Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Murphys

Have I ever mentioned that I wish blogger would come up with a way to rotate pictures?  No?  First you're hearing of it?
ANYWAY... I digress.
Christmas 2011, our last in Germany.
The tree's story:  Last year we went and cut down our own Christmas Tree with some of Noah's Boy Scout Troop.  We had planned to do the same thing this year, but the day of the excursion it was pouring down icy rain with wind gusts up to 40knots.  We settled, instead, on picking a tree off the lot from the Boy Scout sales.  We picked in a hurry because of before-mentioned weather.  It isn't the fullest of trees, but just like Charlie Brown's tree, once we got all our ornaments on it, it looked lovely.  We are down to ONE working string of lights, but refuse to purchase any more as we have to get rid of everything 220v right after the first of the year!  So, that's the story beside my horizontally pictured tree.   I snapped this picture while waiting for the kids to wake up.

The three sleepy kids in front of the tree with their German-chocolate filled stockings right after they all woke up (about 8:00 AM).  Our tradition is to open the ornaments hidden in the stocking (usually with one or two sweet-goodies) on Christmas Eve; on Christmas morning the stockings are "magically" refilled before we officially cut them down.  This year they were filled with kinder-eggs, happy hippos, and chocolate santas.

This year the kids were only getting one gift from Dad and Mom (wrapped under the tree).  A handful of gifts (indluding the Coldplay concert, some DVD movies, trips, supplies for scouts or dance) had already been distributed throughout the year - PLUS with moving after the New Year it didn't make sense to aquire more stuff to have to pack.  So, one gift.  and we (parents) downplayed them  A LOT.  (they're not going to be that big of a deal because of the move and the concert, ect.  You get it, right?).  So, the kids were unprepared for the fantastic surprise that awaited them under the tree - and we went to great lengths to pull one over on them so they didn't know until they opened the box what they were getting.  The BEST story of the whole day is Sarah... and this picture (though it's really dark, sorry) of her face says it all, but I'm going to write out the story anyway - just so she can read it years from now.   Like all good pranks this one has a backstory and Sarah's is this:  Earlier this year her DS (Nintendo gameboy) broke.  It was several years old and due... but it was still sad because Sarah enjoyed having one on long car trips, plane rides, and during other times when there's a lot of waiting around.  She was hoping for a NEW 3DS for Christmas, but we are always so down on all things video game related that she was just sure we wouldn't buy her one - especially since we'd finally caved and allowed the Wii in the house.  Then something else happened that made her even more sure we would definitely not want her to have her hearts desire.  To take on a trip to Holland for a dance competition Sarah had borrowed her brother's DS and all the games.  In her hurry to pack up before leaving to come home somehow the games were either lost or stolen and never recovered.  10 DS games lost forever.....  so in the days leading up to Christmas Sarah was just sure it was not to be.   Little did she know that we had a plan in progress dating back months ago and with my mom and dad's help all THREE kids were getting a new 3D -DS and a new 3DS game for Christmas.  We thought it would be usable even when everything else is packed up and while we are moving across the ocean.  It would also help during the long days in TLF, the car, the plane, ect. 
   Christmas morning comes and the kids all get up and see their one present (from us) waiting for them under the tree.  We craftily wrapped the boys' boxes in different sizes and filled them to be different weights.  Sarah's was the best of all - we took the small  game cartridge from her new game out of its packaging and wrapped it in a tiny jewelry box.  Sarah was being very gracious, but because we're her parents we could see a little bit of the disappointment in her attitude.  We let her open her gift first (because if the boys went first it would have given away the whole surprie, she knows we're not that cruel).  Her face was priceless as first confusion and then shock registered, and just as she was beginning to understand Mom pulled a wrapped gift out from behind my back and said, "Oh yeah, you might need this to play that game".  You can see the disbelief still on her face even as she opens the box containing her new 3DS.  =)  It was a really fun Dad/Mom moment!

Then, it was the boys' turn!
They were absolutely not expecting to get new gameboys since they still have older ones (not 3D, though) that function.  They're old, but useable and in this house we use things until they die!  With the upcoming move and not being sure what they really wanted they didn't know what to expect, but in their wildest dreams it certainly wasn't this!  When they got over the shock of the new gaming system they opened the boxes to another surprise - they each had a game in the box, too!  Because what fun would a 3DS be without at least one 3DS game to play on it??  Sarah received the Zelda game she really wanted; Noah, Harry Potter Lego (years 5 - 7); and Micah, Super Mario 3D land. 
    Usually there are no video games allowed on Sunday - but because of the gifts the kids received (Micah also received a Wii game from Sarah and Noah a computer game from Micah) Dad decided to forgo the Sunday rule.  The kids got ready for church in a hurry and played until it was time to leave.   Church was fantastic and when we came home we spent the day playing games, watching movies, and eating a fantastic feast of roast chicken, homemade mac and cheese, desserts and candies, breads, and drinks.  The picture was taken as soon as we got home from church before anyone had a chance to change.  You can't see Phantom against Sarah's dark sweater, but he is there!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

the Eve

Sarah had 2 of her closet friends spend the night and when they woke up on Christmas Eve they exchanged presents.  I have loved all the kids that Sarah has grown close to during our time in Germany - some have already moved and some we have been very blessed to have here for years and years.  The 2 pictured here with Sarah are such a great example because it is one of Sarah's oldest friends, Hannah, whose family and been here for almost 6 years and Alannah, who just moved here within 2 years.  The girls were so thoughtful and really put a lot of time and thought into each others gift. 

For the past 6 months Noah has been our church's pianist (since our dear Pastor and his piano playing wife moved).  It has been challenging for Noah to learn 7 hymns (more if we have communion) every week AND learning to play so an entire congregation can sing along, but Noah has risen to the challenge and done a fantastic job.  It has improved his sight-reading as well as his confidence.  We're just as thankful for the church's faith in Noah and the opportunity for the experience as the church is grateful to have a pianist.  This month was piano FILLED for Noah as he was asked to play at Sarah's dance recital, and he was playing for the Christmas Eve service as well as the Chirstmas Day Service the next day.  He picked out a lovely arrangment for the prelude during the Christmas Eve Service that I've included here to share.  It is a little loud because people are still visiting, and he gets a little off track since he had to turn his own pages, but I KNOW my Mom will love it. =)
After church we came home and as is our family's Christmas Eve tradition emptied our stockings.  The kids were happy with their Hallmark ornaments (they're all snoopy this year) and the treats they found.  We snacked, watched a movie, brank egg-nog, and then headed off to bed - excited for the next day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Valkenburg aan de Geul

We haven't really frequented too many Christmas Markets during our time here... It always seems that there are too many activities during the week, the weekends are filled with Christmas related activities for church, scouts, dance, ect.... and then there's the weather... But this year we made time for a few and one we'd always heard about but never been to was a Christmas market located in CAVES!!  It was a 3 hour drive to the Holland town where the market is located.... and it was so, so, so, so not worth it.  The market was awful, the parking was expensive, admission to the markets was expensive, and the shops in the markets were not what you traditionally see at a German Christmas market.  The caves were cool, time spent as a family is always fun, and we did find some cute purchases and a good deal on Belgium chocolate; all in all it wasn't a complete waste of a day, but what a horrible not to go out on (this was our last market before we move). 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

glowing in the dark

in the car on the way to Frankfurt
WAY back in October there's a post about Noah's birthday - and he received the surprise of his life: Tickets to see his FAVORITE band, COLDPLAY,  in concert in Germany for his WHOLE family.  The only catch was we had to wait until December 20th, but that meant we made it part of their Christmas present, too.  (see how crafty parents can be?)
   The concert was AMAZING.  It was everything a concert should be and the PERFECT one for our kids to call their first.  For Rob and Krissie - it was like coming home.  It may not be theological, academic, or all together useful, but THIS, THIS is what we know and it was so exciting to watch the magic of what a concert is come alive through our kids' eyes.  Yeah, they're addicted.
queuing up outside the halle we spotted some people in elephant costumes (from Coldplay's "Paradise" music video)
we had standing tickets behind these seats
  We got there early because we weren't sure about parking or how far we'd have to walk, but in the end it was fairly easy to find and parking was right next to the building (although not cheap).  We got there just in time to queue up outside with all the other standing-room-only ticket holders.  After a bit of misdirection due to the language barrier we found where we were supposed to be and staked our claim.  We had an excellent vantage point.... except that the two tallest gentlemen attending did have seats RIGHT in front of us, of course, and by the time they showed up it was too late to change our position because everywhere else had been claimed.  The family in front of us (mom, dad, and son) were super nice, spoke English, and swiched around their seats so Noah and Sarah could see better.  The tall man directly in front of Sarah sat almost the whole show, so all worked out.
right before the show began
    It was a looong night for Micah because we had to stand in place for 3 hours to hold our spots - but we passed the time people watching and being silly.
   Once the concert started the tired legs and feet were forgotten.  It was an amazing show put on by incredibly talented musicians.  They played 16 songs and when they wouldn't come back for yet another encore Noah said, "that's really it?" - I think that's the perfect concert - the anticipation is unbearable and even though they play for almost 2 hours it flashes by in mere seconds in your mind. 

As we entered the building they gave us all bracelets to wear.  They were awkward and seemed to have no purpose, but right before the show began they all blinked... then during the show they would light up and blink in rhythm during different songs, all different colors, and THOUSANDS of them.  It was really, very cool!  We have a video - which I KNOW isn't very good quality.  The volume overwhelmed my daughter's camera, but she wanted to film a little to show the bracelets and just capture some of the excitment to be able to say, I WAS THERE!  This is a smippet from their song, "Charlie Brown", which I think ended up collectively being our favorite performance of the evening.

We took this picture during the performance of their song, "Yellow" - which was Micah's favorite song for a long, long time when he was really little - I think because Krissie would sing it to him every night.  Also, another little video from their song, "The Scientist" - which is Rob's favorite (mostly because Noah plays it on the paino a lot)
Confetti covering the stadium during the song "Politik"
  During the encore Chris Martin played and sang "White Christmas" on his piano and as the rest of the band joined in it turned into the song, "Fix You"
Taken as we were leaving the building heading for our car, the kids exhausted but thrilled beyond words.  I asked Micah if it was what he thought it would be like, and he simply said, "Better."  Well said, Micah!

Sarah wants me to write all the songs we remember them singing (in no particular order).  We think we're missing one.....
Mylo Xyloto
Hurts like Heaven 
White Christmas/Fix you
Viva la Vida 
The scientist 
God put a smile on your face 
Charlie brown 
Up in flames 
Us against the world 
Every teardrop is a waterfall 
Major minus 
Violet Hill
Swallowed in the Sea

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We're off to see the Irish Dance Christmas Show...

Intermediate Dance
This years Irish Dance Christmas show was at a terrific venue in Ramstein - wonderful stage, lots of seating, lighting, and sound system!  Mary did a wonderful job choreographing the whole show.  She even asked my 2 boys to play piano during the show and they were thrilled to do it.  Sarah danced in several dances, including with all the little ones she helps teach on Mondays.  Sarah's favorite performance was a piece the 6 Open/Championship level dancers put on to Wizard of Oz music.  I am including 2 videos (a part one and 2) of that dance.  The second gets cut off because the camera's memory was full, but you're only missing about 30 seconds.  
Tin-Man (Leisha), Cowardly Lion (Sarah), Wizard & Scarecrow (Cormac & Cillian), Glenda the Goodwitch (Sophie), and Dorothy (Erika)
the boys pose by the piano after the show

Sarah and Mary

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

cookies for Cubs

Micah's Cub Scout Pack is having a holiday cake sale - the only catch is the boys are supposed to take the lead on actually producing said "cakes" - Micah is a WHIZ at cookies, and since we've discovered these candycane-kisses our new favorite cookie is a spin on an old favorite.  Micah had a great time in the kitchen and aside from a little help with the appliances he did everything by himself! His cookies were auctioned off and raised $23.00 for the Pack!  Good Job, Micah!

Micah's favorite part is putting the kisses into the baked sugar cookies... although he does like rolling the dough in the colored sugar almost as much!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

St. Wendel - and Mary did you know -

With the boys all off in Belgium Sarah and I took the day to travel to the Christmas market in St. Wendel.  It was a FABULOUS market and we really enjoyed ourselves.  We didn't end up buying a whole lot, but saw lots of really cool things.  The weather was mild so we stayed for several hours.  The neat thing about this market is that they have a nativity parade and a live nativity performance every evening.  The nativity parade was just the camels and the wise-men - it all happened so fast that i wasn't able to grab a picture.  The live nativity was crowded, but Sarah managed to sneak up front with the littles that were with us to watch.  After the performance I was able to snap a picture of the performers from the live nativity and you'll see the traditional purple hair and facial piercing of Mary, as it should be.  =) 


The Boy Scouts travel to Bastogne in December to participate in the annual march commemorating the Battle of the Bulge.  This year Rob traveled up with Micah (and our Cub Scout friend, Noah Briggs) while Noah went with his Boy Scout troop.  Noah's troop chose an easy 7 km hikem which is what Rob meant to chose - but after not being able to hook up with the Boy Scout troop early Sat. morning and getting turned around along the path Rob and the 2 boys ended up walking almost 12 miles that day!!  Micah was pretty tired and had to soak his poor feet when they got home, but he was so happy to have been able to go since he won't get to be a Boy Scout in Germany like his older brother.  The camera batteries died on Rob, so he only got a few shots of his Cub Scouts, and another mom who went with the Boy Scouts gave me the shots of Noah with his troop.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas gig

The Christmas season wouldn't be complete without a Christmas gig or two!  The school performed on a small stage for a Christmas party and did a fantastic job.  I managed to catch a picture of all the dancers and Sarah with her best dancing buddies.