Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poo is not always a bear who likes honey!


It's the Christmas season. Woo! This means, in most cases, a frantic hyping up of normal schedules and trying to get more done in a day than is feasible - especially on a base with limited supplies and resources so close to a payday (which for most of us is translating into very little money).

The rounds of Christmas parties have started, we have two this week and a possible two next week. Hopefully, that will be all. Hopefully.

Yesterday was my weekly drop the kids off at daycare so I can get things done day, only R and I planned a lunch for his staff so I went and hung out with them for lunch instead of doing laundry, cleaning house, and working on my final project for the class I'm in. Chores...lunch. It was such a difficult choice to make. Although I did finally go get my tetanus shot so that I could check off at least one chore. And I must say that Dr. McSpeedyShot gets my seal of approval. Wonder if I can take the kids there for their shots instead of the pediatric clinic where they apparently send all the people that need practice. I guess they figure since most of the kids can't talk all that well it's a good place to start. Harrumph.

But I'm getting off track. (How completely unlike me.) This morning the kids slept until after 8 am, which is so nice and unusual. Unfortunately, so did I. I meant to do errands this morning or at least some laundry but it just didn't happen, and before I knew it, it was time to take T to school. On Thursdays after we drop T off, S and I usually go hang out with Mandy who lives near the school. Her youngest and S are close in age, and it turns out that our husbands are in the same squadron but in different areas.

Because next week is the MOMS Club Holiday party, the executive board (which I insanely volunteered to join (not my best decision)) is taking turns sitting in different areas around base to take donations for the kids' stockings that we still haven't made arrangements to put together (that's a story for another blog). I volunteered to sit at the food court from 3 to 4 since Jenny was at the food court this morning.

Here's how the day played out:

Get up, shower, decided to let hair air dry, hoping for waves. Nope. I get the frizzies so I roll it on Velcro rollers to smooth it out and hopefully add some volume. It worked fairly well until I walked outside into the perma mist. Why do I bother?

Give up on trying to get the kids to get dressed before I give them breakfast rationalizing that I may have a shot at keeping their clothes clean for at least five minutes by doing this.

Feed the kids. Try not to get upset when S dumps the milk out of her cereal bowl onto the table and finger paints with it. She does this, by the way, and manages to keep most of her cereal IN the bowl. Amazing, that one!

Clean up the kitchen (except for the floor) while the kids are eating. I liked it better when I had them convinced that mini bagels were doughnuts with less sugar coating.

Ask, coax, threaten and then manhandle the kids into clean pullups/diapers and clothing. Fight with S for a good 30 minutes to get her out of the minnie mouse pj's, only to turn around and find out she's taken all her clothes off. Sigh loudly and fight urge to yell or mutter. Get her dressed again only for her to poop. Lather rinse repeat. Aaaaaannnd, she poops again. Crikey!

Get the kids dressed from head to toe just in time to feed them an early lunch. (Shout out to T here because he actually picked out matching clothes and dressed himself today while my battle with S raged on). Guess he got tired of hearing it too.

Feed them lunch, managing to talk them into fruit rather than chips. Yay! Get them in coats, shoes, gloves and hats and into car seats - ON TIME. It's a Christmas miracle.

Drop off T at school, go and hang out with Mandy and her daughter. S is tired, tired, tired. I figure if she falls asleep in the car I can put her in the stroller and let her sleep through our hour of drop off time at the food court. Only, she doesn't fall asleep and I don't have the stroller. Way to be prepared, B!

Pick T up from school, get to the BX/Food Court parking lot at 2:43. I have enough time to grab a coloring book for S and a cheap toy for T to keep them entertained. I walk into the food court with supplies, only to find one of the MOMS Club members waiting for me. There's no way it can be more than a couple minutes after 3, but she is surly. I apologize profusely for making her wait, she sweeps grandly from the food court after not responding to me but getting offended that S picked up her son's juice from the table and tried to drink it. (okay, I have to give her that one - it embarrassed me).

Sit with the kids for an hour while no one shows. Placate them with a diet coke and an order of fries which they actually share. Pack up at 4 and then spend 10 minutes scrubbing crayon marks off the table and chair. S, S, S, S. What am I going to do with you?!!?!?

Accept that I really need to go to the commissary, even thought the kids are tired and antsy. Strap S into the buggy only to have her start to scream. With only a handful of things to get, I give in and pick her up. She falls asleep immediately. Hmm.. her pants are a little wet around the edges of her diaper. But then, I haven't changed her diaper in four hours. Sigh. On the plus side, it reminded me that we need wipes. Halfway through the commissary, I realize that the wet I feel isn't from pee or from her falling down when she got out of the car. Oh, lord. It's poo. Siiiiiiiiigh. The diaper bag is in the car so I decide to power through grabbing what I absolutely have to have and I'll just change her in the car.

By the time I get to the checkout lane, the smell is literally making me gag. The people around me aren't too appreciative either. I will say that's absolutely the quickest I've gotten through the checkout lane.

We get to the van, I put her on the floor and grab what I need to change her. And, man, it's an ugly ugly sight. She wakes up, very unamused and very unhappy about the situation at hand and starts screaming and kicking. The diaper goes flying (still not sure how she did that!) and I hop to the side on one foot and manage to avoid the, uhhh... fallout. The pavement, however, is a mess. Literally.

I change my screaming, thrashing baby and have to put her in her car seat sans pants as they are covered in poo. We have heat, she'll be fine. Except, I can't find my car keys. I go through all the bags in the back, look under the van, in my pockets, in the front seat, in the floor where I had S, in the bag where I put the dirty diaper and pants and could not find the keys. Oh, NO! I had to have them to open the car, so I know they are close. The only place I haven't looked is the pile of poo on the ground. I stand there for a second, S screaming bloody murder, debating on how bad I want those keys. Surely, surely, there's not enough poo on the ground to hide a set of keys. Meanwhile S is screaming so loud that I'm worried I'm going to draw a crowd. Worse yet, I'm standing over a pile of poo. Maybe I can call R and have him bring me the spare key. No, he's already left work and he never has his cell on since no one has the number. Still, I just can't stick my hand in the poo. In a moment of what I consider to be genius, I grab a wipe and sort of poke at the poo. Doesn't seem like anything could be in there, and it wasn't like it was that much down there anyway.

Then it hits me...I can't leave the poo there. So I grab a bunch of wipes and pick up the majority of it, toss it in the bag with the dirty diaper and pants and decide to throw it all away. I unbuckle S from her car seat, pick her up, and...... there are my keys. No WONDER she was screaming. Good grief. I grab the keys, put S back in her seat, and grab a bottle of water and some tide from the back of the van to wash away the poo. Then we hightail it out of there. On the way home I keep smelling poo, and I think that I must have stepped in it. When we get home, R pulls in behind us and we decide to grab a pizza for dinner. I bring in the groceries, we put pants on S, and off we go. As we get home again, I realize the reason I keep smelling poo is because it's all over my sleeve. Maybe I was also walking around with a huge rip in my pants to make my embarrassment trifecta complete, but I'll admit I'm not ready to look and see yet.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

With a wink and a smile

The other night, I was up late working on a project when I looked up to see T lurking in the shadows of the playroom. It's been a while since he's done this, so I knew something was up. Turns out, all that he wanted was his pull up changed and to put on his pajamas. (There are nights when he simply does not want to change into pj's and we think it's because his room stays so cool, even when the heat is all the way up in there.)

So, we change his pull up and put on his pj's. He stands up, smiles, gives me the head nod (you know the one - the slight jerk upward to acknolwedge your existence) and a wink and says, "Mom, will you come lay down with me?" And I started to giggle, so he did too. And I thought - man! How do they know at four or three or two how to just make you do exactly what they want? But I can just see T in high school, years from now, giving that same nod, wink, and smile combination to some girl that's either going to be totally helpless to resist or will crush him like an empty soda can. I'm not ready for either scenario yet.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

We are officially a pacifer free family!

Ironically, S would not take a paci as an infant. It was only after she began to get teeth and I stopped breastfeeding that she took to a paci. And, man, did she make up for lost time. When T was a baby there was one paci that he would take. It was one the hospital gave us and somehow we managed not to lose it for an entire year.

Before you are impressed with us for only using one paci for an entire year, I feel the need to confess that we did manage to leave it the car of our friends as we left for Germany. Since they dropped us off at the airport, it wasn't like we could run to the car and get it back. Somehow, we made it through the flight, although credit for that has to go to T, who was exceptionally good and didn't cry much, even though we didn't have his paci. At that point, we had only been giving it to him at nap or bedtime anyway. More often that not, it would drop out of his mouth immediately after he fell asleep. For some reason, he would rarely find it and put it back in himself, which is why I think it was easier to break him of the habit. Since everything was in upheaval with the move, it turned out to be no big deal that we didn't have his paci and by the time Felicia sent it to us, T was over it. Such an easy baby!

Back to S, she was about six months old before she would take one and when she took it, it became her best friend. She is exceptionally strong willed and was finding and replacing her paci herself from day one. Priorities, I guess. At her one year checkup, the doctor expressed concern that her front teeth were a little forward. I was already trying to wean her off the bottle, which she actually adapted to really easily. But she wasn't about to give up the paci. Fast forward to several months later, and it's time to get rid of the paci. S will have that thing in mouth all day and night if allowed. Luckily, we were able to get extras, because we lost a LOT of them.

R and I started to talk about when and how to remove the paci from existence, and it just never worked out like we expected. Then she got a cold in October, and had to breathe through her mouth. One night we couldn't find a paci, so she had to do without. From that point on, she didn't ask for it again. HUH! Who knew?!? So I have to give credit to R and S, because I don't know that left up to me, she'd be without one at this point. Another interesting thing to note is that her teeth have moved back somewhat already, which I did not expect. If only the teenage years will go this easily. (Yes, I know that's not going to happen, but I can dream!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Snow, glorious snow!

We had snow last weekend, enough to shovel! The kids had a blast, and so did we!

Chicks dig scars - on the men folk!

Following up with reason 1,385 why it's a good idea my parents did not name me Grace, I've got a two-parter for you all.

Part one -I've been taking the kids to the base daycare center on Wednesdays for part of the day. This allows me to do such wonderful things as clean the house, run errands, have lunch with the hubby, and go to the laundry mat without fear of having McWasherStealer pull my clothes out of the washer and put her stuff in. I have (mostly) forgiven her but I have certainly not forgotten it. Pause. Oh, who am I kidding?!? I would have to seriously restrain myself from wanting to step on her toe (or something) if I saw her again. Yes, I know I should get over it. It really only bothers me when I think about it or walk into the laundry mat.... okay. This is unhealthy. Back to the main point.

So yesterday I gathered up about two weeks worth of laundry including all the bathmats and small rugs from the kitchen and bedrooms. One of the great things about dropping the kids off while I do laundry is that I can then use the stroller to roll the laundry into and out of the laundry mat. Since there are no parking spaces near the laundry building, this is proving to be most helpful. The laundry mat was unusually busy for a Wednesday, but everyone was well behaved and friendly. It just took me longer than I expected to get it done. I came home to put away the laundry and straighten up, and before I knew it, it was time to go get the kids. So I jumped in the car and headed to base, only to pass R as I went around the big curve up the hill. I figured he'd want to come with me, so I turned around. Unfortunately, so did R so we both passed each other again. We met at a turnout and decided that we'd just drop his car off at the house since it was so close and he'd ride with me. I was in front of him, so instead of pulling in the driveway, I pulled to the side of our street, but then decided to be nice and back into the driveway so R could just jump into the car. And then I ran over him. JUST KIDDING!

Our landlords put a pole at the end of the driveway so that if someone was backing up (ahem) they wouldn't accidentally hit the bushes or the flowerbed beside the driveway. And, great news! It works. I hit the pole instead, even though I've backed up into the driveway a hundred times. Luckily, the pole just leaned a little and the van was barely damaged at all so we decided to go and get the kids and tell our landlords as soon as we got back. When we got back, they weren't home. R went first thing this morning and told them about it. Luckily for us, they weren't upset and were way more concerned about our van than their property. R asked if we could just fix it, which they said was fine. What a relief!

Part two -A couple weeks ago, we decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at the base dining hall. I'm still having irregular success with our German oven and we are trying to keep our oil and electric costs down. Plus, no dishes to do, no mess to clean up, and if the kids only take one bite of the veggies or meat, we are surprisingly less likely to mention the starving children around the world or the words 'clean plate club'. I think it has to do with having someone else decide the portion size or something. Don't really know. So noonish we head out to the car to head toward our turkey dinner. YUM! I decide that I'm going to just give the pole a little shove to see if we will be able to fix it. I shove, it moves, so I think that it will only take a sec to fix it completely. Woohoo! Only, shoving it fails to move it further, so I decide to pull. I pull and the pole is slowly moving into a vertical position. One more big tug should do it, so I yank and the freaking pole snaps in two, smacking me in the face as I fly backwards into the street. I have to admit this, if I had been watching it, I would have laughed. R, ever a better person than me, comes flying over not laughing at all. I'm guessing it looked pretty serious from his perspective from the look on his face. I first thought it hit me in the nose, because that what seemed to be hurting. Then I saw and felt the blood. Oh just great!!!!!!!! So I go inside to check the damage and clean up the blood. I take one look in the mirror and realize that I'm going to need stitches. Way to go, Gracie Lou Free-toSmackherselfintheface-bush. I grab a washcloth so the kids don't have to see and off we go. More good news. We can go to the hospital in the same town as the base where we live because they don't do pediatric emergencies, but apparently they do stupid people stunt emergencies. About two hours and three stitches later, we're out of there.

I do feel the need to confess a couple things. 1) Cleaning the wound hurt worse than the stitches did. 2) The stitches hurt - A LOT. I mean, seriously people - how can those of you who have facial cosmetic procedures stand it? Not that I'd ever have botox, but if I was ever leaning that way, this little hoopla put the kibosh on that idea. Ouch, ouch and ouch! The doctor tried numbing me with a shot, but the liquid hurt worse than the needle so we jointly decided (read: I begged, he took pity and agreed) that we'd to a topical creme to numb the top of the skin and I'd grin and bear it for the stitches. And while the stitches hurt, it was much more preferable to that freakin' numbing needle and solution. Yikes! 3) I have no idea how celebs who plump or fill their lips talk, eat, or keep from making strange and odd faces. 4) We still went to the dining hall because I knew the kids were starving and I really didn't feel like cooking now. And because I can be a bit strange at times, here are the top few reasons I thought of for why I had a huge bandage on my upper lip: laser hair removal gone bad, no time to shave the she-stache, a big ol' hormonal pimple, or step one of my Priscilla Presley lookalike process. heh!

So, after all is said and done, it was an...interesting...Thanksgiving. Here's the picture to prove it :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Give me strength!

As I think pretty much everyone knows by now, I am in grad school. I think it should be called 'only graduate it you are lucky and forgo sleep school'. Just a thought. So, this week is my final week of my current class which has been rough on me, mostly because of all the traveling we did. And, I'm just the teensy, tinest bit anal and obsessive about certain things. Okay, fine. I'm extremely anal and obsessive.

Moving on - in each class we are assigned to learning teams. I've been with two of my team mates through this entire program except for one class. We work really well together and each have very complementary strengths and weaknesses. The only problem is that we almost always end up getting one to two extra folks as well. We try to make them feel welcomed and included - no inside jokes or dismissing their ideas or ganging up on them. For the most part, each person that has been on our learning team has been pretty great to work with. For awhile, there was a fourth person that was in most of our classes and therefore on our learning team. Yet as time went on he kept doing less and less work and it was poorer and poorer quality. So, I finally called him on it. And I was nice about it. He got mad, dropped the team, and we haven't seen him since.

This class we had a lady assigned to our team that we'd been in class with before, but hadn't worked with on a learning team. No biggie. We progress through class and she does the absolute minimum (at least it seemed to me) required to get by. So this week we had a project due on day three and in the early morning hours of day three when she hadn't checked into the team forum in a week and a half, I emailed her to see what was going on and emailed our professor to see if our teammate had communicated with her in any way. Prof M said no. Hmmmm. Later on that day, which was also the day the project was due, team member four logs on and say s she's been sick with the flu. Having had the flu a time or two myself, I can sympathize with her, but I am disappointed that she couldn't or didn't think to let us know what was happening.

Here's where it gets sticky. Teammate 4 seems to think that because she read the project and changed a verb tense that that should qualify as equally contributing. To be honest, I appreciate the proofreading and I totally missed that error, so thank you teammate four. But to suggest that she (and this is a quote) 'did what she had to do to pull our team through' is, well...laughable. My other two teammates are simply not going to be confrontational, which I can appreciate. But since M and I did all the work, I bristled a bit that she actually thought she did comparable work. So, I send her an email to her individual email addresses letting her know that I was disappointed that she didn't let us know what was going on and why she wasn't online. This quickly started turning into a snark fest between the two of us, so I suggested that we agree to disagree. She sends back another snarky email and I realize that it's pointless to continue to converse with her.

Since it was the last week of class, I am hoping this will be the last I see of her for a while. I know that in life you are always going to meet people who don't do the work but will take the credit, and I can deal with that. But it never fails to amaze me when I meet someone with a deep-rooted intense sense of entitlement, like good ol' teammate four. I also feel sorry for her. She (and this is paraphrasing part of her bio that she posted in class) considers herself to have a natural gift for inspiring and motivating people. Man, did THAT take on a completely different meaning after working with her. LOL!!!!! Thanks for listening to me vent. Life moves on :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pics of our little ankle biters

T and S - tuckered out and ready for bed, snuggled up in Papa's chair T strikes his Spiderman pose at Dad's station

T and S after a rousing round of trick or treating

Awwww.. this is one of my favorite pictures of the kids ever

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat!

The Mom of a former classmate of T's founded a chapter of the MOMS Club here. I joined immediately. I also volunteered to be a playgroup leader, and luckily the playgroup I was assigned was T's. Since he can be a bit difficult (ahem), I think the playgroups will go a bit more smoothly since I can spot the signs that he's going to freak out and try to circumvent them.

On Thursday, there was a Trunk or Treat gathering for the entire membership. Since T was in school, it was just me and S. This was fine with me because it's generally easier to manage one child instead of two, especially when there's candy involved.

Thursday morning, I get up and get ready then wake the kids up. I've allowed an hour to get them up, dressed, fed and out the door which is normally plenty of time. In case we run short I grab breakfast to go, which is why granola bars were invented, right? I've got to get S in a costume before we leave because I'll go straight to the Trunk or Treat after I drop T off. Since we live off base, we didn't buy any Halloween candy this year since Germans don't do the whole Trick or Treat thing. Therefore, I needed to run by the Shopette or the Commissary to grab a bag or two of candy before we went Trunk or Treat-ing.

For whatever reason, S had a violent, opposing interest in being costumed, even though she had plenty of costumes to choose from. She could be a ballerina, princess, Tinkerbell, or a Wake Forest cheerleader. Thanks to Grammy for the costumes. I managed to get the Wake Forest costume on first, but the bottoms were a little big and I couldn't decide which way they should go, since they had the Demon Deacon (their mascot) on them. If you put the Deacon in the front, it looked like she was wearing a freaky, exotic pair of men's banana hammocks (you know, the kind where there's an elephant trunk where their um..well, you know should go). If you put the Deacon in the back, it made her look like we needed to change her pants and frankly it looked uncomfortable to sit on. I know my words don't do it justice, but it was quite funny if you plugged your ears to drown out her shrieking protesting.

I finally got her into the Tinkerbell costume, partly because T liked that one the best and partly because it was the only one that snapped in the crotch which made it easier to get over the tights and onsie. And poor T, during all of this drama, he managed to go potty (WOOHOOO!) and get dressed by himself, all while trying to help me calm down S. It ended up taking me over 30 minutes to get her dressed and at least another 10 to get her to the door so I could put on her shoes and coat, which set off a fresh round of shrieking. While hauling her out to the car, T looks at me and says, "Mom, she doesn't like this" which okay, true, but also - too bad. We said we were Trunk or Treating and Trunk or Treating we were going.

I was late getting T to school so that just set a negative tone for my day anyway. After dropping him off, I dashed to the main base and literally ran through the Commissary to grab some candy. I was only five minutes late to Truck or Treat, which was pretty good since we left the house 20 minutes later than usual. I threw open my trunk, tossed the candy in a bag, and proceeded to try and get S ready to Trunk or Treat (which involved unsuccessfully trying to get her to hold her wand and put on her hat since it was cold and rainy). We were the next to last folks to arrive and the last to join the group of moms and kids milling about.

As I'm coaxing S towards the group of folks, a lady approaches me, looks in my trunk and says flatly, 'OH. You didn't decorate.'

I'm willing to admit the possibility that due to the rough morning I had, I was just the slightest bit testy, but the tone in which she said that, coupled with the fact that it was not mentioned in the email that decorating your trunk was a requirement just raised my hackles. I am 70% sure I replied pleasantly but firmly that I didn't realize you were supposed to decorate your trunk, but sometimes my pleasantly but firmly can be perceived as hostile, so the jury is still out on how Suzy Homemaker took that statement. She asked me to sign in on a piece of paper with nothing backing it in the rain, so that was a bit of a challenge. When she saw my name, her attitude changed. "Oh!" She exclaimed, "You're B. Dahl. You're the playgroup coordinator!" and then she started babbling about...nothing....the way people do when they realize they've been obnoxious or stuck their clog covered foot into their big ol' verbal diarrhea prone mouth. I cocked an eyebrow and said nothing until she went away other than to confirm that I was, indeed, B Dahl.

So, we did the whole Trunk or Treat thing, which was fine. And I wasn't the only one (thank goodness) who didn't decorate their truck. After making the rounds of all eight vehicles, we all just kind of stood around shivering until the first Mom ran for the comfort and cover of her vehicle and left. Then we pretty much all scattered. Come to find out, this woman is in my Friday playgroup. Great. One of the other moms already warned me that she was going to be difficult to deal with, which I can totally see coming. But there's always one in every group and she can't be any worse than S.A., who is a fellow CS spouse. Still, it did occur to me more than once to lock her in one of the decorated trunks and hide the key. Luckily I showed more restraint than the laundry room incident, but then again, she didn't mess with my stuff. Stay tuned, I'm sure hilarity will ensue shortly.

I Heart Lufthansa

After a dismal and disappointing experience on United, our flight on Lufthansa seemed even more amazing. Here's why...

Waiting at the gate in Denver, a Lufthansa employee approached us and asked us if we wanted to pre board. Why, yes! We were assigned bulkhead seats so there was extra leg room and no seat in front of us for T or S to kick. Woohooo! We didn't have to be the foot police. They also have seat belts for infants that loop through your seat belt so in a worse case scenario, your child isn't going to go flying about the plane if they get stuck on your lap for the entire trip *coughUNITEDcough*.

The bathrooms were downstairs. And there were plenty of them. With changing tables for the kids. With a nice, wide stairway and a good place to stand and stretch your legs. And, you could actually turn all the way around in the bathroom without having to step up on the toilet or be a master of yoga.

When S fell asleep, the flight attendant, which they call pursers (like Gopher on the Love Boat), asked if we wanted a bassinet, which clipped onto the bulkhead wall. Hallelujah - and yes we did! They had an activity pack for kids that included a coloring book, crayons, colored pencils, and a deck of cards. They fed us two meals - real meals with silverware, and hot towels afterwards. We were offered drinks on numerous occasions, and they set out trays of water and juice for anyone that might be thirsty in between beverage rounds.

We each had personal entertainment systems so we could choose what and when to watch or listen. It was like being in First Class with normal sized seats. My only complaint was that it was extremely warm, but you know what? I'll sweat a little in trade off for all the other perks.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

United is coming untied

So, we thought we found a great deal on airfare to the U.S. It's a long story about how we ended up planning a trip to the States, and I'll spare you my fence sitting, waffling, wishy washy tendencies and just sum it up by saying we thought we were getting a great deal and R managed to get the time off work so we made the plans. In some ways, it was like we were in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. Wide Roads! 24 Hour Stores! Directional Signs We Could Interpret! The land of where you can find whatever you was good to be back.

So, I thought when we purchased the tickets that it was made clear that I wanted four seats for the four of us. Because S is under two, I was told that she had to have a paper ticket and we needed to pick it up at the United ticket counter in Frankfurt. No problem - they even gave me a verification to present to the agent. We parked in the cheaper holiday parking lot, which meant we had a bit of a commute to the actual airport, so we left early and got to the airport in plenty of time. When we found the United counter, I walked up and presented S's passport and asked to pick up her ticket. The agent, smiley and efficient, started tip-tap-typing and then asks me for 87 Euro and some change. No, no, no, no, no... see... I have this handy dandy printed verification. The agent, now referred to in my head as Miley McUnhelpful, just smiled and said that the paper ticket was never dropped off from the travel agency and that we needed to purchase a ticket for S. I argue the point spectacularly unsuccessfully, R tries his hand at it and also has no luck, so we ask for a supervisor and proceed to wait about half an hour. I did not have the travel agency's number with me, nor did I have our German cell phone on me being that we left it in the car in the holiday parking lot, which was about as accessible as say..Mars. The supervisor, when she finally came over, offered to call the travel agency, which the agent had previously said she would not do, but we had to have the number, which we didn't. Because, apparently, phone books do not exist in Germany. After an extended period of arguing back and forth, I had to buy the stupid ticket, which I then realized was not a seat but was a lap ticket. Now, when I flew back from NC with the kids by myself in '07 we had to purchase a seat for S because it was an international flight. So I was stunned that 1) I had to buy the same ticket twice, 2) they make you pay them money to have your child sit in your lap, and 3) there was a sincere, severe lack of customer service from United.

After all that, we still had to wait in line to check our luggage and get boarding passes. When we got to that counter, the agent was much nicer and sympathetic, but never actually helped us. The system kept crashing when she tried to get a boarding pass for S, so after another 45 minute wait, we finally got boarding passes and had to dash to catch our flight. Now would be a great time to note that for our connecting flight, the system assigned us three separate seats. I was told to check in with the agent at the gate and they could fix it. We dashed up to the agent as the flight was already boarding, and he said he couldn't help us there but that the folks in Chicago could. Uh huh. So we get on the plane, luckily we were in the very back near the bathrooms and the galley so at least we could get up and stretch our legs. R held S for almost the entire flight and the kids were so good. Another thing about the infant in lap ticket - they get no food or beverage. For a six month old, that's no problem. But a nine hour flight with an 18 month old? That's just not right. And the plane, of course, was full. #*$&%$%$)$&$*!!!!!

We made it, and even though we had a three hour layover in Chicago, we barely made that flight between the line at customs, realizing we left S's shoes on the plane, being misdirected by a United agent about which terminal to go to, and having to wait in two more lines to try to get the separate seat thing straightened out. Which is a story in itself. Our gate for the flight to Greensboro was beside, conveniently, a United Customer Service counter and a McDonalds. R and the kids went for food and I tried the customer service approach. The lady listened to my story, seemed sympathetic, but then told me she couldn't help me and told me to talk to the gate agent. Only, there WAS no gate agent at the gate. SIGH. So now I was tired, frustrated and getting angry. At least Miley McUnhelpful was honest about not assisting us in any way. So I waited at the gate counter until someone showed up and recounted my story for what seemed like the millionth time. And she pulled us up, announced that she couldn't help us, and that we'd have to talk to one of the flight attendants about helping us all sit together. Let's keep in mind here that the seats were nowhere near each other and would have had T sitting beside total strangers. Uh... I don't think so. And then the final straw. The paper ticket I purchased (for the second time) in Frankfurt that Miley McUnhelpful said I would HAVE to have to get a refund from either United or the travel agent was confiscated by the gate agent. This started an actual argument, which R and the kids walked up on right as I burst into tears and shouted, "Could someone, anyone, just ONCE freakin' help me out today instead of screwing me over!!??!?!?!?!?!?" She wouldn't budge, she printed out some receipts that aren't going to help me at all, and said, "We're through here". (sigh). R, after getting the kids settled with some actual food, went up and somehow got a United agent to ask people to switch seats so we could all sit together. Bearing in mind they had oversold the plane by six seats....which has no relevance but just ticked me off so I thought I'd mention it. Worst airline experience EVER.

But we got to NC and things got better from there. I emailed the travel agent who said they did indeed deliver S's ticket to the United ticket counter, so now I'm battling that whole situation. And, as a matter of fact, I did indeed need that paper ticket and the printed receipt I now have instead I may as well use for toilet tissue for all that it's worth. So frustrating. I had hoped to get it all straightened out by the time we flew back to Germany, but alas, it was not to be. At least we flew from Denver to Frankfurt on Lufthansa, which other than the fact it was 100 degrees on the flight, was a much, much, much better flight. I do, however find it abhorrent that United got paid three times for the seat S was supposed to have - we paid twice and the person that actually sat in the seat paid as well. Shame on you United!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ahhhhh... the land of plenty

I love America. I love the wide streets, the ample parking, the way the signs on the interstate make sense. In Germany, they use cities to direct you towards where you are going. So if you are heading to Frankfurt, for example, you need to know whether to head toward Cologne or Koblenz. If you don't know, as I often don't, you spend a lot of time driving around the country. The upside to that is that the scenery is beautiful. The downside to that is that gas is expensive here, and if you need it off base - well - make plans to sell a vital organ or a family heirloom.

Which brings me back to my original point. I love America. When we arrived in NC, regular gas was around $3.46 a gallon. When we left NC for TN, it was $3.06. In Oklahoma, we paid $2.29. WOW! On base, it's $3.12, I think, which is much lower than when we left.

You know what else I love about America? Customer service and voice mail. Words can not describe how wonderful it was to have people that were actually willing to help you if you had an issue, well, except for United Airlines, which is another story entirely. And one that will be told soon, rest assured.

I admit that over here, lots of Americans seem to have no regard for the cultural differences or the German way of life. We eat too fast, waste too much, and can be loud and obnoxious. But we do have Target, wide road shoulders, and sweet iced tea. I call that a draw right about now.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Non laundry related ranting, raving, lunatic

Confession and total honesty time: (ahem) Okay, so here goes.

No family is perfect. For sure, I'm not perfect. But--and I don't know if this is a southern thing or a gender thing or just a my family thing --I am sick to DEATH of double standards and guilt trips and completely unnecessary family drama.

Case in point - my brother and I have had an unusual? strained? difficult? on-and-off-again? relationship. Lots of bad blood. Lots of forgiving that needed to be done. We are as different as night and day, always have been, always will be. But family is family and other than who you marry, it's not like you can choose them. And, in trying to be a grownup, deal with emotional baggage, and blah blah blah I'm willing to do my fair share of forgiving and forgetting.

So, here's the current thing - my brother met, dated, and then married his wife right about the time we moved to Germany. Speaking bluntly, he was horrible to me as we were growing up. I am not exaggerating because even now people that knew both of us STILL comment on how mean he was to me when we were kids.(Those of you that read this blog, feel free to back me up in the comments section!) And I'm still resentful that when he was horrible, it seemed like everyone made excuses for him because our parents were divorced. That's a book that needs writing one day, but not today.

And let's focus on today. Today I am angry. I have been angry for way longer than is healthy for me, and I'm tired of being angry. I'm working hard NOT to be angry. Yet, I'm still angry. Here's why I'm angry: prior to our move to Germany, I feel I've done a decent job in putting the past behind me and moving forward. That included having a relationship with my brother. Since I was living in Germany when my brother got married, I started emailing his wife to get to know her. Electronically, we got along really well. Somehow we lost something in the translation of meeting in real life. I have no idea why or when or what, but from the time I met his wife and we didn't like each other nearly as well as when we emailed, they have both been taking nice, even steps backwards out of my life. Which is actually okay.

What is NOT okay is that even after all these years I'm still expected to be the one who does: does the communicating (and apparently it's fine to never reply to my emails), does the calling (which always seems to be awkward and forced), does the visiting (more on that in a sec), and does the kissing ass (self explanatory). Not to mention I'm supposed to be the one who's forgiving and understanding and accommodating. Harrumph!

For years, I did this. Even when I didn't want to. But in 2007 T and I were in NC for five months straight while I had S and we waited for her passport. Little effort was made to spend time with us. When we did see them, they were, frankly, impatient and intolerant with T. Granted, T was in a horrible phase, not being able to talk yet, highly frustrated and prone to temper tantrums as a result of that, and being out of sorts with the birth of S and being away from R and home and all things familiar. Every place we were had different rules, which were different from the rules at home. It was rough. My feelings got really hurt with some of the things that happened.

We finally got the passport and came back to Germany. From that point, there has been very, very, very little communication from them. I've made my peace with that. Since then, they've had a baby of their own. Still very little communication. Fine.

So now we are planning a trip back to the States. The purpose of this trip is to see the grandparents. Between R and I, there are four sets - two in NC, one in TN and one in OK. So we are flying over 5000 miles, driving over 1000 more in the course of a week, and then flying back 6000 more. I'm trying to divide the time as equally as I can between all the families, and it's stressful. I don't want anyone to get their feelings hurt, I don't want anyone to feel slighted or shafted or whatever-ed, yet so far it seems like just about everyone feels that way.

I asked Mom not to mention our coming to my brother because I didn't want to be guilted into driving the 50 or however many miles away he lives now. I'd know for sure if he'd bothered to give me his new address, but he didn't. Besides, they've shown absolutely no interest in me, my family, or how we're doing. When R got deployed, I heard nothing from them the entire time. He did manage to call Mom 3 times on her birthday when she was visiting while R was deployed which tells me that he simply doesn't want to call us. Then again, there's no law that says he has to.

The last email and phone conversation I had with Mom, she not only told him we were coming, she's pushing for us to get together. Which if I see him, it will be out of guilt - whether he comes to see us or we go to see him. So, why bother? He and Dad have been on the outs for whatever reason for a while now and from time to time I wonder if that's part of the reason of whatever's wrong since Dad and I are not on the outs. Who knows? Who has the energy to keep up with it? Why does everything have to be so difficult?

What I'd really love to do is ask and get an honest answer. If I've done anything to hurt or offend him, I'd like the opportunity to apologize. But from previous attempts and experiences, I know exactly how that's going to go, and it's not well. I guess this means I won't get a chance to know their daughter, either, which is a shame and makes me sad.

Compared to the problems that so many other people are having right now, this is pretty insignificant. I'm so blessed in so many ways and I'm grateful for the wonderful life I have. Maybe that's the key to releasing the anger. It's certainly worth a try.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Right of way

After leaving the Shoppette the other day, R and I were walking back to the car with the kids. T has always had a terrible habit of not looking before dashing out into the street or parking lot, usually with R and I dashing close behind shouting 'STOP!!!!!!'

We have been really working on this with him, trying to teach him to have a healthy respect without making him fearful. Some days this seems to be working better than others. As we were walking to the car, we asked T what you do before you walk out in a parking lot or a street. His response, (translated from T language), was to "Stop. Look this way. Look that way. It's okay. GO!" Which, technically is true. We praised him for knowing what to do and started to cross an aisle? lane? path? in the parking lot. A few steps in and here comes a car. T stops, turns, looks, and hold up his hand like a traffic officer. STOP! he announces loudly, then looks at us impatiently and says, "Go Mom, Dad, S. GO!"

R and I both had to bite our lip to keep from laughing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's that smell? The second surgery follow up

T had a follow up visit as a result (hey, did you know if you misspell result it could turn out as reslut - which just makes all sorts of hilarity play out in my head -- seriously, two nights now I've had less than three hours of sleep) of his surgery in July. Our appointment was at 3 pm, the dr's office is about 40 minutes away and parking is impossible, so we left an hour and fifteen minutes early. We've had this appt since oh...the beginning of August. By the time I parked my van and we walked the half mile to the hospital, it was close to 3 pm.

Get to the Dr's office in plenty of time, and there's a waiting room full of people. Great. While we are waiting to check in, T goes potty in his pull up. He must have been holding it for a while because the pull up just couldn't handle the volume. I was not prepared for that since he had a fairly fresh pull up on. So now he's soaking wet and I have no change of clothes for him and no pull ups with me. We dash to the nearest bathroom (which wasn't so near) only to walk in and see that someone had make a huge mess all over the toilet and the floor in front of the toilet. EWWWW! So I grab a handful of paper towels (after first checking to make sure that there wasn't poo all over them too), take off the wet pull up and throw it away. T is unhappy that he has to go underwear free, but we don't really have a choice. I dry him off the best I can, open the door with a paper towel, and we dash back to the dr's office where I clean up the puddle on the floor. Only - there are no trash cans. oh, no! So I'm holding the wet paper towels in my hand when it's our turn to check in. We are told to have a seat in the already crowded waiting room. T isn't interested at all in sitting down in wet pants, and frankly I don't want him to get the chair wet, either, so we stand up. Well, the room is so small that in no time, the urine smell is really strong. Now, none of these folks speak English, so it's not like I can explain or apologize.

This older man opens a window and gives us a nasty look - like we are enjoying this situation. So I stand up in the tiny hallway so that we offend the least amount of people possible (still holding the paper towels in my hand and trying really hard not to think about it) and T starts begging for me to hold him. The receptionist comes over and slams her door after we've been there for a few minutes after giving us the stink eye. I don't know if that's because we smell or are standing in the little hallway. After 50 minutes, we are still waiting to be seen, people that have come in after us have been seen, T has fallen asleep as I'm holding him so now we are both damp and smell like urine, I'm still holding the towels, and T is so tall that every time I move, his head hits the wall. The next time the receptionist walks out of her office, I sigh loudly and look at the time. Passive aggressiveness at it's finest. Twenty minutes after that, we are finally seen. The doctor has me sit in the chair with T on my lap (which I totally understand) and we are done in 2 minutes. We waited an hour and ten minutes for this?!?! We are supposed to be come back in six weeks. I can't wait. On our way out without stopping at the receptionist's office to make the next appointment, we go back to the bathroom, which has not been cleaned to throw away the wet paper towels (it's the only one I know of). I carry him all the way to the car, then strip him down, wipe him off with baby wipes, douse myself with hand sanitizer, and cover him with the towel we had his car seat on. He's very unhappy about this because he has a deep sense of privacy. Poor kid.

We beat the parking meter by like 2 minutes, thank goodness, and head home. We walk in the door, he walks up the stairs, by the bathroom and into the living room, and then goes potty on the rug. Then he tries to splash in it. BOYS! I'm trying to clean the rug while keeping my daughter from running through it. She thinks this is hilarious - me, not so much. For the rest of the night, he keeps saying, I go peepee - ppsshhhhhhhhhhh. HAHAHAHAHA! So, in the land of the perpetually unbathed, it's the Americans that smell. Go figure....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Umm...where is the umbrella?

Not long after the kids and I got up this morning, a massive thunderstorm moved over our house. I love thunderstorms, which is a good thing, because I think we were really close to this one. Every time the lightning would flash, our German phone would ring. I'm thinking that the wiring here may need to be used with extreme caution - especially in bad weather. Which, come to think of it, there's a certain plug in our sitting room that enables my laptop to deliver a pretty steady and annoying stream of mild shocks when I use my non ergonomically friendly typing style (read: all the time). So, we don't plug anything into that outlet anymore.

As the storm moved across our house and on to the next area, the rain didn't seem to want to let up at all. We had a very, very large puddle in our driveway. I got T ready for school and found a coat for S and out the door we dashed. I've been grateful for automatic sliding doors before, but never as much as today. I'm also grateful for the covered patio outside our entrance. It let me dash one child at a time to the car. This may also be a great time to mention for the millionth time how glad I am to be out of base housing. Well, not base housing so much as away from our crappy stairwell neighbors. The new nickname: McLazy's. heh.

We head to base to take T to school and seem to be following the storm to base. When we get to school, I find the closest parking space I can, but it isn't that close in such bad weather. I get out to grab the umbrella only to discover - we have no umbrella in the van. And the reason for that is because the last time I cleaned out the van, I removed said umbrella and put it where it will do me the most good - the garage. Yay me! So I pick up S, grab T's hand and we make a run for it. The kids think it's hilarious, I think it's well..wet. And no fewer than 10 people comment on the fact that I am umbrella-less. Gee, thanks for cluing me in (insert eye roll here). My favorite comment? "Gee. You're getting wet". THANK YOU. I would never have figured that out on my own.

Luckily the storm passed by the time we picked T up from school and I went home and put the umbrella back in the car. Of course, I haven't needed it since, but that's just fine with me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Laundry and oil changes

Saturday R and I tried to be efficient and productive. We even had a plan (oooooooh! a plan!). We both drove to the base, I was going to take the clothes to the laundry mat on base and R was going to have the oil changed in his car. If I wasn't done with the laundry by the time his car was finished, he'd switch out the vehicles and get the oil changed in my van. Since we were planning to do laundry on base, I grabbed everything I could think of that might need to be washed. We, umm, ended up with a lot of stuff to wash.

T wanted to stay with his dad, so I took S with me and off we went. There are, of course, no parking places beside the laundry mat, which isn't a big deal if you don't have three basketfulls of laundry and a toddler to deal with. I grabbed the first two baskets, coaxing S to follow me, and into the laundry mat we went. I had money with me, but a limited amount of quarters because there's a change machine in the laundry room. I was not surprised to see that it was out of order - it was a Saturday morning and it was busy in there. It's $2.00 for one of the large machines, so I only had enough to start the first load. Since the food court was really close, I decided to run over there and change my cash. If that machine wasn't working, I could either ask for quarters at one of the food places or head to the club to see if that change machine was working. I had already put my second load of clothes in the washer, but was a quarter short, so I put my third load in front of the third washer and off we dashed to the food court. Luckily, that machine worked, so we were back within 10 minutes with quarters and the third basket of clothes.

Imagine my surprise when I walked up to the machines to start my second and third loads to find that a woman, her husband and their kids had not only moved my laundry from in front of the third machine, but had taken my clothes out of the second machine (brave considering they were dirty clothes that didn't belong to them) and put their stuff in. OH, the indignity and sheer chutzpah of that move.

Now, here's where my dilemma begins. I have S with me, and I really do try and set a good example for my kids. Yet, even I who rarely uses a laundry mat knows that putting your clothes on, in, or in front of a machine is the equivalent of 'dibs'. The fact that several other machines had that going on just reinforces my conviction that I was not imagining it or making it up. Now, one of the things I want to teach my kids is to stand up for themselves (and others if need be), but to do it the right way. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of conflict, but I don't like it and rarely see the point. So I hesitate for just a minute before saying anything and what I say is, "Wow - you moved my clothes?" She looks up, a little surprised. I guess she expected to be done before I got back. Her choice of a comeback was, "Oh. I didn't know you were going to use this machine." I could have bought that had my clothes just been in front of the machine, but since my clothes were IN the machine, not so much. I, ever happy to point out the obvious, say, "What part of my clothes already being IN the machine didn't clue you in?" She and her husband both start to laugh. I say laugh, I really mean snicker. And I only like a snicker if it's peanut, caramel, nougat and chocolicious.

So, I get angry and I got angry quick. They never really answered, just started feeding quarters into the machine. I take my clothes, go to the other side of that row of machines and start looking for another empty one. A picture of maturity and adult-ness, I stomp off and start to mutter. I really am going to have to figure out this whole muttering thing. As much as I dislike it in others, I seem to be turning to it a lot in the last year. It scares me a little. It's been a while since I had to fight the urge to slap someone-but I really had to do that with this woman and her husband. As they continued their smirking, I increased the volume of my muttering. To be a laundry mat, it sure got quiet in there. S, ever oblivious to the situation at hand, was concentrating on taking as much laundry out as I was putting in. She's my own comic relief, that one, but it didn't help today. I hear the husband ask the wife if she'll be okay if he and the kids leave her there, and I hear her say she's scared. Since I'm shooting them daggers and other nasty looks, I don't miss that the comment is referring to little old me. On one hand, she's a little right to be scared because I was really ticked off. On the other, even at this point I realize that I need to cut it out and act like a grownup. The five year old in me won (drat it) and I snap - "You should be afraid! If I were you, I wouldn't take my eyes OFF my laundry until it's done." Niiiiiiiice one, Brooke. They looked a little shocked that I said that. I was a little surprised myself, truth be told. And really, reading back over this...what an embarrassing way to behave even if I did mean every word.

32 tension filled moments later, my first load of laundry finishes. About four minutes after that, her loads start to finish. As I pull out my wet laundry and put in my next load (I was only able to find one other machine that was working and empty), a lady whose daughter S has been playing with signals me that she's done with the load that was in the dryer. I take my stuff over to the dryer and she tells me that she'll have another load done in about ten minutes. Cool. My second load will be done right about that time. I thank her and shoot machine stealer a triumphant glance. She's now got a huge pile of wet clothes and no available dryers. Awwww. Poor baby. I also notice that people that have clothes in the dryer are hovering near their dryers and looking at her warily. I have a feeling that I'm not the first person she's done that to.

Ten minutes later and I made the mistake of going to the bathroom. I needed to change S's diaper and why not go myself, right? So we can all guess what happens, right? The lady who tole me she'd have another dryer free soon pulls our her dry clothes and guess who dumps her stuff in. When I come out, I see this and FINALLY I act like an adult. I just shake my head and pull my wet clothes out of the washer. I refuse to look at machine stealer again because if she smirks at me, I'm going to roll my laundry cart right into her shin. As I'm busy not looking at her, this guy at the far end of the dryers signals me. I walk over there and he says that he's going to have three machines free in a few minutes. So I go get my wet clothes, put another load in the washer, and walk over to the dryers he's using. She sees me doing this and is right behind me with her wet clothes, but Mr. Nice Guy deliberately takes his time unloading his laundry one machine at a time so I can grab all three. And, even though I only had one load, I spread it between the three machines. So there, you heinous, nasty witch.

The rest of laundry time passes uneventfully. I think the validation of the other laundry mat patrons helped to diffuse my hostility. I still think I need to take a nice, hard look at the way I reacted to that situation, but if I or my life were perfect (the thought of that makes me laugh until I have tears in my eyes) what would I have to write about?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pizza Chicken

The kids are good eaters. Well, they are good at eating what they like and not so good at eating what they don't like. What those things are change from day to day and sometimes from meal to meal.

A sure bet? Ice cream. Yet, even I of the cold pizza or leftover spaghetti breakfast frown on ice cream as a breakfast choice. The kids would be thrilled to get cookies as their second choice, and I can't climb on board with that either. I plead the fifth on whether or not I've had cookies for breakfast, besides, we are talking about the kids. Although - I did see a "breakfast cookie' in the commissary the other day, but since it was beside the pop tarts and candy thinly disguised as chewy, fruit roll up thingies, I didn't even bother to pick up the box. Besides, what am I teaching them by giving them a 'breakfast cookie' for breakfast? Well, other than it's okay to have cookies for breakfast. But I'm getting off track.

Our landlords are going on vacation, so we have been given a lot of tomatoes and been instructed to pick and eat some apples while they are gone. As much as I love ketchup (Heinz only, please) and pasta sauce, I don't care much for tomatoes themselves. I don't like tomato juice or soup either, which really doesn't make any sense - not that all that much that I do makes a lot of sense. So I'm trying to figure out the best way to use these tomatoes. As tomatoes go, they look wonderful. I sliced up one for our Labor Day burgers, and the flavor was wonderful. Why I like a piece of tomato on a burger, but won't eat them on salads is a complete mystery to me. So, I figured I'd try to make a chunky, healthy tomato type sauce out of the rest. I diced them and boiled them with some water, garlic, fresh pepper and Italian seasoning. The next night for dinner, I was sauteing some chicken breasts and thought that I'd try throwing on the tomato creation for some added flavor.

T wanders in, sniffs, and asks, "what's that? Pizza?" (a little hopefully). Going with the flow I reply, "Yes! It's pizza chicken." (I manage to keep a straight face). Looking at me doubtfully, he peers into the pan. "Pizza chicken?" he asks. "Uh-huh" I respond. "Okay" he says, eyeing me cautiously and walking out of the kitchen.

This would be a good place to point out that the last gazillion times I've made chicken for dinner he has not been the least bit interested. However, we sit down for dinner, we cut some up and put it on the kids' plates and sprinkle it with cheese and....holy healthy dinners, batman! Not only do they try it, they EAT it and ask for more. Cheerfully. Along with the majority of the green beans I fixed and they even try the squash. Will wonders never cease.....

Monday, September 1, 2008


We've been in the house two weeks now. I've actually had more than one warm shower in a row now and today our landlords came over and showed us how to turn on the heat and turn up the hot water since they leave for a three week vacation soon. I got a peek at our oil tanks, not too much oil was used for the first half a month we were here, so we cranked the water temp up just a bit more. We also found out some important information, the warmer it is outside, the less the furnace/contraption/heating thingamajig will heat up the water. Oooooooh. That explains why the water is sometimes warm and sometimes not. It also goes to show me that I really don't understand the way Germans think. I've got a little over a year left to figure it out, which I'll totally try and do because I adore pointless challenges such as this.

This weekend, it got warm enough that R and I tackled the challenge of taking the kids to the pool that's just down the street. T has been asking to go and the kids were really well behaved this weekend if you don't count the inexplicable urges they have to whack each other for no apparent reason and S's new favorite hobby which is to teeter on the edge of the steps and make it look like she's going to fall. She only does this when you are not in a good position to catch her - for example you are following behind her down the steps (never, never a good idea we've found) or have your hands full of groceries, laundry, or the latest box of junk you are trying to unpack. She also thinks it hilarious. I'm torn between being amused and horrified. All it will take is one miscalculation and chances are we'll end up in the ER having stitches put in some part of her body. Not an appealing thought.

But anyway, we decided to take the kids to the pool on Saturday. We suited them up and walked down, enjoying the heat of the day. We got to the pool, stuck our toe in and realized that 23 degrees Celsius = cold water. We tried the baby pool first but the kids weren't impressed. Off to the big people pool! There was this really cool slide, it's wide enough for several people to go down at once side by side. In all the other pools we've been to in Germany, the slide ends up in fairly shallow water. We figured that T would be able to stand with no problem, but we didn't test it first. Did I mention the water was cold? So T and R go down the slide side by side. They both end up going underwater. R pops up immediately, but T can't touch the bottom of the pool, so I'm standing on the side of the pool, holding a ticked off S (who is wailing that she didn't get to go down the slide with her dad and brother) directing R (who seemed momentarily stunned by the icy water) for him to grab T. We pull him out of the water, he was only under for a second or two, but it scared him. And, it was, ummm, cold. So, in keeping with the theory that you should jump right back on the horse, T and I climb up the ladder to go down the slide. T, no fool, decides that he doesn't care to go down after all. I go, thinking that I can then catch him. T was not so fond of that idea and climbs back down the slide. I don't really blame him, In the few minutes I'd been in the water, my legs were going numb. How any of the people from the Titanic survived in that water is a complete mystery to me, and that water was much colder than the pool water we were in. But my heart, too, will go on.........

So, T jumps to me in the pool and R climbs in carefully with S, who begins to cry, shiver, and chatter all at once. Within five minutes, we are back in the baby pool, where some really nice German kids and their mom share their toys with our kids and a massive water fight breaks out. S is all about that - as long as I'm the one sitting in the water and she can sit on my lap and play in the water as she feels like it. And also that I'm the one taking the majority of the water being hurled our way. I'm just glad to be of service (rolling my eyes). After about an hour or so, both the kids' lips were blue and T was shivering so we had to drag him out of there to head home. Next summer, that will absolutely be the place to spend our days if it actually gets hot here. T, who is apparently a glutton for punishment, keeps asking to go back to the pool. Try as we might, he's not falling for the 'why don't you play in the water in the bathtub' ploy. I think it has something to do with the splashing.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tip # 44 on how to be the worst mother ever

Let your kid lock himself out of the house while you are still sleeping peacefully.

On Tuesday, T woke up early and yelled, "Mooooooooooooooooommie!"

"What-ie?!" I grumbled in reply.


Thinking that he must have gone back to sleep, I went back to sleep too (BIG mistake). A little while later, I woke up and realized it was too quiet. Both of the kids should be up by now, it was after 7 am. Huh. I go upstairs and look in T's room. Not there. I go in S's room. She's there and awake, but no T. Nor is he in the playroom, living room, kitchen, or bathroom. Trying not to panic. I go down the stairs that leads to the laundry room and the covered patio. Holy @%&@#%&#. There's T - sitting outside on the patio in his PJ's, huge tears on his cheeks. He had gone outside at some point and shut the door behind him, which locked him out of the house. If he had rung the doorbell or banged on the door, I couldn't have heard him from my part of the house.

Two million scenarios of what could have happened rushed through my head and I tried very hard not to freak out. At that point, what would it accomplish, besides freaking out T, and he'd been through enough. After about 10 minute of big hugs and my holding him tight (which S was not impressed with AT ALL), we all went outside and I showed him what to do if that ever happened again. He said he was looking for Dad because I was sleeping. Oh my goodness, the GUILT. Sigh......

All's well that ends well, but I also realize one of these days my luck is going to run out. I'm so grateful that it wasn't Tuesday. And we are also double locking the door so that the kids can't get out without a key. T was smart enough to stay put. I'm not sure that S would react that way. Without parental intervention at this point, she'd decide to play with rocks while lying down in the middle of the street or something else equally nerve settling like finding a beehive and trying to pet them. I can't even bear to think of it. Sheesh.

3 Room Circus

We've been in the house two weeks now. How we could fill up a house that's easily twice the size of our old apartment without buying anything new (with the execption of some rugs) is a complete mystery to me. Maybe I should call Nancy Drew. I guess the title could be "The Case of the Endless Junk" or maybe "The Case of the House full of Nothing".

R took a day off this week so that I could actually get most of the boxes unpacked. We made headway, but we aren't done yet. At least I only feel a little hopeless when I walk into the boxes room as opposed to completely hopeless.

The kids are so happy here, though. Every time we go to the base where we used to live T says, "Noooooo Mom. Lets go to Pink House". Pink house is what he calls this house, only it's not really's more terra cotta-ish. When I assure him that we are only going to the store or the BX or where ever, he calms right down. I even got three warm showers IN A ROW. Which means, of course, that I'm feeling a lot more human and reasonable than last week. It's also been warmer, so I've had a few days that my feet have been warm without shoes on. Woohoo. It's always the small things isn't it?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Forget Waldo, where is the hot water? Seriously!

We've been in the house over a week. The creaks and groans are somewhat familiar to us now, and it crosses my mind at least 10 times a day that we might just be in over our heads, but the kids are happy (and T is starting to nap again without being up until midnight). There are some issues here though.

Issue one - I'm cold! Those of you that know me well know how shocking this statement is. I can't find the box that I packed the bedroom rugs in, so I actually have to psych myself out of bed in the mornings. It's August, and I'm considering asking the landlords to turn on the heat. This does NOT bode well for us this winter. Does not, does not, does not.

Issue two - no hot water. Every third day or so, we have warmish water. I've had one shower here where I haven't left it shivering - and that was ruined by a spider that was the size of my hand (which is not small and dainty) showing himself mid conditioning treatment. Needless to say, I cut that short. Tonight, I boiled water on the stove so that the kids could take a warm bath. The landlords say that it will take 'a while' for the water to heat up - but I think a week is plenty of time. At the end of next week, I'm venturing into the basement and measuring the oil level. If it hasn't dropped much, we are cranking up the water temperature. Period.

Issue three - FMO gave us a German washer and dryer. The washer does an amazing job, but is TINY. What I could do in two loads in an American washer will take me four or five here. And the shortest wash cycle takes 46 minutes. You want hot water (and thank goodness the washer heats the water since we don't have hot water) and you are looking at a minimum of two hours. The dryer, which does work better than the last American dryer we had, doesn't actually work well in my opinion, and it's so cool in the house that it's taking the clothes about a day to dry when I hang them up. We can switch out the German washer and dryer for American ones, but we have to do it - which will mean renting a truck or van to haul them to FMO and then having to set up the new ones ourselves. At this point, I want the most energy efficient ones, but I have no idea which ones those are.

Issue four - no screens on the windows. I hate bugs and have had to deal with way more bees, yellow jackets, flies and spiders than I expected - and again - it's August. In December, I figure I will be able to trace a line of invading insects similar to the one that formed for Noah's Ark. Well, that's actually assuming that it will be warmer inside than outside, and I'd say that's a pretty big assumption at this point.

Issue five - since our current laundry room, living room, kitchen, and second bathroom were added on to the house fairly recently, to get from our bedroom to any of those rooms, we have to go up the stairs which creak like crazy and risk waking the kids (if they are asleep) or go out the main front door and through the other door - but you have to have your house keys with you to open or shut the main door and open the other door. And since I hang up my keys in the kitchen so that I will be able to find them when I need them, that leaves me with limited options.

But, even with the issues, this house is so much better than our housing quarters were. SO much better! Today we took the kids for a walk down by the river that runs beside the campground. There is a huge playground there and I can see the kids and I hanging out there at least a couple times a week. Plus, the pool is open until the end of September and I'm betting the pool water is warmer (or at least as warm) as the water in our house, so I'm going to try and take the kids there this week. Brave, aren't I?

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The moving plan

One of the first arguments that R and I ever had was over having a plan. He didn't think I had a plan, I disagreed. I had a plan, it was just a fluid plan and it would adapt to whatever came up. I feel compelled to point out that living this way had worked quite successfully for me up to this point. Over the years that we've been together, we've worked out an unspoken compromise. He's a little less structured, I'm a little more structured, and if it involves anything military at all, I adhere to his way of doing things. To his credit, he accepts my fluid planning the rest of the time. I probably got the better deal.

And then we decided to move. We've been kicking around the idea of moving off base fairly seriously for about a year. When we finally decided to look, I really didn't think we'd find anything I liked well enough to move for little over a year. But of course, I did. Our landlords knew someone on the street that worked for a moving company, so he and a coworker of his agreed to move our furniture on Saturday for around the same amount of money that it cost us to move before we had Sara. We apparently have more stuff (how does that HAPPEN?) and we moved several miles away versus right around the corner, so I feel like we got a really good deal.

So here was my fabulous plan - we can move in on Friday, but that was also the day the FMO folks were going to deliver our fridge, washer and dryer, etc., so I would use Friday to make sure all the furniture was ready to move on Saturday, and after the furniture was moved we'd move the the things we'd need immediately (bathroom stuff, dishes, clothes), then we would pack up whatever was left on Sunday. Monday we'd pick up the rental moving van (similar to a U-haul for Germany) and move the rest of our stuff out, and have the cleaning done by Monday night or Tuesday mid-day. R was off Monday and Tuesday, I'd use Wednesday to unpack and we'd clear our old place on Thursday morning. Great plan, right?

And here's where my plan completely fails. It took us (I say us, but I really mean R) all day Monday to pack up the rest of the apartment and get it down to the van we rented so that we would only have to make one trip. According to my fabulous plan, I started cleaning. We had the kids with us, who had the time of their lives running through the house, playing with toys that had been stuck in the back of their closet for ages, and perfecting their slide into home technique since the living room was now empty. Since the house was empty of all furniture, there was a nice echo, and the shrieking and yelling I'm sure made our soon-t0-be former neighbors even more grateful that we were leaving. I cleaned all day on Monday, R moved stuff all day Monday (and we did get 99% of it in one trip) but the more I cleaned, the dirtier the rest of the place looked. Not a good sign. I didn't think the place was that dirty when I started out. Man, was I wrong. So we clean all day Tuesday, slowed down by trying to keep the kids from taking the vinegar squirt bottles we made to remove the hard water deposits and having a water gun fight. By water gun fight, I really mean spraying each other full strength in the face (not so good with vinegar). R breaks out the comet to help clean the tub, and when he was running down some trash and I was half in the fridge trying to remove little broccoli grit (how in the heck does that stuff get everywhere and then multiply?!?!?) from, well, everywhere, I hear S giggling in that specific tone that suggests she's up to no good. So I get up and look for her and she's grabbed the Comet and has shaken it out in an impressive trail from the hall bathroom all the way down the hall and into the living room. As I catch her eye, and I'm sure I had a horrified look on my face, she laughs and starts to put the Comet can up to her mouth. Right at this time, R walks back in the door, and we both have this slo-mo moment where we are roaring, "noooooooooooooo", which makes her drop the Comet, leaving her clothes and shoes covered in the stuff. And we scare her because we are both lunging at her - we are so big and she's so little that I'm sure it was like Jack being double-teamed by two giants over that whole beanstalk thing. So she starts to cry --check that--wail as we get to her and grab the Comet. We strip her down, examine her closely for any signs of a Comet snack or that the Comet is on her body, change her clothes, clean her shoes, and I try to keep the kids out of the the Comet trail. Interestingly enough, that stuff seems to multiply as you try to clean it up as well. I realize that shutting the kids in our bedroom with the Swiffer wet and the Swiffer WetJet is a great way to keep them occupied and sort of actually get some of the floor clean - if you count puddles of wet jet liquid among huge dry patches cleaning the floor. All goes well until R needs the WetJet to finish the Comet clean up. And then the wailing begins anew. We are nothing if not consistent.

So it took me cleaning all day Monday, R and I cleaning all day on Tuesday, and more cleaning by me after work on Wednesday to get the place done. Now, if I do say so myself, that place was 10 shades cleaner than when we moved in. The kids were so happy to leave there for the last time. We were leaving either Monday or Tuesday night and our yucky neighbor below us was out on her balcony. T sees her and says hi, she ignores him, so he starts yelling, "Hellooooooo. Heeelllooooooooooooooooo. HEEELLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" until she finally speaks to him. Heh. Then he announces, "We going home. This not our home". She, of course, is like "oh" because she could care less. And I of course, am trying not to sneer or make snide comments. Good to see that with or without a plan, I'm still the same old me. Now, that's the plan.

Monday, August 11, 2008

When yes means no and no means yes

When T was in the fierce, uncontrollable grip of tantrum land (a place he still occasionally loves to vacation, apparently), I just kept telling myself - 'it will end, it's just a phase, this too shall pass' - over and over. And to be honest; gradually, slowly, things got better. I got a lot of advice from well meaning people, a lot of it good. Anything was worth a try. What works with T today may not work next week but might work in a month. Who knows? (I sure don't!) But once you can find a way to break through the frustration and help him tell you what's wrong, he will calm down almost immediately.

So, there are going to be a lot of big changes soon. And we are trying to prepare him - talking about the house and how great it will be to have a yard and to be able to go outside whenever we want. And he's totally on board with that. I am really, really, realllllllly hoping that things will continue to go smoothly. The worst thing is that there will be no more Disney playhouse channel. We have tons of movies and Thomas the Train DVD's, but he's all about the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. For the first week or two, he'll be too excited about all the outside time to worry about TV. But our first really rainy, yucky day, I'm afraid he'll zoom off to tantrum land and stay for a while. We'll see.

Not to go unnoticed, the divine Miss S is developing her lungs as T's second in command. Be afraid, be very afraid. I know I am. In the commissary today, she was pretty much unmanageable, shrieking and wailing and screeching - not because anything was wrong, not because we denied her a cookie/toy/cereal/candy/grapes - just because she felt like it. And the stares - oh my goodness. To make it worse - when she decides she's done with the screaming (which sounds like we are shoving flaming bamboo shoots under her fingernails) she then smiles, giggles, and blows kisses at everyone we pass. You can literally see the dark cloud over R's and my heads. Siiiiigh.....

So, today as T had a nice sojourn to TantrumLand and S followed his departure and return with the opera of eternal screeching, R and I drug our frustrated, put out behinds home muttering under our breath about the unfairness of parenting and how the entire idea of the Brady Bunch and Leave it Beaver have ruined all parents like us for the harsh reality that kids can be completely impossible for absolutely no reason at all other than they feel like it. Later on as I was trying to cook dinner and talk to Papa, T decided he wanted to talk to Papa too. It's one of those things that make no sense. He's all about talking to Papa when Papa isn't on the phone. Put Papa on the phone and you are very likely to receive a defiant "NO" and assorted annoying noises when you try to get T to say hello. I hope that Papa doesn't take it personally, but it's a bit embarrassing. Today, the phone gods were on my side as T took the phone and chatted (mid-tantrum, mind you) with Papa and just happened to admit within my and R's earshot that indeed, he says yes when he means no and no when he means yes. BUSTED! If T were aware of this as a possible response, I have no doubt that T would reply 'because I feel like it' as a reason why he does this. I think Papa is still laughing about this and will be for a while. I have to laugh too, which will undoubtedly come back and bite me. Painfully. And probably soon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

All clear...for removal?!?

T had his post surgery checkup yesterday. T and doctors are a testy combination under the best of circumstances, so I have to admit I was not looking forward to the appointment. Plus, S was with us and the two of them, I swear, feed off each other in either a really positve or really negative way. If one cries, they both cry. If one screams, they both scream. And I swear, they coordinate their poops too. But if one hugs, they both hug, which almost makes up for the crying, screaming and pooping. Allllmost. They speak a language I don't catch or understand, and S will listen to T when she's mostly ignoring me. Sometimes thats good, sometimes not so much. Yesterday was a pretty equal split. I brought toys with me for the kids, and T listened really well while we were waiting. The only trouble I had was when S wanted to take advantage of the hallway echo. T would immediately follow suit. Some of the nuns were chuckling as I tried to calmly calm them down, so I'm guessing other kids do that too - it's just that I would rather it not be MY kids that lead the pack, you know?

When we walked into the exam room, T's eyes got really wide and I could tell he was scared. So we began looking at all the instruments and talking about what was going to happen. His currency, as Dr. Phil would say, for doctors appointments is getting out of there. So I explain that as soon as the Dr. comes in, looks in his ears and at his throat that we will get to leave. T nods solemnly. I cross my fingers and hope it works.

The doctor comes in. It's the same guy that visited T after his surgery. T collapses on the floor and whimpers, "Noooooo" when the doctor asks him to get up in the chair. But for the third time in a row, there's no screaming or having to force him into the chair. I sit down, S's stroller rolled up beside the chair, and T climbs willingly into my lap. He even turns his head when asked so the doctor can look in both ears. And then he opens his mouth so the doctor can look at his throat. I am stunned and proud. And relieved.

Since everything looks good, the doctor tells me to make an appointment in six to eight weeks. UGH! Really? We aren't done for six months? Seriously?!?

But it turns out that since T's adenoids were removed, they don't think the tubes will need to be in for the full six months, so if his ears are clear at the next appointment, we'll talk about when to remove the tubes. I'm happy to hear that in a way, and yet - really - did he actually need the tubes in after all? I guess I'll never really know. The important thing is that he's doing well - sleeping better and not so grumpy. As soon as we move, I can work on getting both of them really tired every day so we can all take an afternoon nap (or I can read) again.

To reward his amazing behavior, we went to the BX and he got to buy a Thomas the Train magazine and we rented a movie. I hope he's this easy for the next ten years or's no use, I can't even type that without laughing. Let's just hope he's as manageable. That seems more...appropriate.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The downside of sunscreen

Mom - if this offends you in any way, I apologize in advance ;).

My grandmother hasn't seen a ray of sun on her skin since before I was born. Mom is a sun worshipper. It's not their only night and day difference. I'm somewhere in between. I love the sun - as long as there is shade and icewater handy when I need/want it.

My mom and I have our share of night and day differences as well. She's a sports fan and loves to be outside, I'm more of the be outside if I have to be (unless the weather is cool or cold and then I'm all about the outside) and I'm decidedly not a sports fan.

For most of my life I've heard Mom say as she encouraged/pushed me to be out in the sun "you should get a little color". When I was younger I tanned easily. Throw me out there for about an hour and I'd get some tan lines, no matter how faint.

But how the times are a changin'. In my late 20's, I briefly went out with a guy who was, truth be told, just about the same orange/bronzy color as Hulk Hogan. He was a tanning bed rat. I'd had a few tanning bed sessions before - when I married my first husband, and before I went on vacation once. But I never went regularly. For whatever reason (mostly I think it was because I could have my 'color' without time outside), I started going to a tanning bed. And honestly, I can see how people get hooked. For a couple years, I went regularly during the spring and summer and my skin was decidedly tan.

Then I got pregnant. And then I got sun spots (age spots?) on my face. Biiiiiig ones. I was hoping it was a side effect of pregnancy hormones, and that it would go away. Nope. They are still here, along with some new ones. And sadly, that's when I started taking sunscreen a little more seriously. I'm taking much better care of myself in general these days, having kids will do that to you. Now I even have a skin care regimen (who would have ever thought!), which includes moisturizer with and SPF of 15 or higher.

Yesterday morning, I had taken a shower and was standing in front of the bathroom mirror. As I'm slathering on moisturizer, I notice something. My face and neck are the same pale shade - or at least close to it - while my skin on my chest that is exposed when I wear v necks has some color. Hmmmm. It's not a subtle difference, either. In fact, I don't know how I could have missed it before. It's amazing how you can stand in front of a mirror and not really see yourself. I found myself thinking - oh, it's okay, I just need a little color. And then I laughed out loud at how much I sounded like my mom. So starting yesterday, the chest gets the sunscreen too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Our soon to be new home

From the driveway looking towards the street

The front of the house from the driveway

The front door and the garage

The backyard, fenced in and landscaped

The back of the house