End-of-Year Blues

I feel like Clapton should be playing right now.  It’s two days to New Year’s Eve and I’m in my typical reflective, melancholy mood.  I’m not sure why this happens the last week of each year, but maybe it’s a good thing…the reflective part anyway.  I think maybe it’s because I wonder, once again, if I’ve really done my best.  If I’ve reached my potential in the last year.  The answers are obviously no and no.  Isn’t it a statistic somewhere that we use only 10 percent of our brains?  So already, I’m up a creek.  🙂 There are so many areas, my family life, work life and most importantly my spiritual life that need work.  Serious work.  But even though I could make a list of things that I could have done better…it’s too personal for this venue. 😉  So, I think what I’ll do is skip to the end of the week as if it’s New Year’s Day.  On New Year’s Day my melancholy always lifts with the fireworks and the happy smiles and kisses all around and I think “this year, I’m going to do better!”  I hope I do better, says the back of my brain.  But I think that’s how God in his perfect wisdom gives us progress.  Progress is not jumping from Junior Secretary to CEO overnight.  It’s not becoming the perfect wife in the first week of marriage or even *sigh* being the perfect mom to three kids, even though I’m on the third go ’round now and you’d think I’d have it figured out!  His timing is perfect and the baby steps we make each year are taking us forward in degrees that we can handle.  We have setbacks and times when we wonder “am I ever going to learn?”  “Am I ever going to figure this out before it’s too late?”  Maybe.  But that’s not the point.  The point is to keep trying.  Keep starting over each New Year’s Day and keep being positive.  This year is my year.  Yes, I can legitimately say that every year, because each year is a year of progress in some area of my life.  And though I’m too private to share my personal progresses with the world in general on a blog, I’ll be thinking of the things we’ve been through this year, good and bad, progresses we’ve made and areas we want to do better in.  This year of 2011 will bring big changes in the Carroll family. We’re uprooting ourselves and moving to the States in July.   Though we’re preparing as best we can, there is still a big question mark looming out there and I can tell that 2011 will be a year of significance in our family.  But with God’s good guidance we’ve made it this far, which is something to celebrate!  So throw the confetti, pop the corks, light the fireworks and give thanks to the Almighty for the chances we’ve been given and for the hope we have for the future.

Welcome, 2011.




From Date Night to Hospital Trip

Well, date nights don’t happen that often at our house, unfortunately, which is why we were really looking forward to a fun night out with a couple of friends we haven’t spent time with in a while.  We had a friend come over to babysit and no sooner had she arrived than I heard a piercing scream from the boys room and I came out to see Chris holding his arm and yelling at the top of his lungs.  My first thought was, “he must have fallen off the top bunk!”

He said he was standing by the bunk bed jumping up and trying to grab Alex’s slippers off of his feet, which were dangling down from the top bunk.  I guess he lost his balance when he jumped one time and slipped and landed on his wrist with his hand bent under his arm instead of out.  There was hardly any swelling at all, and we were ready to leave to go out (I mean, we hardly ever go out!), so we almost didn’t take him, but he was carrying on about it for at least 15 min and something told me there was more to the injury than just spraining it or something…plus I’ve heard that there is sometimes no swelling when its just a break and no ligaments or tendons are hurt.  He hardly EVER whines about being hurt past 2 minutes, so we had a clue.  At first the doctor thought it would just be maybe a small fracture and he could wear a wrist brace, but the break was bigger than they thought; he has a break on the big bone of the left arm near the wrist, so they put a top cast on his wrist and halfway up his forearm.  That means the cast is only on the top half of his arm and not on the underside.  So it’s like a cast/brace.  He has to wear it three weeks…hopefully not longer and I’m praying it will be off before his birthday since we have a day at a big playground planned!

I’m not sure if I’m reassured or apprehensive at what the doctor said:”this is a common injury in boys this age.”  ha.  Something to look forward to with Alex? I hope not!

Vigilante Preacher-man

We discovered about 9 p.m. tonight that we needed a few things from the store for breakfast, so Randy took his bike (we have no car) and rode up to a grocery store in Dresden-Neustadt nearby that’s open until 10 p.m. to grab what we needed. He came back from the store around 9:30 p.m, walking his bike with the groceries down the sidewalk, since there were so many people milling around–this is typical for a Friday night in the Neustadt. The parties are just getting started.  He saw a guy about 20 years old run out of a Turkish Imbiss and noticed the guys inside shouting “stop him!” So on impulse he grabbed the guy and swung him around to face the restaurant owner and his son who had just come out.  They said the guy had paid for his food but hadn’t paid for his beer (that was in his hand) and when he still couldn’t pay, they grabbed the beer from him and the owner threatened to call the police.  Randy heard the son say it wasn’t worth it and started walking away as they berated the guy and said something to the effect of “never come back!” etc.

I was listening to all of this with my mouth open, trying to figure out why he had grabbed the guy in the first place while simultaneously being impressed with my husband’s quick thinking and correct assessment of a situation and (apparently) quick skills to catch the guy with one hand while holding his 20-speed with the other.  It was at this point that he said that as he crossed the street, he saw the guy out of the corner of his eye following him.  We have 3 kids + 1 in the house tonight and we only live a few blocks away, so, of course, I said

“He didn’t see which house you went into, right?”

“I didn’t get that far.”

“What do you mean?  You’re here.”

“Well, as I crossed the street, I was about to get back on my bike and leave him in the dust when he pushed me and I nearly fell over.” (my mouth was hanging open again)

Randy continued, “then he did this stupid kick thing at me and got me in the upper arm, but he bounced off me and fell on the ground.  He got back up pretty mad and said,’Why would you do that? Why did you stop me? Nobody does stuff like that, they just mind their own business.’ Then he asked me what I did and I was reluctant to tell him, but I told him that I was a preacher for a church.  He looked at me for a second and then told me about himself.”

So apparently this guy has gotten too much into the party scene and about three weeks ago he came back from a party and his parents had changed the locks on the house.  He couldn’t get in and he’d been having a rough time of it. No money and no place to stay.  Randy told him where the church building was and that he could stop by any time during the week if he felt like talking and they parted ways on friendlier terms.  I asked him if anyone had witnessed this…it happened by a busy street.  Randy said there was a guy who watched the confrontation who had been walking by the Imbiss, but he just put his head down and walked away.

Randy still doesn’t know what made him stop that kid from stealing, but he hopes that it might make him think a little bit.

I said, “so it’s not enough to preach ‘don’t steal.’  You have to go out in our neighborhood and enforce it?” 😀

God likes this color paint.

I let the kids stay up later tonight since it’s a Friday and watch ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown‘ while painting toilet paper rolls black for bat decorations.  Hey, if they’re going to watch a pointless cartoon at night with a surplus of the word “stupid,” then they might as well be productive, right?  The older two gave up after painting just one roll a piece, but after Alex (4 yrs. old) finished his first one and saw me mass-producing black toilet paper rolls at warp speed, he said

“I’m gonna do ‘nother one, too.  I’ll help you, mom.”

While Alex kept trucking along at the speed of snail he said

“I hope God likes this color paint.”

I didn’t think I heard him right. “What did you say?”

“I said I hope God likes this color paint.” (he meant color OF paint, of course)

I was kind of baffled. “Well, I think God likes any color of paint that you use if you’re using a talent He gave you.”

“What’s a talent?”

“It’s something God gave you that you can do well.  Like painting.  You’re good at painting,” I said, observing his mottled toilet paper rolls.  Hey, painting the inside and outside of a toilet paper roll is pretty good at four, I think.

“That’s right. I’m a good painter.  I’m going to be a painter when I grow up, mom.”

“That sounds great!”

To Chris and Olivia, glued now to the cartoon, he repeated “I’m going to be a painter when I grow up, guys!”

He didn’t seem disturbed by their lack of response.

This was a great conversation that came out of nowhere.  You may say “great conversation, sure.” But it is so very rare that I get to talk for any length of time directly to my youngest with two other kids in the house.  I had these kinds of conversations with Alex all day today, since we took the day to go to the international playgroup, shop for a coat, have lunch and get him a haircut while the other two were in school.  It’s nice to get to know Alex without Chris and Olivia there throwing in their opinions left and right.  And it’s funny that I try to think of ways to plan these kinds of conversations…dates and whatnot with my kids…and that’s well and good…but God always shows His greater wisdom by throwing in those curve ball opportunities.  Like painting toilet paper rolls at night.

Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde

Our good friends, Anne and Thomas live not far from us here in the Neustadt and we are so thankful they do!  Anne took it upon herself to take Olivia and Chris to school while first Randy was gone for a week for the men’s retreat and then when I was gone for the following week during the ladies’ retreat.  That means 10 days of taking two sleepy kids to school at the crack of dawn in the cold!  Well, somewhere in there, Anne told Chris and Olivia that she would be taking them to the Dinosaurier Park which is about an hour’s drive away, so during the fall break, the big day came.  Here were my instructions to my children:

1) Do not ask them to buy you toys 2) Do not throw fits–be polite and 3) Do not walk away from the group.  If you see something you want to look at, ASK first!  I made sure to re-iterate this last one about three times as they walked out the door.

So, as I sent them off for a day of fun, I was pretty confident the day would go well.  They both behave when we are on outings together as a family, so I had no worries.  *I hear chuckling….who’s chuckling at my naivete?!*

When Anne rang my bell at the end of the day, she mentioned first that they fell asleep on the way home and were still sleeping out in the car and that since they weren’t there to hear, she would take the opportunity to tell me up front that Chris ran away at the end of the day.


I just stood there looking dumb.  Then she told me what happened: Chris asked her (actually both of them asked her I found out later) if she would buy him a dinosaur (rule-breaking #1) and when she said no, citing that she had already put a lot of money down for the tickets, he got mad at her (rule-breaking #2) and then ran away (rule-breaking #3).

Great.  Just great.  She then proceeded to tell me about how she freaked out and she, her husband, Olivia, Anne’s sister, Anne’s sister’s daughter and husband and two kids…all split up to go look for Chris in a huge outdoor forested park for an HOUR.  Just when they were about to go home.  Wonderful.  He was found and was very repentant and though Anne couldn’t find it in her heart to gripe him out, her sister did, for which I am thankful! 🙂

I played dumb when I brought them in and asked them how their day went.  Great!  Wonderful!  Look at our pictures!  And then after those remarks and after some looking at pictures I asked “and did you follow the rules of behavior I mentioned this morning?”  Immediate guilty looks appeared and they exchanged the classic sibling look between them “uh-oh, what do we say?”  After a few minutes of coaxing I got it out of them.  Well, to wrap this up, Chris colored a picture for Anne, we stopped and bought some flowers and then we all trouped up to Anne’s apartment where her sister still was, as well, and Chris apologized to everyone in the apartment individually.  It was a good lesson all around and from his behavior, I’m pretty sure he felt relieved that everyone was not mad at him anymore and that he had ‘made it right’ receiving forgiveness and hugs.

So ends the story of Mr. Hyde…

Two days later, we’re milling around getting ready to sit down in the big room at the church building for Sunday morning worship.  It usually goes something like this…Olivia finds someone (anyone) who is not a member of her family to sit next to and behaves well, singing songs and generally enjoying herself.  Chris tries to look up the songs in the book, but usually gets bored quickly, asking after every song if it’s time for bible class yet and tries to ignore Alex talking to him so he’ll get a “star” for good behavior.  Alex wiggles, talks, whispers and generally causes a scene unless he’s having and unusually good day or he’s extremely sleepy.  I was interested to find Chris helping Randy pick out songs just before worship and surprised when he was perfectly attentive during the singing, looking up songs, trying to sing them all; and then I was even more surprised when I said “time to go to bible class” Chris said “I’m staying to sit with Daddy during his sermon.”  I debated…do I say “be still, be good, why are you doing this?  just come with me anyway?”  I just looked at him and said, “okay, but if you get bored, come on back to the kids’ room.”  What? Chris is always the first one to shoot out of his chair to escape the boring sermon 🙂

After bible class at least three people from the church made a point to go up to him and say that he behaved very well during worship and that they were very proud of him.  I asked Randy how he did. “Fine.  He paid attention, didn’t fidget and looked up each of the songs.  When he was tired, he yawned loud, but he wasn’t disrespectful.”  I asked Chris what the sermon was about. “It was about God.” Okay.  Good.  ?

So there’s the story of a surprising Dr. Jekyll who, without any prompting floored everyone with his wonderful behavior after just a few days of the worst behavior he’s every displayed.  I’m not sure what to think of these Jekyll/Hyde moments…it’s easier with Alex because I can predict the fits with regularity.  At least he’s consistent….


Delicate Pumpkin Soup

This is a recipe that I came up with after trying many different recipes of pumpkin soup. It’s a lighter flavor due to the broth and cream mixed in.

Delicate Pumpkin Soup


  • 2 apples, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 pounds of pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • salt (approx. 1 teaspoon)
  • pepper (approx. 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
  • a few cilantro or parsley leaves
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth (can be from bouillon)
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 cups of light cream
  • OPTIONAL: handful of toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil


1. Heat the oil in a large pot and saute the onion, apples and potatoes for a couple of minutes, not enough to brown.  Add the pumpkin, salt, pepper, ginger, (red pepper), cilantro, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes uncovered.

2. In parts, puree the soup mixture in a blender.  Fill the blender to the allowed level and after the mixture is pureed, pour it into a large mixing bowl. Continue until all the soup is blended, removing the small fragments in the bottom of the large pot.  At this point you can pour the soup back into the large pot or into a soup tureen.

3.  Add the cream and stir, garnishing with a few more cilantro leaves and/or chopped toasted pumpkin seeds and/or a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin Confusion

I made pumpkin soup tonight. When I told the kids they got all excited;

‘pumpkin soup! We’re having pumpkin soup!’

I was confused by this, since I’ve never fixed it before. Sure enough, after they tasted it, Chris said,

“wait, I thought it was going to be like pumpkin pie…”