Dec 31, 2009

New Year's Horoscope

One of the top stories on my Yahoo homepage today was "2010 Horoscopes". I don't usually read my horoscope, but it was a slow news day, so I went for it. Once I found out my "sign" I started to read what '10 was going to bring me. It said something about my 12th room and some planetary alignments, and I didn't understand a word of it! The horosope didn't offer me any promises that I could understand or look forward to. So I went to the only source I could trust, God's word. These are just a few of the promises God has given me, and you:

Isaiah 58:11
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Isaiah 65:24
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

I don't know what is in store for 2010, but I know that I was overwhelmingly blessed in 2009 and I'm confident God will be with me each step of the way in 2010!

Dec 26, 2009

12 Days of Christmas, in movies.

We decided we were going to watch every Christmas movie we could this year. Some movies we watched together as a family, others we sent the kids in an other room to watch their own movie while we watched ours.
We kicked it off with Four Christmases and the event culminated with Its A Wonderful Life. Along the way we watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story (it was my first time seeing both of these and It's a Wonderful Life) Elf, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and a few others that I can't recall.
We all enjoyed watching movies together. It was fun mocking the graphics of older cartoons and the film style of old movies and walking away with some hilarious quotes to keep us chuckling throughout the year. One of my favorites was a line from It's a Wonderful Life, not the famous "every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings" though that is cute, my personal favorite occurred during during George's Christmas Eve outburst "you call this a happy home? Why do we have to have all these kids anyway?" Hilarious. I realize it wasn't intended to be funny but we all had a good laugh.
I think we'll have to make the movie marathon a part of our Christmas tradition for years to come. We still haven't seen Miracle on 34th Street so we'll need to add that one next year, and I'm sure there are a few more that are worthy of making the list.

Dec 25, 2009

Christmas at 642 Jackson Street


The boys woke up this morning around 8am and quietly waited in their room for permission to bolt through the living room door to see what gifts await them.
One flick of the "on" button and coffee was brewing, the cameras were ready, and the boys were released. Squeals of excitement filled the air followed by "what's this?" Oops. Minor glitch, I put Eli's gifts in Gabe's stocking and Gabe didn't know what in the world he was supposed to be excited about. I quickly rectified the situation and yelling and laughter was back on track.
We opened gifts and tested each one out. Eli took his in-line skates for a test drive, Gabe wore his Viking hat over his new cap while yielding his sword and shield, and I went for a walk in my new rain boots to take out the trash. There was only a few minor injuries from the light saber fight and only one gift has to be returned due to an improper electronic paring. Gift opening was a lot of fun for everyone, and we were all really happy with our gifts.
We had a lovely dinner and then it happened - all was calm. Milli overdosed on tryptophan and headed to her room for a nap, Matt got sucked in to his new snuggie and curled up on the couch, and the boys each disappeared to play with their new toys. It was eerily quiet. I finished up the dishes while listening to Christmas carols and couldn't help but be amazed by the silence in my house on Christmas!
I enjoyed the quiet and the twinkling lights while I could because I knew it would be over soon. The DS would run out of batteries, the knight set would get old, and nap time would come to a quick halt when I couldn't contain my laughter while trying to take a picture of Matt in his snuggie. As quick as it came, the silence disappeared!
Now, more Christmas music is playing, Matt is working on Play Mobil assembly, round two of coffee is brewing, it is time to break out dessert, and then - after an entire day of waiting - we will get to call our friends and family back in the States.
It is a good Christmas here on Jackson. I hope that the same is true in the homes of each of our friends and family.
Merry Christmas!

Dec 23, 2009

Anticipation

Sometimes the build up is greater than the actual event.
The anticipation of a coming event can fill your mind for days, weeks, or months - but so often the event itself is a blink of an eye in comparison to all that preparation and excitement.
As I was listening to Christmas music and wrapping gifts today, my thoughts drifted to the day after Christmas. Maybe it won't really be the day after Christmas, but somewhere around there we'll take all the decorations down and the house will lose its beautiful glow. Our playlist will return to regular recent hits as we bid Frank, The Rat Pack, and other Christmas albums "farewell" until next year. The excitement of finding perfect gifts for friends and family will be long gone as will the cookies, eggnog, and Christmas Blend coffee. The kids will no longer countdown the days until Christmas and I won't hear them chattering about what they hope to find under the tree. Christmas day will have come and gone.
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the next day is Christmas, why am I skipping ahead to the days that will follow? I find myself mourning the end of the period leading up to Christmas. The emotions of the season will evaporate and life will return to normal. Normal is nice but lacks the thrill of the Christmas build up. I enjoy all the things leading up to Christmas as much or more than Christmas morning! I like the anticipation, I wouldn't mind hanging on to it for a little longer. I'm afraid my anticipation of Christmas will be replaced by disappointment that the season is over.
I wonder if what I am feeling was in any way similar to the way the Jews felt a few thousand years ago. For years the world waited for the Messiah. There was great anticipation of what he would be, what he would do, and how he would change the world. When Jesus arrived in a stable in Bethlehem and not in a palace, and when he changed the world by offering hope and salvation instead of political freedom and power, the anticipation was replaced with disappointment. What people thought they were waiting for ended up being something they didn't want. In some ways it was probably more comforting to still be waiting for a Messiah that they wanted than accepting the Messiah that came.
I reprimanded myself for being caught up in the emotions of this holiday, and took a moment to remember what all this is really about. Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Christ our Savior. A celebration of what I have to live for every day of the year, not just Christmas. A celebration of my Messiah.
Isaiah 9:4-6 proclaims
"For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Anticipation will be replaced with celebration that my Messiah has come.

No more books or electronics . . .

on the toilet.
When your house has one toilet and there are 4+ people living in your house, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Effective January 1st 2010 nobody is allowed to bring hand-held electronic devices or books into the bathroom.
I am partially to blame for my children's desire to play with games or read while on the toilet. I started the trend while potty training them. I placed them on the toilet and loaded up a basket next to the toilet with books, cars, a view master, leapster, you name it. While I removed the basket from the bathroom once they were potty trained, they manage to bring in their own books and toys into the bathroom to occupy them while they are taking care of business. This wouldn't be an issue if we didn't have just one bathroom, but given our toilet situation, there is no place in this house for toilet entertainment.
Now, I just have to figure out how to enforce the new policy.

Dec 21, 2009

Berlin and Back

We started our road trip around 8:30am on Friday morning with hopes of arriving in Berlin around 2:30pm. According to Mapquest the route should have taken about 6 hours including stops for gas and such. The "and such" doesn't include plows, accidents, and snow. We arrived safely in Berlin a mere 8 hours later. Surprisingly, the drive went well. The kids were occupied by movie after movie, and enough snacks to entertain their tongues and fill their bellies. Matt, his mom and I listened to a book on an ipod. It wasn't the best book I've listened too, but we made it entertaining by adding our own actions and sound effects to spruce it up a little.
When we got to Berlin it was cold. There are no words in the English language to express just how cold it was but this should sum it up: while walking from the Metro to the Reichstag the water in the bottle Matt was holding managed to form little ice cubes. I'm not kidding. We were in double layers of socks and long johns and were still cold. The outside temperature was about -10 c/14 f not factoring in the windchill.
We ventured out the first night for a few hours and then we spent two more full days exploring the city. Berlin is huge. It is an extremely large city made up of about 30 neighborhoods and there is so much to see. We barely scratched the surface.
Matt did such a great job driving. He didn't let the snow, icy conditions, and traffic bother him one bit! He also lead us through the city via metro and on foot with only a few wrong turns here or there, that is fabulous considering I accidentally picked up a Spanish map of Berlin.
We left by 9am Monday morning hoping to get home by dark. Snow was still in the forecast and if we had to be stuck on the road for another 8+ hours, we wanted it to be in the light of day. Thankfully, our trip home was uneventful and we made it in the much more reasonable 6 hours.
In the next few days we'll finish up last minute Christmas shopping, grocery shopping and wrapping gifts. We'll read our last few days of our Advent book and attend a Christmas eve service at church.

Dec 17, 2009

Road Trip!

Christmas CD's, movies and headphones are in the van, 2 new books loaded onto my ipod, destination address entered into GPS, cell phone and camera batteries charged, bags packed, snacks gathered, tour books read, and a list is made. (The list is of the things that I need to remember to do in the morning.)
We are ready to go. Matt, his mom, the boys, and I are headed to Berlin in the morning. We rented a little apartment in the former East Berlin conveniently located near most of the sights we plan to scope out. I am so excited to go to Berlin not only to see the sights but to spend a few days relaxing with the family. The forecast claims it will be about 22 degrees and snowing. We will freeze our hiney off, but we will have a good time doing it!

We also have two more trips officially planned. In January, we will go to Prague for 4 days and then we have a fabulous opportunity to go to Garmish (the German/Austrian Alps) in February. The Garmish trip is 95% free. No kidding. We have to drive ourselves down there but once there, our hotel, breakfasts and dinners, and CHILDCARE are all covered. We only have to pay for our lunches and activities. The trip is organized by our battalion chaplain and paid for by the US Government. It is actually a couples retreat/marriage seminar weekend. We will have about 2 1/2 hours a day of "training sessions" - Army terminology for "classes" - and then the rest of each day is free time to play in the Alps.

Rome, Paris, Berlin, Prague, and the Alps and we are just getting started!

Dec 14, 2009

'Twas 11 days before Christmas . . .

...and I have yet to receive a single Christmas card. I can blame myself a little, I didn't mail any change of address cards. However, I did email our new address to family and friends so I expected at least a few. I always enjoy reading the flood of Christmas letters and looking at updated family photos that fill my mailbox in December. So far, I got nothing. My little card holder tree hangs empty waiting for the ornaments to decorate it's branches.
...and I haven't heard a single bell. Back in the States, you can't go anywhere without hearing the sound of the Salvation Army Bell Ringers. This year no bells, no red buckets, no dumping spare change.
...and no Nutcrackers. For some reason Gabe asked Santa for 21 Nutcrackers for Christmas. I wasn't on my game when he first dictated his list to Eli, so I just began my frantic Nutcracker search a few days ago. Apparently, finding those little miniature Nutcrackers ornaments here in Germany is like winning the lotto. I found 6 but they were 5 Euro each. Not only is 6 no where near the much needed and anticipated 21, but at that rate I can't afford to buy them. So, after looking absolutely everywhere I gave up. I'm not going to let this little Army of Nutcrackers take me down. It was very sweet of my pals to offer to search for them back home and then ship them. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of my buddies in the US.

What I do have going for me is a decorated house, batches of cookies, Matt home from Oslo, Milli in from California, a few snow flurries here and there just to make me smile, Christmas music, and each night the boys and I, and whoever happens to be home, read a little about Advent about the first coming of the long awaited Messiah, and the hope, love, grace, and peace that he brought for us.
I miss the cards, the bell ringers, and those darn Nutcrackers, but other than that, things are good, really good.

Dec 6, 2009

If at first you don't suceed . . . . by now its time to give up.

Christmas cut-out cookies have been a staple in my home for as long as I can remember. I don't ever remember making them (as in rolling out the dough) but I do remember cutting them out with cookie cutters and decorating them.
I love these cookies. They are the perfect amount of sweetness and they have always been on the dessert table at Christmas. My mom has used the same recipe since...they invented butter. There are no secret ingredients and no crazy instructions like "add to taste" or "until it looks right". So why can't I make these cookies?
Oh, I've tried, tried, again. I am pretty sure that I have thrown away the dough at least 75% of the time without ever producing a single cookie. The rest of the time the cookies actually took shape and were baked, but then I tossed them because they didn't taste right.
What is the secret? Well, last Easter my mom was at my house and I decided instead of painting eggs we were going to make cut-out cookies shaped like eggs and paint them. My mom's presence provided the perfect teaching opportunity. Mom supervised my mixing, rolling, and cutting, and the cookies turned out perfect. Success!
So, last night when the boys and I set out to make our own Christmas cookies I was feeling really good about the adventure. The butter was room temperature, I followed every detail of the recipe, and double checked every ingredient. This was going to work! And then the dough stuck, I had to roll it out a million times, the cookies are too thin, they look down-right scary, and they don't taste right.
The boys don't know the difference so they were quite pleased, but I was left standing in the kitchen, covered in flour, butter, and coffee (that isn't part of the recipe but it helps my sanity) looking at those uglytastingwrong cookies saying to myself "you tried . . . just give up".
This is why every year at Christmas my mom sends me a special box. It is the box that holds all my favorite Christmas cookies and her famous fudge inside. I think I can handle the Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip, Butterfinger Crunchies, and Peanut Butter cookies on my own, but mom, please send me some cut-out cookies and fudge!!

Dec 3, 2009

TP or Jesus?

I spent the last five minutes trying to decide if I wanted to write about toilet paper or Christmas. I was using a public toilet tonight when I got a flash of those lame toilet paper squares in the bathroom in my Junior High. You know, the kind that comes out like a napkin dispenser but it is actually 4x4 squares of the thinnest tissue ever. But then my head was going all sorts of weird places surrounding toilet paper and I decided that Christmas was a more suitable topic.
Tonight as I was listening to the AWANA kids quote their scripture verses and one in particular struck me. Philippians 2:9-11. It isn't a typical Christmas verse but tonight, it reminded me of Christ's birth.
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Now read it again with excitement like you are reading to a two year old:
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Jesus the name the angel Gabriel gave Mary.
Jesus the name above all names.
Jesus the long awaited Messiah.
Jesus our savior.
Jesus the perfecter.
Jesus our hope.
Jesus our Lord.
Jesus who humbled himself and came to this world, became human, and suffered death on a cross, for me.
Jesus.

Nov 24, 2009

Wanted: Grocery Bagger

I have serious issues with grocery baggers. Why do I always get the bagger who thinks a great place for canned goods is on top of my bread? Who is really strong enough to carry 18 cans, a gallon of milk, eggs and a loaf of bread in one grocery bag? I strongly dislike grocery shopping. There are a few reasons why I loath the task: a. I rarely make lists which means I have to go twice to get the things I need. b. I get really frustrated when there has been a run on something random like chicken broth or mini marshmellows. I would understand if the store was just plumb out of turkeys the day before Thanksgiving but marshmellows? c. The baggers drive me insane.
I would rather bag my own groceries, return the groceries to my cart without being bagged (Costco style) or splash spicy Enchilada Soup in my EYE than have my groceries bagged by incompetent baggers.
Recently, I moved my chips out of the way of bagger destruction THREE times before we got out to the car. When we arrived at the van, the bagger actually ran into my van with the cart before he grabbed the bag of chips and smashed them against the case of Coke.
Isn't there a bagger school? Surely there is at lease a youtube video.
One day, everything will be right in the world and my bread will make it home in the shape of a loaf and the cans won't be sitting on top of the bananas. One day. . . . .

Nov 23, 2009

So Busy

On Tuesday, November 17th my sister, brother-in-law, and nieces arrived in Frankfurt at 9:20am. I arrived at 10:00am, late as usual, to pick them up. Their plane was due in at 9:45 and it should take 45 minutes to get to the airport so I left at 8:45 - plenty of time. HOWEVER, I was stuck in traffic forever and then got lost/stuck in the parking garage for 15 minutes. So, I was late.
We were supposed to meet at the "Meeting Point". Easy enough? I went to the meeting point but apparently they were hiding behind their luggage because I didn't see them. After roaming for awhile and contemplating getting a coffee, I went back to the meeting point and found them behind a tower of purple luggage. Oops.
To make matters worse for tired travelers, I couldn't figure out how to get us from the terminal to the confusing parking garage, so I dumped them at the curb, in the rain, and went solo to find the van. Sometime around 11 we were actually in the van on our way home. Nice way to kick off a vacation.
Bright and early the next morning . . . who am I kidding it wasn't bright - the sun was still snuggled sweetly somewhere over East Asia when we got up at 3:30am to leave for (drumroll please) ROME, Italy. We spent three very full days in Rome and returned to Frankfurt around midnight Saturday morning. After catching some much needed zzzz's and eating a home cooked breakfast we headed down to Rothenburg to "ooh" and "aah" over its charming little cuteness. We also enjoyed the tastiest pastry thing ever, a schneeball. Yum. The cappuccino flavored one was so insanely delicious. Sunday we went to church and opted for a lazy afternoon and then today we went to Heidelberg to walk around, do some shopping, and enjoy the charm of this modern yet adorable old town.
And here I am now, at 11:30pm yawning and resisting the urge to face-plant into the keyboard. I've been a little busy.
Thursday morning, we leave for Paris. No Thanksgiving bird and stuffing for us! Instead we plan to have some French cuisine and then take in the city from the heights of the Eiffel Tower.
I better get to bed!

Nov 14, 2009

Family Photos

Click here to view these pictures larger

Good News Bad News


The Storage Room
Good News: I moved all of our totes and boxes to another storage area and converted our storage room into guest quarters/playroom. My sister and brother-in-law will be the first guests to try out the room and the boys are really looking forward to using their noisy indoor play area when the room isn't being used for guests.
Bad News: My request for a permanent additional storage area was declined. I've jumped through hoops, have remnants of red tape all over me and agreed to pay to have locks changed out for the additional room - and still I was denied use of one of the 4 empty storage rooms in our building. So, while the storage area that houses our totes and boxes right now is a decent temporary fix, if more people move into this stairwell we'll have to move it back into our storage area and the situation isn't exactly ideal. Thankfully, our only other neighbors in this stairwell are fabulous and don't mind our stuff being where it is.
Free Trainer
Good News: I went to the gym yesterday to take a cardio circuit training class. The class is about 10 people strong and is led by a personal trainer. The workout is FREE and the class time is early enough in the morning that Matt should be able to watch the boys while I go. The workout was so hard. And I have done pilates, spin, yoga, body pump, free weights and machines. This one was hard! And that is a good thing.
Bad News: my body is only operating at about 50% today because I am so sore from that great workout.
Neighbors
Good News: all things point to Mika and Tom moving to Mannheim! The timing is as close to perfect as possible for them. They should have about 6 months to get their house sold and get everything in order to move here. This will be a great change of pace for them and fabulous for us to be together again. Yeah!
Bad News: Well, bad news for us - they won't be here until May. It seems so far away.
Shopping
Good News: two of my friends and I went shopping yesterday at this store that sells stuff acquired through estate sales. I bought a super fabulous bookshelf type thing for €70 (about $100).
Bad News: I feel the need to go back and shop there for all my furniture needs.
Shrum Visit
Good News: my sister and family are coming to visit in just a few days. We are going to Rome, Paris, and fun places around here.
Bad News: my sister and family are coming to visit in just a few days and we are going to Rome, Paris, and fun places around here . . . and I'm not ready!! So much to do, clean house, do laundry, grocery shop, pack for Rome, get a small fortune in euros for Rome ....
Family Photos
Good News: We had our family pictures taken in Heidelberg last week. They turned out really great. We are so happy with them.
Bad News: I have to pick which ones I want and order them - soon because in just a few days I'll be busy (see Visit above).

Nov 9, 2009

This is not a test.

I remember practicing fire drills when I was in school. I loved them. Total class disruption for at least 20 minutes was my idea of a good day at school.
Eli had a few different types of drills at his school in VA. He had the typical fire drill where everyone orderly leaves the building and he had a severe weather drill where the kids all went into interior corridors away from windows. He also had a security drill where the kids were to stay in their room and the whole place went on a lock-down. This would be used in case of a nearby threat to their security, like when the Wendy's down the street was robbed.
Here at the Mannheim elementary school he has practiced so many drills I can't keep track. There is the usual fire, weather, and lock-down and then they also have one for evacuation of the building and transportation to a secure facility close by. Eli knows the codes for all of these, I don't.
Today the kids' practice paid off. A bomb threat was found at the school, and the children did exactly what they had practiced. They evacuated the building, made their way to the secure facility. Various agencies converged upon the school and once it was cleared, the kids returned.
I don't know if the kids knew this was not a test or not. I think they are so used to all the drills they just go with it and, like me, are grateful for the diversion. It makes me a little sad that Eli will grow up with security drills in school, but I'm really glad the school had the forethought to have these drills.
While this situation ended peacefully, it is a reminder of the world we live in. There is evil in places that we once considered safe, school, churches, military installations. I could live in fear, but I will not. Christ proclaimed that He came to give me peace through Him and he said "in the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
In a few minutes I will go pick up Eli for school, force him to give me a big hug, and then watch him play in the leaves in yard.

Nov 8, 2009

German Church

Matt and I visited Calvary Chapel Heidelberg in early September and after he left for Romania the boys and I continued to attend services there.
It is definitely a different experience. Most of the people who attend are German. I'm sure that many of the Germans who attend CCH understand and speak a little English, but I rarely hear English being spoken in the lobby.
Here is how the service works:
Welcome: is in German and translated into English
Prayer: German to English
Worship: some songs are German, some are English no translation.
Message: the pastor is German but he speaks fluent English and actually preaches in English and then the message is translated into German.
Scripture: bible verses are read in German only, and English speakers just read in their own bible.
Final prayer and dismissal: German- no translation.

The whole translation thing makes for a LONG service. The church I attended for the past 4 years lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. This service is almost twice as long and is usually 2 hours. Though it takes twice as long to preach the message, since it is actually spoken twice, translation can be hilarious.
Today a man was translating into English for about 15 minutes while two ladies were talking about their mission trip to India. Then the pastor came on stage and started speaking in English and the translator forgot to switch to German and ended up just repeating what pastor said in English. Chuckles all around. Pastor looked at him and said "in Deutsch". The guy turned red he was so embarrassed.
Sometimes things get lost in translation or sound really funny in English or in German but get no response from the other crowd. You can tell who is listening to what by the timing of laughter.

The worship experience is really amazing. I try to read the German and, with my best Deutsch pronunciation, sing along but sometimes it is so beautiful to just listen to my singing German neighbors. When the worship songs are in English, the number of people singing doesn't change they can sing equally well in German and English.

The boys have a similar experience downstairs. They are either separated into German and English classrooms or the kids are all in one room and there is a translator. Eli gets a little frustrated with the time it takes to translate, but Gabe seems to be doing fine and is learning quite a bit in class.

If you come visit it us Germany, you'll have to come to church to experience a multi-cultural service for yourself.

Nov 7, 2009

That silly Gabe

Gabe and I stopped by our clinic last week to pick up a prescription. Since the clinic is filled with sick people, I was hyper-aware of everything that Gabe touched, leaned on, or breathed in. I stopped short of wrapping his hands in ziplock baggies and having him don a mask. However as soon as we left the clinic I got out the hand sanitizer and after bathing myself in it, I handed it to Gabe.
This is the conversation that took place:

"Gabe put some of this on real quick"
"What"
"Put some of this on"
"What does that mean?"
"PUT THIS ON"
"oh, is that what it means in German?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Putsomeofthison. Is that German?"

This happens quite often these days. Any time the boys don't know what I said, they assume it is German and ask for a translation.

Nov 1, 2009

Could it actually happen???

August 28, 2002 - Hail and Farewell at the company commander's house in Clarksville, Tn. I am 40 weeks pregnant with Eli and overdue. Matt and I are officially "hailed" into the company at the same time as a newly engaged couple Tom and Mika. I was excited that Mika was from Tacoma, those of us in a "West Coast state of mind" need to stick together. Meanwhile, Katina is at my house watching Big Brother and accidentally calling 9-1-1 twice. The "1" stuck on my phone creating a challenge to dial "916".
November 28th or 29th 2002 (it is a blur)- Matt, Eli and I attend Mika and Tom's wedding. Mika and Tom exchanged wedding vows in front of a big screen TV in our friend's living room. Mika wore a purple skirt. Two things I haven't seen her wear since.
February 2003 - we play monopoly at our house for the first time. An event that would repeat monthly, sometimes weekly. The attire turned to semi-formal jammies, which meant even if you don't normally wear jammies to sleep in, they were still required for game-night.
February 28, 2003 - Tom and Matt leave for Iraq and an unbreakable bond begins forming.
The months that followed provided a lot of time and experiences for Tom and Matt and Mika and I to develop a bond like no other. When the guys got back from Iraq our friendships grew even stronger and the four of us became great pals.
Spring of 2005 - Matt left for Korea and Tom went to Alabama for a school. Our fab foursome was broken up.
Over the next year Mika helped me move to Virginia, I came back to Clarksville to visit her when Madison was born, and then after she moved to GA we each made the 9 hour drive back and forth between Savannah and Woodbridge to visit each other at least a few times.
May 2006 - Mika, Tom, and Madison moved to Washington. No more road trips to visit each other.
I feared that this was the end of our relationship, but I was so wrong. We made it to Washington to visit them 2 times, saw them in California twice, met up for a Cruise once, and they came to see us in Virginia at least 3 or 4 times. About every six months we were together again.
July 2009 - Matt and I betray Tom and Mika and voluntarily leave the country. Mika tries not to hate me, I try not to think about the fact that we won't see each other for at least another 18 months to 2 years.
This week I found out that Tom and Mika are working on details for a move to Mannheim,Germany! Could this actually happen? Could our fab four re-unite and tour Europe together? Could we have game night, girls night and guys night?
Unfortunately, a difficult turn of events catapulted Tom, Mika, Madison, and soon-to-be Baby Mlack into an unexpected PCS, but I am so excited that we may be together again and praying that the move - wherever it may be- will go smoothly and every last detail will be taken care of.
Hopefully, we'll find out soon if we will have new neighbors!

Oct 30, 2009

Identifyable Scent

Yesterday I was walking through the perfume section at the PX and caught a whiff of some perfume that sent me back to Junior high. Surely, it was some cheap perfume that either someone I knew from that time wore. This happens to me frequently. I think Matt used to wear Drakaar when we were dating, so now every time I smell it I'm 16 again listening to Seal's latest release while driving around Sacramento with Matt.
The power of smell is really amazing to me. I love the smell of someone burning a fire in their fireplace on a fall day, or coffee brewing in the morning. Those are my comfort smells. Smell just has that power to transport you to a different time and place.
Our pastor is teaching on Exodus right now and a few weeks ago he was covering Exodus 30:22-37. In these verses God gives Moses a very specific recipe for an incense that was to be considered Holy. It would be placed in the temple, at the altar, on people who were anointed as ministers. It could not be used for anything else. If this recipe was replicated or used on anything other than what God specifically instructed, the punishment was death.
As I read the recipe and the verses that followed I didn't grasp the significance of this, until Pastor Chris broke it down. God wanted this scent to be His and His alone. So whenever you would smell that incense you would know you were in the presence of God or the person you were with was anointed by Him.
Now we don't have incense to remind us that we are in the presence of God, but we do have the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. We have the feeling of being at God's feet in prayer, at His altar for worship, or in His arms - in his embrace. It is a specific recipe that is not duplicated. Nothing man has made can replicate it. It is THE identifiable scent of our Lord.

Oct 26, 2009

Big Trouble

I got an email from my Grandma today. My Grams emails be about once a week, so receiving her email wasn't unusual. After I read her email I knew I was in big trouble. She noted that I haven't updated my blog in quite some time - so she wanted to make sure I was OK. You know you are in trouble for not updating a blog when Grandma emails to question it! I'm OK, still here, just a little busy.
Busy doing what you might ask? Extreme Makeover Bathroom Edition! A few weeks ago my neighbor, I'll call her Angela - because that is her name, told me that she thought there was a bathroom hidden in our basement. This is extremely exciting news. We have a 2 - almost 3 bedroom apartment with ONE, UNO, EINES, bathroom. In a few weeks my sister and family will be coming to visit. I'll do the math for you. Still one toilet, now 8 people will be sharing it. Angela was also very interested in adding another facility to our building because she will have 6 guests staying with her in December.
Rumor has it that our storage rooms down in the basement were formerly maids quarters. Surely, the maids had to shower and were probably not welcome to do so in the apartments, so they had to have a bathroom. Behind a locked door stood a toilet, two sinks, and a shower. Now we just needed to get in there so we could use them.
There wasn't a dramatic break in or anything like that, Angela just went to the housing office and asked for the key. What we found once we opened the door was dramatic. Nastiness. No other way to describe it.
So, I borrowed a shopvac and pressure washer from the Self-Help store (like Lowes but everything is free) and we started to make plans.
First step: masks, gloves and coveralls. This place is foul and there is a lot of organic bird residue (crap) everywhere.
I donned my protective gear, went in with a shopvac and broom and cleared out the first 20 layers of grime. Next step was the pressure washer. We blasted that place for hours - ceiling, walls, floor, toilet, shower, sinks - everything. That took out a few more layers of dirt. And finally, we brought in the bleach. Bleach and water baby. We washed everything we could reach with a toxic bleach solution.
At the end of the day Angela's husband came home, nearly passed out at the bleach fumes, and then started working too. He put a new toilet seat on, new shower head, and mounted a towel bar.
It is still a funky basement toilet that reminds me a lot of camping (ew don't step on the floor barefoot). It is dusty smelling but the actual sinks, toilet, and shower are pretty darn clean.
For your viewing pleasure I have pictures!

Bathroom Makeover

Click here to view these pictures larger

Oct 16, 2009

Deep Thoughts By Gabe

I signed the boys up for AWANA yesterday! Awana stands for "Approved workmen are not ashamed" referencing 2 Timothy 2:15. The mission of Awana is to help parents raise children to know, love and serve Christ. Each meeting has a mix of games, songs, a lesson, and time designated for kids to recite memory verses. As the kids work through their books and scriptures they earn Awana dollars and badges. My goal for signing the boys up was to surround them with other children who are learning about Christ and give them an opportunity to learn scriptures and biblical lessons in a fun way. They seemed to enjoy their first meeting yesterday, and are both very excited about learning their first verse John 3:16.
I know, you are thinking "they don't already know John 3:16?" No. They don't. They have spent a lot of time in childcare in church but very little time actually learning about God there, and sadly although we work on devotions and such at home, hiding God's word in their heart hasn't been a focus until now. So, my dear Gabe had some interesting thoughts on John 3:16 as we were talking about it.
Me: For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
We then had a little conversation about what all that means and Gabe came up with this conclusion:
Gabe: I think God just didn't really like his son.

Clearly, we have some things to work on here.

Oct 14, 2009

Be Sweet

A few weeks ago when I was dropping Eli off at school I heard my friend saying goodbye to her son. After the basic "I love you" and "Have a good day" she said "Be sweet". Her comment stood out to me because I don't think I have ever heard or said those words before. I figured it must just be a Southern thing - she is from Georgia. However, in the past few weeks I have really battled with Eli's sassy mouth and I have been reminded of her words on numerous occasions. The way Eli has been speaking to me, his brother, and friends on the playground is so frustrating. As I try to deal with his words and sassy tone, I am also forced to look at my own. Although I think he was born with a little "know-it-all-sass", he must have learned these patterns of speech from someone . . . probably me.
The desire of my heart is to "be sweet", not the artificial sweetener sweet, but the real good old fashioned pure cane sugar sweet. I can't stand Equal, Sweet-n-low and Splenda. They leave this nasty too sweet taste in my mouth, but a little bit of sugar is simple and divine.
I'm praying that God will take away my natural sassy, vinegar-like speech and replace it with the sweetness of sugar. My desire is for my speech to be fragrant to the Lord and to my family. Proverbs 12:18 says "Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing".

Oct 12, 2009

What to do?

I finished my German homework and even put an hour or so into reviewing verbs, vocab and grammar. The kids are in bed, the laundry and dishes are done, and I've checked my email and facebook accounts. What to do now?
I have a stack of receipts on the make-shift desk that need to be entered into Quicken, I have a few chapters of my bible study book to read, I could snuggle into bed and read my leisure book, or I can raid the fridge and eat the raw chocolate chip cookie dough.
Clearly, I have some tough choices here. The books and bills are too serious for this late hour so I decided to blog.
Earlier this evening I asked Eli to get a book and read it to Gabe. 1. Eli is a fabulous reader but can always use more practice. 2. Gabe had a short school week last week so I needed to finish off our "Seasons" section. This killed two birds with one stone. While I was taking care of some stuff in the other room I heard Eli reading to Gabe. Eli wasn't just reading to Gabe, he was teaching him. He would read a sentence or paragraph and then stop and chat about it with Gabe. "Every year the Jews would celebrate the harvest .... Gabe do you know another word for harvest? Do you know what harvest means? It is when . . " He is such a great little teacher. Maybe I should hire him to sub for me when I'm not feeling up to it!
I'm so glad the boys have each other. They are such good buddies.
So, I stacked the receipts nicely and double checked my account to make sure it wasn't empty, put my bible study book on the nightstand for tomorrow night, ate some graham crackers instead of the cookie dough and now I'm off to bed.

Oct 11, 2009

Lessons Learned

Today after church the boys and I headed to Ludwigsburg to check out Ludwig's castle and gardens. They were having a little Pumpkin Festival there this weekend, so we went.
Halfway to Ludwigsburg the boys asked where we were going and what we were doing. When I announced it was a Pumpkin Festival I got groans, grumbling, and flat out whining from the back seat. According to Gabriel "Germany has too many festibals - like every weekend". Yes, Gabriel there is a fest somewhere, for something, just about every weekend. In the future, I'll just leave out the word "festival" and all will be fine.
We made it to the Palace gardens and enchanted forest. There was a lot of pumpkin sculptures, food, and decor all over. There was a cool playground and mechanical reenactments of all the classic fairy tales. These little shows were in German, go figure, so we didn't hang out long. When we finished with the gardens we headed over to the Palace. The boys really wanted to go in but I was low on cash and still had to pay for parking. I asked how much it would cost to get in, I had enough cash to cover both and so we went for it. Another lesson, ensure I have euros a plenty before leaving town. Once I arrived in Ludwigsburg there wasn't a Gelatomat (ATM) in sight. If I had got more cash out before I left Mannheim, I wouldn't have been stressed over the cash situation.
We bought tickets to the tour, in German because we missed the English tour, and headed into the beautiful palace. We were lucky enough to be in a very small group tour, with a tour guide who was willing to translate the high points for us into English. A gentleman in the group was also so kind, and he helped describe stuff to the boys too. The boys had a great time and were so good. This brings me to my third lesson of the day: ask how LONG a tour is before I find myself locked in an ancient palace with no where to go but along with the tour for TWO hours. It was the best spent $13.50 euro ever, but a really long tour.
We finished the tour at 6:30pm and headed back to the car. Once there I took my parking ticket to the machine to pay, and the machine wouldn't read it. I tried two different machines and it kept being denied. How can they deny it? I came, I parked, I would now like to pay so I can leave! By God's grace - truly - I happened to catch a worker turning OFF the lights to his little shack. I asked him "sprechen Sie Deutsch?" He said "nein" which I now know is most likely a bold faced lie. They sprechen they just don't like to admit it. So, ignoring his answer that he doesn't speak English, I told him, in English, that my card wouldn't work. He followed me to the machine, tried it himself, realized something was wrong and said to me "Where is your car?" IN ENGLISH. He motioned to go get it, I did, and he let me out of the garage for free. Sweet deal.
Now comes the fun. The GPS doesn't get reception in the parking garage so it isn't until you leave the garage that it starts to calculate the route home. It still didn't know what it wanted to do by the time I hit the first light so I turned right. Which was wrong. After 15 minutes of sitting in traffic and hearing "please make a u-turn now", I finally convinced it that I was not making a u-turn (due to the rather large barrier prohibiting me from doing so) and it better just recalculate my route, now.
It was taking me on all kinds of bizarre routes, left, right, left, right. I was so confused. I did drive into this city and not in any way the same that it was trying to take me out. I double checked that it was taking me "home" and just proceeded. It wasn't until I had been in traffic, through the city and now on a dark country road that I realized I screwed up. I changed the settings to "walk" as the mode of transport when we arrived in the town, but I never changed it back. The GPS had calculated a route to take me from Ludwigsburg to Mannheim via my own two feet. It wasn't taking me to the nearest autobahn because you can't walk on the autobahn. By the time I figured this out I was already out in the country in what would have been a great Volksmarch if I were actually walking and it were daylight, and not raining. Final, and most important lesson learned today: if I change the settings on the old GPS, I must change them back before attempting to proceed.
We had a great day. The weather was beautiful, the tour was really great, and even the drive home was interesting. I drove through a number of really adorable towns that I might want to go back to in the future.

Oct 7, 2009

If You Give a Pig a Pancake

If You Give a Pig a Pancake is the title of a popular children's book that chronicles an adventurous morning with a pig. The pig gets a pancake, he needs syrup, syrup reminds him of the farm where all his buddies live, he misses the buddies, wants to write buddies a letter, letter reminds him of a story he once heard... and on and on.
Tonight I had a pig and a pancake moment.
While crushing corn flakes for a hashbrown casserole I am making for breakfast tomorrow I was reminded of the time my mom made some chicken dish that called for corn flakes but my mom used Total instead. Then I thought that my mom might have a different version of the story, which reminded me of the time my mom was climbing a ladder and one by one the rungs broke and my sister and I laughed our heads off and LOVE to retell that story. Mom falling reminded me of the time Mika tripped going UP the stairs at Potomac Mills and when I looked over to see what happened I realized she managed to save her newly purchased grande coffee from dumping all over the ground. What I didn't notice was that it splashed a little on her face and she walked around the mall all night with coffee splatter on her face. That reminded me of Mike making me coffee every morning when I stay with him and my cousin Rhonda. Staying with Mike and Rhonda reminded me of the awesome house party we had at Rhonda and Mike's house the summer of 2008. Tom, Mika, Tom, Katina, the girls, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, me, and the boys all convened at Rhonda and Mike's house and had the most fabulous time ever. That great weekend reminded me of the time we utilized every possible sleeping surface in our house when my parents, Tom, Katina and the girls came to stay with us for Christmas. That Christmas reminded me of last Christmas when Mika stayed with me for almost 6 weeks. Mika staying with us last Christmas reminded me of the many guests that came to stay with us while we lived in DC. Which reminded me of the guestbook that my friend Rachael bought me to properly document all our guests. That got me thinking about Rachael who I miss so dearly. I thought about the time that we had living in the same neighborhood in VA. Thinking about Virginia reminded me of the fabulous life we had there and how much I miss seeing our friends and sharing our life with them. The friends, the adventures, our life was so wonderful there and it was so hard to leave. Then I thought about how hard leaving was. Which took me back to that day when I left Virginia only to arrive in Oakland 8 hours later with Tom and Mika waiting to pick us up at the airport. We stayed with Tom's parents in Antioch and had the most relaxing weekend I can remember. We played in the pool, went to a Giants game, and ate delicious food that Ken and Cyndi slaved over every day. I'll never forget our super brunch when we drank mimosas and ate every possible breakfast/brunch food known to man.... including hashbrown casserole which of coarse reminded me that I better finish making mine.

Oct 5, 2009

More than Expected.

I did way more than I expected to do today. I ran 6 miles, took everything out of the fridge an wiped it all down, mopped the floor, cleaned out the trash can, did laundry, made three meals, chatted on the phone with a good friend, paid bills, played Mario Cart with Eli, and watched last nights episode of THE amazing race.
I set out to run my 4 mile loop this morning after dropping Eli off at school. A friend of mine asked if she could join me. Wow. Finally, a running buddy? I planned to select a good album, plug in my headphone, start my nike+ and roll, but this was going to be even better! I started the nike+ so that I could keep an eye on our pace and track our distance and we were off. 3 miles into the very enjoyable run I looked down to see how we were doing and . . . the ipod was gone. MY ipod touch that I love so much and treat as if it were a fragile newborn baby. Gone. The ipod that has never seen the light of day without being cradled it its pink leather case, or snuggled into the armband. MIA. We immediately turned around and retraced our steps. I recalled that I made 3 turns that could have jostled the ipod out of the stroller and one time, I hit a trash can. We ran all the way back, keeping our eyes open for any sign of my precious ipod touch encased it its black armband and paid close attention in the areas where I hit the can and made the turns. We got nothing. *For the record, I never lost a newborn, a 5 year old, yes, newborn no. So the analogy still works. * Our quick 4 mile run turned into a zippy 6 mile run. We were high-tailing it back hoping to find the ipod. Poor running buddy felt so bad for me. She knew that if she were not with me I would have been wearing the ipod. I put it in the stroller, I claim full responsibility, and don't expect that anyone who found it will return it. I would be ecstatic if they did, but not hopeful in that area. Who loses and ipod while using it? Just me.
After I picked Eli up from school we had snacks and then I went into the kitchen to get Gabe a cup of water. I see the water jug in the fridge, and about a quart of orange juice all over the place too. WHO DUMPED THE OJ AND DIDN'T TELL ME? Eli confesses that he spilled it but was afraid he would get in trouble if he told me, so he left it. I then had to take out every shelf, container, and drawer to get the sticky OJ out of the fridge. It is pretty darn clean now.
As I was tossing out some old food and paper towels I realized the trash was full. I pulled out the trash bag only to find that it leaked into the can. Yeah. So, now there is trash juice all over the floor and in the can. I clean out the can, mop the floor, and start dinner.
Whew. So much for an easy Monday.

Sep 28, 2009

The Tube

***Update: My pal Q gave me a hot tip on a website called sidereel and now my world has been rocked. Woohoo. I watched 6 consecutive hours of TV. The kids are fine, I only slightly neglected Gabe while catching up on my fave shows. I even watched some shows that I don't really even care for. I was binging, I admit it. When Matt gets home we are going to hook up the laptop to that darn 52" flat screen collecting dust, so we can watch TV on the TV while sitting comfortably on the couch instead of on the computer monitor and in a lame computer chair. Yes, I watched the end of Criminal Minds, I also watched 6 episodes of Top Chef, the premier of Biggest Loser and, drumroll please, the Amazingest Race. I'm happy. ****

It is highly challenging for me to catch my favorite shows over here in Germany. The network websites block all videos to IP addresses located outside the US and other ways of watching TV online, such as Hulu, are also blocked. There are a bunch of different sites that I have heard of that air US television shows but so far they require downloading, signing up, and other stuff that I don't feel comfortable doing without consulting Matt.
After missing all three of premiers of my favorite shows, today, I found out that I can watch them on youtube. Some people are cool enough to take the time to post the shows on their youtube channel. The bad part is that youtube won't allow people to post the entire episode, so you have to watch it in parts. This isn't too much of a problem, the commercials are all cut out so all you have to do is watch one segment at a time. The segments seem to be about 10 minutes long.
This plan worked fabulously for Grey's Anatomy. I just finished watching the premier. Yeah! And it was working well for Criminal Minds UNTIL I failed to find segment 5/5. I watched segments 1-4 and now I don't know what happened in the last 9 minutes. Lame. No luck yet finding the Amazing Race premier from last night but it is just now Monday morning in the US, so I am not giving up hope yet!
I haven't watched TV in over 3 months. Occasionally, I wish I could find something to just veg out and watch, but for the most part I wasn't missing it too much, until the premiers.

Sep 26, 2009

Heidelberger Herbst

The boys and I took the Strassenbahn to Heidelberg today to check out their Herbst (fall festival). The pedestrian zone was packed with vendors and entertainers, people garage selling in the alleys and there were a few stages with live music throughout the area. We walked around, ate some typical German street food, looked at some of the stuff the vendors were selling, and I didn't lose either of the kids.
I never liked Brats but I've tried to consume them twice now at these little city festivals. All it did was confirm that I don't like them. I don't like them on a bun, I don't like them on the run, I don't like them with a beer, I don't like them anywheeere. I will not eat a Brat again. I will not, will not, entschuldigen. (That means "excuse me", it doesn't make sense but it rhymes, a little).
I do love the Champigiones. They are some specific type of mushroom sauted in something that just makes them fabulous and then there is this delicious sauce on them - that tips them over the edge from just good to darn tasty.
The Pommes Fritas are basically fries. I'm not a big fry fan, but they are great as far as fries go. I'd much rather have the little pommes than any other fry I've had before. Yep I said it. They are better than Five Guys.
We shared a crepe with cinnamon and sugar, and Gabriel opted for some chocolate gelato. I stepped into the Starbucks today for the first time since we moved here. I think Matt may have grabbed me a regular Joe from there once before, but today I got a Venti Coffee Frappuccino and it was good! We walked to an open field and plopped down in the sun so I could focus on truly enjoying my drink.
So, all this food ordering confirmed that I have some serious pronunciation issues. I say all the right words but one minor pronunciation error and I have people looking at me in total confusion. Thüringer. T-huringer. T-h-ooouringer. T-h-ooourin-grrr. I don't know. After a moment of the guy looking perplexed and thinking "Was ist sie sprechen?" I pointed to the menu and the breakdown in communication passed. Believe it or not, Fanta, as in that nasty orange soda, can be pronounced by this California girl in such a way that the salesman is clueless on that one too. And this is why I spend 1 1/2 hours two nights a week in German class. To survive.
Always an adventure.

Sep 25, 2009

On Running, Again.

I know, I keep talking about running. Its because I struggle with it every day so it is on my mind. Or maybe, it is that my legs hurt so bad right now I can't think of anything else. At any rate I'm running again. The blister turned into a rock-solid chunk of flesh that is now so hard it is just daring those comfort shoes to try and break it down. All is well for the feet.
I have to say I love, really love Nike+. I mocked it when Matt HAD to have an ipod so that he could have Nike+, but now that I use mine all of the time, I must publicly apologize for making fun of him. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, it is basically a high-tech pedometer. I have a sensor on my shoe and the "brains" in my ipod. I pick my music and tell the brain that I want to run for distance, time, calories, or whatever and then push "start". A nice voice encourages me by telling me my pace, distance traveled, and time. It also keeps a record of your runs. Today, I looked back at my record to see what days I ran, how far, and how fast. It is cool.
I also like listening to "live" albums while running. At the end of every song, the audience claps. I like to pretend they are cheering for me.
A low tech bonus for my run today - I aired up the tires in the jogger. It is truly amazing how a few pumps of air in those tires can really change the difficulty of pushing it. So, the DOT really knows what they are talking about when they tell drivers to ensure their car tires are inflated properly to save gas. Who would have thought?
My last thought on running, for now, is with regards to the effectiveness of running as a method of weight loss. I read this one website that suggested you must constantly change your route and running regime in order for running to remain effective, because your body gets used to certain things and doesn't require as much to accomplish the same task if repeated over time. Fine. This may apply to most people, but me? I have been running 3-4 miles for 25 days now (with the few days off here and there) and it is still hard. In fact, today I returned from a 4 mile run and sat on the chairs in front of the apartment building for 5 minutes trying to work up the energy to make it up 4 steps to the house. It will take a lot more for my body to catch on to what I'm trying to do to it.
The other day I took some pictures of the forest that I run around in, they are posted here for your entertainment. It should be a slideshow but technology is not on my side. If you click on the picture to make it larger, you can also scroll through all the pictures. The password is still ourphotos.

My running path.

Click here to view these pictures larger

Sep 19, 2009

Saved by Mormons. . . seriously.

A few days ago someone told me about a park in Mannheim that was simply wonderful. It has a small zoo, playgrounds, gondola rides and much more. Since today is Saturday and there is nothing I have to do other than entertain my children, it seemed like a good day to head to the Luisenpark. I looked up information on the park online and found out that today IS the best day to head to the park, because it is kid's day. Not only were both kids' admission free but there were also special events taking place.
We arrived around 1pm and started through the maze of paths and attractions. There were about 50 booths that were sponsored by community groups that offered things like bounce houses, face painting, balloon animals, etc. There were also performances by bands, dancers and a magician.
One of the booths was sponsored by a local chapter of Mormons. I couldn't read a word from their banner but they were the only people in the park dressed in black pants, white shirts and a tie. Obviously Mormons. A closer look revealed their name tags. The only thing missing was the bikes, they would have come in handy today.
We visited the fire department booth and the boys took turns knocking down cans with the fire hose and then went around the corner to watch people climb the rock wall. 30 seconds pass and Eli is running around this huge fountain and Gabe is. . . . nowhere to be found. Never mind the details of the first 10 minutes of looking for Gabe, it was a lot of looking and praying. Once that time had passed I knew the chances of me finding him were slim. I needed help.
Who speaks English at a local kids fair? The Mormons, and they happened to be 10 feet from the very place that I lost sight of Gabe. I walked over to the Mormon tent and asked a guy "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" He answered "nein" but motioned for one of the young Elders to come over and told him I spoke English.
The Elder asked me "what's up?" and that is when I started to cry. I told him I lost my son and needed to know who to contact in order to find him. There was German spoken which I didn't understand and before I knew it a flock of bilingual Mormon missionaries were taking pictures of a photo I had of Gabe with their iphones and then they were off. They went in all directions calling his name. I was left standing at the place I lost him, trying to keep it together enough to console Eli, who by the way had already written off any chance of finding Gabe and was morning the loss of his "only brother".
A few of the Elders came back without Gabe and led me to some guy who seemed to know something about something. He made a call and then told us to go to the Suchdienst fur verlorene Kinder - the lost kid tent. As we were headed over there an Elder told us that he ran into a gentleman who thought he saw Gabe being escorted to the tent. That was promising but now we just had to find that darn tent. We were walking every way but the right way, turning around and heading in another direction at every turn. The Elder I was with got a phone call saying that his other Elder buddies were with Gabe.
About 10 minutes later we finally met up with Gabe sitting a table with 3 Mormons and another gentleman who had joined the Mormon search party early on. Gabe was sucking on a sucker and having a conversation with these men. I cried, wiped my tears and thanked each of the Elders profusely.
They then invited me to come to church with them tomorrow and gave me their business card in case I needed anything (like help finding my kids again). Thankfully, they didn't go into their whole high pressure speech, because I was so thankful for them I probably would have pretended to be super interested and maybe even agreed to come to church.
Those bikes would have really sped up the process of finding Gabe. They should definitely not go anywhere without them. In all seriousness, I'm so blessed by those guys today. The first thing the young Elder said to me when I told him Gabe was lost was "we should pray" and I responded "I have, that is all I've been doing since I lost him".
Dear God, bless those men and show them your truth. Thank you for delivering Gabe to me safely today and please help me to never lose him again.

Sep 18, 2009

God Timing

No, I wasn't trying to spell "good" and left out an "o". I really mean God timing.
Yesterday, the rough day, I was walking home from PWOC with Gabe. If you know Gabe's walking speed, you know it is s-l-o-w. We finally reached our street and were about to cross when at that exact moment Mandi was getting out of her car.
We stopped and chatted with Mandi for a few minutes when a girl named Stephanie showed up. Stephanie is Mandi's dog walker and she is the most desired babysitter in Mannheim. Perfect. I ask Stephanie if she can watch the boys for my German classes, you know the answer, she said "no". I asked her if she had ANY phone numbers with her of a person she could recommend to me. She had one. Sierra.
Today, all day I've been reminding myself to call Sierra. After an hour of getting in and out of the car running errands I make it home, put cold stuff in the fridge, leave everything else on the counter and call Sierra.
Her mom answers. Ah man. I don't want to keep leaving messages for these girls. I want to chat with one and get an answer now! Oh, but mom tells me Sierra is home. I chat with Sierra and she commits to watching the boys for the next 4 weeks on Tues and Thurs.
Yeah. Small victory. No big victory. Because as long as my kids don't scare her off, and she doesn't let them burn down the house, I'm claiming her. I'm going to find out how much people usually pay her and add a few bucks so she keeps coming back. Seriously.
If I hadn't run into Mandi, I wouldn't have known that the cute girl walking by was THE Stephanie, and she wouldn't have given me Sierra's number. That is God timing.

Sep 17, 2009

Pop Quiz

Your pop quiz consists of one multiple choice question.
No need to use a number 2 pencil, just write your answer down in your head. No cheating by scrolling to the bottom to find the answer. Cheating will not be tolerated.

Of the following events that occurred today, which of the following caused Clarissa to cry?

1. Didn't get to run this morning because I had to be at PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) at 9am. After my 3 day break to help my torn flesh heal, I was back in the forest on Monday and Tuesday but didn't make it out on Wednesday because I had to take Matt to the airport, and didn't make it today because of PWOC. I'm on track to be streaking in the wrong direction. I'm not supposed to be counting how many days in a row I DON'T run, I'm supposed to be counting the days I do run. Not a good restart.
2. When I returned from a good experience at PWOC, I was asked to move the van so that the roof destructos could move their truck where I was parked. I went to start the van and the battery was dead . . . again. So, I told the worker guy I would gladly move the van after he jumped it. He jumped it, I snatched up Gabe and headed to the auto shop. I quickly realized I was low on gas but was afraid to go get gas because I feared turning off the car again would mean getting another jump. I bypassed the fuel and went to the battery place. I left the van running so that it didn't die and ran in. Huge line. Faced with a choice a. keep van running so if they don't have my battery I can still get home but risk running out of gas or b. turn it off and face the consequences. I turned it off as soon as I found out they had a battery. I made it back home with about 10 minutes to spare in order to pick Eli up from school.
3. While out dealing with the battery, I bought a phone card for my cell. Somehow the last 15 euro card I bought managed to disappear in 12 hours. Matt loaded the minutes on the phone on Sunday night and by Monday morning the minutes were gone. It took 6 weeks to go through the minutes I bought last time so we knew something was up. Nothing we could do about those so I just bought a new card and loaded it up today. After loading the minutes I dialed the number to check my minutes about 5 minutes later to make sure everything went right. I dialed the same number today as I did yesterday to find them out and it wouldn't work. I was panicking that the same thing that sucked the minutes last time was happening again. I frantically was trying to get the sim card out of the phone so they didn't go down the toilet. The problem was I didn't know how to get the sim card out because I don't even know where they hid it. I watch a youtube video instruction for getting the card out. All I need is a paperclip. I don't have a single paperclip in my house. Trust me there is a path of destruction to prove I looked everywhere. I finally use an earring, get the card out and put it in my other phone. I called the number again to check the minutes and some German recording goes on about something and all I understand is "nein" meaning no. I tested out the phone by calling home. It works, so I have minutes on there but I still don't know how many.
4. German class tonight but Matt was told on Monday that he has to go to Romania on Wednesday morning for 6 weeks. I really like my German class. If I quit now I'll have to wait until next September to start again or I'll have to start section 2 without doing section one. This brings up a recurring problem, I need a babysitter. I was given a name and called her last night but she didn't call me back yet. 2pm today, class starts at 6. Still no call from sitter 1. I ran into a girl who was recommended to me by a friend and she cannot do it tonight or any other night. She gives me a name of one of her friends. I hate trying to find a babysitter and more than that, like exponentially more than that I hate trying to find one at the last minute. I signed up for the class because Matt was supposed to be here at least until October. We knew there was a chance that he would go, but I thought I would get at least 3 more classes in before I had to worry about getting a sitter. If Matt were here, I wouldn't have to worry about a sitter.

Your guess?

The phone. Something about technology not working when it should just freaks me out. Wednesday morning I dialed *100* send and it told me I had 4 cents on my phone. Why won't it work today? Why? WHY?

In the end, I had a good time at PWOC and it is totally worth missing a morning run. If I can, I'll try and run a little later on Thursdays, but if not - I'm fine with it. The van battery has been a thorn in my side for a year now. That darn battery. I was so glad to kick it to the curb (not really, although some people around here totally would) and so glad that it was pretty good timing for it to die on me. The sitter issue is SO frustrating and stressful but Mandi saved the day and watched the boys for me tonight which gives me a few more days to try and get a sitter lined up for the next 4 weeks.

Sep 13, 2009

Genesis, Exodus, Levitucus . . .

The first five books of the German bible are Mose 1-5. This is an interesting little tidbit. Today at church we listened to a message from Mose 2.
I also learned that just as there are different English translations, the German translation is different still. The German bible describes Moses' consecrations of priests as "filling their hands". While the English term "consecration" and "ordination" are big religious terms, the German translation "filling their hands" provides a pretty good visual. Moses was to fill the hands of the priests before he sent them out to do ministry.
Today we tried church number vier. It was a German church with English translation. Like one of the other churches we went to, we worshiped at this church in German and English, but there was a lot more German going on here. I think German worship songs are so beautiful and I doubt that I really need to know what I'm saying anyway so for now I just read the words and try to sing along.
The message was good too. I must say I am still trying to get used to the translation. Sometimes it takes twice as long for the German translation of an English sentence. And the 30 minute message turns into an hour when the whole thing is repeated.
The kids enjoyed their class as well. They also have a German teacher with an English translation. Most of the kids spoke German but the kids still played and learned about Moses and marching around in the desert. The English speaking teacher talked to me after class and told me the boys participated and seemed to enjoy themselves. She is and English speaker and seemed very pleased that we were visiting. She suggested that we go to her house for dinner sometime. This is what you do when you are starving for easy conversation, you invite the first English speaking family you meet over for dinner.
So, we are going to go back to this church in the coming weeks to see if this is the place we want to call our church home.

Sep 12, 2009

Dumpster Diver

The first time was the chairs. No actual dumpster was involved but the chairs had been set out on trash day. I do have to admit I took the neighbors' trash.
Since then, I have come to own a few more "found" items. Our neighbors moved out a week ago and before they left they just started tossing stuff to the curb (obviously no HOA trash rules here).
The first find was an 1800 watt transformer, a brand new one would cost $200. Since I relocated it from the curb to my house I can now use my 110 vacuum.
Next was some detergent, cleaner, downy ball, fabric softener and a little 75 watt transformer PERFECT for my flat iron.
Then came the ultimate find. The knife. I was all bent out of shape because they put a knife in the grass on the curb. The curb is on the street where kids ride their bikes, walk to school, and run wild. To make things worse it was MY curb and the knife would be a huge temptation for MY kids. So, I picked up the knife and started to storm to the dumpster, but then I thought that may not be a good idea, because someone might have to go through the dumpster at some point and might stab themselves. I had a box of stuff going to the thrift store in the house so I brought the knife in. As I was putting the knife in the box I realized that it was a JA Henckles knife. I recognized the brand because those are the knives in the locked case at Target. I decided to wash it and test it out.
One word= Amazing! This is a fabulous knife. I should mention that all of my other knives are the ones that came in the knife block we got as a gift when we got married, so there isn't much to compare it to, but it cuts so well. It is my new favorite thing and it makes me really want a new set of knives.
I do want to say that I held back and didn't swipe the vacuum cleaner, butcher block island, or pans. I do have some standards.

Sep 11, 2009

A House Full

Yesterday and today Eli's new BFF and BFFS(sister) came over to play with the boys. The kids played on the playground, then in the house, then they played the Wii, then they played house, then they had snacks, played some more and then I kicked them out. Well, I let my kids stay but I kicked out the BFF and BFFS.
As I was listening to the kids play I was so happy inside. This is the first time that Eli has ever had a friend over like this. Sure, there were some friends that came over in VA but most of the friends were Gabe's age, and then there was Mary but her mom came over with her.
This was the situation where the kids come running to the door and ask "can Eli play?" The BFF/BFFS family live right across the parking lot so there are no rides to be arranged, just hop on over and play - play until the parents send everyone home.
I'm sad because BFF and BFFS are moving very soon. Their packers already came and picked up there stuff and it is just a matter of days before they leave. I am so sad that, for the first time in Eli's life he has a friend that is his own age to play with right in our own neighborhood, and we just happen to live in a place that has a million playgrounds to run around on.
So, I had to remind myself of a little lesson I learned a few months ago, it doesn't really matter how much time you have with someone it is about what you do in that time. Eli's time with BFF will be short, but right now he is having a blast with his neighbor friend. And that is how it should be.
Looking forward to another day of a house full of kids.

Sep 10, 2009

Streaking

One day my friend Rachael told me that her husband Ryan liked to streak. For a moment I was trying not to picture Ryan running naked through the neighborhood, and then she clarified this streaking thing. He set his mind to doing something and then would see how far he could go without breaking the streak. Example: he decided to run every day and did it from Jan - August. He wanted to get his run in on the day his son was born so he headed out to the hospital parking lot to run laps. Don't worry, Rachael was totally fine with the arrangement.
So, when I decided I was going to start running, I decided I would run every day I dropped Eli off from school, except Thursday because I will go to PWOC, and then I would try to fit in runs if at all possible on the weekends as well. I'm not ready to fully streak but I wanted to come close.
I started running on the 31st, and have run about 5k/3 miles every day since except one. However, I got a blister from these really cool, comfortable LOOKING shoes last week and I have to take some days off for it to heal. I have put 3 layers of band-aids on this thing and still, by the time I get back from the run I have blood all over my sock and shoe. I have been running through the pain of this thing for a week now, but it just isn't healing. It is actually no longer a blister, but a gaping hole in my flesh. I've decided to go with the advise of my untrained pretend doctor husband to take 3 days off to let it heal.
I'm so disappointed, but I'm also determined that I'm starting up again on Monday.

Sep 9, 2009

Strassen Schaden

Matt and I are particularly fond of two German signs. One says "Ausfalt Freihalten" and the other is "Strassen Schaden". We like them not because of their meaning as much as how much we enjoy saying them.
Ausfault Freihalten (pronounced owsfault fryhalten) means "keep the car exit clear" or "don't block the driveway". We were pronouncing it "freehalten" for awhile and we think it sounds better that way, even though it is wrong. Randomly, throughout the day one of us might just blurt out "ausfault freihalten" and then laugh. The other laughs too. It is probably not funny, but we amuse ourselves easily. Out of respect for the native tongue and to keep from totally embarrassing ourselves we try to refrain from saying this in public.
Strassen Schaden is a fun one to say too. It means rough road. We have decided to use this to refer to all things "messed up". The house, a situation, my hair, my brain - all strassen schaden. Matt forgot to pick something up at the store and his only defense was that he was "strassen schaden". How can I argue with that?
The other day I was running on a gravel path through the forest, the stroller was bouncing all over, I was kicking pebbles and nearly tripping and the only thing that came to mind was "THIS is strassen schaden"! And because I have nothing else to do but think while running, I starting thinking about how our road has been a little rough over the past few weeks. Nothing too difficult to travel on, but just not that smooth Sunday drive that we enjoy. It is all little things: car buying, furniture buying, claims to turn in, boxes to unpack, church to find, missing things that I'm used to, the whole 220-110 issue, and so on. Stress in the little things gets us all riled up and then that makes everything else get crazy too. I can't wait to get out and go explore, get on the open road and discover this country, but I feel so weighed down by all these details we need to get sorted out and all the bumps we have to get around.
I have to remind myself that the road is strassen schaden but it isn't closed. It is passable with patience, understanding, and a sense of humor. And, thankfully, it doesn't go on forever. It is just a section of the road.
Slowly, we are starting to adjust and get used to this new life that we have here. I'm hoping that the end of this strassen schaden section is soon, until then I'm trying to dodge the big potholes and take the rest in stride - and avoid that path in the forest while pushing the stroller.

Sep 6, 2009

3 Churches

We started our hunt for a new church a few weeks ago. So far we hit three churches in as many weeks.
The first church we went to was an international church. It was small, this will be a recurring theme for our church hunt. A helpful lady showed us where the boys would go for their class and Matt and I made our way up to the main meeting area. They had a live band, complete with drums, bongos, guitars and a few singers. This was a good sign. Worship was an attempt at the modern worship we were used to at Fairfax. The songs were familiar, but the talent was lacking. I know I'm not supposed to judge, but I'm just saying, it was very different from the skill level we are used to. The very cool aspect of worship was our multi-cultural approach to songs. Some songs were in English, others in German and one was both. It was cool to worship in German. I'm sure we destroyed the language but it was interesting to worship in a different language. The regular pastor wasn't there this week, so we heard a message from a sub. He wasn't very good but he did speak to me and I walked away with something to think about and apply to my life. The pastor spoke English and the message was translated into German. This made for a long service. Sentence by sentence was translated before the speaker would move on.
Week 2 we hit the post chapel. Now this was a trip. We walked in and heard great worship songs with a fabulous leader. But there was nobody up front - the worship leader was on CD. This service was a mix of every protestant religion I've ever heard of. We had the doxology, standing for the reading of the word, contemporary worship, hymm worship, candle lighters, and a good old fashioned baptist depression song at the end. If you are Baptist I don't mean to offend but you have to admit the Baptist hymnal has a whole lot of songs about sinning and dying. The service felt like they were doing their best to make everyone get a little taste of their own denomination. The message was just odd. I can't explain it but it wasn't really biblical based and I'm not really sure what I was supposed to walk away with. The kids loved it because it was "back to school Sunday" and they got school supplies and candy.
Week 3. An international Baptist church. This one is in English but people may come from all different places aside from the US. The guy in charge of the closing prayer sounded like he was from Scotland, I couldn't help but look over at Matt and say "is that William Wallace?" Matt had a good chuckle and later on we were yelling "FREEDOM" to each other. It was a young congregation that met in an old Audi car dealership building. That little fact is irrelevant but it looked cool and I thought it was interesting. The pastor was really great. He preached a great message that was really interesting and relevant but not fluffy and topical. He did his homework and it was a great time of learning. Worship was interesting. We sang a hymm or two, and some more modern songs but we sang "Thy Word" by Amy Grant and that was a little odd. That song came out in 1980 -something, but OK. The people were friendly and it turns out that they have a small group that meets at our post every other Wed for dinner and bible study.
All of the churches were small. All of them had some quirky thing about them that made Matt and I look at each other with those eyes that say "really?" but it is a start. Now we just need to decide what we want most in a church and go from there.

30 Seconds to Disaster

The day started well enough, we all slept in, headed off to church trial number 3, had lunch and then Sunday obligatory naps. After we rested or slept we decided to head off into the forest as a family. Matt and Eli would ride their bikes and Gabriel would ride his bike while I run along side him. It was a great plan.
We assured Gabe that it was not a cobblestone path (too bumpy) and that there were no sidewalks to ride up and down (his big fear). He hopped on his bike and started toward the gate. Then it started. There was a white line at the gate exit, you know the kind that is painted on the road to tell you where to make a full and complete stop. He got off his bike and walked it across the line. I take a deep breath.
"Come on Gabe, you can ride on the paved path, there are no more white stop lines on the pavement and we can avoid all pot holes and bumps in the road because no cars come down here".
He starts to peddle, I start to pick up my pace a bit, and then disaster strikes. Less than .02 miles from the start of this journey he freaks. He sees a slight, minor, baby incline and starts screaming. "Oh no a hill".
Then he keeps screaming and crying and I put my hand on his back and help him up the hill so he doesn't have to peddle hard but he keeps crying.
Things get foggy here. I lose my mind. All sense of sanity goes out the window and I make the biggest, most embarrassing scene ever.
I stand him up on the side of the road and tell him "you will stop screaming and you will get on that bike and ride it now".
He screams.
"Fine you don't want to ride your bike? You are going to run with me. You got it? 5k in 30 minutes or less. Lets go".
He still had his helmet on and I took his hand and we started running. I abandoned the bike on the side of the road and we run.
Reality hits me. This child cannot run with me for another 100 feet let alone to the wild buffalo. I stop and ask him "do you want to keep running or ride your bike?"
He cries.
I look back and Matt is riding his bike while carrying Gabe's bike.
I'm flaming mad. Steam is coming out my ears. Gabe's life is flashing before my eyes, I want to duck tape his little body onto the bike and force him to ride the darn thing through the beautiful forest on this beautiful Sunday afternoon. NOW!!
This was supposed to be a fun family activity and Gabe, in his defiance and unrealistic psychosis fears has ruined it for me.
Matt and Eli head off to the buffalo and I storm home with Gabe. I have to walk past the guards who are probably laughing at the whole scene. I am telling Gabe how frustrated I am with him because he is not willing to even try. The neighbors hear me ranting at him, he is crying . . . still, and we finally make it home. I make him bring his bike down the stairs and into the storage unit - where it will stay, and we go upstairs. He sits on his bed. I sigh.
Such a great plan, such a great day, explodes into disaster in moments.
On to plan B. Matt and Eli are back from their ride. I'm off to run alone, and Gabe is sitting in his room where there is no potential for white lines, bumps, minor hills, and side walks.

Sep 4, 2009

Run Forest Run

It has been about 3 months since this body did anything related to working out. I was getting ready for the move in June, vacationing in July, and simply surviving August. Now that September is here I'm ready to run.
For the past 3 years I have been a member of my local Gold's Gym. There were two gyms within 5 miles of my house that I could use. They have childcare on site, a fabulous smoothie bar, and air conditioning. About 6 months after joining Golds I turned 30 and was in the best physical shape of my life. I loved the feeling of being strong and fit. I didn't diet as much as I just watched what I ate and worked out 4-5 days a week. It really was about working out, getting strong and being healthy.
Since then my weight and fitness level have fluctuated, but for the most part, when I am eating healthy and working out regularly I feel good and I'm comfortable with my body. When I found out that Gabe wouldn't be able to go to Kindergarten here, my first concern was "how am I going to work out?" The gym on post doesn't have childcare (or a smoothie bar and a/c but that is irrelevant) so I can't work out during the day. The thought of being out of the gym for a year scared me - so I decided to do the only thing I could think of, run.
My plan is to run every day after I drop Eli off for school. Right now, Gabe is in the jogger - which makes running even more of a work out, but hopefully he can get over his fears of falling off his bike (fully equip with training wheels) and start riding while I run. We are so blessed to have a forest right behind our house. It is so beautiful! There are a bunch of dirt trails that weave through it and a few paved paths as well. The sun shines down through the treetops and illuminates this beautiful natural area. There are a ton of walkers that go through there with their little ski pole looking walking sticks and they always say "morgen" to me. That is just a little bonus.
So, I started running on Monday. The first and second day were torture. My knee was screaming the whole time and my body was flat out protesting. Day three was much better, I picked up the pace a bit and was pain free. Thursday it rained. I'm not talking about a sprinkling, I'm talking about a full on downpour, tear leaves off the trees, puddle making rain. And I ran. I put the rain shield on the stroller and ran. I was soaking wet, water was dripping off my hat, I hid my ipod in my shorts to keep it dry, and I ran all 5k. It felt great. Today, I ran hard, finished in a good time, and saw a hedgehog along the way. Week one done. 5k a day for a week despite the pain, rain, and blisters from my hand-made German not-so-comfort shoes.
I know I can do it, now I just have to keep it up.

Sep 3, 2009

Thoughts on . . .

Throughout the past week I have often thought of something that I wanted to blog about, but haven't had the time to complete the thought or write it down, so today I'm going to write my incomplete thoughts on various subjects.

Laundry:
I was horrified when I found out our tiny apartment wouldn't have a washer and dryer in it. Who lives like that? However, I have come to enjoy my laundry situation. Since we are on the 1st floor and the laundry is in the basement it isn't a huge trek to go do laundry and once down in the basement I get to do multiple loads of laundry at a time! I usually only take up 2 washers just in case someone else needs to do some laundry too. I go down with two loads, toss them in the washer and go upstairs. I return 30 minutes later with 2 more loads, put the wash stuff into the dryer and put the new stuff in the washers. Return 30 minutes later to switch wash to dryer, check dryers (they are never ready in 30 mins). I return in a half hour to get the first 2 loads of stuff and 30 minutes later to retrieve the rest. So, in 1 1/2 hours I wash,dry, fold and put away 4 loads of laundry. That is cool.
I have also come to enjoy chatting with my neighbor while doing laundry. You can't do that if you are doing laundry in the comfort of your own home.

Neighbors: I think my upstairs neighbor wears high heels and is training for a marathon - in the apartment. My stairwell mates are all pretty quiet but when my house is quiet and my upstairs neighbor is going about her business in hard soled shoes, that sound of clickity clacking shoes on wood floors is close to nails on a chalk board.

Homeschooling: I started homeschooling Gabe this week. So far things are going well. We have a little routine and Gabe seems to be enjoying himself and learning a little along the way too. He has a memory verse, color, letter and number of the week, and we do fun things like practice recognizing numbers by measuring things (the kid loves a tape measure) and remembering body part names like "ankle" by playing "Simon Says". However, my kids clearly don't respect the idea of home school. Gabe keeps mentioning things like "in my REAL school with Ms Nancy..." (last year's preschool teacher) or "when I go to REAL school . . . " and my favorite was when Eli announced at the dinner table a few days ago that "Mom is PRETENDING to teach Gabe". Seriously folks, this is what I'm dealing with here.

Unpacking: I so badly wanted all the boxes out of my house that I just unloaded stuff into A cupboard somewhere in the vicinity of where I think the item might eventually rest and moved on. I didn't wait for shelf liners or to even wipe down the cupboards, I just piled stuff in. It is completely not my nature to just toss stuff there, but desperate times called for desperate measures. There is no room in this apartment for boxes.

Boxes: some of our most hilarious scenes have occurred after 11pm with moving supplies. I had to hoist Matt into the dumpster to smash down all the paper we threw in there. This shouldn't be entertaining but it was. As I put my knee out for Matt to stand on my thigh he decided it was the perfect time to pretend we were cheerleaders. I can't explain the scene, but I was laughing so hard that when he stepped on to my leg to get in the dumpster I couldn't stay still and I inadvertently (maybe) caused him to tumble into the dumpster. We had a lot of loads of paper and boxes to take to the dumpster - there was a lot of laughter. The neighbors probably think we are crazy.

Skanky T: While lounging around the house in a skanky tank top, it is highly recommended that you keep a respectable shirt by the front door in case of visitors. The emergency shirt was used twice in one day. Good plan.