Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The day when no one was happy

After the haircut - not too bad, if I do say so myself.

Poor S - I took this after she was whacked on the head. Life is tough today!!!!!!!!!

Well, phbbtttttttttt.

So, today I have to literally drag T out of bed. He doesn't want to wear socks. He doesn't want to get dressed or have his diaper changed (no, he's not potty trained yet - pick this fight with me another day please - preferably in 2045). He doesn't want waffles for breakfast, or cereal, or yogurt, or fruit, or any of the other 15 choices I give him. Okay, okay, I didn't really think he'd go for the canned peas or the celery sticks, but at least I offered.

I get S started on a bottle and I fix myself a frozen waffle knowing that T will probably immediately want one. I was right. He ends up eating two and a half waffles, half an apple, and two glasses of milk. S, not to be left out, eats almost an entire waffle (sans syrup) by herself. How about that?!?!?

I totally cheat and turn on cartoons so I can get T changed, dressed and swabbed down from all the sticky syrup. Bonus plan, I hand him his toothbrush and he automatically brushes his teeth. So at 9:02 we leave the apartment. I'm toting S, the diaper bag, the garbage, and another bag full of cardboard to be recycled. All I ask T to carry is his coat, he throws it down the steps. I start singing "Girls just wanna have fu-un" because it's either that, bite a hole in my tongue, or yell at T before it's even noon. And let's face it - that's NOT how I want to start my day. Or his.

I drop him off at school, warn Mrs. J that he's been a pill since Monday (we had an hour long standoff when I picked him up from school over putting on his shoes and sitting in his car seat), and decide that all the errands I was planning to do can wait. I just want to go home and enjoy the quiet and solitude. S, God bless her well behaving self, happily plays with me for about an hour or so and then wants to take a nap. I take advantage of this time and stretch out on the couch with the paper.

Picking T up from school, Mrs. J says he's been fine for her - a little wild, but all the kids were wild today. I know she's just saying that, but it makes me feel better. On a side note, there are now five kids in this enrichment class. The little boy that used to be the only one there besides T is on a three week vacation with his Grandma. T's behavior has improved 200% since he's been gone. I dread him coming back next week. T is glad to see me, his shoes are already on (Thanks, Mrs. J) so we head out to the car.

"Hey T", I say, knowing I'm pushing my luck, "guess what? We're going to get your haircut today!"

"Okay, Mommie" he says.

Uhh... excuse me? Did he... did he just agree with me? Holy shenanigans!

We find parking, I plop S in the stroller, and into the barber shop we stroll. Of the three available chairs, only one has a barber working, but there's also only one person waiting. There's a little boy in the chair and he's behaving well. Look, I point out to T, that's how well you behaved last time. You are going to be that good today too, right? T, watching with fascination as the boy in the chair gets sides buzzed, nods in agreement. Cool!

After the boy in the chair is done, his dad gets his hair cut, and T and the boy (whose name is Nathan) play a rousing game of who can get the most hair from the floor on their clothes. The barber is not amused. The other dad and I are slightly amused. Right before it's T's turn, he falls and hits his hip. Since I've calmly asked him to sit in a chair at least 70 times, I find it hard to be truly sympathetic, but I do give it a shot.

I put T in the barber chair. He wants to sit on my lap, so I ask if it's okay. No says grumpy barber. T immediately starts to throw a fit. I try reasoning with him, no go. I try several approaches. No go. Then the barber, whom is my least favorite anyway tells me that he will not cut T's hair today and that we have to leave. You know, I get it - I really do. I wouldn't really want to cut a squirmy, crying kids hair either. But come ON! Could you please, please just cut me some slack here? Nope - the barber says we have to leave. So, I get T down out of the chair and slink out of the barber shop, really embarrassed. It's not helping that the three guys that walked in after us are laughing. It's also not one bit funny to me. As soon as we are out of the barber shop, T throws a fit to go to the food court and play the racing game. Uhhh.. I so don't think so. So he sits down in the middle of the sidewalk and screams. I keep walking. I'm mad enough that I know not to open my mouth. We've parked right beside the food court, so I go to the car. I look around for T and he's about to run into the parking lot. Losing my grip on reality or volume control I holler (holler is a southern term that is somewhere between yelling and verbal murder) GET OVER HERE. NOW! I'm pretty soft spoken so even I'm surprised as my words echo off the building and everyone outside stops in their tracks and looks at us. T resumes crying and trots over to me. I strap the kids into their seats and we go home. I'm still fuming.

When we get into the apartment, I send T to his room. I call R and vent. As I'm venting I realize that while I'm plenty angry with T (could we please just stop the tantrums for crying out loud???!?!?! You're three!!!!!!!), I'm much more angry with the barber and the laughing idiots. I go into T's room to try and talk to him about it, he's having none of it, so we are at a standoff. When he finally comes out of his room, S is eating lunch and the first thing he does is whack her on the head. Geez!

Okay, fine I tell him. First timeout, and then a haircut from me. NONONOONNONOOOOOOO!!!!!!! he screams. I put him in time out. When he's done with that, I strip him to the waist, and I cut his hair. He wiggles and periodically screams "ow!!!" but I manage to trim around his ears and the back of his neck. It's not great, but it's better than it was. After I clean up the hair, it's nap time, and today I take one too. An hour later, I feel more human, the kids are still sleeping. I open T and S's doors to start the wake up process. T wakes up first, so since it's already been a day of battles, I change his bandage. I grabbed the camera and took a picture of his finger. It's right below this paragraph (if I can get the pics to load this time) so be warned. It's not gross, but it's not pretty. The rest of the evening goes much better except for Sara's spectacular poopie diaper, but that's a story for another day!
T's finger. It's really looking much better. A lot of bruising and some swelling, but it's healing nicely. The stuff on his chest from the first picture is adhesive from the chest monitors when he was put under general anesthesia. Every day we get a little more of it off.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Oh, Doctor, Doctor

So! The kids are over their ear infections, T is on the path to healing with his hand - I'm the only one around here struggling these days. Which, honestly, I'd rather it be me than the kids anyway. Whatever this illness I have is, it's getting worse. My sinuses are really painful, I'm coughing like crazy, and I keep running a fever. PHOOEY. This means I need to go back to the doctor.

So I call Wednesday morning. They have an appointment at 12:45. I"ll take it. The morning goes by as usual, I pick up T from preschool and off we go to the doctors office. After struggling to get the kids, me and a stroller down a flight of stairs (this isn't the area of the clinic that I usually visit), we are checked in immediately which is very unusual and very welcome. In no time, the kids, the stroller, and me are packed into an exam room the size of a bathroom stall. Well, THIS should be fun. I've got T strapped into the stroller, occupied with cookies. I'm holding S and she's loving it.

Tap tap on the door and in comes Dr. G. I've never met Dr. G before. Usually they shake your hand and introduce themselves, he does neither. I'm sure he's heard me coughing so I don't think much of it. I'm hesitant to shake strangers' hands this time of year myself.

I apologize first thing for bringing the kids. You aren't supposed to, which is understandable. But, I need to get better and quickly, and I had no other option today. So, we are all going to have to suck this one up. Dr. G doesn't see it that way, and instead lectures me on why we are not supposed to bring our kids to our appointments. Apparently, according to Dr. G, kids are germy, disease ridden creatures and there are pregnant women coming into this clinic. Said pregnant woman can now pick up some disease my kids apparently ooze out of every pore which could cause her to miscarry.

Come again?!?!?!?

Here I am, sick as can be (the kids are perfectly healthy at this point, by the way), running a fever, with so much sinus pressure that my teeth hurt, on my second visit to the doctor in two weeks for the same illness, exhausted because I can't sleep since I cough all night long. I've had what could be argued as the worst two weeks of my life, and now some Doogie Howser wannabe is going to give me a guilt trip for coming into a medical clinic when I'm sick? Oh, I SO don't think so.

Well, thanks! I tell him. I didn't think I could feel worse, and now I do. Great!

He just wanted me to know the ramifications of bringing in my kids.

Wow. So I guess I shouldn't go to the grocery store - there might be pregnant people there. I guess I shouldn't leave the house actually. I have nothing against pregnant women. I would be sick with guilt for giving one a cold, much less a more serious illness that might cause a miscarriage. But, seriously, dude. Shut up and give me something that makes me well.

Dr. G proceeds to rap on my sinuses (why not just use a jackhammer?!??) and look in my ears (lucky for you I cleaned 'em out), then announces I need a prescription for antibiotics, and he tells me to take two hot showers a day - one in the morning and one at night - to help with my congestion. (I'll be sure to squeeze that onto my to do list since I have so much free time) I might also want to sleep in a recliner. I'd love to - but I don't have one. Who IS this guy? Then he asks if I'm having a lot of discharge (I assume he means nasally) and I say yes, I'm going through over a box of tissues a day. What color is it? he asks. Uhhhh.. it's sinus-infection green tinged with I'm-blowing-my-nose-so-often-and-so-hard-that-it's-bleeding red. He doesn't even crack a smile. This guy is hopeless.

So, exam completed, prescription ordered, he bolts out of there, barely repressing a shudder as he leaves the room. Gee. They DID tell him in medical school that he'd occasionally have to see sick people, right?!!?!?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

That's Miss Diva to you!

S is figuring out how to stand. With style.

S has been in a hurry to move around since she noticed that T moves around. And hey - if HE can do it.... So it's been a lot of fun watching her figure out how to get from point a to point b. When T was learning all this, he just wanted to be moving. It didn't matter which direction or if in any direction. We bought him a jumparoo and he would literally jump for hours. This was great because it gave me time to do things like laundry, cooking, going to the bathroom by myself without having to worry about what he might get into, crawl under, or pull down. The jumparoo was stand alone - it didn't attach to a doorway, so I could move it where ever I was going. We didn't bring it with us to Germany. I wish we had, although I suspect Miss Thang would not have liked it. T loved the walker and the exersaucer, S will tolerate the walker, but you can forget the exersaucer, which makes me SO glad that we didn't buy one. If S can't move in it, in the direction she wants to go - you can fugeddaboutit.

Once she learned to crawl, she decided that it was too rough on her knees? too slow? not ladylike?!?!? We have wood floors, and she finds it easier to half sit, half crawl. You have to actually SEE this to understand, but again, when trying to capture it on a camera, she immediately stops. She's very quick, so by the time I find the camera, turn it on, and wait for the picture to take, she's so over it. But back to the description - she sits on her bum, with one leg angled in front of her like she's going to sit indian style. The other leg is folded back like in a hurdle stretch, so that her legs almost make a podium. She'll raise her bum up off the floor just a bit, lean forward and use her arms to glide across the floor. This works fabulously until she hits carpet, which we don't have much of anyway. Only now she's realized that she can stand and seems to associate this with the two legged movement the rest of us do. So, from that sitting position, she'll throw her arms up in the air, and she pushes down with her knees, which allllllllmost gets her to a kneeling position. If she is near anything with leverage (and would you be surprised what she uses!), she'll grab that, stand up, get her balance, slowly let go.....and throw her hands up over her head like she's Mary Lou Retton nailing the perfect floor routine in the Olympics. Since she hasn't figured out how to say Yay! for herself (believe me, it won't be long), she smacks her lips and says, "AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!", which inevitably makes her giggle, which inevitably causes her to fall down.

Well, this evening, she caught her self and stood back up - threw up her hands a la Mary Lou, smacked her mouth, said "AHHHHHH!!!!" and then CLAPPED for herself. Oh boy, I'm in for it. T, who is anxious to get her walking because he thinks it means 1)they will then be able to wrestle and 2) I can go back to carrying him up and down the stairs (totally not going to happen), will usually stop whatever he is doing, clap for her and shout, "YAAAAAYYYYYY!"

Tonight, what with the huge leap forward she made, I guess she was expecting a really big reaction. T didn't notice because he was busy with his SmartCycle, and Miss Diva did NOT care for that at all. So she crawls over to him, does her routine, waits, and.....still nothing from T. So she pulls on his pants leg, he shakes her off, she plops down on the floor. You can see her think about this for a few seconds, then she looks up at him, opens her mouth and lets out a scream that under any other circumstances would indicate a gunshot wound, slamming your finger in the bathroom door (ahem), or a tumble down the stairs. T leaps off his bike, confused. "Alright 'Ra? Ra, alright???" he asks her worriedly and hugs her. S stops crying, and yanks his hair as she giggles.

I have to leave the room I'm laughing so hard.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Update on T

We went to the doctor to have the bandages changed today. T was hesitant (and quite vocal about that) to have this done, so I got to jump in and help. This also means I got to see his finger, which I wasn't sure I wanted to do, but it looked great. Other than the stitches, and the fact that it began to bleed when we removed the pressure bandage, you'd never know how horrible it looked on Friday.

The bones are in alignment, the shape of the finger is normal - all is well. The bandages have to be changed every few days so that the healing process can be monitored for any glitches, stitches have to stay in for two weeks, he'll have to wear the splint for a few more weeks, but after the finger has finished healing, it will be very difficult to tell there was actually an injury there.

And T hasn't slowed down a bit since it happened, so all is well that ends well. That, combined with the third day in a row of nothing going wrong, and I'm starting to feel like I'm on a mini vacation. Now, if I could just get well myself and quit coughing all night long, I'd feel like I'd won the lottery.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dare I write it? Two days without a problem???!?!?!?!

Thanks to everyone who sent us well wishes and good thoughts. We made it through an ENTIRE weekend with no disasters, doctors visits, or further desire to obtain a prescription for Prozac.

Here is a picture of T's bandaged injury. We go to the Dr. tomorrow to change the bandage, which is now stained with pasta sauce, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, pears, and strawberry ice cream. To my complete surprise, T has not once attempted to remove his bandage or stick his injured hand in the sink, tub, or a mud puddle. I'll post an update tomorrow after we return.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Lord, I hope this day is good...

Well, let's see. This day...not so good.

This week shall be forever known as the week of doctors. T has a tremor in his hand. When he was first learning to eat, we noticed that his hand was sometimes really shaky. Took him to the Dr., who said it was just that he was learning to control his muscles and he'd grow out of it. But he hasn't. So, when I made an appointment for his last immunization booster, I asked his pediatrician about it. Of course, there was no tremor to be seen when she examined him. I've seen it, my parents have seen it, his preschool teacher has seen it - I know I'm not crazy. The pediatrician put in a consult with a neurologist in Landstuhl, which is about an hour and a half away from us. T's appointment was Monday. So, off we went..hi ho, hi ho, to the neurologist we go...

On the way there, I ran out of windshield washer fluid. Not the most abnormal thing to happen, but I ran out of windshield wiper fluid on the autobahn. One flip of the whatchamacallit and I had fluid to wash away the salt residue from the morning's questionable road conditions, and the next flip of the whatchamallit and..nothing. Speaking as a woman who tends to check fluids in her vehicle ONLY when there is an issue or a warning light (hey! You guys want us to check stuff like that? Put more warning lights on the dashboard or a guide we can incorporate into our already too full lives..I'm just saying...) I was a little mystified that there wasn't some sort of decreased flow or spray power than would lead me to think..hmmm...maybe I'd better check that. I'd point out that in the US, these sorts of things would be automatically checked when taking your vehicle in for an oil change (which I am actually VERY good about), but we aren't in the US, they don't check here, and I would then have to talk about the $100 oil change which still makes me sick to my stomach, and this was before the dollar took a real nosedive against the Euro.

So, the kids and me, driving along on the autobahn, no wiper fluid. Salt residue is being flung our way from everywhere, so in a matter of minutes, visibility through our windshield is very poor. In Germany, you are not allowed to stop on the autobahn or on the shoulder unless your vehicle is unable to function. They have parking stops fairly frequently along the side, so I've never thought much about it. Of course, I have never run out of wiper fluid on the autobahn before either. So this is a real dilemma. I have a small patch of decent windshield on the lower left side, but soon that too is murky and hazy. So, I find myself rolling down the window and looking out that way for a bit. That was kinda dumb in retrospect because the residue that was clouding my windshield was now flying in my face. Fortunately, we weren't too far from a restplatz, so I pulled over. Fortunately, I carry bottled water with me pretty much everywhere, so I at least could put some water in the fluid reservoir until we got to Landstuhl, where I was pretty certain I could buy some.

Now, for whatever reason, T did not sleep the night before. He was still awake when I went to bed at midnight and when I opened my eyes at 4:15 am, every light in the house was on, which leads me to believe that he didn't sleep at all. Of course, he passes out as soon as I strap him into the car seat, which irritates me on one level and is a relief on another. I find parking, get out our stroller, and get ready to put S in it, when T wakes up and wants me to hold him. So negotiate putting T in the stroller, and I put S in the snuggli and strap her onto me. And off we go....this poor stroller is creaking and groaning like at any minute it's going to collapse into a pile of overworked plastic and fabric pieces. Of course, we've been overloading it since we moved to Germany and has been the saving grace for us on more than one airport visit. I'm just hoping that it will make it through this doctor's visit so I don't have to carry T, S, and a pile of stroller.

On a side note - I had people open doors for me, offer to help me push the stroller, in general everyone was just extremely helpful. So I conclude that the issue isn't the military, it's the obnoxious miscreants that live where we do. My faith in human nature has been restored.
We met with the Dr, who had the wonderful beside personality of thinking I was a hysterical mother because of course there was no sign of the tremor when T was examined. Nothing like driving three hours round trip to be treated like an idiot--correction, a hysterical idiot.

Moving on - Tuesday we went to the dentist and T was a model patient. Last year he tried to kick the dentist in the special places, so this was a great moment for me at least. The dentist didn't seem to remember him from last year, so I'm guessing he's not the first kid that's expressed his displeasure physically. T's teeth looked great, no cavities and he's digging his new toothbrush.

Wednesday I took T to the Dr on base because his cold had turned into a deep hacking cough with a fever - aaaaand... ear infection. Wednesday night I started feeling bad and S started coughing and had a fever too, so we went to the Dr on Thursday. T can now open child safety caps, so it's been interesting to keep the amoxicillin in the fridge but in a place where he doesn't know where it is.

So, this morning, I was feeling so optimistic. T was going to school, S didn't feel well so she was really sleepy, and that meant that maybe just maybe I could get a bunch of stuff done and take a little nap myself.

And then...

T slams his finger in the bathroom door. I was right there, but facing the other direction trying to get S ready to go. I look around and he's holding his hand out and there's blood everywhere. So I take him into the bathroom and look at it, thinking perhaps he just smashed his fingernail. Nope. He's almost completely separated the tip from the rest of the finger. Honestly, my first thought is PANIC - but I pull a trick from Winnie the Pooh - think think think. I wrap his finger gently in a washcloth. I call Tricare and ask if I can take him to pediatrics, since we live right behind them. Nope, they tell me, I'm going to need to take him to the nearest pediatric trauma unit, which is in Trier. Trier, by the way, is about 30 to 40 minutes away. I call T's preschool teacher, tell her what's happened, and ask if I can drop S off. She says of course, God bless her, so I grab the kids, throw them in the car and off we go. I drop off S, and T and I head to the hospital in Trier. Except there are three and I don't know which one to take him to. And you can't use a cell phone in Germany while driving. So, I pick the nearest one. T, who has been very, very brave during the drive, starts to cry when we park. "Hold me, Mommie, hold me!" So I carry him down the three flights of steps and into the emergency room.

I have to give the staff there credit, they were amazing with him. They took us right back and called a patient liaison to come and help. Patient liaisons work in partnership with Tricare and area German hospitals. They are fluent in German and English and are familiar with how to fill out the forms for both Tricare and the hospital. They also, as I found out, are pretty much willing to sit with you and hold your hand if you need it.

So! They look at T's finger and tell me it's going to need stitches, but they need to see if the bone is broken first. So off we go to the X-ray department. T is being so good, but not really thrilled about the x-ray. But we get it somehow, and they even let us look at it. They tell me that it doesn't look like any bones were broken, which is a good sign. But, because of the extent of the injury and his age, they are going to have to put him under general anesthesia. So, we are in for a long day at the hospital. We finally get him into a room, there are two other German kids in there and prep him for surgery. They take him at 11:45 and tell me it will be a couple of hours. So, I decide to go and pick up S and a change of clothes for T. When I get to J's, the day care provider, she tells me that I can leave S there as long as I need to today, to go back and be with T. So, of course I dissolve into tears, which I'd actually done pretty well at not shedding until that point. Deeep breaths.

I run home, grab some stuff for T and head back to the hospital. They don't bring him out of recovery until after 3 pm. The Dr said that it went well, but that he did break the bone in the tip of his finger. His hand was at the wrong angle on the x-ray, and he was being difficult when we did the x-ray, so I can understand that. But he was able to reattach the tip and save the fingernail. I have to take him back on Monday to change the wrapping and then a few days later to remove the stitches.

T, upon seeing me, wants out of the bed, his IV removed and his hospital gown 'osh' which is T speak for off. So, I know he's going to be okay at that point. And then he starts pulling on his IV. You'd think that he'd be drowsy from the meds, but it sure didn't seem so. So we sit and sit and wait and wait. I'm now on my third patient liaison, and all three have been wonderful. They tell me he has to drink and eat and hold it down, walk around, and go to the bathroom and then the anesthesiologist will probably release him. So, the patient liaison and I push, push, push for water, which he gulps down, food, which he devours and for the IV to be removed, which T ended up pretty much doing for them. I tried to warn them.

As soon as he got something to eat and drink and the IV out, he was back to normal. We went for a walk in the hallway, and I had to chase him down. And then he tried jumping on the bed. The patient liaison said, "wow. You are going to have your hands full." No kidding!! We finally get out of there around 7 pm. T is wide open, dancing in the elevator (and pushing all the buttons), walking through the lobby calling out "bye! byyyyeeeee!!" and touching anything he can that he's not supposed to. I finally get him strapped in the car, and off we go.

You would never know this kid almost lost part of a finger. He is insisting on doing everything he usually does - riding his bike, eating and drinking... so for a pretty horrible day, it turned out okay.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Oh boy what a week!

R left on Tuesday and the kids and I are sad :(

We do, at least, get to talk to him by phone and email. He'll be day, so keep us in your thoughts and prayers. S and I drove R to the airport on Tuesday. T went to an extra day of preschool because we thought it would just be easier. Goodbyes are never easy and I want to make the transition as smooth as possible for the kids. So we took a new route someone told us was better - good scenery, shorter time and less mileage. Uh huh. I have to say that it could actually have been faster, but throw in detours and inevitably getting behind the one person in Germany that drives slower than I do, and well... we were sweating R making his flight for a little while there. We make it to the airport and spend another fifteen minutes or so trying to find parking, then make the mad dash (as mad and and dash-able as it could be with a baby, two huge duffel bags, and assorted other related gear) to the check in counter where S decides to fill her diaper with a rather fragrant and noticeable well, you get the idea. So I leave R with his bags and head to the nearest restroom, which thankfully has a really nice baby changing station. Meeting back up with R, he realizes that he's left something in the car, so we actually do get to dash this time back to the car and get it. At which point it makes no sense for us to walk him back in because his flight is going to be boarding by the time he gets through security and makes it to the gate. So we say a swift and sad goodbye and head our separate ways. Sniff.

S and I make it back home with no problems, pick up T from school and carry on. Day one - done!

Day two - grrrrrrrr. Get T off to school, wash all the road muck off of the car from the trip, check the mail, get groceries, run errands, pick T back up from school, get the kids settled in for a nap and I see there's no internet connection. Phooey. So I call TKS, our phone, internet, and cable company. They tell me they'll have someone fix it today. Today comes and goes. No internet. The kids are missing R. I am too. Without distractions (note to self - distractions = bad sleeping conditions) I do get a good night's sleep until T comes in my room at 3ish. He doesn't go back to sleep until close to five. S wakes up at 6:30, so I wake T up at 7. I feel we should all suffer together as a family. ha!!!

Day three - call TKS first thing. They'll have someone out to fix it today by 12. Yay! I have a deadline to meet that requires online access, so I'm getting a little nervous. I start trying to formulate a backup plan. I realize I'm totally not a hacker as I can see five or six different wireless networks but have no idea how to connect to them or even who these people are to ask if I can borrow a connection until they fix mine. When no one comes by 12:30, I call TKS again. They put me on hold for over 15 minutes and then say they'll call me back with some answers. Suuuure. Then they ask if I have a cell phone. I do but it's in the car for emergencies only, so I say no. Plus, I don't know what the number is - it's taped on the back of the phone. At 3:15, no call, no internet and the kids and I have been stuck here alllllll day waiting on non existent help. I call TKS back (now's a good time to mention I'm charged for every single call to them) and they swear they left me a message. I strongly disagree. Back and forth we go until the TKS agent looks at the display on her phone and realizes that the number I'm calling from is not my home number. 45 minutes later it's official, wires have been switched. So all my calls are now going to an apartment in the C stairwell and their calls, if they got any, would be coming to me. Since this is the phone company's error, they tell me, someone will come and fix it today. Do they? Nope. So after dinner, the kids and I pack up my laptop and sit in the car outside of the library so I can try to log on the wireless network there. I don't dare take them in and try to be doing something else. I get 20 minutes of very slow online time, not long enough to accomplish anything, and then the library closes and they turn off access to the wireless network. Oy. In desperation, I drive around base looking for an unsecured network to tap. I don't find one. Defeated, the kids and I head home after waiting in line 15 minutes at Burger King for a coke. I call our friend Sam and beg to use her internet connection the next day, she says sure. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!! On our way up the stairs, our neighbors were going in to their apartment so I took a chance and explained our problem and asked if they'd let me connect to their network for a couple hours. They said no. I totally feel like a junkie.

Day 4 - T wakes up at 2 am with a runny nose. I get him some tylenol and finally get him back to sleep around 4. S is up at 6:30 again, so I get her fed and changed and dressed and spend 30 minutes trying to wake up T. Deciding to work with the situation, I get him changed and dressed, trim his nails and trim the hair around his ears. He sleeps through all of it. What wakes him up? Sara touches his Thomas the train that he got for Christmas. Hey - whatever works. Off to school with T, come back to wait for the TKS guy, think about that and call TKS to confirm there is still a TKS guy coming - and there is. So they say. In a conversation that does not inspire confidence in their services (not that I had any anyway) the agent is shocked that the line wasn't fixed last night. Me, not so much. I don't even want to think about how messed up the phone bill is going to be over this.

Much to my surprise, the TKS guy comes for his 12-2 appointment, even if he does come at 11:10. Hey, I'm not complaining. By now I'm in sweaty, heart palpitation withdrawal. What if Britney had another meltdown? What happened on Grey's Anatomy? AAhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Seriously, I need help. To my irritation, he fixes it in ten minutes. TEN FREAKIN minutes. Breathe....just breathe. I thank him profusely in German, hoping my accent sounds as bad to him as it does to me. Oddly enough, I start to thank in him French. I seriously need to uncross some wires in my own head apparently. I talk to R, tell him the latest, he's proud of me for how I handled it - which I guess means he either expected my head to blow off or for me to have a complete mental breakdown. heh. This time last year, that honestly would have happened.

So, I go pick up T from school, go check the mail, settle the kids in for a nap and ahhhhh..............Internet. Life is good. Then I get a phone call that the bed we ordered for T in November is here and when can I come and get it? Wow..they only give me three days to pick it up, so I tell them I'll come and get it tomorrow. This should be interesting. I really, really miss R. We used our digital camera to record him reading stories for the kids and T watches it a minimum of 20 times in a row.

Day 5 - Everyone, myself included, slept in their own beds all night long. (Doing the well rested dance). The kids and I are out and about by 10:30 am. We go to pick out sheets for T's bed hoping this will get him really jazzed about sleeping in his own room instead of resisting bedtime. Yeah, yeah, I know, I KNOW. No great surprise, he picks out sheets from the movie Cars. Go to pay for and pick up the bed, and it turns out that instead of a mattress and box spring, there are two box springs. After a lengthy conversation with the AAFES manager, they strap the box spring to the top of the car (apparently they aren't supposed to do that) I think they gave in because T was just going nuts. In the BX, I ended up having to make him ride in the cart because he was running and then doing a baseball slide in front of other people's carts. One on had, I find it hilarious and I'm seriously signing him up for baseball as soon as I can. As a parent, I'm appalled and embarrassed. Then I end up taking away his trains and tracks for the rest of the day because he kept smacking Sara upside the head. Oh.. the flashbacks from my own childhood. Deep sigh.
So, rails loaded and box springs strapped on, we drive the .28 or so miles to the apartment. Several of our stairwell cohabitants see me untie the box springs, and try to figure out how to get kids and box spring up three flights of stairs. Did I mention that it's raining? Fabulous. I end up leaving the kids strapped in their car seats and lugging up the box spring as fast as I can. Neither child was impressed with that option. Don't really blame them. I'm really looking forward to doing this all over again when the mattress comes in.

As I go get the kids and bed rails, I resist the urge to do the whole cough*asshole*cough thing towards our observers. It's kinda juvenile, they wouldn't care, and it would set a bad example. I'd write down what I was really thinking, but Mom would come all the way over here to wash my mouth out with soap. When R was in the Army, those guys held open doors for you at the gas station and were quick to offer to assist you even if you didn't look like you needed help. The Air Force, from my experience so far, would walk right by you if you were on fire and two inches from reaching a fire extinguisher. The first month we were here, we had no vehicle. T and I would go to the commissary during the day, load up his stroller and then I'll pull him and his stroller up the two flights of stairs to our apartment. One day, the guy that lived below us was coming in as I was struggling to pull the stroller up the stairs. He literally stepped over us to get to his apartment. Two weeks later his car died, and I smirked about that for a looooong time.

Moving I get the rails put together and the box spring on it. T is SO happy. Since he doesn't have a mattress, I take the foam topper off our bed and put it on top of the box spring. It's not an exact fit, but it works. But T can not stand for the sheets to be on the bed for some reason, so after the third time I replace them (who's the trained monkey in this scenario), I double over the foam topper, wrap it in the fitted sheet, then put the flat sheet over the box spring and under the foam topper to make it much harder to remove. It worked because as of bedtime, everything was still in place.

After an interesting evening that included T pouring his apple juice on the floor three times, I feel like I might just make it through this deployment with my sanity intact because instead of yelling, which is my first impulse, I made him clean up the floor. After the third time, he got the bonus plan of washing the dishes, losing his trains all day tomorrow and the thing which REALLY works, moving up his bedtime by 5 minutes per incident. On the flip side, when he behaves well, he can delay his bedtime by up to 15 minutes. But, boy, do we miss R. :( Onto day six!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The search for Belgian Chocolate leads to Luxembourg

I love Luxembourg. It's a tiny little country and is somewhere between French and German culture and language. There are several castles you can explore, some in ruins and some either already restored or in the process of being restored within a several hour round trip drive (castle exploration time not included).

Today, however, we headed to Luxembourg in search of chocolate. After our last trip to Belgium, my Aunt emailed me and was asking about the chocolate prices. She loves chocolate and asked us to pick some up for her the next time we went. Since the nearest chocolate shop in Belgium that I know of (even if I haven't actually made it there yet) is a pretty good drive, (and we always, always get lost) I decided to do some research online. I found a place in Luxembourg that sells Galler chocolates. The website is in case you are interested in seeing products they offer. They do ship to the US, and they are SO worth the money.

So, we set off to check out this place. We got to the street and didn't see a Galler store. And then it clicks - the address was listed as CORA Foetz, Lux. CORA was the name of a store - kind of a cross between Walmart and Target. So the Galler counter was located in the bakery section. Here's where the language barrier comes in. After trying for some time to figure out in my head how to ask questions about the different kinds of chocolate in French, I notice a huge selection of chocolate bars. Turns out they are much more affordable than the truffles are, they will (obviously) ship better, and you get much more chocolate for your money. So we buy a couple 85% chocolate bars for my aunt and decide to wander around the store. The selection at the commissary and BX is pretty limited, so I love to wander around foreign stores and see what products they offer. As we are walking up and down the aisles, R points out a section of Galler chocolate bars. Huh! So we are looking at all the bars and they've got a pretty wide selection, so we end up buying a large 70% dark chocolate bar, and two small three packs. For whatever reason, it reminded me of Willy Wonka. I think it was the wrappers on the bars. The small bars either have nuts or filling in them. We got a vanilla filled and hazelnut pack. Oh. My. Goodness. We cracked open the vanilla bar in the car - and it was literally heaven. I'm a Hershey bar and M&M girl and really wasn't expecting to be impressed in any way.

Man oh man. Pardon my gushing for the next paragraph, but the vanilla filling has the consistency of a nougat, but it's smoother and creamier. It sort of fills your mouth up with it's vanilla goodness and glides easily down your throat making both your esophagus and your tummy very, very happy for the duration of the journey. The vanilla is wrapped in a dark chocolate and it melts so smoothly, mixing with the vanilla. I'm used to dark chocolate being almost bitter, but this one isn't. It's creamy without being sweet, if that makes sense. Sooooooooo good. T didn't care for it, which was just fine with R and I. We tried the hazelnut one too, R preferred it, but I thought the vanilla trumped it no question. They were both very good. Later on that night R and I opened the 70% dark chocolate bar. Like I said, I'm not really a dark chocolate fan, so I wasn't really expecting much. And if you take a bite, chew it up and swallow it, it's good but not really impressive. However, if you let it slowly melt in your mouth - WOW!!! Had I read what I'm writing even a month ago, I would have rolled my eyes and thought that I'd rather have a Hershey bar any day. But compared to Galler, Hershey bars are grainy and too sweet (I do realize I'm totally contradicting myself, but I speak the truth). So - YUM. And now I'm going to be willing to drive an hour for chocolate. Each way. Bad exchange rate notwithstanding.

So that was our first trip. We went again today. Only we didn't realize that CORA was having a massive sale. We ended up parking in the back of the shopping area next door because there were no spaces available in the CORA lot. Let me say, there were LOTS of spaces in the parking lot, so we should have been clued in that something was up. But, no. There is a small hill between where we parked and the CORA lot. And when I first saw it, I thought that there were steps leading up to CORA. We walk over and realize that the 'steps' are really pallets that someone has thrown down. Oh well, it will offer more traction than the mud and sparse grass on the hill, because of course it's raining. Then we step on it and the pallet starts to slide down the hill. I've got S, R is helping T. They make it up just fine. I get halfway and lose traction. Yeah... just what I need to do is fall in the mud with a baby in my arms. In public. Without a change of clothes. Hmmmm. Luckily, I found a safer place to climb and S and I make it up just fine. Sad, really, because in dry conditions it would have been an easily manageable hill I could have climbed in three or four steps. Phhbbttttt on the yucky weather here. It's depressing to look like you haven't even bothered to take a shower after 2 minutes outside.

Of course we didn't bring the diaper bag out of the car with us because we were just planning on dashing in, and of course S poops the second we get up the we end up having to go back to the car to change her diaper and re navigate the hill. In the rain.

The shopping carts in Germany and Luxembourg are housed outside in what looks like the carport kit you can purchase and install yourself from places like Home Depot or, I'd imagine, (I have no idea if that's really a webpage, so if you click it and it doesn't work - I warned ya!) They remind me of luggage carts at the airport. You have to put either a .50, 1 or 2 Euro coin in to free it, but you get your coin back when you return the cart where it belongs and hook it back up - just like you got it. I totally think Walmart and other places should do this too. I'd have a lot less dings on my car, that's for sure!

Unfortunately, these carts apparently require a special skill to navigate that I, not a true resident of the European continent, do not posses. The best way I can begin to describe it is that the cart naturally goes diagonally. Undeterred by this navigational challenge, we head into the store. This store is packed! Apparently, this is the sale of the year. The aisles are packed with people and carts, folks are trying on clothes without the benefit of a dressing room, huge bins of pocketbooks, shoes, sheets, pillows and toys are in the middle of the aisles as well. Navigating this cart through the store is what I'd imagine driving in India to be. T, of course, wants to walk not ride. He's not the best listener and there is no way I'm going to let him loose in this madhouse. So T gets mad. M!A!D! mad. He's screaming the "I'm going to humiliate Mom into getting my way" scream which I kid you not -- given the right conditions could probably shatter crystal by decibel alone. S, of course, thinks this is hilarious and starts to giggle and chuckle, which makes T madder. R and I are stuck in the middle of this throng with a shrieking banshee and a hysterical infant and want to just crawl under the cart and die. Apparently, children in Luxembourg don't throw temper tantrums because we quickly became THE focal point of interest. Then again, it did sound like we had strapped him to a torture device so people were probably checking for knives or a corkscrew to be sticking out of his hand or something. Excusez-moi just didn't seem to be the thing to say. R and I are non verbally on the same page - let's find a less crowded, less acoustic spot to try and handle this.

The only problem with that is that we are stuck with our directionally dysfunctional cart in the middle of an aisle that has no true flow - so it's a complete mess with carts trying to go up and down the aisle on both sides which has resulted in a horrific shopping cart jam, and apparently due to the fabulous low prices on the majority of merchandise in the store, no one is willing to budge. R's face is an alarming shade of red/purple, T is still screaming, S is having the time of her life, and I'm thinking that if we manage to pass the hardware aisle, you might want to keep me away from the duct tape, the staplers and the superglue, because I'm not at all sure I could resist temptation at this point.

R, now embarrassed and angry and frustrated, starts pushing his way through the crowd shouting MOVE! MOVE OUT OF THE WAY! Only problem with that is my cart is much wider than his tushie, so the progress he's made is for him alone and the crowd immediately swallows him up. And we wonder why other countries think Americans are crass and rude?!

All's well that ends well, and we finally make our way to the same less crowded part of the store. But by this time, T has pretty much calmed down. I'll be honest, I'm willing to brave the madness for the chocolate, but I have no idea where it is compared to where we are, and R's face is giving off a "Let's go NOW" vibe, so I wisely realize when to call it a day and we leave. Empty handed except for a purse I snagged out the bargain bin as we passed it and a Lightening McQueen car that was cheap, cheap, cheap. We tromp through the rain to return the cart to it's rightful place, then we tromp down the muddy hill to the car where we head home - wet and bedraggled and let's face it - sadly without chocolate.

10 minutes into the drive home and I realize I really, really have to go to the bathroom. Only I'm not about to ask R to turn around and go back to CORA and I have no idea how close the nearest restroom is. I'm a big girl, I can hold it, right? Well, uhh... 30 minutes later and I tell R - we are going to have to pull over. I've really got to go. We pull off on a exit, no sign of commercial life, so I decide that I can go in the woods. We find a spot with good cover, so as not to expose myself to passing traffic, and I - she-who-hates-to-camp - find myself squatting in the rain, in the mud, in the woods to go potty as something thorny keeps being smacked against my bare parts as the wind howls and gusts. As I finish and head back to the car, I notice I'm surrounded by plants with three leaves. Now, I realize that I should know what poison ivy, oak, sumac looks like but I don't. All I know is that it's better to stay away from anything with leaves in clusters of threes, which is what I'm standing in the middle of. Great!!!!!!!!! Fortunately for me, either it wasn't poison anything or I am not allergic to it, cause I never broke out in a rash. But I also made good use of the baby wipes before I got back in the car and showered immediately once we got home. Just another lovely day in paradise...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Morning surprises

Happy New Year everyone!
This morning, T came into the bedroom around 6 am and woke me up. I figured he was excited about going back to school today, so I didn't think much of it. I offered him some juice or milk and some breakfast and he said no to both. Around seven, he asked for some chocolate milk so I fixed it for him and noticed that he took a sip and put it down. Honestly, we were playing Thomas the Train, and we all know that Thomas trumps just about everything else on the planet, so I didn't think too much about that either. But all of a sudden, he stopped playing and walked up to me and said, Hold you (which in T speak, means to hold him). So I picked him up and asked him if everything was okay. He nodded and snuggled up to me, so I chalked it up to being tired. T, like his mom, is sloooow to wake up and get going, so he'd been up a while when he came into our room at 6.

And then, all of a sudden, I heard it. THE GURGLE. I tried to head to the bathroom but it was too late. He threw up all over me, himself, the couch, and the floor all the way to the bathroom. Actually, pretty much everywhere but the trash can or toilet. Poor thing. I'm pretty lucky in that I don't have a really weak stomach. But the delicate, pungent aroma of puke will almost always make me throw up too. So, while I'm trying to calm T down, change his clothes, wipe him off, and clean myself up, I'm also trying not to throw up myself. To all of you who said that when it's your own child's vomit, it won't really matter - Liar, liar, pants on fire!!!!!!!!

I got T cleaned up and settled, then started to try and clean up the mess. By the way, a HUGE shout out to Arm and Hammer Baking soda for not only removing the odors associated with this spectacular debut of stomach bug, but also getting the stains off the carpet and couch. Half a box of baking soda and almost an entire container of Lysol wipes later, I've cleaned up the mess, wiped down all the toys in the living room (just in case) and scrubbed the kitchen counters and floor. Okay, okay, the floors weren't exactly scrubbed - more cleaned but still, I get extra credit for the baking soda use, right?

I go in to check on T and am hoping he's asleep, but nope. He's all curled up in his blankets looking all tiny and vulnerable. I sit down beside him just in time to hear a couple coughs and another gurgle, and then he throws up all over his blanket. I get him cleaned up, me cleaned up, start some laundry (I'm accumulating quite a pile today) and get him settled back down - all before 7:40, at which time I hear S. Thank goodness for high chairs! I put her in the high chair with her bottle and go to check in on T, who is thankfully sleeping. So, S and I play for a while until she's ready to take her morning nap, at which time T wakes up and seems to be feeling better. So we play with freshly cleaned Thomas the Train when all of a sudden - yep. The gurgle. Having learned from my first couple of experiences this morning, I have a trash can handy, which T decides to throw up beside. But hey, he was close. And he's feeling better because he goes right back to playing. So, I think, that's probably it. I need to give him clear liquids and soup (if he'll eat it) and he should be fine by tomorrow. Only, I don't have soup or any thing besides milk or white grape juice to drink, and neither option seems ideal for an upset tummy. Since he seems to be feeling okay, I decide I'm brave enough to try to run to the post office and store.

Can you guess what happens in the the car? Yep. The gurgle and what always follows it. I find a spot to pull over, clean him up and the car up (as best I can) and decide we'll just run in to the store to get some 7 Up. Because he doesn't feel well, he wants to be held, but I coax him into sitting in the cart, which means I have to carry S. Quite the sight we are, but really - who cares?!?! I grab some clear fluids and some Popsicles and we head back home (and yes, I sanitized the cart before we left!) The rest of the day passes uneventfully and T seems his old self by bedtime, with no more spectacular digestive pyrotechnics.

I tried my best to make sure that S and T were separated, but I know that tomorrow, she'll probably have the bug. I have my trashcan and extra large box of baking soda at the ready and am contemplating a new fad diet - bottle the smell of what I dealt with today and take a whiff of THAT before you try to eat. We'll all look like Angelina Jolie by this time next year. And we can buy fabulous wardrobes with all the money we don't spend on food. HA!!!!!!