Welcome snow!

The first year that we lived in Czech, they had the coldest winter in the 10 years previous to that. As lovely of a welcome as that was for our little frozen family from California, it was also a great year for snow. Since then, the winters have not been terribly impressive in the snow arena. We have had several wet and muddy Christmases but his year has been different so far.  We had a white Christmas and, this week, we received a big dump of snow. It has been interesting and fun to work around the snow in our yard, walking the dog in our village, and driving in town. It is more work but we still love it.

 

Try pushing a grocery cart in that!

Our front yard. That is our Christmas tree that we threw off our balcony when we took down our Christmas decor. There she lies dead in the snow. We make sure to sprinkle our lives with a little redneck to keep the neighbors guessing.

This used to be the walkway to our front door. Now, it’s very fluffy.

Taking Haley on her morning walks has been very…adventurous. One morning I was walking along and, just like in some silly kids’ cartoon, I slowly started to slide on my butt. I was falling in slow motion. I walked on a patch of ice covered in snow and I was so surprised by what was happening that I just slumped over. I don’t know if they were watching but it was right in front of the police station.

We bought me these boots before we moved to Czech. They sure have served me well over the years. This year, they are seriously helpful.

Someone plowed the sidewalk. So rad. No more snow soaking into my pants. Too bad this picture was yesterday and they did not plow it today. Oh well. The fun just keeps on coming!

 

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Academy 2019

Starting last year, Josiah Venture started doing an event called “the Academy” in the early winter for training all staff. Since we only live 45 minutes from the JV training center, I was able to attend for the whole week last year. Casey went back and forth from home and the event, so that I could stay and fully participate and someone was available to care for our kids after school. I am so thankful to get to do the same things again this year.

This year, there will be two weeks of training. We are attending the second week and, during the first week,  Casey gets to teach about personality types. He is so good at that kind of thing. He is using Myers Briggs as his main source and has had a lot of fun preparing for the talks that he will be doing. When Casey is not traveling, most of his work days look like the one below. This was him this morning working on his talks that he will be giving next week.

There are a number of different JV missionaries that will be contributing to the training in the next two weeks. It think that it is so great that there are so many missionaries with different experiences and special skills that they can bring to the table. Casey, for example, worked at North Coast Church in Vista, CA for several years before coming on the mission field. While there, all of the North Coast Church employees had extensive training in Myers Briggs. Casey even helped Josiah Venture do a video venue (that North Coast Church pretty much invented) once because there was not enough room for all of the event attendees to fit in one room to hear the talks being given. God’s got this all figured out and puts us where we are needed, I guess.

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Rome, December 2018

When we found out that the first of either of Casey’s or my siblings had plans to come to our side of the Atlantic, we were so excited. We decided we would do what we could to see them, wherever they were. Well, Casey’s brother, Carl, his family, and his wife’s family had plans to be in Rome for Christmas, so we had plans in Rome for Christmas (we went the day after Christmas to be precise). How exciting!

I remember standing in front of the Roman Colosseum in the summer of 2003, after completing our summer internship in Romania with Josiah Venture, thinking that one day, I would like to come back there with my future kids, having studied about ancient Rome, and use it as an educational experience. Well, this was our chance!

Besides the wonderful company of Carl, Kodi, their girl’s and Kodi’s family, we also loved all of the sights, some of the smells (big cities don’t always smell good), and all that our boys learned. Oh, the joy of seeing our kids’ minds be blown that they were in a place where the things we had been studying really happened!

 

That was the whole crew (above) on the day we went on a tour of the Colosseum. It was amazing!

 

Caleb (black jacket/gold laurels) being super excited about all that he had studied, come to life.

Beni (red jacket/gold laurels) doing the same. Our tour guide (Laura) is on Beni’s left in this picture. She was soooo good with the kids on our tour. Gold star!

Our kids taking in every word that Laura said. She was a great teacher!

Thanks, Laura!

The boys in front of the Pantheon. By the way, “a Christmas sweater” was on Beni’s Christmas wish list this year and boy did he get his use out of that sweater.

The Forum with Carl, Kodi, and our cute little nieces!

St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican city

So many pretty Christmas lights for the season! And other lovely sights too… yummy aged cheese (below)!

Gelato and ice cream mustaches!

Old stuff!

More old stuff (the Trevi fountain) and Beni on Casey’s shoulders

The yearly hot priest calendar (No joke. Each month has a different Roman priest posing)

An armada of scooters

The Yormans on top of the Spanish steps

The Roman metro (most of the time we were in the subway, this is what it was like…packed). We used public transportation the whole time except for right after Caleb got hit by a motorcycle. Speaking of Caleb getting hit by a motorcycle, I need to tell the story.

So, one time we were walking up a very busy, steep, narrow road, with no official walkway (even this description spells out disaster, right?) to get from a large Roman plaza up a hill to a nice green park, and on the way up, disaster struck. Some of us were walking up the road on one side and some on the other. Caleb decided to cross the road and looked up too late. He and the motorcycle collided. Fortunately, the motorcycle was not going very fast, Caleb got thrown to the side, not run over, no vital organs were hit, and he did not hit his head. He just had an angry bruise on both hips and on his foot. The motorcycle rider stayed there until he knew Caleb was ok. We really appreciated that. We went right back to where we were staying, rented a movie and chilled for the rest of that night. The next day, he was fine. No complaints, but just the tenderness of the bruises. Of course, Caleb got a lot of mileage out of his ordeal because if we said anything that even remotely sounded like a complaint about anything, Caleb would say, “at least you did not get hit by a motorcycle.” Oh, the adventures we have!

Besides the long, awaited trip to the Colosseum and the Vatican, our boys LOVED the DaVinci Experience (interactive museum). Caleb really loves art and invention. DaVinci was all about both. So fun. We could hardly believe all of the modern conveniences of today’s world that were invented by that brilliant man.

Casey posted a picture just like this one above, that he took, of Beni to Instagram and tagged the DaVinci Experience. They reposted it on their Instagram. Well, our kids were quite enthusiastic about what they saw and experienced! Hopefully, it helps them get some business :).

We are so thankful for the shared memories made with family on this trip and the generous family members that gave us Christmas money to help us get to Rome and enjoy our time there. We especially thank the Lord for all of our safety and for protecting our Caleb from a much worse injury, and a cheap lesson on traffic awareness!

 

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Christmas celebrations have begun

I love Christmas time in Czech. Maybe it is because we are raising our kids here so I will now and forevermore associate my favorite Christmas memories with my kids to this place.

Since there was a small park/playground built just outside of Beni’s school a few years ago, with a big evergreen in the middle of it, Beni’s school and our village town hall have collaborated for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Last year, the kids sang in front of the town hall. This year, they sang in front of the tree. For several days leading up to the ceremony, I tried to help Beni remember the lines of his Czech Christmas carol that he needed to perform with his classmates. I will just say that he did a good job of moving his lips when he forgot his lines. He learned that from all the surprise performances (for him) that he has had to do over the years at our church in the Polish language. He does not speak of Polish. He would show up at Sunday school and they would say, “We are singing in front of the church today.” Aaaah!

Beni is the one in the red jacket. He put out a star effort. He even had some lines that we did not practice and he seemed to execute them quite well.

The benefits of the season (below). It is this lovely thing called svarak (hot spiced wine). It is great when it is cold outside…and that is the back of Caleb’s hooded head.

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The party continued across the street in the community hall/gym. It was decorated with little demons for Christmas. This seems so very odd and even offensive to Americans but in Czech, it is as normal as Santa Claus is to us. A demon and angel accompany Mikulas (Czech Santa) to decide if kids are good or bad. Tomorrow, Mikulas will be visiting many schools in the Czech Republic (Czechia) accompanied by an angel and a small demon. Children will sing songs to get a candy but some “naughty” kids will be carried out of their classroom by the demon (sometimes even shoved in a bag). It is very terrifying for the kids but this is how things are done here. Fortunately, my kids never got bagged.

Just like Santa Clause in the States, both traditions distract from the real reason for the holiday, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Interestingly, even though there are demons associated with Christmas in Czech, they are not afraid to celebrate Jesus either. Most Czechs would not consider him their Lord and Savior but they are also not offended when many Children’s art projects and songs are associated with the manger scene and Jesus himself in public schools.

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After visiting our village’s tree lighting, we went to the neighboring town’s tree lighting ceremony and it was hopping. There were lots of school children doing performances in Czech and Polish, lots of hot spiced drinks, food, crafts, treats, opportunities to write letters to Jezisek (little baby Jesus that brings gifts on Dec 24th), and a manger scene. In past years, they even had live farm animals. Just the painted wooden forms this year but still very cool that the manger scene made an appearance in the festivities.

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Why I like living next to two graveyards

When I went to sleepovers with friends as a kid, we used to scare each other with made-up ghost stories about graveyards and weird chants that bring back the dead.

Apparently, I was not scarred forever because I love living next to not one but two graveyards. There is one at the end of our lane and one the next road over. The reason I love it is that on the 2nd of November, Czech people celebrate Dusicky.

It is a similar idea to Dia de Los Muertos in that people go to gravesites to visit the graves and remember deceased loved ones. I know that their souls are not there and I do not believe that visiting someone’s grave does anything for the deceased, but I still like the idea of visiting someone’s grave to remember. Plus, people freshen up the graves with fresh flowers and red or clear glass candle holders. It is a pretty sight.

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The rest of the Albania soccer training with Beni, Nov 2018

So, Beni might have had the time of his life in Albania. He played on the beach, played board games, and got lots of time with friends and Dad.img_2335.jpg

There are many cultures that excel at hospitality and the Albanian culture is one of them. Casey and Beni stayed at Ermal and his wife’s home while in Vlore, Albania. Ermal is the JV Albania Edge Sports leader. Below, they were blessed to do their training in this covered pitch. Casey directing “traffic.” Below, you can also see Gabe (JV Bulgaria) doing some of the training using Power Point. We have the best JV team!

Above, you can see Casey’s feet as he is evaluating these freshly trained coaches on their coaching skills. Below, the whole crew. Gabe is in the black on the left and Casey is on the right. Julian is in the back center (the JV Albania country leader). The guy two guys over from Casey in the back row is Ermal. We praise God for these young men that desire to volunteer their time to spread the gospel through soccer in their local churches. We also praise God that Casey and Gabe were able to make it down there and do this training. JV Albania is officially online now to start their JV soccer league and to start really influencing youth for Christ through soccer.

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Much to Casey and Beni’s surprise, on their way home, they were miraculously bumped to business class. I say miraculously because they did not buy business class tickets and the flight attendant told them they had business class tickets. What? Beni officially announced that we need a business class lounge in our house and that the business class snack was the best ever! Well, praise God for good surprises and good things :).

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I was not expecting this…

When I was 17, I moved to Quito, Ecuador for a year to live with the family of a very close friend of mine that had been an exchange student at my high school in the States. I went to learn Spanish, get more time with that friend, and have a new experience. It was awesome. As you can imagine, my blonde hair and fair skin did not blend in well with the majority of Quito’s occupants. I could not walk anywhere without people exclaiming, “Suca”, which means blondie in Ecuadorian Spanish. I could not go anywhere without being noticed.

Much to my surprise, when we moved to Czech, I could blend in. Besides my clothes being a little different, or maybe the way I might carry myself, most people do not know that I am different. For sure no one exclaims anything at me here. For whatever reason, since we moved here, I really wanted to blend in and not be noticed. Though I am for sure not awesome in this area, I try to be super careful to not do anything offensive or expect Czech people to be more American to accommodate me. I am glad that Czechs are Czechs. Praise God! So, when it comes to American holidays, I for sure do not expect Czech people to do what Americans do.

But, I have loud and crazy kids that speak too loud on trains (Czechs are typically super quiet on trains), they greet people that they do not know (not done here), have loud tantrums in public places (Lord help me), exclaim how people look different when they are different than us in public (I die each time and I am so thankful that their exclamations are in English) and, as of this year, they trick or treat where there is no Halloween.

Some of the neighbor kids came over in their costumes (unexpected) a few days before Halloween and exclaimed that they were going to go caroling (no word for trick or treating in Czech so, why not?) so our kids rushed to get dressed and voila bloody and crazy costumes (the blood was not my favorite thing). They were dressed and out the door before I could ask what they were doing exactly.

Then, they came back with all of this. What? They said that they went to all the houses on our street. Some of the neighbors just shut their door in their faces and others gladly gave them treats and thought it was amusing. Plus, the English translation for the “trick or treat” that Caleb said at each door was “candy or your life.”

Lovely! Yes, we are Christians who send our kids out to steal candy from our neighbors by threatening their lives. Oh gosh! I think that I am going to have to make a bunch of Christmas cookies this year and send my kids out to repay our neighbors for their generosity. Welcome to my crazy life!

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