Category Archives: Life

Eight Years of Adventure

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As we approach our eighth year anniversary of living in Germany, I can’t help but think of all the traveling we’ve been able to do. Because we thought we would only be here three years (ha) we did as much traveling as possible at first. Once we hit the majority of destinations on our ‘list,’ we could relax a little, and enjoy exploring new places within driving distance.

Keep in mind–a road trip that begins in central Germany can end in half a dozen different countries. Of course, the autobahn helps speed things along, but still–Europe is the perfect place for family road trips.

Occasionally I would find a great deal on airfare, and so we could jet off together as a family. But usually, we drove or took the train (which was preferred). Regardless of how we arrived, exploring Europe has been eye-opening for the entire family. It’s helped shaped our view of the world and has allowed us to fully realize just how small this planet is.

We’ve had our share of trials–motion sickness; spilled drinks; having EVERY restaurant & grocery store CLOSED when we were desperately hungry; getting lost or rather, re-directed; unusual pit-stops; freezing in winter; sweltering in summer; and lodging that ranged from Thrift Shop Chic to Business Class Posh. Yet, we never once lost a wallet or a child, and even the worst times were something we could laugh about later (sometimes, much later).

So, in honor of 8 years of Germany…here are some of my favorite snapshots from our travels.

Enjoy! And Gute Reise!

Holland

Holland

Prague

Prague

Rome

Rome

Tuscany

Tuscany

Paris

Paris

London

London

Austria

Austria

Petra Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

Germany

Germany

Christmas and the New Year

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Christmas Market with my Mom

Christmas Market with my Mom

My mom gave me a wonderful present this year. On Christmas Eve, she made the kids deep clean the house for me. Not only did I get to stay in my room all day, but they also provided room service.

Flowers from my youngest

Flowers from my youngest

This was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. I didn’t have to stress about the house, and I could just enjoy finishing the hand-sewn labradors I was making for the kids. Libby (wearing an apron and often wielding a clipboard) periodically popped into my room to check on me (and to bring me candy).

Charlie inspecting the stockings

Charlie inspecting the stockings

After a long day of work, the house looked great–and the kids were exhausted. But they were in good spirits (it WAS Christmas Eve, after all) and Libby even left a bouquet of flowers, which she had paid for with her own hard-earned money, on my nightstand.

Christmas dinner with friends

Christmas dinner with friends

Christmas morning brought the usual controlled chaos. After walking and feeding the dogs, the kids could unwrap presents while the adults consumed Baileys & coffee and watch the sun rise.

Sweeties

Sweeties

The added blessing was having Grandma Nay here for Christmas. Even though she can drive me up a wall like no other person on earth (isn’t that a mother’s job?) it made the time richer, to have her with us.

Monkey hat

Monkey hat

Loved ones are always in our thoughts this time of year. I can’t help but think often of my Aunt Kathy, who spent two Christmases with us (and an entire month once). She arrived on Christmas Eve one year with her raggedy green knit cap, hiking boots and her beaming smile. 

Having a daughter who LOVES to read makes me proud!!!

Having a daughter who LOVES to read makes me proud!!!

Having epilepsy and short-term memory loss never stopped her. In fact, she was the first to make plans to come visit when we moved to Germany. She lost her fight with cancer 2 1/2 years ago, and Christmas hasn’t been the same since. She is with us in our memories though, and I’m thankful that she had the courage to get on an airplane and stay with us. I pray that we all have such courage as we ‘slide’ into a new year.

A subtle hint for William

A subtle hint for William

Let this be a year for taking heart, or ‘chin up,’ as Kathy would say, and living each moment to the fullest. Life is about relationships, and loving people how they are, even if they don’t fit into the neat little packages you have constructed for them.

Fab Four light up the world

The Fab Four light up the world on New Year’s Eve

Love fully, with flaws and all, because life is as fragile as it is fleeting.

Thanksgiving

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We created our usual Wellman Family Feast for Thanksgiving, only I’m getting smarter and making the young people in our house contribute to the work load.

table

Actually, it’s not that hard to do since (most of) my kids love to help in the kitchen. We went through one peculiar phase a few months back where they were fighting over our lone potato peeler. Needless to say, the child-to-peeler ratio has increased since then, so that no child is left behind in the peeling department.

Independent learners.

Here are some photos from our feast! I hope your day was as happy & cozy as ours!

Noah & the pumpkin cheesecake he helped to make

Noah & the pumpkin cheesecake

Libby with 'Grandma O's' Marshmallow Salad

Libby with ‘Grandma O’s’ Marshmallow Salad

Katie & gluten-free apple pie

Katie & gluten-free apple pie

Katie with a real smile:)

Katie with a real smile:)

Charlie inspecting the table

Charlie inspecting the table

After a meal, it’s time for some fun!

The boys in their 'Jedi' Reindeer robes

The boys in their ‘Jedi’ Reindeer robes

Charlie chasing a balloon

Charlie chasing a balloon

We emerged from our cozy den after Thanksgiving to find the beginning of advent, which means plenty of Christmas markets. And with my mother coming to stay with us over the holidays, we are going to make the most of the time left in 2013.

It is promising to be a very merry holiday season here in Germany! 

Joyous

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Today is my fourth child’s tenth birthday, so there are a lot of emotions bubbling up this morning.

Birthday Morning Our House, Germany

Birthday Morning
Our House, Germany

Joy–because she truly is one of the joys of my life.

The Residence Garden Wurzburg, Germany

The Residence Garden
Wurzburg, Germany

If you have three kids and are ‘debating’ whether or not to have a fourth, let me give you some advice–go for it! The fourth child is the one that you can relax with and enjoy the most because by this time, you have the system down. And things always go better when you have some idea of what you’re doing.

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Sadness–because we no longer have any single-digit kids, which means our family has ‘graduated’ to a new level.

The Red Sea Israel

The Red Sea
Israel

Happiness–because we no longer have any single-digit kids, which means our family can do cool things we haven’t done before (Example: we can cross the border from Israel to Jordan on foot without taking a stroller).

Lake Garda Sirmione, Italy

Lake Garda
Sirmione, Italy

Nostalgia–I can’t help but think of the day she was born. Our friends came over to watch our then 1 year-old, our 4 year-old and our 6 year-old, while my husband, mom-in-law and I went to the hospital. It seems like I had JUST gotten the epidural when Libby came along.

The Louvre Paris

The Louvre
Paris

She was a go-getter from the start, having only 3 hours of labor. But as soon as she was born, they rushed her away because she was a meconium baby. I realize from the hundreds of birth stories I’ve heard over the years that this is NOT a big issue–that some women have their babies taken away for weeks due to serious medical issues, but for me, it was terrible.

The Colosseum Rome

The Colosseum
Rome

She was born, and they just swooped her away and put her little pink head in a bubble. It was three long hours before they could give her back to me.

St Vitts Cathedral Prague

St Vitts Cathedral
Prague

During that time, I was worried we had missed the most crucial bonding time ever. I didn’t have the chance to burn her little face into my memory. I didn’t have that initial feeling of satisfaction that comes when your newborn snuggles on your chest. The labor and delivery was over and done and eventually they handed me this little ‘stranger.’

Near Neuschwansteing Fussen, Germany

Near Neuschwanstein
Fussen, Germany

With my history of depression, the doctors were worried about me. I had them put a no-visitor sign on my door, and I even stayed an extra night (the Air Force hospital was GREAT). I wasn’t depressed though, I was simply trying to relish every quiet moment I could. And I wanted to get to know this new little person.

Navarre Beach Florida

Navarre Beach
Florida

We did bond, though it still worried me for a long time afterwards. Would I love her the same?

Mud Puddle Our Backyard Anchorage, Alaska

Mud Puddle
Our Backyard
Anchorage, Alaska

It seems silly now. She is the sparkle in my step, the joy of my life. She makes everything happy and shiny and fun. Even on her ‘worst’ day, she is a treasure.

Libby, Katie & Mama Anchorage, Alaska

Libby, Katie & Mama
December, 2003 Anchorage, Alaska

If you are reading this and you happen to be one of my other three children, don’t think that Libby is the ‘favorite.’ I love EACH of you more than words can describe–it’s just her birthday, so she gets her own post:)

This Morning Germany

November 2013
Germany

Libby is ten. And with my older two making plans for their futures, it makes me incredibly happy we had four. At least, as Libby tells me, she’ll be around the ‘longest.’ And someday, when the other kids leave the house, we can trade the minivan for a sports car, and we can zip around together. Mother & daughter. Our hearts bound together forever.

Happy Birthday Libby!

Happy Birthday Libby!

Capers are Not Just for Muppets: Inspiration from Real Recipe Plans

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Real Recipe Plans

When I was offered a free trial of Real Recipe Plans, I thought, “Great! This will help me to be organized!” So, I began the membership by promptly vacating my own gluten-free cooking zone for a suspect kitchenette in the Alps, which is a less-than-stellar way to begin any new endeavor.

I came back from our marathon festivities, which included a close-encounter with Austrian cheese, to find a backlog of recipes along with a sinking sensation that I had failed before I’d begun.

I needed help, and Real Recipes Plans offered it to me.

Not only do I receive five simple, gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian recipes each week, I also get a handy shopping list I can download to my iPad. The only way this service could be improved would be if I could highlight, check or delete items as I go along. But I AM happy to have the list because all I have to do is pick up the ingredients and then rest soundly knowing that even if I’m stuck behind a parade of tractors on my way home from Crossfit, a fresh, whole foods dinner will still be on the table in a timely manner.

But more than just the ease of using this service, Real Recipe Plans encourages me to add new things to our dietary repertoire. I’ve gotten into a Vegan rut recently, serving the ‘usual’ garbanzos with coconut milk, sweet potato tacos and if all else fails, rice and beans. While these recipes are good ones, some members of the family say things like, “It’s Monday, we must be having mango black bean salad.”

Thus enters Real Recipe Plans to revitalize the Wellman family palate.

One of the first recipes I made called for capers. I was under the impression capers were a type of little fish, like an anchovy or sardine. Fortunately for my children, I googled it before doing the shopping, and thus, the Wellman family had their first capers in a quinoa salad that did NOT taste like fish and had nothing to do with Muppets (our only prior experience with the word).

Most of the recipes are perfect as is, but sometimes, such as in the Farmer’s Market Bowl, I added some fresh ginger and garlic: not only to spice it up a little, but because I am a firm believer that fresh ginger and garlic ward off colds, flus and unwanted houseguests.

Even though I haven’t yet stuck with the ‘plan’ of making one recipe per day, and even though I can’t always find some of the ingredients here in Germany (like kale, since it is a seasonal crop and won’t be seen for several more months) Real Recipe Plans has encouraged me to try new things and has helped me out of the gluten-free Vegan doldrums.

I have friends who scour the internet for recipes and have APPS that create shopping lists for them, but I am too busy/distracted/interrupted to do this myself. I would much rather pay someone ten bucks a month to send me the recipes (and the lists) and know that dinner will be more than just a can of beans.

Real Recipe Plans is a great service for those of us who value fresh, whole foods but need a little help in the organizational department. Thank you, Chef Kimi, for the great-tasting, easy-to-make, real-food recipes! 

40

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Birthday Banner

I’ve run 4 marathons, but I’ve never run a 10k–until Sunday. The weather was sunny enough to make you happy, cool enough to keep you from wilting.

I’ve been worried that I haven’t been running enough miles, but the 10k gave me more confidence. I was actually passing people UNDER the age of 80 during the race and finished with a smile (and in 56 minutes).

It was a great way to begin my birthday week.

My Crossfit coach gave me a birthday present in the form of 50 burpees, 100 pushups and 150 walking lunges interspersed between sprints of varying lengths.

The good news is that now at age 40, I am healthier than I’ve ever been. And that is exactly how I wanted to begin this next phase of life.

But life is still life. My week has been filled with (mostly) a good kind of chaos, but chaos nonetheless. My actual birthday morning began by scrubbing the dog’s behind at 6:00 am. Then I spent half the morning finding his special food, which he wouldn’t eat anyway. Now we have an emergency vet appointment to find out why he’s not eating or drinking. Poor little thing.

But being at an emergency vet appointment isn’t how I envisioned spending my 40th birthday. Obviously, I love my fluffy little dog, and who cares about a birthday when he is miserable? It’s just not what I ‘planned.’

I’ve had to do all kinds of uncomfortable things this week–specifically, making several appointments in German, which is nearly as taxing to me mentally as burpees are physically.

All I want to do is stay home one day this week, but it doesn’t look like that will happen until Saturday, and even then I’ll have to leave for a few hours for my long run.  I look back on my ‘sick day’ last week with a warped kind of fondness because I got to lay on the couch and eat jello.

As a wife & mom & servant of God, I don’t write my own schedule. I have to interact with other human beings and figure out how I can best help them. I have to talk to God and actually obey Him when He tells me what path to take–and usually, that path isn’t the easy one.

So while my milestone birthday did not include a luxury vacation, it did include a date with my husband; a card from Libby that was so incredibly sweet it made me cry (and scared her a little); gorgeous earrings in my favorite color, and a ‘Mom’ necklace, bought with hard earned teenage money; lots of hugs & an old hat of mine (which I had loaned out); and a custom-made comic strip, with humor that always makes me laugh.

Libby's card made me cry!

Libby’s card made me cry!

Katie went over the top with my beautiful, elegant cake, and all the kids helped decorate to make my birthday morning (once I was done scrubbing the dog) special.

As much as I dreamed of escaping to a beach somewhere, this birthday has been the best one ever because of the pure and simple love that pours out from my family, even though I don’t deserve it.

40 birthdays behind me.

I look forward to 80 more.

No Worries

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footprints

No Worries

When I go to CrossFit, I have no worries for an entire hour.

The only knots in my stomach are from doing a lot of sit-ups in a little amount of time. The only weight on my shoulders is attached to a 20 kg bar. The only thing I have to remember is what rep I’m on.

There are no meetings, no appointments, no long commutes–I am purely living in the moment, and I often feel guilty about it.

I don’t think I’m trying to completely escape my problems, but it IS nice to ‘get away’ for a little while. If I lived closer to the box, I would go five days a week or more. It is THAT refreshing to me. Some people listen to music, or play it; some people watch TV or eat or play video games; they walk the beach or take cruises; but for me, stress-relief is packaged in a CrossFit box.

I walk away from a workout feeling completely relaxed, refocused and re-energized, and I think ultimately, it enables me to deal with stress.

When we were in London, I saw two women at Harrod’s, draped from head to toe in black, with only their eyes and some flashy rings on their hands showing. They were at the jewelry counter. Read that again: the JEWELRY counter.

If you’ve ever been to Harrod’s, and you’re just an average person like me, then you know how thrilling yet painful it is to buy a single truffle from the food counter in the basement. This is a store where a pair of socks costs more than my wedding dress. They probably charge money just to glance at the jewelry counter. I’m sure no matter how rich or poor you are, women everywhere have to deal with stress, and I wondered if shopping was the outlet of choice for these women.

Then my thoughts go back to the woman at the top of the mountain at Petra, Jordan. One of her many sons probably brought jugs of water up the mountain on donkey. She looked as if she had enough to eat. She was just alongside the path, selling her wares in one of the most scenic locations on earth. I don’t think that her life is stress-free, but she probably deals with it differently than I (a spoiled Westerner) would.

I can go to CrossFit, but what does she do? Maybe she daydreams or makes jewelry for tourists. I’m not sure.

It makes me wonder if stress is a luxury? I do think it’s easier to focus on the things that really matter when you don’t have a bunch of junk clogging up your home.

As for us, we’d like to downsize–get a smaller house and live more simply. Think about it: if I have fewer clothes, it’s less laundry. And besides, a family of 6 does NOT need 5 bathrooms!

But what happens next? Move to a developing nation? Learn to be happy with the clothes on my back. I could still do push-ups and squats and lift heavy things (like orphans, ideally). The pressures would be different: like cooking for the family without a supermarket nearby and finding clean water. Internet? That WOULD be a luxury, I’m sure.

For the moment, here I am: an American woman in rural Germany, speeding down the autobahn in my leather-seated van, worrying if the baustelle will make me late for the next appointment. And you will find me at CrossFit, putting down the worries and picking up weights, as often as possible.

Absolutes

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Sun rays

I do believe in evil, and evil showed itself at this year’s Boston marathon. I know that in our current age, each viewpoint is supposed to be equally valid. But that is nonsense in light of events such as this. I know no sane person who can say that killing or maiming others is simply an alternate expression of one’s self.

Rubbish.

There are no fuzzy corners on evil: it is a sharp as a sword and would cut the good things to pieces given the chance.

Don’t tell me (in irony) there are no absolutes, because evil is one of them.

However, however, however, however…

…there IS Good.

And Good is also absolute.

We cannot recognize the face of evil unless we have already seen good.

Good is programmed into the human conscience, provided we have honest enough eyes to see it and courage enough to act upon it.

Envy, malice, murder, strife: the list of evil things could go on for pages.

Love, joy, self-sacrifice, peace: these things are good, and they are from God.

There is no other suitable explanation.

My prayers are with the Boston marathon victims and the families–that they will once again experience good, even when faced with evil.

Stopping for Directions

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Charlie 13 weeks ruler

“I think you got the pick of the litter,” the veterinary technician told me (for the second time).

“Thanks,” I said, shoving my fingers in Charlie’s mouth to remove a wad of extraneous cat fur he had found in the corner.

“His energy really suits your family.”

I bent down to grab Charlie, as he had darted under my chair, and was eagerly mining for treasure along the baseboards.

I didn’t know what to say.

The puppy is a typical puppy: hyper at times, hungry all the time, occasionally bitey, and he nearly chokes himself to death coming home from walks.

But still…I think she meant it as a compliment.

I uttered something about how we approached this puppy venture: we didn’t rush into anything; we found a good breeder; and made certain the pup’s temperament was suitable; but each of those things sounded hollow, so I found myself ending my rambling proclamation with the fuzzy phrase, “It was meant to be.”

She smiled and nodded her head, “Yes,” she agreed, “It was meant to be.”

What I didn’t describe was all the prayer that went into this. I mean, how exactly do you tell someone you bother God with requests for puppies? It just sounds weird. Isn’t God too important to worry about whether I find a docile dog?

But I did pray.

I prayed that if God wanted us to have a dog, He would illuminate our path and allow us to find a pup that would be a blessing to our family and also a joy to others.

I had very little to do with the entire process except follow the trail and eventually dish up a few euro.

There is no way I could have orchestrated all this:

  • The breeder was reputable and wasn’t too far away 
  • They currently had a litter of chocolate labs
  • They had a submissive (or “feminine”) boy
  • He would be ready to come home ON the very day of my wedding anniversary
  • His personality is perfect

This is not to say that if you pray for a Maserati or a mansion you’ll get one. God is not ebay.

But if you know God, and He knows you, then you can approach Him with any little thing in your life.

He’s not bothered by it, in fact, He welcomes it. I have a relationship with God, which means we chat. And when I need advice, I go to Him. And when I think a puppy is a good idea, I ask Him to show me if it is or not.

In this case, Charlie was meant to be part of this crazy journey of ours.

So the next time someone praises the puppy, I’m just going to tell them–it wasn’t about finding the right breeder or doing research or being selective (though those things are important)–it was about stopping to ask directions, and perhaps most importantly, following them.

Because God doesn’t merely plan the route, He created the map.

Under the Rock Pile

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Today was stressful for no one particular reason. Rather, it was a lot of little things stacking up like bricks in a wall. The last ‘brick’ was more like a pebble, placed jovially atop the rapidly crumbling structure by one of my unfortunate children, and the whole thing collapsed.

Yes, I lost my cool.

It happens from time to time. I almost didn’t blog today because I was so out of sorts, but my daughter said that I should talk about my meltdown because, “It is such a rare occurrence.”

I’m glad it’s rare.

There was a time in my life when fits of anger would build inside me, and the only way to alleviate it was through yelling, since violence wasn’t my thing. It took many years to break the yelling habit. After all, many women I respected assured me that they, too, yelled at their kids. It was ‘normal.’ But something about that never sat right with me. I knew I wanted something different. I didn’t want to pass on the yelling gene to my own kids. Or heaven forbid, to watch my theoretical grandchildren become yellers.

This morning, I didn’t exactly yell–it was more of a verbal pounce, but in our sensitive house, it was the same as full-lunged bellowing. Afterwards I felt so badly, I went to my study to ‘be alone,’ which means praying and leaving a little puddle of tears on the floor.

Normally, I handle stress through running (which is also my time of prayer and contemplation) and proper nutrition. But lately I’ve been lacking both sunshine and sufficient exercise. And let’s face it–it’s hard, if not downright impossible to feel happy eating salad when it’s cold and dark outside! I’d rather cozy up with some gluten-free croissants drizzled with Nutella.

It is hard for me when there is no sunshine, and the puppy, cute as he is, pees on the brand-new rug after I’ve been outside with him for an hour.

I know there are worse things in life, and that the puppy IS a little glimpse of heaven; but even small doses of stress are toxic, and if you let stress build up, it can lead to a meltdown of nuclear proportions.

After “Mommy’s Time-Out” today, I emerged from my study to find a pink card on my pillow, a loving email from a concerned teen, and a pint of my favorite ice cream, wrapped up with a bow, sitting right outside my door. Sure, one of my kids was completely oblivious to the whole thing, but that’s okay too. My kids are so loving and so forgiving that I think they came through it unscathed.

In fact, it might be good for them to see me fail once in a while and for them to see me make amends when I’m wrong.

Sometimes we stumble.

The key is to get up and look ahead.

Because you can’t see clearly from under the rock pile.