Hunting the Hummingbird - by David C Hoffman

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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Amsterdam - last day

 Our last morning in Amsterdam, we had planned on having a slow, lazy morning and then seeing some sights. Our flight didn't leave until 10:00pm, so we had like ten hours to kill before we needed to even check in.

Instead, that very morning our Airbnb host finally replied to our text inquiry we'd sent the day prior (we'd also discussed the possibility upon first reserving the place) about late check-out by replying "sorry, someone else is checking in!" 

Not cool, man.

So we had an hour to figure out what to do with all our luggage. 
We knew we could rent a locker at the airport or even the nearby train station, but we had A LOT of luggage to move and would need a van -not just a standard taxi - just to facilitate getting our stuff to a storage space.
We'd already arranged van transportation to the airport with the driver who'd brought us to our place from the train station when we'd first arrived, but we weren't expecting him until 6:00pm.
We talked out our options, and decided on moving our stuff to near a park bench out front, and just trading off being the adult staying with the stuff or being the adult taking the kids around town.
It wasn't ideal, but it would work.

We were piling our stuff out front when the sweet man who lived in the very next row house asked if we were headed to the airport. 
His name was Rijn, and we'd made small talk with him and his wife several times throughout our stay there. They had a little patio set out front and would often eat their breakfast out there and read the paper.

When we explained that yes we were checking out but no we weren't heading to the airport until much later, he offered up their home to hold our stuff in.

So nice, right?

We were grateful for their kind offer, but when he said they'd be leaving that afternoon until much later in the night, we said no thanks, as we'd need to get our bags again around 6:00pm. 
That's when Rijn said "no worries, we'll just give you our key and you can let yourselves in to get your bags."

I mean, WHAT?!? This man was willing to give his house key to strangers, while also offering up that they would be GONE for several hours. Who does that?!?

David and I were both so touched by his generosity and trust.  
May we be able to pay it forward someday.

The kids played out front for a bit...

...and then we started off to enjoy our last day in Amsterdam.

 Amsterdam, you are beautiful...

I'd read on TripAdvisor that "Pancakes Amsterdam" was a must-visit place for breakfast, so we walked there that last day for brunch... 

Dave ordered a hashbrown-type crepe with bacon on top...yuuummmmm...

We LOVED our food there and all four of us declared the restaurant a hit!

The kids and I had some selfie fun while David was taking care of the bill...

Love those two so very much.

 We were thrilled the weather was so great for our last day there. We decided to just walk around and enjoy the sites.
I tried my hardest to soak up all of it! I just could not get enough of these gorgeous row houses...

We just walked around with no real destination in mind, stopping along the way at whatever drew our interest.

We stumbled upon a fun park we decided to play at for awhile...

This fountain area looked so fun, but we didn't have dry clothes with us nor a place to change, so we couldn't jump in, but we still enjoyed walking around and taking in another cool Amsterdam park.

Later in the afternoon we headed back to the house and played in the front playground one last time...

We walked to dinner nearby, then it was time for our taxi to pick us up. 
We used the key to get into the neighbors house, grabbed our luggage and left a quick thank you note with our email address on it in case they were ever in Oregon, and loaded our massive amounts of luggage up, said goodbye to our cute place, and headed to the airport.

Man was I sad to be leaving Amsterdam! I kept saying that we should have planned a longer stay. The canals, the houseboats, the people, the architecture, the food, the shops, the museums...gah. I just loved it all.

But I couldn't let the blues last too long, because next up was Iceland!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Split down the middle

It's 2018!!
I'm not sure how that happened!!!
But here we are!!!!!

I'm excited for a new year, and thankful to be starting off where we are.

We spent the first six months of 2017 in the Middle East and the second half in the U.S....directly divided via mid-June.

It was a really, really great year.

It's been fun reading past blog posts and reminiscing about all the highlights.

I realized I wanna blog a bit about the last few months, so we can later look back at our early days living in America again =)

I don't really know where to begin so I'm just gonna jump right in randomly and then continue with more randomness because blogger etiquette is not the boss of me.

Look what we did for Christmas you guys...

 I KNOW!!!

His name is Guster, or Gus. 
(Dave and I pre-named him (a story for another time) after a character on the show Psych
He is absolutely precious.

We surprised the kids on Christmas Eve day with a puppy!

Because nothing says All-American Christmas like a golden retriever puppy popping out of a box with a big bow on top, am I right?? ;)


He was eight weeks old the day we brought him home, and he already looked so much bigger than the tiny little pup we'd picked out weeks earlier, and now on January 6th I feel like he has grown so much since these pictures!

If you've read past posts, you know that Sister is borderline obsessed with a dog lover. 
Homegirl is crazy for dogs!
Our son can be a little more reserved around them, and he was kinda nervous around Gus for the first few days, but they've quickly become good buddies...

He is one loved pup...

 The cat is still a fan favorite around here as well...

And the biggest bonus? 
Astrid and Gus totally dig each other.

We are SO THANKFUL that our pets get along! It felt a little risky bringing a puppy into the mix while Astrid was so young and so new to us, but it's been the biggest blessing. They have so much fun together and have brought just a ton of JOY into our home!

We had the twins' school conferences in November, and we were so pleased to hear they're both doing well. I wasn't exactly nervous about it, but more really just curious to sit down with their teacher and learn about how they were doing in regards to Second Grade requirements in this school district.
I was feeling like we'd thrown kind of a lot at the both of them as far as education goes...
they went to a little church up the road from our house for preschool. They were homeschooled for Kindergarten. They attended a private British Academy in the Middle East for First Grade. Then we go ahead and toss them in the American pubic school system for Second Grade.
I'm feeling especially grateful that, save for our setback with the Lockdown Drills, transitioning to school in America has gone incredibly well.

Right before school started, we finally made good on our promise to get the kids bikes. 
We learned that if you wait until your kids are seven and a half to get them on bikes, they learn in like a day.
Procrastination pays off again. 

They love zooming around on their bikes, and we're feeling pretty lucky our house is on a dead end and they can be out there all the time and roam.

 What else?

Oh! One sunny day in July, I was able to meet up with ALL my sisters, their spouses, and their kids!

It was so special, and we had the BEST time.

I know this post has been a love fest so far, so let me also drop some of the ugly, lest you think I'm going all #soblessed on you here.
I'll offer up that it has definitely not been solely homeruns for us.

August and September were pretty much a shitshow.

We moved into our rental home, and unpacked all our stuff that had been stored away for two years. It was overwhelming already, and then a bunch of random stuff happened all at the same time.
 A loved one received a really hard diagnosis. One of the best people I know was hit with a case of slander so malicious it was shocking. I got a random phone call from the pound that our family dog that we had rehomed right before we moved to Kuwait had been abandoned by the people we'd rehomed her to. Dave started back to work. I started back to work. The kids started a brand new school. I watched my baby become absolutely hysterical over the threat of a shooter at shattered my heart in a million pieces, and I felt lost as to how to parent well through it all. 
At one point towards the end of September, I ended up sitting in my doctors office with EKG probes adhered to me, as the chest pain I'd been experiencing for the last two-three weeks was not letting up and getting increasingly tighter each day.
I was pretty much positive it was just anxiety induced (which a quick cardiac workup confirmed, it was) but it had been distracting enough for long enough that I felt uneasy about not at least getting it checked out.
I just felt so damn stressed

But things have slowly settled in more and more, and I'm realizing, again, that I seriously suck at just being patient and giving things time. 

I feel like we've extra enjoyed the holiday season, being back with family and being in cold weather!

Thanksgiving at my Mom's was SO fun... 

...our little family of four was happy to be able to participate in the annual gingerbread house building contest that we'd missed out on the previous two years. 

We were fortunate to be able to spend an evening with grandparents, having a lovely dinner and seeing a fun Christmas play... 

 We got to go to Zoo Lights! 
This is probably my very favorite Christmas tradition, and I was super happy to get to go this year. 

The boy was pretty happy as well...

We got to see it all with grandparents to boot!

 It was SO COLD...which I seriously dug ;). Having the air feel so biting really made it feel like Christmas!! 

We took the twins to a Blazer game...

With all our kitchen utensils and counter space, we made sugar cookies this year!

( and yes, that is a giant pink heart cookie. Because all our cookie cutters were in one space and the kids insisted we use that one too and who am I to argue about what constitutes as 'Christmas' ;) )

We also did something fun this year that I hope to remember for future Christmas times; on a regular Friday night in December, we put the kids to bed as normal. 
The second they were in their rooms, Dave worked on getting hot cocoa made while I got blankets and Christmas music in the van.
Then I walked loudly up the stairs, shaking jingle bells that were attached to elf hats I'd picked up at the Dollar Store.
The kids were all "um Momma, what are you doing?!?" and I just said "put these hats on and come with me!"
I tried to snap a cute pic, but they were still kinda confused here... 

I walked them out to the van, where their Dad was waiting and saying "hop in guys, let's go!"
When we told them we were springing 'em from bedtime and driving around looking at Christmas lights instead, they thought that was seriously cool. 

 They seriously talked about that for days! They had such a fun time and were so sweet about being surprised. It was a sweet memory that was really easy and pretty much free.

And of course, we went to see the new Star Wars movie!

And we were blessed to celebrate Christmas with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends...

The twins' Great Aunt gifts them an ornament each year, and this year they got "caught up" from the Christmases were were overseas...

It made my heart sing to have all these cousins running around together!

The kids had the best time opening their presents, and I loved seeing how excited they were about things...

We came back up north on the morning of Christmas Eve, and we were fighting some freezing rain. The plan was for Dave to drop the kids and I at the house, and then head straight to pick up Gus, who was about 45 minutes away. I was super anxious that it wasn't going to work out to surprise the kids with a puppy like we had planned...but not only did the timing work out really well (David had made it back home to us -with the dog!- before the real bad weather hit. I was SO thankful) but then IT STARTED SNOWING!!!!

It just so rarely snows for Christmas in our area, and I could not believe it! Even though it was just a dusting, it felt magical, a real White Christmas!

The kids were both just totally obsessed with Guster...

We've been watching The Great British Baking Show a lot, and Sister has been big on being involved with cooking and presentation lately. When awhile back I suggested we make a pretty table for Christmas Eve Dinner, she was all about it. 

She sweetly pieced together Christmas decorations for the table, and even folded the napkins for everyone. 

We had menu planned and grocery shopped a few days prior, and it was fun to work together with my sweet girl! I hope she always wants to hang out with her Momma.

Christmas morning was a fun one!

I had a deep sense of contentment Christmas Day, watching these four snuggle up on our cozy carpet to watch a movie...

I don't know how long we'll stay in this house, but I'm so thankful we were here for this winter.

As we enter this first weekend of the New Year, I'm offering up Thanks for all the great memories we made in 2017, and hopeful for all that God has in store for 2018.

In conclusion, I'll leave you with this cuteness...

Happy New Year.