Monday, April 17, 2017

Lent, Legos, Lessons Learned

Lent. It was long, and emotional. Our little world is about to be in some major upheaval as we pack up and make our way back to the states. We must begin to really look at the contents of this house and decide "Is this really necessary? Why are we clinging to these things? Will they be useful in our new house?" I think Lent is a lot like that, but with our souls. What things are hanging out in our souls that are taking up precious space that needs to be for Jesus? How can we clear out a space for Him? What is keeping us from doing so?

On Holy Thursday, I was blessed to be able to spend time with Jesus in Adoration after Mass. I tell you, He can really hear your prayers when you are that close to Him, so be careful. What I asked of Him was given to me almost immediately. The question is, will I grow closer to my Lord, or will I let fear grip me and not rise to the challenge?

Somewhere along the way, we started a tradition of putting little trinkets in the Easter baskets along with the candy. Somehow that escalated this year into a group gift of a Lego set. They had all been asking for this one for over a year and it seemed like an appropriate time to give it to them. It is the Mass set, complete with a priest, vestments, tabernacle and even a relic inside the altar. They played with it all day yesterday. Jack saw a need for some enhancements to the set. He has already added a closet with hangers for the vestments. He has also added a choir and altar servers.

We invited a few friends to join us for Easter dinner. The kids got into the spirit of preparing for guests and were so helpful yesterday. It was a much needed blessing. They made place cards, folded the napkins to look like Easter Lilies, helped with food preparation and general straightening of the house. All these little things did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Today, I gave them the choice of a laundry folding party or schoolwork. They chose the first and we did have a good time together. I pray that I can continue to do the little things that will keep this family closeknit. I need only ask the Holy Spirit to guide my actions. The remembering to ask is the hard part, so I suppose that needs to be a new habit to form!

May this Easter season bring much joy to you all!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Black Forest Trip

We are nearing the end of our time in Germany. There are ever so many places I would like to visit before returning to the USA, yet we can only see so much in these remaining days. The Black Forest area is nearby, we had yet to visit this part of Germany, and we had to work around Anna's online classes. We picked places that would capture the interest of each of us, found an apartment, and we packed up and started our five day adventure.

Sunday: Drove to Strasbourg, France. It was near our destination and we had time before our check-in at the apartment. We found the Notre Dame Cathedral and waited in line to climb 330 steps to the top of the Cathedral. The kids took off at a tremendous pace, and going up a spiraling staircase, I quickly lost sight of them. That was stressful for me, even though I logically knew that they couldn't fall off the building. I admit to being short of breath by the time we reached the top, but what a view of the city! You might be surprised to learn that there are 330 steps back to the ground and my legs were quite wobbly and grateful to be done. Because there was a special Mass for what we could best figure was celebrating a new Bishop, we could not go inside the Cathedral. There was an amazing procession of nearly 100 priests in purple vestments entering the church as we waited in line.

           Then we drove onto the apartment. I was most impressed. It was so clean! Three bedrooms, a really nice bathroom, and a living/dining/kitchen area. The grocery store and bakery were right around the corner. We ate dinner in the hotel dining room the first night since the grocery store was closed on Sunday, but after that, I prepared our breakfasts and dinners, and packed picnic style lunches. We stayed four nights for just under 400 Euro plus the cost of groceries.

Monday: Europa Park. My family loves theme parks about as much as I love to knit. They had a wonderful time, therefore so did I. Jack and I rode a rollercoaster together, the first time he rode one with loops that take you upside-down. He was nervous as we waited in line, holding my hand tight, and chatting away. But the smile he wore when the ride was over let me know that he loved every minute! Tony went on all the other "wilder" rides while I managed the tamer ones with Therese and Peter. The mascot was a mouse that looks like Chuck E. Cheese. Peter kept yelling out "I love Chuck E. Cheese!" We even saw my sister's German doppleganger too!

I giggled when I saw the sign for this ride. I know I shouldn't find this amusing, but I do.

Tuesday: We drove to Furtwangen to a clock museum. It was a very nice museum with all the explanations in German, French, and English. They also had a kid's scavenger hunt to keep the little ones interested. They each received a postcard for finding all the clues. Triberg was our next stop. It boasts the largest waterfall in Germany. We enjoyed our short hike near the falls, and then did some extra exploring before heading back into town. We perused a souvenir shop, but they were a little snooty as they eyed the kids. We had to be back at the apartment by 4:00 for Anna's online class, so we did not stop at the other museum on our list. While she attended her class, we went to the store for dinner groceries and I cooked. We were all so tired, we went to bed pretty early every night. At bedtime, it was discovered that Peter had left his backpack in the clock museum with all his stuffed animals inside.

Wednesday: Our next city was Freiburg. Rick Steve's had a self-guided walk in his book on Germany. We learned so many interesting things. We also happened to be there for the open market which was right by the Cathedral. We ate Lange Rote, (long red bratwurst), fed the pigeons, browsed the market stands, and followed the walk laid out by the tour book. Then we tried to drive to St. Margen, which was supposed to take us through a dark valley. Google Maps was not aware that we may not want the fastest route and took us a different, but very scenic way. St. Margen was not too far from where Peter's lost backpack happened to be, so we swung by, picked it up and got Anna back just a few minutes late for her class.

These little water canals lined the streets. They were originally used for stopping fires from spreading by flooding the streets.

Thursday: We checked out of the hotel and headed to a glass blowing museum in Wolfach. Anna got to blow her own vase, which was pretty cool. Then, for my lover of all things antique, we went to a car museum. We are glad to be home. I will especially love my fluffy pillows and soft mattress tonight (and I believe my back and neck will thank me tomorrow).

This old car was not at the museum, but parked at the glass blowing place.

The man did all the shaping, but Anna picked out the colors and got to blow the glass.

It is still cooling in this
picture. The colors changed even more as it cooled and then they finished the top of the vase.

We are so blessed to have these opportunities. I hope the kids have wonderful memories of their time in Germany.