He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Monday, March 23, 2015

Refuge in the Alps

I posted a bit about our trek through the Alps last summer HERE, but I never really posted our pics of the fun place that we stayed.  It was called the Refuge which is quite literally what it is especially for hikers and bikers making their way across the Alps.  To say it was rustic would be an understatement, but it was rustic with it's own unique charm.  Charm that included a beautiful view of Mt. Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, home cooked meals using foods from the surrounding French farms, rustic bunk rooms and shared showers with very COLD mountain water.  When we asked the owners about the shower situation and the absence of any hot water, they just shrugged and said, "C'est les montagnes!"  meaning, "It's the mountains!".  My desired response to this, was "duh!  it's the mountains and is FREEZING therefore you should have hot water!".  But apparently that thinking was somewhat backwards...  Let's just say none of us showered during the 18 hours we were there!

Anabelle's reaction to the curvy mountain roads high in the Alps, expressed precisely the way I felt!  I've never in my lift gotten motion sick, but I get SO nervous driving on roads like that!  I think the fact that it was INCREDIBLY foggy actually helped as we couldn't tell how far down we would be dropping over the edge!  

Like I said, it was VERY foggy upon our arrival late in the afternoon.  Good thing we stopped at a sports store on the way up and bought some windbreakers- it was cold!!  Despite the fog, these 2 wanted to go on a hike on the mountain road, so we headed out. 

It was fun being in the great outdoors and seeing the wildflowers along the path but we really couldn't see much else...

We got back to the refuge and settled in for a relaxing evening of games by the fireplace.  We were the only ones staying the night so we kind of had the place to ourselves.  
Anabelle was fascinated by the fire.
Naomi and Abbey found the perfect reading spot...

Our bunk room was very cozy!
Naomi and Anabelle slept on the bed in the left of the below frame.  Abbey and Maddie had their own little "room" seen to the right in the below frame which was more like a crawl space that housed 2 mattresses.  (and I'm taking this picture sitting on the double bed that Jason and I had.  (and yes, there was randomly a toy kitchen in our room....)

It was just right for their silly selves..

The next morning was absolutely beautiful!  The rain had stopped and we were able to truly appreciate the view of Mont Blanc and enjoy our lovely surroundings.  

But first, what better way to start the day than with a bowl of chocolate cereal and a bowl (??) of hot chocolate.  I really don't remember this from our time living in France before, but several places that we stopped served hot breakfast drinks (not coffee but tea or hot chocolate) in bowls...  

No one was complaining!

We had to head out for a morning walk!

The big girls and I went for a more strenuous hike that I posted about HERE,

and Anabelle and Jason headed out for a more leisurely walk through the countryside.

They got back to "the refuge" a bit before us and she enjoyed the coloring table

and somewhat random kid toys...

Most importantly, we made some great memories at our little stay in the Alps.   

Thursday, March 12, 2015


I've been sorting through old pictures, and I realized that I never really finished posting about our adventures this past summer.  So many memories that I wanted to record, so here goes- even though  bit outdated....

We enjoyed several days of visiting friends in and around Amsterdam.  So many things to see and do!

One of our favorites was our trip to Haarlem to see Corrie ten Boom's house which is now a museum dedicated to her life.  The little girls especially loved seeing the hiding place in the attic of the home.

At the end of our tour, our guide challenged all the kids in our tour group to see if they could get from the living room of the home up to the top floor where the hiding place was in 30 seconds or less.  They did it by jumping through the hole in the wall, but forgot that the people who hid in real live would have hid to climb in from the bottom part of the closet to the left....

We also enjoyed a tour of the city's canals by boat.

So many beautiful old homes,

and boats...

Anabelle was very impressed by the draw bridge!

The highlight for Naomi was definitely getting to captain our tour boat for a bit!

So thankful for the chance to make memories like this with our girls!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New international travel memories and first days of US (in other words- all the unhealthy food we can manage to stuff in our faces....).

After living 12 years overseas as a family, we're pretty good at the international travel thing.  As for most of the hiccups that can be involved in traveling internationally- we can pretty much say, "been there, done that".  
Vomiting toddler on an airplane?  check  

Disappearing luggage?  check
Frantically running through airport to avoid missing flight? check

Actually missing a flight? check

Seat assignment next to THE person on the plane who is completely intolerant of your somewhat active toddler and has the nerve to put her hands over her hairs and start rocking back and forth like Rainman when your toddler fusses during landing?  CHECK

Walking up and down the aisles of the flight for hours with your 12 month old who just wants to walk and smile and wave ("do adin"  "do a din")?  check

All that to say, we have a fairly decent arsenal of contingency plans for airline travel.  I wrote THIS post last year about international travel with a 2 year old after our Christmas trip to the states.  

Come December 14, we were ready for whatever our flight itinerary might throw our way.  We were just super excited to be heading to the US of A  for about 7 months and just in time for Christmas.  Things started out as normally as they could  considering we had to leave our house around 10 PM for our 1 AM flight.  Getting all 6 of us and our 12 bags checked in and through security is always somewhat of an ordeal and we usually breathe a pretty big sigh of relief once we get through all the checkpoints and have some time to relax a bit.  

We had a very hyper 8 year old, a completely exhausted 3 year old, and 2 very neutral teens who would just assume not be photographed, thank you very much...

First leg of travel all went as well as could be expected for a 1 AM-5AM flight.  Arriving in Paris we walked around and waited for cafes to open and even found a little princess playground.

About 45 minutes after boarding the flight from Paris to Chicago, we realized we might be in trouble as fog had descended over the city leaving us stuck at the gate on the plane for almost 3 hours.  Knowing that in Chicago we would have to clear customs which would include collecting all 12 of our bags and putting them on a different baggage belt marked for domestic travel, we were fairly certain we would miss our flight to Memphis even with having over 4 hours in Chicago.  Sure enough, this proved to be the case.  By the time we arrived and cleared customs our flight to Memphis was taking off.  It was so frustrating to be so close but not be able to do anything about it!  Particularly when we realized that no longer having a flight to Memphis meant we would have to take all 12 of our bags, all of our carry ons and AB's carseat that we checked as an extra item with us across the airport to a different terminal and hope that they'd be able to find another outgoing flight from Chicago to Memphis...

Long story short, they got us a flight after about 2 hours of getting our luggage across the airport, standing in various lines, haggling with various airline employees and finally getting the whole thing worked out.  By this point we had been traveling well over 24 hours and to say we were exhausted would be quite an understatement.  But hey, we were on US soil.  We had confirmed seats on a later flight to Memphis and would soon be on our way.

We made it through security (for the 849th time) and looked for a place to grab a bite to eat.   This is where things started to get a bit interesting and we actually had a few "firsts" as far as travel stories.  Unfortunately, we were traveling on Sunday so Chick Fil-A was out of the question.  We were too tired to even really know if we were hungry so we settled for the only thing that was right by our gate, which ironically is a restaurant that is all over the Middle East- Chili's.  We were too tried to really care at that point.

Speaking of tired, Naomi was beyond herself.  She had already run the gamut of emotions from completely hysterically sad that we are going to be 4 hours later to Memphis to barely able to stand up through security line exhausted.  She put her head down on the table while we waited for our food.

Ya'll.  This sweet girl was CO-MA-TOSE!  I could not wake her up for anything.  We ate our meal, sat around for a little while and decide to go sit at the gate and not take up a table anymore.  Still she sat.  And snored.  Man, this girl can snore!  Could NOT wake her up for anything!  Anabelle was even pulling at her eyelids and holding them open.  We were all somewhat delirious at this point, and I'm sure quite the spectacle for other travelers.  We were in the domestic terminal and it was around 7 PM in the evening so I'm sure it didn't make much sense to the casual observer as to why an 8 year old child would be this utterly exhausted.  Anyway, like I said really couldn't wake her up and was trying to avoid yelling or raising my voice too much and causing more of a scene than we already were.  Finally I got her awake enough that I could try and get her to walk out of the restaurant area with me.  Jason and the other girls were ahead of us.  I was pulling a roller board and trying to guide sweet Naomi out of the maze of chairs and travelers and luggage in the crowded seating area.  She was essentially sleep walking.  She kept banging into tables, tried to sit down with 2 separate groups of other travelers.  I was laughing hysterically mainly because I was exhausted.  At one point she almost fell over and took me down with her.  OH MY WORD.  Finally got her out of the restaurant area and to the gate where she promptly fell asleep again.  She remembers none of this.  

But the sleep walking entertainment was not done.   We were sitting at the gate- mostly sprawled about on the floor as it was pretty crowded.  I left to go walk around and get a drink.  I was gone maybe 10 minutes.  When I got back, Jason tells me that Maddie had fallen asleep leaning against the wall.  She woke up (he thought) but then started talking to him in complete gibberish.  She then got up and started wandering around the gate area and apparently tried to sit in the lap of some random man!  I am sure people thought we were completely and totally crazy!  Or on drugs.  Yet again, could not get Maddie to wake up for anything!  Finally at least got her to stay seated and not wander around!  Oh my word, I think we were redefining exhaustion.  

Finally, we made it to Memphis and of course once we made it to our temporary home by about 2 AM, everyone was wide awake and not the least bit interested in sleep!  But hey, at least we now have some new international travel experiences to add to the list!  

This may be a little off topic but since I'm trying to catch up from not posting in over 3 months, I'm including it.   Here's a picture summary of many of our first meals in the US.  Most good family traditions revolve around food and these have become some of our favorite places to get good food on the road.  Of course, there was also plenty of good home cooked meals but here are some of our favorite places to eat out.  Since we're here for longer than just a few week visit, we definitely have to pace ourselves, but we at least tried to get a good sampling during our first week...

Plenty of Chick Fil A which I didn't get a picture of somehow...

Huey's is a Memphis burger joint that has become a favorite over the years.  We even pack their seasoning with us to take back overseas.  The girls favorite pastime there is using straws to blow toothpicks into the ceiling of the restaurant...

Gibson's donuts is hands down THE best donuts on the planet (no need to argue about this point- you won't win with any of my family members), and is a long time Memphis landmark.  It's become a road trip tradition for our drives from Memphis to Georgia.

Another road trip tradition, Cracker Barrel!  Anabelle loved getting to play checkers and look around the country store.  

 And, OH. MY. WORD.  portion sizes!  I always forget when we've been gone for a while!!
All 3 older girls literally had 2 plates of food all to themselves.  WHAT?!

Now three months later, we've kicked jet lag and are trying to balance out our pork consumption.  Loving our time in the US with friends and family.