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a year of travel

We have traveled the US and part of the world this year.

March – drive to AZ for spring break

May – Germany for 2 weeks (including dinner in France one evening!), then Pennsylvania to visit family

June – add in a quick trip to Massacheusetts, Delaware and New York while we’re on that side of the country

July – the baby and I went back to Massacheusetts for a university promotion

August – quick 6 day trip to Colorado

September – the baby and I will be making a quick weekend trip to Minnesota to visit family and see a tractor show.

November – the whole family is driving to Phoenix for Thanksgiving with family.

December – we are heading back to the farm where LOML grew up to spend Christmas with that side of the family. We are excited about this as most of them have not met the baby, yet.

Coast to coast and across The Pond, it’s been quite a year. It makes me feel exhausted reading that list. Somehow we managed to do all of that with a 5 year old, 3 year old and a baby who is now just 9 months.

Travel should slow now that Big Ive has started her Kindergarten year at a public school here in SoCal. No more taking the kids out of school whenever we want.

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Are We Staying or Are We Moving???

We have come to a decision on where we will be living for the next couple of years.  It was a very hard decision that physically ate at us for months this year.  It wasn’t easy.  In making a decision we would have to say no to one group of people so we could say yes to another group.  That is so hard when you have grown to love two countries, two communities, so far apart you could have never imagined this would happen even 2.5 years ago.

We chose to stay in Germany for right now.  It was so hard to say no to moving back to family, moving back to friends, to a community we had grown and lived life with for 5 years.  But, it was almost like the decision was made for us.  We didn’t have an easy way to return to Arizona right now (which was our preferred place), and prospects of living closer to LOML’s family weren’t panning out.  LOML and I didn’t want to have to uproot and start over again somewhere new for another short period of time.  We’re not really those kind of people that move often.  If we were going to move, we were going to move back to family, as the benefit of living closer to family (blood or not) has been made very clear to us after living countries and an ocean away for two years.  Yeah, we could have moved back to the States—somewhere—but we didn’t want somewhere.  We wanted one of two locations and that didn’t work right now.

I know I am disappointing some people by this decision.  And I know I have made some people happy by this decision.  I am sorry if this has hurt you.  I’m sorry if this will further impact and harm any friendships we had before I packed up and moved to Germany.  The decision to choose to stay here was definitely affected by those friendships and family-ships (if I am allowed to make up a word :) ). LOML and I tried to find a way to move home.  We desperately wanted to do that, but I think God didn’t have that in the plans for right now.  Right now we stay where we are.

As I explained to many people when we first started telling our decision to our friends in-person here in Germany, is that this is a very bittersweet decision.  We are sad to not be returning to family and friends.  But, if the decision had been reversed, we would be equally sad to be leaving our new friends and family in Germany.  How is it possible to have deep feelings for two lands?  Two cultures?  I never understood that love and pain until living here. (There was no way I could understand having lived in the same city for the first 27 years of my life.)

But, there are good things about staying.  The girls and I can work on our German language learning a lot better living in Germany than in the US.  Big Ive is practically fluent for a 3 year old speaker.  Little E is coming along quickly now that she’s been in the German Kindergarten full time since March.  I am slowly getting a grasp of this crazy, funny language through my classes.  Maybe sometime in the near-ish future I will be able to hold a conversation.  I hope.  LOML will have some new opportunities with his job here in Germany that he wouldn’t have had we never moved here, had we not chosen to stay.  And I get to keep playing music in the village band with my German friends.

We can continue to grow community with our German friends here in our village, with our church a few villages away, with the American military community around here.  We can continue to do God’s Kingdom work, which we believe we can do where ever we are.  (And for those that read this who don’t believe in God, you can think of that as just doing good things, giving selflessly, choosing to live an intentional community life.)

If you skipped everything I wrote above, the bottom line is:

We are staying in Germany for now.
It was a hard decision.
We love our family and friends back home, and miss them dearly.
There are good things happening here in Germany that we are a part of.

P.S.  If you have any questions or want more details, please ask.  I purposely kept the details off and this sort of vague because this is a public blog and I like to keep it semi-anonymous. You can email me at hausmilleradventure (at) gmail (.) com if you don’t already have another way to contact me.

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hail – a how-to guide

When it hails heavily one afternoon, whatever should one do with all of it?  Here is a quick helpful Hail How-To guide.

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All of this came down in about 10 minutes time, I would guess.  I don’t have a stopwatch.  And besides… Who ever remembers to start those things at the moment an activity you wish to time begins?  For reals.

1. You eat it.

The girls were eating it out of the bowl as if it were popcorn.  If you are feeling more dignified, please feel free to use the proper hail eating utensils.

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Exhibit 1a.

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Exhibit 1b.

2. You make a scotch on the rocks.

LOML enjoyed his hail-cooled scotch on the rocks that afternoon.  However, he did note that hail of a slightly larger diameter would have been preferred.  Please keep this in mind should you wish to attempt hail-scotch-on-the-rocks.

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A handsome devil, that one.

And there ends our quick Hail How-To guide.  Please stay tuned for another photo of an adorable toddler watching hail.

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dress courtesy of Gampers Hand Creations

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Back in the Wild West

The girls and I made the epic trek from Germany to Phoenix on Saturday (15.12.2012).  We left Frankfurt at 10:30am Germany time and arrived in Phoenix at 3am Germany time.  It was over a 24 hour day for me from when I got up to when I finally got to bed at my parents house.

The flights were pretty good.  I feel like I’m a ‘yes mom’ when I’m in public with my kids.  To an extent, anyway.  Can I have another cookie?  Yeah, since you don’t want to eat anything else the flight has to offer.  Can I play puzzle?  You bet.  Can I have more juice?  Yep.  Can I walk up and down the isles for a while?  Sure, as long as you treat the other passengers with love and be respectful.  It’s hard to keep nap times and a normal schedule in such a confined place.  I don’t want to make my kids have a meltdown where they will pester other people so I try to loosen up on those kinds of things.

The flight attendant on the first flight tried to tell me I couldn’t place Little E’s car seat on the isle seat.  There was no other way the flight would have worked with our 3 seats in the middle section with the aisles on both sides if Big Ive had to be on one side of Little E and me on the other.  Thankfully she didn’t make me change it.

We had at least 4 hours left of the flight and I was down to pulling out one of my last tricks in my bag.  I thought for sure it was going to end terribly.  Big Ive was happy to chat with some German ladies sitting across the isle from us.  One was crocheting little flower looking things and gave one to Big Ive after I told her to ask, “Was machen Sie?”  Little E was pretty content to stay strapped in her car seat for the vast majority of the flight.  I was very thankful for that.

Big Ive fell asleep as we were landing into Dallas, TX.  Of course she would do that.  I know it was about 9 or 10pm to her so it was reasonable.  But then I had to wake a sleeping child to get off the plane, and then walk through passport control and customs, and baggage pick up and drop off, and then security again.

We had an extra hour layover in Dallas than was originally scheduled when we purchased the tickets.  This was a relief to me because I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to make it through passport control, customs, baggage, security and then do the bathroom/diaper change and grab something to eat before having to board our connecting flight.  We got to our gate and ate the wonderful (puke-tastic) McDonalds chicken nuggets and fries.  Big Ive was so tired she fell asleep sitting in Little E’s car seat on the floor.

There were just enough helping angels on this trip to get us on and off planes and through lines with little to no troubles.  It was me traveling with my 2 little toddlers (2.5 and almost 1.5 years), a double stroller, 1 giant car seat, backpack (with laptop, iPad, liquids bag, etc), kid backpack of toys, coats, blankie for Little E.  There is a system to how I pack the backpack diaper bag so I can get through security easy.  But there is just a lot of stuff and wrangling of children that makes it take so long.  I do have to say it is nice to travel with kids because you can get away with bringing larger amounts of liquid through security (which means I don’t have to buy them as much juice or food in the concourse).

Phoenix for a week, then Iowa for a week to spend Christmas with LOML’s family and then back to Phoenix for January.  It should be a good holiday for Haus Miller.

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NaBloPoMo Day 7 – So, did you hear the US had an election yesterday?

I forget that the rest of the world cares about our (as in the USA’s) elections until I drive to German class in the morning and every news item (in German, of course) is talking about Barack  Obama winning the election.  And I forget they care about our leaders until I sit with my fellow band members around a table in the bar and hear them discussing the US’s politics.  In my brain they are separate and it doesn’t automatically compute that they would care about what happens.  And then I think a little more, and remember I’m not the center of the universe, and it makes sense they would (1) know what is going on and (2) care about it.

I almost didn’t get to vote this election. Something about Arizona’s procedures for overseas citizens’ absentee ballots.  I had to register with 2 different things besides the regular request for absentee ballot to get it.  And I was barely able to do it in time.  Thanks all go to LOML who so graciously printed out my ballot, met me at the lunch place 3 villages over and then scanned and emailed my complete ballot so I could upload it to AZ’s website.

Thanks, LOML! I love you.

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Protected: Beginning of my thoughts on Community here in Germany

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bittersweet

LOML and I chat often about how we feel here in Germany.  Usually, it’s on drives around here while the girls are occupied and can’t get into too much trouble.  This past car ride chat stuck in my head.  It boiled down to a single word: bittersweet.

Bittersweet.

That’s how we feel about living here in Germany.  We have grown to love this area and these people so much these past 9 months, yet, we desperately miss home and our people that are still there.  We are starting to get a foothold into service and volunteer work here and, yet, we feel guilty about leaving such needy and important tasks that we were helping with and making a difference in peoples’ lives back at home.

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It hurts to think that we will have to leave these people that our hearts have grown for.  It hurts to think about leaving the amazing and breathtaking green hills of Germany.

It hurts to be away from family and friends while having amazing new people in our lives, kinda’ like we’re cheating on our peeps.

It’s crazy that a person can be filled with such conflicting emotions.  How can my heart love 2 lands so much?  How can my heart grow to love even more people?

I think God made us to be able to love and keep learning to love more and more throughout life and its changes.  And LOML and I keep coming to the realization that we need to choose to be content with where we are now, not focusing on being sad about the past or sad about the eventual future.  We need to be open to God’s path in our lives right now and let Him write this story of our lives. Because He writes a far better story than I could ever imagine.

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Phoenix Photos – at last

Here are some photos of our brief trip to Phoenix in May.


Big Ive loves my mom’s piano more than words can express.  She says piano something like PAMmo.  Little E was so happy when she figured out she could reach the keys and make noises with it.


Quintessential Little E pose: sucking her thumb while holding her little soft blankie.


Playing with Uncle Fred and Aunt Leah.


With my grandparents (GrammaGramm and GrampaGramp) at their house when they hosted the family and friends get together on Memorial Day.  I think we were trying to get out of there after a full afternoon and the girls were NOT being cooperative.

At the PHX Zoo on the Friday before we left…


Little E with her Auntie.  It was so nice to have her be able to come with us that hot early morning. 
My sister is the only aunt my girls know by the name of “Auntie”.  You can tell them Auntie is on the computer and they’ll know who it is.  :)

At the splashpad at the zoo.  We spent a good portion of the time playing in the water.  Little E seemed to be most happy looking for, picking up and placing in her mouth leaves, sticks and other debris around the splashpad.  She was a little scared of the water that shot up from the ground.

Big Ive, on the other hand, LOVED running around the water.  She was caught trying to drink out of the little river running around the splashpad a few times.  Gross.


Family photo!  Every one was happy!

Grandpa holding Little E.  Believe it or not, she fell asleep in this position.  Baby was tired. 
And, I was able to get her into the stroller seat where she kept sleeping the rest of the time in the zoo.


She had to climb up on this sculpture by herself after all the other kids got off.  She did NOT want to get down and leave.

These tortoises are massive.  I’m sure they have to be 80+ years old.  The big guy looks like a boulder!

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I’m working on the posts for Switzerland, Italy (Orvieto, Florence, Todi, Assisi) and Paris.  We probably have 8+GB worth of photos and videos for me to sort through.  Yikes!  Lots of good memories, though.

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US Trip Re-cap

The trip back to the States was really good, excluding the terrible circumstances causing us to make this trip and that we all got some sort of sickness or another.  Flights went REALLY WELL with the girls (a couple other passengers actually commented how well the kids behaved and said they were impressed).  I was surprised.  Flights over were better than back, but I think a lot of that had to do with me being so tired and run down from being sick I just didn’t have the reserve to handle the girls as well.  There weren’t any screaming fits and I didn’t notice any bad looks from people around us, so I’m calling it a success on all three legs of the trip!

Minnesota was wonderful.  It reminded me a lot of Germany.  The girls woke the first morning at 2:30am and increased about an hour each day.  We were all tired and jet-lagged, but good.  It was so good to see my family, but utterly sucked that we had to get together for my uncle’s funeral.  It’s hard to reconcile those 2 vastly different emotions — joy and sorrow — during the same trip.  The services were really nice.  There were so many people.

People highlights: cousins, aunts (great and regular), uncles (great and regular) that I haven’t seen in years.  One I think it’s been at least 10 years.  [[How am I even old enough to have NOT seen a cousin in over 10 years?!  I don’t feel like I could ever be old enough for that much time to pass without seeing someone.  Crazy.]]  Grandma, old family friends.

Funny MN story…
We jumped on my Grandma’s neighbor’s trampoline in their yard one afternoon.  The neighbor’s grandson was out jumping, too.  He started talking to me and asked where we were from.  I explained that we were from Phoenix but that we currently lived in Germany.  He did a double take and said, “Like Europe Germany?”  I said yes.  He asked me if there were kings and royalty still ruling in Germany.  I told him not in Germany, that there was a chancellor that was similar to our president.  I also explained that the royal bloodline still existed but they didn’t rule the country anymore.  Then he asked me why I would come to this small lake outside of this small town in Minnesota if I was from Germany.  It was really funny.  He totally understood that this small town is not much and he could not understand why I would choose to go there.  It was a really cute conversation with a 9 year old boy.

Arizona was nice, but not so much fun.  I got a nasty cold while in MN and it just lingered along the entire time I was in Phoenix.  I had all of these plans to go and do things and see my friends and family back home and most of it didn’t happen.

The girls and I made it to our old church Sunday morning (after we got in at 7:30pm on Saturday).  We miss our church family and community a lot.  We had a family and friends get together at my grandparent’s house Monday.  And then we stayed at my parents house in between running errands and going to the doctor for everyone.  I made 3 doctor visits that week.  One for Big Ive (dry air and climate changes are hard on a red-head’s skin), one for me (a bugger of a cold) and one for Little E (pink eye! and a double ear infection!).  Little E ended up with pink eye.  AGAIN.  Ugh, have I mentioned how much I HATE that illness.  And then Big Ive started to get it.  I think we’re finally over it (it’s only been 3 weeks…); no one has had goopy crusty eyes in about a week.

Oh, we did go to Tuesday Night dinner with our community downtown and that was a fantastic highlight of the AZ portion of the trip.

And the zoo on Friday morning with my dad and sister was a lot of fun.  I had never taken either of the girls to the zoo before then.  It was a hot day so we hung out at the splash pad in the zoo for quite a while.  The kids LOVED running through the water and getting wet.

It was all very familiar and didn’t feel like home at all. Driving around was strange after driving in Germany for the past 6 months. Having store clerks speak to me in English caught me off guard many times.  Walking into my house that our friends are now living in was strange.  It was mine, but it wasn’t mine.  I may own the house but it’s not my home.

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Once I get the photos organized and uploaded I’ll put up a post about our trip to Switzerland and Italy.

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Numb

I found out last night (on my birthday, no less) that my uncle died suddenly while at work.  I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and saw a post from one of my cousins about it and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I was hoping she had another uncle with the same name and wasn’t referring to our uncle, our mothers’ only brother.  It didn’t help that there weren’t very many details on her posts and I couldn’t get a hold of my mom.  I wasn’t about to call my grandma.  There was no way I could handle that call.

Devastation.

I can’t explain this feeling of heaviness in the pit of my stomach.

I have been immensely blessed my entire life to not be so close to death.  Sure, relatives and friends have passed away in my lifetime, but none so close as this.  My grandfather died when I was 9.  I remember it, but since they lived in Minnesota and us in Arizona we weren’t as close as my Arizona grandparents.  Other great-aunts and -uncles have passed away — some recently, unfortunately — but it didn’t hurt as much at those times.

The girls and I will be flying back to the States for the funeral and to spend time with my family.  I’m not sure how multiple flights — 2 trans-Atlantic ones — alone with 2 small children will go, but I’ll make it work.  I’ll figure it out.  It has to work.  I believe there will be wonderful, helpful people on all the flights eager to lend a hand to me, a young, frazzled, solo-traveling parent of 2 kids 2 and under.

I do find respite in the fact that my uncle was a believer.  He is no longer dealing with the painful effects of Lyme disease.  He is in paradise with his earthly father and heavenly father.  And we are the ones suffering, the ones left here on Earth.

My uncle was a funny man.  He loved kids.  I’m so immensely happy I made the effort to go back to my mom’s hometown for Thanksgiving last year.  I got to see him one last time.  He got to meet Little E.  I will never forget how he looked at my two girls.  Rest in peace, Uncle.  May we living ones left find a way to move on with life without you.  It will never be the same.

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