Mar 31, 2010

Birthday

Mika is awaiting the arrival of her son M. Felix. He is due on April 2nd and simply cannot get here soon enough.

When Eli was born I spent the last few months of my pregnancy painting and decorating his room, buying adorable baby things, going over my birth plan with Matt, and enjoying normal life before everything went topsy turvy.
In the last month of Mika's pregnancy, all of her household goods were packed and shipped of to Germany, she moved in with her mom, her husband left for an Army school causing her birth plan to be re-vamped to substitute her husband for her mom. She can't really buy much because everything she buys for the baby has to fit into 1 suitcase weighing 50lbs or less. She can't decorate a room because their current house is on the market waiting for the perfect buyer and she won't be bringing him "home" to their new home until he is about 2 months old. She can't enjoy "normal" life because everything that was home and every day family life is gone. Although Mika is surrounded by people who love her and support her, things aren't exactly ideal right now.
The sooner little M. Felix, fine his name is actually Mason, is born the sooner the family can reunite in Germany and start settling in their new home, with a new baby, and a new life.
I'm praying that this little guy makes his entry into the world soon, and that all the documentation that needs to arrive in order for the family to fly to Germany will arrive in a speedy manner. I also pray that Mika will have a good birth experience - even without Tom there and that she will have the strength to get through all the hurdles that lay ahead of her. Finally, I'm praying for kindness of people to surround her and make every step of her journey from labor and delivery to travel and arrival in Germany as easy as possible.
I just can't wait for Mason's birthday!

Gum=Tears

Chewing gum is nothing but trouble.
I have quite a few friends that have let their kids chew gum from an early age without any issues, but I tried to hold off giving the boys gum for as long as possible. Why? Because we have gum issues.
Maybe I'm against gum because it is bad for your jaw, teeth and stomach. Or maybe it is because gum in the mouth ends up being gum on the floor or fingers in the mouth playing with gum. Or it could be because gum in the mouth has to be taken out to eat and then there is no more gum. Or it could be that the irritating noise of non-discreat gum-chewing was the real issue. Whatever reason it was a long time ago that I banned gum chewing, it was a good one.
Today is a perfect example of the horrible effects of gum.
I buy gum at the store. Gabe wants gum. Gabe has a hamburger to eat so he has to wait to chew gum until the hamburger is gone. Gabe whines for a minute then chows down on the burger to get the gum. Enter Eli. Eli comes home from school and sees Gabe chewing gum. Eli wants gum. Eli doesn't get gum until he finishes his homework because yesterday he didn't do his homework. (Side-note: I intended for Eli's punishment to be not playing at the playground on the way home from school but there was a torrential downpour so playing at the playground was nixed anyway. The gum became a convenient punishment. The punishment isn't closely linked to the crime, but I explained to Eli that he can't have any distractions today because he has so much work to do.) Eli starts crying and throws his backpack across the room and slams the door. I take Eli to the bathroom and gave him the consequences for your actions speech. Eli calms down and does his homework. Enter Gabe. Gabe chats with Eli in the school room and reportedly was twirling gum around on his finger. Eli, eager to get Gabe in trouble calls me to come quick because Gabe is being naughty with his gum. Gabe starts crying because he thinks I'm going to take his gum. I'm already over the gum and chose to ignore the tattling. When Eli is finished with his homework he gets gum. Enter Gabe. Gabe sees Eli chewing gum and wants some. Apparently, he threw his out at some point. I tell him "no" because he already had his contraband gum for the day. Gabe freaks out and starts screaming "I want gum". We have a chat about how he chose to spit his gum out and now it is gone and he isn't getting any more. He decides to go outside to play with Eli. However, he walks outside and starts screaming something about gum. Then the yells were muffled and when I walked outside I noticed he broke into the van and was throwing a fit in there. I drag him out and take him to the bathroom for a little more "discussion" but this was more of a spanking than a discussion. I sent him to his room and he sat on his bed launching stuffed animals and bedding all over the place for the next 30 minutes. Enter Eli. Eli walks in to my room to ask me something and I heard a "swthew" sound and noticed something fly arc across the room and land on the floor. What could this mysterious flying object be? Gum. He was attempting to blow a bubble but instead blew the gum across the room. Now he is upset because he accidentally lost his gum.
Gum is bad.

Mar 24, 2010

Hot or Cold?

A few nights ago Matt filled a rather large glass full of warm water from the tap. When I questioned him about this obscure behavior he told me that warm water is easier to drink than cold water. How is that possible? I hate drinking warm water. I could easily gulp down a bottle of cold water on a hot day. But warm water? No.
Clearly this was an invitation for further investigation.
I filled my glass with warm water and Matt filled his with cold. Then we prepared ourselves for our chug-off. It shouldn't have been too difficult of a task, but we started laughing at every little thing and couldn't focus on our experiment. We knew facing each other was out of the question, so we faced the cabinets, opened the cupboard doors to give us each a "drinking cubicle", and started to chug. It is truly impossible to describe the scene but I can tell you there was a lot of water that ended up on the floor and counters and there was a lot of belching on my part.
Our scientific method was skewed. We were testing who could chug faster, obviously Matt, instead of testing whether hot or cold water could be consumed at a faster rate of speed.
So we started with round two: I will chug hot water then chug cold water while Matt keeps track of my time.
This experiment should not have been entered into so lightly. We should have prepared more, with towels and timing devices, but we didn't. Water was everywhere and our official timing method (Matt counting) was often interrupted by bursts of laughter.
In the end, the only conclusive evidence we came up with is that I can't drink very fast without spitting water across the room and burping, a lot. We'll have to return to this experiment another day. Matt will be the chugger, I'll be the timer (with a stopwatch) and we'll report our findings when the experiment is completed.

Mar 23, 2010

Anti-Diarrhea Medication

If you don't actually have diarrhea it is not advised to take anti-diarrhea medication. Even if you are really panicked about getting a case of the runs while on a trans-atlantic flight.
Not that I would have done such a thing.....but a "friend of mine" was so freaked out about the possibility of getting sick that she consumed 1 and 1/2 doses of a certain medication in order to ensure she wouldn't need to use the lavatory on the plane.
The night before we left Virginia, Gabriel woke up in the middle of the night because he needed to poo. Then he woke up hourly for further poo needs. By morning, I was exhausted from being up all night and poor Gabe was struggling to keep his bowels under control. We were set to leave in less than 12 hours and Gabe was going through unders by the hour and I was starting to panic. I took some anti-diarrheal medication as a preventative measure. The result was a minor case of dehydration. I was thirsty and a little dizzy and shaky. I was soo thirsty that I ended up consuming large quantities of water for a few hours. Instead of making frequent trips to the toilet for diarrheal needs, I had to pee from all that water I was drinking. By the time we arrived at the airport in Baltimore, the medication wore off and I was back to normal.
Lesson learned. Don't take something to stop some type of ailment if you do not in fact have the ailment.

Mar 20, 2010

The Flight

Near the end of January Matt asked me what I thought about him trying to catch a space-available flight to the States in order to meet up with some of his friends for a Nascar man weekend. I thought it was a great idea, if I could come too. I would stay in VA, he could go do man stuff and then we'd head back together. We looked at our timeline and all the variables with space-a travel and decided that it was too risky. We scrapped the trip.
However, the idea was already planted in my head and it was too late for me to abandon my hopes of getting back to the U.S. on a space-a flight before the summer rush crushed our chances of getting a flight. So, I picked a week, alerted a few of my friends of the plan, and started dreaming of seeing our VA friends and family.
In short this is how space-a works: A day or two before a flight is scheduled to depart, I get flight information and plan to be at the terminal for a "roll call". I'll spare the details, but basically there is a really fair system worked out to decide what order space available passengers can get on a flight. Once it is determined how many seats are available, the Air Force guys go down the list and put as many people on the flight as possible. The space-a process takes a long time and the experience can be very stressful. Our flights to and from the US were emotional, but not as I had expected.
As we boarded the aircraft bound for Baltimore, I realized it was nearly filled with soldiers and airmen on their way home from a deployment. These men and women had been traveling for over 30 hours and were eager to return to their families, the comforts of home, and safety. Just a short 7.5 hours and they would be on American soil. I was excited for them to get home and to reunite with their family. I was sorry for the amount of time they had spent in airport lounges and cramped airline seats in order to make this journey. I was guilty for taking up space on a plane that could have been used for a soldier to stretch out.
Upon our arrival at BWI soldiers and airmen retrieved their bags and weapons from the baggage claim and loaded everything up on carts to clear customs. The bags were dirty and battered and showed all the signs of a year of being in an unfriendly environment. The weapons cases were heavy, a metaphor for the burden a deployment brings on them and their loved ones. I watched as people embraced each other as they said "goodbye" and went their separate ways and wondered if they developed a bond during this deployment that would last for a lifetime. As all this was unfolding I kept hearing a quiet whistling sound in the background that would go off, then silence, and a whistle again. I found myself a little irritated at what ever it was. It was midnight by now, 6am German time, and everything was getting irritating.
After I gathered all of my belongings and cleared customs, I discovered what that "irritating" sound was. Six USO volunteers were standing just outside of the arrival area cheering for every single soldier that passed by. Over 250 soldiers were on the flight and over the course of 2 hours, each one was welcomed home by volunteers who had nothing more important to do at midnight than give these soldiers the best welcome they could. They clapped, whistled and yelled "welcome home". I cried as I saw the cheering people handing out snack bags and shaking the hands of the soldiers. I was overwhelmed as I thought about these soldiers' sacrifice, the families' that were about to receive their loved ones home, and also the generosity of the Baltimore USO volunteers. The fan fare was small, but the numbers made their effort even more admirable. Every soldier deserves a "thank you" and a grand welcome home. This was the first step on US soil in months, and the USO made sure the soldiers were greeted.
Our return flight was filled with a different emotion entirely. The USO volunteers were still wonderful as they served over 300 people waiting to get on the flight to Ramstein. They gave us drinks, snacks and ice cream and provided us with a place to rest, the kids to play, luggage storage, and free wi-fi and computers. Once we boarded the flight, the mood on the flight to Ramstein was somber. These soldiers were heading downrange to begin their year deployment and their journey was just beginning. I couldn't help but wonder what the soldiers were thinking as they sat on the flight. Some have probably made this flight a number of times by now. Some may not return. A sickening feeling welled up inside of me as I thought how long these soldiers' year would be. When we arrived in Ramstein nobody was greeting these soldiers with celebration. They were simply getting off the plane for a two hour layover before continuing on their way.
The fights were easy for us to get, they were cheap (total cost of the airfare was $130 - for all three of us) and they were a poignant reminder of the number of lives affected by the current deployment cycle. These flights carried soldiers in two distinctly different situations but whose lives are similarly disrupted by war.
Dear God, the lives lost are so many, the lives altered and shaken are even more. Protect the warriors that have obeyed this nation's commander to go into battle, be with the families who are challenged by the difficulties of a deployment, and guide this nation's path for future involvement in this war. Give the soldiers who returned home on my flight a smooth reintegration into their family and give the soldiers who were just beginning their journey peace and protection.


Mar 19, 2010

The Purchases

Each time we move, it only takes one visit to the grocery store or to the PX to discover what items are no longer available for me to purchase. There are always brands or items that I can't find in each place we live. Entennmanns glazed donuts, limeaid, fresh seafood, corn on the cobb..... really standard things are surprising unavailable in some parts of the country. When I moved to Virginia I quickly found that the commissary, Giant, Food Lion, Bloom and Shoppers did not carry Tillimook cheese. However, after living there a few weeks I discovered Safeway did! They also carried really tasty sourdough bread which I had given up hope on long ago when we left Washington. I couldn't get Hostess products in Alabama and Tennessee so people sent me random packages including Orange cupcakes and Berry pies. There have been a few items here and there that I couldn't find, but nothing too drastic.
Now, I'm here in Germany and there are quite a few items I cannot get. To name a few: more than 6 flavors of Yoplait yogurt, baking potatoes, Krusteaz pancake mix, Boar's Head turkey pastrami, Tillimook, more than 2 brands of boys' socks, jeans that cost less than $100, clothes in general, Baja Fresh, Panera, BoneFish, Cold Stone and Chick-fil-A. Naturally, these are the things I purchased in Virginia. All the food items were consumed on location except this:
If you have ever visited my house on a Saturday morning you know that we almost always have pancakes, bacon and eggs on Saturdays...sometimes on Sunday if we skip church.
But we don't just have pancakes, we have Krusteaz buttermilk pancakes. I'm confident my mom always used Krusteaz, so naturally when I went shopping for the first time as a young bride, I went with what mom bought.
For 13 years I have bought the blue Krusteaz box of pancake mix and just figured I always would. However, here in Mannheim they haven't figured out that Krusteaz is hands down the best pancake mix ever and all they carry is AuntJamima and Hungry Jack. So, as I went through a grocery store the day before I left Virginia I knew I had to bring home some pancake mix.
I miss the food and the ease of purchasing things like socks, bras and jeans but I realized that when those items are not readily available or at least not available at a decent price, I save a lot of money!

Mar 17, 2010

New Mini-Series

It is hard to blog anywhere but home. Not because my brain shuts down, rest assured I'm always thinking, but because when I finally slow down enough to blog, I'm so tired I can no longer think about what I thought I wanted to write about. That explains the long absence from my blog. I was in Virginia on vacation.
Now that I am home, I'm returning to my blog and today is the first blog post in a new series called "10 Days in VA". I'll be sharing info and maybe some photos about our adventure to Virginia. Rather than just yammer on about the trip in sequential order, I'll be breaking it down by topic, it is my little trick to keep you engaged.


The People

We left Virginia just over 8 months ago. Not a day goes by without me thinking about our friends there. While I try to remain in the present and not focus too much on what I left behind, I can't help but mourn the loss of the circle of friends I had there. Sure, we are still friends, but are lives are no longer intertwined. Our conversations now include things like "did I tell you I got a job?" or "it is a whole long story, but the short version is....". I used to know everything going on in their lives as it was happening, not in retrospect. It is hard to no longer be a part of their lives and hard to find new friends to try and fill in the emptiness that is left.
So, when the opportunity came up to go back to Virginia for a week or so I knew I had to take it. I had to take it because I wanted to spend time with my friends, the boys needed to see theirs, and I felt like I needed to show them that I'm gone but I'm still invested in the relationships. Good friends can get together after years of being a part and the time that they missed in between will just vanish. This is what the trip was about.
Super Swanies: I think this is the name of Ryan's fantasy football team. Not sure, but it sticks in my head and therefore I call the bundle of them the Super Swanies. They opened their home to the boys and I and totally let us disrupt their lives. We had meals together, the kids played together, S.S. Ryan watched my boys TWICE so that S.S. Rachael and I could go be girly. I cried, I laughed, and I had a great time. Rachael set up play dates for the kids and accompanied me on most of my expeditions to eat at all our favorite restaurants while we were in town. I gained at least 8 pounds. A few days before we left I noticed Eli climbing all over Ryan. I was reminded that Ryan and Rachael are not just our friends, but important people to our kids as well. The boys love the Super Swanies and they missed them too.
The Matti: We got in town just in time to show up at one of the little Matti's 5th birthday party. Almost all the members of our small group were there. It was like a little reunion. Why didn't we get a picture? Later in the week we spent a night with them, a slumber party, but Casey may prefer that we not call it that. We chatted, had coffee and desert (something we used to do every Monday night for 2 years) and the kids played and laughed and made new memories. The first day we were spending time with the Matti, Casey and Samantha both commented how it seemed so natural that we were sitting in their living room and yet still so unbelievable. It was true. We walked in as if we were just stopping by and yet treasured every moment we were there as it was an invaluable jewel.
Church: We all went to church together on Sunday. We sat together in church and then in the coffee shop until we were practically kicked out. But they don't actually kick you out of church, they just suggest that the playground would be a good place for the kids to burn some energy. Though I saw most people in passing, there were hugs all around and it was nice to just be in a place where you are known and considered a part of the family.
Dinner and Playdates: We had meals with the Dentons, AunTina and Zuleika and Gabe (the original) and had meals and play dates with the Gastons and the Phillips.
I love our Phillips-Hernandez story. We met CJ and Laura in flight school - a long time ago - and we have never been stationed at the same place since. However, Laura and I have seen each other here and there over the past 9 years when either of us were passing through where the other was currently stationed. Our visits are usually short and we don't even try to "catch up" but enjoy being together and chatting about whatever. Last Spring our two families got together for a weekend down in Virginia Beach and Busch Gardens. Our kids had so much fun playing together and we had a great time with CJ and Laura. Time and distance vanish when we are together and I always leave thinking to myself "man, I really wish we could get stationed at the same place as them". Their oldest daughter is currently convinced she is marrying Eli, so we may be joined together for all of eternity. Only time will tell. Long distance relationships can be very hard on 6 and 7 year olds.
And finally Mary. Eli met his first best friend on the first day of Kindergarten. I will never forget, I asked him what he did at school and he told me he played with Mary. From that day forward he played with Mary. She was truly his very best friend and remains the only person he ever mentions from his school in Virginia. We set up a play date for Mary and Eli and Gabe and her younger brother Adam. Mary's mom and dad planned the perfect day. The kids made their own pizza and then made their own Sundaes. They danced, they played Wii, they laughed and they played. They never talk, they just play and that was OK with both of them.




Mar 3, 2010

Happy Early Birthday Matt!

Matt's birthday is this Saturday.
How are we celebrating?
Day trip to Belgium or France? Nope.
Skiing in the Alps? Nope.
Flying to Dublin? Nope.
Matt will be working.
He left yesterday for a 20 day field exercise in Graf where he will be flying around some infantry guys who are training for a future deployment.
So, we'll celebrate when he gets back, but until then.....
Happy Birthday Matt!
I love you and I'm so glad you are mine!