Sunday, December 28, 2008

our first real chirstmas

M and I have been married for 5 Christmas seasons now but this was the first time we ever had a "real" Christmas together, in our own home. The first Christmas we were married was spent at his parent's house because we had just finished our first assignment and were waiting for him to leave for Korea the next week. Our second Christmas was spent 6000 miles apart. W was just a few months old and I was living in an apartment and really didn't feel like buying a tree and decorating the house. I did however, make a lot of pie that year... Our 3rd Christmas together was actually spent together, but I was hugely pregnant w/ CB and had just moved across the world to Germany and really didn't feel like doing anything. I did put up a tree, with ornaments and all, but we didn't do anything else. We were so lame that 2 days before Christmas we decided that we should probably get W something, so we bought him a puzzle and some cars and called it good. It was only at 9 that night that I realized we didn't buy wrapping paper to wrap the presents, so W never did get to open anything on Christmas morning.

Then there was last year... which really, we can just not talk about because it was so incredibly embarrassing. Never before have I been such a scrooge. I know I had good reason but seriously, that tree was inexcusable. So this year I decided to make up for it all. Germans do Christmas right and this was my last chance to have a real German Christmas, so we went all out. Well, as out as we could. For the past 4 weekends I have been dragging my poor family through the rain and snow to almost every Christmas market in a 400 km radius from our house. We quickly found out they were all pretty much the same, but we still went, if for nothing else than to say we went.

The day after Thanksgiving I pulled out all of the Christmas decorations and went to town. And 20 minutes later, I was done. Didn't have that many Christmas decorations to put up... I had picked up a few from here and there over the years, but really, my collection was pitiful. That is what online Black Friday sales are for, right? Over the next 2 weeks boxes came and our house started to look like a bad Christmas catalog. Oh well, we were in the spirit and that is all that mattered.

Christmas Day itself was incredibly uneventful. The kids woke up way too early and we put them back to bed, then we finally gave into their demands for food and took them downstairs, had some breakfast and started in on the stockings. CB was like, "What the heck is the big deal?" Probably because half the stuff in her stocking was left over from our trip back to Germany... bad mommy! W was excited as always and couldn't wait to get to the big presents.

After we were done opening all of the presents and taking all of the required pictures, M got to experience his first marathon "quick, put everything together and find batteries to make everything work before the kids revolt" session. And then I spent the rest of the morning discreetly putting tape over any and all speakers on the new toys to make them quieter. Why toy manufactures only put loud, louder and loudest as the volume settings is beyond me, but you can bet there will be some letter writing going on because there is NO reason that a child's toy needs to be that loud!

Christmas dinner was tradtional and might as well have been Thanksgiving dinner: turkey breast, green bean casserole with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce... delish. It actually wasn't bad, considering the entire week before I had the flu and had lost 4 pounds and didn't exactly feel like cooking or eating.

And that was our Christmas. Nothing exciting, but we actually did it this year. I hope it will be the start of many special Christmas days to come, but I'm not holding my breath. It looks like next Christmas will be spent moving, which means we will end up at Denny's for breakfast after opening presents under a 2 foot Charlie Brown tree in our temporary housing because all of our stuff will be in boxes, most likely 2 weeks behind us. It's gonna be great!

Here are some pictures of our house for your enjoyment and my memory books:

Monday, December 22, 2008

their room, revised

After the fiasco of moving the guest bed downstairs for CB to use and our bed up to the third floor to use it as a guest bed to make room for the new bed, I figured I'd share what W and CB's room looks like now...

I LOVE their room. It is my favorite room in the house and I'll admit it, I get a little bit excited when one of them wants me to cuddle with them before bed or curl up and read a book because I love being in there so much. It is cozy and calm and fun and really flipping comfortable. I'm not going to lie though, I am little sad that it isn't a baby room anymore. Soon the changing pad will come off the changing table because we don't use it anyway (I'm just too lazy to unscrew the pad from the back of the drawers) and then all traces of what was their nursery will be gone.

But I am proud of their room. It is no easy task trying to turn a nursery into a big kid's room, while decorating for both a girl and a boy. I think it turned out ok. Not too much pink and not too much blue and it all blends nicely. Props to Pottery Barn Kids for the quilts (even though they discontinued the pink one and I had to scour ebay for 3 weeks before I finally found one that wasn't used) and the duvet covers, Tommy Hilfiger for the awesome surf board and hula girl sheets, and Target for the fun picture frames I bought for $.50 each on clearance this summer (and then spent $10 to ship to Germany... but whatever!)

Before:





After:





Tuesday, December 16, 2008

apple cranberry crisp

I've had some emails asking me to repost the apple cranberry crisp recipe so here it is. Enjoy!!

This stuff is so good! The first time I made it I did it according to the recipe but it turned out just a little tart for so I added a bit of caramel topping. The second time I made it I thought I'd just bake the caramel into it, so I threw some of those little Caramel Bits on top. But, they didn't melt like I thought they would and ended up looking like brown rabbit turds so I don't recommend doing that...

http://www.foodtv.ca/recipes/recipedetails.aspx?dishid=8981
Makes one 8-inch crisp (or 6 individual crisps).
Ingredients:

* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup rolled oats
* 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
* 1 tsp ground cinnamon
* dash salt
* 5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (I use 4)
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans
* 4 x Mutsu or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
* 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (I chop them because a whole cranberry is too much for me)
* 1/3 cup sugar
* zest and juice of 1 small orange

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish or 6 5-ounce ramekins.
2. For topping, combine flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter in a bowl. Work together with fingertips until crumbly. Stir in nuts and set aside.
3. Toss the apples and cranberries with sugar, orange zest and juice. Spoon into prepared baking dish(es). Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit. Bake until bubbly and apples are tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Serve warm, topped with ice cream or cream, if desired.

Monday, December 15, 2008

all for a good night's sleep

A few weeks after I moved back to Germany, I decided we had to get a new mattress. I was waking up all geriatric like every morning-- stiff back, sore neck, aching knees. And that was even with sleeping with an extra pillow or 2 for support. I went to the on post furniture store and picked out the fluffiest, biggest pillow top mattress I found and ordered it. Then I was told they didn't have it in stock, but they would order it and it would be here in 4 weeks. That was a bummer because I was really hoping I could get it before M came home because he is just as geriatric as I am...

In anticipation of our mattress arriving, we converted CB's crib into a bed and moved our full size mattress set from the 3rd floor guest room to the kids' room so CB could sleep on it. The plan was to move our existing queen size bed from our room to the third floor guest room and use it as a guest bed once our new bed got here.

4 weeks came and went, and there was still no sign of our new bed coming. The day after Thanksgiving we went down there and asked what was up. It was then that they chose to inform me that the bed I had ordered was actually on purchase order status, which meant that the company would not ship the mattress until they had an entire crate worth of orders for that mattress from our particular furniture store. Oh, ok. Glad you told me that NOW, idiot.

We were in desperate need of a bed because M's parents were coming in a week and there was no way I was going to convert CB's bed back into the crib and move that mattress back upstairs. I asked the guy to go to the stock room and tell me exactly what queen size beds they had so I could choose one. Of course, they had a plethora of firm mattresses, but only 2 plush ones and one pillow top and one wanna be pillow top. The good pillow top was actually a discontinued mattress and wasn't on the floor, so I never saw it, but they had like 6 of them in the back. Here's a tip for you guys: If you want to sell something, PUT IT WHERE PEOPLE CAN SEE IT! We went and looked at the mattress and it had a great pillow top, it was soft but supportive and really quite comfortable, so we bought it. I thought we had the favor of God because it was actually nicer than the first one I had ordered and since it was a discontinued model, it was $400 cheaper.

Since we had the van now, we thought we were awesome and M could just come back without the kids and I and pick the mattress. That would have been great, except for the fact that the box spring was just 2 inches too long, and I was a stinker and refused to let him tie down the back. If there hadn't of been 2 inches of snow and 6 inches of salt on the ground, I would have let him, but I didn't want all of that grime kicked up into my trunk and on my beautiful new mattress. So he put the mattress back in the warehouse and tagged it with our hold tag before he went to schedule delivery.

They promised us the mattress set would be delivered on Monday, which was great. That gave me time to get the rooms ready before M's parents came. Right on time, the delivery guys came and shoved the mattress up the stairs. I went to look at it as they were leaving and realized that they had brought the wrong one. The mattress they delivered was not the fabulous pillow top we had bought, it was some cheap, firm, regular spring mattress. I ran down the stairs and told them they had to take it back. M got on the phone with the furniture store and asked what was going on. Why had we been given the wrong mattress when he had tagged the mattress we had ordered himself. The tag on the mattress that was delivered to us was the same tag that M had placed on the one we had really bought, so someone stupid had switched them at some point.

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir, I don't know what happened. Send the other mattress back with the delivery guys and we will get the one you ordered to you soon. The soonest delivery slot we have is 4 days from now". Yeah, ok, NO. That is not going to work for me, thanks though. At that point I thought M was being way too nice, so I made him give me the phone-- it is the control freak in me, I can't help it. 4 days from now was not acceptable, especially when we paid $70 for delivery and they were the ones who had messed up. So I told the dude to fix the problem, and to fix it today, or I wanted the delivery charge refunded. After 32 minutes of going back and forth with this guy on the phone, no joke, 32 minutes, he finally came back and said, "The manager won't refund your delivery fee, but we will get the mattress to you tomorrow." to which I responded something similar to, "You had better tell your manager that if that mattress isn't here today, by 6 o'clock, I will be down there tomorrow, at least twice, to tell the manager just how crappy her store is and how simply unacceptable this is and I will raise the biggest fuss any of you have ever seen. I don't think you want me to do that."

Low and behold, 2 hours later there was a knock at the door and there was my mattress. The guys who delivered it were actually the stock room employees, not regular delivery people, who had to make a special trip out. When they got here they gave the requisite "I don't know what happened" speech. Save it. I don't want to hear it. I don't care anymore, just get out of my house, you smell like smoke.

So they left and M went to work on taking our old mattress up to the third floor room. One would think, since we got the mattress set up to the second floor without problem, that it wouldn't be a problem to get the mattress set up to the third floor because the 2 flights of stairs are identical. Apparently, the flights of stairs aren't identical. The first floor stairs have about an inch of extra room somewhere that allows for the ridged box spring to pass through. The second flight of stairs would not allow the box spring to go up. There was NO way it was getting up there. So after all of the irritation and stress of getting the stupid new mattress here in the first place, it looked like we weren't even going to be able to get the old one up to the guest room.

I was thinking we were just going to have to put the old mattress on the floor and our company was going to have to sleep like a broke college kid until we could order a platform bed or something. But my husband, being the ingenious man that he is, decided he could fix the problem with a couple of tools. As long as there were no holes in the wall in the end, I really didn't care what he did, but I didn't want to watch.

I left, went to the grocery store, and when I came back, he was beaming with pride and told me to go upstairs. And this is what I saw:




Not only had he removed a good portion of the stairs, he had also taken off the banisters and then somehow managed to push the box spring up the stairs (or what was left of them) while maneuvering himself over the gapping hole that opened all the way to the first floor of the house. All I could think of was that one wrong step that would have sent him falling a story and a half... Ironically, that morning I had read a post in my friend A's blog about a call she got (she's an EMT) to help a guy who had fallen through his attic and tumbled down a flight of stairs, onto his first floor. Yeah... thank goodness we have gates on the stairs to keep the kids from climbing on them. These stairs scare me to death anyway, but this, well, just took the cake.

I couldn't complain, the old mattress set was on the third floor, our new glorious mattress was on our bed and oh so wonderful. That night we both slept very well, and woke up feeling like people in the mid to late 20s should feel. It was worth every second of irritation and all of that plaster that came off the ceiling and the walls as M was moving the box spring up. I guess I will just have to buy a big tub of putty before we leave... and yes, we do realize that we have to get the mattress down some how when it is time to move. We both agree that is what the professional movers are for.

Monday, December 8, 2008

insane in the membrane (part 2)

On the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving we woke up with all the anticipation we could possibly feel. The night before we had gotten a call saying our van would be there in the morning. SWEET! I was stoked, and then the sales dude gave me the to-do list that we had to complete before we could pick the thing up. Bummer. Seriously, everything we needed to do could have been done the week before but he failed to tell us. And then he acted surprised that I didn't know we had to do these things and hadn't done them already. For real, things that would have been nice to know yesterday...

So after going to post to pick M up and filling out some forms and going to another building, we had to leave post to go get our license plates. As we were driving out the gate, there it was. Our beautiful silver van, just sitting there on a truck, waiting to go on post so we could go pick it up. What a cruel, cruel thing to do to us. It was RIGHT THERE. Right in front of us and we couldn't do a thing about it. I wanted so badly to take a picture of it but I didn't think that the security guards would appreciate me taking a picture with a large zoom lense at the entrance of a military installation. Probably not a good idea. So we drove away, with tears in my eyes, and went to get our plates.

When we got there, their computers were down. Are you kidding me? Their computers were down and they couldn't call to verify our insurance information. It had to be done online. What the heck? All we needed to get our plates, and therefore our van, was for them to verify that we did in fact have insurance on our car. Since their computers were done and they couldn't tell us when they would be fixed, we left. M was smart and left me in the car when he went in to get the plates, and had already started driving away when he told me what had happened because he knew if I had a chance to go in there, someone would be coming out on a stretcher and it wasn't gonna be me.

So we left, drove back to post, resigned to the fact that we were not going to get our van that day but would have to have patience and virtue and all of that other crap and get it the next day. When we got back to post, we turned in our paper work and decided to go home. But not before M called the plate people and they told him that the plates were ready to be picked up now. Dang it! Ok, so we drove the 25 minutes back to pick up the stupid plates, but we still weren't able to pick the van that day because after we picked it up, we had to drive it directly to the customs office which was over 30 minutes away. Seriously, this was not a simple procedure!

In all, Tuesday was extremely anti climatic and we ended up being gone from 9 am to 8 pm for no real reason. My kids are troopers, that is all I can say. So Wednesday we finally got the van. FINALLY. It is amazing. It has everything we have ever needed and stuff we didn't even know we wanted. After it was officially ours, we went and celebrated another Thanksgiving with some friends of ours. And then we crashed on Thursday. I spent the entire day cleaning the house because I had neglected it for the week prior. My ball gown was still on the chair, there were about 9 loads of laundry that had to be done and I don't even want to say how long it had been since I had cleaned the bathroom. It was bad.

We took the rest of the long weekend and relaxed, which was wonderful. We needed it because on Monday, it was back to the same old same old. And now things are just as busy as they were before. We are swamped with school and errands and decorating and having people over. I haven't been this busy since I was in college and I think I'm getting way too old for this. But I will admit that I like this pace, as long as I can have a couple of days here and there to be responsible and catch up on the boring everyday things.

M's parents are here now and we have been fun traveling around our area and seeing things we haven't seen before. Soon we will go on a little road trip, on which I will be schooling the Christmas Markets. They will not know what hit them. This is my one and only chance to have a real German Christmas and by God, I'm gonna do it right. I can rest later... maybe.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

insane in the membrane (part 1)

So, these past 10 days have been fun and ridiculously busy! Even though we are officially members of the "uncool club" now that we drive a minivan (more on that later), we have proven that we aren't total losers with the amount of socializing we have done in the past week.

It all started with an impromptu frat party at my house last Friday night. Just as I was getting ready for bed, there was a knock at my door and there were 2 of M's friends, who he hadn't seen in almost 2 years. I was so happy I was informed they were coming over... If I had known, I would have at least put on some mascara and not had a tooth brush hanging out of my mouth when I answered the door. They were all supposed to go out together but the first big snow of the year made them think otherwise. Instead, my house became the party house, which I didn't mind, at least every one was safe, but by 4 in the morning, I was ready to go to bed and ready for them to fall asleep already! We had a huge day that next day. It was the day of our big ball and I needed my beauty rest.

After those 3 glorious hours of sleep, we woke up to the kids pulling the blackout shade up and down and admiring the snow. After a hearty breakfast and a lazy morning, the afternoon came too quickly and before I knew it, it was time to get ready for the ball. No big deal, right? Yeah. Except it was a bad hair day.

At first, the hair turned out fantastic. I got it teased so high it was talking to Jesus and I felt like a proud beauty queen. Then I climbed in the car and it fell down. No problem, I had bobby pins, a teasing comb and hair spray, I could handle anything. So I did my hair as we were driving through a whiteout snowstorm to get to this ball. I didn't even get to see what it looked like until about 30 minutes after we had arrived. It must have looked ok because I didn't catch anyone talking trash about it.

In reality, we probably should have stayed home because of the snow but there was NO way I was going to do that after we had already bought the tickets, the dress and shoes and gotten a babysitter. Besides, the dress had to be taken up which made it unable to be returned. And I didn't bust my butt at the gym for a month to look as good as I did in that darn dress. We were going to go and we were going to have fun, darn it!

It didn't start out very fun though. When we finally got to the hotel, we ended up parking in the wrong parking garage. Have you ever walked 2 blocks in 4 inch stilettos when it is 30 degrees and snowing outside? Yeah, it sucks as much as it sounds like it does and I'll admit it, I was angry. But let me tell you, after a glass of wine, the frozen toes were a distant memory. And I had a good time. Probably too good of a time, but really, that was the most fun I have had probably since my wedding. We (I) drank, laughed, danced... M just sat and laughed at me and all of the other buzzed (drunken) fools because he so graciously offered to be the DD that night. Good times, good times. We made it home safely, and by 11:30 too. I would have loved to have stayed and danced some more, but I figured I had already made enough of a fool out of myself doing the Electric Slide, sorry, TRYING to do the Electric Slide for the first time ever, while slightly intoxicated and wearing 4 inch stilettos... That could not have been pretty. But what I really want to know is WHY people were doing the electric slide in the first place...
Pictures from the ball:
Before the hair fell--

At dinner--


That next day, after I ate another hearty breakfast, we decided to go run some errands and get the kids snow boots. That day was going to be CB's first official introduction to the snow and we wanted her to be prepared. One thing that isn't very well known about CB is that she has some issues with textures, sand being the main offender. She HATES sand. Hates it. Will not touch it, will not have anything to do with it. If something even slightly grainy gets on her hands, she will move heaven and earth to get it off. When I take her to the beach, I know I can put her in the middle of a blanket and leave her there because there is NO way she is going to walk in the sand, even with shoes on. (Of course, I don't actually leave her people, give me a break)

Because of CB's sand issue, I figured she would have issues with the snow. Not only is it grainy, but it is also cold and she doesn't like the cold either. We waited till she had woken up from her nap and was in a good mood to bundle her up and take her out in her new pink boots. And just as expected, she hated it. Actually, she despised it. She was a trooper though and stayed out for about 20 minutes. But when she came in I could tell she was irritated and did not have a good time. She made that pretty obvious when she grabbed the dish towel off of the stove, plopped down on the kitchen floor and started wiping her shoes off while saying, "DIRTY!! DIRTY!!" I laughed so hard. She is a smart little one, and extremely determined.


While CB was cleaning her shoes, I was in the kitchen making a big pot of Split Pea with Bacon and Rosemary soup for M and his buddies. On Friday afternoon at 4:45, M had gotten a call from the passport office telling him that if he wanted to get an expidited passport, he needed to be in Frankfurt at 7:30 AM on Monday morning. Yeah. Things that would have been nice to know at least 4 hours before the close of business on a Friday. This posed some serious problems: 1. Snow Storm. 2. We only had one car. 3. It was too late to rent a car. 4. The only train he could take to make it there by 7:30 left at 4am and there was really no way I was going to drive him to the train station at 4am.

Thankfully, his buddies who had invaded my house 2 nights before were gracious enough to come out to our house to pick him up and let him crash at their place, which was conveniently located about 20 minutes closer to the train station. So they came over and hung out while I force fed them split pea soup and ice cream. I don't think they complained too much.

M made it to Frankfurt in time, got all of his paperwork done and submitted and kind of made it home ok. There was a slight mix up with the train, but it ended up working out better than our original plan. Right after M got home we left to go have an early Thanksgiving at our friends' house and got back late that night. W has a total crush on our friend J. He loves her so much and talks about her all the time. He remembers EVERYTHING from when she is at our house and we are at theirs. Just today, a week later, he was telling me all about how he was watching a movie on their computer and exactly what scene was playing when J got a phone call on her computer and answered it. Lovestruck, much?

I was so excited when Tuesday came, because that was the day we were going to get our van. But of course, in true, possibly karmatic fashion, things did not work out as they were supposed to...

(Part 2 coming soon)

Friday, November 21, 2008

be on the lookout

If you could be so kind as to keep an eye out for my dear sweet CB, I'd really appreciate it. You see, she seems to have been replaced (or eaten) by a alien spider monkey from some horrid planet somewhere far away. I don't know when it happened, it just kind of infiltrated our house over the course of a couple of weeks.

Seriously, this girl is nuts. I wouldn't say it is the terrible twos, because I have seen what the terrible twos really are and I give a chuckle when I think about me 17 months ago and when I hear moms talking about their 21 month olds having the terrible twos already. Really, they have NO idea just what fun they are in for at the tail end of the twos if they think the pre-twos are bad. To me, the terrible twos are a fit throwing, food throwing, crayon throwing, never ending torturous migraine. CB isn't that bad, yet. Instead, she is a quiet, instigating stinker. There is no nicer term for it.

She knows exactly what she is doing and how to get away with it, or so she thought. Now we are on to her. At first when we would hear her scream we would automatically go for W and tell him to knock it off. Of course, our dear sweet baby would do nothing to deserve the wrath of her brother. Then one day I caught her. The little stinker was totally bothering him until he reacted and hit her. Then she screamed to get him into trouble. We are on to her and we are cracking down. No more "poor sweet baby". Uh uh. Then again, maybe this is her payback for all the times W tortured her when she was little. I knew that she would get him back one day... I even wrote about it.

Tonight she threw a stuffed dog at her daddy and daddy told her no throwing the doggy. An hour later she threw it at him again and when he asked her what he had said about doing that, she said, "No throwing, daddy!". She knows, people, she knows. Myabe it si a self fulfilling prophecy. From the second I got pregnant with her I knew she was going to be our "trouble maker". And I do mean that in the nicest way. I don't think we have bad kids at all. I just had a feeling she would be the one who would be the smart, silent one with a plan up her sleeve at all times and so far, that has proved the be true.

I'm sure she is a normal 21 month old but sometimes I do wonder... The truth is, I don't remember W at this age at all because I was so sleep deprived and well, had pretty much checked out because it was so exhausting to deal with my screaming alien spider monkey and her evil digestive issues. I wish I could remember him at this age because it is such a fun age (no really, it is) and because I would really like some basis of comparison for her behavior. Now that I am writing this and have gone back to look at some posts I made about W at this age, particularly this one, I can see that she is normal, thank goodness. Either that or I just have 2 weird kids. And that would not be beyond us, for sure. This too shall pass, quickly I know, and in the meantime, I'm just going to have to sit back and savor it. I want to remember it this time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

sorry bout the mess

Yes, I am under construction. My simple template switch has turned into a coding nightmare and is taking longer than I thought it would. If you have google reader or another blog reader, you will probably see multiple posts from me that end up not existing after all. I am trying to format something but my coding is just a little bit off and I have to find out where. In order to fix the problem I have to post and then delete and yada yada yada. I could make a test blog but, no. That would be too hard. Anyway, if I can't figure it out in the next day I will stop messing with it, I promise.

Also, if something looks "off" to you on your browser, please let me know so I can fix it. Gracias!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

cutest things ever

It is no secret that it is cold here. Fall lasted all of 3 weeks and then winter hit with a vengence. While it hasn't exactly snowed, except for a few 20 minute stints of freezing rain, it is still cold. Really cold. Like 27 degrees cold. The kids aren't so much fans of the cold, nor are they fans of clothes so this poses a unique problem.

CB pretty much despises socks and tights and don't even get her started on footed pajamas. W isn't as bad, but still doesn't realize that you have to actually wear clothing to keep warm. Layering is simply out of the question for both of them and that makes my life just a little bit difficult. In theory, I could get away with running them from the house to the car and then the car to school or the store, but really, I'm not that in shape and I'm lazy and there are always people watching (and judging), so that won't work.

I needed a solution, and fast, so I enlisted the help of my cousin, who can do some crazy and amazing things with a set of knitting needles and some yarn. She is downright impressive and if I could do anything half as well as she knits, I would be a happy woman. I'm pretty sure she could knit the most beautiful sweater you have ever seen with 2 stubby pencils and some dryer lint.

Every year our family has a Christmas Eve gift exchange and for the past 2 (?) years, her knucks have been the most sought after and fought over gift on the woman's side. So I wondered, could she maybe knit a couple of sets of itty bitty knucks? Would it even be possible? And while she was at it, could she knit a couple of sets of itty bitty legwarmers? Of course it would be possible! Duuuuuuuuh! And 2 days ago a very light box appeared in my mailbox and inside was the answer to my "dressing my kids warmly and stylishly for the winter" problem: 2 pairs of knucks and 4 pairs of legwarmers.






(sorry about the bad photography. It was near bedtime and, well, this is the best it was gonna get)

Aren't these amazing?! I am so excited! Both kids have been agreeable to wear BabyLegs but they just aren't warm enough so the thicker knit legwarmers will be perfect for the rest of the incredibly long winter. And the knucks are going to be incredibly useful because mittens aren't really user friendly once they are on and gloves aren't very user friendly to put on. And as an added bonus they will work perfectly as glove liners for those days that we actually spend time outside.

So thank you to my cousin for making these for my kids. We are so thankful to be able to benefit from your skills. Excuse me, your mad skillz. You are amazing!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

sup?

What's up? What's going on? What's happening? What have you been up to? These are all questions I have been horrible at answering the past 2 weeks so I will answer them all at once. Trust me though, you will be sorry you asked...

The first few days after M came home were spent trying to figure out how to live together as a family. I'll be honest, it wasn't really fun. Trying to relearn how to be a mother AND a wife and an individual is hard and confusing and can really be a big fat pain. I don't like to share. Sharing is very hard for me and to have someone else want to use the computer when I want to or eat the last of the ice cream... well, let's just say I became a better person last week because I learned how to share again. Then there were the little things like remembering the hard way that you shouldn't flush the toilet or run any water while the other is showering. And then there were the bigger things like realizing that I am much more of a creature of habit and routine than I have ever cared to admit. That was a hard one as the truth can really hurt.

Then Halloween came. As dictated by my lame traditions, we didn't do anything. And what is worse is I didn't realize that trick or treating was a big deal here in Germany. I should have known to go buy some candy after some neighborhood kids and I played a rousing game of doorbell ditch early that afternoon. Actually, they played doorbell ditch while I cussed at them, hoping they didn't understand what I was saying. The goblins and princesses came for real at around 5 and didn't stop until 10. We didn't answer the door and W was really irritated by that. Finally I told him that the kids outside wanted candy but I didn't have any to give them. W kindly offered to give them his squash. What a guy. That is one way to get out of eating it. I have to say that I am shocked we didn't get egged or worse that night. These kids were hard core! They had fireworks and everything and actually managed to scare me.

The week after Halloween was horribly busy. We ran back and forth to post half a billion times trying to get M's car up and running. That turned out to be a 4 day process but thankfully was not nearly as expensive as it could have been. Then we had reintegration classes and more errands to run. Boring boring boring. Blah blah blah. I started training sessions at the gym because I came to the conclusion that I could not stay on the elliptical forever. After not going to the gym for 4 years, I was a little embarrassed to actually go into the meathead area and try to lift weights without having proper instruction first. The first day went great, I felt good and did more with those 5 pound weights than I thought I could (not kidding about the 5 pounders). I was totally pumped for the next session, until I got dizzy and nauseous while working my core and the room started to get dark. I prayed like heck that I could make it to the bathroom before passing out so they wouldn't see me and call an ambulance. That would have been seriously embarrassing. Thankfully I didn't pass out but decided to call it a day and I am so looking forward to the butt kicking I am going to get tomorrow morning.

This past weekend ended up being a 5 day weekend for us and we have been very productive. We have had friends over for dinner 2 nights, went to IKEA and got a dining room table and some chairs, potty trained W and bought a minivan. Our new baby should be here in 2 weeks (which really means at least 3) and is a lovely 09 Town and Country with stow and go seating and a whole host of other things that no one really needs but hey, why not have. I mean, really, I can open my own trunk. Been doing it for the 10 years I've been driving, I'm pretty sure I'm ok not having the tailgate open with the touch of a button. But I'm sure once I have that fun feature, I won't be able to live without it, right? So yes, we have officially joined the minivan world. Call us lame or whatever, but it is a necessary evil. At least we are doing our part to stimulate the economy. Justification... it is all about the justification.

So that is what's up with us. Just a whole lotta blah. I feel like we are moving past the initial "holy crud we can actually be a family again" phase and into the "holy crud we are actually a family again" phase and I like it. Not just because there is someone else to change diapers and take out the trash, but because when I see the kids reading with their dad or actually have to think about which parent they are going to ask for help, it makes me smile. Life is good.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

14 months and 30 days later

HE IS HOME!!! Let's all do a collective happy dance. This Deployment is O.V.E.R. We made it through! Maybe not as gracefully as we could have, but we made it. 14 months and 30 days is a long time. A very very long time. Almost 65 weeks. 457 days. 10,968 hours. 658,080 (give or take a few) minutes. Around 39,484,800 seconds. That is a LONG time.

14 months and 30 days of mass cooked meals for M, sleeping on cots and bad mattresses, living in extreme heat and nasty cold, dust and rain, sand and mud, seemingly endless missions, successes, losses, learning, meeting amazingly generous and grateful people and partaking of some really awesome Iraqi food.

2 of W's birthdays, 2 of my birthdays, CB's first Christmas and birthday, our 4th anniversary, the first time CB rolled over, crawled and walked all happened while he was away. 2 hospital stays for CB and 1 for W, countless sleepless nights and frustrated tears, dirty diapers, doctor's appointments and timeouts were all missed, some of which I think he is a tiny bit thankful for.

14 months and 30 days of being an incomplete family. 14 months and 30 days that we could have been making memories together. 14 months and 30 days that I had to tell my kids that their daddy was gone so he could help other people. 14 months and 30 days that we did the best we possibly could for our family with what we had, which wasn't much. We did it. He did it. And we will do it again when the time comes. Hopefully not for 14 months and 30 days, but enough time for him to go and do the job that he needs to do to ensure the safety and freedoms that you have.

When you go and vote next week, don't you dare go in there thinking "I know this dude who was over there for 15 months..." We are not a cause and refuse to be one. Yes, it suuuuuuuuuuuuucks and it is far from ideal for a family to go through the stress and danger of a deployment but there is still so much work to be done and pulling them out would make everything they have done pointless. It would be like you working your butt off building a house, only to stop working and move into it before you put a roof and walls up. The foundation is laid, the studs are in, the plumbing is done and the electrical is installed, it just needs the final touches. Let them finish doing their job and then bring them home. As much as you may disagree, we believe that he, and everyone else, were and are there for a reason, which is why we don't want to be a cause. It may not be a reason you agree with but please do not disgrace their job and the work they have done and are doing by voting for someone just so the troops come home ASAP. Vote for someone who has a plan for seeing this through by making responsible and effective choices. Ok, end of the seriousness. Onto the pictures!

Where is he??

There he is!
Picture taken by W

Monday, October 27, 2008

ah man

I've been tagged, twice. So I guess I should stop stalling and do this already. But you two taggers should know that I don't do this for just anyone... or anyone at all really. You two are special! And being as narcissistic as I am, I am not going to tag anyone else. Ok, the reason I'm not tagging anyone else is because 98% of the blogs I read have already been tagged and the other 2% won't want in on this kind of action. I know, I know, I'm breaking the rules and now I'll probably have 7 years of bad luck and die a slow horrible death from bird flu induced intestinal and rectal bleeding, or whatever happens to you when you break a chain letter or email forward, but I'm willing to take the risk for your reading pleasure.

So here goes.
1. I have only successfully parallel parked a car 1 time, and that was by pure dumb luck. Unless I buy one of those cars that parks itself, I don't think I'll ever be able to do it again. And don't try telling me how to do it. It won't help, believe me.

2. I didn't read 85% of the assigned books I was supposed to read during college and I still got "A"s. There are about $3200 worth of unbroken bindings sitting in boxes in my attic... because everyone needs to save college text books about advances in computer technology from 8 years ago. Oh yeah, that book is totally relevant and useful in today's technology and is not a waste of space at all.

3. Today was trash day and I am very proud to say that for the past 2 weeks, we only had 4 total bags of trash. 2 bags were diapers, 1 bag was from the big party and the other was just general trash and food scraps. Everything else was recycled and I am willing to bet that if I had a compost pile (which is totally pointless for me to have considering I don't have any kind of garden) I would have had less than half a bag of actual, non diaper/ non party, garbage for the 2 weeks. And yes, I realize that throwing out diapers does nothing to reduce the carbon footprint, but at this point, there is no reason for me to invest in cloth diapers because the kids are so close to being out of diapers now. At least I flush the flushable stuff before I trash the diapers so that toxic waste isn't going into the landfills.

4. Speaking of poop, I think bloggers have ruined this election for everyone and I hate them for all of the drama and misinformation they have put out there. What a bunch of idiots, all hoping for their 15 seconds. Go back to what you do best (not much) and leave the politics for those who actually research, think things through, and know what they are talking about. Thanks.

5. I've never seen any of the Back to the Future movies, Harry Potter movies, Lord of the Rings movies, Narnia movies, Star Trek movies (or shows), Indiana Jones movies, Matrix movies, Jurassic Park movies or Pirates of the Caribbean movies, nor do I have any inclining of a bit of desire to see them. My friend J might disassociate herself from me for that, but it is true.

6. I won't eat any fruit that has brown or soft spots on it, especially bananas. I prefer them to be slightly green.

7. My kids are exactly 17 months apart, to the day of the month (10) and hour (6:55 and 7:55 pm) and both were born on the same day of the week (Saturday). We are extremely predictable people and, go figure, both of my kids crave routine.

Friday, October 24, 2008

ummmmm

Today I picked W and CB up from school and gave them their healthy, homemade, high fructose corn syrup and preservative free lunches to eat in the car on the way home. (Speaking of HFCS, have you seen this crap?! http://www.sweetsurprise.com/ Puh lease. I'm all for the farmers, everyone knows that, but these people are no different than the tobacco execs who claimed tobacco wasn't addictive...) Anyway, W immediately told me that he didn't want what I had so lovingly made for him and instead he wanted "nuggets and fries, and a toy, and fries and a toy and nuggets and apple juice". Since he really hasn't been eating and has been, well, almost depressed the past few days, I gave in, tossed the health food and headed to the drive through. Of course, the line was 18 cars long and I didn't want to drag the kids into the "food house", as W calls it, so we waited.

While we were waiting he started fussing and threw everything back at me that I had handed to him. Out of desperation I handed him a piece of paper and a pen and he got quiet and a few minutes later he said, "Here mommy, here is your hat". And then I got pegged in the head by something hard and pointy. What he had thrown at me was a pretty darn good attempt at a folded paper hat. Like, origami style. If he had made 2 more folds, it would have been perfect. He even folded the sides down to make a triangle and folded the edge up to make the brim.

What the heck?! Where did he learn this crap? I kept asking him who taught him how to do it and he wouldn't tell me. But he did insist on having the hat back, so he could make it into a ball... to throw at his sister. Sigh. We need a mini van, STAT. But seriously, if you have taught my son how to make a paper hat, please let me know. I don't know if he learned it at school or not but I don't think he did. They aren't exactly the paper hat type of people. They are much more into glue and glitter and pom poms. So I don't know. I'm at a loss, but I'm really interested to see what hits me in the head next. Let's just hope it too is made out of paper and isn't a pet rock or something.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

california knows how to party?

Screw that! Germany knows how to party! Or at least this California girl knows how to party in Germany.

The Event:

The Guests: All of my neighbors and friends who I hadn't seen in 11 months, and some I had never met before.

The Menu:
The Devilish stuff:
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup solid pack pumpkin (canned pumpkin)
1 cup (or an entire bag) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. combine flour, oats, soda, cinnamon, and salt. Cream butter, gradually add sugars. Beat until likght and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well. Mix in flour, alternating with pumpkin. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake about 17 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack.


Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes (square bars)
**my notes: These were GOOD. Like, almost too good and they better be good for the amount of cottage cheese they will put on your butt. I can certainly see why these got such awesome reviews. But, I could have done with about half the powdered sugar and a little more spice flavor. Next time I think I'll try that.**

Apple- Toffee Tartlets (round things on the green plate)
**my notes: I didn't use toffee. I could only find Heath bars and I didn't want to spend 20 minutes scrapping the chocolate off the bars, so I ditched the toffee and added a little more brown sugar. I made a double batch and used 2 Granny Smith apples and 2 Honey Crisp apples for a little variety. I made these the night before and refrigerated them. Before the party began my friend K pour caramel sauce over the apples and they were scrumptious! These will be made again for sure. **

Cheese Plate
- cheddar cubes
- pepper jack cubes
- fresh mozarella
- Babybel assortment
- Table Water crackers
- 7 Grain Kashi crackers


Apple Zucchini Crostini (the pieces of bread w/ the green and white stuff ontop-- on the green and white plate)
**my notes: These were good and I've never been big on goat cheese. I should have baked the bread a little longer so it wasn't as chewy, but overall I really liked these and the apple zucchini mixture tasted really good the next day.**

The lowfat stuff:

No Bake Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
**my notes: This was just... meh. It would have tasted a lot better had I remembered to add the pumpkin pie spice. Sorry people who tried it. For me, it had too much orange flavor and not enough pumpkin flavor... but that could have something to do with the fact that I accidentially forgot about the orange juice/ gelitan for about 15 minutes...**

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
**my notes: At first glance at the recipe, you are going to say, "Why on earth is this in the 'lowfat' section??" Um, because I could only make one full fledged Paula Deen recipe in good conscious. I don't want to be responsible for my guests corinaries. So I modified this one. Instead of using the oil, I used applesauce and I replaced half the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey. I also used probably a cup more zucchini than it called for but I'm not sure because I didn't measure it all. I just used 2 medium sized zucchinis. This came out good, but was a bit too orangy for me.**

Drinks:
Hot Chocolate Bar
(Hot Chocolate recipe modified from a few different sites)
- 1 gallon of milk
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- a little vanilla
- 3/4 cup hot water

Combine cocoa, sugar, salt, vanilla and water in a sauce pan and heat on the stove, stirring constantly, until the stuff looks like chocolate syrup. Then cook it a little longer, maybe a minute or 2 until it bubbles, but don't boil it. Turn your crock pot on high and pour the syrup into your crock pot and then pour the milk in. Stir to combine the milk with the syrup and let it sit until it gets hot (about 90 minutes in my crock pot).

Cut up Heath bars and Milky Way bars, crush peppermints or candy canes and place in bowls. Put out some mini marshmallows and whipped cream and let your guests go wild.
**my notes: I didn't want the chocolate to be too strong or sweet so it wouldn't be too overpowering once people added the fixings to it**

Hot Apple Cider
-2 gallons of good apple juice or apple cider
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- the zest of 1 orange
- 6 whole cloves

Pour apple juice/ cider into a stock pot. Add cinnamon sticks, orange zest and cloves. If you are lazy like me, you should put the orange zest and cloves into some cheese cloth or put it into a tea ball and tie it to the handle so you don't have to strain the cider once it is hot. Let the cider simmer until hot then remove the cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange zest. Serve with caramel sauce and whipped cream, if you want.
**my notes: I think it would have been a little better if I had added some brown sugar to it, maybe 4 or 5 tbsp. Also, be sure to remove the cinnamon sticks! OOPS! Forgot to do that and it was way too strong by the end of the night.**

Ghoul's Punch
**my notes: the frozen hands were a little too much for me, so I went just froze cranberry juice in icecube trays instead. When the juice cubes melt, it makes a really pretty autumn inspired colored drink. This was a favorite for sure and would work well for any time of year**

Food that didn't make it to the table:

Garlic Salami and Pepper Salami for the cheese plate -- Totally forgot to put it out!

Pumpkin Spiced Ginger Snap Truffles
-- I found these in Better Homes and Gardens October issue and thought they sounded good and they were easy enough to make. However, I decided to taste the chocolate to make sure it was ok. I'm not really a chocolate person in the first place... I tasted a little of the chocolate, like 1/4 teaspoon, and it triggered the worst migraine I have ever had. But I had to get them rolled before the chocolate set and was useless so I powered through until I had to stop because I was almost doubled over. Most people would love to have a gooey chocolate mess in their hands but honestly, I would rather mix meatloaf with my hands than deal with chocolate. I'm weird that way. To me, this stuff was so strong that even the smell of the leftover chocolate in the bowl was enough to make me sick all over and I had to tie a cloth over face when I did the dishes. So the truffles went in the fridge and stayed there until last night, when I finally worked up the courage to throw them out. And I'm not going to lie when I say I just tossed them, container and all, into the outside trash. I didn't want to risk the smell triggering another headache. I'm getting a headache just reliving it!

If anyone wants the recipe, even after my glowing review, let me know and I will post it. I'm sure they are great, if you like chocolate and strong chocolate at that.

The sign of a good party:The food was pretty much gone. Despite the farmers deciding to fertilize the acreage behind our house no less than 2 hours before the party started, the house spelled darn good, but was a huge mess. Crumbs and toys were everywhere; I was finding extra socks and sippy cups for the next 3 days. It was perfect and could not have been better. A clean house at the end of a party would be a bad sign! Messy means people had fun and that is exactly what I want.

I am so glad that everyone was able to come and those who couldn't make it were missed. We had a good time and I hope that we are all able to get together again soon.

PS. If your kid is missing a pair of socks, a sippy cup, a burp cloth or a book, they are here. And if you are missing a black scarf, it's on my coat rack!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

welcome to reality

W has decided he hates shopping. Flat out will not go, not even if he is bribed. It doesn't matter if I feed him 14 seconds before we walk in the door, the kid will NOT be happy. I could throw him food and toys the entire time we are in there, let him walk instead of being in the cart or stroller and pick the food out with me or tell him I'll let him push the buttons when we pay, which he looooves to do and sadly does so much that he has my pin number memorized, but nothing works. I don't have a choice, I have to take him so I end up with a screaming monster as I tear through the aisles, trying to get everything as fast as I possibly can to minimize the time he has to spend in the torture chamber.

Typically I go early, when there aren't many people around. When there are people around I normally get the sympathetic looks from moms who are dealing with fits like I am or older people who have been there before and remember what it's like. But then there are always the people who look at me like I have just brought a rabid monkey in the store. Which, honestly, he can come close to being but whatever.

Then there are the moms who as soon as they see you struggling with your child who hates every thing, decide that they are the best mother ever and are going to prove it to you and everyone around them while totally judging you and praying that their kid doesn't turn out like your brat. So they put on this super sappy voice and talk to their kids in calm, even tones, telling them "no" so sweetly you want to go hurl in the banana display. Even though 5 minutes earlier you saw this mom yelling at her kid because he wouldn't do something she wanted him to do. Bite me, biotch. For real. Bite me.

You aren't perfect. Don't act like it. Even if your kid were perfect (now), there are probably a thousand things that you do that you could, and should, be judged for. But do I judge you? No. Why? Because A) I don't have the kind of energy to care that much about you to judge you B) We are all in the same boat right now and really, unless you are beating your kids or putting them directly in harm's way I have no reason to judge because I am not above you in any way and C) I know that when your child turns 3 and subsequently loses the ability to express any emotion besides "kinda happy" and "completely out of his freaking mind", you will be in my shoes and you will be kicking yourself for thinking you were better than me.

Sometimes karma doesn't take so long to come around though. Last time this happened to me, the woman was behind me for most of our shopping trip, telling her son he was being such a good boy, unlike that boy in front of them (my W). Over and over I heard this and kept biting my tongue. Then we got to the check out line and had to wait awhile. The other mom came and waited to check out behind us and the revolt began. Her kid wanted something on the shelf and the mom said no, which triggered a fit so much worse than W's that I had to laugh. Even W stopped and was like, DANG! That kid is nuts! This kid would not stop and the mom was trying everything and suddenly that cocky, super sappy, calm tone she had 3 minutes earlier was long gone. Then the bomb dropped, literally. The kid launched his sippy cup of milk and it exploded on impact, showering milk all over her $300 boots and the person next to her. That is what you get for thinking you are so awesome and above everything. Ha! It sucks when reality slaps you in the face, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

holy domestication!

I have never been a good housewife. In fact, I despise the term/label with everything in me. I despise any other synonym for the term. I've always tried to avoid being labeled as anything, but I can't avoid it anymore. I am, at least for the next 6 months, a housewife. Ugh, gag me with a spoon. Instead of loathing it, I'm trying to embrace it and man, am I jumping into the deep end. Since I don't have anything else to do, I figure 0I will focus all of my attention into being a good housewife; a cleaning, cooking, baking, craft making fiend. And dang it, I am going to be good at this (until I get bored of it in a month and move onto something else, right?)

Not one to do anything half@$$ed, I decided that I needed an apron, so I was going to make one. And make one I did. It was the first thing I had sewn in years, besides things that only have 4 corners like cherry pit hot packs and blankets. I was just going to make a simple one that only needed to be cut and hemmed, but then I found this tutorial and decided that was the one to make. Of course I had to modify it a little bit because I can't do anything by the book. So I took off the top ruffle, made it a bit narrower and shorter and then figured what the heck, why not make it reversible too? And here's what the end result was:

(thank you to W for his fantastic photography skills in the picture above.)



Not bad, if I do say so myself.

After that I was on a high, so the next night I decided to make cookies. But why make one batch when you can make two, right? Things were going great, until I realized I was tired and wanted to be done. I should have frozen the dough but instead had a debate about whether I should make one large cookie or several small cookies to be done faster, or if it even made a difference what size cookies I made because it all was the same amount of dough in the end anyway.

The little cookie idea won and I managed to fit 20 cookies on the sheet, threw them in the oven and when I checked on them 17 minutes later, they had mutated into one large cookie. Dang. Should have saved all that time and made one big one in the first place! So I went back to making the normal size cookies and finally got to the end of the dough, only to find that there was enough dough left for 4 more cookies. Why does that always happen? Doesn't matter if I use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon or a regular spoon, there is always just a little too much dough. You can't waste the dough so I had to cook it and I didn't want to end up with another super size cookie so I had to stay up longer so I could bake the stupid things. I've made a bajillion cookies in my time and every time I forget how much I don't like making cookies. It is just too stressful.

But I'm going to move past it and learn from my mistakes. I will make the perfect batch of cookies one day and I will do it with a smile on my face. Head first people. I'm diving into this domestication thing head first. I will conquer this. Cookies and dishes aint got nothin on me. Good Lord, I need a hobby.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

wanna know...

what 45 sets of sheets look like, washed and folded? No? Too bad. Here you go:



It only took 11 loads in my crappy washer but it was totally worth it. I even used extra fabric softener. I think they deserve nice smelling sheets, don't you? And PS. I can fold a fitted sheet like it is nobody's business.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

blah blah blah

I'm being harassed by my sister to post something, anything, so here goes. I know I haven't logged into my Myspace or Facebook for like a month or set up the iChat or even called anyone and that my turn around time for emails is averaging about 4 days right now and I'm sorry! I really, really am! I'm trying to be a better person but it is just not working!

I have good intentions though. Doesn't that count for something? There are a bunch of projects that I really want to do and finish, but it's not happening right now.I really have been working on a blog post and even a total overhaul of the look of the thing (about time, right?) for the past week but every time I get a chance to sit down, I realize that I don't have any kind of creative energy left in me and I shut the computer down and go to bed. Same thing goes for emails and phone calls. I just don't have it in me right now. Blah blah blah, excuses excuses, I know.

For what it is worth, I have been doing really good at keeping on top of the chores and I even got all of our new pictures hung. That is no small task considering the fact that the walls practically crumble the second a hammer gets near them. The kids are happy, for the most part, and well fed. The laundry is completely done, except for the 42 sets of sheets I volunteered to wash for all of the single soldiers in M's battery but that doesn't count as MY laundry, so it doesn't count against me. The floor has been vacuumed and swept 4 times in the past 6 days and the toys are totally organized. On that front, we are rockin. It's just all of the fun stuff that is falling behind. Stupid responsibility!

I'll be honest, we are in a huge time of transition but when are we not, right? I had forgotten just how hard it was to switch from Civilian life back to Military life and how hard it was to move from one country to another. Give me another month. Don't give up on us yet. One more month, maybe 6 weeks, and I will be a much better friend and sister and daughter and granddaughter and wife and mother and doula and hostess, etc... I promise.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

google is a hypochondriac

I want to thank everyone for all of the birthday wishes and thoughts sent to me over the past few days and I want to apologize for being such a slacker and not responding to them! How rude can a person be? Seriously? Someone should teach me some etiquette and manners.

The truth is that I am so incredibly tired these days that I'm actually falling asleep when the kids go down for the night. I have to force myself to wake up to clean the dinner dishes and then I crash again about an hour later. If we have to go out during the day I'm pretty much toast by the time we get home. It's not like my life is that labor intensive either, but this is a far cry from the insomnia that I normally have.

Along with being tired I've been having some wicked joint and muscle pain and have been having weakness in my fingers, all of which make it hard to type. I have been feeling a little better in the past few days but not 100% by any means. Normally I would freak out about all of this but I've decided that I'm feeling this way because of the change in weather (the high tomorrow will be 49) and the fact that I have been running my body and mind into the ground for the past few months without any kind of break.

However, a couple of days ago the irrational side of me came out for a few minutes and I googled my symptoms, just to be sure that no website that included the phrases "black mold" or "go to the ER IMMEDIATELY" or "imminent death is possible" came up. I didn't search too hard but there didn't seem to be anything alarming on the search results page so I x-ed of of the window and fell asleep.

Then today I logged on again and went to check my google mail and the blogs I read and under my "suggested reading" list, brought to you by google, were 3 blogs. It took me awhile to figure out why these blogs in particular would be suggested to me as they were all about living with MS and Fibromyalgia. Apparently, based on the 3 symptoms that I typed in the search bar 2 days ago, google thinks I have one of these diseases. Isn't google smart? Not so much smart as it is a big fat drama queen?

THIS is why America is so jacked up these days. We have everyone else telling us what we should be worried about and we are constantly being told that the issues we have should be so much bigger than they really are, causing us to unnecessarily freak the heck out, all while making a profit? I'll be the first to admit I can be a little... um... dramatic, but come on! I can't even imagine what it is like to live with one of these diseases, and I'm not taking either one lightly because I personally know people who deal with them on a daily basis. I just think it's very interesting that based off of 3 things that I typed into a search bar, google thinks that it knows what I need to read. Girl, you don't know me!

Just for kicks, I'm going to start googling some crazy stuff just to see what kind of blogs it is going to tell me I need to read. And then I'm going to email people the most random things possible to see what kind of advertisements pop up on my email pages. I think my favorite so far was the ad that read, "Are you STILL in sin?" from some cracked out e-church that was next to the email that my friend A, who is a pastor, sent me. Good times, google. Good times. So if you get an email from me that simply says "beets" or "one flip flip" or "used pistachio shells", don't worry. It probably means there's nothing I haven't seen or want to see on any of the 8 channels we have here and I'm in need of entertainment.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

to my handsome man

You are 3 now and have been for a couple of weeks. Please forgive me for not writing your birthday letter earlier. I don't want you to hold this against me in 10 years. I can hear it now, "CB got her birthday letter right after her birthday! She is your favorite, isn't she? I knew it! Why do you hate me so much?! I wish I was never born!" Yeah yeah yeah. The fact is, your birthday came and went so fast this year that I haven't even had a chance to write your letter.

Even though you had a freaking awesome birthday party, you got gypped big time this year. You are the only kid I know whose birthday was 9 hours shorter than all other birthdays out there. That's what happens when your mom plans for everyone to fly across the world just before 12 am on your birth date and you get to your destination six and a half hours before your birth date technically ends. That's just one more thing you can hold against me when you are older. I am still amazed how you did on that transatlantic flight but I really shouldn't be. You have been such a trooper this year and I am more than proud of how you have handled all of these changes and all of this transition.

Something happened to you when you turned 3 and we moved back to "your" Germany. You turned from a toddler into this little man who has a vocabulary that rivals most high schoolers (which really isn't saying much these days, but it sounds good...) and who can speak in complete paragraphs. I could do without the excessive bossy-ness though. I am the one who is supposed to be bossy and I don't like the competition. I understand that you want to do everything on your own but you need to understand that I am just not ready to let go and let you do everything on your own. It's going to take a long time for me not to see you as that tiny 5 pound baby you were just 3 years ago.

3 years ago we were experiencing the biggest struggle we have to date. Getting you to grow and eat and getting through the stress and fear of almost losing you at birth was almost more than any mother could take. You made me grow up fast and learn lessons I never thought I would have to learn and you continue to do so today. Because of you I have learned to follow my instincts and go with my gut because it has always been right, even when people tell me I'm wrong. I've always known you have needed something more from me than most kids need from their parents and while that is incredibly overwhelming and draining at times, I know that's the way it needs to be so I go with it.

Some people think that you are spoiled and that I need to be harder on you but I know you like the back of my hand and I know those things are not true. I think it bothers people that I rarely punish you but what those people don't get is that you are nearly impossible to punish because you simply don't fit the parenting book model of what children should act like and how they should respond to punishment. You just don't need that traditional "punishment" like most kids do. You have never fit into any kind of mold and for right now, I think we are doing ok. You are a good kid, despite what you may think because of how many times I ask you a day if you are being a good boy or a naughty boy and how many times a day you inform me that you are being naughty. At least you are aware... I guess.

Thank you for being a challenge and for making me work to be one step ahead of you. You keep me awake and alert and force me to be attentive which makes me a better mother because there is simply no room for slacking off. Believe me, you have caught my errors on more than one occasion and really, there's nothing better than a 2 year old making you feel like an idiot. Quite honestly it freaks me out that you can operate an iPhone better than I can. And that you can work a DVD player. And that you can work a computer. And that you know 2 languages. And that you can put together a real puzzle in less than 3 minutes.

You are perfect in every single way and responsible for so much laughter and joy that it makes me hurt to think of what life could possibly be like if you weren't in it. Thank you for being my child. I love you more than words can say and I hope that one day you realize just how special you really are to me. But seriously, could you back off on the bossy stuff? Just a little bit? Please?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

bittersweet

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, I promise. We are trying to get settled here in Germany and that's a process that always takes longer than I expect or want. I can't believe we are back. Honestly, even though I knew the date was fast approaching, it didn't hit me that we were actually leaving until I locked the door to my parent's house for the last time and drove away.

I had been making fantastic progress on organizing and cleaning all of our junk in the week before we were leaving until I got sick. It started as one of those "Oh, I must have slept with my mouth open" sore throats you get in the morning and turned into a full blown raging sinus infection from hell. It was so bad that I was completely down for the count 2 days before we had to fly. I couldn't even lift my head and every time I did, I cursed the Almond (pronounced ALL-mond, thank you. NOT Am-ond) gods for making me sick. Freaking almond harvesting season. Why does it have to come every year?!

Compounding my misery was the fact that I decided to self diagnose and self medicate my sinus infection with antibiotics that I never took last time I had a sinus infection. Note to self: Biaxin is not your friend. It will hurt you and make you want to die. Feeling like you are going to throw up everything you have eaten in the past 7 weeks while having a sinus infection is almost as pleasent as having a root canal done without Novocaine. Almost.

The day before we flew I sucked it up and called to make an appointment with my doctor. I must have sounded as miserable as I felt because I was able to get an appointment 2 hours later. When I showed up the doctor was like "Wow, you look amazing" and I was like "Shut your face and be nice to me because my insurance is going to pay you $117 for you to tell me the obvious and write 2 lines on a prescription note." $117 for 5 flipping minutes. I should have been a doctor. To be fair, he did spend about a half an hour with me, mostly because we were shooting the breeze and talking about the kids and my husband. He's known both my husband and I for almost ever and he's always interested to hear how we are doing and what my current thoughts are on the political drama going on... something you should not ask me, or even think about asking me right now because I will not give you the answer you want to hear and I will talk down to you and make you feel stupid. I can't help it. It just happens.

He only made it through the conversation alive because I knew he had the drugs and I wanted them (and because he actually agreed with me on almost everything, which is a very rare thing these days). When we were done chatting he told me he was going to see if he had any samples of the meds he wanted to give me because they were the "good" ones, so good in fact that he didn't think my insurance would cover them. That right there should have been a red flag or a warning to take them with caution but it didn't catch on and ended up spending the better part of that day and the next all kinds of jacked up on Mountain Dew and a decongestant that should have simply been labeled "Methamphetamine". Good God almighty, that was some serious stuff. I wouldn't have drank the Mountain Dew if I had know that those pills were going to do the same thing to me as if I had shot up speed.

The only pleasant side effect from the pills was that I did get a lot of packing done and made up for some of the prior day that I had spent flat on my back. I didn't get everything done though. There was so much to do. So much to clean. So many people to say goodbye to. I didn't get to do it all and I feel bad for that. I forgot to pack more than I care to mention and the house is a serious serious disaster of broken toys, out grown shoes and tulle left overs. I feel bad for my mom who has to clean it all up.

The final few hours before we left were much more emotional than I expected them to be. I was, once again, uprooting my family and this time we had a lot more invested than we ever had before. W had made some really good friends and I was taking him away from them and a school that he loved. I had actually spent more time in CA this time than I have anywhere else in the past 9 years and I was leaving some solid relationships and the place where CB grew from a baby to a toddler. We were leaving the place that she learned to crawl and walk (something I didn't think she would ever do), the place where W saw his daddy for the first time in 10 months, the families that had consistently stuck by us through all of the sickness and pain through the previous 11 months and the place where I did some serious growing.

After I shut the door and drove away, and had to go back and do it again because I forgot to put my cell phone in the diaper bag, I had a good cry. I only needed 5 minutes of being sad before I could put on my game face and remember all we had to look forward to. Then the panic attack hit. Having one while driving 85 miles an hour is never a good thing. If you know me, you know that I absolutely hate to fly. Hate isn't even a strong enough word for it. To me, flying is the ultimate in giving up control and we control freaks don't give up our power very well. I only fly because I have to but if I could take a boat, I totally would. After bargaining with God for a couple of minutes I was able to calm down and then I received the sign I needed.

On the other side of the highway there was a convoy of National Guard troops heading to or from their latest training exercise. That might not seem like a big deal, but it is too me. That is my sign that everything is going to be ok. For the past 4 or 5 times that I've had a freak out session, I have seen a convoy of military vehicles within minutes and it's not like they should be traveling around me, as I'm never near a military installation when they drive by. But for some reason, they are always there. Maybe they are my angels. I don't know, I don't care. I just know that when they are around, it's all going to be ok.

And it is all ok. We are home and we are safe, despite the sheer torture of descending from 35,000 feet with a sinus infection. If you ever want to know what it feels like to have your eyeball pulled through your nose, that will give you a good indication. And my kids are healthy, except for the teething, and thriving better than I ever imagined they could.

Walking into this house was like walking into a time capsule of one of the most challenging times in my life. We left Germany at the height of CB's medical mystery that made her scream 20 hours a day and everything was just as it was when we shut the door that last time. It's been so nice to put those reminders away for good. To pack up all of the burp rags and baby gear and to hide the baby toys is just confirmation of how far we have come and what is going to happen next and believe me, I can't wait for what is going to happen next.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

fyi

We made it back to Germany! The trip was pretty uneventful, except for the part where my sinuses almost exploded when we were landing. Let's talk about what a party that was. I knew I should have had a bloody mary with breakfast. My head is still killing me so I will save the stories for when I have successfully weaned myself from the decongestants and can think clearer.

Thanks to everyone for your well wishes and prayers for safe travel! They worked!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

party's over, shut it down

Last weekend we celebrated W's birthday and what a celebration it was. Bounce house, snow cones, swimming, tons of food (really, WAY too much food) and family and friends... it was awesome. I hope everyone had a good time. They better have had a good time because I didn't do all of that work for nothing! I know I had fun despite it being a crazy day. So crazy that about 90 minutes after people started showing up, I realized I didn't have a stitch of makeup on and that is seriously socially unacceptable in my book! I can't believe I did an entire party that way. I should have done everyone a favor and at least put on some mascara really fast. Oh well. There are worse things in life, I guess. At least I didn't give anyone food poisoning (I hope...).

Mad, mad props and thanks to everyone who helped me out to pull this thing off-- I clearly needed the help. I know you guys didn't intend to spend the first hour of the party running to the store for snow cone flavoring or cutting fruit or decorating but I could not have done it without you! Thank you so much to M's parents for opening your home so we could have a pool to use and space for the kids to run. Everything looked beautiful! And thanks to M's mom for making the cookies for the ice cream sandwiches and my sister for helping put the sandwiches together. I'm glad we figured out only 7 sandwiches in that putting them together when it was 104 degrees out was probably not the best idea.

Since everyone has been clamoring for the recipes, I'll go ahead and post them here because I'm lazy and don't have the energy to answer each email individually. But first, here are some pictures, for your viewing pleasure:

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Blow the fire out!
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Make sure all the cars are in a line!
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W with his bestest friend T.
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Beef, Chicken and Veggie Kabobs
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Beef Kabob Marinade
**note: I don't do measurements, sorry!**
I use Beef Sirloin cut into 1 inch pieces, with all of the fat trimmed off.
- equal parts Worcestershire Sauce and balsamic vinegar
- half as much soy sauce (low sodium, preferably)
- some olive oil
- minced garlic
- dried oregano, basil, thyme, celery salt, sea salt, ground pepper and red pepper flakes, if you like to spice things up.

Throw it all in a ziplock bag and turn the bag a few times. Then marinate at least 2 hours. I like to marinate mine over night.

Chicken Kabob Marinade
ganked from Bobby Flay's Veggie Kabobs with Herb and Garlic Marinade which he ganked from VegNews Magazine.
Marinade:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. The marinade can be prepared in advance and held covered in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Do not marinade chicken or fish in this marinade for more than an hour and an hour is pushing it. The lemon will start to cook the meat and will make it taste funky if it is marinaded too long.

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Wild Rice Salad (I used a mixture of wild rice, white rice, red rice and brown rice instead of plain wild rice)

Mediterranean Salad (the couscous one)

Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad

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Fresh Fruit with Raspberry Lime Sauce Dipping Sauce


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Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies (cookie ideas shamelessly stolen from SmittenKitchen.com)
Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
Recipe from AllRecipes.com
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.
  3. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/8 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
  5. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Chocolate Sugar Cookies
From Retro Desserts, as part of a homemade Oreo recipe.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room- temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees.
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter [For oversized ones, I used a 1/8 cup scoop] and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
If you have any questions, shoot me an email. I can't promise a quick turn around time for a response, but I'll do my best to get back to you in the next few days. We are leaving very, very soon and I'm running around like a mad woman trying to get everything done and packed before we leave. After I'm done shipping everything I need to ship to Germany, the price of stamps should be going down because I've spent enough money with the USPS to sustain their 2009 fiscal year budget. How we have accumulated this much stuff over the past 11 months is beyond me. Funny how we only came over here with 6 suitcases and a stroller...