Note: I printed a similar, but shorter letter for the handful of paper Christmas cards I sent out this year. I didn’t want to print and send you all 5 pages of Things HausMiller Has Done In 2013. If you’ve gotten one of those, please do also read this. More fun details and info. :)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and welcome to the year 2014!
Like usual, I did not get anything written or sent out before Christmas last year. Oh, well. It’s always kind of fun to get the late holiday or birthday cards in the mail because it makes the holiday seem that much longer. It always brings a smile to my face.
January 2013 :: Big Ive 2.75 years, Little E 1.5 years
(a year later and Little E has now outgrown the clothes Big Ive is wearing in this photo)
2013 was a year of travel for the Miller family.
Christmas 2012 and January 2013 were spent in the United States visiting our family and friends and loved ones. Christmas 2012 was super fun for us in Iowa with LOML’s family. 7 kids age 6 and under made for quite a crazy full house.
The girls and I spent the rest of January and a week of February in Arizona at my parent’s house. LOML had to go back to work in Germany a week after Christmas. We were sad to not have him with us to enjoy the beautiful sunshine. I really did feel bad that he endured nearly the darkest winter in 43 years back in Germany without us (it was almost the darkest winter ever on record!!!).
In March we visited Munich. LOML had some work function, I think, so we tagged along. We got to see the main square and took a day trip to the Neuschwanstein castle. This is the one Disney used as inspiration to make their castle. This castle has a theme of swans, as the king of that area really liked them. Little E decided they were all chickens, and during our very full guided tour she would yell out, “Chicken!”, every time we saw one. No explaining on our part could convince her they were actually swans. Needless to say, we hung at the back of the group and tried to keep her quiet. Thankfully, most of the other patrons thought it was funny and we heard them laughing with us.
April had us in the Netherlands to see blooming bulb flowers at the Keukenhof gardens. It was a cold winter and spring and there weren’t many flowers in bloom when we went. We did enjoy ourselves and the girls had a blast on the playground equipment and with the petting zoo.
In May LOML sent me to Paris for a day as a birthday present. A friend of mine came with for a bread baking class. I got to make real French baguettes, brioche, and another bread I can’t remember the name of but was beyond delicious.
In June my dad and older brother, who the girls call Uncle Baron, visited us.
We drove to Croatia in July (through Germany, Austria and Slovenia) with my dad and brother. LOML wasn’t able to join us again because of work. That dang work is always getting in the way of a proper social life and a good holiday. We visited the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which I can’t recommend enough for someone thinking about a fantastic European vacation. And then we spent a few days on the coast near Zadar. This was the 3rd time I had been to Croatia, and the girls’ 2nd. We talk about going again this summer, we love it so much.
Also in July, my youngest brother, who the girls call Uncle Robot, and his girlfriend, Tia, visited us. We went on another Rhein River cruise, toured castle ruins nearby our house, and had a great German breakfast at a bakery.
In August Little E turned 2 and LOML’s parents came to visit for a couple of weeks. We love having them visit. LOML was busy with work again so we didn’t get to take a little vacation with them this year, unfortunately. I also started my 5th German language class so I wasn’t able to take time off of that. Happy to report that I can understand a good amount of German, but that I have difficulties formulating responses when asked questions or if I’m participating in a group conversation. Coming along, but not as good as I would like.
September was little festivals in nearby villages. Random day trips to France, 45 minutes by car. At this point, I can’t remember a specific festival we went to, but there are so many, well within 1 hour’s drive from our house.
In October, LOML and I went to Stuttgart for the Cannstatter Wasen festival (Stuttgart’s Oktoberfest) with my German band for a fun day. LOML wore his Lederhosen and I had on my Dirndl. It was great. We took a train over at 8am. My wonderful band president was ready with the first ‘Good Morning’ drink of champagne on the very first train. The other 2 trains followed with snacks and more drinks to set the stage for a very fun day with very fun people.
Mid-October we flew back to Arizona. We then spent a week in Iowa with LOML’s sisters and their families. It’s amazing what 10 months time does to those 6 little kids that were such a handful at Christmas. The weather was better in October so lots of outside play was available. Not to mention everyone was almost a year old and that much more able to play without direct parental involvement. LOML was only able to stay in the States for 2.5 weeks, so the girls and I got to enjoy a few more wonderful weeks of warm sunshine in AZ before we headed home the week before Thanksgiving. It was like a second summer for us. A much-needed second summer for me. The cold, dark, rainy, way-too-long winter was too much for this desert-kid.
In November (while we were still in the States) I flew up to Minnesota to visit my other Grandma and some aunts, uncles and cousins for 4 days while LOML’s parents and my parents graciously watch the girls. My grandmother turned 89 in December. There was no way I was going to have made a trip to the US and not go see my other grandma. I wish I could have brought the girls with, but it was equally nice to have 3.5 days alone. I didn’t realize air travel could be so stress free until I didn’t have my kids with me.
[[Side note: I added up the number of airplanes my children have been on. Big Ive has been on 29 and Little E 25, if I counted correctly. Big Ive took one trip with me to Minnesota when she was 3 months old. That's where she gets 4 more airplanes than Little E. I can't believe we've been on that many airplanes in just under 4 years. And I can't help but notice how blessed we are to be able to live in Europe and visit family 6000mi (9000km) away almost twice a year. God is good.]]
And Christmas 2013 was spent quietly in our house in Germany. LOML and I didn’t realize how much our big crazy families mean to us on major holidays and we missed them all dearly. And I didn’t realize how much traditions mean to LOML. He really REALLY wanted me to make a whole turkey or ham for Christmas. I told him I wouldn’t make a turkey because I don’t eat it, and we can’t get a good American-style ham in Germany. I tried to compromise by roasting a whole chicken and he was finally ok with it after he took the first bite. Having certain traditional foods for our family holiday get-togethers was never quite so important for my family. It was more important to have everyone get together. But passed the food traditions talk, LOML and I mostly noticed that it didn’t really feel like Christmas last year. There was no hype of getting together with one of our crazy extended families, no big preparations for Christmas Eve services in our church, and a very big lack of family on Christmas day. All my life my family would get together and we’d number no less than 20 for every single major holiday. That’s a hard thing to get used to. It made us a little sad to know this was the first Christmas the girls would probably understand and maybe remember, and they have no memories of giant family Christmases. I hope we can give that to them in future years.
Lest you think our life is all happy travels to endless destinations with nary a care in the world, we had our share of illnesses, work challenges, uncertainty, child tantrums, sadness, worry, and plenty of instances to seek forgiveness. We tend to recap the good things when we write these letters (or the major bad things), but that doesn’t necessarily paint a realistic picture of what really happened day in and day out during the year. We know we are incredibly blessed to be able to live in Europe for a time, to give our children a chance to learn a second language fully submerged in the culture, being able to travel to places with our children we could have only maybe dreamed about taking them ‘some day’. Daily life is pretty much the same here as in the US. We have the same issues with our kids, house, car, what we are going to cook for supper, did you remember to do thisandthat, crap–not another unexpected German bill. It’s great to live here, but we struggle with sadness about having left family and friends back in the US. We love you all so much and miss you more than this simple letter can convey.
Love from Haus Miller Adventure
January 2014 :: Big Ive 3.75 years, Little E 1.5 years
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