We recently got the exciting news that we are going to be grandparents! It’s the job we’ve trained all our lives for. Not sure if I should start buying pink things or blue things, but don’t worry, I’ll find the cute tiny things for my future grand baby. The big question is, what do we want to be called? Ryan thinks the standard “Grandpa” is good, but I’m thinking about it.
I’m sorry I’ve neglected you for months. I’ve been….
So we’ll just nutshell it, shall we?
School year over.
Spring Concert for Bells was AMAZING. Seriously, the best concert we have ever done, which is a good thing, since we will be performing those songs again in California in a month for the National Handbell Convention. Cool, right? They even did a live web broadcast of our concert, which was super cool.
This week has also been busy, but it’s been emotionally draining.
–Ryan left Sunday morning for Serbia. I got to drive him to the airport instead of going to Sacrament meeting and say goodbye.
–John left for scout camp Monday morning. I had to help him find and pack all his stuff and get him over there by 7:30 Monday morning.
Then it was just us girls for the week.
–Thursday was the big goodbye for Kate. It was hard. We cried. I won’t go into that this post, but let’s just say I don’t know if I’m strong enough to say goodbye to any more people in my life.
Sigh. Emotional week. I’m drained.
It was so great to see our former exchange student, Larissa, in Germany. It was a bit out of the way, but since we were traveling from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf anyway, we just took a train to Osnabruck where she lives first.
She came to the train station and picked us up, and it was wonderful to give her a great big hug! She took us around town to show us some things, and we walked through the square.
It was very cold and we were getting hungry, so Ryan and I ordered a hamburger from this stand. Larissa is eating vegan, so she didn’t want any.
We looked at and went in 2 amazing churches. It seems every block there’s a HUGE magnificent church.
We even asked a stranger to take a picture of the 3 of us, not just do a selfie.
And I wanted a picture with these fine people, as well. They also gave me candy.
Then she took us to the house where she lives with a bunch of other college students.
It’s a group of buildings on a little farm.
All too soon our time was up and she brought us back to the train station to catch a train to Dusseldorf. It was wonderful to see her and bring her some love from her American Family.
If I were traveling with my family, and we were in Europe, I would be very particular about which museums we went to. At $15-$25 a ticket, that’s a big chunk of money to spend on one activity. And they might not appreciate spending a few hours looking at art. BUT, since I was mostly by myself, I could afford such a luxury. I’ll just include a little bit about each museum I was able to look through, even though there’s so much to elaborate on!
1-Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. A must see. And only 10 for adults, so not terribly expensive. Everything was in both English and Dutch, so we could read each display, listen to the audio presentations, and really see where she and her family lived. There were many photos of her and the family, and some of the walls still have the original posters and pictures she had taped to the walls. You have to buy your ticket online before, or else there’s a long stand-by line.
2-Van Gogh Museum. 17 Euro, or about $19. Really a wonderful museum. I loved learning about about Van Gogh. What really impressed me about Van Gogh is the family connection. Vincent’s brother Theo, an art dealer, supported him in every way. He encouraged his brother, sold paintings for him, and helped him financially. When Vincent died in 1890, his brother Theo died only 6 months later, in 1891. His wife Jo published the brothers’ letters. She, as well as her son were largely responsible for Van Gogh’s popularity. She had over 200 of his paintings and donated or sold them to exhibits. What a study in family history! If she had done nothing with those paintings, who knows if we would have them today. You can’t take pictures in the museum, but I had to snap a few in the gift shop.
3-Rijks Museum. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to this museum, but decided on my last day in Amsterdam to go. Wow. So glad I went.
To see original Rembrandts and to see how amazing and big they actually are was quite awe inspiring for me.
And the Waterloo painting is HUGE! I can’t even imagine working on something like that for SO long.
And the paintings and art just went on and on. I was glad I was by myself so that I could just wander, sit and look at certain things, and then wander some more. I went out to the lobby and ate my rice cake and cheese that I had packed for my lunch and then went back to see some more amazing works of art.
In Northern Germany, we were there more to visit people, so we didn’t spend time in any museums, but we did look at so much street art and churches.
We saw these two churches in Osnabruck with Larissa, and even saw a wedding celebration.
In Dusseldorf we were also looking for architecture.
4-We also went up the Rhine Tower and looked down. (Not really a museum, but I’m counting it) The view was incredible.
It’s similar in height to the space needle in Seattle. I remember as a missionary that we went to the government building right by the tower, but I don’t think we went up the tower. Probably $10 seemed expensive to us at the time? I don’t know.
This little kid had no problem getting so close to the window.
5-In Milan, we didn’t have a lot of time, but I knew we needed to see the Duomo.
Amazing doesn’t even describe this cathedral. It took 600 years to build, and they are still working on parts of it all the time. Inside it’s SO huge! And elaborate details EVERYWHERE. Our favorite part, though, was that they let you go up to the roof, and you can walk around up there ON THE ROOF!
So you can get a view of the city, and a close up look at the beautiful details. If you ever get a chance to go to Milan, you MUST see the Duomo.
6-The Sforza Castle Museum in Milan
This amazing museum of art and antiquities is INSIDE a real castle. They even had mummies in the basement. I went to this museum on recommendation from Juan Pablo, one of the guys Ryan was working with that day. So glad I did.
7-In Munich, I happened upon a toy museum. Why not, I thought. I’ve seen so much art, that toys will be fun to see.
So fun! I learned the history of the Steiff bears and animals, tin toys, Barbies, doll houses, and so much more. This is one I would totally take the kids to, if they had been with us, and it was only 4 Euro.
8-Dachau Concentration Camp
I took a very sobering tour of Dachau on a cold, dreary, rainy day. Our guide was German, but did our tour in English, and I appreciated his not leaving out the bad details.
You can read more about this sculpture and others here, if you wish.
I took many pictures, but they don’t really convey the awful feeling of gloom and sadness, and really a reverence for the people who were kept and tortured there.
9-Bavarian Museum. Ryan went with me to the Bavarian Museum in Munich. We really only had an hour to cruise through, but we did it anyway. The basement housed a whole display of Nativity scenes, and it was amazing! After my day at Dachau, it was nice to see so much of Christ’s Birth and life in these scenes.
10-Neu Schwanstein Castle
Our last day in Munich we drove down to see the famous castle of King Ludwig II. It really is as amazing and picturesque as you think it’s going to be.
Because it was snowy, the bus wasn’t running, and we got to hike up the steep hill. So many people were there, that even though we got there at 10:45, our tickets were for 2:00.
I wish we could take pictures inside, but no. The story of the castle is amazing, though, and Kind Ludwig was obviously troubled. He built this huge castle and wants to be alone. No family, no visitors, no parties. Alone. The castle was not even finished completely when he died (or was murdered). Amazing history and story, and I’m so glad we got to see it.
There you have it! 10 museums in Europe!
When Ryan first told me he was going to go to Amsterdam in February, I was on board. I even had to back out of a children’s play I was going to be doing, because the performances were the exact time we would be gone. Yes, I know the weather won’t be lovely and we won’t see the tulips like we would in the spring, but when are we going to be able to go to Amsterdam and have Ryan’s travel and hotel paid for? It was a MUST DO. However, I wasn’t prepared for the cold. Every day in Amsterdam I would look out the window of my hotel and see the SAME thing. I’ve been in Germany for winter, I know it’s cold, but the humidity and wind coming off the water is just bone chilling.
A lovely view of the canal behind our hotel. The sky was grey. Some days it was raining, some days it was snowing. Some days the wind was blowing.
We heard from people how nice the weather had been up until right before we came. Hmm.
In my pictures, you’ll always see me wearing my coat, sometimes with hats, most of the time with a scarf or two. Sometimes I even have an umbrella. I wore my boots every day in Amsterdam, and am so thankful for these boots.
They were comfortable and warm, and I did a LOT of walking in them. $20 from Target, by the way.
But since the only way to see things was to brave the cold and get walking, that is what I did. While Ryan was working I went out and figured out the bus or street car, or just walked.
One day I took the canal/bus tour. Interestingly, it was warmer in the canal than the bus.
I loved seeing things from the canal, without traffic, and listening to the audio tour.
When the canal tour got to the train Station, they were going to take a 20 minute break before continuing on the tour. I decided to get off and find a bathroom, which was pretty much a disaster, as described in this post
After I eventually found a bathroom, the canal boat was gone, and another didn’t come for another 30 minutes or so, so I took the tour bus instead. It was colder, and I didn’t like it quite as much. Plus, there seemed to be a mandatory stop at the diamond factory (“Free tour!” they said, “with FREE coffee or tea and a bathroom), which I went through the “tour” or advertisement for their diamonds, so that I could use the bathroom at the end.
I did also see the one remaining windmill in Amsterdam. I guess it’s a bar, now.
When the bus made it back to the museum square, which is where I had started, I was tired and hungry and cold. I trudged the mile or so walk back to the hotel, thinking I was done for the day.
But a couple hours later Ryan was finishing up with the show and we had to figure out somewhere to have dinner. So, I consulted google again to find a restaurant somewhere between where I was and where he was. More walking. In the cold. But the food was great.
All that walking in the cold definitely made us tired at night, which was a plus.
The next day I was going to go and take the canal tour again, since my ticket was good for 24 hours. Trouble was, I got there too early. They don’t even open the little booth until 10 am, and the first boat comes to that stop at 10:50. I was there before 10, and it was SO cold. Instead of the boat, I decided to walk a couple of blocks to where the bus would come. I hadn’t seen this part of the city by bus, and the bus came sooner, at 10:25. I was over to the bus place by 10:05, and decided to walk in the park for a few minutes to try to keep warm.
The problem was, the bus came early. So, at 10:15, when I was almost to the bus, and just had to cross the street, the bus pulled away, leaving me in the cold. Such a dismal start to the day that I had planned. Ok, I’ll just walk until I see a street car. I knew the 16 went into the city, so I would look for one of those.
I passed another cute pancake house that mocked me with it’s warm gluten goodness.
Eventually I did get on the street car, hoping to be going to the city, but I figured if it took me the direction of my hotel, I was good with that, too.
Success, it was going toward the city. But, then, a street car in front of us that was turning left somehow broke down. We were stopped. No problem, I thought, I can wait. It’s warm here, and if I were to get off, I’m not sure if I could find my way around.
After about 10 minutes, though, everyone was getting off. Darn.
You can’t really see from this picture, but there is a line of about 5-6 street cars in 3 directions.
I started walking in the direction I thought I wanted to go. I eventually made it down town, but by then, I was just tired and cold, and didn’t want to see things. I went into a store, ended up buying a new warm blanket scarf, a tshirt, and a cardigan. By the time I came out, I was just going to get on the street car and go back to the hotel. But first, the number 4 came by, which said it was going to the RAI, which is the convention center where Ryan was. Sure, why not?
So, I rode that to the end of the line to the convention center, texted Ryan so he could come meet me, and then came into the warm convention center. Ryan was busy, so I walked around myself looking at things and collecting free stuff to take to the kids.
I don’t know what this is, but it was just outside the convention center, and it just looked so odd, I had to take a picture.
After wandering the show floor, I was just so tired. I couldn’t imagine staying there for 2-3 more hours waiting for Ryan to be finished, so I said goodbye and trudged back to the hotel, hoping I could find my way using the little map I had. I did make it, but I was done. Spent. Tired of the day. Spending the day lost and cold and walking wasn’t my favorite day, but after a bit of time laying down, I was ready to go to the Control 4 party that night.
I don’t have very many good pictures because it’s kind of dark in the club, and it’s a lot of people drinking and eating and talking. The food was pretty good.
And thank goodness for Uber, so we could get a ride home from the party and right to the hotel.
(By the way, if this post seems long and rambling, I’m just trying to get these memories down before I forget!)
It was so wonderful to be able to go to Amsterdam! Ryan had to work at the Electronics convention, but luckily he did get to go out and explore with me a little bit. When we first got there on Monday, we checked into our hotel, had a one hour nap, and then figured out how to get to the Anne Frank House. We had tickets for 1:15. We found a street car station, and with the help of a map and google maps on the phone, we found our way there.
It was such a special place, hidden high up above a pectin shop. What I’ve found amazing about Anne Frank and her story is that she was just a regular girl. Her story is the story of so many, but we have her story because she WROTE it down. Whatever your story, it’s YOUR story, and you need to record it.
We noticed there were roosters on top of a lot of the churches. Later we found out that a Rooster is a sign of Christ, so there are a lot of them on the tops of churches.
So many amazing churches, so much beautiful architecture!
So many bikes! It was REALLY cold there the whole week, and it rained or snowed almost every day that we were there, yet there were throngs of people on bikes.
All bundled up, and some of them multitasking, like we would do in the car. Riding a bike drinking coffee, riding and texting, riding and talking on the phone. There are traffic lights for people, bikes, and cars. And dedicated lanes for bikes. You are more likely to get hit by a bike than a car. I would have liked to ride a bike along the streets (faster than walking), but with the cold, I didn’t bother renting one. But I imagine in the summer, when it’s high tourist season, that the number of bikes would be exponentially greater.
Everywhere you look, there are bikes locked up. One guy I was talking to said you always need to use 2 locks to avoid getting your bike stolen.
And how’s this for a heavy duty family bike? I’m guessing you could transport 3-4 kids in that one.
It was interesting to note that in Germany and Italy, many people also used bikes, but not nearly as many as in Amsterdam. I think it’s because of the layout of the city. Amsterdam is flat, and they have made the roads not wide enough for many cars, but room enough for bikes. Different system.
Even though I could understand a little bit of dutch, it was very nice that everyone there speaks English. And most everyone was polite.
Today was interesting. Exploring a new city by myself is a bit out of my comfort zone. At least everyone (or nearly everyone) speaks English as I muddle through this adventure. Today was even colder than yesterday, so I had a hard time getting myself motivated to get out of the hotel. It’s not like I have work to go to. And no one would care if I stayed inside and read a book all day, really. But I would know I missed opportunities to see the sights in a new city because I chickened out. So, I walked down to the museum square and by the time I got there I was pretty darn cold. Wishing I had a better scarf, thicker gloves, etc. I was even wearing an ugly black beanie! I passed the museums and found the kiosk for the canal and bus trips, and paid for my 24 hour pass. I enjoyed the canal tour (it was actually warm, which was a big surprise). When we got to the train station, I figured I should get off the boat to see some sights and find a bathroom. Not urgently, just trying to be prepared. First I walked over to the St Nicholas Church to see inside. I was very beautiful, but no picture taking, and no one was speaking, so I didn’t feel comfortable asking for a bathroom. Back to the Train station, where I knew there had to be a bathroom.
YouTube Link: *HERE*
I asked at the information desk where the bathroom was, and she told me to go through, and then up the stairs. Ok. So, I went through. I didn’t have a ticket card to tap, but I didn’t think it would matter. Eventually I found the WC upstairs. You have to pay 70 cents before you even go in. Good thing I had some change. After doing my business, I came back down, and people were streaming though the “turnstyles”, all tapping their cards to exit. I had no card. Surely there was a way out for people with no tickets. Hmm. I had to ask someone. “How do I get out?”
“You use your card,” she said.
“I don’t have a card”, I said, “I just came in to use the bathroom.”
“You are not supposed to do that. But I’ll let you you with my card.”
I didn’t know!
Anyway. Later tonight, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. I decided to use the bathroom there, since it’s a 20 minute walk back to our hotel. No charge for this one, but there’s a tiny little anti-room with a sink, and then a door to the toilet. But the light in the toilet room doesn’t work, and if I leave the door open, someone could walk in on me. Ack! What is it with me and bathrooms today! So, I got some tp in my hand, backed up to the toilet, and shut and locked the door. Pitch black, but I still managed. Unlocked the door and came out. Whew! By the way, it’s absolutely FREEZING in there. I guess they don’t heat the bathrooms.
So, here’s to another day. Learning new things about Amsterdam, exploring and taking in the beauty of the city, and hoping to always be able to find a bathroom when I need it.
This week we had a chance to feed the missionaries in our area. Since we are in Utah and one set of missionaries is responsible for 2 stakes, they aren’t at church with us very often. And we don’t get the opportunity to feed them more than 2-3 times a year, so when it’s our week, we try to volunteer.
As we were getting food ready, the kids were all enlisted to help, since the missionaries only have an hour to eat, usually between 5 and 6 pm so they can get to their evening appointments. Kate, our exchange student from Russia, said, “How do we even know the missionaries, anyway?” So we explained how these missionaries don’t get to choose where they are sent, but they turn in their papers and then go where they are assigned.
“Maybe there’s a missionary from Russia!” she said.
I hated to dampen her enthusiasm, but I told her that there were probably not missionaries from Russia coming to Utah. There probably aren’t that many LDS members in Russia, and out of those members, therefore not a huge amount of missionaries, and why would they send a Russian missionary to UTAH, of all places?
So, we finished our meal prep, making waffles, scrambling eggs, and cooking bacon.
At 5:00, the Elders arrived. Right on time, what a surprise! We answered the door and welcomed them in. As they were taking off their coats, we asked, “Where are you from, Elders,” Elder Kentish is from Nashville, and Elder Fairbanks said, “I’m from Russia.”
NO WAY!! Kate’s face (all our faces, really) had the expression of total shock.
“You aren’t really, are you?” I said.
“Well, I was born in Russia,” he said, “I was adopted by an American family when I was 4.” But he could still speak Russian, and Kate was completely floored when he asked her how she was doing in Russian. As we asked more questions, we discovered that his parents had adopted 12 children, and he and two siblings were from the same orphanage in Russia. When we asked where in Russia he was from (Russia is such an amazingly huge country) he said Vladivostock. That could NOT possibly be true. Kate and I both let out little screams of shock. That’s where SHE is from! That’s not exactly her town, but that is the closest big city to where she lives. That’s also not exactly his town, but that is the city closest to where he is from that people might recognize. Kind of like saying that we are from Salt Lake City, even though we don’t live in Salt Lake City, but to people who are not from Utah, it’s close enough.
What an amazing experience! We felt like we had an instant connection to this Elder. I even felt a little bit bad because we were asking him so many questions, so we had to ask equal questions of his companion.
I know this was not a coincidence. Our ward mission leader hosted these same Elders earlier in the week, and knew we had a Russian exchange student. He even mentioned it to these Elders, so they came knowing that much about our family. But for us, it was such a blessing. For Kate to meet someone from her part of the world, so far away from home, was amazing. She got to speak Russian and learn that the there are even Mormons in Russia.
Only I get a little overwhelmed by the “new year” kind of stuff. People are all like “GOALS!” and “Self-Improvement”, and “It’s a fresh start!” Is it really? Did something magically change with the ticking of the clock between 11:59 on New Year’s Eve and 12:00 on New Year that erased the past year? I don’t think so.
Meanwhile, at church, there are tons of meetings. There’s a New Beginnings for Young Women, special ward council to discuss our goals for the year, the Stake Relief Society Presidency wants to meet with us, ‘Priesthood Preview’, ‘It’s great to be 8’and various other NEW YEAR type meetings.
But me, I’m dragging my feet putting away my Christmas decorations. I LOVE CHRISTMAS! Everything is magical and beautiful and the music and the concerts and the presents and the wrapping and the shopping and the food and the cooking and the parties and the wonderful feelings and the reading of the birth of the Savior. I’m sad that Christmas is over, that my birthday is over, and now we’re stuck in dreary, snowy, cold (2 degrees yesterday, folks) January. It snowed last night, but now it’s drizzling rain OVER the snow. Megan left today to go back to school (once her car thawed and the door closed ok, which it didn’t last night), and I’ve had a week with no chimes choir, but I have to start tomorrow. I’m not ready to get back to my real life, let alone make GOALS. Shovel snow, trudge out to feed the chickens, the floor is constantly yucky and needs to be mopped all the time, people leave their gloves, scarves, coats, and boots all over! January is just yucky!
Cheer up, old chap, at least you don’t have to do yardwork!
(That’s me talking to myself in my encouraging British accent voice)
But we do have things to look forward to. Jenna and Kate both have birthdays this month, so we will be planning a big party for that, my chime choirs get to play at 2 Lone Peak Basketball games this month, it’s good to get back into a routine and clear out the clutter, of course.
In February I get to go to Europe with Ryan, so that is one thing I am REALLY looking forward to. In spring we plan to take the kids to South Dakota.
Right-Oh! Good on ya! Fish and Chips and all that.
(There’s that annoying British voice again.)
So, things aren’t ALL grump and dreary. But it would help if the sun would shine. Please?
And when I need a laugh, there’s always this.
As we were driving on our Birthday surprise trip, Ryan said to me, “I have another surprise for you. Look in the glove box.”
I looked, and found a very cute card with chickens on it, and inside, was a statement from our mortgage company that our balance was zero. In other words, our house was paid off!
We had been working hard to get our house paid off, and I anticipated that we would hit that milestone within the next year, but sneaky Ryan sold off some stock and did all the jumping through hoops to pay off the rest without me knowing it. He even changed the address that the paperwork would go to, so that it would not come to the house and I would open it. He CAN pull off surprises!
That also means that I can start shopping for a couple new appliances. My oven has many problems, and my dishwasher has been fixed (by Ryan) at least 4 times. We haven’t done any upgrading or replacing of appliances, so that dishwasher is 16 years old. The microwave we got for a wedding gift, so that thing is 24 years old. Whenever I would talk about things we “need” for the house, Ryan’s standard answer has been “not until the house is paid off.” Well, now it IS paid off, and we will be putting the bulk of that mortgage money into our retirement fund, but we can also splurge a little.