When I think of the 4th of July, I always think of my mother. Every year she opens her home in the mountains of northern Arizona to the entire family and their friends. We eat, go to parades, eat, play in the water, eat, go to rodeos, eat, watch the fire works, eat, watch movies, and eat some more. My husband once said when he goes to my Mom's house he just sits down in the recliner and opens his mouth and she puts food in it.

I wish I had pictures of all the crazy things we have done together. I would love to have a picture of all the moms and grandmas marching in a parade for the children because we missed the parade that year. We all had newspaper hats and various pieces of decoration as we marched and sang "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Another picture I wish I could share with you is the picture of my sister-in-law, Nan's, face the first time we had a chocolate sheet cake and one of us ate a piece out of the middle before it was cut and then everyone just sort of took a little here and a little their until it looked very unappetizing. She had never seen that before, it was totally unstructured fun.

And then there is the inevitable water play. Children of all ages in varying stages of dress, mud, dogs, water guns, buckets of water and lots of laughter.

The sad part is that as we all grow and our children get involved in other things, fewer and fewer of us are able to go and join in the fun. Every year some of us join with Mom, but it seems to be a different bunch every year. We hope to go this year for a weekend.

However, to finish this spt, I will tell you that we live on top of a hill with a 360 degree view of the Valley. We can see fireworks all over the place from east to west. We always have a dessert party at our house, open to anyone who knows about it. So, if you are in town, as soon as it begins to get dark, come on up and bring a dessert and enjoy the view. We will take your children up on the roof for the best view. They will love it. We will try to get some pictures and I will add them later.

God bless America.

I love America, but there is so much to see and experience in this world and I don't want to miss any of it.

We lived in Germany for two years when I was in 2nd and 3rd grade. We lived on base for part of that time and Rachel and her Mom are living in the exact same complex we lived in while we were there in the 50's. It was weird, as we drove up, walked up the stairs in into the apartment, I said, "I know where the bathroom is, right behind the front door." It was, weird.

The past two weeks in Germany have been relaxing and fun. These are real pictures we took, not post cards or commercial shots. This country is really this beautiful and clean.

Eating in Europe is an experience all in itself. There is no rush, no loud music, no one making you feel like you need to get out so the next customer can sit down and spend money. No one is pushing more drinks on you and you will not get a bill until you ask for it. Neither of us had indigestion the whole time we were there and we often ate at 9:00 o'clock at night. We want to remember that and slow down.

We walked miles and miles. There are beautiful walking paths everywhere. You don't need a car. Between the walking paths and the train system, you are set. We walked from Meisenbach to Lanstuhl. It took 1 1/2 hours. We took the train back 1.50 Euro and 5 minutes.

Our time with Rachel was precious, it is fun to see young people with the future shining bright before them, go into the world with enthusiasm. It renews my own personal enthusiasm for life.

And guess what? We got bumped on one of our flights so we have a free round trip ticket to Ireland for next year. I don't remember Ireland, so this will be a great exploration for me.