Christmas Update...Birthday musings

Well, it's over. I can't believe that Christmas has come and gone. We had a nice, quiet Christmas morning here in Liege. We opened presents and gave Gracie her present (shown above)...a lifesize boyfriend. We then headed over to Pierre-Francios' house for an afternoon lunch. P-F is Stephen's coworker, and he and his wife were gracious enough to host us at their family lunch since we were "all alone." Rosanna, P-F's wife, is full blood Italian, and she and her mom stayed up very late making the pasta and pesto for the delicious lasagna we had to eat. It really was good, even picky Stephen had seconds. They have three children, both P-F's parents and Rosanna's were in attendance, as well as her brother and his wife. It was a packed house, and made our Christmas loud as usual!! Of course we missed our families, but it was a great distraction.

Hayley (my sister) came in town the next morning, so it has been quite busy ever since. We've traveled to Brussels, Maastricht, and even spent yesterday in Amsterdam. It's so nice to have her around...and it gives me a running buddy! Tomorrow morning we are headed to Paris to spend New Years Eve. I can't wait. I haven't been yet, and I'm so excited to see the city of LIGHTS...even if it's only for 24 hours! Ha! We've had a little drama today...I'll explain in a later post, but all in all my birthday has been fabulous! I can't believe I'm 26, seems old. I know I'm not, but it seems old. It seems like yesterday I was reflecting on my 18th birthday how cool it would be when I'm 25. It's flown by, but I feel great, healthy, and blessed. My sis-in-law Natalie sent me some "Sprinkles" cupcakes to have for my birthday. We definitely enjoyed those with the cannaloni I made. I'm becoming quite the cook these domestic!

Thank you for all of your prayers in this adventure Stephen and I are on. We truly do feel so blessed to have each of you on our's feeling more peaceful here now--and we thank God for the opportunity and the experience. Here's wishing you and yours a blessed, peaceful and healthy 2008. I'll post Paris debauchery as soon as I have them!

My Baby is 6!

No, I don't have a child I've kept secret from was GRACIE'S 6TH BIRTHDAY on the 15th. We celebrated over the weekend, and her big present was tonight! She got to have Stephen's pork chop bone...and boy was she excited! Unlike most dogs, she usually doesn't get to act like a dog, nor does she get to have normal dog "carnal instincts" because her mom keeps her on a tight leash (pun intended) and dressed like a human. But, tonight was VERY different. She was able to eat all she wanted of the bone. That's a lie. She's still crying at the trash can where the carcas lies. We had a small family dispute when mom decided she was done. However, she's fulfilled. She might need a Tums before bed, but she's one happy dog! I've attached some pics for your viewing pleasure, and a video of the feeding frenzy. Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!

Kid in candy store

That's how I felt when I walked into Schlepp's (funny name, huh?). It's a Hobby Lobby-esque store, with more artistic flair than anything else. They have easels, canvases, drafting tables, ink, brushes, mosaic tile sets, watercolor sets, and much much more! I was in heaven! I wandered all 4 floors for over an hour and finally made my purchase. An acrylic paint selection, brushes, and 8 canvases of all different shapes and sizes. I had decided early on that our walls were too bare. So, I decided to paint. All except for two were my own creations...the two knock-offs were inspired by Amy Tartar's (Steph Johnson's coworker at Antioch Berlin--where we had Thanksgiving) dining room paintings. I must say, I am no professional, nor is it even natural. But I enjoy it. It's fun! Go out, buy some canvases, and make a day of it. Have a glass of wine and don't worry about the outcome. I favor some of them more than others, but either way it's a chance to reach deep within for that "creative side." Stephen used his creative talents on the computer, researching his favorite authors' quotes on Life and Marriage. Hope you like (but secretly don't care...we like 'em.) Ha!!

There's a good and bad side to everything...

My mom left on Thursday after a week-long stint in Belgium. It was very hard to see her go. There is an unmistaken comfort in having your mom nearby, even if it's just for a short while. As you grow up you learn to have your own life, your own adventures, but you still miss your momma. You just do! It's so weird to walk into the bathroom she used while here and smell her perfume, and instantly feel safe. Mom's are a comfort. I have been blessed with an amazing mother, and I truly miss her. Of course we're normal, and we bicker and disagree. But to be fortunate enough to have a mother that has faith in me, selflessly gives and gives and GIVES for's truly a blessing from God. She's my best friend. I just hope that i fulfill her life as much as she does mine! I'm married now. And God has also blessed me with a husband that understands that bond. And he loves her just the same. And now I have a mother-in-law that I love dearly, that trusts me with her son and believes in me the same. Life is so wonderful. I can allow myself (embarrasingly too often) to sulk in the thoughts of life going on without us in the states, but what truly matters is the love of our families and matter where we are. Home is where we are together...we are here. Stephen and I are home, together. And we're going to make it.

In true Cricket fashion, we walked my mom into the ground. We visited Cologne, Monschau (Germany), Valkenburg, Maastricht (Holland), Brussels and Liege (Belgium) and were able to see all of the different Christmas Markets. We went in caves, tried on fun boots, ate waffles, tapas, and treated my mom to some good 'ole Leigeois Meatballs. I think she had a good time. I know I did just being with her (and selfishly an English speaker, ha!) AND.....GRACIE IS HERE!!!! She's already brought us so much joy in just a week. Funny how much a dog changes your life. She's so great! Although I'm excited, we still have another dog not yet on foreign pour one out for Bella in Austin. She'll get here eventually! Mom also helped us purchase our first European Christmas tree. I'm rather lazy in the "picking up pine needles" category, so it's a pre-lit fake. Guess I'm kinda lazy in lighting trees too :) We had so much fun picking out ornaments, and we all decorated the tree together. Gracie even gave moral support. Having the tree (and presents and stockings, thanks mom) helps our/my emotional state during the holiday season! Thanks mom for a wonderful trip. You made my holidays! Sometime early next year my parents will both come over, and we'll get to spend time with my dad, too. I cannot TELL you how excited I am to see his face and hear his voice in's going to be so great! What an amazing person he is, I miss my daddy :) In addition, March brings the Dotson clan over! We are going to have so much fun. We are renting a house in the French countryside. I am eagerly awaiting seeing them as well, it's been far too long! There's something to be said about being able to hug them and see them in person, not just on Skype. I completely lucked out with my in-laws. They are my family, not in-laws and a sister-in-law. They are family! So warm and caring, it will be so nice to relax and catch up with them...and long overdue! We are very blessed, and spoiled. We know!
In happier/lighter news...I got a JOB. Thanks for the prayers and support from everyone. This is truly a blessing. I have sugar-coated my personal experience here, in short because no one wants to hear someone gripe when they are in "Europe." Well kids...Europe is great, especially when fantasizing about "all the places you can go, cool things to see..." It gets old, you get cynical, the fantasy wears off. I need something of purpose. I've prayed for a long time. I need something to do with myself after I've run. I need to be busy. I now have a job. I couldn't be more excited. I'll be teaching English at a language center in the Center of Liege. The bus stop is directly in front of the building. It took me 7 minutes to bike there on Friday. I'm so blessed. God has a funny timing with things...I needed a pick me up after my mom left--I have a job. It's still setting in.

You guys are amazing for reading all of this nonsensical blabber from me...I appreciate it! My sister will be here in 10 days...she's such a breath of fresh air. Just like moms, sisters are pretty great too. I have three sister-in-laws that I adore (I got lucky, I know) and Hayley...who really is a blond extension of me. We'll definitely paint Belgium and all surrounding countries red! I can't wait...I'll need the pick-me-up after a Christmas family-less, and I can't think of another person I'd want here for my birthday and New Years. Speaking of New Years...we are going to be in Paris!!! Craig and Aimee Miller will be there we'll have some familiar faces to ring in '08! I hope all of you are doing well. We love and miss each of you! Send us an update, we'd love to hear the latest and greatest!

For your viewing pleasure...

I've added a little compilation video of our "cheap thrill" at the Potsdam Christmas Market in Berlin! Enjoy...

Update: Parlez lentement, s'il vous plait...

Well, I must say I'm disappointed in your lack of participation in the "story-building." However, I feel I must tell you what really happened. Stephen and I were abrubtly awoken on Saturday morning by the persistent knocking of our landlord at which we ignored. When she started calling, though, we felt it must be an emergency. She regrettably informed us of our car's 'accident,' occuring in the wee hours of the morning. Once we got out of bed, we found this:

Apparantly someone under the influence ran into the car behind us, sending it over the barrier and into our back-end. Our poor minivan now has an inoperable back door...but the real delight was Stephen giving the policeman the report. There were a lot of "how do you say..." and "I don't understand..." phrases thrown out, but we got through it and have it filed for insurance. Just another experience in our journey!


The Chinese Restaurant we go to in Liege seems to be doing pretty well, it's mostly packed on weekends...but they obviously don't have enough money to complete the bathroom. Or, maybe this was intentional?!@# Frightening!