The ramblings of a woman,
wife, & mother, who loves:
Jesus / my man / the three,
learning about parenting /
mamahood / childbirth,
cooking foods healthy /
international / yummy,
pretending to garden /
write / design,
attempting to run /
exercise / lift weights,
enjoying traveling /
camping / adventures,
finding ways to love /
serve / sacrifice for others.

It is not to say she does these things
with style or grace, or even skill.


And in the End, the Love You Take...

September 29, 2010 - 12:02 AM

It's been over two months since we got home from our big adventure.  After (finally!) writing out the last few days of our trip, I have been reminded of so many wonderful things.  If you were to ask what my favorite part of our trip was, I would honestly say going to Josiah Venture's Strakonice English Camp in Bohemian SW Czech Republic.  I still can't believe we did that.  There we are, in the bottom right by the blue ball! 

Strakonice Camp

Sightseeing around Eastern Europe was fun and exciting, but it didn't improve who I am as a person like English Camp.  Camp was amazing for me in so many ways besides helping me speak in public again.  The entire camp experience united Josh and I more as a married couple.  I thought we were tight, but I cannot express in words how we came home with a deeper oneness.  Our young family was united closer together in loving each other, loving others, and being on mission together.  Working alongside extended family (in this case my older sister Leah) was so encouraging, what an amazing woman.  Not to forget, watching young lives changed, amazing!  Yes, all those things can (and do) happen stateside but for some reason these things happened with our family in the Czech Republic.  I'm ok with that.

As I was looking back at my pre-trip blog post, I was so encouraged to see how things played out!  I know this is where my faith can seem over the top but when I think about the life I was saved from, I can't refrain giving thanks in all things, the "good" and the "bad," to the one I have faith in.

- We were ready to love, serve and sacrifice for those around us from the moment we got there, God blessed us as a family helping us to live in such a way to reflect Christ, and each of us connected with the students. Thank God!

- The boys were able to see the world through a new lense, love & pray for the students, and embrace a new culture whole-heartedly.  Being in a place to see teenagers in all places of life helped to open their eyes to things bigger than themselves.  And Miriam didn't get hurt, phew!  Thank God!

- Even though it is advertised as a church based English camp, a few camp kids weren't so jazzed about the Jesus part of camp and ignored that side of things.  However, a lot of kids were interested and asked some amazing and tough questions we all need to wrestle through.  Thank God!  Follow up is going on RIGHT NOW, so please continue to pray for the kids at Strakonice Camp.

- While we did have bouts of temporary sicknesses throughout the entire trip, from skin rashes to vomit, nothing took us to the ER!  We were safe throughout our entire trip, nothing was stolen like wallets, purses or laptops, the car didn't get scratched (VERY AMAZING) or stolen, we didn't lose any kids, and no damage was done, emotionally, physically, spiritually.  Thank God!

- Our employees did an amazing job holding down the fort!  While we were at camp Josh only worked a minimal amount and only during a scheduled free time, so it worked out perfectly and did not detract from camp or us.  I am so incredibly thankful for protection of our business! Thank God!

There were also little things that were blessings I am so thankful to God for like I have a crippling fear of bugs and our camp did not have bug issues, which I heard another one did have them.  The hygiene at our camp was not stellar, but they did have a dishwasher, which again, I heard another camp did not have one.  And though I made light fun of the food we had, there is worse food to be fed, food so terrible words cannot express.  As I said mentioned except for the idiot tax on our heavy suitcase, we did not go over in our budget, I am so thankful our finances were protected.

Another thing I didn't think to pray for but was truly a blessing from the Lord - I was very aware of my role as wife and mom at camp; I had my priorities in check.  This was a HUGE blessing to my family and me.  In the camp setting it would have been very easy to lose myself in the students, spending all my attention on them, to the point that I'd ditch my husband and kids, acting like I was single or without kids.  I was so thankful Josh and I had laid out a game plan for our family beforehand and then on our first day God made it very clear (in a good way) to Josh and I how important this (understanding priorities) was to our family's health.  Really, what a blessing!  When we were apart in our morning English classes, it was planned, well explained to the kids, and everyone was on mission together though we were in different rooms.  We loved on all of the students but kept it in balance.  Even Josh being the one to put the kids in bed each night was a huge blessing for him and the kids.  The whole time we were all united together in some way which in the end made us closer than ever.  No one was left behind, thank God!

Would I venture to take our young family overseas again?  You bet!  I don't know the hows or the whys, but I truly look forward to the challenges and joys.

Though... I think I'll start praying for my anxious heart to not be anxious about driving in Europe and the kids getting continual illnesses now.  And we'll buy more wine for good measure, too.


Time is up. Put down your pencils.

September 28, 2010 - 12:02 AM

Our Cramer family adventure of traveling thru Eastern Europe had ended, though not without a couple moments of unexpected fun. 

We returned our VW to the rental car guys and they were SHOCKED (as shocked as we were) there was no damage or scratches to the car.  I mean, the car was dirty, inside and out and you'd think it would have a scratch somewhere, but nope.  Seriously, praise God!

The check-in line was LONG (since their website was down) and SLOW.  When we finally made it to the front the check-in woman was RUTHLESS.  Our 1 bag we checked was overweight and she was NOT going to wait AT ALL for me to rearrage the weight and said she was closing shop and we had to (in my words) SUCK IT and pay a HUGE heavy luggage fine.  Yeah, I'm still bitter about that one.  Josh says it is to be expected from airline travel.  But if it wasn't for that idiot tax, we would have nailed our trip budget... Yep, still hurts.

Even though we made it to the airport early, the long, slow line made us late.  From here everything was rushed, our plane was already boarding and we still had to go through 2 security checkpoints.  We quickly said goodbye to Leah... Wow... How do I even begin to express how wonderful it was to spend good times and hard times with her in Czech?... No time for that - Bye, Leah. :(!

Bye, Leah!

The passport security guard made each of our kids go through one by one, vs. letting us go through as a family like they did when we arrived.  The guard sits raised up in this enclosed booth with a small slit to slide your passport through.  There is a gate and a line of people behind you about 5 feet and a gate in front of you and to the side 8 feet.  From the inside gate, I can still see just the top of little Miriam's head and watching her hand reach up to hand him her passport and confirming she is who she says she is.  She looked little, but what a big girl for doing that! 

We ran through the airport only to wait in a long luggage security line and finally made it on our plane just moments before take-off.  All that rushing just to sit on a plane for 11 hours of daylight, phew! 

plane fun

The boys pooled their travel money and bought a wooden chess set while in Prague.  They had a lot of fun playing on the plane!

miriam fun

Unlike the rest of us, Miriam did sleep for a good chunk of the flight (6 hours!) but when not sleeping she was playing with her little things like this.  I am truly amazed we didn't lose anything!

By the time we landed in Atlanta and got through customs it was 4pm (our bodies thought it was 11pm) and our flight to Moline didn't leave until 9:30pm (when our bodies would think it was 4:30am).  We didn't want a 6 hr layover but it was the only available flight. 

Max was the first to go while sitting at dinner. 

sleeping max

Zeke, Miriam and I were next, and we fell asleep in front of our boarding gate.  Josh, thankfully was only partially last to fall asleep.  He was awake enough to hear them change our gate just before boarding.  We made multiple trips to get all our sleeping children and their backpacks to the new gate.  We were both so groggy, Josh and I are still not entirely sure how we managed to get the sleeping kids and our luggage onto the plane in one trip.  When we landed in Moline, Zeke woke up and said, "When are we leaving for Moline?"  Yep, no idea how we got on that plane.

By the time my parents picked us up, we took them home to D-port and drove home to IC it was 1:30am (our bodies think it is 8:30am).  Whoa.  24 hours of continuous travel from the time we left our hostel till the time we pulled in our driveway. 

Whoa.  24 hours prior we had been in Europe.  Thank you, God, for letting us have such an amazing trip, from camp to traveling in our VW, sicknesses and worries, everything!


Skimming Prague

September 27, 2010 - 12:02 AM

This was it, our final destination and where we began our journey overseas - Prague.  We checked into our 6-bed hostel room at The Czech Inn and then headed out to catch a tram to take us up to the Prague Castle.  It was still HOT and even hotter on the tram.  (And crazily, the tram did stop by Gehry's Dancing House, it was not as big as I had thought but definitely cooler than I thought!)

hot tram cutie

What I forgot to mention since Cesky Tesin is what happened to Max.  Remember how Max was rolling around in the grass playing with the Ellenwood's dogs the night before?  Max ended up being allergic to the grass he rolled around in, leaving his body ENTIRELY covered in puffy, white, itchy hives.  Thankfully, I had my Burt's Bees Res-Q-Ointment and as soon as his hives would flare up, I would put on the ointment.  But still, Max was miserable, breaks a mama's heart.

poor max

We arrived to the Prague Castle and St. Vitus gothic church at 10 minutes to 6, just before they were suppossed to close (Hooray!) but sadly we arrived just in time to find out the church had closed 5 minutes prior for a private service (OH NO!).  I. was. crushed.  I tried with all my midwestern, Iowa-girl kindness to get us into the church, just for a peek, but they wouldn't do it.  Knowing we were leaving in the morning, knowing I'd be saying goodbye to my sister, knowing Josh really wanted to see the church's interior, having Max miserable, still recovering from our trip to Auschwitz, nearing the end of a fabulous 2 week family vacation to Eastern Europe, or maybe I was just sad we couldn't go in... whatever the reason, I ended up crying on the steps of the church.  My slightly embarassed family comforted me and I snapped out of it.  Goodness, my family is amazing.  Thankfully, even though we couldn't go inside, we all enjoyed the castle grounds and the beautiful flying buttresses to their fullest.

gothic church

st vitus

The long walk down the Old Castle Stairs to the river below was beautiful.  The stairs were at the edge/side of the hill and gave a beautiful above view of the city, and definitely too beautiful to fit our beautiful panorama photo of it on my blog, :)!

view while walking down old castle stairs


castle stairs

(Did you notice the beautiful roofs?  Now go back and look at the photo of communist era apartment buildings.  See why I used the sore thumb analogy?  Can you imagine those buildings, twice as tall as anything around and definitely not as quaint?  Ok, maybe it is just me.  However, I should also note that throughout Prague, the lower 6-8' of each of those quaint buildings is covered in some form of graffitti, mostly black spray paint.  Maybe it is the color "Quaint Black.")

We crossed the river at the most famous bridge in Prague, the Charles Bridge.

charles bridge



Even though we only had one night, we were not and did not rush ourselves at all.  We strolled and soaked in every minute of the remainder of our evening in Prague with Leah: eating at Leah's favorite restaurant, listening to the sounds of the Bohemian Jazz Fest in Old Town Square near the Astronomical Clock, shopping for gifts for kids (I would have bought gifts for adults but I had a dad moment after spending a small amount of money on gifts for kids I couldn't bear to spend any money on adults, not even for postcards, oy!), while we shopped Josh enjoyed taking photos of all the cobblestone streets and manhole covers, we got to drink yummy brews, let the kids enjoy souvenir shopping in the countless/repetitive shops, ate gelato at Leah's favorite gelato place, walked around Old Town, walked to St. Wenceslas Square, rode on the subway and one of the longest escalators in Europe (100 meters long!), then got on a tram and made it back to our hostel at 11:30pm.  Phew!

When traveling around Italy once, my friend and I had only 3 hours to spend in Venice.  We jumped off the train, ran through the craziest maze of streets and bridges to San Marco, ran inside the church and then ran all the way back to the train station.  Our tour of Prague was twice as long and there was no running, but we were merely skimming the essence of a city but not able to fully embrace everything it had to offer.  Prague is definitely on my "must go back before I die" (i.e. bucket) list cities and hopefully next time for more than one night.


Rollin' with my homies! The Reprise!

September 26, 2010 - 11:05 AM

Once again, we were back in our VW, rollin' our way back across the Czech Republic, this time on our way to Prague.  Gone were the worries of vomit from car sickness or heat stroke, though I did insist the Three still drink lots of water.  This drive did included a stop at Ikea for lunch and there was a little worry in me about the car getting scratched in the ever-so-narrow parking lot spots.  Then Leah told me I should be more worried about someone stealing our car from the Ikea parking lot than it getting scratched.*  I love my sister!  :)!

Here's my delicious reindeer meat wrap from lunch...

Ikea reindeer wrap

This was an all around fabulous drive though!  It included Josh and I having a great conversation with Leah, one I wish we could have continued forever.  It also had Max and Miriam accessorizing Leah and themselves with the things in her purse, which was hilarious!  Then they all had a rocking dance party!

In a mere four and a half hours we were in Prague, for our *sniff, sniff* final night in Czech.

*Btw, she was not joking.


Hotel to Hotel to Hide Away

September 26, 2010 - 12:01 AM

Hotel #1: Hotel Central

Now some people when visiting Leah in the past did not find the accommodations at Hotel Central as "great" as we did, and not that there is anything wrong with that, ;).  Admittedly, we are rarely phased since our family of 5 has stayed in some choice accommodations in the past (The Big Inn outside of Lincoln, Nebraska comes to mind).  Besides providing a delicious, complimentary, authentic Czech breakfast in their dark and rustic restaurant...


The Hotel Central also had rooms where you entered directly into the bathroom from the hallway...


(Yes, Leah is sitting on a closed toilet talking on the phone.  It was the only "chair" in our room.")  The red carpet is the hotel hallway, the green carpet is just inside our room.  Even though you'd think there would be a second door between the green carpet and bathroom tile creating a small vestibule, there is not, just hinges where a door should be.  You open the hotel room door from the hallway and BOOM toilet!  And BOOM, you are also directly facing a glass, free-standing shower, too!  In order for privacy you have to lock the hotel room door with its room key and shut the sliding (but not locking) door that leads into the bedroom area.  We laughed about this set up constantly!  Hahahahaha!  :)!  Hotel Central was clean and had no bugs, so in my book with what some may consider negative quirks, like being across from noisy train tracks, noisy drunks on the street, and all the other sounds of downtown city life, we thought it was great!

Hotel #2: Hotel Malenovice


Hotel Malenovice is located in the mountains, a half hour from Cesky Tesin, outside Frydlant.  Malenovice houses the Josiah Venture headquarters, training facility, and English camps.  God provided this old hotel to JV and they have done an amazing job renovating it into an excellent, first-class facility.

Hotel Malenovice was yet another reason we wanted to come to this part of Czech.  Unlike everyone else who teaches at an English Camp, we were not able to come to the training at Malenovice before camp started.  It was great to at least see what training is like for JV camp leaders, short term leaders, long term leaders, etc, even though we didn't get to participate in it.  (We also got to meet a lot more of Leah's friends there, too!)

Hide Away: Selah

One of the things JV takes very seriously is missionary care.  JV works hard to provide a support network for all their missionaries, because like any mission field (at home or abroad), there is a physical, emotional and spiritual battle taking place.  God provided an amazing high mountain cabin for JV to buy, across the valley from Hotel Malenovice.  Mel named it Selah and it is to be (of course, renovated first then) used as a free vacation / retreat home available to all JV staff.



Wow.  I am so thankful to hear about this ministry within JV and how much importance they give to supporting the health of their missionary staff.


Dinner (a Swim) and a Movie

September 25, 2010 - 8:00 AM

I'm sure you have been wondering, "Why Cesky Tesin?"  We chose to go to Cesky Tesin because it was where Leah lived for 7 years (before she moved to Strakonice three years ago) and we have always wanted to see where she lived, the people and the places.

We got to see her old apartment complex (Which, did mom cry when she saw them?  Maybe it was like when I moved out of that frat house and mom said, "Had I known this was where you were living, I wouldn't have let you live there?" Oh, Mom!).  Needless to say, the stories from Leah about living in this complex were always very entertaining. 

While they don't look any different than a 70's built apartment complex in the states, they do look incredibly different from other construction in Czech.  These complexs were built by the Communists in clumps throughout Czech's larger cities.  All of them are the exact same size and shape, unphased by city or culture.  They stick up like sore thumbs in bland Band Aid colors across the beautiful Czech countrysides and quaint cottages.  In recent years the Czechs have been covering them with thick styrofoam and then painting them bright colors and patterns.  They still stick out only now like decorative/themed Band Aids, much more fun and much less depressing.  This photo is of them before painting:

leah's old apt

We Josh also wanted to stop by a Kaufland.  Kaufland translated in German means "Buy Land" and Josh had to go there for that reason alone (goodness, I LOVE that guy! / though we also needed to buy some wine).  Most store chains in Czech: Kaufland, Tesco, etc, are similar to cramming a Walmart, Fareway & Aldi into one small place.  The biggest difference is that beer is cheaper than water, literally.


We were also incredibly excited to join up with the amazing Ellenwood family & friends for dinner, swimming and a movie.  The Ellenwoods (Mel, Amy and their 3 kids) have lived in Czech for over 12 years.  Mel is the VP of JV, but more than that, Mel and Amy have been (and are) amazing friends to Leah since she's lived in Czech.  We have met them before (I designed the JV website circa 2000, hahahahaha! What was I thinking!) but we have never had the chance to spend time talking with them personally at length.

It was wonderful to listen to their stories about life in Czech, speaking the language, cultural differences, traveling around from camp to camp with the kids in their VW van, in general raising kids in the Czech mission field, and laugh!  The Ellenwood family's humor is absolutely perfect for our Leah, if you knew how funny Leah is, wo/man!, you'd think God hand picked them for her.

Happily too, Leah's dear friend Romana, who is a sweetheart, and her husband, who my aunts think is a cutie, were able to visit.  (Romana just got married during the floods and Leah, Lucka, and the bride and groom were stranded in a flooded field together, oy!)  And, since the Ellenwoods are constant hosts, there was also a pastor from California visiting, scoping out Czech housing for his young family to move into next year.

dinner party


Mel and Amy wanted us, but more importantly our kids, to feel relaxed at their home.  They served up a fabulous "American" dinner of grilled BBQ chicken and pasta salad (Miriam had 3 large servings), had two big dogs that Max and Miriam loved playing and rolling around in the grass with, let the kids swim in their pool (with Noah their 14 year old son, who has a knife collection that our boys think is the coolest and who gave Miriam a gummy bear key chain some swooning teen girl had given him, ha!), and then snuggled them into the living room and put in "Over the Hedge" in English... Our three were so happy and right at home! 

Though admittedly, it doesn't take much for our three to make themselves right at home, anywhere, but still, they were loving it!


Our Quickie into Poland

September 24, 2010 - 5:00 PM

It was HOT, it was a rough day, we were done, and we had plans back in Cesky Tesin, so sadly we drove no further into Poland as we had planned (No Krakow this time and no pottery from Krakow for me, sniff-sniff!).  Happily, we enjoyed our last few moments in a great country, one that we definitely hope to visit again!

Just like our trip into Poland was short and sweet, here is a short and sweet photo recap...

Polish Dinner

We found an authentic Polish restaurant along our drive back to Czech.  They had you sit on sheep and goat skins laid on benchs.  (It was cool and creepy at the same time.)  The kitchen was in the open with one small wood burning stove where all the food was cooked. 


Not to forget the perfect Polish napkins.  For those unfamiliar with napkins in Poland, they are a single ply square, are thinner than paper, semi-transparent like a tissue paper and they are always presented beautifully.


They served delicious Polish dumplings as an complimentary appetizer and then Leah and I ordered more for our meal.  (Though they were good, they paled in comparison to Marta's mom & aunt's amazing dumplings!)


Miriam ate dumplings with us and the boys all shared the most expensive thing on the menu (ribs) which in dollars was around 5 bucks.  Josh ordered borscht and then, of course, ordered something that he didn't know what it translated into and it turned out to be breakfast (hahahaha, I LOVE that guy!).


And last but not least, the local Polish brew.




Welcome! I am glad you're here! If you are new and would like to get caught up on what's going on, check out these quick links to get you started:

About Me and This Blog...

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2012 to CA, MN, CO
   Ladies Trip to Napa Valley
   My Parents Rode in a Plane!

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2012 to MN and CO
   Vacation to the North Shore and Cabin
   Boulder for the Summer
   Life in Boulder

Begin Our Adventures of Winter/Spring 2012 to UT
   The Drive to CO/UT Begins
   Vacation in Moab
   Living in Moab / Denver

Begin Our Adventures of Fall/Winter 2011 to CA
   The Drive to CA Begins
   Living in the SF
   Living in the Suburbs
   Coming Home to IC

Begin Our Adventures of Summer 2010 to Eastern Europe
   Life at Czech English Camp
   Travels in Germany & Austria
   Travels in Czech & Poland


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