Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012
All heights are accurate. :)

Offspring

Offspring
Otherwise known as 'minions.'

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Be still

I am writing this one because I am just in awe of the Spirit and how it moves in us at just the right time. I have complained, just a little, of this trial called 'bed rest.' It's not easy for someone with my personality. I have really tried to remain positive and not be a grumpy bear about it. I share this weakness with a few friends that I know will pray for me, and one of them recently asked me how much I had been reading in the Word (Bible, for those of you who don't know), and I had to admit that I hadn't done much, even from my sick bed. It's not that I haven't talked to God or read things concerning God, or prayed for others, or read other Biblical materials; but as far as opening The Word and reading it daily, I haven't done that. Another friend of mine gave me a devotional for my birthday, and the book mark was the day before the surgery. So, tonight, before I turned off my lamp, I wanted to read a page of it. It's not The Word, but it gets me started, and it has bits of The Word in it. I thought, I'll start again here, with this devotional, and I'll do a bit more in the morning. Remember, it's been a month since I opened it. Here is what it said:

"THANK ME for the conditions that are requiring you to BE STILL. Do not spoil these quiet hours by wishing them away, waiting impatiently to be active again. Some of the greatest works in My kingdom have been done from sick beds and prison cells. Instead of resenting the limitations of a weakened body, search for My way in the midst of these very circumstances. Limitations can be liberating when your strongest desire is living close to Me. Quietness and trust enhance your awareness of My Presence with you. Do not despise these simple ways of serving me. Although you feel cut off from the activity of the world, your quiet trust makes a powerful statement in spiritual realms. My Strength and Power show themselves most effective in weakness." Zechariah 2:13; Isaiah 30:15; 2 Corinthians 12:9
Taken from the book "Jesus Calling," February 16th.

Now I wonder, a month after that first surgery, if I have wasted time. I know I have. If I have turned the tv on, even something as harmless as HGTV, instead of giving that time to God. I know I have. If I have complained about not being able to move around when I could just as easily talk to God while being STILL. I know I have. Am I that stubborn, that God was calling me that entire 2 weeks and I was too focused on my recovery to just be STILL and hear Him? I know I am. Will I ever be able to really be STILL; will I be able to be STILL when I've been still for a month; will I listen to Him? I know I will.

What will it take for you to be Still, and will you appreciate that moment when it happens? I pray you will.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Well, that wasn't in the plan...

I think I can do it here. Maybe. I'm notoriously not shy, an open-mouthed bundle of information, mostly too much. But things like this give me pause. I don't want to tell everyone this kind of thing, but I've been praying about it, and there's a point to 'too much information,' tmi. Those are my initials, by the way. Tori Mae Ingram...TMI So, if you're squeamish, don't read this. I've left out a lot, but I've included a lot too. I'll try to keep it short-ish.

In April 2012, just before leaving Germany and after years of 'female issues' and lots of pain, I was told that I needed a particular kind of surgery, one that I just wasn't comfortable with. I chose to wait until we got back to the States to have a second opinion. Life, moving overseas, and school got in the way, and it was 6 months and lots more pain later before I finally managed to get myself to the dreaded 'girly' doctor. I'm so glad I didn't let the doctor in Germany do her surgery. She had chosen something that was a band-aid and never would've fixed the problems.

On January 15th, I had really, really big surgery. I had organs removed that were covered in cysts and endometriosis (none of that means cancer, in case you're wondering), and organs repaired and put back where they belonged. I was told to lay down for 2 weeks. I did. I went to the follow-up appointment 12 days later and the doc said he could tell I was doing as I was told because I was healing "ahead of schedule," his words.

Joe and the kids are awesome, I must say. Not only have they dealt with my (ahem) occasional moodiness from dealing with all of this for years, but after the surgery, they took over every single thing in my house, from piano lessons, to cooking, to cleaning, to literally serving at my feet. Without them, I never would've been able to 'lay still' for 2 weeks straight. The only hiccup in the whole process was a pretty nasty migraine, but we chalked that up to my extreme sensitivity to medication and moved right along. Okay, not quite. They had to call 911 because I passed out in my back yard, but really, it was just that my head hurt so very badly...

Last year, April 13-17th 2012, Josh was in the hospital and that was officially the most terrifying experience of my life...until last week. January 28th 2013, I woke up bleeding, just a bit more than I thought was normal. I took a shower and went back to bed, started feeling pretty yucky, and went to the bathroom. I've never seen that much blood in my life. I called Joe, who was at work. He told me to hang up and call 911. I did, as I sent Josh running to get Caylea, who was sound asleep. After I hung up with 911, I told Caylea, "Baby, I'm bleeding. I have to go to the ER. The ambulance is coming." Caylea would normally panic. She gets that from Joe. :) She did not. She literally hit her knees, laid her hands on me, and prayed out loud. I called my Mom, who also started praying. Tough, calm, super-mom Tori was in a near panic, I must admit. It wasn't a panic for myself, but for my family. All I could think was, "This can't be happening. I've been SO GOOD. I've done everything they asked me to! Why am I bleeding?" Random thoughts, some angry, mostly scared, started pouring into my head. That's when the real battle started. The real battlefield is truly in the mind. I am so thankful that I was equipped. I started tossing every Scripture about healing that came to mind. Our pastor had preached a sermon on the names of God, and for whatever reason I felt compelled to memorize them. Well, God Our Healer is Jehova-Rophe. I just started talking to Him in my head. I won't share those personal thoughts either, but I can assure you that God really talks back when you listen. I kept this all in my own head, because I believe that our words have a certain 'power,' for lack of a better description, and I didn't want to say one single word out loud that might hinder healing. So, I just prayed. So did you. I know you did. I felt it. My kids felt it. My husband felt it. We are overwhelmingly blessed by your prayers.

The ambulance arrived and they introduced themselves as Joe and Sammy, which I won't explain because it's only funny to a certain few, but it actually calmed me down just a hair because I laughed and said, "You've got to be kidding me. What are the odds of that?" God was in the ambulance, and I knew it by their names. I get teary-eyed thinking about it. He's a funny Guy, the God I serve. Sammy thought I was going nuts and put an oxygen mask on me. I wish I could call him and explain. By that time I was going into shock. That is a very weird feeling, I must admit.

Joe got to the house just as the ambulance was leaving, so he was able to chase me in his Mustang. He had a blast. There was a point in the ER when everyone left the room, just before taking me into the OR. It was just me and Joe. I said, "Did you have fun chasing the ambulance?" He just grinned from ear to ear and said, "Yes, I did." :) He gave me a kiss and he said, "Your heart rate went up when I kissed you." I said, "It's proof that you still, after nearly 18 years, make my heart go crazy. I love you." Joe, my favorite person in the world, was super calm the whole time. He kept saying things like, "You're going to be just fine." I believed him. A few minutes later I was in the OR, getting happy gas and getting fixed.

I lost 2 units of blood. That's not much considering that the average woman of my height and build carries around 8 units, but if you can imagine donating blood, you donate 1 unit. Imagine 2 of those big bags spilled out on an ER table and you can maybe picture what Joe had to see, what Caylea had to see in my bathroom, and what Caylea, Chloe, and Joshua had to clean up. It's a nasty, terrifying sight. This story definitely isn't for the squeamish. *One of my stitches had dissolved, which is normal and right on time, but I somehow inherited an extreme sensitivity to all things medicine and I heal slowly. The stitch went right on time, but my body wasn't ready. It's been double-stitched and glued this time. It's not going anywhere.* (See correction below.) :)

I came home after another migraine in the hospital (lack of sleep and the occasional tiny little blood clot floating around will do that). I've never experienced the pain that those two migraines produced. Worst pain of my life. I love nurses, but they would NOT leave me alone. Then the candy-striper came in with a newspaper and I about took her head off. Sometimes you just need sleep. I was so grateful for my very own bed.

So, here I am, 10 days later, still laying in bed, but walking around the house a few minutes at a time. I even taught 2 piano lessons this week. It was exhausting. I keep trying to joke around with the kids. They will stare at my face and say, "Mommy, you look pale. Go lay down." I'll respond with, "Blood loss tends to make people look pale. I'm fine." They don't appreciate my humor, yet. Well, I think Josh does. :)

*Correction:
I just went to the doctor today, so I am going to just add this in the middle as part of the story. Today is February 8th, 2013. The doctor said I'm doing great. He said that the stitch didn't let go in time, that it wasn't supposed to do that, and there could've been a hundred things that caused it. I had heard a loud 'pop' from my groin the Thursday before the Monday that I got to ride in an ambulance, and it felt like I pulled a muscle, but reading the websites about that kind of thing made it seem like it was normal. It wasn't the 'excruciating pain' that pulled stitches were causing other women. I should've known better. God gave me an incredible tolerance for pain. I should've known that what felt uncomfortable to me was actually a considerable amount of pain for someone else. Unfortunately, that popping noise was likely the stitch that gave way, and it just took a few days for enough blood to build up for it to let go. It explains a lot of how I was feeling, getting headaches, etc., over that weekend before the Monday that everything went so badly. I have officially been cleared to meander down to the stop sign outside in the fresh air. I can't drive yet, but maybe by next week I'll be able to do that. In other words, I'm healing, slowly but surely, and God is in the midst of this process just as much as He is in the midst of miracles. We are fearfully and wonderfully made...made to heal, made to recover, made to be okay, and I am grateful.*

So, what is the point of this very long blog? I did leave out a lot, just in case you're wondering. It could've been much longer. I really did try to keep it as short as possible and still make a point.

The point is this. GOD IS IN CONTROL. My husband, my children, my family and friends who prayed, you did the right thing. Our days are numbered only by the Maker that made us, and only He can determine when we leave our temporary home and come to Him, but God hears the cries of His people, of people who earnestly pray. This time wasn't mine, even though it might've felt like it for a minute.

I am so incredibly thankful for my husband and children. I've always known how awesome they are, and I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it frequently, but I'll never stop no matter how silly you think I am. I love my family. God knit us together and over the course of the last month, they have loved me so very deeply, through cooking, cleaning, and checking in on me every few minutes, that I will never forget how awesome they are.

I am convinced now more than ever, and if I doubted before I won't again, that we 'wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12 If you stopped what you were doing and prayed for me when the call went out on January 28th, I thank you, most sincerely, from the bottom of my heart. Know that God answers prayer.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 in Review

2012 started out pretty awesome. We went skiing in Austria for the last time with friends that we had kept around for several years. The hardest part about making friends is leaving them when the military tells you to. This time, though, the Ingrams got leave first. Throughout our 4 1/2 years in Germany, we made some lifelong friends. We sat around the porch fire, watching the snow, watching the kids play in the beautiful back yard that backed up to a pasture and a hill, and we put puzzles together when the weather wouldn't cooperate. The men never puzzled. They burned things. Weirdos. We have never been more grateful for a duty station than we were for Germany, not because we got to go to Europe, which was pretty cool if I do say so myself; but because of the friendships and, more importantly, what God did with the 5 Ingrams. He taught us to be one unit, not 5 separate entities rooming together for a few years. He taught us to slow down and, literally, smell some flowers. He taught us that walking outside, bike riding, hiking, swimming, and building tree forts with leftover wood are all very good things to do as a family. He taught us some new family games through friends. He taught us to enjoy one another. When we moved over there, we stopped everything. Most of you know how busy we were with gymnastics, dance, tae-kwon-do, soccer...the only thing we kept was soccer because the boy needed it. In place of 'activities,' we did all of the things I just mentioned, and not one of us regrets giving those things up. Not once did my kids say, "I don't want to play a family game. I want ballet lessons!" We even went to their friends' ballet recitals, soccer games, and gymnastics meets. Not once did my kids say, "Please put us back in that!" God taught us that loving each other goes beyond providing basic sustenance and gets into the nitty-gritty of showing love every single day through actions. There's a song that changes the words I often say to my family, and I've taken to quoting it. I used to say, "Love is an action." Now I say, "Love is a verb." It is true. Love isn't a word. In May we started the moving process, and I have to be honest and say that we didn't handle it very well. We were stressed beyond our normal capacity to handle things because an overseas move is an entirely new set of rules, regulations, and paperwork to fill out, places to go, and people to sign off on things. Not only that, but Joe knew he was coming to a job he wouldn't necessarily love, which is always difficult. We left Germany on June 19th wearing jackets and shivering because we let the movers pack our heavier coats. We arrived in Atlanta, GA on June 19th, and because God loves us so much, He put some rain and clouds out in 75 degree weather. He knew we might actually die if we went from 50s to 100s in the same day. He met us in the middle, like He usually does. :) We have seen family, friends we haven't seen in years, and we are settling in, slowly but surely. Caylea is in college now. She will graduate high school just shy of an Associate's degree and, hopefully, a completed music album. She has the songs written. She just has to tweak them. It is amazing to watch her pluck entire orchestral creations out of thin air. It is also amazing to watch her walk out her faith, knowing that God has a plan, even if it isn't going the way she thought it would. Chloe is volunteering at a local vet clinic. Yes, she still has allergies. No, she doesn't care. She will be a vet or own her own zoo one day, and when God heals her of the allergies, she will tell everyone what He did. Until then, she will sneeze and grin like she always does. She'll be a freshman in high school this fall. In 6 months or less she will be taller than her sister. :) Joshua is still the Lego-building mega-mind. I handed him the pieces to our table that the movers completely disassembled and he single-handedly put it back together with no instructions. He is always saying, "Can I help you?" And if I ask him to, he does it happily. He has such a soft heart. I'm not sure where God is leading him. He never says anything about his future other than that he will have lots of kids because he doesn't want to be lonely and that he would love to be a Lego engineer. Yes, that's a real job. It's all on computer now, though, so when he starts high school (not yet, I promise), I'll have to hire someone to teach him that stuff. I'm only good at emailing. I don't know how it works. I just trust that the 'send' button will send. All in all, this move has been hard, good, tiring, and a blessing. We are so grateful to be so much closer to family. We miss our friends from Germany, but we have them a finger-tip away thanks to technology. You might wonder what the Ingrams will do in 2013. Well, our family goal that we set last year and hope to continue is to "Love one another deeply, from the heart." We hope that in doing that, we'll spread a little love around us as well. Also, I (Tori) hope to finish my book. We'll see....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Another move later...

It's finished! The boxes are unpacked, the house looks like a home, for the most part, and we are settling in to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. It is hot, it is humid, and it is difficult to adjust after the temperate German climate we lived in for 4 1/2 years. 4 1/2 years! I just like lists, so here goes: Paris, France Rothenberg, Germany Trier, Germany Metz, France Kirchdorf, Austria Edelweiss, Germany Drove through Switzerland Brussels, Belgium Brugges, Belgium (Really hard name), Poland Florence, Italy Rome, Italy Chinqueterra, Italy; and so many more I have to stop listing them now. I even spelled some of these wrong just to see if you were paying attention! We were able to see some of the oldest buildings in Europe, 30+ castles, I had all of my piano recitals in a castle, and we have memories that will last a lifetime! Joe brought home 60 bottles of wine, which I won't drink because I think wine is gross. Yes, I'm a child. I prefer milk. :) The girls spent 3 weeks with my parents this summer, something we've never had them do before. They got to go to Hawaii for 2 of those weeks. I've never been to Hawaii. (Pouting.) They had a blast. Joshua was home with me, working on our tan. After 4 1/2 years in Germany, none of us had any color left. The first time we saw the sun here in Georgia, we had to duck and cover. 50 SPF still had us browning, and all 3 kids had growth spurts. We love the sunshine! As we start this new school year, Caylea is a junior starting dual enrollment at Liberty University online, Chloe is an 8th grader, and Josh is (gasp) a 6th grader! I remember 6th grade boys. I never liked them much, but he's okay. :) Joe's job isn't what he expected but he's a great boss and he enjoys working with this crowd. I have zero piano students lined up. It's just a different kind of place here in Georgia, where things are slow-paced, most stores are closed on Sundays, and we can relax and settle in. We have too many churches to choose from, and we're working on finding friends for the kids. Porch nights will have to wait until the gnats go away and it cools off a bit, but the fire pit is here, ready to go this fall!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shameless

I forgot I had a blog until I recently read a blog from another church-going Mom. One of these days I will have time to sit and do this weekly. Until then, I'll do what I can. :)

It is amazing to me how many people will come up to me and say, "You have everything so together." My first response is, "Nuh-uh!" I do not. People think that because you are not outwardly struggling, that your life must be perfect. People think if you are a certain size, have nice hair and skin, have a husband who acts like he likes you, and have children who pretend to listen to you in public, you must be the queen of all mothers/wives/etc.

Well, it's just not true. I don't broadcast our troubles, not because I am ashamed of them, but because God tells me to meditate on what is pure, right, lovely, admirable, noble, trustworthy, excellent, and praiseworthy; to think on THESE things. He doesn't say to walk around talking about the negative details of our family life. Telling everyone the BAD things that happen in our family doesn't glorify God unless we tell everyone about the GOOD things that happen.

That being said, I think if I had to use a quote from this other Mom's blog, it would be this; "I am shameless." I think she and I use it for the same reason, although she doesn't articulate it, I think it order to keep from turning people off. I don't mind telling you what is wrong with me as long as you then allow me to share what is RIGHT with me, and that is my faith in Christ; my unwavering belief that there is grace to cover even me.

Let me tell you why I'm shameless. 2 Corinthians 7:10 "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret [shame], but worldly sorrow brings death." My Savior has washed me of regret and shame, and now I can proudly proclaim that the person that I was is no longer, and that the person that I choose to be may have a long way to go to get there, but the God of all gods is walking with me the entire way.

I still act like an idiot. I sometimes call my husband by a 'pet name' that is anything but Godly, and believe me when I tell you that my husband doesn't think I'm a lady when I use that name. I sometimes yell at my children, or make angry faces at them. I sometimes wish I could put them in school and get a 'real' job so my life would be easier. I still say inappropriate things at inappropriate times and have to go back later and apologize. Does knowing that stuff about me make you feel better about your own 'pet' sins? I certainly hope not. Knowing that someone else struggles in sin shouldn't make you feel like it's okay that you struggle in those same sins. It should give you encouragement to KEEP WORKING ON NOT DOING THAT PARTICULAR SIN; not excuse the sin as 'something everyone does.'

What we have to learn to do is love those around us in SPITE of themselves. That is true Grace in action. When your spouse says something in a moment of anger or frustration, you can choose to forgive whether they ever apologize or not; or you can hold a grudge and be a miserable person. When I fail, I can wallow in grief over my sin, or I can allow the mercy of Jesus Christ to wash over my spirit and pick me up again.

Jesus Himself said it best in Matthew 22: 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus loves me in spite of myself. My job is to be like Him, as much as I can, as often as I can. It starts and ends with Love.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DNA

I've had several people ask my why I haven't blogged very often or in so long. I'm busy. That's the simplest answer. I homeschool 7-1130, eat lunch 1130-1230, teach piano 1230-430, then there's soccer or church or babysitting or porch nights with friends. At some point I have to shower during the day, so the last thing on my list of things to do is to sit and write, which is actually shameful because I like to. So, I am 'borrowing' something from my Dad this go-round, to make things faster and hopefully it will entertain the millions of people who read this blog. :D

People often ask me what ethnicity I have running through my veins. At least 10 people in my life have told me that I and my daughter Caylea look 'exotic,' which makes me think of exotic plants, which makes me think of those big Venus fly-traps that have been known to eat people. I don't know why my brain goes that route, but that's free association, Tori style.

I've always called myself a mutt, but my Dad recently had his DNA tested just to see which end was up, and here are the results. I must admit that I am not altogether surprised. Italians think I'm Italian. Spanish people think I'm Spanish, Indians think I'm Indian, and I'd be the first one to help a hurt person on the side of the road (Samaritan). :)

If you add Joe's Korean into this mix, his Dad's Tennessee true-blue blood (which is slang for American mutt as well), and whatever my Mom is, which is likely more Irish than anything; then you can only imagine that my children are truly the muttiest mutts of the millennium. :) (I really hope N.Pace read that one. I did that just for her.)

Hey everyone,
We just got the DNA back and it isn’t what I expected! They said they could not rule out (with this test)that we might have a little American Indian, but if we do it is too small an amount to show up. My Y DNA which is dad’s, dad’s, etc comes back to the North Africa-Middle east. My whole DNA, which doesn’t tell what part is what, shows me to be 37% Druze/Iranian. That is right where dad’s DNA pointed. (Some think the Druze are from the Samaritans). So we might have Jewish blood since over 120,000 Druze still live in Israel. The rest of me 63% (Margin of error 14%)Orcadian/Tuscan. Tuscan is the part of Italy where we just spent part of the summer. Orcadian is part of the English-Scottish-Ireland Island area. So eat some pizza, pull on your kilt, and have a jihad with yourselfJ
God bless you all!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Viva Italia!

I think the last time I wrote in this blog was some time back in March. Things have been hopping since then! The kids completed their academic testing, which is always a blast. They say things like, "Can we do this every day? This is so easy!" I hope that translates well on the tests. Otherwise, their teacher may get fired. :)

In early May, I hosted my second piano recital at Burg Lichtenberg. It was fabulous, as usual, and a completely different feel from the last 'winter-wonderland' recital that we had. Everyone messed up, which is just how I like it. I played 3 songs this time, because I didn't play at the last recital and some parents heckled me for it. I just didn't want to seem to be showing off. This time, I chose songs that I love to play, even though I rarely sit and play for hours like I used to, and during one song, two of my precious little girls (7 years old) stood behind me and turned pages for me. We stayed for dinner and overfilled the back room, but there were hardly any messed-up orders and everyone raved about the food. It is one of our favorite restaurants in Germany!

Our second favorite is a restaurant called Poisiedon (sp?) up in Idar-Oberstein. The Lovells introduced us to it and when we eat there, we wear loose-fitting clothing. :) Speaking of the Lovells, they and my parents joined us on a trip to Italy from 17 May-26 May. We drove through Garmisch to get there and through Switzerland to get home. We stayed in a villa outside of Florence, saw "David," Cinque Terre, and Rome to include the Vatican and "Pieta." (I'm sure I've mentioned what a Michelangelo fan that I have become since reading "The Agony and the Ecstasy," but it's a really, really big book; so if you want the synopsis, email me and I'll give it to you in a paragraph.) Joshua was NOT a fan of the museum. He genuinely hates naked statues. I don't blame him, but I really wanted to see what is considered M's greatest work, and one of the most famous sculptures in the world. I had no idea it was 14 feet tall! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Michelangelo)

We ate so much great Italian food, wore beautiful dresses, swam in a freezing pool, laid in the grass with a really old, coughing dog that became Josh's best friend, played games, and did not have a tv at all. We did have music, though, and it was a very relaxing week. It just went by too quickly. One of these days we'll take a vacation where we don't feel like we have to see everything and do everything; where we can just sit and look at the mountains and stars and be content. I think that vacation will be our next one. If I had to recommend anything, I'd say for sure to take the bus tour in Rome. However, get on the bus that has a roof, just in case it rains, which it did while we were on the bus, which we thought was funny for the first 10 minutes, and then we were completely drenched down to our scivvies (is that a word? My computer doesn't like it.) and the kids were cold, and I was cold, and people were pointing at us, and I started singing, "Thunder bolt and lightning, very, very fright'ning" because it was lightning over our heads....get the picture? That'll be the memory of the trip, right there. Well, that and the wine bottle that I dropped in the middle of the store. Fumble-fingers! :)

My Dad just had some blood-work done to determine his genetic roots. We've always thought we were part Cherokee, and that has yet to be officially determined, but what did show up was "North African, Mediterranean, Greek, Italian," and he did blend in well. My Mom got slobbered on by baby Jack. I'll admit it. We all got slobbered on by baby Jack, but he does it with such flair, you can't help but laugh, which encourages him all the more. He's in his licking stage, and then everything is made funnier if you say 'poo' with it. "Jack, do you want to eat a snack?" "Yes, I want a POO snack!" I have to admit that we did laugh. It's what we do, though. We laugh at inappropriate things. He'll outgrow it eventually, right? There's no real need to rush things.

The girls had a blast swimming in the pool, and Josh dove and dove and dove for the dive-toys. They had tea parties with mud, and there was, apparently, a dead rat in the pool filter for a few days. That was lovely. It only rained 1 afternoon, if my memory serves correctly. Well, in Londa, which is where we stayed. It rained in Rome, for sure. lol

I studied Italian for a while to just get the hang of how it would sound in my ears. I could understand it quite easily, being so similar to Spanish, but I couldn't speak it. It was incredibly frustrating to me to not be able to communicate without resorting to hand gestures. The Germans call it "Hand und Fuss Sprechen," which means "hand and feet talk," and that's what I did a lot of. When we finally crossed the German border and Joe had a question, I spoke German so fluently and felt so great about it! It was nice to be back in familiar territory. We crossed through Switzerland on the way home, and I can honestly say that I've never seen more beautiful lakes than we saw driving through that country, and they are the kings of tunnels. We drove through a 10 mile tunnel!!! There was no holding of the breath through that one, but we did come up with 20 different 'trapped' scenarios, which made Chloe start feeling claustrophobic, so we quit. If you want to see the rest of the Italy pictures, which take forever to upload to this blog, go to our family Facebook page... ToJoCayChloJo Ingram

We listened to tons of Beatles music, and now my kids are avid Beatles fans. Maxwell's Silver Hammer is sung nearly every day, and Joshua sings it beautifully. I think he may be the real star of the family, but no one will ever know it because he's just too shy and quiet to let loose in front of anyone but me. Even Joe hasn't heard him singing at the top of his lungs, and when I hear him, it's because he doesn't know I'm standing around the corner listening. Justin Bieber has nothing on my boy, but the world may never know it... :)

We arrived home just in time to fix my Mom a t-bone steak and put them on the plane. I don't envy them that plane trip. They say that going from East to West is easier than from West to East, which I did find to be true, but easier doesn't mean easy by any means. It's still a rotten thing to experience jet-lag! We celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary by taking the kids with us to see "Thor," which I would recommend. It had one kiss, the only thing close to nudity was when he took his shirt off, and there was only 1 profanity that I was the only one to hear. My kids didn't notice it, which is unusual. They're normally the first ones to say, "Was that necessary?!?" We ate a lot of popcorn and came home to play in the yard, eat Italian ice cream from the truck, and stay up way too late. It is spring/summer here, so the sun is up until almost 10 and peeks out from the mountains (okay, hills) around 5am. I finished report cards yesterday and now I'm waiting on next year's school books to get here so I can lesson plan. It'll be an early start since we're likely moving in April 2012, so I want to be done by March 30th. We've moved with school before. It makes for heavy bags and we think we can just push through and be done, leaving us free to move freely.

Joe's job is still the same, and we've got the itch to move. This is the longest we've ever been in one place. I told my Mom when we drove up, "After 3 years, it still doesn't feel like I'm pulling up to HOME, you know?" I don't know why, but my roots haven't planted here. Don't get me wrong....Germany is gorgeous and I'm so glad we've had this opportunity. I count my blessings daily. I just think we're ready to be elsewhere. I don't miss Walmart. I think I may have said that I did miss it when we first moved here, but the simple life here has cured me, and I doubt very seriously that you'll ever see me or my children in a "People of Walmart" video. We don't "need" nearly as much as we thought we did, but we live an abundantly blessed life. God is so good, all of the time!