Tuesday, October 25, 2016


I'm telling you, Europe is packed FULL of hidden gems. I promise you there are wonderful places that are NOT Paris, Rome, or Venice! My favorite places tend to be the hidden gems while the bigger, more famous cities err on the side of stressful! (mostly just because they aren't super kid friendly) By the way, it may seem like we are always traveling. Well, it's kinda true. But it's because we have SO many lovely people coming to visit us and we are trying to secure our spots as worlds best travel guides/hosts. I'm not sure we are really there, but we are giving it our best shot. This week, my dad is visiting and it's so fun to have him!

We went to Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic- only an hour and a half from where we live- for an afternoon and it was lovely! We just spent a few hours walking around the town, exploring, stopping to feed pigeons and ducks, stare slack-jawed at each and every dog we pass by (lyla). We also stopped to give the street performers the attention and applause (and a few coins in their hat via Jane) that they deserve! 

A few highlights from this day: 
- Pigeons eating leftover donut crumbs straight out of jane's hands. And then jane deciding "oh, I think I will eat this part instead of feeding it to the pigeons."

- Karlovy Vary is famous for its supposedly healing mineral water. There are fountains, and touristy cups, all over the city that you can go up to and drink from. Jane spit hers out just as soon as it touched her tongue, and I don't blame her. It tasted like drinking warm pennies. 

- Jeff stopping the car in the middle of the road to get out and take a picture with me with the beautiful fall trees in the background. He's given me a moment in time that I will treasure forever.

- My dad carrying Jane on the shoulders. One, because it's cute, 2 because it gives me free hands!

- A rainbow of leaves everywhere you look. So incredibly beautiful!

- Seeing the hotel that was featured in Casino Royale. In the movie they changed the name of it, but it's real name is Hotel Pupp. Pronounced POOP. For real, can't make this stuff up. 

- Putting my gloves over Lyla's socks to keep them extra warm. We forgot her shoes like good, responsible parents. 

- Jane waving me over, saying "Mom come here! I gotta show you something BEAUTIFUL!!" and showing me a porch with pots of flowers on it. :) She knows me well!

 ^^ this pic looks like I edited it and completely over-saturated it, but I didn't! It's literally UNEDITED. These colors and trees were fake looking, but as real as could be. Couldn't get over it.


Thursday, October 20, 2016


I'm getting a new sister! Brendon proposed to Kacee yesterday morning at a Kolache shop (so romantic!!) and she, to the relief of everyone, said YES! Kacee and Brendon are so good for each other. She motivates him and helps him when he is doubting himself like it's his job (haha!) And he makes her laugh and always sees the best in her, and in everyone. That's one of his super-powers. Both of them have a deep desire to improve and become the best version of themselves, and I can't wait to see how their life unfolds! Yesterday when I got these pictures on my phone, I squealed and jumped up and down in the kitchen. Jane asked why I was so happy. I told her, and she too started squealing with happiness. It's an emotional thing to me; it is sort of ridiculous how emotionally invested I am in Brendon's (and all my siblings') life!

So Brendon had one of her friends take a picture of them; while one of his best friends was behind the fence and he held up this sign right when the picture was taken. When they looked back at the picture she said "WHAAAAAT?" and then he got down and asked. Both of them say they have no idea what the other person said; isn't that always how it goes? 

We are so excited to go to their wedding on January 6th. Kacee fits in so well with our family and we are thrilled to have a new addition; one that will hopefully give us a few more additions later on down the line ;) (and those additions will be beautiful! I mean would you LOOK at this model couple??) I spent some time yesterday showing Jane some pictures of when "daddy got down on one knee and asked mommy to marry him!" and it was so fun to then show her the pictures of that very same thing happening with Brendon and Kacee. 

Also- she had NO idea this was happening so isn't it so impressive that she looks SO beautiful and her nails are perfect?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The day after we went to Bruges, we took a day trip to Amsterdam with the Bakers. (Kim, Caleb, Sam, Eliza, and Zoe) Amsterdam! A perplexing mixture of still & peaceful canals, weed-filled alleyways, colorful charm, delicious food, and aggressive bikers. We got to a park n ride and rode a train into the city center. The train was definitely one of THE highlights for the kids. 
I loved Amsterdam so much last time I came (only for a few hours) and was anxious to get back. When I was here last, though, it was hardly crowded. The crowds, and particularly the types of crowds can sure make an enormous difference on the buzzing energy of the city. We went to the same Pancakes & Waffles place I went to last time. It was an innocent, empty alley-way last time with hardly anyone walking around. But this time, with 5 kids in tow, I realized how incredibly non kid-friendly this little area was. Sandwiched in between stores that were either explicitly inappropriate or selling weed-flavored everything, we sat and ate our pancakes with our kids; trying desperately to divert their eyes away from, well, nearly everything. Let's just say, we were not about to start a game of I Spy With My Little Eye. 
  We decided to rent bikes, and brought bikes for Sam and Eliza. I was a little worried about them biking through such a busy and crazy city; and rightly so! You have to have a certain level of confidence, bravery, and aggressiveness to bike your way through the streets of Amsterdam. But those kids rose to the occasion, and surprised us all.

I'm so in love with the canals, and tall skinny buildings. The house boats, the peacefulness of the canals; especially in contrast to the center of the city which can be chaotic, crowded, and overwhelming.
 The Biking Baker Bunch. I tip my hat to them. Especially since riding a bike WITH a trailer carrying 2 children (one of them being mine) makes this excursion exponentially more difficult!
 Kim got an even better picture a few minutes later of BOTH of them zonked out, necks dangling in different directions, mouths wide open with drips of slobber spilling out of the sides. A true classic.
 I love it when we get to bike through small non-touristy neighborhoods because you feel like you are getting a more authentic experience. However, I did come to greatly, greatly appreciate the paths that were especially for bikes; they had their own traffic lights and everything! Bikes have the right of way in this city, and it's a wonderful thing, as long as you are riding a bike! ;)
 There were definitely times when the lack of a bike path led to a very crowded street full of cars, pedestrians, and bikers all squished and moving together in all different directions. A few silent prayers were said in my head throughout the day.
 The Rijks museum has a tunnel right through it; making it the only museum in the world that you can bike through. I had the wrong idea though, and assumed you could actually bike through and see the exhibits as you do so. No. You bike through, find a place to park your bike, and THEN go get tickets to go inside. It was cool nonetheless.
 Ok, how much of an EYE SORE is that "no pictures inside" billboard?? What a horrible, permanent, photo-bomber of a sign.
 We locked our bikes like true dutchmen, and went to explore this beautiful area.
 The famous Iamsterdam sign. It mostly serves as a jungle gym for tourists though, and so it wasn't possible to get a good picture of the whole thing. So we settled for a picture in front of the "a".
 Had to give this woman her moment of glory on my blog because I stood here for, no joke, 10 minutes waiting for her to be done ordering her husband to take "just one more, but angle the camera this way." I surely hope she got one that she loved.
 She finally moved, and it was worth this gorgeous shot!
 THE perfect place to let the kids run around and play for a little bit.
We finally found -and ate!- some warm and delicious stroopwafels. I love these things, dearly. They are so good warm, but they sell them in the stores too and they have made it into my top 3 favorite desserts of all time. I can't buy them or they are GONE much, much sooner than they should be. Jane said her favorite part of this trip was "eating a stroopwafel". DO NOT BLAME HER.
Gooey warm caramel dripping from her chin; the BEST kind of a messy face.
 "Mom! How have you let me live 15 months of my life without trying one of these?!"
 I think Jeff and Lyla enjoyed them as much as Jane did too.
 They had so much fun with the bubble guy too. 

Seriously, these children deserve a standing ovation for braving those busy city streets like a couple of champions. We all clapped and cheered as they rode their last few meters up to the bike rental.
^^ Sort of ghetto upon first inspection, but super cheap and reliable!
 We drove home that night after picking up some ham and cheese croissants and some bananas (the holy grail of all food as far as Lyla is concerned) for dinner. This is our go-to on trips; getting most of our food at bakeries or grocery stores; we hardly spend more than we would on a regular at-home basis! 

I remember driving away from the city just as the sun was setting, and a peace came over me as the sky gave us a colorful farewell. Jeff and I marveled at the silhouettes of the old, giant windmills on the horizon; the gleaming kaleidoscope of colors pouring out behind the cracks of trees and old brick houses. It was the vision that pairs perfectly with the deep breath of relief and gratitude you take after a long day of exhilarating, yet exhausting, travel. I remember feeling a sense of gratitude for what we are experiencing in this phase of our lives. I love it all. I treasure it all. There is nothing sweeter than the realization, day in and day out, that I am truly living the ultimate dream. Raising my 2 daughters with my husband as my trusty sidekick. Seeing the world. Trying out best. It's fulfilling and joyful; so thanks to the sunset for bringing it to the forefront of my mind on that beautiful drive through Holland.

 The next day was sunday. After church, and a multitude of bribes, we wrangled the girls into the back yard to take pictures with their matching skirts that Grandma Andersen made for them.

You can see Lyla's flushed cheeks. The poor dear was sick, sick, sick that day. She even resorted to falling asleep on the hard, rough carpet at church. But I could hardly complain because she spent the whole day cuddling with me or sitting right by my side; tired and defeated. All 5 of these girls are absolutely bursting at the seams with the very own and unique personality; but together I'd say they mesh pretty well. Each of them bringing something new and good to the table. I'm glad they will always have each other. And I hope one day in 10 years, they will go out and buy matching clothes (or better still, wearing yet another article of clothing sewn with love and tender care by their sweet grandma,) and eagerly try to recreate this picture :)


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