Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day!

Mother’s Day in France was Sunday, May 31st.  Jack and Sophie spent some “secret” time at school and at church creating beautiful gifts for me.  It was a beautiful and simple day spent in France.  We attended church where the primary, which consists of Joseph, Emma, Jack and Sophie, sang a Mother’s Day song.  It was interesting because they did not sing during the sacrament service.  They were allowed to sing after the closing prayer. Everyone stayed in their seats while the children walked up and sang and then the four children passed out flowers to all the mother’s in the congregation.  All 4 children were so cute, especially Jack and Sophie! :)  After church we headed to the Sea for a day of “rest”. It was very enjoyable!

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Sunday, June 21st, was Father’s Day here in France.  In years past, Father’s Day has fallen on a different day in France, so we were happy America and France were on the same page this year!  Again, Jack and Sophie created handcrafted items for Aaron.  They were so excited to give him their gifts.  We attended church and the 4 primary children sang a Father’s Day song after the closing prayer.  Jack and Sophie did a great job!  It was so fun hearing them singing in french!

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Alexis made Aaron breakfast in bed: sweet potato pancakes, which he enjoyed!

La Baume

It is that time of year again when we set out for La Baume!  It is “right in our backyard” with just a few miles of hiking in between.  We all love going down to the river.  The weather is getting warmer but the water is still freezing!  I don’t think the river ever changes temperature.  It has always felt cold, even on the hottest of days!  The kids LOVE the river, especially the three older boys.  We wanted to show Becca one of our favorite spots.  It was a beautiful day for a hike, plus, it helps that the summer crowd hasn’t appeared yet!

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Easter in Toulouse

Friday after all the kids were home from school we loaded up the van and went to Toulouse to visit our friends, the Serrano-Milone’s.  We met them, Elias, Aurore, Maëlle, Gabrielle and Josh, back in October when Elias was visiting our Nîmes Ward.  We have gotten together with them as much as we can being 3 hours away from one another.  All the kids get along so well!  It helps that their two girls are the cutest and sweetest young women in all of France! :)

While we were there, everyone talked, laughed, danced, played hide and seek, watched movies, shopped, went bowling, played football, rope swinging, catching frogs, went to the skate park (for a minute because it started raining), ate yummy homemade food (Aurore made some delicious couscous), watched a little General Conference, made a fort, had an easter egg hunt, and laughed some more!! We had a blast!  This was a nice break from our stressful week with Sophie’s finger!  We were all so occupied with “fun” that I didn’t get too many photos.

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I could not find any plastic easter eggs that are so common in America.  Here in France, most of the chocolate that is for Easter are chocolate eggs.  The best are the Kinder Surprise chocolate.  They are egg shaped hollow chocolate with a cool toy inside.  So, there were no plastic eggs filled with American chocolate or easter candies.  But, it was fun finding the chocolate eggs filled with new surprises!

Our Sweet Sophie!

Saturday was an eventful day!  Eventful in the sense that we will never forget the day.  AJ was outside with Jack and Sophie looking curiously under a large heavy cement block.  As AJ was putting the block back down, Sophie’s left hand got in the way and unfortunately crushed her middle finger.  Screams and sobs were heard immediately from not only Sophie but from her brothers who were so scared by what they saw.  Aaron and I have experienced a lot of broken bones, gashes that needed surgery, bacterial meningitis, etc., but this scared us both.

What to do in an emergency in a foreign country?  Aaron and I jumped in the car with Sophie in hand.  I drove, Aaron tried to calm Sophie down and control her shock and pain. First, we went to the logical place, the hospital in Uzès, but after seeing there was no emergency room or doctors that could help us, we were instructed to go to Nîmes.  The kind nurses in Uzès could see our panic and had Sophie soak her hand in a cleaning solution, made a few phone calls, wrapped her hand in clean wrappings and quickly blew up a balloon to help sooth her.  The solution helped Sophie calm down a little, but once we were in the car her screams began again.  She kept saying, “I want Jesus!”  Aaron finally was able to help her relax for a moment and she fell asleep.  She needed those 15 minutes of sleep to give her body the comfort and peace it was seeking.  Jesus definitely heard her pleas!

We arrived at the Polyclinique du Grand Sud at the Urgence Room (similar to an American Emergency Room).  Sophie woke up calm and with a smile on her face.  We entered the Urgence and it was filled with people.  It was dirty.  It was different.  It was overwhelming. Aaron approached the counter with urgency and explained that someone needed to see Sophie immediately.  They asked her age and gave a quizzical look.  They told us they didn’t think they could help us because of how young she is.  We then asked where we were supposed to go.  They weren’t sure!!!  You can imagine our frustration.  They told us they needed to make a few phone calls.  We didn’t understand why a doctor couldn’t just look at her finger and give their assessment.  I waited in the room and Aaron took Sophie outside for fresh air.  He came back in 5 minutes later and I noticed her bandaging had been unwrapped.  Aaron went right to the counter and told the nurses someone had to see her because her finger was going to be dead.  It looked purple/black.  As soon as they understood how serious this was, they let us back and a doctor came in immediately. They sent her to radiology for x-rays. Within 15 minutes they knew her finger was crushed, broken and needed stitching.  Phone calls were made to the surgeon and anesthesiologist.  We still do not know why they were initially going to refuse to see and treat Sophie because of her age.  This hospital was the only one in our area that had a hand surgeon.

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Sophie had to be admitted to the hospital for surgery.  Our family had plans to spend the evening with the Mallets, Maria and her husband Paul.  I had called her while waiting to tell her the situation and she ended up coming to the hospital.  She stayed with us for hours. She was an angel!

The nurses brought Sophie her hospital clothes and Sophie thought she was so cool!  She had huge smiles on her face and melted the hearts of the hospital staff.

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When it was time for her to go upstairs to her hospital room they brought her a wheel chair.  Sophie first thought it was awesome.  She was getting royal treatment!

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As she was getting wheeled thru the hospital her demeanor was slowly changing.  Her smiles changed to looks of concern and nervousness.  We got into the hospital room/recovery room and she was put in the bed and then I had to explain to her what was going to happen.  Aaron and I were not going to be allowed to be in the surgery room with her.  Sophie took each minute in strides and was somewhat calm.  She understood that the doctors had to help her and she needed to listen to them if she wanted her finger to get better.

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One of the nurses came to get us and Aaron carried her down to the surgery area, Bloc Operation.  She was very quiet.  The anesthesiologist came to us and was so sweet.  She got eye level with Sophie and asked her if she was a little girl or a big girl.  Sophie, of course, said she was a big girl.  (Everything was in French and Sophie understood perfectly!)  The doctor then proceeded to tell Sophie her two options and she needed to decide what she wanted to do.  First, do local anesthetic to her arm, or, second, put her to sleep.  Sophie immediately responded she wanted just her arm.  We all felt this was best.  They would try with the local anesthetic and see if Sophie could relax enough to proceed with surgery.  I took these two pictures below while Sophie was listening to the anesthesiologist explain what was going to happen.

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We were so proud of Sophie.  She was concerned, but she was so brave!  The anesthesiologist explained how they would numb her arm, etc. and Sophie did not panic or start to cry.  Then, the doctor asked Sophie to come with her and away they went!

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(Sorry for the blurry photos!)  This was a helpless feeling as a mother.  We could not be there to hold her hand or give her encouragement.  I couldn’t believe she just walked out with the anesthesiologist to an unknown place speaking a foreign language.  Over the course of about 2 hours Sophie was in the surgery room.  The anesthesiologist came out a few times to give us updates.  She said Sophie had not cried and that she was the best pediatric patient they had ever had.  She kept saying how adorable and kind she was. She told us Sophie was telling all the doctors and nurses about her brothers and sisters.  I was so proud of our 4 year old daughter!  How amazing and blessed we are!

At one point the anesthesiologist came out and invited Aaron back because Sophie kept asking for “Papa”.  They said they NEVER let anyone into the surgery room but they loved Sophie so much they met her request.  How cool is that?!  They needed Aaron’s help to get her distracted so they could proceed.  She was having a hard time relaxing her arm, even though it was “asleep”.  Overall, Sophie did awesome.  She did everything that was asked of her and she did it with a calm spirit.  The best news was that we did not have to stay the night at the hospital like we were originally told.  Sophie kept asking to go home.

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After surgery she was rolled upstairs to her recovery room and they brought her some food.  She was hungry and thirsty.  She did great!  They told us we could go home as soon as she ate and they had to remove the IV.  If she would have been “put under” she would have had to stay the night.  I am so glad local anesthetic worked.

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The boys were so excited to see her.  We had talked to them throughout the day and evening to give them updates.  Aaron and I had left the house with Jack sobbing in the garden, AJ sorrowfully walking down the road, Tristan aimlessly crying and worried and Austin cleaning up blood and in a panic.  They were so happy to have her home and to know she was okay.

The surgeon said her finger should grow back normal.  Her fingernail will fall off and he wasn’t sure if she would have a fingernail again.  He couldn’t tell us what would happen to that area of her finger.  He is hopeful that it will heal correctly and that she will have full usage of her finger.  We have to have a nurse come to our house every few days to change the wrapping and check her finger.  We feel so blessed that the Lord heard our prayers and fasting.  It was a scary experience, especially being in a foreign country.  I have a few new words that have been added to my french vocabulary.  I am so grateful Aaron was home and not traveling.  It was very emotional and exhausting for all of us.  I know the Lord gives us trials to make us stronger!  He is real and I know he hears and answers prayers!  I have always been a firm believer of prayer and this was another example of the Lord’s love for me and my sweet family.

We love you so much Sophie!

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Vars, France

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We decided to take a quick ski trip to the French Alps.  Tristan’s friend, Arnaud, and family were going and invited Tristan for the week, but we decided to go as a family for 3 days. It was awesome!!!!  Vars is a beautiful ski village.  We were able to get the last hotel room available in the same residence as the Moreau family.

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This was our view from our hotel room!

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We were one of the last housing accommodations up the mountain.  Our poor mini van almost didn’t make it.  We could walk to everything and the best part was the slopes were right out the doors of the hotel.  We went to the ski room in the basement of the hotel, found our coordinated ski locker/hotel room number, stored our shoes for the day, or ski’s and boots for the night, climbed a few stairs and hit the slopes.  It was so convenient with all the kids!  We loved it!

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This was Sophie’s first skiing experience!  The first day she was a little timid and didn’t enjoy herself very much.  The second and third day she was so comfortable going up and down the slope by herself!  It was so fun to watch her!

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We had to rent a lot of the gear.  The Moreau’s had a few pair of ski’s and a few helmets for the kids to use.  That helped out a lot.  It was definitely a process getting everyone suited up and out on the slopes!  After that first day it was easier because we knew where everything was and everyone felt a little more comfortable in our surroundings!

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Sonja, Arnaud’s mom, kept expressing how exhausting it must be to have 7 children.  Her and Christoph helped Aaron and I out a lot with the whole process of getting gear on and ready for the day.  It was funny to hear and see their french expressions in regards to our large family.  They enjoyed it and didn’t make us feel uncomfortable in anyway! :)  In fact, they were always looking for ways to help out.  Whether it was on the slopes, at meal times or just having a few more hands in the morning “getting everyone out the door”!

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We had a wonderful time in the French Alps!  I tried skiing the last day.  I was Sophie’s companion on the bunny slope!  I tried skiing as a teenager in upstate New York and never liked it.  (I had some good laughs back then!)  I don’t feel like I have control of my surroundings when I ski and I get freaked out by the height and speed that happens when you get up higher than a bunny slope! LOL!  But I tried it and I skied the last day we were there.  It was fun and I am so glad I did it.  Aaron took me up the mountain once and I was so scared.  I made it down, of course, but never went back up.  Too much in one day! Baby steps for me when it comes to skiing.  They other kids are awesome!  In fact, Jack is fearless.  He went up to the top with all the “big” kids and adults and Aaron said he had no fear and never freaked out.  Sometimes he was in the lead down the slope.  He was going on the snow parks with the rails and jumps.  My little Jack was getting some air!

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We had an awesome time and we are all so grateful for this opportunity we had to ski in the French Alps!  I will do another post in the next few days with more pictures!  I haven’t had a chance to download photos from my camera.  These were all our iPhone photos! :)

Maison d’hôtes!

Our room accommodations in Zollikofen were simple, yet awesome!  It is a building, like a dorm hall, next to the Temple where patrons can stay for a very reasonable price.  It only cost our family 89 euros for 4 nights/5 days.  We had a discount because our 3 boys were paid for by the Stake.  But, if that was not the case it would have, still, only cost our family of 7, 174 euros for 4 nights/5 days.  Aaron and I had stayed at this maison d’hôtes 22 years ago.  Our memory was vague, but we did remind the children that the rooms would be small and filled with bunk beds.  What fun!!!!

I say that with all honesty!  What a blast we had as a family in this little room of ours!

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The biggest dilemma was deciding who would sleep where!  Each person received linens for the bed and a blanket.  We provided our own towels and any extra bedding we thought we would need.  We did not have room to bring anything extra, so what was given to us was what we used and it was very comfortable for all of us!  Because the room was so tight we had to make sure everything was always organized and in its’ place. Each person had a little locker at the end of the room where clothing could be hung up and shoes stored away.  Jack and Sophie loved this because they had their own locker and could lock it with a key if they wanted to!

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After a day of having our room like the first photos, a friend told us the bunks move and we would have more space if we moved things around.  We did and it gave us more space to move about.  Plus, the extra floor mattress could more easily be stored on top of another mattress with this new layout.  None of us were in the “dorm” room very much so we didn’t feel stressed about the space.  It worked great and everyone worked together to keep their space picked up!

The below photos are of the bathroom space.  Notice one small pedestal sink and a small stand up shower.  There were a few hooks to hang towels, coats, etc.  We really felt like we had to live the law of sacrifice and consecration in this tiny space.  It was a great reminder to Aaron and I and our family to work together so everyone could be happy!

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There was a communal kitchen in the basement of the “dorm” hall.  This, too, was a great reminder how everyone needed to share space, clean up after themselves and respect each others space.  The cafeteria area was lined with refrigerators and metal shelving for people to store their groceries.  Each person staying at the maison d’hôtes could use the needed shelving space.  We had one shelf in one of the refrigerators for our family and two metal shelves for our room temperature food.  Everyone could use the kitchen.  There were 10 small stations, 5 along a wall with a sink, and two stove top burners.  There were no ovens, only one microwave.  So meals had to be something that could be made on the stovetop.  Dishes, glasses, and silverware were all provided.  Everyone had to clean and wash what they used.  There was one wall devoted to dish towels and a large island for cutting and preparing food.  It was such a neat experience to “share” these spaces with everyone in the maison d’hôtes.  The youth had the kitchen every night from 6-7pm.  That was the only time non youth were not allowed in the space.  But, many adults were there helping prepare food for the youth.  It was so fun preparing and eating along side our friends!  It also allowed us to meet new people.  It was a great social setting and we all loved it!  There was a feeling of community that I have only felt on few occasions!  There was a feeling of true Zion that we experienced.  Everyone had to be of one heart and one mind to make the situation comfortable and enjoyable for all.  FANTASTIC!  The boys (all of us) really felt a sense of sadness as we packed up our car and drove away.

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Are we in Utah?

On our journey to the Temple, as we were approaching the Alps a few of the children would occasionally look out the window and say, “I feel like we are on I-15 right now with those mountains ahead!”  Then the conversation quickly turned to how much everyone misses the mountains in Utah.  Sanilhac is nestled in the hills with mountain peaks in the distance, but we do not live in the mountains.  I personally LOVE the hill country and like the mountains, but that is just me.  The boys LOVE the mountains and have wonderful memories of being in the mountains and living near the mountains.  So, seeing the Alps was exciting for everyone in the car.  (Tristan already had been skiing in the Alps, but in a different area, so this was all new to him too.)  The children felt like they were back “home”.

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As we got closer to the mountain range we quickly agreed that the Alps have a beauty of their own, different from Utah!  We saw magnificent snow packed peaks, jagged mountains, majestic views that left us all gasping at the beauty of this part of the world. Our cameras did not capture what we saw.  I guess it is one of those things, “you have to see it, to believe it”!  It was breathtaking!  At one point along the route, I felt like I was in a dreamland.  There were huge rolling green hills at the foot of the snow covered mountains with beautiful farms dotting the land.  One word can describe what we were all feeling at the end of that journey: GRATITUDE!

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The drive from Genève to Lausanne is beautiful.  The Alps line the south side horizon of Lake Genèva.  And they continued up to Bern area.  On our way to the Temple, the skies were clear and we got an incredible view of the mountains.  Aaron and I wanted to explore while the boys were serving in the Temple, but our time and activities did not allow us to. I would love to return in the summer for warmer weather and hikes!  But for now, hopefully, the images we saw will be imprinted in our minds forever!

Switzerland

Hello from Zollikofen Switzerland!  The youth in our Toulouse Stake have a temple trip once a year and this week is their week!  We are having a blast!  Even though it is a youth temple trip, many families travel together and other ward members travel together to spend the week doing temple work.  The stake rents a bus and those that want to have that means of transportation (it was a little too pricey for all three of our boys, especially since we were driving too) ride on the bus and everyone else finds a ride.

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Our boys have been excited about this trip and Aaron and I did not know what to expect! Many friends told us it was so fun and a great experience!  They were not lying!  Our whole family from Sophie up to Aaron are enjoying every minute.  The youth are divided into groups and they spend the morning hours and into the afternoon doing baptisms for the dead.  When they are not in the Temple they are participating in study groups, firesides, talent shows, testimony meetings, sporting activities, etc.  There are children here for Jack and Sophie to play with and entertain with for hours.  Plus, Aaron and I get to work in the Temple with the youth and help out any way we can, plus we get to attend the Temple too!

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Aaron and I had plans of taking little day trips to surrounding villages, but we are loving our time with the stake that we haven’t left and we, actually, have not had time to leave. All 3 boys are having a fantastic time!  I will post about our cool, yet humble living quarters and the rest of our experiences when time allows!

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I don’t think my parents ever thought that they would have grandkids that would visit this Temple and do Temple work when they were sealed here in the early 60’s.  This is so special for our family!

6 Months

We have officially been in France for 6 months!  I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by and I am not looking forward to the time flying by this next 6 months.  I wanted to give a quick 6 month update.

AJ is slowly making progress with the language.  He surprises us all the time with little French expressions he will say.  Last week he answered the phone and answered the person on the other line without difficulty.  My jaw dropped as he was speaking and I think he even surprised himself.  We are still encouraging him to try to bless the Sacrament on Sundays.  He is the only Priest in the young men organization so it usually falls upon the men in the Ward, but we keep trying.  It is very intimidating for him to offer the sacramental prayers in another language.  Maybe he will have the courage to do it once before we leave France.  AJ is doing a lot of roller blading.  He wants to make sure he is ready for hockey season when we return.

Austin is progressing very well!  He is practicing his pronunciation daily by reading his scriptures in French out loud.  He no longer says school is so boring and just too long because he now understands his teachers and what is going on.  Last week, Austin told me how surprised his SVT (Earth Science) teacher was when he raised his hand to answer the question.  He is forming some good friendships and I think it is going to be difficult for him to leave, but he has FOOTBALL on the brain, so I think that is his motivation for returning to the States.

Tristan, by far, wins the prize for learning the language!  He has a fantastic ear for the language (I think he gets this from Aaron)!  It seems to come so naturally for him.  It is still a struggle at times because he isn’t 100% fluent, but he gets it and he speaks all the time in French.  The other kids are a little more hesitant still.  There are times the phone rings and I ask Tristan to answer it because he can understand on the phone better than myself. (For some reason, I am terrible on the phone in French.  I have to see the person with whom I am speaking.)  Tristan tries so hard to speak and I think that makes the difference. Tristan is doing great at school.  His grades are better than most of his French classmates and his teachers all say he is flourishing.  This is all a wonderful improvement from that first 6 weeks of tears and anger about being here! :)

Jack and Sophie are both doing fantastic.  I am so glad Aaron has only spoken french to these two cuties.  Sophie rambles off in French all the time and Jack doesn’t freely share his language.  We have to ask him to speak French.  But, his friends and teachers all say he is finally speaking and speaking a lot at school!  Hooray!!!

Aaron is trying to improve his fluency.  He doesn’t feel his vocabulary is the same as it used to be.  So, he is also trying to improve in the language.  Then there is me… I am trying!  My comprehension is very good but when I have to open my mouth I freeze!  My tongue has not been loosed yet.  I think I get anxious when I have to open my mouth.  I know what I want to say, it just doesn’t always come out right.  It is frustrating for me, but at the same time I know I am improving.  My reading and accent are getting so much better!  I have given up being hard on myself because there were a few months I put so much pressure on myself to speak perfectly, but I can’t speak 100% fluent and I don’t know if I ever will.  The good thing is that I feel comfortable in almost all situations.  I am not hesitant to go places any more for fear of the language barrier.  That is a huge accomplishment for me.

I came upon an interesting article about learning a new language.  Some people have an artistic mind and with language it is like a song or dance.  One can hear the correct “rhythm” when listening to another language and therefore they repeat what they hear.  On the other hand, there are those who have more of a mathematical brain who have to learn the language systematically.  One uses a “formula” for the language and, therefore, it is harder to have the language flow or with any fluency.  It is interesting to see who fits where with our family.  Aaron, Tristan and Sophie are more artistic with the language.  It definitely flows off their tongues easier.  Austin, Jack and me have a need to formulate the words, sentences, etc.  This makes it harder and less natural.  AJ, fits a little into both.  He is along for the ride and we are happy with what he can take away from this process.

After 6 months, my dreams are becoming reality!  I know I may never be fluent, but that is okay.  My kids, on the other hand, are doing what Aaron and I have wanted for so many years:  to speak a second language!  Selfishly, I want to stay another year so we can all retain the language after we return to the States! :)

Alexis’s Departure, Again!

Saturday, January 10, 2015 was another sad day because we had to say good-bye to Alexis again for this next semester.  This is so hard as a mother to watch your children get older and spread their wings.  Alexis is so far away… across two oceans!  Again, the train station brought tears!  There is something surreal about going to a train station and sending my child off clear across the world!  I am grateful at the train station we can watch her board and see her off.  It breaks at my heartstrings, but it is also comforting to be with her until the last second!  I can’t wait until all 9 of us are together again! :)

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Alexis is such a sweet daughter and daughter of God!  I thank the Lord everyday for making me the luckiest mother with her presence in my life!  She is so much fun!  While here, she had a “wear your converse shoes day”.  She wanted all of us to feel like we were connected by our shoes!  It is a fun “tie” she has with Jack and Sophie!  We miss little things like this, that Alexis does!

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