Encouragement · Travel

Go Dog. Go!

Go dog, go

P.D. Eastman wrote this book more than fifty years ago, using only 75 different words, as an inspiration to young readers. Funny. He liked the word “Go” so much he used it twice in the title. “Go.”  An action word, radiates a sense of ‘hurry up!’

“Go” is one of the Hirn Family favorite words too.  It’s an essential word, actually. There are places we have been that will never be the same again when we return because time eventually does that to a place.

love lock brWhen we visited the Love Locks Bridge in Paris (Pont des Arts), we were amazed by the number of locks attached to the bridge, placed there by visitors who vowed their everlasting love. “Engrave the lock, attach it to the bridge and throw the key in the Seine below.”  Before we left Paris, we affixed our own Hirn lock dedicated to our son and brother, Ryan, and inscribed with all of our names and the date.  Problem is, 45 tons of “love” all at once can and did cause a bridge a stability problem, and just a few years after we left, Paris decided to tear out the locks.  Safety and aesthetics, they said.

Lock on Paris's Pont des Artsbest boys lockSo . . . if you are thinking about taking a trip to one of those places on your bucket list, Go dog, go!  Now, before it’s too late.   Be the ones who share your stories and photos of places you were able to see up close and personal, not the ones who look back in regret at their ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’s.’

The words of the great writers of children’s books, still carry their messages to those of us who have grown up.  (Sort of).  And I leave you with the words of Dr. Seuss:

You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!  

Go dog.  Go!


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family · Travel

Face your fears! You first.

Acrophobia” is not what I have.  “Acrophobia” is the irrational fear of heights.  Mine is rational.  (My diagnosis).

As a family, we always set goals, have contests, challenges and payoffs.  The ‘payoff’ part of this is usually holding the right to flaunt each accomplishment in the other’s face.  But regardless, it’s stimulus to achievement.

My family is aware of my fear of heights.  At the beginning of our trip while we were still in our planning phase, we all agreed to face our fears.  It was apparent by this time, Colton and I shared our fear of height.  And we were going to delay facing up to our shortcomings (so to speak) as long as possible.

Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest free-standing building in the world at 2716 feet, was a no-brainer for Trenton, Tyler and Ron.  We (and by we I mean they) had already made it up to the top of  Kuala Lumpur’s 1483 ft. Petronas Twin towers. (This of course, allowed me to stand on the ground and photograph!)

piece of cake

By the time we hit Paris, I knew my turn to face my fear was coming.  The Eiffel Tower,  a mere 984 ft. off the ground,  seemed safer in the abstract.  Then,  I stood beneath it.  Colton braved up and said he would do it if I would, pointing out that in Lego building terms, the model is a mere 3428 Leggo blocks.  How scary can it be?

eiffle family




Colton fully conquered his fear of heights, once he got to the ground.  “Piece of cake!”

fam on eiffle



Mom is not there yet, but at least I don’t have to endure anymore chicken jokes.


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family · Travel

Are you kidding?

“When I grow up I am going to be a model in Europe,” is something I never said.  EVER!

But life has a funny way of playing tricks on you.  This is especially true when you do the “As long as I live I will never”-thing.   But when I *Moved My Cheese to Europe, I needed to find work quickly.  I was traveling alone with no back-up plan, and needed to survive.  And thanks to my height and constitution, neither of which were a credit to me, I found work modeling-runway and print.

Now if you’re thinking ‘big bucks’ you are way off.  The tax base for expats working in Europe is 55%, leaving you little room to splurge.  Fashion models hit Japan for the ‘big bucks,’ while models come to Europe for ‘tear sheets’ for their portfolio to catapult their careers,  which was never my intention. I came here to travel, to explore, to meet new people and affording the adventure was an essential part of the journey.  The freelance nature of modeling gave me the time I needed to hit the road to new places again.

Living in Paris, like living in any large city, offers  you a large variety of delicacies most of which I could not afford. Once and awhile when someone paid for my meal, my tastebuds were cheering, because, yes, French food is as good as they say.  But the majority of the time, with my salary grade, I ate canned tuna and baguettes. Over and over again.

When we came back to France as a family, I was faced with options I could finally afford.  Croissants, baked perfections, escargot, Brie! And bi-jingo, I was going to share the experience with my family.   You could usually track the Hirn Fam somewhere along the Champs de Elysee by their audio track at the table: “Mmmmmmm,”  “Woah!”  “Yum.”

colt croissant

Did I treasure my memories of being a single female on her own in Paris all those months?  Of course.  But would I trade it all for no family, no money and 7 cans of canned tuna fish?  ARE YOU KIDDING?

colt yum

Have a great weekend!


*Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson

Adventure with Engagement AWE · Travel


Colt Dawn walkingThe French call one who wanders from place to place with out any apparent home a vagabond.   I like the sound of that better than the English version:  hobo, dawdler, loiterer or bum.  Although we had closed up our home in Alabama, and put our jobs on hold for six months, I don’t believe we could call ourselves card-carrying Vagabonds.  Though we didn’t always know where we were going, we always knew where we would eventually end up.

best boys lock

If we have to be ‘labeled,’ I almost prefer ‘hobo’ over ‘tourist.’  It was never our intention to merely be sightseers.  We lollygagged ourselves into places the normal tourist probably wouldn’t have chosen, not necessarily just to see or photograph highlights, but to actually meet the people who carved out their homes in those communities and hear their stories.

Mighty Seinne

We talked to strangers – which is a lot easier to do when you carry your bag of funny kids who don’t mind chiming in.  The kindness of the Southeast Asian people had spoiled our family, but made us each more resilient to any curt Parisian responses. And it’s a great lesson to teach your kids that: everyday is not a great day to everyone.  Dr. Seuss said: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

And when we ran out of people to talk to, we could always rely on our ‘fellow moseyers,’ built-in buddies.



education · Encouragement · Parenting · Travel

To the teachers

Legs BP logoTeachers!  They are the ones that walk beside us, behind us, and in front of us leading the way, so that one day they will step into our shoes and be the teachers.

boys walking holoc.The boys seemed to sense the reverence of these war memorials in Poland and Germany, and were certainly affected deeply by the remnants of luggage, shoes and clothing left behind.  But I wonder if anything touched them as deeply as the talk their father gave them about the concentration camp introductions? (check out Youtube.com and our facebook today for the video)

When we were in Japan, we also were touched by the museums and affects of the bombing of Hiroshima.  But things become more personal when a name or photo was attached to the story.  Ron took the time to read to the boys as they bedded down on the floors of the hostel in Japan. He chose the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was just 2 when the atomic bomb dropped in her city.  At 12, she was diagnosed with leukemia from radiation — referred to in Japan as the ‘atom bomb disease.’  Sadako took on the task of folding 1000 paper cranes, according to the Japanese legend that 1000 paper cranes would allow a wish to be granted.  Her wish was to live. Although Sadako only folded 644 before she died, her life is a legacy and tribute thanks to her friends and family who exceeded her task, raising a statue in her honor, publishing a book of letters about those who died from result of the A-bomb and placing her paper cranes of hope at the NYC 9/11 Memorial, at Pear Harbor, the Museum of Tolerance, in other places of honor.

“At the foot of the statue (of Sadako) is a plaque that reads:  “This is our prayer.  This is our cry.  Peace on Earth.”

Sadako_and_the_thousand_paper_cranes_00Make history come alive for your child.  It takes time.  It takes creativity.  It takes knowledge.  It takes love.  Be a teacher.


Dear Dawn · Encouragement · Grief · Travel

The bright side

Dear Dawn,

 I applaud you for always looking on the bright side of life.  After what you have been through, I’m sure it might have been easier to let your grief rule the day.  But you and Ron chose to lead your other sons in joy.   Wondered how you handled the reminders of the Nazi horrors against the Jews in WWII.  Did you avoid the German Holocaust memorials and museums on your trip, or did you go through them?   Did your kids understand?  How did they handle it?

Dear Bright Side, Can you ever measure grief?  I always thought the word “Holocaust” meant mass extermination.  But the Greek Word holokaustos, actually means ‘burnt whole.” The knowledge that millions of lives were purposely ended is shattering.  Ron and I will never be able to run away from the visions of our own personal holocaust when fire took our seven-year old Ryan from us.

Auschwitz bunkers
Auschwitz bunkers

We cannot change the past anymore than Germany can change the horrors that happened in the streets and concentration camps throughout Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s.   But there are choices that have to be made:  When the past seems to hold a curse, look to the future. Ron and I intentionally chose to introduce our boys to the world and her history, not trying to water it down for our sons’ ears.   But we tried to look beyond the horrors in the remnants of Hiroshima Japan, Auschwitz Poland and other Nazi Concentration camps, and in huge numbers who were killed in the name of communism.

Auschwitz urinals

The truth lies in the overwhelming courage it took for the survivors to continue forward in life and beauty.

Auschwitz furnaces

We walked through the ghostly concentration camps and war memorials as a family – but each of us were silently processing our thoughts.  With the museums, after consulting with the guides, we chose to censure the most graphic museum images for our 8 and 10 year old by scanning ahead and steering them away from the more gruesome images. But we felt Tyler, at 14, was old enough to handle the complete truth and he viewed freely. Those who remain alive today to tell the story were children then! At the end of the day we were each left with the same theme: Hope and courage.



The Germans have found a way to honor those taken, and find beauty and resolve shining through future generations.    Ron and I share our enthusiasm for life with our boys while still honoring the short but vibrant life of our firstborn, Ryan.

Holo.shot BPOur cameraman takes a shot most memorable to our family at the ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’

I guess you never appreciate the light until you’ve seen how absolutely dark darkness can be.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Family · Travel


(Bet I don’t get many ‘shares’ on this one!) That’s the German word for demonstrating friendship – which we always thought was a Hirn ideal.

tyler friendLooking back over my photographs of Germany, I detected a pattern with my family: everyone seemed a bit more relaxed in the photos. Friendship flowed among them (more easily than Freundschaftsbezeugung flowed off my tongue!) My boys adapted beautifully to each new experience and country we visited; I’m just saying, the pace seemed more relaxed here.

Could it be a result of the work/life balance set for in Germany? Germans are hard working people, but they recognize the value of time off for family. Employees are given four to six-weeks paid annual holiday and are offered leave for training or further education. They have a ‘parental leave’ policy, which allows for moms or dads to take up to 14 months of parental leave without being penalized at work and entitled to up to two-thirds of their income while on leave. I find that amazing!  Perhaps that is why the Germans are such hard-working people and happy to boot.


The boys found new friends, shared good moods with each other marching off into the woods or figuring out how to ride the strange six-man bike. They seemed happier, healthier and more at home here than practically anyplace we had been.

6-man bikeCould it be because we loved the German people? We say “Ja” but with the German pronounciation “Yah”.

Could it be because we have German blood coursing through our veins? Again, “Yah”.

happy hirn-GERMSWe are the Happy Hirn-Germs!

You don’t have to master the pronunciation of the word: Freundschaftsbezeugung! Just do it!  Incidentally, why do you think the German’s have such long words? I believe it’s because they give their people so much free time to use them!