We spent the weekend having a Thanksgiving visit with Ted’s cousins Greg and Kris, who are living near Stuttgart, Germany, about five hours away – or it would have been, except for snow on the way up and getting spectacularly lost in Stuttgart on the way back. They are American also; he works at the military base there.

I was intensely curious before visit about what the kids would be like: it’s been 8 years since we last saw them (sorry about the wonky formatting – that entry is so far back that it was originally posted at Diaryland and ported over). The kids now range from 7-15, so we expected radical changes; we’d never met the youngest at all and the next youngest had been a baby whose personality wasn’t all that apparent to us yet.

I wasn’t too worried about the parents; normally spending much time with conservative-Christian types does make me nervous, but I’ve been known to refer to these two as my favorite born-again Christians. He went through some searching before settling on this faith (Greg was actually an Orthodox Jew when I met him) and they seem to remember that, to understand that other people have other paths, and to not try to force their beliefs on other people. This isn’t really based on hard data, but I suspect that that sort of attitude, combine with modeling their faith in their own daily lives, given them a better chance at having their kids choose to follow their faith. (Sorry, not trying to insult devout conservative Christians here, but I was scarred by my years in Houston. I do know many who are wonderful people who don’t try to proselytize except for setting the example of their own behavior in living their faith – they just so often get drowned out.) I think they’re actually not quite as religious as they were (some issues with a particular church, I gather) but they still have Bible verses up around the house and say grace before meals. Not so conservative, either; there was one point when Greg gave his opinion that protesting the Muslim center near the WTC was ridiculous because we need to clearly separate Islam and terrorism in the public mind. (Of course I agree with that but I generally think of it as a moral issue; he was talking about it from the politico-military strategic point of view, a subject he knows a lot about.)

The other thing they were, when we’d seen them last, is the best parents I’d ever seen. We used to see them more often when we all lived in Arizona when their girls were little, and they were just amazing; there was never any yelling, but whenever the girls got a bit out of line (especially around big groups of relatives) they’d take them aside and get them calmed down. As little children the girls were just delightful to be around; fun, interesting, funny, not bratty at all. (The oldest, at about four or five, had a way of saying, “Hello-o” with perfect sarcastic timing and delivery that was hilarious.)

So we were curious to see how they’d all turned out, these many years later. And the answer is, still some of the best parenting I’ve seen. They seem to let the kids get away with a bit more rambunctiousness (I don’t know if it’s because they’re older or because parents do tend to loosen up with time) but never beyond a certain point. The parents joked with and teased the kids, but never in a mean way and there was never in any way that obscured who was the parents. We all laughed a lot over the weekend, in fact. Even when the oldest kid mothered the youngest one it was done in a very calm way – for example she’d say “Sit back down in your seat,” when the parents weren’t there , but never in a mean tone or with raised volume. And he did it, too.

The girls are now in their teens; intelligent and competent as well as beautiful. Their mother is one of their Girl Scout leaders and the activities she plans include things like trips to England and Ireland. She was talking about the possibility of bungy-jumping or paragliding at a local center, because it’s a thing the girls in the troop want to do. They’re also now working on their photography badge, and took some really nice shots when we all went to Rothenburg.

The ten-year-old is quieter; he’s a reader who likes fantasy set in mythology and can name long lists of Greek and Egyptian gods. We have a lot of the same favorites 🙂 Looks-wise, he may turn out to be the spectacular one of the family, with curly dark hair and eyes like Elijah Wood’s only gray-green. The youngest is 7 and seems a lot younger than the ten-year-old, mostly because he’s the smallest of the bunch by far, has high energy, and still has some trouble saying his ‘r’s. (Actually, both boys do.) He was just adorable and I kept wanting to pick him up but feared it might damage his dignity so instead we worked on decoding secret messages together.

Honestly, visiting them made me sort of glad I hadn’t chosen to be an SAHM with a brood of kids, because I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have done it nearly as well as Kris does. She’s a pretty good object lesson on what a strong and competent woman can do in that role. (Plus over the years she’s impressed the hell out of me, doing things like traveling solo with three or four kids while her husband was away during his military years. She’s done things that would scare me!)

I’ve got stuff to write about from yesterday too, but I think I’ll make a separate post.