My sister delivered a perfect gift from God yesterday! She did an exceptional job and she and Baby are both doing great. We are on Cloud 9! Thank you to those who prayed.
My sister delivered a perfect gift from God yesterday! She did an exceptional job and she and Baby are both doing great. We are on Cloud 9! Thank you to those who prayed.
I wrote a little tribute to my dad on Instagram for his birthday, and then I decided I should share it here. My dad is truly the best! So thankful to my Heavenly Father for my Daddy!
This is my dad.
It is pretty hard to catch him in front of the camera, but I found this shot from Amsterdam on my phone.
Some of you are already thinking about Father’s Day, but I’m going to get ahead by talking about my dad today, on his birthday!
My dad got married while he was in college and they had my brother Joey the next year. He finished college by taking several semesters off to work every job imaginable. He was a janitor, a pressure-washer, and a construction worker. He worked an assembly line, he went door-to-door, he mowed the alligator pen at the zoo!
My dad has not stopped working hard to provide for his family since then. By the time I was born, he was in med school, still working hard. From the moment Joey was born, he’s made sure my mom could always stay home with us.
My dad hasn’t ever had a lot of time “off,” but when he’s off, he’s at home with his family…or taking us on a “vacation” (adventure!)
He used to line us girls up on the bed with our hair hanging off to blow dry it, and then he’d brush it and sometimes even French braid it! He’s a man of many talents!
He builds houses, pins butterflies (but only those that die of natural causes, because he’s awesome,) cooks, bakes, takes beautiful photos (he taught us how to develop film in our own darkroom,) fixes All The Broken Things, and has great taste in music, coffee and cookies. smile emoticon
Now I realize that my dad was really young when he started his family, and was still a young child in the family of God at that point. Now that I’m in my twenties, I see what a remarkable man he has been to love his wife as Christ loves the church, to raise his nine children to follow Christ unapologetically and to otherwise never be a “follower.”
I still learn from him, I still sit on his knee and he still braids my hair sometimes. We definitely still go on adventures!
I love you SO much Daddy! Have a groovy birthday!
P. S. If I never get married, it’s all your fault. You’ve given me such high standards, the guys I meet just don’t usually measure up! That may have been your plan all along…
April 15, 2015
Rented Apartment, Old Riga
We didn’t do a lot today, which was actually really nice. Because I didn’t use any public transportation today, I am about to put my pajamas on and watch “Decoy Bride” with the parents and then hit the hay! Yay!
We got up this morning and went to Golden Coffee for pancakes, but sadly-we don’t think their favorite waitress, Daniella works there anymore. The pancakes were good and I ate them all, which was good too! I have not had much of an appetite during our trip, especially in the morning. The latte at Costa is much better, however.
After breakfast, we came back to the apartment to get word about our visa appointment. When we found out it was one o’clock, we hurried over to Saint Peter’s to give ourselves a little tour. St. Peter’s was really pretty and the view from the tower is amazing. I loved it.
After that, we came back to the apartment to regroup before Mommy, Daddy and Dorothy had to head out. There wasn’t room for everyone in the car, so Phoebe and I stayed behind. They first had to run by the doctor’s office to have her sign off that Dot’s TB test came back negative. They didn’t get home until about four!
Meanwhile, Phoebe and I had a relaxing afternoon watching “Support Your Local Sheriff” (one of those movies Phoebe loves but Dorothy doesn’t “get,”) painting and taking a nap. We also ate a whole bag of paprika potato chips while watching the movie. That’s what happens when you are locked in an apartment with no lunch!
By the time they got home, of course everyone was very hungry, so we had a celebratory “lupper” at a nice Italian place called “Felicitia” down the road a bit. I had baked chicken with vegetables and it was delicious. After that, we went back to Kuuka Kafe for coffee and dessert an walked around some souvenir shops.
We are home now, ready to wind down. Goodnight!
April 21, 2015
Well, I was doing really well for a while there! Once we were on the downhill slope of the trip, it was hard to slow down to write. Before we left Riga, we were able to do a limited tour of The Dome Cathedral (much of it is under construction) and spend a day with *Sintija! She took us to a new restaurant called Zoyste that a Latvian-American just opened. They use organic ingredients and put a Latvian spin on American dishes. It was pretty good!
We then went to our favorite place–Costa! Best coffee in Riga. After that, we met the lawyers assistant at House of Blackheads to pick up Dorothy’s visa and new, Latvian passport. It was a great moment to have all the documents—complete at last! But it was also bittersweet, knowing we have no “reason” to return to Lativa–or Europe for that matter. And it also meant we had to say “goodbye” to our Latvian friends, for who-knows-how-long. Wah.
So we had mixed feelings as we left the apartment and boarded our plane to Stockholm. However, we had all been looking forward to our time in Sweden, so we focused on that! Sweden was awesome. It really felt like a place I would like to live. The people were much friendlier than I expected. The sun was out almost the whole time we were there and, though it was cold, we kept comfortable by sitting in the sunlight whenever possible and continuing to layer our clothes as we had done for the entire trip.
I actually have callouses on my legs from wearing tights under my pants every day. Didn’t know that was possible!
Our first night in Stockholm, our contact came and got us settled in to the apartment. Her name is Juliet and she was born in Uganda, but has lived in Stockholm for nineteen years. She speaks perfect English and was very helpful. Our apartment was super nice. It was a very stereotypical Swedish design–sleek, minimalistic and mostly white. It had a sauna, heated floors and a nice, big kitchen.My room was a loft with a curtain for a door and a fold-out couch for a bed. I had a balcony and, though it was too cold tone hang out there, I did occasionally open the door and let the breeze come through.
Our first full day in Sweden, we went to the National Palace and saw the changing of the guard. We were told to “be early or be tall,” so we waited out in the cold for probably half an hour before it began. Sure enough, quite a crowd had gathered by the time it started. What I was imagining to be a five minute ceremony was actually a forty-five minute performance! There were horses, a marching band, commentary, salutes, and all sorts of “pomp.” We had a blast watching from our perfect spot on “front row.” Everything was very formal until near the end when suddenly, the band started to play “Sway” by Dean Martin! They played the whole song and the conductor wiggled to the music atop his steed. We had a great time watching the whole thing.
Before it began, Daddy tried to ask one of the guards a question and stepped a bit too close! He was loudly commanded to “halt!” Then Daddy wanted me to go ask him and see if he would treat me the same way. Not happening…
The changing of the guard happens every day but Monday (much is closed on Mondays in Stockholm) and a different “squadron” (or whatever they’re called) performs every day!
We ate lunch at a place not far from The Nobel Museum. We had “toast” (grilled sandwiches) and soup. Our first night, Daddy and I walked across the street to “Mama Dou” and got oriental food and brought it back to the apartment. The second night, we were too hungry to look for another place to eat, so we heated up our left-overs for dinner.
While in Stockholm, we also got to tour two museums: Vasa Museum and Skansen. Both were lovely!
The Vasa was way more interesting than I expected. It is a museum built around a warship that’s over three hundred years old. 98% of the materials are original! We also saw much of what was recovered from Vasa, including several human skeletons, some of which were so well persevered by the cold, briny harbor that their hair, brain and clothing remained intact!
Skansen is meant to be a “little Sweden” from the past and is the oldest living history museum in the world. It has lots of actual buildings from centuries past, collected from other parts of the country. The park is huge and beautiful and is a strange balance of kept-up and left-free. There are gardens, animals, a zoo, shops, places to eat, glass-blowing workshops, a pottery studio, a blacksmiths, and much more. Unfortunately, we only gave ourselves about an hour there before much of these things closed for the night. The employees who dress in old-fashioned costumes and much of the “living history” activities were gone.
However, the park itself, including the zoo, doesn’t appear to close…ever! We walked to our heart’s content, discovering new pathways and habitats for hours.
Before closing time, we were abel to see a short glass-blowing demonstration, during which Phoebe and Dorothy got to blow some glass themselves. It was probably the best of our day for them! We also got to see The Great Cathedral of Stockholm that day, including the ancient statue of Saint George slaying the dragon. Awesome! Other than that, we took a boat tour, shopped for souvenirs, drank lots of coffee (“fika!”) watched the swans and ducks at the short near our apartment (on Kungsholmen) and walked and walked and walked.
Sadly, Sweden is far behind me as I write…along with the rest of the European continent. We got up at three o’clock this morning for a six-thirty flight from Stockholm to Amsterdam and are now on our flight from Amsterdam to Houston, where it all began.
I am so sad it’s over, but also very excited to see the rest of the family and be home.
*Sintija was Dorothy’s chaperone the first time she came to the states. We love her and have enjoyed keeping in touch with her. Parting ways was very sad. Come back to the U.S. soon, Sintija!!!
This concludes my journal entries from my trip to Europe, April 2015. There is always so much more to say, but I hope you all enjoyed “following along” in a way. It was an unforgettable adventure. A big “thanks” should go out to my parents for letting me tag along and for buying me so many lattes in so many countries. It was a blast, such a fun, special, insane, difficult, lovely blast…
The next morning, we did a quick tour of Juliet’s home and museum and got pictures on THE balcony, but the courtyard was already flooded with tourists by then. We had breakfast via room service at tables in our rooms, which was delightful. More pretending to be princesses ensued!
The hotel agreed to store our luggage while we explored the city (awesome!) and Daddy checked out while I signed the guest book. We then set out to see the fair city for ourselves. I hadn’t realized Verona is on a river, but our time walking along the river over bridges was some of my favorite. We had lunch at an outdoor pizza bistro and then found our first gelato! They served our drinks on ice, which this American really treasured after our days of lukewarm beverages. Our whole day in Verona, the weather was perfection.
I bought Jeweliet a little bronze magnet that looks like the statue of Juliet. I mailed my letter to Juliet, we browsed shops, took pictures and generally enjoyed ourselves. We also went to The Arena and gave ourselves a tour, which was awesome. The Arena was a precursor to the Roman Colosseum, and construction was started at a mere 15 A.D.It was used for sport, music and gladiator games and has maintained it’s glory. We enjoyed walking up and down the huge steps and finding fossils in the stone.
We saw Saint Anastasia’s church from every angle as we explored the city, so we finally bought passage and toured inside. Wow! It was incredibly ornate and glorious, but almost equally creepy. It is very sad to me to think some people believe gold and silver and art and candlelight cause God to hear our prayers. We also saw Saint Ferma’s from outside, and I thought it was really lovely.
It was near Saint Ferma’s that we had to catch our bus to the (big) train station to catch our train to Venice that evening. Thanks to a friendly nun, we caught the correct bus! We took a short ride from Verona to Venice and watched the vineyards go by. As we were boarding, guess who we saw hop on? Veriato, of course! He was like the little bug you look for on each page of a picture book. ;)
All of the bathrooms on this train were out of order, so several of us were anxious to get off! WE spoke to Veriato when we all got off and he asked if we had been at the right stop when we made our dramatic exit. He had tried to tell us this was not “the right Verona” but didn’t have the chance! Veriato was meeting up with some friends in Venice, so we again parted ways.
At the station in Venice, I took Dorothy and Phoebe to the restroom (which cost me a few Euros!) Dorothy never locks the stall door in public bathrooms, because of a fear that was soon to be realized, so I had to stand outside her door and hold it shut and make sure no one intruded. While I was performing this service and waiting on my own turn, I heard a faint sound.
It was very loud in the bathroom, and I almost disregarded the sound all together, but then I was sure I could hear an American voice saying, “Excuse me? Excuse me ma’am!”
I decided it was coming from the stall across from me, so I got Dorothy decent, let go of the door and approached the voice. This poor girl, about my age, was trapped in the bathroom stall! There was no handle on the door and she had been trying for who-knows-how-long to get free. She asked if I could pass her something she could use to unlock it. I couldn’t think of anything! I looked around, but there was no possible way she could get out from under the door or into the next stall.
I asked if I a coin would work, and she didn’t think so. I walked to the exit and looked for an attendant, but found none. I didn’t want to leave the bathroom because Phoebe and Dorothy were still in there, I had yet to use the restroom and didn’t have enough money on me to get back into the bathroom if I walked out!
I came back to the girl and she said she thought a pen might help. I didn’t think I had a pen handy, because I had packed my journal and art supplies elsewhere. I dug around and—thank God! I found my Central College Ministry pen and passed it to her.
She was able to use it to unlock the door and get free! The poor girl’s hands were bloody and my plastic pen was all torn up. She thanked me in the sincere, quiet way only exhausted people who are late for trains can thank their hero (I know this tone well by now) and we all ran out of the bathroom to get to where we needed to be.
When we finally got back to the parents, they were helping their own young, American girl. This girl had lost contact with her friend and her phone was not working, so she asked if she could use one of our phones. After several minutes on Daddy’s phone, she got a hold of her friend and gave the phone back. When it comes to European travel, Americans just need help.
We caught a water taxi and saw the canals of Venice for the first time. I hesitate to use this word yet again, but it was all very surreal. Even as I write this, with my torn up Central College Ministry pen, I’m not sure it’s all sunk in. We found our hotel (an 800 year old house, turned hotel) and checked in. Our room was up 75 stairs. There were no “lifts” in Venice, 800 years ago!
It was a humble room we all shared with big, shuttered windows that overlooked the red-tiled roofs of Italy. There was a fresh fruit market and some busy night-life restaurants in view. We dropped our bags and headed out in search of dinner. After walking around for a while and getting very hungry indeed, we stopped at little restaurant and ordered spaghetti and gnocchi.
The next day would be our only full day in Venice, so we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep in preparation for this momentous occasion…
April 7, 2015 11:00 PM
I am writing this entry by electric light on our houseboat. Tonight will be our last night on the canal. Then it’s more lugging of backpacks and hopping of trams. Today we had breakfast at the Thissen Cafe across the “start” from our boat. Phoebe and Dorothy went ahead of the parents and I and got a table, ordered and ate while we prepared for the day. They were finishing up when we came over and ordered, broke fast, caffeinated footed the bill. *Side note: we scarcely fit at a single table during our whole European adventure. People kept commenting on what a big family we had and the five of us totally overwhelmed every cafe. Once we had to leave because the waiter didn’t think the chef could make pancakes for all of us at once.
After that, we caught a tram (our main hobby!) to the museum district and wound around the construction site which will be the new entrance to The Van Gogh Museum this summer. Once we got to the correct side of the mod-squad building, we discovered and extremely long line and tourists from all over the world almost as anxious to see Van Gogh “oog im oog” (face to face) as we were!
We waited outside in a line for almost two hours before finally showing our City Cards and gaining free passage. Once inside, we rented the headphone sets for the audio tour and began to explore. It was delightful! We saw some of our favorite Van Goghs and chose some new favorites.
We saw several self-portraits, the sunflowers, the almond branch, the wheat fields, the irises, lots of peasants, boats, windmills, flowers, the yellow house, his parents’ house, a Parisian street, still lives of a kingfisher, a vase, a horse statuette, and various fruits and vegetables, not to mention birds’ nests and his father’s Bible.
We also saw “the tub” by Degas, a Dutch scene by Monet and a portrait of Vincent by Gaugin, all of which were lovely. We also got to see “peasant woman nursing her child,” by Jules Dalou, which is an incredible sculpture.
All in all, it was wonderful and we had a great time exploring, learning, eating and shopping at the museum.
At the gift shop, I bought a postcard of Van Gogh’s still life of his late father’s Bible and a modern French novel. I want to hang it near my desk as a reminder that there is to be no segregation of spiritual and secular in the believer’s life. Maybe I’ll elaborate on that more in a blog post one day.
After we got kicked out of the museum, we walked to a nearby “Markt” and bought a few snacks for tonight’s meal. I ate some potato chips, pretzels and had a vanilla Coke! We were back on board by eight o’clock and have been organizing train tickets, munching, showering (finally got to wash my hair!) and the girls watched “Despicable Me.”
Still not sure what we’re doing with our last day in Holland, but it will probably require me to be awake…
April 8, 2015 *Germany*
I am writing this entry from a train in Germany! I need to write–and sleep–but I am just soaking in as many German scenes as I can from our cabin window. When I wake up, Germany will be behind us and we will get off in Switzerland. It is nice to be going through so many urban areas, because the street lamps give us a glimpse.
I can’t believe I am really on a train in Germany and tomorrow we’ll see The Alps!
April 9, 2015 *Italy*
I am in Italy! We are on a dingy, old fast-moving train, somewhere between Torano and Milan. Once we get to Milan, we have to run to catch our train to Verona. It will be 9:30 by then and we’ll grab our luggage once again to hop a bus to our hotel. I am SO excited for our hotel because,
1. It is a hotel. So far we’ve been staying in rented apartments/boats. This will, presumably, have room service, a nice shower, etc.
2. I really, really need a shower. I haven’t had one since our last night on the houseboat in Amsterdam, which was like a week ago. Or night before last.
3. Our hotel is inside Juliet’s Courtyard! We will have access when no other (non-hotel) tourist do. Awesome!
By the time I finally take a shower tonight, I will have been on several trams, six trains (or was it seven?) and two buses. Ew. Some of our trains have been very nice. Others, not so much. I imagined having our own little area to sit, maybe with a pull-down table where we could draw, play games, etc. It has been much more like being on a city bus, but nothing too awful.
Our night was interesting. Mommy hardly slept at all, and said it was one of the most miserable nights of her life. I, for one, would rather sleep a week on a train than another night on a plane! It was not the best sleep I’ve ever had, (after all, I was wearing exactly what I had worn all day and am wearing still–jeans and a bra and three shirts!) and I was on a very small bunk with very little padding on a loud, moving train which was hot, and my bedding was like a sock made of sheets and a pillow which was entirely flat in the middle, BUT, I was too tired to stay awake, so I slept hard.
A German woman knocked on our door in a very German fashion around six o’clock this morning for a customs check, in which she came INTO our tiny cabin with a flashlight and questioned my dad with a spray of queries about who were were and where we were going. Sadly, this was our only German experience!
In Milan now—more later!