Who we are and where we come from

As the world around us gets further and further from the beliefs that we have James and I feel very strongly that it is important for our kids to know more of who we are and where we come from. There are many who aren't aware of the religious persecution that the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or Mormons faced. Religious freedoms are hanging by a thread in our nation now and I want my kids to know that their very own ancestors have faced trials and hardships to stand firmly in their faith. Unless you have had the opportunity to go to Nauvoo and see and feel the strength of the pioneers it is difficult to put it into words. We had a fantastic time walking the streets of Nauvoo and seeing how the early Latter-Day Saints lived before they were driven from their homes in the dead of winter and forced to leave everything they owned behind just to worship freely. We took the opportunity to participate in a family handcart trek. We had signed up for the two mile route but because of weather and safety issues that route was closed. So we set out on the 1 mile route and before we knew it we were pushing a handcart through a stream and up a muddy embankment. It took about 10 minutes before Holli and Mark jumped out of the handcart because the trail was so muddy their weight made it too difficult to push/pull. Which was fine since they both wanted to help anyway. By the time we finished everyone was muddy, sweaty and tired it was everything I hoped it would be for the family.......a small glimpse at the struggles of those who paved the way for us.

Blacksmiths, tin shops, bakery, printing press, gun shop... Nauvoo has it all along with real life accounts of what it was to live in the early days of our Church. Not only did we get to see and experience all of that but we were able to watch the Nauvoo Pageant and the British Pageant both which tell the stories of early Latter-Day Saints.

We felt the faith of those who had lived there and left behind a legacy of courage and faith. Our kids are lucky enough to have living examples of loved ones who have joined our Church against the odds but this trip was to focus on Church History. We stood by the very jail cell in Liberty where Joseph Smith and others were held for months. We saw the very same door that bullets ripped through in Carthage jail as the mob martyred Jospeh and Hyrum Smith. This was much more than a family vacation, it was a chance to see and feel what our ancestors went through in order to worship our Father in Heaven. I truly believe that the time is coming where we will be tested and tried and I hope my kids can look back to this trip and remember that others have faced tremendous hardships and trials but those are the moments that define us and that we can get through them by relying on our Savior, Jesus Christ.


On the Road again couldn't wait to get on the road again

I love a good well planned road trip. Luckily James does too and even better for me is that my kids get just as excited about a good road trip. We are so grateful for our time overseas because we were able to see so many fantastic places. Ever since we moved back we have all been feeling a little bit restless and anxious to go and do something to satisfy our itch for exploring the world around us. So we decided a couple weeks ago to plan a road trip and head out on a Church History tour. There are so many amazing stories in both of our families about ancestors who faced religious persecution for their beliefs that we wanted to show our children why we talk about the Mormon pioneers with gratitude and respect. They endured so much in their lives just to worship how they wanted. So it seems only fitting that for Pioneer Day we take our own family on a trek to discover a little bit of history and hopefully a better understanding of where we came from and who we are.

I can only imagine in my head how difficult it was to pack a family and head out across the unknown with a handcart and only what we could fit inside of it. It's not the lack of stuff that is hard for me to imagine it's how to fit basic needs for a family our size into a space that small.  As I was packing and preparing for this trip the thought kept going through my head "I wonder what the Pioneers would think of all this?" We told the kids we were going electronic free except once it gets dark. So I did my best to be creative and plan activities and songs and games to keep everyone in good spirits. Because at least if you were bugged with your siblings as a pioneer you could maybe walk a little faster or slower to get some space, but in Tiny there is NOWHERE to hide. We have been rehearsing our pioneer hymns to sing while we do a short 2 mile family handcart trek once we are in Nauvoo.

I am not really a fan of being that family who pulls up to get gas and everyone stands there watching you all pile out counting like a clown car only to have each person kick trash and junk out the door as they jump out. So everybody gets one cinch bag for their entertainment and water bottle in hopes to keep the stares and gawking to a minimum. We are only traveling for 10 days I can't even imagine 3 months like they endured.

So far we have only had 1 car seat filling diaper blowout and 1 lost tooth. Hopefully the tooth fairy has her act together enough to find the hotel room. I know there will be plenty of other "fun" things that happen before we roll back into the driveway but honestly those moments make the trips so memorable. We stopped off for a night in Dallas to see amazing friends who we haven't seen in about 3 years. Way too much laughing and not nearly enough sleep makes for a fabulous pit stop. Now we are hanging around Oklahoma City for a couple days to see James parents who are serving a mission right now. We love getting to spend time with friends and family.



We frequently have discussions around here about the meaning of normal. I am constantly telling my kids that we are normal. If you hear something enough times then you start to believe it is true. So this week was just another "normal" week around our house. By that I mean: 1 ER trip, 3 stitches, 1 return trip to the ER, 1 ruptured eardrum, 1 day trip to/from College Station to drop girls off at camp, 1 busted pool pump, visits with friends, visits with cousins, 2 sleepovers at grandmas house, 1 clean house, packing and organizing for a long road trip, a date night, 1 driving lesson and that's just the not everyday type stuff. So what's your "normal" week look like? 

Repatriation Anniversary

Time flies when you are having fun.......or so they say. One year ago we boarded the plane in Amsterdam and flew home. I foolishly imagined slipping back into our lives in Houston right where we left off. It doesn't really work that way, we changed, friends changed, life changed.  This year may not have been all fun and games but definitely flew by and was over before we knew it. It took awhile for the whole family to feel settled back into life and just about the time everyone finally felt like life was normal we welcomed Emma into the family. What a wonderful blessing she has been.  If you know me then you know that I truly believe that a baby sister or brother is the perfect medicine for teenage angst. Babies make everyone step outside themselves long enough to see someone else's needs and put those needs before their own. Toddlers make the best jokes timed perfectly to bring a frustrated teenager to tears of laughter. Like when 5 year old Holli yells " #nofighting" when big sisters are bickering, everybody laughs no matter how grumpy they were before she chimed into the drama. So while our year has been full of adjustments, drama, sadness it has also been full of love, joy, and happiness. We are ALL glad to be home now. And we are all so very grateful for the memories we made, the friendships we gained and the lessons we learned. Hopefully we will be blessed with the opportunity to try out living in another country again and if we do we will jump in feet first ready to embrace all the ups and downs that comes with living abroad.

I don't know how great I will be at blogging but I am trying to get back into it. Unless of course I figure out by looking at my stats that nobody is actually reading and then I might as well write in my journal ????.  












Things I learned as an Expat

So a little background information for those of you who haven't known us forever. James lived as an expat as a middle schooler and loved it so he has always wanted the same kind of experience for our family. I grew up in Victoria, TX from the time I was 5 until I left for Texas A&M. The first time I flew on a plane was my junior year in high school for a band trip. So needless to say he and I lived very different lives until we got married. I always knew that he would move us abroad for awhile. I just don't know that I knew what I was signed up for exactly. I made a list of things I have learned by living abroad and yes given the chance I would do it all again!

1. It's not all romantic traveling to exotic places and amazing historical sites. Sometimes it just flat out sucks. Sometimes you just want to curl up on the couch and pretend you are back in your old house surrounded by the things you know and love.

2. You will meet many people who will feel like family but you may never see again after you move.

3. The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" is truer than you think. Nothing feels as good as a random phone call from someone back at home even when you miss the call or don't have time to talk. It's nice to not feel forgotten.

4. Absence makes the heart grow fonder----yes it does I have never loved Target and Wal-Mart more

5. Your family can be your best friends and are with you no matter what happens.

6. The time of day in your home country when everyone is posting on social media becomes a time you look forward in your day. For me it was 3:30-5pm I loved seeing what was going on back home.

7. You really can learn to love a new country and culture with all it's differences just as much as the one you left behind. I love the Netherlands and I will always hold it dear to my heart.

8. There is so much to learn in this big beautiful world. All the differences that Heavenly Father put on this Earth make it a truly amazing place to live.

9. A batch of freshly made cookies that smell like home can make even the saddest kids perk right up and help them to feel like home again.

10. You won't go back the same person if you let yourself take it all in and become a better you. I know that we are all stronger as individuals and as a family unit.

I love that we were able to see and do so much in the two short years we have lived in The Netherlands. I feel so blessed to have gotten to know the people who we can now call our friends. I am also grateful that we are now moving to be by good friends and family again. So now as we are just days away from moving back my heart and head are full of bittersweet emotions. My kids also have mixed feelings and I wish we could have it all......the great experiences and growth from learning all that we have learned without the sadness that comes with leaving a new place you love and new friends you love. But since we can't have it all we will be grateful as we move forward with smiles and wipe the tears of sadness away as the tears of happiness flow to be HOME.

Venice and Pisa


We started out the weekend in Venice. What a lovely city! Now having said that I think it would be much more charming and romantic without kids and NOT in the summertime during tourist season. I have seen The Bachelorette taking 7 kids to Venice is nothing like that at all, just saying. The water was busy so some of my kids didn't love the Gondola ride because they thought it might tip over. But the water taxi, that's a whole other story. They could have just ridden in a water taxi the whole weekend and been completely happy.

We found a quaint little apartment to rent and walked and shopped and ate and walked and ate some more. The fresh markets were amazing.

Since it was Lainey's birthday she got to pick dinner the first night in Venice. First one to guess where we ate gets a prize....let's just say James was glad the TV screens didn't have the usual videos on but instead they were playing the Italy World Cup match. Which was really fun to watch with locals even though they lost.

Pizza made on focaccia bread is my new favorite and I am pretty sure when we move back I will figure out a great recipe and only make it that way from now on at home. And I will cut it in bite sized squares and serve it with sticks.

We found a fantastic playground and played a rousing game of family hide-n-seek Which entertained some grandparents out with their grandson.

Two nights in Venice then a train ride over to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. We felt very Amazing Raceish hanging out on top of our backpacks at the train station before we left Venice. A quick afternoon in Pisa then we flew home which included most of the family climbing the tower while some of us stayed at the bottom--based on age--, a taxi driver nearly running over a Russian tour group and some very cold slushies on a hot afternoon.