Monthly Snaps of Life

During church, I often find that my phone goes missing and that one of the boys is scrolling through it, looking at pictures.

I have over 7000 pictures on it, and they go way back, so they are often giggling at some of the photos  (and I then have to take my phone back and get them to focus). But, it usually reminds me that I haven’t done a monthly update in a while.

I too love looking back at my pics. I keep a collection of all the photos that I have taken or regular moments and some special ones, but also quotes or scriptures that I have come across that are meaningful. I especially love taking pics of some of my favourite text exchanges with my kids – which I rarely post – but I want to remember anyway as many are HILARIOUS. I’ve got some funny kids (and we have had some funny typos).

Here’s what’s been on my phone over the past couple of months:

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Rob’s B-day ^^^ (Yep, we are heading back to June!)

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Usual antics in the kitchen ^^^

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Father’s Day at church ^^^

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Getting the gifts ready to give away at church ^^^

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In their favourite chair ^^^

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Father’s day gifts ^^^

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Traditional Father’s Day Exotic Car Show ^^^

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Love how this one captures the the real moments ^^^

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Starbucks stop ^^^

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Heading off to School Camp ^^^

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Not sure what is going on with these pics, but I wanted to get some of Sam playing his little heart out! ^^^

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Clouds at soccer ^^^

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Soccer advice from big bro ^^^

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These were leftovers from our trip! Our airplane ride home ^^^

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“Look Mom, there’s some icebergs” ^^^ Little did we know that we would get the chance to see this awesomeness:

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Greenland!

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So clear – it was truly amazing. Everyone was getting up to lean over to the windows and catch a glimpse (we shared our window with some people!)

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Back from YM camp (in his soccer clothes as he had no other clean clothes with him!) ^^^

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Magical soccer skies ^^^

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Cozy-ing up with my work ^^^

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Fun weekend with our friends at their cottage – had to purchase a bed for us to sleep on first! lol

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Boating day at the cottage

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Rob with Sheila and Chris. Awesome weekend!

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Brave Sheila! ^^^

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After working her first summer job! ^^^

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Church days ^^^

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Sam is intrigued!! ^^^

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First pay cheque… had to laugh it was mainly in 5’s! ^^^

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Went for dinner with friends and walked by our “first real date” restaurant ^^^

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Fans watching Sam play soccer ^^^

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Soccer Sam ^^^

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We went for ice cream one night, and this was our view! ^^^

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Rainbows when we were headed to get dinner one night ^^^

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Summer sky on an evening walk ^^^

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Camp in the backyard? No, just getting ready for YW camp (only pic I have about YW camp!!)

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When I put my shoes on, this is what Reggie is always doing… waiting for me to say “Let’s go for a walk!” ^^^

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Busy summer with older kids working and away, so some dates with Sam ^^^

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Gorgeous skies on our evening walks ^^^

Not very exciting pics, I’m going to try harder!

Getaway long weekend

There wasn’t much time for a summer family vacation this year, so we decided to do a couple of long weekends. With soccer schedules, camps, conferences and work schedules, that was all we could muster. Still, Gabe wasn’t able to join us at all this time because of work, and Zach, Zandra and Rob came up late because Zandra was at YW camp all week and only got home late afternoon and Zach had a soccer game too. But, my Mom and sister were able to come up from Montreal to join our little weekend

But by 6:00pm we were all cozied up in this lovely house that we rented, pretty much in  the middle of nowhere. The little boys got settled in quick with exploring, and finding individually wrapped cookies in the cookie jar and thinking they had gone to heaven! They quickly set out to use the badminton and volleyball court while I set out to do some groceries.

We picked up some chicken for dinner and then everyone voted to play some cards, followed by picking up from where we left off last summer vacation with “Friday Night Lights” (our current vacation show). We headed on up to bed, with the kids spending a bit more time watching something or other.

After sleeping in and lounging about, we headed to Wasaga beach the next day and enjoyed the water. It is quite pretty there, and the waves give you the feel like you are at the ocean.

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The boys swam a lot and played ball, while we (Zandra, Rob, Gran and Sarah) just sat, rested and went on a few walks. Of course there was food too:)

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We came home (stopped off for some ice cream first) and soaked in the lukewarm hot tub (couldn’t figure out how to make it hotter?!?!)

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We then had a nice BBQ dinner. We finished off our day with a fire, smores, some good conversation and then of course some cards and a couple of episodes of FNL.

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The next day was pretty much identical: more beaching (except without Rob as he had to work most of the day)

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And of course, lounging, fire, smores, and FNL.

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It was a pretty relaxed time, but certainly a nice getaway!

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Thanks for visiting Gran and Auntie Di!

YLC 2016

I think it’s a hard thing to wrap your head around the concept of teenage kids coming together from the same religious community and attending a 4 day conference, in the middle of summer…. and them LOVING it.

They spend their days attending workshops, follow guidelines and rules about dress code, standards, curfews and room assignments. They participate in wholesome actives, and even spend a few hours participating in a service project. Oh, and the boys have to formally ask girls to a formal dance, and between activities, boys “escort” girls to the next location.To top it all off? Many of the kids’ parents are the chaperones for the conference.

These kids must be forced to go, right? They must be dragged kicking and screaming.

I know it is hard to understand.

But, I kid you not. This magical conference exists, and I just returned from it with Zach and Zandra. It was Youth Leadership Conference 2016 put on by our church (LDS) and held at Waterloo University.

I went last year with my three older guys and it was incredible, so I was excited to take some time off and volunteer to go again this year, this time just with Zach and Zandra as Gabe had to work (this would have been his last year anyways as he is getting too old; it’s for 14-18 year olds.)

We headed out early Wednesday morning (like 5 am early) and I dropped the kids off so they could ride the bus with the other kids in our area, and I picked up another “Mom” chaperone (we ended up being roomies!) and got there ahead to organize our “houses”.

Each leader is responsible for a “house” made of 4 dorm rooms and 8 girls. There are two girl houses and two boy houses in each group called a “branch”. We were with the 14-15 year olds.

These were my girls:

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I loved my co-house leader, roommate, Ruth. I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of her! (She’s in the corner on the pic above talking to our girls). We shared a dorm room together and spent most nights staying up until 1:30-2am just talking and talking! (We were so exhausted the next day), but I truly loved getting to know her and sharing this experience with her -and hope to share many more!

Zach was in my branch. I was thrilled about it. I thought he’d hate it, but he was fine with it. Each branch attends all the workshops with two other branches (we had two older branches of 16-18 year olds), and I think he was fine with it as he had some good friends in the other branches. Here the kids are all getting to know each other:

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There were some pretty great key note speakers – an author/professor/presenter/sort-of-LDS-celebrity speaker named Brad Wilcox (who incidentally wrote one of my fave “religious” books, so I was happy to hear him – and meet him – that man is amazing!!). We all got some pictures with him:

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The next speaker was the head leader of our worldwide Young Women’s organization – Bonnie Oscarson. I don’t seem to have a pic of her:(

Finally, Madelyn Paige – a previous contestant on The Voice/American Idol:

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They were all terrific – although Brad certainly stole the spotlight and addressed us 3 times and was involved throughout the contest, even during the dances!

The days are jammed packed, with workshops, lunch, then an afternoon activity (sports or service project) followed by dinner, and an evening event. The first night is a dance:

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The second night is a variety show:

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And the third night is a formal dance.

And the formal dance is a BIG deal.

The boy houses have to come up with a creative way to ask the girls to the dance. It’s called “The Ask”, and some of them are downright amazing.

Our boys (well, one talented boy) created an “original song” to the tune of “Demons” and all the boys sang it to the girls. It was awesome! Here’s she snaps of the boys getting ready to sing:

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Formal comes along and everyone looks so awesome!

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The service project  was super fun again this year, and they packed 174,000 meals (the goal was 150,000)

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The feeling throughout the whole conference is just incredible. It is a feeling of family. It is a feeling of love. It is a feeling of belonging. At the talent show, there were about 30 acts. Some of them were better than others, and yet, the support and the love felt in that room was amazing. Everyone was cheering for everyone.

I love how this experience brings these kids together and they can enjoy just having pure fun. I love spending time with teens and conversing with them (even though this year I had a few more challenging girls!) I love getting to know my own children’s friends. I love seeing Zach and Zandra together and how they are not just siblings, but friends. I saw them up ahead of me walking together one day:

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I love hearing their “debrief” of what they learned, what they liked, what they didn’t like, funny stories, moving stories, enlightening moments, questions, answers. They are growing into their own and I love that they are searching for answers, discovering who they are, deciding who they want to become.

At the end of each general session they all sing an incredible song (“EFY Medley” it is called). I know, again, it sounds impossible that teenagers will be singing an uplifting song, where there isn’t a dry eye in the place. It was one of the most beautiful feelings ever to hear these voices, look around to see these awesome kids, especially my own. I felt such a peaceful feeling knowing that my kids were MY kids, and that we were here together.  Here they aren’t singing the EFY medley, but another song that Zandra was in:

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It’s such a great experience for us all, and I know they are already planning for next year (when Josh will get to go too!).

Final few pics with some good friends (they are siblings too!):

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Love these youth!

Quote of the Week

Boy summer is hard to have some normalcy in our life.

Everyone is coming and going.

Or staying. On the couch. Watching endless amounts of netflix, playing videos games and on their phones. All at the same time.

I feel like we are either all racing: to work, to camp, to volunteer jobs. Drive here, drive there. Drive everywhere.

Or Rob and I are racing to work and the kids are just lazing around. And truthfully, that’s sort of easier.

Last night was the first night in ages we have had everyone together so we wanted to have family night. We all cheered Sam on at his soccer game and then headed home to go get some ice cream and watch a show together. It was nice just to do sort of nothing. 

Then, like the little kids we are, Rob and I went to bed while everyone else stayed up and who knows when they went to bed? This week is a bit of a lazy week, so it’s a bit of a free for all!

But I figured we needed a quote to keep our minds thinking at least:

“Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow. And, if you don’t like where you are, then move. You are not a tree.”

It’s a bit of a funny quote for this week considering that the kids are having a lazy week, but I thought it was an appropriate one for Rob and me to ponder as our family gets older, as we continue to work and as life seems to get busier and we evaluate what we do with our time….

Happy Birthday Zach

The last birthday of the year for our family, but certainly not the least!

Happy 15th Birthday Zach!

I commented to him yesterday how I had started labour with him and he seemed a bit surprised that it had gone on for so long.

Yup. He took his sweet time. Always on his schedule:)

But arrived with black hair and gorgeous dark blue cross eyes.

He’s certainly grown and changed; to being blonde with brown eyes!

But there are little things that he does now that I can still see him doing as a young baby, or little boy.

I am so happy that I had the chance to spend so much quality time with him on his 15 trip. I’m so glad that we got to explore our family history and heritage together. Truly a trip of a lifetime in many respects.

I’m especially glad that when I do things that annoy or bug him, I can remind him that he has my genes, so he’s likely going to (or already does!) the same things! Mwhahah

Here are 15 things that I love about him:

  1. His love of travel. How could I not? He is a wanderer and I love that!
  2. His love of photography – he takes awesome pictures! I love watching him take pictures!
  3. His love of record keeping — ok – I know I’m listing all the things that we have in common, but it’s so nice to share these things with him! He’s got a great travel journal going.
  4. His love of soccer – (that’s not from me!) I love how he loves to play, and I love that he is such a good captain.
  5. He’s such a hard worker (obviously on the things he chooses!) but when he chooses, he knows how to work. His soccer skills are proof that hard work pays off.
  6. His quickness. He’s fast – he gets things done, he walks too fast, he thinks quickly and responds quickly. It makes him quite witty!
  7. His awesome sense of humour. He makes us all laugh! All the time. I sometimes have to laugh because I don’t even know what else to do!
  8. His ability to get people talking and laughing. Although he can be super shy with adults, he does have an ability to get everyone around him (peers, siblings) talking and having a good time. Our dinner table is more entertaining (and chaotic) when he’s around!
  9. He’s a good brother. Yes, he teases like mad, and can frustrate and annoy everyone, but he is also a solid, there for you kind of guy. He is our family gatherer and I love how he loves having “a big family”
  10. He is smart. He can remember things, he can problem solve and he can study. If he puts his mind to it, he will go far.
  11. His sense of style. He knows what he likes and he is the first to give you an opinion on something you are wearing!
  12. He will share stories and let you in on some info—- if you agree to scratch his back. It’s kind of hilarious.
  13. He’s responsible and you can count on him. If he says he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it.
  14. His sense of honesty and integrity. Even if he knows he might get in trouble, he tells it like it is.
  15. His spirit. Of course he’s a jokester and can be a handful, but he has a beautiful spirit that is growing each day and he knows the importance of remembering who he is.

All I can say, is that those hours of labour were worth it. Although, I do think he owes me….

Happy 15th Zach.

Love you more and always.

Mom

xoxox

A few pics to remember the day:

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We celebrated the night before since that’s when we had the whole gang. The traditional ice cream cake is always his request ^^^

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Candy poster ^^^ It gets hard to be creative doing 5 a year for the past 8 years!!

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An unexpected cancellation meant we could head out for lunch… for poutine, of course! ^^^

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We laugh how the best place we have found is in the worst area. Yes, across from a strip club! ^^^

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Pretty tasty. No better birthday food!

Last Day in Prague

While we had the best intentions to wake up early and head out to view all the “touristy” sites without the masses, our bodies wanted otherwise and we had a nice sleep in.

We strolled through the streets and made our way to the Charles Bridge to look out. We saw some cool things on the way:

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We then climbed the tower:

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We continued over the bridge:

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We then stumbled on one of the many “Thai massage” places that are all around Prague and decided to have foot massages.

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We then went and walked through St. Nicholas’ church.

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^^^ Looks like we are praying…but kids were checking their phones, and I was reading our guide book about the church (truly)

We found a great little place for lunch and had some traditional Czech food.

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We then headed up to the Royal Palace and St. Vitus Catherdral – which was simply incredible.

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We saw some more of the palace and then Rob got  the chance to shoot a bow and arrow:

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Best Starbucks ever:

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After we did the palace tour, we headed back down to the village and it started to rain.

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What do you do in the rain? You find cover and get dessert.

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And that is exactly what we did until the rain passed.

We decided we wanted to go to the organ/soprano concert at St. Nicholas, with different renditions of “Ave Maria”, so we headed back to the Church to buy some tickets. Because we were a bit early, we hung out in Starbucks, where the kids enjoyed some wifi.

The concert was really cool. The acoustics were incredible and it was neat to hear the organ that Mozart once played on in that very church! The kids, while not thrilled about going to a concert, knew that it was something memorable and sat and listened, while doing the standard “church tickles” (you scratch my back for 2 min, then we switch).

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We found a great little restaurant right under the Charles Bridge and had some incredible Schnitzel. It was a great meal to end our trip on!

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We headed back to the hotel to pack, and got a rained on a little near the end of our walk. We lucked out with weather this trip, I tell you!

All in all, it was an incredible trip. It’s really hard to describe my favourite parts, as it was truly all so good. But I know in time, as we talk and reminisce, we will come up with our favourite memories.

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Daytrip to Dresden, Germany

In April during our semi annual church conference, one of our leaders (Dieter F. Uchtdorf) spoke of the city of Dresden:

“Not far from where my family lived was the city of Dresden. Those who lived there witnessed perhaps a thousand times what I had seen. Massive firestorms, caused by thousands of tons of explosives, swept through Dresden, destroying more than 90 percent of the city and leaving little but rubble and ash in their wake.

Dresden in ruins
In a very short time, the city once nicknamed the “Jewel Box” was no more. Erich Kästner, a German author, wrote of the destruction, “In a thousand years was her beauty built, in one night was it utterly destroyed.”1 During my childhood I could not imagine how the destruction of a war our own people had started could ever be overcome. The world around us appeared totally hopeless and without any future.

Last year I had the opportunity to return to Dresden. Seventy years after the war, it is, once again, a “Jewel Box” of a city. The ruins have been cleared, and the city is restored and even improved.
During my visit I saw the beautiful Lutheran church Frauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady. Originally built in the 1700s, it had been one of Dresden’s shining jewels, but the war reduced it to a pile of rubble. For many years it remained that way, until finally it was determined that the Frauenkirche would be rebuilt.
Stones from the destroyed church had been stored and cataloged and, when possible, were used in the reconstruction. Today you can see these fire-blackened stones pockmarking the outer walls. These “scars” are not only a reminder of the war history of this building but also a monument to hope—a magnificent symbol of man’s ability to create new life from ashes.
As I pondered the history of Dresden and marveled at the ingenuity and resolve of those who restored what had been so completely destroyed, I felt the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit. Surely, I thought, if man can take the ruins, rubble, and remains of a broken city and rebuild an awe-inspiring structure that rises toward the heavens, how much more capable is our Almighty Father to restore His children who have fallen, struggled, or become lost?”

It was an awesome talk:

It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. Save those rare sons of perdition, there is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.

While I could go on with how the talk was so inspiring, within minutes of him talking about Dresden, Rob was asking me, ‘Are we going anywhere near there?” and Zach was telling me, “It’s halfway between Berlin and Prague, Mom.”

While not in our jammed packed agenda to see Dresden, when we were in Hamburg, it came up again. I was reading about the history of Hamburg and how on July 27, 1943, explosive bombs were dropped on Hamburg during an attack given the codename of “Operation Gomorrah”. In 3 hours, 35,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands were left homeless and eight square miles of Hamburg was reduced to rubble…”While the firebombing of Dresden two years later is more famous, far more people died in Hamburg.”

Dresden came up again, and the desire to see it.

We had not planned on renting any cars this trip, but ended up renting on in Hamburg and Berlin, and both times loved getting out of the city to see a bit of the country and explore areas we would not otherwise. We decided to do the same in Prague, and head back to Germany to visit Dresden.

Dresden is another one of those “Wow” cities. While it has mostly been rebuilt, they did a fantastic job, and every thing looks really old.

We headed out early in the morning and made our way on the highway, but hit a road closure and was detoured off. We ended up driving through the cutest little Czech Republic towns – but were a bit skeptical about where we would end up!

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We did make it to Dresden, and found parking — at the fanciest hotel there (without realizing!).

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We decided to follow Rick Steves’ walking tour (honestly, his books are the books to get. So much great info and his tours are the best) though the old town.

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Sadly, when we got to the famous Frauenkirche, it was closed for a concert! We were so bummed. It started to rain like crazy too, but luckily good old Rick Steves had our backs and led us to an awesome little cafe courtyard, completely sheltered, where we had a great lunch with fabulous desserts.

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Sporting my sunglasses ^^^

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After lunch, we walked along the river, but hurried as the skies looked dark.

We were able to climb Frauenkirche tower, and take peeks inside the cathedral. It is a super high tower and it was really really windy, so we didn’t stay long, but it was beautiful.

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Remnants of the original church ^^^

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We headed back to Prague, but out GPS broke, leading us through cute towns, but then to this.

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Luckily, we had our phones and made our way back.

It was raining in Prague too, so we decided to go get dinner. We headed back to the same Thai restaurant and had another great mea. We shopped a bit, then headed home in time for the soccer game.

Can’t believe tomorrow is our last day:( It has been such an incredible trip. Zach said the cutest thing yesterday. He said he was having an amazing time, but he missed Gabe, Josh and Sam. He said. “It’s fun traveling with them. I guess I just like having a big family.”

Me too, Zach. Me too.

 

Prague, Day 1

Another early morning as we had to make our way to the train station as we were heading to Prague!

Prague has always been on my list of places to go, as I have heard it is beautiful.

I’m just going to say, “Wow”.

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As Zach said, “It’s like Harry Potter at Universal – except it is real!”

But first, we had to get there.

The train is about 4.5 hours from Berlin. I had told the kids there was wifi, and they were horrified that there was none… oh my. What to do? They slept.

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I read. So nice.

But when we crossed over into the Czech Republic, the wifi kicked in and the kids somehow woke up and were very pleased.

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We arrived without any panic this time, and decided to make our way to our hotel by walking.

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Along the way, we saw some yummy Thai and Vietnamese food and decided that is what we wanted for lunch. A break from sausage and schnitzel.

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We found our cute hotel, checked in and headed out for a meal. We had a relaly good meal at a Thai restaurant.

We then had an “Intro to the Grand City Tour” booked. It started off with a bus.

We are not bus tour people. We were all asleep within 5 min.

And you can’t see much on a bus. We did see things like this:

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But it was only bus for a bit, then it was walking.

Truly, I wasn’t thrilled with the tour as it was super rushed but it gave us a great overview of the city.

Boy, it is gorgeous.

I got some great snaps:

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We finished the tour and then decided to backtrack a bit.

We took in the views of the Charles Bridge.

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We had the most yummy “trdelniks” filled with icecream.

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We found our way to the John Lennon wall

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and came across some interesting things:

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We then found a spot where Rob could have a sandwich (he was dying for one the past few days).

We went and climbed the tower on one end of the Charles Bridge for some amazing views.

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We then headed back, strolling through the streets, stopping to buy some souvenirs.

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We then picked up the pace so the boys could watch some soccerJ

Prague truly is a spectacular city and we agreed it is definitely on a “favourite list!”

 

Happy 11th Birthday, Sam!

We have another birthday in our house!

Sam turns 11!

This little firecracker is still our little “Sam-wee” although he’s getting bigger every day. One more year of elementary school before he goes on to middle school! I can’t believe it!

It’s nice to see that even though he is the wee one in our house, he has great relations with all. Everyone loves Sam! I have noticed though, that he and Josh seemed to have a forged tighter bond – as they are the “littles” in our house, so are often the ones just hanging out and will often head out to play some soccer or basketball together. Such cuteness.

There are many things I love about Sam, here are the top 11:

  1. His energy! He is filled with it. All the time!
  2. His positivity and enthusiasm. Maybe I could say that it seems that he is so positive and enthusiastic because he is still young and fresh, but this has been a consistent trait of his throughout the years!
  3. His teachability. He absorbs things like a sponge. He hears it and then wants to apply it. What an awesome trait to have!
  4. His desire to do better in things. He wants to do more and he knows when he can do more!
  5. His desire to be like his older brothers. Sam was made Captain of his soccer team and he was thrilled, partly because he was Captain now, just like ZachJ
  6. His quickness. I love how speedy he is (although he can take more time on school things his teachers say!) and his quick thinking
  7. His eating habits. He will eat pretty much everything – you never have to worry about him!
  8. His gratitude. He is always the first to say thank you – for everything – for the small, the big and everything in between
  9. His independence. He gets by doing so many things on his own (benefit of being child 5, I guess!)
  10. His Spirit and closeness to the Spirit. He is a shining light.
  11. His sportiness – he is eager and willing to always play a sport – and does a good job at it!

Yes, Sam is an awesome little guy and we love him an absolute ton.

Happy Birthday Sam!

A few pics:

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Sam requested homemade ice-cream sandwiches with chocolate chip cookies for his bday dessert – we had them when he had his party. This was a bonus cake!

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Love his face reading a card! ^^^

Happy 18th Gabe

Need to press pause in our travel stories, as it’s a big day today — Gabe turns 18!!!

18! Holy Cow! That’s crazy!

I met Gabe when he was 9 – so that means I have known him for double his age!

He has grown from a cute little 9 year old, into a great young man! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. He just graduated from high school, and is going to head off to University in the winter, after spending some time trying to save some money.

18 things that I love about Gabe:

  1. He is FUNNY. He makes us all laugh so hard.
  2. How he loves to debate and gets really passionate about topics
  3. His smile – he’s a cutie
  4. His love of technology – not the using it part, but the understanding it:))
  5. His passion for investments and finance
  6. His love of cars and knowledge about them
  7. His relationship with his brothers. They are so funny together and I love how they share secrets
  8. How he often offers to help with anything that needs to be done around the house
  9. How he leaves his clothes all over his bedroom floor. Just kidding.
  10. How he sleeps in his bed upside down so he and Zach can have good nighttime chats and see each other
  11. His ability to work a crowd and get to know people
  12. How he can be very focused and intense on things he desires
  13. His ability to impersonate and tell stories. He really is a story teller.
  14. His ability to jump into almost any conversation and contribute
  15. His curiosity – he likes to learn new things and find new things
  16. When he like a certain meal, he loves to eat it right up and thoroughly enjoy it
  17. I love hearing him bless the sacrament at church – even better when he does it with his Dad
  18. I love the kindness in him and how similar to his Dad he is in so many ways!

Happy, Happy Birthday Gabe! This is a big year for you – but one that I know will be memorable and a time for growth, adventure and smiles.

We love you tons and tons. So glad you are part of our family.

xox

A few pics to remember the day:

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Brownies are his fave ^^^

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Funny boy ^^^