Sunday, December 30, 2012

Travel Log #3 Wedding Bells Are Ringing


Our first full day in Dresden, Miren didn't fall asleep until twenty minutes before our alarm was set to go off, so our morning ended up being a rushed craze to get ready for a 9:30am wedding. Despite the fact that I tried to carefully pack all our nice clothes, I forgot a travel iron, undershirts and belts for the boys, and Robbie accidentally packed a dress shirt with a large yellow stain on it, so we sort of fell out the front door already a crumpled mess. On the drive to the wedding hall, we marveled at the beauty of the city while simultaneously lecturing the kids about the importance of being quiet and well-behaved during the ceremony.

Some typical buildings in the neighborhood.

Despite (or most likely because of) our lecture, Emerson didn't last 10 minutes before acting up. I tried to slip him out the back, but the old wooden doors made more noise then Emerson had in the first place. After a whispered tongue-lashing, Emerson sat happily and quietly in the lobby while I tried to listen to the ceremony through the doors.



Fionn does an excellent job of being quiet during the ceremony.

When it was over, we gathered on the front steps to throw flower petals as the happy couple came down the stairs. I learned that in Germany, it's customary to throw rice and then everyone gets in their car and drives around honking the horns in celebration, but apparently the wedding hall banned both practices. Much to the delight of the neighbors I'm sure.



We spent the rest of the morning letting the kids play at our friends' house, then headed over to a beautiful villa for a gourmet lunch. Of course we forgot our camera for this part of the day, but here is a picture from the web that doesn't do it justice:


Here is a photo our friends took of the inside set up for the wedding party:




We spent the entire afternoon in a sun-drenched room talking, eating one delicious course after another, and drinking good wine (we had enough sense to let other people pick from the thick wine list for us and it paid off well). The kids were offered plates of schnitzel and vegetables, which I tried to pass off to the boys as fried chicken without success. It turned out to have less to do with an unfamiliar food and more to do with not being caught up on sleep. They started to fight over who could sleep in my lap, so our friend's gracious and well-prepared mother brought in some blankets to lay on the floor. (Note to self: you CAN let your kids fall asleep on the floor in Germany...if you bring the right gear.)

At one point during our now undisturbed lunch, a relative sitting next to me looked over at the boys and sighed. "They look like two little white angels sleeping in the corner of a beautiful castle," she said wistfully. I smiled and thought, "Angels are about the furthest thing from my mind when I look at them."

Miren, on the other hand, wolfed down an entire plate of schnitzel and used her brothers' disappearance to put on the "I'm adorable and I know it" show for anyone that would look her way. You would never guess that the child who slept one hour all night would be the one playing peek-a-boo and dashing around the room excitedly for hours on end.

After lunch was over, we made our way to downtown Dresden for a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city. The boys, who had been forced to wake up and get in the car, were of course starving by now. So after this several-course gourmet meal, we had to be the schmucks stopping at Burger King to feed our kids hamburgers. I've never felt so American.

Downtown Dresden was breathtaking. It's difficult to capture, even in pictures, the scope of what you see in real life. Everywhere you turn, the skyline is packed with one incredible building or church or museum or palace after another. What makes the city even more fascinating is the fact that much of it was destroyed by bombing at the end of WWII (mostly out of spite on the behalf of the allies apparently). The ruins were meticulously rebuilt using much of the original material, which is a fact we wondered at over and over again as we compared old pictures of the post-war buildings with the grandeur of what was in front of us.

Our double-decker carriage awaits us.


Freunkirche right after the war...Freunkirche today.


Fionn spent the entire carriage ride with his face pressed to the glass window, enthralled. Emerson was more interested in cuddling up with the blanket that was provided. And five minutes into the ride, Miren fell into my lap and instantly passed out.

When the ride was done, we piled into the car so we could head back to our friends' house for a light dinner. But we only drove a minute before Fionn announced that he needed to go to the bathroom...right now. Robbie pulled over in front of a large shopping mall and suggested I jump out with Fionn while he circled the block. I raced through the crowded mall as fast as I could in high heels, dragging a little boy who clutched at his crotch in desperation. As I finally rounded the corner into the apparently one and only bathroom in the entire mall, I saw a long line of people waiting to pay an attendant to gain entrance. Say what?!

The attendant must have taken pity on me when he saw the look of horror come across my face and the little boy doing a potty dance at my side. "Kinder?" he asked. I nodded, so he opened a small gate and let us pass through. I'm pretty sure he was waiting for me to give him money, but since I didn't have anything on me, I just uttered several "Dankeschön"s and raced inside.

As I was learning important lessons about peeing in Germany, Robbie was learning important lessons about driving in Germany. I have to say he's incredibly brave to drive a manual car  despite not having driven one in years, and to do it in a completely different country. He's mostly survived by following behind other people and doing what they do, but as he circled the block, he found himself in the front and ended up having a little adventure that ended with jumping a curb. When we finally reunited, we had both gained some important cultural insights..and a few new gray hairs.


Thankfully the rest of the evening was relaxing and ended with our first decent night of sleep the entire trip. Ahhhh.....

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Travel Log #2 On the road to Dresden


So in my last post we were arriving at the train station in Frankfurt to catch a train to Dresden. We were all exhausted, so I was grateful for the 6 hours of travel time to catch up on sleep. We got our tickets just as the train was pulling up, so we jumped on and searched for some seats. After a clumsy train trip the day before in which we had to put the kids and luggage on the train in several stages and then struggled to find a place to sit, we had ditched the umbrella stroller in favor of a sling. Despite our efforts to be more streamlined, this train was jam packed and completely chaotic. People shoved past the kids with little regard to their small size and everyone was yelling at each other in German in futile attempts to get to an empty seat.

Desperate, Robbie asked a railway worker if we had time to jump off and run down to another entrance rather than trying to fight our way through the crowded cars. He said, "Yes, of course," which is apparently German for "I dare you to try it, American idiots" because the moment we stepped off the train, the doors closed and off it went without us.

Emerson burst into tears, I started yelling at Robbie for his hare-brained idea to get off, Fionn repeatedly asked "We missed the train?" in his most anxious voice and Miren fell fast asleep in the sling. Basically we made a spectacle of ourselves all the way back down the platform to the information booth. Robbie and Fionn went to the desk to ask about the next train, leaving me with Emerson and Miren and all our luggage tucked against a wall. In a fit of exhaustion, and lacking any benches or seats within view, I plunked right down on the floor in the middle of our bags. Emerson sat down next to me, laid his head in my lap, and immediately fell fast asleep. A minute later, Robbie returned with Fionn, who sat down on the other side of me, laid his body across the duffel bag, and immediately fell asleep too.

So there we were, a heap of bags and sleeping children against a wall in the train station. I admit we looked pretty pathetic, but I was shocked when I realized that every single person walking by stared very openly at us...not with a look of pity or even amusement...but in complete horror. We have three noisy kids and two of them have bright white hair, so we are pretty used to being stared at. But crowds of people staring at us beat anything we have ever experienced. One man even walked by three of four times very slowly until I finally waved and he gave a funny smile and walked off.

We started giggling uncontrollably at the ridiculousness of the situation. Robbie suggested we put out a cup and collect spare change. A couple of policeman lingered nearby and I wondered if I was going to be arrested for the German version of child neglect. But it didn't matter how crazy we looked - we were trapped. When the kids are that tired, they cannot be moved, and even without all the luggage, we didn't have enough arms to carry three sleeping kids. We started debating whether to wake the kids for the next train in 20 minutes and risk screaming fits, or let them sleep for an hour and hope it would be enough rest to get on the 1pm train.

The decision was made for us when an older woman stopped and asked something in German. Robbie made it clear we were American and she laughed. "Of course you are American," she said, pointing to our sad pile. We tried to get out of her what was so offensive about our situation to German people - was it the idea of sitting on a dirty floor? Was it the public spectacle?

Her answer wasn't very helpful, "Germans would just never do this," she said dismissively. Then she began to tell us her life story in broken English. The many men she dated that brought her to America, her fallout with her grown son, the freedom she found after losing her husband, her ideas about the purpose of life. She explained that God had moved her to come talk to us and bring us a smile, so here she was. Finally, she wished us good luck and gave a warm farewell. We both laughed at some of the odd things she said, but our conversation was a reminder that sometimes the most interesting things happen in the midst of traveling disasters.

At that point, we had missed the first train and had to wait for the next one. When it finally came time to move the kids, I concocted a plan to buy them chocolate muffins and shove them in their faces the moment their eyes opened. I figured this would ease the pain of being woken up and abruptly moved.

I was wrong.

Emerson opened his eyes, dutifully stood up, and started walking. He didn't hear anything I said about the muffin because he wasn't actually awake. As we walked down the station, I glanced down and realized he was walking with his eyes closed, fast asleep again. Fionn didn't fare so well, unfortunately. He immediately started screaming and crying and had to be half-pushed, half-carried all the way to the platform. This time, we studied the maps of the different kinds of train cars and made a plan to dash to the family-friendly car right away. But when the train pulled up, our half-asleep, screaming crew moved so slowly that we ended up jumping onto the nearest car in desperation. Once again, we faced a wall of people and chaos.

After much haggling, we finally collapsed - all five of us - onto two open seats and fell fast asleep. Every once in a while, I would open my eyes and see a landscape of evergreen trees and quaint little towns fly by. I thought, "I should really be taking pictures and soaking this in." Then I would go back to sleep with my mouth wide open, vaguely aware that I was drooling in front of the entire train.



Whatever.

Several hours later, we woke up and got ready to jump off at Dresden central station. Our friend, Titus, came running down the platform to meet us and we exchanged grateful hugs. It was such a relief to see a friendly face and have someone who spoke German do the talking for us as we navigated picking up the car and checking into the hotel. Titus and Petra had chosen a beautiful hotel just a few blocks from their house, and they reserved an incredible suite for us on the top floor. I'm fairly certain they could have fit their entire wedding party into our suite alone.


Part of our suite.
View from the room.



















After dropping off luggage and attempting to refresh ourselves, we met up with our friends and their extended family at a little Italian restaurant. Their son refused to speak English (I can't blame him - if I got a chance to move away from the US, I'd renounce my ties with it too), but regardless of the language barrier, the kids were happy to play with their old friend again.

The owner of the restaurant turned out to be an Italian man who lived in South Carolina for several years before marrying a German woman and moving to Dresden. When he found out we were American, he launched into an animated diatribe on the joys of shooting guns and southern hospitality. He also begged us not to move to Germany because he said people here were so uptight - with the exception of nude beaches.

"America is the best," he said confidently.

We didn't have the heart to tell him that the "shoot 'em up" kind of Americans were exactly the reason we would want to leave the country, so we just smiled and nodded politely.

Finally, we headed back to the hotel and successfully got the boys to sleep at a somewhat normal time. As we crawled into bed and passed out exhausted, I thought, "NOW we are back to normal. We can finally get this trip officially started after a good night's rest."

At which point, Miren made it clear that her snooze on the train was her bedtime and she had no intention of sleeping that night. At all.

I wanted to berate myself for thinking that it was a good idea to travel with three small children in the first place.Then I realized that even at home, Miren has bad nights like this. If I'm going to be permanently sleep-deprived, might as well do it in Germany.

Gute nacht!

Travel Log #1 Planes, Trains...und Autos

Right before we left for our "big trip," someone said to me, "You'll have so much fun. And even when you're not having fun, those crazy moments will make good stories and memories later on." I laughed because I knew she was right, and I knew we'd have a lot of those kind of memories by the time the trip was done. If the first two days are any indication, this trip will be jam-packed with such colorful stories.

I should back up and explain that we are usually the dream of traveling to Europe kind of people, but we never thought it would happen anytime soon. When Robbie's work told him a couple of weeks ago that they would fly him to Amsterdam to work for a week, and it would fall just before Miren's 2nd birthday (i.e. the date when we'd have to start buying a plane ticket for her too), we decided it was now...or 18 years from now.

It just so happened our dear friends, who recently moved back to Germany, were getting married at the end of December, and we have many friends in Sweden we've been dying to see, so we figured "Traveling with three small children in Europe is hard work? Pffft, let's just make a whole month of it."

Christmas morning - note sleeping head in the corner.
So back to the story. We ended up finding cheap tickets out on Christmas day, so we added to the chaos of trying to work and prepare for Christmas by squeezing in packing and booking hotels. By the time everything was ready for the trip and for Santa Claus, Robbie and I were running on an average of three hours of sleep a night for about a week. Robbie ended up sleeping through the kids opening presents (his comatose figure in the background of all our Christmas photos will be one of those aforementioned funny memories) and Miren didn't even want to open presents because she tried to stay up all night with us cleaning and packing.

Rough night.

Our brilliant plan with the airplane ride was that we would eat dinner, let the kids watch a movie, and then they would drift off to sleep for 5 or 6 hours since it was a red eye flight. We would arrive in Frankfurt, Germany at 8amlocal time and just force ourselves to stay awake until nap time in order to adjust to the new time zone. Well, the kids decided to ignore the plan completely. They stayed awake for all but the last hour of the flight, then had to be dragged bleary-eyed through the airport to the train station.
Ready for take off.

Miren takes notes on the emergency plan.

Frankfurt train station.
I have to say that as the world's greatest overpacker, I was pretty darn proud of myself for fitting a month's worth of stuff for 5 people into a medium-sized suitcase, a backpacking backpack, a diaper bag, and a small duffel full of shoes. Still, hauling all that - plus three children - through an airport, up and down about 40 elevators, on and off a train, and then walking several blocks to the hotel was enough to wear us all out. So brilliant plan be damned, we collapsed onto the beds at the hotel and proceeded to sleep for several hours.


Around midnight German time, we found ourselves awake again and ready to eat and play. Except that we could do neither. We ate leftover cold pizza and dried cereal, then decided we should walk around town in the dark and hope we weren't mugged. This may sound like bad parenting, but when you face the prospect of being trapped with rambunctious kids in a hotel room for 7 hours - after already being trapped in an airplane with them for 8 hours - desperation overcomes sanity.

We packed the kids into their snowsuits and were walking out the door when we heard a terrible sound....rain. It began to pour rain and since Rick Steves told us to buy umbrellas in Europe rather than waste suitcase space on them (damn you Rick Steves), we were once again trapped. Robbie made a desperate trip to a convenience store and found giant jugs of juice that smelled like gas and cigarettes with every sip, and we settled into a long night of watching German soap operas and yelling at the kids to stop jumping up and down. I really, really hope no one was below us.

Finally, at 6am, we decided it was a decent hour for taking showers and getting ready for breakfast. As soon as the breakfast buffet opened in the hotel lobby at 7am, we descended in all our noisy, ravenous glory.

Sunrise from our hotel.

After eating, we decided to let the kids get their energy out and see a little bit of Frankfurt by taking a walk. It was unseasonably warm outside, so we left our coats behind and walked down to the river. It was a beautiful walk and I was starting to think we finally had this travel thing conquered...which of course is an invitation for disaster. Halfway through the walk, the wind started blowing and the temperature dropped dramatically. The kids went from bouncing along happily, to shivering and whining. People walked by bundled up in their thick coats and shot us glances that said very clearly, "Bad parents."




We snapped a few pics at the river, then rushed back to the warmth of the hotel. By the time we got there, it was time to pack up and walk back to the train station for our trip to see friends in Dresden. Our plan to arrive in Dresden refreshed and adjusted to the time change had backfired horribly. On the walk to the train station, it became painfully obvious that the kids now thought it was time for bed despite the fact that it was only 11am. Our schedule was so screwed up by now, we weren't on Michigan OR German time. 

I will stop at this point since our trip to Dresden deserves a post of its own, and since there was no sense of one day versus another at this point anyway. I'll end with a picture of our short stint in Frankfurt. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that in traveling, as in life, it's not about how much fun you have. It's about taking pictures so that you remember it as fun later on.




                                                                   Auf Wiedersehen!





Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Here is our electronic Christmas card for all our loved ones:

video


And stay tuned for updates as we travel through Europe for the next month! I promise (for real this time) to post *mostly* daily accounts and pics. If I don't, I won't remember any of this trip after all those plane and train rides with three small children.

Love and peace in the New Year!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Graces




First of all, thank you all so much for the incredibly kind and warm response to my last post.

Second, sorry for reacting to your generosity by going silent for several weeks.

But now where were we?

Ah, right. Summer.

So every summer since the kids were born has gone pretty much the same way. I start it out filled with energy and armed with a long list of all the educational and enriching activities I’m going to do with them. By mid-summer I find myself repeating phrases like “Wow, the summer is really flying by!” and promising myself that I will do those educational activities any day now. By the end of summer, that ambitious list has been completely abandoned and my catch phrases have just given way to long strings of expletives.

Somehow the void of time that was school is instantly filled by some sort of “busyness” the way that wet sand rushes in to erase a footprint on a beach. I can’t quite wrap my head around how our schedules are going to readjust to accommodate school resuming soon, but I know it has something to do with a constantly dirty house and a lot less sleep.

All that whining aside, there have been some moments of summer grace that I’m clinging to. Summer grace #1 was our trip to St. Louis for the albinism conference.

For me, the very best moments of childhood involved waking up when it was still dark and hearing the muffled sound of suitcases being zipped and car doors closed. In that moment my anticipation became so electric the very air seemed to snap and crackle.

Of course now I realize that that moment of excitement was made possible because the adults had already spent hours and hours planning and packing and stressing. For parents, there is less snapping and crackling and more groaning and moaning.

Luckily the kids’ excitement over taking the train to St. Louis was so palpable that even as I stood bleary-eyed on the platform at the crack of dawn, I couldn’t help but bubble with their anticipation. Their enthusiasm about the train ride didn’t wane through the 13 hours of traveling and layovers that day and it continued on the equally long trek home. Any trip on any form of transportation is exhausting with three kids (especially a toddler), but the train was so much better than a car or plane any day. Damn those lucky Europeans with all their fancy pants trains.


But I digress.

The conference of course was wonderful – connecting with old friends, meeting many new friends, attending informative sessions, and in general just soaking in the joy of having so much white hair in one place. There were some rude or stupid comments and plenty of staring when we went out as a group, but for the most part we enjoyed our blissful albinism bubble. 

The boys were much older this time compared to our first conference in D.C., so I was most interested to see how they would handle the kids’ programs. We have talked openly about albinism in the past, but they hadn’t seemed interested in the topic. I chalked it up to the fact that we live in a very diverse city, they have each other, and we are pretty active with our Michigan chapter of NOAH.

That is why I was a surprised that Fionn walked up to another little boy the first day of the conference and said, “Hey, you have white hair just like me!” They never said anything about albinism the rest of the trip, but it was interesting nonetheless.

A month later, they were running around a playhouse in the ophthalmologist’s office when a new boy walked in and started asking them why they have red eyes. Emerson did what Emerson does and ignored him. Fionn stopped and responded in a very matter of fact tone, “No I don’t, I have blue eyes.” Then he smiled and added proudly, “And I have white hair!”

Is there an emoticon for heart swelling? If so, insert it here.


Moment of summer grace #2 was on a camping trip with friends. It’s pathetic to say that we started planning this camping trip back in February as a way to reunite with college friends we hadn’t seen in years. The pathetic part is that despite months and months of planning, half the people still canceled at the last minute and we were down to three couples/families. Despite the setback and despite the intermittent rainstorms throughout the weekend, we had a great time. The kids loved it all too: eating s’mores, sitting by the fire, sleeping in a tent and playing in the canoe (whether or not it was actually in the water).


Even though the highlight of the weekend was spending time with our friends, my moment of grace actually happened thanks to a large group of German Baptists (if you are confused, think Mennonites) that set up camp across from us. They had the foresight to create a dining area under a huge white canopy so that they could stay together even if it rained. We looked on with jealousy as we retreated to our tiny individual tents every couple of hours.

As we were getting ready for bed the second night, a new storm starting brewing and the camp managers came around to say that it would be a big one. We were instructed to take cover in the bathrooms, which was not reassuring. A few minutes later, the wind started thrashing the trees and the lightning and thunder began a booming symphony that went on uninterrupted for hours. We huddled in our tents and told the kids it was fine to go to sleep, but I have to admit a tiny part of me was freaking out.  I love a good storm usually – just not when I have three kids in the middle of it protected only by a piece of cloth and a few flimsy poles.

Finally the worst blew over and I started to breathe again. At that moment, over the still rumbling thunder and drizzle of rain, I heard the sound of people singing. The German Baptists were sitting together under their canopy, completely unruffled by the storm, and now they were singing hymns.

By that time the boys were asleep, so we took Miren out of the tent and walked to the beach across from us to watch lightning strike over the water in the distance. We watched the sky and black water light up every few seconds and we listened to hymns. It was…. surreal.

A few minutes later, the singing stopped and their children came out onto the grass with sparklers. Through the rain and mist, it looked like frenetic fairy dust that swirled and exploded and danced. Apparently my always-good-citizen husband had given them one of our boxes of sparklers earlier that night and the kids were ecstatic. He had also offered them canoe rides that day, which they seemed excited about but never took him up on it.

After our strangely magical night, the Baptists returned Robbie’s generosity by bringing over a batch of homemade donuts that had just fried. They were the most amazing donuts I have ever eaten, although I still can’t figure out how you fry donuts while camping.

So finally to summer grace #3. Even though our camping trip had been on a beach, the crazy weather this summer had caused an algae bloom that prevented us from swimming. Last weekend we finally got a chance to swim on a local lake for the afternoon. It was a tiny bit cold for lake swimming, but we dived in blue-lipped and shivering nonetheless.



The moment of summer grace came watching Miren explore the beach. She is an exhausting handful all the time, but she is also refreshingly curious and fearless. I’m not sure if it was five minutes or an hour, but I just sat there watching her squeeze sand between her toes, walk backward to examine her footprints, squat down in the water and let the tiny waves lap at her back, taste test some washed up plants (did I mention she has really fast hands?), and poke at debris with sticks.


This probably seems like a strangely inane moment to focus on, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. How sad it is that we stop exploring the world like that when we get older. How sad it is that I can’t be that present in the moment more often.

I hope we get to go back to the beach and slip in another moment before school starts…or maybe we’ll have other equally good summer moments. But in any case I’m holding tight to these for all they’re worth. To do lists be damned.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On the Blog Again...


So last summer I took an unexpected break from blogging for a couple overwhelmingly busy months (as if I have any other kind).

After the summer was over and the fall routine settled in again, I sat down to write my "sorry I was MIA all summer" post. Then it dawned on me: no one - not friends, family, or distant readers - had commented about the fact that I disappeared for months. I thought about this for a while and realized that Facebook was sufficient for keeping loved ones up to date and my blogging life had probably reached its natural end. I decided to write a final post and call it good, but that post just wouldn't come.

For some reason, people have recently started asking me what happened to the blog and it got me thinking about why I started it in the first place. Certainly not for the fame and glory and money (although if anyone wants to offer me that, I won't refuse). Mainly it's a diary of our life. I realized that so much of the boys' first few years were documented, while Miren's first year will soon be fuzzied by mommy amnesia.

So I'm back - even if it's just to satisfy my own navel-gazing and family journaling needs.

With that in mind, here are a few of the most important moments of our last year...

We got the world's coolest bike. And despite my tricycle past, I can actually ride it:

video

Took a trip to Mackinac Island with my parents:

In front of the Mackinac Bridge.

Held Miren's Dedication:


Celebrated Robbie's 30th Birthday:

video

Had one family reunion or family party after another:

Celebrating Grandma Marion's 80th Birthday

We remodeled our only (and incredibly tiny) bathroom, forcing us to travel to our neighbor's empty bathroom (they were in Europe) every night for bathtime for months. Our children decided that most of the trips needed to be done naked, which our neighbors doubtless appreciated:

The crappy "Before" picture.

The equally crappy "After" picture.




Fionn started his first year of preschool:


  
 
Emerson made huge gains in all areas and got a wonderful kindergarten placement for next year. I pushed for more testing in the fall and - as I suspected all along - he qualified for autism spectrum services. More on that later:


The handsome man himself.

Miren learned how to do all the important baby things:

video

Miren also learned that her smile could help her get away with pretty much anything:


Once mobile, she quickly dispelled the myth that at least one out of three kids is bound to be easy:

Miren enjoys her first Popsicle.


I celebrated my 30th Birthday. It was not quite as exciting as Robbie's :) :


video

We lost our beloved "Mama:"

Mama meets newborn Emerson for the first time.

Fionn earned the title "World's Best Big Brother:"

Fionn shares his Valentine's sucker.
We enjoyed visiting friends and drinking good beer in Wisconsin:

Fionn enjoys the view of Milwaukee from his "bubble" in Discovery World.

We decided to rip up our entire yard and fill it full of edible plants and perennial flowers (pics coming).

The boys got to go on their first fishing trip thanks to dad and papa:


I continued to slog through grad school classes and finally decided the focus of my ministry will be the environment:


I started a Michigan chapter of Kidical Mass (kidicalmass.org):

The kids help me run the booth at "Bike Bash."

Families setting off on our first ride.





And in general we had some crazy fun:


Miren's first Easter egg hunt.


April Fool's Parade




Robbie brought the boys some wrestling masks from Mexico.



Christmas chaos.
Feel more caught up than you ever needed to be? Good. Now hopefully I'll write again before next year.