintings, but the treasury and armory were not my thing.  In one room, the ceiling had a bunch of head statues looking down at us.  I guess many of them had not survived the time, but there were still a good number.  I just wondered how they "didn't make it."  Did they just crash to the ground?  Could the ceiling just start raining heads one day on unsuspecting visitors to the museum? 

Because of traveling with such a large group, we took entirely too much time to do the castle and it was then past normal lunchtime.  We decided to all find our own quick food for lunch near the main square and then meet up at a coffee shop for some delicious Polish hot chocolate.  I had a coffee with a chocolate spoon instead, because my dear, sweet Bob was having nightmares and waking up a lot every night.  The kids' hot chocolate was delicious though, thick and more like drinking melted chocolate than a chocolate milk based drink.  So good!

This is the point when we realized that the St. JP II shrine was not going to happen in order to make it to the Divine Mercy church before it closed.  We went straight to the train station and took a train there.  We went to look in the larger (more modern) church first.

The celebrant's chair at the Divine Mercy Cathedral

The larger church with a copy of the Divine Mercy image.

Most of our group, but not all

And then the smaller, more beautiful church with the original image of Divine mercy.  We were about 15 minutes before time for Mass and some of us went to confession afterwards.  Right as we got situated on our pew, Drew had to go to the bathroom.  You know, soooo bad, riiiight now kind of deal.  So I took him out and looked for a bathroom which took us quite far.  We made it just in time for Mass to actually start, only to realize that while I was away Bobby had filled his diaper with a smelly one.  Too smelly to wait until after Mass.  I gathered my things, but wasn't about to walk all the way back to the bathrooms.  I was going to change him outside.  This was probably a stupid plan because it was really cold outside and windy.  I wrapped him up in my coat and started to walk outside when a nun stopped me and gestured for me to sit inside with the baby.  I think she thought I was taking him out for being disruptive.  I showed her the diaper.  She led me through a locked door to the side and into the secret nun place and gave me a tiny room telling me to hurry.  I changed his diaper, but then had to find an acceptable place to put it.  A lady was cleaning in the opposite direction of the door that I was supposed to go back through to return to Mass, so I motioned to her to ask if she had a trash.  The nun came back and kind of panicked that I was walking away from where I was supposed to be and took the diaper from me.  She escorted me back to Mass.  How fun, Bobby, you've had your diaper changed in some pretty cool places, huh?  Does this beat next to Charlemagne's throne though?  That is the question.

Aaah, this is how it's supposed to be!

The original flash allowed!
After that we were all so refreshed and we trained back to Krakow and went to a restaurant that Godfather had been to before and recommended for families and big groups.  They serve family style and we got some big meat and vegetable plates.  Other than a couple of weird meats, like liver, heart, and blood sausage, the rest were delicious.

Our two meat plates are visible here, but you really have to look.  The one in the foreground is easy to spot.  The other one is behind the beer and to your left a bit on an elevated wooden board with a skewer leaning on it.
We just barely missed hearing the trumpeter of Krakow (who plays every hour in the main square) every single time he played the whole day.  So I was coaxed and cajoled into hanging out in the square until 11pm when he would play next.  I was tired, but how can you resist that (and a Gluhwein) when you're only in Krakow once...probably.

Waiting for the trumpeter

She had the best time.  Hannah is our worst traveler because she just doesn't want to do any of it, as I've mentioned before, BUT bring along a friend and the world is a brighter place.  She smiles, she laughs, and she doesn't complain.  Night and day difference.  I wish I could have this version of her all the time. 

The next day we drove straight home, leaving at 7:30am and arriving home at 7pm.  We make good time since Brian never lets us stop.  :)  Poor Bob doesn't even get to get out of his carseat unless he needs a diaper change.  You'd think he'd catch on and potty train himself so he could get out and go with everyone to the bathroom and stretch his legs.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Poland Trip: Auschwitz and Salt Mines

And back to our Poland trip...

So I debated about whether or not to take the kids to Auschwitz because I had heard it's not recommended for under 12 years old, but some say that the young ones don't really understand and so they are not affected.  However, I didn't want the little boys to be running around or playing which would be disrespectful to this memorial site and the people visiting there.  I read blogs about other people's experience with kids there and asked people who had been if they thought the kids could handle it.  In the end we decided that Brian and I both wanted to see it and we would prepare (and bribe the young ones) in order to make this work.  Hannah read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  We listened to the St. Maximilian Kolbe Glory Story on the hour long drive there as well.  We bribed the little ones about not playing and explained the importance of being quiet and respectful.  In the end, our friends who have only little ones decided that the mom would sit in their van and let the kids watch a movie while the rest of us went in and she offered for Drew and Judah to join them.  So it was only the three older kids (9, 11, 13 yr olds) and Bobby (2 yr old) who went in.  Bobby fell asleep in the Ergo on me for most of the time and the big kids asked questions and were excellent.

As far as it traumatizing them, it didn't at all.  Genevieve (11) is a sensitive soul and I was worried about her most.  There were a couple things that made her and Hannah a little sick to their stomach about.  One was the pictures of piles of personal belongings when I explained what it was, and the other was a post that was reconstructed from where the Natzis hung people.  

This is an execution wall right outside St.Maximilian Kolbe's cell block.

St. Maximilian Kolbe's cell where he was executed by starvation after he volunteered to take the place of a father who had been selected to be executed because some prisoners had escaped.

The door to his cell

After leaving Asuchwitz we grabbed a quick dinner to go and drove to the salt mines to meet up with the rest of our friends who had just arrived that day.

This photo may not do it justice, but there were around 372 steps that we had to walk down to begin the mine tour.

We had to all wear an audio guide type thing so we could hear the guide.  She had a microphone, but you had to keep up to hear her because you could lose the signal.  Bobby developed a love for audioguides on this trip.

My favorite part of the tour was when our guide was explaining the health benefits of breathing in the alt and how they have a spa for just that sort of thing in the salt mines.  She then added that we were actually getting to breathe in the salt on this tour and she asked, "Do you feel better now...psychologically?"  I found that pretty funny.

There were many statues made entirely of salt.

The small girl posse.  The boy's was huge!  Out of our 15 kids, there were only 5 girls, two of which were very young.

A bad picture of looking down upon the big salt mine cathedral.

Wooden Stations of the Cross

Pope St. JPII entirely made of salt (in cathedral)

Our Lady of Lourdes (also all salt!)

A salt Nativity scene

A salt Last Supper

Salt Crucifix with Mary and St. John at the Foot

Finally, we reached the end of our 2.5 hour tour at the smaller chapel where Godfather had reserved to say Mass. 

The two year old duo as they raced down the final hallway to the tiny elevators back up to the real world.  It was around 8:30pm by now, so I'm impressed they were still happy.
The elevators were crazy.  Mine was big enough for only really 4 people, but they shoved and squished in about 8, if you count poor Bobby.  They insisted that all babies have hats on because the elevator was made of criss cross metal bars with holes that air could blow through as it sailed upwards.  (Europeans think wind makes you sick.)  It was no luxury elevator, but it did the job.

The children all had an exceptionally wonderful time at the salt mines because once the other family arrived every single one of our children had a friend or two.  All were happy and none were bothering me.  Bob was in and out of the Ergo according to his wishes and all was good.