Tag Archives: family

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.

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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!

Sweet Sorrow

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I was sad hugging my husband goodbye at the train station that early, dark morning in Germany. It seems like years ago, though it has only been two weeks.

When we jetted away from our good friends after a perfect day in Boston, I heard the words (from more than one Wellman), “I wish we didn’t have to leave already.”

It would become a common refrain.

Pulling away in my rental car, and seeing my grandmother close her front door made me wish for just a little more of that precious commodity we call “time.”

I can hardly stand to recall the tears of my mother as she hugged the kids, not knowing when she will see them again.

And there was the moment frozen in my memory, of my grandparents, standing on their front porch in the fading light, their hands raised at our parting. I couldn’t look very long–not with the tears blurring my vision.

When we originally left the states for Germany, we didn’t know how long our goodbyes would have to last. It ended up being six years–a lifetime in kid years.

There will be more partings before the final week of our trip is over, and I do not look forward to those.

But I have to remember, for every goodbye, there was an equally enthusiastic hello. For every tear drop, there were hours of laughter. For every parting hug, there were multiple good night hugs, good morning hugs, or the very best, hugs for no reason.
I have lingered over coffee, laughed over knitting, and have relished the simple joy of walking next to people who held me as a baby.

There have been a thousand conversations and stories and dreams shared.

There are hopes and wishes and prayers and kisses exchanged, and tender little hands held by ones rough with time and wear.

Whether our goodbyes will echo in our hearts four years or four months, and despite the sorrow we feel at parting, we will hold close the sweetness of being with those we love.

Hope with your Fries

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The walls were scarred, and many of the booths had been patched by someone apathetic, colorblind, or both.

The entire place had the type of smell you have to wash out of your hair when you get home—that  peculiar mixture of sweat and deep frying that makes you wish your overcoat was not dry-clean only.

I dolloped the table with hand sanitizer and began to scrub it with a rapidly disintegrating tissue.

“What does that sign say?” my daughter asked, while my son woodenly pronounced, “Nür fur Kinder…”

 “Only for children under age ten,” I interpreted. They could both read, just not in German.

They gave each other the visual equivalent of a high-five: eyebrows raised, a flash in the eye, and a quick grin. At seven and eight years-old, they were in.

My two oldest groaned in disappointment—hard luck when you’re not quite kid, not quite adult. They went off to sit together at a small table by the window, where they could watch the lights and chaos of the Christmas festival across the street.

The play center had a padded floor, padded pillars, and a bathtub-sized ball pit. Wiry white stuffing sprouted from the seams like weeds reaching for light from sidewalk cracks. It wasn’t so much a play center as a safe cave for babies who signal the end of a meal by throwing half-eaten chicken nuggets across the room—a happy dungeon for cranky toddlers.  

“Take off your shoes!” I said, as a flurry of hats, gloves, and scarves fluttered down around me.  The coats were still warm from the now vanished bodies.

As I trudged to a booth, I noticed the long table. It ran down the length of the room right up to the stair well. A dozen pink plates and cups were arranged at the place settings. Golden paper crowns, boasting the logo of the establishment, were carefully set at select places.

At the head of the table sat a girl no older than my daughter, bedecked in deep pink satin with a face meticulously adorned with her mother’s makeup. Gorgeous dark tresses fell in gentle curls about her shoulders; she was a bright and beaming star, dropped, as if by accident, into the run-down little diner.

From her position at the head of the table, she could see each person who ascended the stairs: first the top of the head, which brought hopefulness; second the face, eliciting either joy or disappointment—every emotion was clearly communicated as she watched the people come and go.

As if on cue, the guests began to arrive one-by-one; the Prince Bishops of Würzburg could not have better coordinated such a ceremony.

When a face was recognized, the birthday girl remained placidly at her station, her face the only clue that she’d rather jump out of her seat and rush to them before they even reached the landing.

The guests came to her and greeted her with a kiss on both cheeks and happy tidings. The partygoers were dressed nearly as splendidly as their hostess, though they did not quite surpass her.

The girl’s mother was no less exquisite. Sporting a black sequence gown, every hair plastically held in place, and makeup an exact replica of her daughter’s, though on a broader scale, she rose to greet the guests and show them to their places. 

 Surely they should be someplace nicer? was my thought, tinged with pity.

I had been to parties at play centers before, but they were places where you drop the kids in like hamsters in brightly colored tubes, while you and your friends chat outside the glass tank. At those rough-and-tumble parties, the guests wear clothes they could spill ketchup and milkshakes on with little fear of reprisal.

But this was a gala affair, worthy of the finest palaces of Europe.  

The table was soon full, adults outnumbering the children. They spoke not in German, but in a language beautiful, yet unintelligible to me—a language even PhD’s would struggle to learn and never quite master.

The group was smiling, happy—happy to have each other, happy to be together in this foreign land. They wore their finest and held their heads proudly, rightly so. This was their celebration of a life—a single, precious, valuable life.

What kind of poverty, war, or oppression had they escaped? What had sent them away from their homeland, to a place so cold and strange, yet full of promise?  

Starting life over again, they had reason to celebrate. They had joy. They had love. It was shown in the way they spoke to each other, the way they greeted with a kiss. It was written on their faces.

What was written on my face? Weariness, perhaps. Worry. The fear of my kids catching germs from the Petri dish of a play center?

Perhaps they pitied me for seeing only shabbiness where they saw hope.

As we move through the holiday season, some of us wearing ourselves out with parties, and gifts, and decorations, let us learn from the people who have had everything taken away–everything, that is, except their hope spurred by love.

That beautiful child taught me something more valuable than any gift ever wrapped with a bow: Do not pity those who appear to have less than you, because quite often, they have more.

Hope was the last thing I had expected to find that night, as I sat there waiting for my fries.

Potter’s Field

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“If it hadn’t been for me, you would all be living in shacks in Potter’s Field!”

That’s what I might say when the stress of real life returned after Christmas break, and people started taking me for granted again.

Of course, I’m no George Bailey.

Though I question the doctrinal validity of Joseph and God blinking like stars in the sky when they talk and bells signaling angelic promotion, Capra’s classic film still causes me to ponder what the world would have been like without me.

I’m not fishing for compliments or penning myself as some kind of saint, but I am pretty sure if not for me, Mike would still be an arctic bachelor, and some happy couple would be the fortunate custodians of four phenomenal kids.

If it hadn’t been for me…

Some of you would have missed out on a few laughs, while others may not have shed quite so many tears.

Some of you wouldn’t have had a Louise to go with your Thelma or an Ethel for your Lucy (depending on which stage of life you found me).

Some of you may not have been encouraged, or hugged, or loved quite so much. Others would have one less adventure, one less story to reminisce about.

Some of you would have imbibed less coffee.

There would be fewer quips, fewer quotes, fewer inside jokes. And maybe there would be an empty spot in your life where a precious friendship should have been.

I’m not perfect—I’m not even good. In fact, if my inner self could be posted on Facebook for thirty seconds, everyone would unfriend me, including my grandma.

But life isn’t all about me.

I can’t help but think what life would have been like without some of you. Sure, there are some people I wish I’d never met (the string of bad boyfriends in the early 90s), but I would be a completely different person now if any single character had not been written into the script.

Without my dad, I’d have no courage, no independence.

Without my mama, no inspiration.

Without my husband, no real love.

Without my mother, no imagination.

Without my grandparents, no role models.

Without my aunties, no feeling of specialness.

Without my friends, no sisterhood.

Without God, no hope.

There are many stories I could tell about individuals who have had an impact on my life, but even a really good screenplay couldn’t capture it all.

Whether we have been center stage together, or whether you raised the curtain,  lit the lights, played the music, whispered a line, set the props, gave me direction, or simply crossed downstage, every single one of you has played an invaluable role in my wonderful life.

Merry Christmas. God bless. I love you.