Friday, May 30, 2014


For Memorial day we wanted to go somewhere special.  Memorial day has become a day that people remember the dead, but it was actually started after the Civil War to remember the fallen soldiers that had given their lives in that bloody fight.  It became a day to remember all fallen soldiers after World War 1.  I keep getting it mixed up with Veteran's day which is a day to remember all those who have served.  So for this Memorial day, we took the opportunity to drive 9 hours across France and visit Normandy.  We tried to make it to each of the beaches.  We went to Utah first

 and St. Mere Eglise where there is still a mannequin hanging on the church from a parachute.

At least one, if not two guys, got caught on those spires as they came down out of the sky.  Both were capture by German's but managed to escape in the general confusion.  St. Mere Eglise was under Allied control by 6 am.  We also made it to Point Du Hoc (where the Ranger's had to scale the cliffs to get to the big guns) and Omaha beach that day.

We had a former medic who landed on Omaha beach in our ward in Shelley.  He came to tell the kids about his experience one fireside and most of them weren't even paying attention.  I figured they didn't understand the history.  Omaha beach was the bloodiest of all the beaches.  While control of the other beaches was taken within half a day by the allies, Omaha was still pinned down getting fired at continuously until after 6 pm.  Of their 2000+ shipments of ammo that were supposed to come to them, only 100 made it- so basically they were sitting ducks!  We ended the day by going to see the American Cemetery.

They were building a stage and putting up chairs for performances both on Sunday and Monday.  We met the guys glee club from Miami University that was singing at the wreath laying ceremony on Monday.  I wish we could have stayed to hear it, but as it was we didn't get home until 8 pm.

It was all decorated for Memorial day.  The area is beautiful and overlooks the water.  The crosses and stars of David are all perfectly straight and beautiful white marble.  Two of the 4 brother's that the Saving Private Ryan movie is based on, are there.  Also there is a little museum that tells you about a few of the others in the Cemetery.  There are a father and son- what a horrible day that must have been for the poor mother and wife at home.  There are at least 2 Generals.  One was killed in the attack, the other one was Teddy Roosevelt's son.  He went with his men into the fighting and made it through, but then died 6 weeks later of a heart attack.
The next day we went to see the Pegasus bridge by Sword beach.

It was the first thing that was taken.  British Paratroopers took it.  I guess the "taking of it" wasn't the hard part, it was the "keeping control of it, so that the German's couldn't counter attack" that was the hard part.  There were at least two major attacks by the German's to try to regain control, before the few men that were holding it, got any reinforcements.  Then we went to Juno beach (the Canadian beach) and skipped rocks in the English Channel.  The beaches are all so serene and beautiful.   They are quiet and you can hear the sea gulls calling and the water lapping.  In a world full of fighting and horrible things, seeing my boys and their father skip rocks at a beach with so much significance gives me hope.

Our last beach was Gold beach where you can still see remains of port Winston- the biggest man made port.

During all this fighting they sunk a bunch of old ships, which had come over on their own power.  The engineers then laid stuff on top and fixed anti-aircraft guns on them to protect it.  One of the reasons the German's thought there wouldn't be an attack there, was because there is no natural harbor.  Winston Churchill was the one who came up with the idea to create an artificial one.  They created one on Omaha too, but there was a really bad storm 11 days after the fighting that dislodged it.
The final thing we saw was the gun battery at Longues Sur Mer.

These big guns are the only ones left where they were.  They could shoot in a 12 mile arc- hitting Omaha and Gold beaches.  There are huge craters everywhere, because the Allies tried to bomb those targets over and over, before the landing.  One of the bunkers was hit and they still have the gun in shambles inside of the partially ruined bunker.  
Two others are still intact.  We also got to see the forward observers bunker and told the kids that that is what their Grandpa was in the Vietnam war.  People had commented on-line about families that let their kids run in the craters and how disrespectful they thought it was, since it was basically considered a burial place for many people.  I tried to keep the kids subdued, because I didn't want to offend anyone, but in the end I just couldn't stop them from running those craters and climbing on the bunkers.  Maybe it's because, to me, it is another sign of hope for a better life, a new beginning, life after death, that things can be beautiful again.  If they wanted to run and laugh in a cemetery, I would let them too, as long as it wasn't rowdy.  I would definitely control rowdy!
To cap off our trip, we ran down to Mont St. Michel.

This is an island at high tide.  Because of the causeway they built so us, pilgrims don't have to cross the mile or so of mudflats and quicksand, they have stopped the water.  They are in the process of building a bridge and getting rid of the causeway.

We didn't get to see much of it, though, because we had to run right back and see our friends the Bedell's, who we knew in Ohio and who have moved to Germany also.  They live 3 hours away from us, so we don't see them often, but they just happened to be in Normandy at the same time.  We had a lovely dinner with them (except for the eggs and stinky cheese.)

On our way home, we stopped at Giverny and walked through Claude Monet's home and famous gardens.

I have always loved the lily pond pictures and the Japanese bridge picture, so of course we had to buy prints of those.  Emma also got a hair clip with the water lilies on it.  Everyone complimented her on it.  I tried to get Emma to take a picture of Rob and I on the bridge, but Sam thought that he should be able to take the picture, so he annoyed her so much that she could only get two quick pictures- neither of which came out awesome!  Darn Sam!

Besides the French tolls, which were over $100, I really got an appreciation for the beauty of France.  It is a gorgeous, rural place.  We didn't see a soul most of the time, except at the monuments, but all the fields are beautiful and straight and the places are clean and neat, so someone must be doing something at sometime!  It was quite the contrast to Paris, which is big and dirty.  I suppose it is like  people who come to visit the United States and only go to New York and/or LA.  We went around Paris on our way home and we took a fly-by picture of the Eiffel tower, because the rest of the family said they were done with France.

It was mostly due to the food, I think.  The whole idea of the French making the best food, was proven false by us!  There was raw eggs on everything- pasta, pizza, calzones, crepes.  They serve raw hamburger with a raw egg on top.  Seriously!  Disgusting!  We quickly learned the word for egg and tried to remember to ask for no egg, but Rob forgot the last time.  I also decided to try some of their famous cheese in a salad.  It tasted like what B.O. smells like.  I pushed it all to the side and enjoyed the rest of the salad.  We watched Ratatouille on the way home and wished we had found that amazing French restaurant.  Hopefully, one of these days we can make it to Paris, but I think it has moved way down on the bucket list.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ramblings of our Busy Life

Busy, busy, busy.  When teachers get tired of school and start counting down the days, they don't realize that we, as parents, are doing the same thing.  Oh, I remember dreading Summertime.  The kids seemed to always be so bored.  But now, Summer is a huge reprieve.  Right now we are doing science fair projects, sign ups for next year, track, track and track, ACT's, AP testing, projects and more projects,

Marshmallow catapult
finals, merit badges, seminary- (oh seminary why do you have to be so early!) and more.  All while dealing with PCS season in full swing.  If you are not military you probably have no idea what that means.  As a member of the RS presidency that means that things are getting busier and busier for me.  I am starting to check things off the list, though- science fair project done (today!),

 AP testing done, down to one last track meet- yeah!  That darn ACT is just hanging out there, though, taunting me.  That won't be done until after school ends.
We have a holiday weekend coming up, but when you live in Europe, you don't relax on a holiday weekend.  Nope, we are planning on quite the whirlwind trip and here is a hint of where we are going.  We are watching "The Longest Day" with John Wayne to get the kids prepped.  It seemed appropriate for Memorial Day Weekend.
Our latest track meet at Schweinfurt took all day.
A very fuzzy picture of me and one of the other coaches timing two relay teams (with splits) simultaneously- because we are awesome like that. 
 We left at 5:30 am and didn't get home until 8:30 pm.  Sam and I both flopped on the couch and didn't move until Dad said, "time for bed!"  Sam had an extra hard meet.
This is actually at the K-town track meet .  I think this is actually a 400, too, but you get the point. 

 He decided to pass the only guy he was competing against in the 800m on the back straight away.  I was there mumbling, "too early, too early" and timing him.  I could tell by the kid's speed that he wasn't going to fall back and I knew Sam was in for it.  Sure enough, the kid just windbreaks off of Sam until the straight away and then it is a full out 100 meter dead sprint.  Sam won by a half of his foot and brought his personal best down to 2:28, but he was hacking up a lung for some time afterwards.  Luckily there was absolutely no one to compete against in the 4x400 and our kids just kind of jogged it and picked up their 1st place ribbon.  Sam said, he couldn't possibly have run it normally, anyway.  He was going as fast as he could - 20 seconds slower than he normally runs it.

Emma is all signed up for the Red Cross and is now President of the official Red Cross club at her school- and yes, there are more than just her as members!  She is also signed up to be an ambassador at the school, but they have to have interviews to "get in!"  She also got her Prom ticket, finally.  Her friends harassed her until she did it.  She had been asked by her stalker (and this stalker is starting to freak me out a little!) and she had told him she was already going with someone, so she didn't want to go at all, but her friends convinced her.  It's going to be 6 or 7 girls and 3 guys.  That should be interesting.  I told her the most fun I ever had at a Prom was the time I went stag, so hopefully it won't be a repeat of Homecoming when she called me to pick her up 4 less than an hour after I dropped her off.
Max had a great track meet this last Friday.  Dad stayed and was a timer for the meet, while I took Emma to a dance at the church.  I did get to watch one race- the 200.
This was from his 1st meet and not the 2nd one, but same thing- someone was in front of him almost the whole way and then he put all his effort in to zooming at the last minute and beat them.
That is Max's best one and he won his heat with a lot of extra effort.  That poor kid was hacking up a lung afterwards, too!  He has allergies so badly, he is never not congested.  I am taking him in again to see if we can't change his medicine.
Joseph was Joseph Smith for his living museum and he gives his friends Book of Mormon's all the time.  He really amazes me, because usually he is the quiet, not really into competing, middle child whom I have to make a concerted effort to give hugs and loves every day so he doesn't feel left out.  He just does his own thing, most of the time.  Unfortunately, he is also the absent-minded professor, so it's been nice to have a teacher that constantly sends out emails about things that are coming up that are due.  It's the only way we would have gotten all those book reports, living museum and science fair projects in!  And he has had a ton of them!  Book reports due every 3 weeks this year- oy vey!
Ya- so that whole summer thing- totally an illusion, but at least there is no getting up early.   We have a cruise this summer, we have girl's camp and scout camps and by August we will have try-outs and conditioning.  Sam is already signed up for conditioning and weight training and Lacrosse camp starting in June.  Joe is going to be signed up for golf and Max swimming.  But at least there is no 5:20 wake up call to go to seminary!!!  And Dad's favorite part- no bedtime and lots of sun and tons of kids running around on the different parks all around our house.  Love it!