Tag Archives: year in review

Christmas Letter 2013

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.

family photos 028January 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

DSC05295retouchJanuary 2014 :: Big Ive 3.75 years, Little E 1.5 years

If you need our contact information (phone numbers, addresses, Skype names, etc.) please email hausmilleradventure [at] gmail [dot] com. Please fill in the correct symbols for the words in brackets.

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2013 year in review [part 3 of 3]

This is the third — and last — in a series of 3 posts about our 2013 year.


We went to a fall festival in a nearby village.  This was the best photo the two rugrats would let me get of them by the big pumpkins.  They were buggers that day, not wanting to listen worth a darn.  The pumpkin soup was really good, though.DSC04462

Little E wanted to go play on the piles of hay bales like Big Ive, but she wouldn’t give me her new stuffed animal so it wouldn’t get dirty.  The softness of the new toy won over playing on bales of hay. Big Ive liked climbing on the bales, but there were too many big kids jumping and running for her to feel comfortable enough to make the big jumps.




LOML and I enjoyed a day trip to Stuttgart for the Cannstatter Wasen, which is Stuttgart’s Oktoberfest.  We went with members of my German band.  It was a whole day trip planned out to the minute, I’m sure.  We all wore lederhosen or dirndls and took the train over.  The first of our 3 trains one of the band members opened up the champagne for a good start to the morning drink.  The rest of the ride and day continued like that.  It was great.

The middle of October we made a trip back to the US and saw lots and lots of family and friends.  We were in AZ for a week and then went to IA to visit LOML’s sisters and their families for a week.  This past fall was so much nicer with 7 kids under 7, than last Christmas when it was 7 under 6.  10 months time makes a big difference in children’s development.  Not to mention the warmer weather made it easy for us to be outside a lot of the time.

Walking through the corn.  I love how it looks almost golden in this photo.

Auntie tried to make farmers out of the bigger cousins with straw in their mouths.


Back in AZ the girls got to spend time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and neighborhood and meet some relatives for the first time.  This photo below depicts my girls’ personalities well.  Little E is content to play in the water quietly and Big Ive is running and jumping all over the place.  Little E sat fascinated with the fountain for as long as Big Ive ran around this courtyard.

Dinner with grandma and grandpa and some family and friends.



During our US trip, I went to Minnesota for a long weekend to visit more of my family.  LOML’s parents and my parents were generous enough to watch the girls for me while I traveled alone for 4 days.  I never knew getting through airport security and waiting for your airplane could be so peaceful.  :)  What a treat to not have to worry and take care of my little ones for a couple of days, and to enjoy time with family I don’t see often.  I wish I could have brought the girls with so they could have time with family, too, but it didn’t happen this time.

Minnesota fish fry while it is snowing!  Many thanks to my favorite cousin for cooking it for us.

The girls and I spent some more time at LOML’s parent’s house.  One day we made and frosted cookies.

I think those are halloween sprinkles that she is very carefully placing on her cookie. 


Sometimes it’s more fun to play with toy magnifying glasses with Grandpa, though.DSC04908

  Or snuggle with the puppy.  Kid would absolutely love it if we got a dog.DSC04935

They did this all by themselves, if you can believe it.DSC04942


The day before we flew back to Germany we spent some time at my grandparent’s house.  Little E had a great time playing with her Grandpa-grandpa and Grandma-grandma’s cat.



We also tried to see some of my other family members, some of whom had never met Little E because we moved to Germany when she was just 4 months old.  And I’m so happy we were able to see a number of them.  I felt a big need to make this visit more about seeing and being with family where possible than to hang out and have a good time with my friends (although we did a lot of that, too).  When my uncle unexpectedly passed away a year and a half ago, and another family member was in a near-fatal accident a year ago, it has solidified that we need to spend time with those we love and care about.  You honestly never know when the last day you will see someone will be.  I’m so very glad I have these memories (and photographic evidence of them, too) and can share it with the girls as they continue to grow and really remember things.

Thus concludes our year 2013.  As blogs usually go, these are the highlights of mostly fun and good things that happened.  We sure have our share of downs and valleys throughout the year, too.  Plenty of times when our children are behaving much less than stellar, days when we’re in a funk, days when we need to seek forgiveness from our loved ones that we’ve hurt, days full of illness.  Basically, it is a regular year had by regular human beings.  We love living in Germany, but it is incredibly hard to be away from family and friends.  I’m so glad the human mind tends to blurr the bad days and remember more of the good.  :)


If you missed them, check out [part 1 of 3] and [part 2 of 3].

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2013 year in review [part 2 of 3]


May ended up being a pretty quiet month around here.  No big trips or doings.  This photo shows a regular weekend afternoon eating quiche with freshly picked wild flowers after we had taken a walk around the village.  They were the prettiest little golden wildflowers to grace our table in old wine bottles.  I think they stayed there for a week before they had shed most of their petals and we had to throw them out.



Patio gardening. We have 2 garden plots our landlord lets us use in his garden space, but tomatoes and peppers grow better in pots on the patio where they stay warmer.

A little later the sun hit the back patio and Little E and I laid in the glorious heat of it – the first warm sunny day of the year.DSC03266

Uncle BaronBaron visited and brought super hero capes.



My dad and brother visited us for a few weeks.  The girls and I, and my dad and brother drove over to Croatia for a week vacation.  LOML wasn’t able to take time off from his job last summer, so we had to have a beach holiday without him.  This was the 3rd time I had been to Croatia, the 2nd for the girls.  I highly, highly recommend it if you ever make it to Europe.  The coast and the inland and the national park and the people are all fantastic.  It’s relatively inexpensive, too.

This is a photo of one of the lakes at Plitvice Lakes National Park.  These lakes are all this glorious clear blue/green color due to lots of minerals and sediments.  There are a number of waterfalls between the levels of the lakes.  And they put these wooden pathways over, around, and through all of the waterfalls and lakes.  The wooden paths literally go over waterfalls and across lakes.  With no handrails.  It was heart attack city for a number of places with my 2 little girls.  They cried a number of times when we held on extra tight to their hands so there was no chance of them slipping or falling over.DSC03358

We must have walked a few miles that day because we misread the signs.  We tried to do the medium-length walk around the major lakes and falls and ended up going nearly to the end.  Woops.  That resulted in 2 very tired toddlers.  I put my backpack on upside-down on my front and made a kid-carrier so Little E could sleep for a little bit.  35lb children are too heavy to carry for more than a couple of minutes.

This is at the beach near Zadar, Croatia.
My dad and brother are holding the girls as the water laps at their feet.
Cute, custom swimming suits courtesy of Grandma (drives me crazy there is a lack of decent swimming suits for little girls.  There are one pieces that aren’t long enough for my tall kids and itty bitty bikinis, which I feel are inappropriate for anyone of any age.  Not to mention I have a very fair-skinned redhead who needs to be a little more protected from the sun. Every time I encounter an issue with something I feel lacks in children’s clothing I have the urge to start my own company…but that’s a whole other rant.).


Jumping off of some ruins in the old city of Zadar.
She had to attempt to do everything Big Ive did.
And she still thinks she has to and can do everything Big Ive can, which is simply not the case because she is 16 months younger developmentally.  Poor kid.  They’ll even out soon enough.


A fun day at another castle back in Germany with my dad and a friend from our church.  Highlight of the trip — we paid for the guided tour and got into the 2nd room when Little E wouldn’t stop crying.  She had hurt her arm somehow in the backpack.  LOML, me and the girls ended our tour at that point and probably vowed to never go on a guided tour with small children again.

Sad day was when we dropped Grandpa (my dad) off at the airport after his 3 week visit with us.  We tried to get a decent photo of the girls and us in the airport, or the girls with my dad, but they would have nothing to do with it.  Running, jumping, climbing, crawling, basically just being the almost-2 and 3 year olds they are.  LOML refreshed himself by taking us to a Trappist monastery in Belgium that afternoon so he could buy beer.


Here we have 5 different veggies for supper from our garden that we cooked one night (baby onions, zucchini, green beans, broccoli, and fresh raw peas).  The girls will gobble up these veggies like nobody’s business.  I can’t take the peas out of their pods fast enough for them.  I make LOML plant rows of peas so we can eat them straight out of the garden.  That is the best and only way to eat peas.DSC04065

We had lots of fun when my little brother, Uncle Robot, and his girlfriend, Tia, came to visit.  Highlights of their visit include: cruise boat down the Rhein River (complete with a slide for kids), getting completely soaked in a village’s fountain (where we misplaced the extra clothing we had packed and LOML had to buy a new dress for Big Ive), climbing all around castle ruins (Uncle Robot is a bad influence on 2 little girls :) ).

DSC04096      DSC04099


On August 5, Little E turned 2.  We had a very small celebration with LOML’s parents and us.  It was so nice to have them visit in August and be able to be there for both of her birthdays so far.

Little E’s 2nd birthday!

Climbing all over the elephants in Trier, Germany with Grandma and Grandpa.
DSC04236 (1)



Check out [part 1 of 3] and [part 3 of 3].

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2013 year in review [part 1 of 3]

I’m reading the blogs I follow this month and everyone is doing a year in review.  I didn’t even think about doing such a post.  And then I thought about it some more and decided it might actually be kinda’ fun and a good idea.  So here goes, me jumping on the year in review bandwagon.

EDIT:  I put this post together and it became ridiculously long with an insane amount of photos so I split it into more than one post.


family photos 002

Look how little the girls both looked!  It’s hard to believe they have changed so much in just 1 year.  It is incredible to have photographic evidence to compare the changes.  A friend of ours came and took family photos of us when we were in Phoenix.  My brothers and their significant others, sister, parents and grandparents were all there.  My mom has a couple photos of us when we were younger with both sets of our grandparents.  They are wonderful keepsake treasures and I hope these photos will be like that for our girls.

Do you know how rediculously hard it is to get 2 young toddlers to both pose acceptably for a photo?  Yeah, damn near impossible.  We gave up and embraced the ‘this-is-real-life’ stance on photos with these two.family photos 028

My brothers, sister and me.
It’s like old times…except now we’re all grown-ups.  How did that happen?family photos 076

We were in the US visiting family for Christmas.  The girls and I were able to stay for about 8 weeks.  LOML had to go back to Germany after 3 weeks to get back to work, unfortunately.  We missed him. My parents were grateful to let us camp out and tear up their house during our stay.  The girls loved waking up to Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie every morning.  The park in the neighborhood was a fan favorite of Grandpa and granddaughters.  They played at the park with Grandpa nearly every day.


LOML’s parents live nearby and we had lots of days spent playing with all of their super fun toys.

A very cozy cozy coupe with the other grandma and grandpa.

A favorite memory is when Cat in the Hat joined our family at Kohl’s
because an older gentleman decided he would buy it for Big Ive.


We were still in AZ during the beginning of February.  I tried to make sure we spent time with my grandparents when we were all feeling healthy enough.  They have a few citrus trees in their backyard where the girls were able to help Grandma-grandma pick them up.

Picking oranges with Grandma-grandma.DSC02683

A wonderful addition to our trip back home was my mom being able to join us.  Here we are in the airport headed back to Germany.  LOML flew back for an unexpected trip for our last week in the States.  Because of an event that happened a couple week prior to this I was extremely grateful for his physical presence with me.

in the airport heading back to Germany

For Valentine’s Day LOML and I went to our favorite little restaurant in France.  My mom was a wonderful grandma and watched the girls while we got away for a short bit.  She’s the best mother around.

Valentine’s Day dinner in France with LOML

My German band makes a walk every winter to another village, usually through the snow, to eat at a restaurant.  They actually scheduled it for when we would be back in Germany so we could participate last year.  LOML, the girls, me and my mom all made the hike to a great restaurant in a tiny village about 5 miles away.  LOML had parked the car half-way and drove the girls from the Schnapps stop half way.

Schnapps stop in the middle of the snowy German countryside.
Don’t worry, they had pretzels and wurst to snack on so we wouldn’t be drinking with empty stomachs.  : )

And Little E started at the Kindergarten on the 27th!  She was 18 months old in this photo.  With her in Kindergarten during the day I was able to take my German language classes.


We took a trip to Munich for a long weekend.  The girls took turns sleeping in the stroller and posing with LOML’s beer at the Augustiner Beer Hall. That stroller has been a great purchase.  It is huge and was expensive, but it functions really well off road and can still hold both of our rapidly growing girls.



A trip to the Munich area is not complete without visiting the Neuschwanstein castle.  A common theme in the castle is swans.  Whenever Little E would see one she would yell, “Chicken!”  Try keeping a small toddler quiet in a guided tour of a castle that is full of swans, which she thinks are chickens, which happens to be an animal she loves.  She still loves birds and chickens to this day.



A quick weekend trip to the Netherlands to the Keukenhof Gardens to see the flowers.  Unfortunately, it was a long, cold, dark, wet winter and spring so most of the flowers weren’t blooming, yet.  They did have some from their green houses we were able to see.  The girls had more fun at the petting zoo and playing on the playground equipment.  Which means we could have stayed at our house and walked to our park for equal enjoyment from them.DSC03071

Big Ive turned 3 and we made cupcakes to take to school. 4 dozen cupcakes in various swirl colors with a flower gummy on top.  That was the first time I piped frosting on cupcakes.  The kids all very much enjoyed the cupcakes at school.  I’m not sure there were any left to take home!DSC03139

Check out [part 2 of 3] and [part 3 of 3].

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