27 October 2016

Another Day in Germany...

Another Throwback Thursday!

I guess if we have enough long layovers here, I will be able to speak collectively about my "week" in Germany.
Day 1, December 2010. Day 2, July 2015.

We went back to Mainz because we missed the Gutenberg Museum the last time around and because we also wanted to see what it looks like not covered in snow and Christmas decor.

We chose a 12 hour layover on purpose in order to make the most of the trek around the globe. Even though extra time makes the trip longer, it actually can make it better as well. Our first flight was overnight from Orlando to Frankfurt. We spent all day outside the airport, stretching our legs, seeing some sites, and staying awake. By the time the next long haul came to take us to Asia, we were ready for the flight and the kids slept great on the plane. Even if you can't afford a long stopover vacation, see if you can move flight times around so airport fever won't over take you. I would MUCH rather spend 12 hours shuffling in and out of an airport and onto a train, even with 5 little people in tow, than say, spending 4 hours in an airport trying to keep them entertained. It's not always possible, but it's always worth a try!

Because remember: It only counts if you leave the airport.

It's still lovely. (see this same square at Christmastime)

And the museum with it's ridiculously old and gorgeous Gutenberg bibles on display (along with other old books...like St. Augustine's work on the trinity!) had my history geek-o-meter in the red zone.

Plus some gelato and a cool fountain to splash in on a warm summer day after a long plane ride, is tops as far as traveling with little people goes.

Maybe next time it will be Spring or Fall! 

20 October 2016

Mainz, Germany (in a day)

Full-tilt Throwback Thursday.

December 2010 we were headed to Malaysia from Florida and our route was through Frankfurt, Germany.

These are cracking me up! Only two children and, ahem, before Anthony started running. These were also taken before we got our "big" camera. There is no "lack" however when I look at these. That was a fun day!

When travel itineraries hand you Europe, you make long layovers out of it.

We had never been to Europe so even just a few hours around the FREEZING cold streets of the lovely city of Mainz was worth it!

Other than being woefully underlayered for the chill, the public transportation was easy enough to figure out and the cheer of authentic German Christmas markets made our day out quite lovely.

This trip was actually when Anthony upped the interest on photography and video editing. He's come a long way, but here is a video we made of our last night in Florida with family and friends, our day in Germany, and landing back in Malaysia.

Going Back from Anthony Rivers on Vimeo.

30 September 2016

Five Children, One Bedroom

So... about me not ever updating the blog.

See, what had happened is that I'm so used to living here that I forget what is supposed to appeal to the outside world. What parts can and should I share?

Those are actually huge questions. So I can, and do, bury them under a pile of seven people's laundry.

Do you want to see pictures from our trip to Bali?
How bout the roti place we go to on Saturday mornings?
Do you even know what roti is? Would you care if I told you?

You get me? So. Sorry about the long pauses between posts.

Here's one I think you may find interesting:

We put all five of our children in one bedroom.

Ages 1 year through 8 years. Boys and girls. Same room.

I'm not saying it's revolutionary, but it does bring up an answer to an oft-asked question...

"How do you do it?" (I assume they mean raise 5 kids and keep my sanity)

At this point, the answer is, "Sleep is important." Its that simple.

If you can get children to sleep through the night, I'm convinced it would solve like 1000% of parenting anxieties...at least in parenting little ones.

And that's what we've got a whole lot of around here. Little people. They are fantastic and are also still young enough that seeing them sleeping in their beds is still the sweetest part of their fantasticness.

We start young at letting them learn to go back to sleep on their own. If you'd like details I can explain further if you leave a comment.

I realize there are many many deeply held beliefs about sleep. I live smack dab in the middle of a culture where kids sleeping in their own beds and not with parents or in parents' rooms is not the norm, I know the opposing views. I get told differing views.

I do not care.

Sleep is important. My sleep. Their sleep. Our sleep. Everyone's sleep.
Parenting is way easier when you get your Zzzz's. (do NOT look at the crooked pictures. It's a kids' room! Just be glad I got them to clean under their beds before taking the pictures and that we didn't zoom in on the boogers on the walls.)

For clarification, they are in the "master" bedroom in our house. We decided we didn't need the big room and that these last few years are the only chance we'd ever have if we wanted them to all share a room.

But I promise we still the masters round here.

Now on to the benefits that I wasn't expecting.

First, there's the shared responsibility of cleaning the room. They all help. Which is nice.
Then there's the extra guest bedroom that is always freed up. Also nice.

Only one air conditioner to run at night in a city with ridiculous electric prices. A plus. 

Bath time and bed time and getting ready times are a bit more contained because they're all in a central location. (I know. I want a matching rug in front of the wardrobes too. Tell that to the expensive import store that doubled the price when I went back to get the matching one!)

When we tuck them in at night they're all there together. Family prayers, reading aloud, and just being together one last time before sleep every night is a great conclusion to each day.

And lastly there has been so much sibling bonding. Mostly in the form of the older kids giving some sort of comfort to the younger ones. We've found them all in differing beds in the mornings and the reasons given are usually in the, "Birdie was scared." or "I was hot in my bed." or "Isaiah said I could sleep up there with him." Friendship and bargaining and comfort and living life together. It's quite adorable.

It's not all perfect and it won't keep forever. But I am so glad we've done it this way.

09 April 2016

Death Cake: Grandmother and a Recipe

Grandmother's living room circa 1955 and circa 2016
"I had a casserole ready for dinner and just decided to go ahead and take it over there. When I got to the house, there were no other cars there so I thought for sure, this time I had beat her to it." said Mrs. Cindy to me one Sunday morning before church started. "And when I walked in the kitchen, there was her Death Cake! Already there! He just died last night!" and she laughed. She wasn't laughing at the family who had just lost a loved one. No, she was laughing at the seeming impossible task of beating her friend, my Grandmother, Ernestine, to a grieving family's home with food.


That's actually what we all had to call her. In her thick Southern US accent she'd say, "I'll not have any of y'all be embarrassed by what you call me. I was SO embarrassed to say 'Big Mama' in front of my friends when I was younger." I never did tell her that my friends actually thought "Grandmother" was a bit odd and so her plan to save me from embarrassment didn't really come off like she had hoped.

2012 Nearly all the Great-Grands. (2 of mine were not yet born)
 But back to the Death Cake.

It's a simple recipe. One Grandmother would mix up in batches, bake and freeze. Then pop one out of the freezer and ice it whenever she needed to take a food item somewhere like a shower, church potluck, or most famously, to the home of a grieving family in our community.

It's how the Death Cake got it's name.

Like lightning that scrumptious yellow cake would show up on your doorstep in her hands. She was so consistent in this that somewhere along the line the cake got a moniker it couldn't shake. She'd make like she wanted us to stop calling it that, but I think she thought it was funny. Her act of being dedicated to those around her. Loving and coming alongside in the saddest of moments. Faithfully.
Family on her 88th Birthday. She died a few days before her 89th.

As I write this I'm confounded and proud all at once. The woman did not shy away from a grief-stricken soul. She wasn't scared. This woman who literally lived in the same small town her entire 89 years because she didn't like to travel ('cept for that one time my Granddaddy talked her into going to Hawaii) didn't blink when it came to deathbeds. And for that I'm amazed and love her all the more.

So when my sister was with her on Grandmother's own deathbed, it didn't surprise me to hear that she was ready to go. Unafraid. After a coughing fit she looked up at my sister and said, "I just wanna fly away!" She was ready to meet her Lord.


Sitting on the edge of her lifetime, looking out in hope, sure that relief was coming.

Granted, yes, she was a frail, elderly woman. But when I think about the condition of her soul, it had only grown stronger through her almost 9 decades. So many many days she put her feet in front of the other and walked through joy, and laughter and pain and loss while constantly turning to her Bible to hear from her Friend and King. So much life lived. So much proof to my watching eyes that the grandest of lives are the ones lived with hope that does not fade. Hope makes a difference and she was thankful for it.

February 2016
And I am so thankful for her. For raising my dad to be the incredible man he is. For having the kind of home that was appealing to my teenaged mom when she went for dinner while my parents were dating. My mom has told me at one point she had to ask herself if she was attracted to my dad for him or for his family. I want my family to have a dinner table like that. I want to live so faithfully that people do not hesitate to associate me with the God I claim to love. His presence evident in my life. I could go on and on (my oldest son Isaac just came in and found me crying. After I explained and told him about how Grandmother's funeral was so full that not everyone could fit inside the church and how I wanted to be like her in how much she loved people and loved Jesus...he told me his own story about a Lego invention he had built and took out to show her last year when we were in Florida and how she loved it...and now I'm REALLY crying...)

With Isaac, 2012
Instead, I'll share with you her Death Cake recipe. It's not a family secret, but it is a family treasure, and it's the kind that's best when shared.  (Sorry, international-developing-country-dwelling friends... it calls for Cool Whip, plus other canned items. I have plans to take a cooler with me on my next trip to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore and get a couple containers. I'll share some Death Cake if you come stay with me!)

Recipe in Grandmother's hand. Not super neat but so familiar all the same. One Christmas I, Sharon, got a lazer tag game and my cousin Shawn got some Care Bear Roller skates. She started adding our middle names to her Christmas presents after that.
My sister and cousins nearly done frosting a (doubled) Death Cake shortly after her death last month

Pineapple Cake, Affectionately known As Death Cake

4 Eggs
1/2 Cup Crisco Oil (Vegetable Oil)
1 can mandarin oranges
1 box of Duncan Hines yellow butter cake mix (probably any yellow cake mix would work)

Mix together, pour into 2 greased cake pans, bake @ 350F/180C for 25 minutes (3 cake pans if you double the recipe)

1 Can crushed pineapples
Mix in 2 packs of vanilla instant pudding.
Mix in 1, 8oz tub of Cool Whip