Friday, April 13, 2012

2012 in Paris!

There were beautiful photos of German castles and villages on the walls of our apartment and we were thinking of driving to the famous, Neuschwanstein Castle (the one Walt Disney based Sleeping Beauty's castle on)...but looking at the map, it was about a 6 hour drive north from where we were staying...

So, then we realized we were only a 4 hour drive from Paris and since Paris is my favorite place in the entire world, and since we wanted to start the new year off, true to our 2012 motto, "The Best is Yet to Come" based on the verse, 1 Corinthians 2:9 "Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for those who love Him", we decided there wasn't a better place to be than the City of Lights on New Years Day!

So, off we went...

It was an adventurous ride as it began to rain pretty heavily and the windshield wipers STOPPED working...we made some detours to try to swap the car out with dealers along the way, but since it was NEW YEARS DAY, everything was closed...Thankfully, the rain slowed and we got to Paris safely, where our rental car company swapped us out for a new car at Orly Airport, but again, and continually, God showed us how carefully he watches us.

Paris was incredible. We arrived just as night fell and checked into our hotel. Johann worked his magic as he is so well equipped at doing, and scored us a room with a view of the Eiffel Tower. The girls and I oooohhhed and ahhed each time it glittered every hour on the hour. We dropped our bags off in the room and headed to the Eiffel Tower to see it sparkle up close and while there ate some delicious crepes, sausages and FRENCH fries!

It was a magical night. My favorite New Years by FAR!

The next morning we got up bright and early to eat breakfast at a lovely cafe...the girls were excited for their fresh baguettes avec buerre et jus d'orange (which they have been talking about since our last trip to Paris) and Johann and I enjoyed our quiche lorraines and cafe au lait!

After breakfast we walked to the Hotel de Ville where there was an ice skating rink!!! Johann took the girls skating while I snapped pictures and laughed at their efforts to stay up right! Still recovering from surgery, I decided to keep my two feet on the ground! The girls said this was the highlight of their trip!

We walked from the skating rink, along the Seine River to Notre Dame...

Praying in a church like Notre Dame really gives you a sense of awe and wonder at the hugeness and majesty of God. I think sometimes it's easy to get very casual with God when we worship in our churches at home, but the builders of the ancient cathedrals knew what they were doing to build such glorious tributes as a place of worship. I am honored to have been able to kneel there and worship my God!

Nutella and Banana crepes on our way back to the car and hotel for a little nap...

That evening we drove to the Champs Ellysee for dinner at this delicious sushi restaurant! We sat and grabbed plate after plate as the fresh sushi went by via conveyor belt!! Then to Haagen Daaz for dessert. Mmmmmm!!!! We walked the Christmas markets along the avenue...even riding the ginormous ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde! (Against Rayna's wishes!) And finally a post midnight snack at Le McDonald's :-) before retiring to bed on our last night in Paris.

In the morning, we slept in a bit, and then had brunch in the Latin Quarter by the Sorbonne...Croque Monsieurs all around! We took a long stroll through the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens and let the girls play in the large playground before taking the 4 hour trip back to Germany.

Happy New Year Indeed!!!

More pix of Germany!

Here are some more highlights from our trip to Germany...

Driving to the medical center each morning...which was on top of a mountain and overlooked this charming, snow covered village below...

The hospital...Childcare center for the girls...

Scenes of Heidelberg...

Taking the girls to Build-a-Bear to create one of their Christmas presents...

Rayna adopted "German" and Reese adopted "Chicha" (above)

Reese making a snow angel in the freshly fallen snow!

Me and Ray in the fanciest Starbucks we've ever seen! Heidelberg, Germany!

R&R diving into a bowl of scrumptious pasta for was Reese's dish...Rayna got this amazing Risotto...she ate that TOO!

Picking through the 75 flavors of hot buy the solid mass of flavored chocolate on a spoon and you get a steaming cup of milk to mix them up...delicious!!

Good times!!!

Christmas (and surgery) in Germany!

So, in November I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the lovely folks at Naval Hospital Rota sent me (Johann, Reese and Rayna) packing to Landstuhl, Germany (the biggest military hospital in Europe) for further tests and surgery.

We left for the airport at 0'dark thirty, the morning after the Polar Express, to fly from Jerez de la Frontera to Madrid. As is custom for this flight out of Jerez, it was an hour late and we missed our connector to Frankfurt. The folks in Madrid were kind to us and gave us vouchers for meals and we posted up until the afternoon flight into Germany...the girls are SUCH wonderful travelers! They never whined or complained the entire trip.

It was dark when we got into Frankfurt, but we were quickly shown our rental car and on to the infamous "Autobahn" on our way to Ramstein Air Force Base where we were going to be staying during our time in Germany. We had NO idea what a treat we were in for...

The Ramstein base is a small "American" city...I specify "American" because it had all the luxuries of home...A Macaroni Grill restaurant, for instance...a Chili's, a Popeye's Chicken and Waffles, a Cinnabon...this may seem insignificant to you, but for us, living in Spain with only a bootleg KFC/Taco Bell, it was like manna from heaven! They also have a huge shopping mall, a multiplex theater, and many other amenities that were such a treat to us!

And all of that in gorgeous, snow covered Germany!!! When I say Germany was gorgeous, I mean, it was breathtakingly gorgeous! It began to snow the evening we arrived and we woke up to a lovely blanket of snow and the girls HAD to run out and play in it. The apartment we stayed in on base too was just a blessing! It was wonderful! The girls had their own room, Yo and I had our own room, we had a huge living room, dining room and a full kitchen where we made ourselves at home for 3 weeks and where I was able to rest and recuperate post op.

And the people of Ramstein were Ah-MAZING!!! The motto for the airbase was, "Selfless Service" and I tell you, the men and women we came into contact at Ramstein and Landstuhl were the most selfless, caring, wonderful people I have had the privilege of meeting. The medical team were so professional and caring and totally Rockstars! My Surgeon, Dr. Clifford Porter was the Chief of Surgery and he gave me such wonderful care. He took me on like his own daughter,giving Johann and I a grand tour when we first arrived, checking on me in pre-ops, answering all our questions, performing my surgery and overseeing my recovering! And my oncologist, Dr. Penelope Harris, who ordered all my tests and labs (and arranged for us to have them (CTs, MRIs, etc.) with the results, during the Christmas holiday in the same day, was incredible), she walked me through my diagnosis and recommended treatment options and was an angel in disguise - crying with me and praying for me. I felt the very presence of God and His mighty Hand taking care of each and every detail. And there were SCORES of others who were so generous with their concern and care for us. The Chief's mess brought us Christmas dinner and tons of presents for the girls! And the Child Development Center (in spite of their 6 month waiting list) took Reese and Rayna (together, although Reese (who was too old to be with Rayna) was supposed to go to another facility, but to keep the girls comfortable in their new surroundings, let them stay together) into their program so Johann could be free to accompany me to my appointments and into surgery...Amazing!!! All of it...AMAZING!!!

So, despite the reason we were there (my surgery), we had a wonderful time as a family, enjoying each other in our German apartment, exploring the beautiful German villages, particularly Heidelberg (which we visited twice, about an hour outside of Kaiserslatern) with it's ancient castle, Christmas markets, wines, delicious meals and memories to last a lifetime.

Winter Wonderland - view of the playground right outside R&R's bedroom at our apartment in Germany.

In Heidelberg walking through the old town shopping district to the Christmas markets...

Johann enjoying a real Weinerschnitzel!! Delicious sausages with spicy mustard and fresh, crusty bread!

The girls and I enjoying our hot German with my Gaulwein (hot, sweet, red wine) and the girls with their hot chocolate.

Christmas Recital

As is tradition in Rota, Spain; Dance teacher, Ms. Joy puts on a fabulous dance recital during the annual Polar Express Christmas event on the base. This year was no exception and Reese and Rayna both shined on stage during their performances. I was busy video taping the entire dances so I only have a few still shots that another parent shared...

Reese danced to "O, Holy Night" and brought me (and several others in the audience, I'm told) to tears with her beautiful and graceful performance.

Her favorite however, was the Hip Hop dance, "What Christmas Is" routine she and BFF Taisha had been practicing for months (with the rest of the class of course)...

Rayna shined too, all lit up like a Christmas tree, dancing to Miley Cyrus' "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" ballet...

And they both joined in on the grand finale to Mandisa's "Little Drummer Boy!

Ms. Joy is a believer and I love how she picked such wonderful songs that celebrate the Savior's birth to share with the entire base!

We were SO so proud of our girls! They are becoming quite the little performers!