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

Good Samaritan Law

Remember that final episode of Seinfeld where they all get put in prison because they were in a small town that had a good samartian law?

Germany also has a good samaritan law. We were told about it when we attended our "Welcome to Germany!" briefing. It's pretty common sense - if you see someone that needs help, you are supposed to stop and offer assistance; even if it's just to call police. As you can probably figure out from some of my former posts, the Americans at this base are not likely to follow that law.

On Saturday, we headed out to a couple of garage sales hoping to pick up some German voltage appliances pretty cheap. As we were driving on the main road that leads between our housing annex and the main base, there was a GOV (government owned vehicle) on the side of the road with the blinkers on. The driver was standing beside the truck. There were several cars in front of us, none which stopped, of course. We stopped, rolled down the window, and asked if he needed help. He had pulled over because his tools were rolling around in the floor of the truck, and had accidentally locked himself out of the truck with the keys in the ignition and the truck still running. At 8:11, he told us, he called Security Forces and they said that would call Transportation Logistics and send someone out. It was now over an hour and a half later, and no one had shown up or called him back. As we were rummaging through our car to see if we had anything that he could use, a Polizi car passed and just kept going. Niiiiiiice. The Germans in this area don't even obey their own laws. The Germans also have a law that you aren't allowed to keep your car running unless you are driving, so technically this guy was lucky that he didn't get fined for locking the keys in the truck. That would be our luck, the police stop to fine us for leaving the car running, but don't actually help us figure out how to get the keys out.

Unfortunately, we had nothing that would help him, so we decided to go by base and try and find a wire coat hanger. It had to be better than nothing, right? The Airman wanted to stay with the truck, so we told him we'd be right back. As we went through the main gate, we told Security Forces about the situation. They didn't know anything about it, which means the person in the security forces building who took the call didn't do jack about it. That's just sad. I shudder to think what would have happened if it had been a POV and there was a baby buckled into a car seat locked inside, because Security Forces is much more likely to rush to the aid of a GOV rather than a POV in the first place.

Once through the gate, we hunted down a wire coat hanger (they are harder to find than we thought) and headed back to, oh, let's call him Joe. We saw that Security Forces were there - finally - so we handed over the hanger since they didn't have slimjim, and gave Joe a bottle of water since he'd now been stuck outside in the heat and humidity for about two hours in BDU's which are long sleeved and not exactly the coolest things on the planet. After asking if we could do anything else, we headed on to search for German appliances on the el cheapo. We never could find the yard sale we were looking for (gotta love the wasted trip with gas $4.32 a gallon), and we got stuck in a huge line of traffic on the way back. Saturday was Open House, where local nationals could tour the base without being signed in. The base was using a huge field as a parking lot, and traffic was backed up on every road leading to base. Who knew that many folks would want to tour the base? I guess since we have every day access, we are underwhelmed.

We finally got past the worst of the traffic and saw, to no great surprise, that the Joe and the truck were STILL on the side of the road. We stopped again and he told R that he'd gotten the door unlocked and the keys out, and was just waiting for Security Forces to come back. We could see them down the road behind about 20 cars, so we left after he said he was fine. I sure hope he didn't have to be anywhere, since it was now after noon. There is a small measure of comfort in a twisted way knowing that it's not just the kids and I that get ignored when we need help. I'm glad that it turned out okay for Joe, and I'm glad we stopped.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ear tubes and adenoids

Last week was the week. T's surgery. I have been waffling since the EN&T doctor said he needed tubes in his ears over whether or not he really needed to have it done. On Thursday, we dropped S off at the new daycare provider's house, and T was quite upset that she got to stay and he did not. S got upset that T was upset, T got upset that S was upset, and once again I wondered if would ever be possible to create some kind of portable, soundproof bubble or barrier that would insulate the outside world from my kids and their jet plane decible screaming. I also realized that I only have about another year that I will be physically able to pick up T and move him from place to place. This kid is tall, muscular, and very strong.

T has a habit/reputation/determination to be very difficult when going to any sort of medical professional. But honestly, between his split finger, practially broken nose, and dog bite, who can blame him? Yet, I find myself counting silently to 50 and wondering if I really have the fortitude to ride this out and deal with it again with S, who is showing signs of upstaging T in sheer volume and feistyness. What doesn't kill you may make you stronger, but there are definitely times that I'm pretty sure this is going to kill me.

After the dramatic and nerve frazzling start to our day, we made it to the hospital quicker than I thought, and found a parking place I might actually be able to get into and out of without the 20 back and forths it usually takes. There is construction going on at the hospital and on our way in, we got to watch the crane be hooked up to a bundle of metal materials and lift it up to the roof. T was excited about that and I hoped that this was a good sign for the pre op stuff. To my surprise, T was pretty well behaved for the three and a half hours we were stuck there mostly waiting. We talked to the anesthesiologist first, who explained the procedure and risks involved and got T's weight (21.5 Kg, or about 47 pounds). It was the first time in about a year that he actually cooperated and stood on the scales to get his weight. Usually, R or I have to weigh ourselves, then hold him and weigh. It was off for the hearing test next, where we waited for almost an hour with no one in the waiting room being seen. So we left and tried to get into see the surgeon, at which point we saw all the people that had been waiting for their hearing test begin to trickle down into the lobby. The patient liason we were assigned took us back up to the hearing test area, where we got in within 10 minutes. Interestingly enough, they had no special considerations for kids, so I have no idea how she figured out if his hearing was okay or not. Once we finished the hearing test, it was back down to the surgeon, where he said that T's ears looked clear. After a brief discussion, we agreed that tubes would not be put in unless they were absolutely necessary. And then we left.

Friday morning, we had to leave the house by 5:15 to get gas, drop off S, and then get to the hospital by 7 am. German hospitals don't have private rooms, so there was another little boy in there getting ready for some type of surgery as well. He was calm and well behaved, so T was calm and well behaved. They put numbing cream on his hands so the IV wouldn't hurt, and gave him a drink to make him sleepy. I got the good task of putting a suppository in his tushie - I think for pain. Within five minutes he was dopey and sleepy, and they rolled him out of the room and down for surgery before 8 am.

They didn't bring him back until almost 10 am, and he was fighting and crying. There was blood coming out of his mouth, nose and ears, and T was determined to get out of the bed. They did put tubes in both ears and removed his adenoids, and I was unprepared for the blood and for T's reaction to the anesthesia.

Now would be a great time to mention that there is no air conditioning, so between T being so upset and the weather, it was pretty miserable for both of us when he wanted to be held, which was constantly. He was so tired, but was fighting sleep, and would cry every time he swallowed. When one of the Dr's came in around 12, he suggested giving T more pain medication, which we did, then he finally fell alseep and slept until after 2 pm. When he woke up, he managed to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom and we were out of there around 4.

R, who had been away at a training class, pulled into the parking lot as we were walking towards it, so that was really exciting for T to see his Dad after a week. We got in our cars to head home, only to find out there was something wrong with the parking lot exit mechanical arm. I, who was at this point, tired, hungry, frazzled, and very, very hot, was less than polite when the repair guy told me that it would be 50 more minutes. R got out of his car and then the guy told him 5 minutes, and I just lost it and told him he could either raise the arm or move so I can drive through it because either way, we were leaving. He called his partner, and they raised the arm, and we left.

It's Sunday, and T is eating and drinking okay if he has some Tylenol or Motrin in him, but we only had to give him two doses yesterday, so we are hoping that he will be feeling better by Monday. When he's not in pain, he's normal as can be, and we have to think of creative ways to keep him calm and quiet. R and I both will be so relieved to get back to the states and to be able to choose medical care.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Southern Hospitality pays off

Last weekend, we went to further narrow down the list of houses we were interested in. We stopped looking at houses further than 30 minutes away from base because there's no point in moving to a great house if you can't afford the cost of gas to get to base. On the packet of listings, there was a phone number listed for either the point of contact, which is the person living in the house now, the landlord, and sometimes both.

We started with the houses that we were most interested in, with the intention of narrowing down the field further to 1o or less houses and then calling to make appointments to see them. We were having trouble finding one of the houses, so we called the landlord to ask where it was exactly (side note- we were trusting the GPS, which put the house on the wrong side of the street). That landlord ended up asking if we wanted to come and see the house that afternoon, and we said yes. Since it was about 12:30, and the appointment wasn't until 4 pm, we decided to take our chances and see if we could make appointments to see the other houses we liked. We were able to make two other appointments to see our top three favorite houses. Luck!

The first house we saw was older, and the landlord had some expensive and breakable furniture in the house. The yard was amazing, though, but in my mind all I could see was potential damage the kids could do to the house. Plus, the bedrooms were all upstairs, and every bedroom had a slanted ceiling, which was going to make placing furniture very tricky. The stairs in German houses tend to be narrow, small, and twisty, so let one of us be in a hurry and boom! Broken bones and damaged plaster abound. The garage looked like you could lean against it and push it over, which I'm sure wasn't true, but the landlord didn't offer to open the door, either. Ummmhmmm. The kitchen was my least favorite part. I am not at all certain that I could fit in there and also open a drawer or cabinet door.

Onto house number two at 2:30. We stopped for a quick lunch and to change poopy diapers. The fun never ends. T is now so tall that trying to put him on one of those wall mounted changing tables is hilarious. He's too big for it from the mid thigh down, so there's a lot of dangle off the table and when he starts to wiggle, he wiggles himself off. Plus, he's lying there calling out, "Hi! Hello!" as women come in to use the bathroom too. I find this endlessly amusing, but am grateful that he no longer tries to peek under the door of the stalls.

When we arrived at house number two, we were really excited because this was the #1 house on our list. The landlords are a nice older couple who love kids. They live three houses up the street, and their backyard backs up to the houses backyard. This house was different inside than we expected, but we loved it. The living room has a huge balcony, the kitchen was nice and roomy. We have the option of having our bedroom being upstairs with the kids or downstairs by ourselves. The room beside the downstairs bedroom we like used to be a kitchen and the former tennants used it as a walk-in closet/exercise room. Hmm...I like that idea or using it as an office. It also has a covered patio and a regular patio, plus a garage. So rain or shine, the kids have a nice place to play. We loved this house. Other people had looked at it, though, and the landlords were not thrilled that we would only be here for another year and some change. So, they told us they'd let us know that night.

Onto the third house at 4. I was sure that nothing would impress me as much as the last house, but this one had used every inch of space well, and didn't have twisty staircases at all. The living room was large and so was the kitchen, and there was a built in schrank with a window that opened to pass things back and forth. This was a three level house, and in the basement was an incredible room with a built in bar and shelving. Perfect for entertaining or a great playroom. Unfortunately, this landlord did not care for kids, which she made pretty apparent and the there was very little yard. And, they were ripping out the area next to the house because there was a leak. So, we knew right away that we weren't going to get this house. And honestly, I would live in fear that the kids would be too loud or mess something up. The landlords lived the the adjoining house, so we shared a wall and a yard. That just seemed like a bad idea. Bad, bad, bad idea.

Dejected, we headed home. When we didn't get called on house number two, I figured it was just meant to be. It's going to be expensive to move anyway and this is totally a case more of "I want" rather than "I need". We really, really did want, though. :(

The next morning, I had a brilliant idea as I was taking a shower - baked goods and thank you notes. Even if we didn't get the house, perhaps they would know of another place that would work. Better yet, if they were on the fence, maybe they would reconsider. So, the kids and I baked cookies, put them in a fancy little basket, and I struggled my way through a thank you note mostly in German. We took it over only to discover that R had left a digit off our phone number and they had been trying to call us. If they were on the fence, the note and cookies nudged them in our favor, and they agreed to rent to us. Not only do you get more flies with honey than vinegar, you can also get a rental house with amazing landlords.

Moving should be quite the experience, so stay tuned for more antics.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Today is Tuesday, at least last time I checked...

First, I would like to say to everyone that reads my rambling - THANK YOU! Thank you for reading, thank you for being patient with me when my blogging is um... scarce... and thank you for all the wonderful, supportive comments.

Last week, we had a tremendous storm here that downed trees, blew most of the petals off my window boxed flowers, and managed to rain into our house. I absolutely love German windows. They are one solid piece of glass and are not divided into sections to look like window panes. (LOOOOVE it!) They also open two ways, you can open them fully by swinging them in instead of raising them up or you can tilt the top back. In addition, we have rolladens, which are like a window shade on the outside of the window that you can raise or lower from a pulley on the inside. The rolladens are either a plastic, like siding, or a light metal. We mostly leave our windows tilted in rather than opened all the way so we were really surprised that rain managed to get in at all, much less the amount of water that was on the floor. In addition, the lower half of the rolladens in T's room were blown out of the track. Dang.

When we were discussing calling maintenence on Monday to put in an order to have the rolladens fixed, we decided to just give them our list of most pressing things - the lights over the bathroom sink were burned out in our bathroom and when I tried to get to the bulb to see what kind we needed, the cover on one of the lights broke. Oops. In addition, our dryer takes at least two cycles to try a normal load of clothes, so we decided to have that looked at as well. R spent a long time trying to make an appointment on Monday. Turns out we'd have three different teams coming out between 8-10.

As I figured, all three teams showed up within 5 mintues of each other. The lights and the rolladends were fixed quickly. The dryer took a little longer. They pulled out a small trash can full of lint from the bottom of the dryer. At some point, we had inadvertently pushed the dryer back too far and kinked the exhaust hose. Whoops. Once the dryer was vented properly and all nice and clean, I put in a load of clothes to dry - all excited that it wouldn't take hours to dry one load of clothes. When the cycle ended, I went in to pull the clothes out of the dryer....and....they were still wet. Not sorta, kinda damp, but wet. Soggy. Sodden. Well maybe I forgot to start the dryer...nope. The dial pointed to OFF. Maybe I just forgot to turn on the dryer. I restarted it and checked after an hour. The clothes were still not dry, but they were less damp than before. After about 3 dryer cycles, the clothes were finally dry. This is worse!

I keep debating on whether or not to call maintenance again, but I know from experience that it will take another three or four calls before they will just replace the dryer. We are thinking about moving off base anyway, so I doubt I'll bother. Al Gore would be ashamed of me.

Guess I should go ahead and paint a big black carbon footprint on my forehead.

Pictures from the Fourth

This is about as perfect a day as you get

My not-so-little man, T

Believe it or not, this picture was taken after 10 pm. Yep, it's that light here that late.
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When a picture just says it so much better

It's official, bad hair days piss girls off from birth

Mom, put down the camera or the sippy cup gets it

Happy smiling baby

How many time outs will I get for jumping in?
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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Holy Fourth of July, Batman!

For all the moaning and complaining I do about the German weather (trust me, it's quite a bit!) I have to say that this summer has been much better than I ever expected. While we have had some really hot, nasty days - really really hot and humid - usually there are no more than four in a row and then the weather breaks.

Such was the case this week. Monday was warm, Tuesday was hot, and Wednesday was miserable. Also on Wednesday, I managed to smack T in the face with the bathroom door and bloody his nose. I'll be handing back my "Mom of the Year" award now....what's that? I never GOT a "Mom of the Year" award? Well, that explains a lot, doesn't it? Sheesh. We took him to the doctor to make sure that nothing was broken, and the Sgt that checks us into the clinic opens with, "We pulled his file. T has a lot of accidents doesn't he?" Oy. I'm totally willing to bet that I get a call and possibly a visit from whatever social services type agency exists on base. And let's face it, since the time he's we moved here, he's suffered two nasty head bumps within a week, a dog bite, slamming his finger in the bathroom door, and now a bloody nose. Throw in his fevers, ear infections, and generally ear splitting vocal protest of anything doctor related and well - there you have it - I'd be suspicious too. I'm sure that most of the medical staff has also seen or heard T screaming for one reason or another out in public and most likely also seen me carting him out of the bx or commissary over my shoulder while he was screaming like a banshee. But thankfully, no serious damage was done to his nose, and other than pointing out to me four or five times a day that I hurt his nose, we all survived this experience and it's safe to say that R and I are seriously thinking about removing the bathroom door from it's hinges in our bedroom since that's the door that has been the site of all the really traumatic accidents.

Deep breath after that spectacular run-on sentence. After leaving the clinic, we decided to drive around in air conditioned comfort for a little while. We went to the main base and filled up with gas, grabbed a drink, and headed home. On the way home, I noticed that the clouds looked funny - and I asked R if he knew if this place had tornadoes or not. Neither of us knew, and the radio said nothing about any sort of severe weather. When we got to our housing area, the first thing we noticed is that a tree had either been blown over or hit by lightening and had knocked down a section of fence at the entrance to our housing area. Then we saw other trees down and debris all over the place. Trash bins has been moved by the wind to different locations, and these were big, metal bins. A few other trees were down, but we didn't see any other damage. When we walked into our living room, I said, "is that water on the floor?" and sure enough - there was. Whatever storm ripped through here managed to blow rain in through our partially opened windows and then suck them shut. The curtains in T's room were down, and there was water all over the floor in our bathroom too. I love storms, but I'm glad we missed this one. I think it would have scared the kids. I'm also glad we managed not to drive right into it. On the plus side, our floors are now pretty clean.

This is "Explore the Area" week. The base mostly shuts down for a few days so that we can all go and spend our hard-earned, poor exchange rate money in local communities. Thursday, which was our first day off, dawned warm, humid, and rainy. We packed a lunch for all of us, grabbed the guide in the base paper and headed out to explore. First stop - Nurburgring - home of a G4 simulator and Formula One track. On non race weekends, you can pay money to drive a section of the track in your own car. That's gotta be sexy in a minivan, right? While we found the track with no problem, the base paper neglecgted to give an address for the museum/attraction center - so after looking for it for a while, we decided to head back and find something else to do.

And then it started pouring down rain. Next stop was a moated castle. We passed it twice without realizing it, so it's safe to say that we were expecting something a little more statuesque. Still, it was a very pretty castle, albeit small. So I jumped out into the pouring down rain and snapped a few pics. At that point, soaked to the skin and with two tired kids, we headed home. The next day we went to the American Cemetery in Luxembourg. It was very powerful - all those crosses in such a calm and silent place. It would be hard for me to know that my loved one was buried across the sea in a foreign land, no matter how beautiful and well-kept the cemetery was. My heart goes out to the families of all those men who made that sacrifice and again, I'm reminded how lucky we are and how grateful I am to be American. It's easy to lose sight of that sometimes.

Leaving Luxembourg, we came home and put the kids down for a nap. The base was having a 4th event thingy so we headed to check that out. Harrumph. It was advertised as having activiites for the kids and adults alike with food and drink and fun for all. Umm, the reality of it was far from what we expected. R paid for a plate of food, which was supposed to be a burger, hot dog, chips and a drink. Almost an hour later, he was still in line waiting for his food. The people in front of him were just piling their plates to the sky and the poor schmuck that was stuck out there grilling had to deal with the angry masses watching this poorly planned meal line. I wouldn't be surprised if he quit halfway through the afternoon. We ended up leaving - there was no way to keep the kids entertained and happy until the fireworks started. We headed back for the fireworks show, but the kids were so tired by that point that the fireworks did't impress them much. Still, the weather was clear and amazing on Friday, not too hot or cold, and getting the kids to bed had never been easier. So, we've definitely explored the area this week and seen a lot of new and interesting things. It's so strange to live in a country where it's 65 degrees on July 4th, though. I just hope this weather pattern continues (crossing fingers).