The Beaches of Normandie

What a somber day it was, the day we traveled to Normandie.  It seemed almost fitting that the weather had turned cold and the skies gray.  We traveled from our boat by bus to the beaches of Normandy early one morning and along the way our tour guide gave us the chilling tale of the lives lost there.  The lives lost to protect our freedom.  The freedom that we, as Americans, so often take for granted.  Today, I share with you some of the photos that I took while there and the feelings I felt while visiting this incredible memorial.
 There were five designated beaches used during the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.  Of these five, Juno Beach, Sword Beach and Omaha Beach were the main sites of Allied Forces attacks led by the Canadians, British and Americans, respectively.  Although ultimately victorious, there were bloody battles and casualties in the thousands, testimony to why these beaches themselves have become monuments to the bravery of the Allied troops. (Viking Daily; Viking Cruise Line.)

The Longues-sur-Mer Gun Battery, otherwise known as "Batterie Allemande", was the location of a German long-range artillery battery.  Before being captured by the British 231st Division, it played a vital role in Germany's effort to defend itself during the Allied Forces' Normandy landings.  It has four 150-mm guns and is located between the vital Allied landing beaches of Gold and Omaha.

On our way to the American Cemetery and Museum, we passed the first site of the American Cemetery in France.
This cross was just sitting out there on the side of the road before reaching the beaches.  How beautiful I thought it was and snapped a photo from the window of our bus.
When we first arrived at the American Cemetery and Museum site, there was a memorial service set up for us.  The silence was deafening.  And then they played our National Anthem.  There were many tears shed here that day.  It was one of the most emotionally touching places I have ever visited.
At the end of the ceremony we were each given a rose to place on a grave.  We walked and walked for such a long while, thinking about these men who died defending our freedom.  How would we choose a place to rest our one rose?

This 172.5 acre cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach.  There are 9,387 United State military buried here.  Most lost their lives in the D-Day landings.
Our final stop was Omaha Beach, where we were able to get out and actually walk on the sands where so many soldiers lost their lives.

As we loaded our bus to head back to the boat, the sun was setting and the wind turning even colder.  As I pondered the events of the past I felt proud to be and American.  Proud that we stand for freedom.  And thankful for those men and women who have and still put their lives on the lines for our freedom every day.
I collected some sand from Omaha Beach in Normandie.  It sits on the desk in my bedroom.  There is not a day that passes when I do not look at it and remember...


Churches of France

Someone asked me the other day:  "Didn't you get tired of seeing all of those churches in France?"  WHAT?!  Are you kidding me?  I absolutely LOVED seeing all of those churches (I told you I was that American in France who was totally enchanted by everything there...).

Upon our arrival into Paris, we toured the city and on that tour we got to visit The Cathedral of Notre Dame.  I was so in awe of this first cathedral because of the absolute beauty and craftsmanship of the architecture.  We have many lovely modern buildings in the United States but none compare to the beauty of these wonderful old buildings in Europe.  Beware!  Because you just might get a photo overload on this post...


                 And if you think the exterior is beautiful just wait until you see the interior...

                                         This is one of my favorite shots behind the crucifix.
                          Here's the front view and just look at those stained glass windows.

Everywhere we stopped along the countryside of France churches could be found peeking around the corners of other buildings or trees...

No matter where we went, churches could be found.  Larger and more opulent ones in the big cities and smaller ones in the quaint towns.  And every one of them touched and inspired me.  They told a story of a people with faith.  And faith connects people.  Across oceans and into far away countries and languages barriers it connects them by their faith in God.  And so no...I did not ever tire of seeing these churches around every corner.  I loved peeking inside of them and snapping photos.  And wondering about the people who had entered their doors so many years ago.  I must admit that the churches were one of my favorite things to photograph while in France.

And now that I finally got to show you the churches of France I want to next share with you our visit to the beaches of Normandy.  What an experience that was and one I will never forget...


Please Excuse the Technical Difficulties. And Crying Babies. And the Holidays. And the Croup...

I know that I promised to post next about the beautiful churches of France.  I also realize that was  quite a while back.  I didn't even share Christmas and all the fun things we did during the month of December.  But, believe me, there were plenty of good reasons why...

December was a very busy month for My Big, Fat Southern Family, to say the least.  I had people living here with me for oh...20-something days.  Yep, true story.  We had crying babies and Christmas shopping and something viral that we have kept passing around for MONTHS!!  As a matter of fact, I have it again right now (ugh...).  AND in the midst of all of this I though I might blog.  Except for the fact that my I-Pad first died and then the hard drive on my laptop had to be replaced.  Sooo, now you sort of know what I've been doing for a solid month.  I'm still planning to post about the beautiful churches of France now that my computer is working again but first, let me just take you on a little photo journaling through the month of December...

It all started out with Parker Ann and me decorating the Christmas tree while drinking hot chocolate out of our Santa mugs.
This was her first year to actually be old enough to help me decorate the tree and I LOVED it.  Can't wait for the others to be old enough to join in too!
We also got together for our Rogenmoser Family Cookie Cook-Off!  We had friends stop in to visit that day and their children got to enjoy this fun afternoon with us as well.
     Beckett made himself our "Official Cookie Taster".  He approved of everything he tasted.
                                 Here's just a sampling of the yumminess we made that day...
And the first weekend of December was spent in Natchitoches, as usual, at the Christmas Festival.  We spend the afternoon at a friend's house and also watched the parade and fireworks.  We had all of the Grands with us except for Caitlin's 2...hoping they can be there next year.
When Caitlin did get in town, these two got to spend LOTS of time together.  It's so much fun watching them play now that they are older.
In our attempt to finish our Christmas shopping a week early, Caitlin and I took these two, along with a baby all over town with us...
We tried to make it fun for them, promising treats (and crazy shopping cart rides...) if they would only cooperate for "a little while longer..."
Don't freak out...It was only me in that bathroom stall.  Caitlin who had a baby strapped to her captured this shot.
                        Their reward for surviving last minute Christmas shopping with us!
Parker Ann joined us at the cupcake shop and then all three went back to spend the night at Poppi and YaYa's house.
And let's not forget that we have a Christmas Eve Birthday Baby; Lila Kate!  Since they would be spending Christmas with Sarah's family in Arkansas this year, Lila Kate had her 1st birthday party with our family the weekend before they left.

Caitlin and I decided we also needed a treat for surviving that last minute Christmas shopping so while we were getting our nails done, Poppi bravely took these four grocery shopping with him!  Yes...he is baby wearing.
While I was attempting to wraps all of those last minute presents, these two appeared with their moose mugs filled with Justin's homemade eggnog.  I suppose that was Poppi's treat for surviving the grocery shopping trip with four little ones.
Mam-Maw joined us for our Christmas celebration and these two found another use for her walker!
                             This was "Christmas Round 1" with everybody in attendance.
It was just a little wild after all the present opening so this was the best picture I could get with all of the Grands.
On Christmas Eve, we went to our church service with David and Caitlin's families who would end up spending the actual holiday with us.
Christmas morning was magical with these two little ones in attendance.  They woke up quickly and excited to see all Santa had brought them.

At one point, Beckett, knowing that he is getting a little brother soon asked his mommy, "Is this my baby brother?"
This is how I felt at the end of the holidays...I got these wonderful sleeping bags for the three older Grands at Pottery Barn Kids for Christmas.  Eventually all of them will have one.  Won't it be fun when they can all pile up on the floor at Poppi and YaYa's house in them?!

But even when everyone had left of the 29th, I was not finished with babies.  Ryan and Allison took at little trip to Dallas for New Year's Eve and we got to keep Livie for three nights...

Oh, what a cutie pie she is!  But FINALLY, when all of the kids and grand kids left I REALLY, REALLY was exhausted.  Ryan asked me if we were going off the grid for a while.  I said, "Absolutely".

It was a fun, busy, noisy, exhausting holiday and I'm glad the New Year has arrived.  And now that my computer is fixed, I PROMISE to finish posting about France.  And I have some more Spartan Race discounts to give out AND I'm reviewing some children's books and will be able to give out discounts to those too!  Oh, what fun things lie in store for 2016!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!