Tag Archives: Germany

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.

Testing Day

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dead lift

My son and I walked into the box  to discover it was ‘Testing Day.’

Testing Day was reminiscent of a health clinic. But instead of hitting your knees with a little hammer or listening to your heart with a stethoscope, the guys with clipboards watch as you do shoulder presses and wall balls.

The knee hammer is probably more fun.

Actually, Crossfit, even on a day where the WOD is replaced with a health inspection, is fun for me. And I can’t help but think of the similarities between testing day and a visit to a German health clinic:

  • You go into a big room with a bunch of other people–many of them you’ve seen before
  • You fill out paperwork
  • You ask someone to translate the hard words, which turn out to be ‘easy’ words
  • You guesstimate your weight and height, because you can’t convert inches to centimeters off-hand
  • You’re suddenly much taller and skinnier on paper than you are in real life
  • Everyone complains about the slow service, & for those of us who are English-speakers, the communication problems.
  • You go to the proper ‘station’ at the proper time
  • First come, first served
  • You hope the guys with the clipboards know what they’re doing
  • The guys with clipboards scrawl things on your paperwork
  • You hope that by the end of the visit, you’ll come away healthier
  • When you do finish, you feel a sense of camaraderie with others who’ve just endured the same thing
  • They will want to re-evaluate in 8 weeks

The only difference is that in a German health clinic, you take a number and sit around and read a book until they get to you. At Crossfit, you stand there talking and rolling out your hips and/or shoulders.

While I DO love seeing improvement, I’m not going to stress about the testing day or the follow-up. As our Coach Rob likes to say, “It’s all good!”

And it is.

Every bit of Crossfit, even two solid minutes of wall balls, is good–especially when you’re fertig.

A Spontaneous Marathon

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On Friday, we decided as a family I could run a second marathon this year.

Sunday at 08:00 I signed up.

By 09:00 I was running through a shower of confetti.

After the Gletscher Marathon in June, I had thought I would run the Seenland Marathon in September. But then an injury (which had me inactive for 2 weeks); a visit from my mother (3 weeks of board games & cookie baking); and an onslaught of large farm machinery chopping up and spraying the countryside, sidetracked my usual training plan. Thus, out of 12 weeks between marathons, I had only 3 long runs, the longest of which was a mere 14 miles (nothing like the 18-20 I would have normally done).

Even though I LOVED running the Seenland Marathon last year, I debated about it this year, because I didn’t know if only doing Crossfit (3 times a week), plus one to two runs a week was sufficient preparation.

But then, as my oldest child said, “It’s only running.”

Right! It WAS only running; and I quickly buried the fact that it would be 42 kilometers of running.

The results: 4 hours 26 minutes–the EXACT same time as the Gletscher Marathon.

HOWEVER: I would have done much better with more training. Normally, the marathon ‘starts’ for me around km 30. This year, I was feeling it at km 20. My legs became chunks of concrete, and I sincerely felt like quitting.

HOWEVER (again): That’s when Kristina came flitting along the path with her two bouncy braids, striped tights and cheerful smile. She was SO happy to see me and said that she was talking about me the night before at the noodle party. She is the best pacemaker in the world, and she helped me get through the tough parts of last year’s marathon.

This year, she came along, asked how I was doing, and then said, “Stay with me” in a manner worthy of a Crossfit coach.

So, I stayed with her the rest of the way–and we crossed the finish line together, smiling.

Kristina and I approaching the finish line

Kristina and I approaching the finish line

There are so many things rushing through my mind:

*How easy the marathon was at first, and how incredibly difficult it was in the middle.

*A guy running the marathon in an elephant suit

*The hoards of half-marathoners, breezing by, making me feel sadly inferior

*The t-shirts promoting a wide variety of causes (some of them nearly dueling it out on the trail)

*The fabulous aid stations with plenty of watermelon

*Hearing American Rock music booming along the trail

*The handicapped runners (some blind) leaving me in the dust

*A welcome shower of rain

*The Bible verses on my left arm, written in pen, vanishing one by one

*‘Stolz Sein’ (our Crossfit Coach’s mantra) fading from my right arm (translation=be proud: to help my posture)

*Hearing Kristina tell someone in German, “I need to get her to her kids at the finish line!”

* Seeing from 1/4 mile Libby’s striped pink dress, her arm waving frantically at me.

I love the moment I see my family, waiting by the finish with such excitement and anticipation. It is THE single best part of any marathon! 

Crossing with the kids

Crossing with the kids

If you are going to run a marathon in Germany, I highly recommend the Seenland Marathon. The catering stations are fantastic; the people (both the staff AND the other runners) are extremely friendly; and the scenery, with the tall pines, wild boars and the sailboat-filled lake, is simply gorgeous.

If I can, I will run it every year that I live here–hopefully with a little bit more preparation next time. 

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.

Marathon Season

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Pitztal Tirol

When the snow melts and the smell of damp earth is in the air; when the manure trucks flock back to their annual nesting grounds, and your lavender candle, no matter how Yankee it claims to be, no longer masks the scent of the frische Landluft, you know spring has arrived in Germany.

And springtime, as everyone knows, means marathon shopping.

If you trained for a marathon during this dark frozen season, you have my respect. While I did some running this winter, I mostly complained about the weather on my blog. I just grew tired of my skin being cold–and I think that’s natural. People were meant to wear fig leaves and flip-flops, not to be wrapped up head-to-toe in Gore-tex.

But now, though it’s only 43 degrees and the wind is blowing the rain sideways, it feels more springlike somehow, and my thoughts turn to marathon season.

One of my long-term goals is to run a mountain marathon. I don’t live near any mountains, but I won’t let a little thing like elevation stop me.

I did some online shopping and found a marathon in Tirol, which is one of my favorite places on earth. And as if that isn’t incentive enough, it is mostly downhill.

It makes me a little nervous since all of the people on the website look like Olympians, but I looked at the stats from previous races, and if I train really hard, I might be able to keep up with the 70 year-old finishers.

A girl has to have dreams.

I have twelve weeks to prepare, so naturally I began by slamming my right knee into a counter at a restaurant after eating curly fries (yes, curly fries have invaded Germany). My knee is thus a little achy from the blunt trauma.

In sympathy, my left knee began to make a popping sound. It doesn’t hurt and only pops when I keep it straight and lean forward. Fortunately my leg is rarely straight when I run, so I had no difficulty with my nine-miler Monday.

I am thinking that I need to go back on the Eat to Live plan for a while. Before I found Amy’s Organic gluten-free mac & cheese my knee problems had completely vanished. So with a marathon in sight and a 40th birthday rapidly approaching, it is probably a good time to start eating healthier. 

More baby spinach.

Fewer curly fries with mayo.

Yes, training begins now.

After this bowl of sugar popcorn.

Puppy Sunshine or Why Runners Should Love Dogs

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Training

Training

Last week I ran 44 miles in five days.

That is what a little dose of sunshine does to me.

Unfortunately, the sun went away and it began to snow again, which means a corresponding household spike in Maranatha Raw Organic Almond Butter consumption.

My husband says that I am solar-powered, and it is no joke. I feel like a completely different person when the sun is shining.

When it is gloomy, I want to cuddle up with my Mac while dipping my Wasa gluten-och laktosfritt Knäckebrot directly into the jar of almond butter and (ironically) shop for marathons. But when it’s sunny, I am the person I like to be–the one who actually goes running, rather than the one who thinks about it.

When the sun shines, I go running AND clean the house. The residual effects from last week’s daylight were so profound, I even cleaned out my pantry. And if you’ve ever been frightened by my pantry, you will understand what an accomplishment this was.

Yesterday I came home from a busy day and the sun was out. It was cold, and even though I am sick of the cold weather, the sun lured me out. Also, we have our houseguest Bailey here, and she is an AVID runner, so she coaxed me out-of-doors. So, I set down the jar of almond butter and put on my shoes. I even thought, “It is SO sunny out, I won’t need my balaclava!”

I know, I know…I should NEVER tempt fate like that.

It turned out to be like some kind of twisted joke, a cruel irony, bad karma, or in Christian terms, a time of refinement, as halfway through the run, the clouds swooped in and it began to snow directly at me.

Bailey and I were both covered with snow on the left sides of our bodies, as if someone were shooting a plaster-gun at us.

I had to laugh. It wasn’t the maniacal laugh that sometimes scares my children when I’m at the end of my rope. It was, strangely, a happy laugh. And the only reason I could laugh was because of the ever-cheerful labrador.

Bailey doesn’t care if the snow is blasting at the side of her body. She doesn’t care if the frigid wind blows her ears inside out. She doesn’t care if the snow accumulates on top of her head like a wobbly little party hat. She is just thrilled to be outside running. And her cheerful nature is infectious. How could I be miserable when she looks up at me, and snow is plastered to a single side of her goofy grin?

This is part of the reason we added Charlie to the family. I hope that someday he will love running as much as Bailey does–and that his good attitude and cheerful outlook will rub off on me, whether the sun is shining or not.

Down Time

Down Time

Souk du Jour

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Libby leads the way through the souk in Jerusalem.

Libby leads the way through the souk in Jerusalem.

If you, like me, were born and reared in Midwestern America then a “bargain” is something you find in the back of a store, somewhere between the rack of leopard print leggings and the bin of plastic poppies. Even in a used-car lot, a “bargain” describes a vehicle-shaped object and is by no means a word that implies action.

In the Middle East, however, “bargain” is a verb not a noun. And this takes some getting used to.

Jewelry shop.

Jewelry shop.

Despite my unassuming Midwestern upbringing, on my recent trip to Jerusalem, I was a force to be reckoned with in the souks. I’d like to say it was because I was savvy to the tricks of the trade, but in reality, it was my inability to quickly convert shekels into dollars.

So basically, when the shopkeeper would state his price in shekels, I would usually laugh at the ridiculously high sum.

350 shekels for 3 scarves? Who cares if they are wool or silk? Preposterous!

Inevitably, I would retort with a number closer to an average resting heart rate than a high blood pressure reading, to which the shopkeeper would reply with a grimace.

I wasn’t big on the ‘give and take’ nature of the proceedings, and so I would normally cut to the rock bottom price, and every time I did this and refused to budge, the shopkeeper would ask, “Where are you from?” And every time I answered, “I live in Germany,” he would give me the price I asked.

Libby always got the price she asked. Who could resist her?

Libby always got her price. Who could resist?

Maybe it is the perception that Americans are rich (which we are) or maybe it is the perception that the Germans are thrifty (which, for the most part, they are), but whatever the reason, saying I was from Germany sealed the deal in more than one case.

The funnest part of bargaining was when my friend made an offer for a chess board. During negotiations, I tried to be as German as possible, which primarily meant NOT smiling, and finally I whispered something to her, and then we ended up walking out of the store. The guy chased us down saying, “I want to be happy; you want to be happy; we all want to be happy!” and he accepted her offer, asking, “Where are you from?”

Even though I drove a hard bargain in Jerusalem, I was a little more generous in Petra. The people there didn’t have fine shops, and most of the merchandise was covered with sand. Plus the Jordanian dinar was about the same as the euro, so it made quick calculating much easier. I deliberately paid a bit more for my four fake Nabatean coins, but then the woman added a fifth, “For the Mom.”

And I thought I was the generous one.

Into the Box: My Introduction to CrossFit

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My fingers were wound tightly around the bar overhead, and my body was stretched out as if awaiting a flogging, when the trainer said, “Now touch your toes to the bar.”

He must be joking, I thought. 

But he just stood there as if he expected me to actually do something.

I grunted as my knees wobbled towards my chest.

He talked about torque, while I wondered how many years it would take to actually accomplish this.

Welcome to CrossFit!

Simply finding the CrossFit box was a challenge–especially since I wasn’t wearing my trifocals, and there was no big neon sign pointing to it. My son joked that it was probably in an abandoned paint factory, and he wasn’t far from wrong.

Walking into the CrossFit box was a triumph for me, since I am usually such a mild-mannered (i.e. chicken) type of person, when it comes to approaching strangers and fumbling to explain myself in a foreign language.

However, being somewhat emboldened by my recent trip to the Middle East, I wasn’t too intimidated to burst into the box during the middle of a class, call a cheerful “Hallo!” while waving my stick-arms to people who looked like they could bench press Peugeots, and ask if I could join the beginner’s class.

There was no beginner class, but I went back again twice last week, and I am hooked.

The atmosphere was very cordial and freundlich, and I was never made to feel idiotic, even though I can’t do a single burpee (yet).

I tried to do a push-up and fell to the floor, as if a cave troll had suddenly placed his giant foot on my back.

When the trainer asked me to do a pull-up, I held on to the bar until my elbows quivered, but since that didn’t seem to count like it does at home, the trainer wrapped a giant rubber band around the bar for me to stand upon, to help my fight against gravity. I still couldn’t heft my weight up to the bar, but I did try so hard that my wanna-be muscles still ache 48 hours later.

I have run four marathons, logged countless miles (19 just yesterday), and yet, I am weak as a half-drowned kitten. I am the slowest, most inept person in the CrossFit box. I have to do modified versions of the modified exercises; and yet, there’s hope, as long as I keep going back.

There was a time I couldn’t run a single mile, let alone 26.2 of them (times four); and so I know that someday, if I continue working, I’ll be able to do burpees with the rest of the class.

You have to start somewhere; and sometimes, starting is the most difficult part.

The kids and I crossing the finish line together at my first race ever.

The kids and I crossing the finish line together at my first race ever:
The Rothenburg Half Marathon 2010.

Starting is difficult because it’s humbling. It is humbling because you are learning a new skill, and until your muscle memory kicks in and your strength builds, you are going to stink at it. But if I lived life avoiding humility, I would never learn anything new, and I certainly would not have four marathon medals dangling from my bulletin board.

I am weak, and I know it. But I also know that if I keep working the muscles, they will get stronger.

Why do I have this drive to run long distances and do pull-ups? 

It is a question that haunts me sometimes.

Though I have a lot of great-sounding reasons, I also don’t really know. Why did God give me the desires He has? Why writing and not engineering? Why marathons and pull-ups and not Cheetos and video games? 

I just don’t fully know.

To be a good and faithful servant means to take care of the things over which you have been given control. For me, this includes diet and exercise. It means putting aside my own desires (I DO actually like Cheetos), and doing what is right and good (like juicing kale).

Sometimes doing what is good means stepping out of the box.

Or in the case of CrossFit, it means stepping faithfully and consistently into the box.

Whatever dreams or goals you have, take a step towards achieving them, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself touching your toes to the bar.

Auf Geht’s!

A Culturally Confusing Christmas

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The Middle East seemed like a perfect place to get away from fake pine trees, creepy santas and even creepier elves during the holidays. I did realize that Bethlehem was where Jesus was born, and that because of all the churches in the holy land, there might be some Christmassy stuff laying around for tourists to pick up.

But I honestly felt by visiting one country that was 75% Jewish, 16% Muslim and 2% Christian (the rest of the people being ambiguous) and another country 90% Sunni, 2% Shia and 8% Christian-ish, the odds were in my favor that I could evade santa and his eight tiny reindeer. Certainly there wouldn’t be any pine trees, tinsel or fake snow!

[insert laugh track here].

Though I sought to escape Christmas, Christmas found me nonetheless–and came back with a vengeance.

Christmas Assault #1: Jerusalem YMCA

During our visit to Jerusalem, we lodged at the YMCA, which having “Christian” in the acronym, is a likely bet for Christmas decor. While the pine tree was no big surprise, I was bemused to see the dining room windows adorned with fake snow.

Fake snow. Note the oranges in the tree outside.

Fake snow. Note the oranges in the tree outside.

YMCA Christmas Tree

YMCA Christmas Tree

Christmas Assault #2: Jaffa Gate Christmas ‘Market’

Perhaps it is unfair to compare any Christmas market in the world with those in Germany, but the market outside the Jaffa Gate blind-sided me with its cheesiness. Blue tarps strung on metal poles, people wearing santa hats, an eight-foot tall inflatable santa, an illuminated ‘tree’ AND to completely bombard our senses, American Christmas music. (I haven’t heard Silent Night by Annie Lennox in a LONG time!)

Jaffa Gate Market

Jaffa Gate Market

 Christmas Assault #3: Movenpick Hotel, Petra, Jordan

Becoming emotionally stable again after my traumatic experience at the Jaffa Gate market, I sought refuge in the least likely of places to honor Christmas with a fake pine tree: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

While sipping my hibiscus juice during check-in at the Movenpick hotel at Petra, I noticed in the foyer, amongst the potted palms, a huge Christmas tree. At first I thought our journey along the winding desert road had parched my brain and I was hallucinating. But alas, it was a real, fake tree. Thus realizing Christmas was out to get me, I forced the kids to pose for another picture.

Oh! Christmas tree! In the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Oh! Christmas tree! In the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The Final Christmas Assault: U Coral Beach Club, Eilat

Not only did Christmas follow me from Wadi Musa to Eilat, but it twisted my arm behind my back until I fell to my knees, crying ‘Shalom!’ and wishing for the peace and harmony of a Christmas Eve sale at Wal-Mart.

Since my teenage son alone can eat his weight in falafel, staying at an all-inclusive resort seemed like a good idea for the nine of us. Little did I know that all-inclusive meant ‘family-friendly,’ which translated means ‘frenetic activities for kids and an open bar for parents.’

We were bombarded with fake trees, stuffed santas poking their creepy faces out from everywhere, a steady stream of Christmas music, tinsel, and we saw hotel staffers dressed as sleeping children and flanking the hall on our way into the breakfast room, a guy in plaid boxers with suspenders and a santa hat, inviting our kids to a trivia game, dance parties every night and, the coup d’état, Israeli children having milk and cookies while waiting for a Brazilian santa, who would be driving up on a Harley.

The stage is set for santa at the U Coral Beach Club.

The stage is set for santa at the U Coral Beach Club.

It was cheesy. It was gaudy. As my friend said, it was ‘garish.’ And yet, this is where we spent our ‘Silent Night.’ Despite it all, I DID manage it with a laugh, and a little Irish Cream added to my coffee.

*Editor’s note: In all fairness, the staffers were genuinely concerned with having fun and involving kids in activities. They were wonderful in their sincerity and very helpful and welcoming.

The Real Christmas

On Christmas Eve, the few items we had purchased for the kids were tucked away, and we decided to place them inside the kids’ adventure hats. We didn’t tell them, and I don’t think the kids expected to get anything at all, since we had told them the trip was the present. Honestly, my friend and I felt excited, figuring out how to sneak the presents into the hats, and when and where to place them around the hotel room. It was the most regret-free fun I’ve ever had on Christmas Eve.

Opening presents

Opening presents

Christmas morning, the girls and I awoke (the boys were in another room with their dad), and I gave each of them a ‘Christmas’ can of Coke, which is a special treat (especially at 6:00 am). I also had forgotten that I had some fake Nabatean coins in my purse that I’d picked up in Petra, and so, I handed those out to the girls as their Christmas presents. I got out my bible, and we read some and talked about Christmas and what it has to do (or does not have to do) with the birth of Jesus Christ.

Before we knew it, it was time for our ‘real’ Christmas to begin. My friend and I set up the adventure hats in her room and then had the kids go in, find their hats, and uncover their gifts. They were SO happy that they weren’t just getting fake Nabatean coins! Even though the presents they got could fit into their carry-ons, the kids were just as happy as any other Christmas. As Katie put it, “The best Christmas is the one you’re having right now!”

Christmas Surprise!

Christmas Surprise!

I don’t know if we will embark on another Christmas adventure (the words Scuba Diving and Indian Ocean keep coming to mind), but I do know that despite West meeting East in a big, loud way this year, it was the most memorable Christmas the Wellman family has had thus far. 

Shalom!

May God bless you with peace in the new year!