Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Keeping with our really exciting lifestyle, we have absolutely no plans whatsoever for New Years this year. I think a year or two ago we were going to let the kids stay up and have a little home party, but S crashed out by 10 pm and T was sincerely unimpressed with any of it. And let's be honest, I think R and I go to bed on average about 30 minutes earlier a night each year, so staying up until midnight is too much like work. Yes, even on New Years. We are just soooooooo hip and happening. The fact that I even used the phrase 'hip and happening' should prove how hopelessly un-hip I am. Shocker, isn't it?

The good news, actually the great news, is that we are starting the New Year out in our new home. I'll have some pics posted later (after we get internet hooked up at our new place and it won't take half an hour to upload a picture). We are living on base, which I think is the best decision for now. There were some great houses available, but I'm ready to be close to things for a while. The housing here is beautiful and we don't have anything behind us but a field. Let's hope that this farmer doesn't use the same fertilizer that German farmers did. Peee-ewwwww.

So, today we are checking out of the hotel and accepting delivery of our unaccompanied baggage shipment which includes S's crib, our bedding, COATS!!!!!, and enough stuff to get us buy until the rest of our stuff gets delivered on Tuesday. I'm so impressed how quickly everything got scheduled. Now, the question is whether I can live without internet over an entire weekend. I'm guessing no way, but thanks to the ease of wireless access around here, I'm sure I can figure out something. heh.

So Happy New Year everyone! Last year was a record one for us in so many ways. I hope that everyone has a happy and healthy 2010 and that it's filled with love and laughter.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trip summary

As I usually do, I've started several blog entries to tell the delightful yet event filled tale of our PCS back to the good ol' US of A. As per usual, about the time I've decided the adventures are mostly over, something really unexpected happens.

At this point, this entry would be a small book if I detailed everything and now that things seem to have settled down, I thought I'd just give the highlights.

Here's what went wrong:
*Ramstein Air Base doesn't sell diesel fuel. This is only a problem if you aren't familiar with the area, and have rented a car that requires diesel fuel, which of course was our situation.
*Our flight was delayed by the time we checked in for it. This wasn't unexpected - after all it's Ramstein - but it was delayed by over five hours, they accepted space a passengers and then kicked them off (luckily we were traveling on orders), they shuffled us all through security THEN figured out they had double booked many of the seats anyway, then the plane had 'mechanical' trouble (uh huh, suuuuuure) so we all had to leave the gate waiting area and just stand around then make a mad dash for the plane when it was decided it would fly after all. Just a side note - we were originally scheduled to land around 5 pm, we landed well after 11pm. Just sayin'....
*It took us for-evah to get used to the time difference, and for about a week I feared that our new preferred bedtime was going to be 7:35 pm.
*We were planning to go and see family in Oklahoma, which is a straight shot on I-40, but we found out that a huge section of it is closed, which caused a short tempered and less than kind discussion of routes between R and I. (seems awfully silly now, but really important then. I blame the jet lag.)
*We broke our digital camera when we went to the zoo. Granted, it was on the third drop, which of course was by me, but still...
*On our way to my grandmother's 90th birthday extravaganza, S had some projectile vomiting in R's truck, which led to a week long battle with a stomach bug for her. This was also the week we were planning our drive to Oklahoma.
*A huge (for NC, anyway) winter storm blew in on the day we were planning on leaving NC (for like the third or fourth time) putting down alternating layers of ice and snow and closing our alternate route to OK.
*T developed the stomach bug S had just managed to kick that Saturday, and his lasted almost a week too.
*Our truck, our awesome 2003 vehicle with just over 30,000 miles on it that had been waiting for us to return to the US that was PAID OFF kicked the bucket in a huge and expensive way in all that winter weather. Of course this was after we replaced the windshield and bought a camper top so we could haul all the stuff we brought, left, and purchased. Now what are we going to do with all that luggage?!?!?!
*Dropping off some trash for my dad, I managed to pop myself in the nose as I was trying to close the back of our new vehicle. Of course it drew blood, hurt like the dickens, and it was on.....Christmas Eve. Of course.
*There was no room at lodging at our new base and our off base accommodations have been rather interesting, but it fits in with our overall theme for this trip of what doesn't kill you...

Now for the good stuff!
*Hertz didn't cancel our car rental reservation in Baltimore even though we didn't make it there before midnight and couldn't call or email to let them know.
*The kids were absolute champs on the wait for the flight, during the flight, and during all our hours in the car.
*We had put a blanket under the kids' seats in the truck, so when they got sick and threw up, we didn't have to clean the truck upholstery, we just had to wash the car seat covers, the blanket, and their clothes. Since I gag and retch when doing things like that, this was especially appealing to me.
*We got a decent trade in price for our truck, all things considered. Even if we had kept it, the largest repair (replacing the entire drive train) was covered under warranty. Still. Six years later.
*We were able to stay with my dad for our entire extended stay in NC. I can't even fathom how expensive a hotel would have been, not to mention what we would have spent just doing laundry. Yikes!
*We got to see so many of our family and friends even though it was around Christmas time and everyone was super busy. There are so many of you we wanted to see more, but at least now we live closer.
*When our truck broke down, at least we were in NC where help was available. If we had broken down on the road, it would have been in the midst of that horrible weather where we didn't know anyone and more than likely we wouldn't have had cell phone service.
*I got to go to several Zumba classes, two of them followed by amazingly delicious orange truffle martini's. Nothing like working out so you can drink something that delicious. To Chris and Caitlin, my NC workout partners - thanks for some great company and conversations :) Love and miss you guys!!!!!!!!
*We made it from Winston to Illinois in a day, beating out another winter storm. L.U.C.K.Y.
*Our new used car is great and fit twice the luggage we hoped it would. HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!
*We realized how blessed we are to have such amazing friends and family, both stateside and in Germany. We love you all, thanks for sticking with us through all the adventure.

Monday, December 28, 2009

So upset today!

In October, the absolutely fabulous Annie Pennington ( took pictures of our family. Annie was so gracious and wonderful to work with us and what our budget would allow because trust me, I wanted every. single. picture. that she took.

What we ended up doing was buying the digital disk and a portrait of the four of us, then the rest of the money was spent on Christmas cards and Christmas gifts for the grandparents (both of our parents are divorced and have happily remarried).

With all of the drama that and complications of the past couple weeks, we mailed R's mom and stepdad their framed picture and the brag book that Annie was gracious enough to custom create for us.

I got an email thanking me for the framed picture, but this was in the middle of the vehicle buying, stomach virus hoopla and it didn't hit me until a couple days later that she didn't say anything about the brag book, so I emailed her and asked about it. She was nice enough to email me back, but she said she took everything out of the box and it must have gotten thrown away. I kid you not, I am literally sick about this. I just want to throw up, I'm so upset.

You know, I try so hard to be honest about my positive and negative qualities. I really do. And for whatever reason, people generally either really like me or really don't. Either way is fine. And this last photo thing is just it for me with my mother in law. I understand that she doesn't like me. I truly don't know why because she's never even really tried to get to know me. I also realize how self destructive and pointless it is to obsess about something like that, though, so I try to just accept it and move on. But if I'm being really honest, I want to have a good relationship with her anyway, even if that doesn't involve us being close. She's my husband's mother and my children's grandmother and I was hoping deep down that someday that would be enough.

However, there's so much going on that I don't know about or realize with that side of the family. There's not enough time to try and explain it and it's really not my place to do so anyway. I was informed when I first went to meet her that she wouldn't like me and that's certainly been the case. For years she ignored my birthday and our anniversary, from time to time she ignored R's birthday while grilling him about not remembering everyone else's birthdays, and there's been more than once when she's totally ignored the kids' birthdays. It's the latter that kills me. R and I are adults and can fight our own battles. If birthdays weren't a big deal in that family, that would make more sense. But she just doesn't bother to remember and more than once she's laughed about forgetting about them. Obviously, I don't think it's too funny. The kids are young and it's doubtful that it affects them, but it's more of the principle of the thing. After she forgot S's birthday and laughed about it upsetting me last year, I was pretty much done with all of it.

And then we had the pictures made and I tried so hard to pick out pictures of R and the kids that she'd like, and tried to make sure that I wasn't in too many of them. And then she throws them out. Maybe she did it on purpose, maybe she didn't. But from the tone of her email and our past history, the conclusion I'm drawing is that chances are good that it was accidentally on purpose. And I'm sad, hurt, and angry. And I'm curious to know what anyone out there thinks should be the next step - do I pretend like it didn't happen? Cut her out completely? I don't want her to make the kids feel like she makes R and I feel, which is pretty rotten most of the time. I just don't know. I really don't.

The next chapter

We ended up trading in the truck for a used 2008 Dodge Nitro. In addition to the entire drive train needing to be replaced, the front hubs and rotors had to be replaced. There was no way the truck was going to be ready to get us to our new base by R's deadline, so we had to start tossing around options. I feel we got a fair deal overall, but the timing stinks until I realize how fortunate we are that we could just buy a vehicle in such short notice like that. R and I are trying really hard not to be stressed out about finances since we still have to buy a new mattress and I'm determined to buy a good one that will stay comfy longer than 3 years, and we will also have extra expenses for setting up house. Oh, COLA (cost of living allowance) how you are missed!

The trip to Illinois went better than we could have hoped. We bought a GPS (before we realized we were going to need a vehicle) and even though there were a few directional mishaps on the way, we made it all the way in one day, the kids were absolutely fabulous on the way, and we beat a nasty but short winter storm. Niiiice.

Tomorrow R checks in on base, I figure out what to do with the kids all day, and we start the housing search. There is so much neat stuff to do around here and the trouble is going to be in deciding what to do instead of finding something to do. And one of these days, I'm going to catch up on blogging. No really, I am. Stop laughing :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Updates, updates

Well, my goodness!

We are back in the USA. Stores open 24 hours (or at least past 7 pm), the ability to find what you want when you want it, life that just makes a little more sense to me. Ahhhhhh! It's been amazing.

We came back at a really busy time of the year and while we haven't spent as much time as we'd like with all the friends and family we wanted to, we've at least gotten to see almost everyone for a second or two. I missed my life here - as if it wasn't glaringly obvious from multiple blog entries or all the whining I've done about missing the US.

We were planning to spend a couple weeks in NC, then head to Oklahoma, then onto our next base in Illinois. Well, several weeks later, we are still in NC. One of the first calls I made when we got settled in was to my old eye doctor to make an appointment to renew my contact prescription. My eyesight is horrible, which was confirmed by my optometrist. Can you believe they still had my records from 4 and a half years ago? Me either! But they did. So that delayed us a bit between getting the appointment and then ordering the correct contacts and making sure they would be okay. But, all is well and I can now be glasses-less if I so choose. It made me laugh that it freaked the kids out. The divine Ms. S, was particularly insistent that I put the glasses back on or hand them over to her as a plaything. That was a loud and quasi amusing couple of hours. I have some strong willed kids. ;)

Next, my grandmother's 90th birthday was on the 15th so we decided to stay for that. Our immediate family celebrated with weekend before since my brother, his wife, and their daughter (that little cutie pie) live about an hour away now. But my mom had already arranged to have a small celebration at the assisted living residence where my grandmother is staying on her actual birthday. On the way there, S throws up in R's truck. Fun on so many levels. So, we headed back to my dad's to clean up S and the truck. Following the vomiting was the inevitable diarrhea, which lasted and lasted. We had planned to leave for Oklahoma on Friday, and when we woke up that morning, S had a fever after being sick all week. R, who is not the worrier of the family, says, "I think we should take her to the doctor." Agreed, because at this point she'd maybe had the equivalent of a sandwich or two since Monday and we were worried about her getting dehydrated since she wasn't drinking as much as usual. There was supposed to be a winter storm moving through starting on Friday, which had initially added to our plans to head out of NC on Friday. But goodness - her little butt was so irritated that we really didn't want to make her sit for hours and hours in a truck. I also had my final eye appointment that morning, and by the time I got back to Dad's around 10:00 am, the winter weather had already begun. The problem (imho) is that it started as sleet. I've lived in NC long enough to know this spells trouble - sleet, covered by snow, often followed by more sleet. No fun.

When we took S to her 1 pm appointment, the roads were already bad. By the time we got back - which wasn't until around 3:30 pm or so, it was so bad that we weren't going anywhere on Friday. And, by the way, the doctor said she had a stomach flu. It was almost like being back at the extended care clinic in Germany. Well, DUH!

On Saturday, T starts the whole vomiting/diarrhea process, but his was less severe than S's. Still - same rules apply - no fun trying to travel with a munchkin who's going to need to find a potty every half hour or so. So maybe we'll leave on Sunday. T had gotten up around 3 am Sunday morning, so he and I were napping around 9 am or so when R took S to Walmart to get a couple things for T. On the way back, the front axle of the truck broke. Like, broke in two. And I may not know much about cars, trucks, or all things mechanical, but there is no way that was good news. So, not leaving on Sunday. Plus,our planned highway route was now closed in a couple places because of the weather. It's bad when they close a highway, right?!?!

So, Dad is confident that he can get the truck fixed enough for us to be able to drive it. He comes to get R to get the truck pretty early on Monday, R drives the truck home - drives great! And we decide to leave first thing on Tuesday. Mom, who hasn't seen the kids since Thursday, offers to keep the kids so we can get some last minute things done (like Christmas shopping for the kids, since we were thinking when we left Germany that we'd be at our new base by now and it would make more sense to buy their stuff there). On our way to Mom's the truck dies a slow, grindingly loud, horrible, painful death. So, for the second time in two days we have it towed.

About two hundred phone calls and some internet research later, the truck is headed to a Dodge dealership where we are hoping that at least part of the repairs will be covered by the warranty because at first glance the entire drive train has to be replaced. So, it doesn't look like we are going to be leaving on Tuesday, either. We are supposed to hear first thing this morning about how long it will take and how expensive it will be. With any luck, we'll get the truck back in time to get R to our new base in time for his deadline, which is 30 December. If not, I guess he'll fly on up there and the kids and I will follow when we get the truck back. If we get the truck back. I'll be honest, I have doubts about driving it to Illinois with two kids by myself, but then again, doesn't a little adventure always translate into interesting memories?

Even if I didn't believe in God, fate or karma, this week would have challenged that. How lucky are we that the kids ended up with a relatively mild stomach virus versus the flu, the truck decided to break down in a city where we have friends and family? Granted, it's been a frustrating last few days, but we are all safe, happy, relatively healthy, and with people we love. Even with all the drama, it doesn't get much better than that, does it?