Saturday, January 5, 2008

November und Dezember in Pfalz-Reinland

Okay, here's a few pictures for all you picture-book fans!

The first weekend in November we took a drive to the north of our village toward a town called Daun (pronounced like 'down'). We read in a brochure that there is a wild-life park in Daun so we thought we'd check it out. However, just as we pulled up to the gate, the employees were locking up. When we inquired as to why they were closing so early in the afternoon, they told us it was because of the drizzly weather. We looked at each other, checked our map, and decided that hey, there's a wolf and eagle park just south of here back toward our village -- with a slight detour to the west. Another 20 minutes and as we wound our way up a steep hillside, we came to the top and stopped as... just barely... we could make out through the mist... the outline of a castle. Then, as we got our camera out we looked up just in time to see the wind blow the cloud of mist across the front of the castle giving us this mysterious and romantic view. All in all, the afternoon turned out to be a beautiful drive. When we pulled up to the entrance of the Wolf & Eagle Park -- and an empty parking lot -- it turned out that we arrived there, too, just as they were locking up for the weekend! This just happened to be the last weekend both of these places were open for the winter. Guess where we look forward to visiting come spring time?

Then came a BIG going away party for Jess, a gal that LeRoy works with. Her husband's next assignment is in Oahu, Hawaii!! So, we gathered at a German restaurant, (so she could enjoy authentic German food), and celebrated her upcoming adventures with a Hawaiian theme. The food was mmmmmm!! The asparagus-looking vegetable in the picture above? That's white asparagus -- famous in this area. Of course, this is a major meat and potatoes culture -- and bread -- and... (Colista, I now understand where you got all your culinary finesse!) Everyone in our family is loving the adventure of trying new foods! (Okay, I'm lying. Not everyone. The oldest person in our family -- I'm not the oldest -- and my second-to-youngest are trying new foods with much trepidation and apprehension. But we're proud of them for every effort!)

Israel and LeRoy!

Our family with our friend, Jess! She's one of those people who you meet and you feel like you've known them your whole life. She's one of the most optimistic people I know. See that smile? That's pretty much who she is! So fun. She will definitely be missed!

Then after Thanksgiving the many, many Weihnacht Markts (Christmas Markets) began! In our area, the most talked-about markt is in Dudeldorf -- about 8 minutes from our house. We got a different markt in every weekend up until Christmas.
The picture above was actually taken in September on one of our "family drives" where we just follow the road to see where it will take us. As we came across the crest of a hill, we came upon this castle -- the Schloss Malberg. (Yes, Laura, I'm still trying to figure out the difference between a burg and a schloss...) But I put it in this group of pictures as it is the only "big" picture I have of this particular castle.
The Schloss Malberg is currently under renovation. It was so cool to see huge sections of the wall exposed -- walls made out of mud, sticks, hay, pebbles...! Hm. The vendors were packed into the few rooms open to the public. Eli and Isaiah, Smile!
Entering the courtyard from inside the entryway of the castle.
Isaiah, Israel, Eli, and Ezekiel in front of the castle, or Schloss(?), with the Malberg valley behind them.

On our way home from the Malberg Markt. This is the sky looking west toward Kyllburg.
And this was the sky looking east toward our village of Seinsfeld.



In the morning we opened our presents as a family and then we, (Ha! How I'd love to take credit! Okay, really it was 99.9% LeRoy...), made a huge brunch. Our friends, the Ranger Family, came over to help us eat it all. Then we layered our sweatshirts and scarves and headed to Biersdorf (pronounced Beers-doorf) to do the European thing -- go on a walk! This particular village is -- so we hear -- the hot-spot holiday/vacation spot for people who live in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. And it's only 20 minutes from our house! But then, when we arrived, we could easily see why so many would make this their place to relax and get away from it all. The 2-mile path around the lake had many, many families, (German family = one mom, one dad, one child), adorable grandma-grandpa couples, and a handful of runners (who passed us 4 or 5 times during our 2 and 1/2 hour walk).

Of course that's Isaiah!

If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out on the ice!

I didn't include the picture, but there was actually a guy riding his bicycle back and forth on the ice from one side of the lake to the other.

Everything was iced over in a layer of frost! And the lake was one massive block of ice. We asked the children what inferences they had of the scene and they replied that they felt like they were in Narnia while everything was frozen.

The scenery was so incredible, so beautiful, that we hardly noticed the cold... much. And the company we had with one another and friends was so fun, so memorable, that the time flew by and when we finally arrived back at our vehicles exhilarated and invigorated, we were surprised that it had actually been 2 and a half hours!

Why go back the way you came when you can forge a trail?!


The Ranger and the Olson children: Ayla (2), Josiah (10), Noah (8), Israel (6), Isaiah (10), Arriana (5), Ezekiel (8), and Eli (12). Believe me, families with more than 2 children are quite a spectacle in these here parts!

Waiting for the others to catch up...

Once we finished our walk we went to the Ranger's house to have a German dinner! Dani fixed Schnitzel and German potato salad. Since I had promised Isaiah that I would make Duck, we made that, too. And that wasn't even counting all the other yummies on the table!

That night we drove home happy, satisfied, and feeling oh-so-rich! Truly, this was the most peaceful and wonderful Christmas we've ever had!!

(Okay, I'll own up. We didn't have any Christmas decorations -- not even a Christmas tree! This is because when we were packing to come here, I took all 3 buckets of Christmas stuff and put them in the back of my mother's truck and told her to feel free to use them and enjoy them... I made a spur of the moment decision duing a moment when I was feeling overwhelmed by stuff and thought Christmas? You can't be serious! Christmas represents the epitomy of stuff! No way! We're simplifying! ...oops.)

This was rather awkward when my children asked when we were going to decorate for Christmas. It went something like this, "Mom, when are we going to decorate?"

We were riding in the van and I just turned around in my seat and gave them the blank stare.


"Uh... I have a little confession to make." I paused, wanting to give the news as gently as I could. "I'm going to tell you and then I want you to know that I understand perfectly if you want to lecture me."

Isaiah spoke up from the back seat, "Mom, we're not going to lecture you or be mad because in this family we have grace on one another. So it's okay whatever you're going to tell us."

I wasn't sure if this made it better or not. "Um, I didn't bring any of our Christmas stuff with us."

"What?!" Israel yelled. 6-year-olds are still learning about that whole grace thing. "We're not going to decorate?!" She was not using a gentle, gracious tone of voice. And the boys weren't saying anything. I felt rather desperate. And foolish.

Then, my 3 knights spoke up in unison saying things like, "It's okay, Mom. Remember, we wanted to do things differently here anyway?" And, "Well, now we can really learn how the Germans celebrate and we'll just do it their way!" So, we decided to "start from scratch," (my words). And what we learned, besides about Sankt Nikolaus (Saint Nicholas), and the Tannenbaum (the decorated tree that originated here in Germany), is that the Nativity is precious and sacred and still very, very important to them.

In the end, we had a tiny ceramic Christmas tree given to us from a friend who sells Party Lite. And we had each other. The first thing we did on Christmas morning is read the Christmas Story and the account of the wise men. Then the children searched for their few presents. (This was a little idea I had last year; I figured I would use their presents as an object lesson. You know, looking for their gifts... then I told them that we need to look for the greatest Gift of all every day during the whole year. We talked about how the wise men didn't just bring Jesus gifts, but they searched for Him first. Now and then throughout this past year, I've brought this up at the dinner table in the form of, "Did you look for Jesus today? Where did you 'find' Him at work in your life and around you?" Honestly, I thought they would find it cheesy. So I was pretty surprised when they all requested that we do this 'tradition' every single year.)

That night as I tucked them in their beds, I asked them what they thought of the day. They all told me they loved the day and that it was the best Christmas ever.

I agree.


Sunset in the Pfalz-Reinland.


Israel playing with the Playmobil.

Some of you want to know what the inside of our house looks like. So I'll try to give you a little "tour" little by little as we get moved in.

This is our KITCHEN!! For those of you who experienced our kitchen in our house in Spokane... Well, you'll understand why this is my favorite room in the house!

More Kitchen...

And more...

This one shows the window that looks out on our backyard as well as the village playground. I guess I didn't get a picture, but I feel so completely spoiled by the huge American refrigerator with side by side doors and an ice and water dispenser in the freezer door! (I'm pretty sure we're the only ones in all of Europe with this little luxury!)

Okay, we've been here at the Resource Room on Base for hours now! Time to go have dinner!

We love you! Next time, I'll try to get pictures posted of our New Year's Day walk!

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