Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review

Where did the time go? 365 days ago I was in Texas finishing up details for my sister's wedding. 365 days later here I am half a world away from Texas. This has been a different year than any I have had...ever. Here are some highlights.

*My sister, Britni, got married after a whirlwind engagement so I could be there. I stood by her side as her maid of honor and watched her marry a kind, loving, Christian man. She became also became a mother to 3 beautiful girls.

*Five days later with 15(+or-) suitcases, James and I and our girls boarded a plane bound for Krakow, Poland. We had never been to Poland but we uprooted our family to come and tell people about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We said goodbye to English and understanding signs, people, culture and most of all our friends and precious family for at least 3 years.

*We moved from an 1800sq ft home to just under 800sq ft apartment. How were we all going to fit? We have so much more space than we would have ever imagined. We live close to each other but comfortably. I have learned that I don't need as much as I though.

*We left our car, as a our primary form of transportation, and began using public trams and buses to get around. I love it! It is easy and convenient.

*I put my kids in Polish speaking schools...dropped them in and wished them luck. I have one that is just about fluent and has learned through play only.  I have one that has had a lot more struggles. She has struggled with having a lack of friends, different school environment than she has been used to as well as not knowing language. But she is a fighter and learning more each day.

*I have learned to shop for a week at a time...and sometimes a day or 2 at a time. My refrigerator and pantry are much smaller and the food does not have all the preservatives so I can't keep stuff for long periods of time.

*I am learning a foreign language...and one of the harder ones because of grammar rules that don't always make sense. We are do well. Each time I speak I feel like I get better. My understanding of others is growing too. I am not a good language learner based on my high school French and college Spanish classes so I was very anxious. But I am doing better than I hoped.

*We have learned that we can make it through big holidays without family and be ok. Of course we miss them desperately but we can make it.

*We have been to 3 countries, 2 of which we have never been too and left our kids in Poland while we went. Czech Republic, Italy and Belgium.

*We have made new friends that have become like family. We really understand each other when our friends and family don't understand why we would pack up and leave with our children and move to a foreign country.

*We have had the opportunity for each of our parents to come for a visit. What a precious time each of those 3 visits have been for us. We were able to show them around Krakow and show them what we are doing.

*We have had some low points but also high points in our marriage this year. Depending on only us can be hard sometimes but we are stronger.

*I swore when I left last year that I would not lose touch with American culture...movies, tv shows, news, music. WOW!!! It only took a year and I am out of the loop. I have no idea what new shows are on. When we have the opportunity to go to a movie, I don't even know what the movies are. Haha!

*I have learned that a whole country can shut down for holidays...for even a couple days at a time and the economy will still go on. You can take 2 weeks or even a month for vacation and your company will still keep running.

*Finally, the biggest thing of this year is that God is faithful. When I was 9 years old at GA camp and felt the calling to be a missionary people told me I was young. Then in high school I continued to feel that calling and then I married James who also felt the same calling. Finally this year after 21 years, God fulfilled that calling. There is no other place I would rather be than in the center of His will.

Next year is full of more changes. We will continue to push on in learning Polish. My grandparents are able to come and visit in February. In March and June we have 2 youth teams coming from Texas to do mission work. James and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary. We have always said we wanted to go back to Austria for 10th anniversary. Little did we know we would be so close. We will be taking the girls with us this time and are looking forward to it. But the biggest event is we will be transitioning to our permanent city in the summer. James will be the team leader for a brand new team in NW Poland. We are very excited and anxious at the same time. We have made some contacts and are ready to get started.

2011 was full of first and I am looking forward to 2012 and that God has in store for us.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Polish Christmas Traditions

In Poland, Christmas eve is the big celebration evening. Families spend all day cooking and then eat that night and open gifts. Get this...they have TWELVE dishes!!! I thought I might try and do but as I was reading what all it was I decided it would be wasted on my family. Too much cabbage and mushrooms. So I decided to spend the day making set with meat and the other with potatoes and cheese...and tomato soup. Ella helped me make the perogi. I meant to take pictures of us but I didn't. Oh well, no memories. LOL

We then did another Polish Christmas tradition. They have things called opÅ‚atki. Basically they are very think wafers...I would describe their taste as similar to that of very thin styrofoam haha. But you each have one and you break a piece of and share with each other and give a wish or blessing for the other person. So we all shared and gave a wish for each person for the next year. I LOVED doing this and we will do it each year for sure. It was so special. I think as the girls get older they will understand how to give wishes more than...I hope you have a good time in Heaven when you go. Thank you Ella. Hahaha!

James sharing with Macie

Ella sharing with James

Then James read the Christmas story from Luke 2. Macie made mention of how it is the same as what was in Charlie Brown. Imagine that!

Finally on Christmas day we watched The Nativity Story and then had a birthday cake and sang happy birthday to Jesus. Unfortunately Ella had been sick and throwing up so she did not participate in this part. Not a fun way to spend Christmas.

Again, it was a different Christmas but it was good to be with our family. We had a fun day!!!

A New Christmas

I have had many people ask if we will stay here for Christmas...Polish people mainly. I thought I was fine staying here...and we did ok...but it never felt like Christmas. I missed hanging out with family more than I expected to. I honestly thought it would be so nice to stay at home with just my little family and not feel pressure for 3 sides of family to spend time equally with each of them. Well I was not as correct as I thought. I missed hanging out with my mom's side on Christmas eve having baked potatoes and spending time together with all my aunts, uncles and cousins. (And this year it was at my sister's and that would have been a lot of fun.) I missed opening Christmas presents and hanging out with my dad and playing with our silly toys they always get us. (We did get to do that earlier this month and it was a lot of fun but not the same without my sister.) But what I  missed most, was spending the night at James's sister's house. A few years ago we began going over there after Christmas eve with my family and would spend the night and do Santa in the morning with her kids. Having 6-8 cousins (depending on if Nicole and Pam were there) was beyond fun. The kids had so much fun together. We got over there late every year but the girls got to decorate cookies for Santa and sprinkle glittered oats on the front yard and leave carrots for the reindeer. We then had to get them all snug in their beds and asleep and then spent hours assembling toys and stockings. We would crawl into bed around 2am only to be awakened around 7am by excited children!!! My tradition is to give Christmas pjs on Christmas eve that were generally matching...although the older they have gotten I have gotten away from matching. We would then take pics on the stairs with all the kids. It was so much fun. This year we missed that. And reality hit that the next time we are able to be all together there is a chance that no one will "really" believe in Santa. Macie is the youngest and she will be 8.  :(  We did some new traditions that I will post about but here are some pictures of our Christmas Eve/Day. 
Christmas PJs

Christmas Morning 

Santa comes to Poland on December 6th so he had already come. However, we had little elves that came to visit after that. So Hania and Snowflake left small gifts for the girls for being good.

James and I found these coats in Brussels. They are so warm

We started the girls on their first Polish pottery set. Ella's is more green with little bees on it. Macie's has cute butterflies on it. 

Aunt Boo sent cute Reef slippers for the girls 

I walked into my bedroom and found Macie playing with her jewelry box and all the jewelry from Nonny and Poppa. All in all it was a different Christmas but it was good.

Cooking Class

We have a new married couple on our team. They are doing an amazing job! Traci has been having a cooking class once a month at her apartment. I was finally able to go to one a couple weeks ago. We made twice baked potatoes and chocolate/white chocolate dipped stuff. That was all fun, but the most fun to me was being able to visit with college girls that were from various countries. Including Becca, Traci and myself, we had people from the USA, Poland, Germany, the Ukraine and Greece. But everyone spoke English...probably better than I will EVER speak Polish. We had great conversations. I am planning to go more often. Here are a few pics. 

Becca giving instructions on how to make the potatoes.

I was cracking up because the girls were all anxious about using the electric mixer.

Mmm....Chocolate covered wafers, "doritos," fruit, pretzels, and marshmallows. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I know I know...I am a little slow. This semester has been crazy busy. By the time evening hits and bedtime for the girls is over, I am too mentally exhausted to sit and blog. I digress. So Thanksgiving was a bit different this year...obviously. I missed hanging out with our families and of course Black Friday shopping in the middle of the night with my sister. But hey, different isn't always bad. So we were invited to spend Thanksgiving with the northern Poland teams. It was an amazing blessing! I am glad we were able to have a change of scenery for this holiday. I think it made it a lot less emotional. The Saturday before was a meeting with our youth at church and so we prepared an American Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. It was a huge hit. Here are a few pics from the week.

Reading with dad on the train

When you get to miss 2 days of school, you have to pay the price with homework!

Aunt Bev is great with kids. She had 2 great crafts ready for them.

I love this turkey. They made it with a pineapple.
This was a HUGE turkey. The pic does not do justice.

We LOVE Megan!
Sweet girl singing hymns!