Planes, transits and minivans

The travel summary:

3-transit rides
1-crowded minivan

22-hours (from our door to the in-laws door). Sigh.

We are in the US! If we don't melt, we just might make it to the next link of our trip!

It was a long, grueling trans-Atlantic trip, where we made some enemies with our crying baby. Eh, oh well. It was warm on the flight and 9 hours is a long time to be cooped up. We did all that we could do, but our patience wore out.

We only had a little over an hour between flights, but we were doing great with collecting luggage , going through immigration and customs, re-checking the luggage, and taking a tram to the next terminal at Chicago O' Hare airport until we came to a screeching halt in the looooong security line.......and then missed our connecting flight. Bummer. They initially told us that we would have to take a flight in the morning!?! What? No way. They managed to get us onto the next flight and we were on our merry way a few hours later. A white minivan greeted us for our next journey to get to the In-Laws house. It was late, but they waited up and made the kids a snack.

We are now visiting the grandparents and having a great time. The kids love playing outside with the balls, golf clubs and bats under the trees. Grandma is getting fit chasing after them, too.

We also spent a day with great-grandma. It was so nice seeing her smiling face, getting hugs, and sharing stories. If I have half of her energy at ninety-one-----I will be thankful. She loved seeing the kids-some of them she met for the first time! She sparked Ashlyn's interest in sewing, so hopefully she will have some nice creations in the future. I am just not into sewing, and I don't even pretend that I want to be. I love other creative projects, but sewing is just not one of them. My mema would be disappointed, I know.

We have also managed to spend a day shopping at T@@rget and Old N@@vy , two stores whom I have only had the pleasure of seeing online. It was great to see them in person again! The girls were actually excited about visiting W-mart also! They cannot remember going to one when they were little. Hehe. It's the little things, right!?!

Today we went to the county fair. It was a fairly warm day, but the kids had a great time on the rides. I think their favorites were the haunted house and the sack slide. Logan even rode the carousel and the tea cups. He loved it and kept saying "whoa-whoa". We had a DQ on the way home to cool-off...... it was another first for them.

We have a visit to the Cincinnati Zoo and a wedding before we leave for our next leg of the trip. I hope this post wasn't too spacey. I think maybe the humidity is clouding my thinking. That, and jet-lag! I miss corresponding with many of you! I will do my best to catch up and comment, but forgive me if I don't in a timely manner. I will try and post some pictures, but that also means finding the cable amid the luggage. Aack!


Not much new here

Okay, not much is going on here but errands, packing, cooking, cleaning, rinse off kids, and repeat.

With this week being looong days of sunlight, that means I can get loads done, right?
Seriously, the sun is coming up at 4:40-ish A.M., and stays up until 10:00. That gives me ample time to get things done! So, here I am at 10:40 P.M.at night still doing laundry, checking blogs, and making a long (er) to-do list for tomorrow. And shouldn't I be doing that super-thick kindergarten packet? Absolutely. There it still sits on the kitchen island. It occasionally makes me feel guilty for not finishing it-but then I get over it.

On a funny note: we were at the commissary picking up a few things today and Nick pushed Ryan down and called him a "Cry Baby". I told him that he was not allowed to play Wii when we got home (add this to the other bothersome things he was doing to others-he deserved losing it). We were telling Daddy tonight why he couldn't play the Wii (they like to play a game of golf in the evenings), and he corrected me. "No mom, I didn't just call him a baby. I called him a cry baby". I guess it was worth it to lose the Wii privilege.


Just trying to fit in

We occasionally have bouts where we try and fit in with the locals. I had one such occasion this week when I had to attend a parent's information night at Ryan's kindergarten, where he will start at the local school in the fall. I have hopes that he will pick up the language quickly and be our family translator when we go to restaurants ;). I knew that one of Ryan's class teachers would be there, and she speaks English (ahh, yes).

The school is only a mile away, but it is located in the town, along steep hills and twisted, narrow streets. Even with the GPS, I managed to miss a turn, ending up on a one-way street, barely missing being side-swiped by a car since I forgot to yield to the right as I glanced back at my missed turn. Argh! I then had to go along the one-way street through the whole town and start again. All of this resulted in me walking in the school doors at 6:05. Germans are famous for being timely, and they were true to form on this occasion. So I walked in....the late American. Ugh. They were friendly though and I had to say my name and my son's information out of turn, being the late one.

I then politely sat through a 30-minute information session given by the Head Teacher. I think I did a great job of looking interested, even though I had no idea what was being said. Sure, I heard some familiar words like May/English/music/October/weekdays, etc., but I didn't know the context. This is a really nice school that offers different themes each day, along with music lessons, swimming (and English lessons, LOL). They can eat breakfast at school, and a hot lunch is eaten together as a class. After the session we broke up into groups and went over paperwork with the teachers.

Two hours after I left, I returned home with a 30-page information packet with pages to complete and return to the school--all of it in German. The teacher did go over it with me, and I made some side notes, but it is going to take me hours to look up words so that I can answer questions and fill out papers (some of it redundant). Help!?!

I am debating whether to ask my next-door neighbor to help me translate, and it can be completed much quicker. It all depends on our level of "noisiness" this weekend. If we are noisy, she might not be so willing to help.


Those days are coming

A few days ago the phone rang and a young boy told me his name and asked to speak to my ten-year-old daughter. What? Who is this guy? Surely not?!?

I asked her later about the call and she said he was just asking about a test. It was the last week of school! What are the chances that a test is scheduled?

This evening the phone rang again, but before I could answer it, it was quickly picked up on the third floor, by someone in "The Princess Suite". (There really is a two-bedroom area up there with a separate bath for the "princess", as I sometimes graciously and frustratingly call her).

Hmmm...I need to do some more investigating. I'm really not ready for my daughter to receive calls from boys for anything other than school related work. School is over for the year, by the way. It's time for some quick intervention.


Blood, Sweat and T-shirts

I'm just feeling thoughtful after viewing a documentary on BBC , "Blood, Sweat and T-shirts". You can check out a more detailed synopsis here , but it basically involves allowing young, spoilt adults who either enjoy or are interested in fashion to see just where clothing originates, and the processes involved. This show exposes the harsh realities of extremely poor labor conditions, third world labor and fair trade, and child labor.

The participants actually travel to countries that manufacturer clothing for both High Street (high end) and discount clothing stores in the UK and U.S. They live and work in the workers' conditions, and see what happens at the low end of the totem pole in the fashion industry. You can read about some of their experiences here. It is truly amazing and sad, to put it lightly, the conditions that workers experience. The cotton fields, cotton factory, sewing factories....they are indescribable. However, it is also emphasized how important these jobs are to the livelihood of the people. It's just a vicious cycle.

I think Martin Buttle's opinion of the issues of ethical trade are very relevant. So, where am I going with this?

I enjoy fashion, shopping and finding cute, affordable clothing for me and my family, as do many others. I sometimes note the country of origin as I look at washing instructions, but never really gave it a second thought. Now I am feeling a bit of guilt for supporting this economy without really being educated in this whole process.

It also emphasizes a silly fact about me. Whenever I buy clothes, I always wash them before wearing. I have had some questionable looks when I am OCD and insist on washing items first. I mean, why would a woman who has loads of washing already just add more? Sometimes one of my daughters will beg to wear it sooner, but I usually refuse. I believed that there were chemicals that were on the clothes that needed to be removed in the wash. After viewing this program, and seeing the unsanitary factory conditions and dirty workers' hands......uh, no way are clothes going on a body before they are washed. Remember-these factories produced clothes for both cheap and expensive brands/stores. Reassuring, eh?

What is the solution? I really have no clear answers. I only have more questions and concerns. I believe that one of the young participants stated that she couldn't condone the conditions, but also couldn't condemn them either since the workers depended on those jobs to maintain their life-as difficult and sad as it existed.

Just something I am thinking about.
I'm feeling a little more appreciative for my life.
Thanks, BBC for this thread and insightful program.

Just a thought

If you are in a recipe rut....like us.....consider this idea. Lately, some of our favorite recipes have come from the back of a product! We absolutely love the "Parmesan Crusted Chicken" recipe on the jar of Hellmann's mayonnaise. It's so simple and tender! The other fav that has graced our table is the "Classic Baked Ziti" on the Mueller's ziti box. The great part is that you can pick up the ingredients while you are at the store. This is a "no-brainer" for us parents who just want to get into/out of the store in as little time as needed.

Now that my darlings are out of school as of today, and summer vacation has started. I need sanity-saving methods, like NOW.

Any ideas are always welcome. Anytime.

It was bound to happen sooner or later

If you haven't noticed, I seem to have a bunch of, well, crap, to deal with lately. Either that or I am just letting it get to me.

Well, as I probably stated before, we live in a "majority" of our house. It used to have five apartments, but has been converted to a single house, well mainly. When we signed the lease the landlord was using 3 ground floor rooms for his office and storage area. He has acquired nearby houses that he is renovating, and needed a place to keep materials and where his workers can congregate. Fine. It didn't occur to us to ask him if the area would ever be anything other than offices, like someones apartment. Big mistake.

About six weeks ago he was working in the next door apartment. This was evident by the loud hammering and drilling that echoed throughout the house. The walls are cement-ish/stucco, and the tile floors do nothing for sound absorption. You can hear a Lego or Hot Wheels car being dropped on the third floor, from the ground (or first) floor. It can be frustrating some days to maintain a sense of quiet (see previous post). Anyway, he then told us that he was renting the apartment to a girl who was having a baby in the fall. Her mother lived nearby, and wanted a place where she could stay and still be near family. Did our landlord even consider the implications of having a person share a house with seven people? Especially an older house that has poor acoustics? No. He has a hearing loss and I really doubt that he could hear sounds around the house. So, we have had a "next door neighbor" since last month. You can see where this is going, right? I can occasionally hear sounds, but not much from her side.

Yesterday morning the boys were being annoying with fighting and just being loud. Logan has been teething and has been needing frequent diaper changes as a result. In other words-it was a prime time to share some complaints with me.

I was busy with those issues when someone knocks on the door. This young woman said something in German, and then asked me (in German) if I spoke German-to which I replied "no". She then explains to me that every morning at 6 a.m. she hears a "boom" on the floor and then stomping on the floor, and that she is having a baby and that she needs to sleep.

Sleep? What is that? Does she not realize that the end of blissful sleep as she knows it is coming to an end?

I basically apologized to her, and told her that Nicholas (who has the room above her) gets up around 7 a.m., but I didn't know about the stomping. I did tell her that we can hear all sounds throughout the house-even small sounds, and that I didn't think there was much to be done. I told her that we would never have rented a house that had common walls because we were a bigger family with small children. I told her that I was frustrated with our landlord because he told us that space was his office, and changed his mind (why miss out on a money-making opportunity?). So, we would try to be more quiet in the morning. The conversation basically ended at that, and I don't think she was that happy. It was frustrating that she was complaining about normal every day noises, not loud shrieking and "kids playing" noises.

I called the housing office after she left just to see if we would be able to get on-base housing if this continues to be an issue. I was told that the wait was 24-months for 4-5 bedroom housing (wait....that's how much time we have left here!), and that it would be the stairwell-type housing where we would have the fourth floor. Back to square-one since that would be the same living situation. Can I just add that it will be so nice to own a house again and not deal with all of this?

Yes, we could get lots of thick area rugs (for $400.00 + each!-no thanks), but we don't want to supply that for all 9 rooms. We have smaller rugs, but they are mainly for decoration.

I then saw her later in the day and talked with her again. I think she was happier about it, and realized that the house just echos everyday sounds. She seemed nice, at least. After observing Nick get out of bed-he does make a thump when he gets out of bed. He does have a high bed and this is to be expected. I listened to Ryan this morning walking across the floor in his bare feet and I could hear his footsteps. I can imagine that they also can be heard down below in her apartment. I'm not sure what we can do other than constantly remind them to tiptoe in the morning, and don't play with toys, or drop things, or well.....basically live in our house. There is also the reverse issue that she will have a crying newborn in the fall, which she can't do much about. How many times will we hear that during the night?

This irritates me because we moved further away from Allen's work so we could have a bigger house-one that we could live in comfortably. Today, I feel like a prisoner in my house. If I want to yell up the stairs, I can't. Or play music loudly (her room is next door to the family room area), or watch a movie at night with loud sound. Part of me feels like a brat and I want to make noise just for spite-and the fact that we were living here-in a house-not a duplex. I feel like I will always be telling the kids not to drop toys or run on the second floor, because that is above her. How do we solve this? Allen says to just live in the house. He says noises at 7 a.m. are much better than stomping at 5:30 a.m., and that there are other outside street noises at 7 a.m., too. His idea is that we are just making normal sounds and not super loud screaming and playing (well, only occasionally). I just feel bad that she has to live with our noise, even if it is just normal living sounds of a family of seven. Maybe I really should have a word with the landlord, but I don't really have a solution-just frustration. I know that many people here live in "stairwell housing" and deal with this daily. I now know how frustrating it can be for others, but we pay extra money for our housing, extra money for utilities, and drive a longer distance (with gas being so expensive!) to live without having to worry about it.

Until now.

I'll just add this to the list of issues going on lately. I'm glad that we're getting away soon. Oh yeah! I told our neighbor that we were going away on holiday, but that the landlord and workers would be here repairing some water damage on the third floor and tiling our stairs while we are gone. It seems even then she won't get a break.


UK Summary

O.K., before things get busy and I forget-here is a quick post on our trip a few weekends ago. If I can sum it up in one word : Bittersweet.

In case you are wondering....I have no pictures. Not one. That camera sat in the bottom of my bag and saw the light of day when we arrived back at Frankfurt.

It was nice to be back again, it sometimes felt like we had never left in some ways. I had to drive on one occasion, and I just stayed on the left side of the road as if it was was an everyday event. Not having my own transportation was difficult. There were some places that I wanted to go, and things that I wanted to do, but didn't want others to have to transport me around everywhere. Renting a car is expensive, and you always run the risk of getting a manual. So-driving on the left side of the road, sitting on the right side of the car, and shifting with your left hand. Uh, no thanks :).

We stayed in the base temporary lodging facility. Nice and spacious. Nice price also. Our friends who were moving were staying there, so it was convenient. We had a nice visit with them, and helped them get the last minute things boxed up and mailed, and packed. It was sad to see them go. We're hoping to take a Space Available flight to see them sometime-just whenever I am feeling flexible, because you really need flexibility and patience to fly that method.

The area around Mildenhall, UK was not as pretty as I remembered it. The area is definitely changing with lots of new houses popping up. It seems like more "neighborhoods" are appearing, where usually you see houses scattered along the village streets. I believe that the area where we are in Germany is definitely prettier. Mildenhall is pretty much rural, and flat, but familiar-comfortable. We went to Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds for some shopping. It was nice to see them again!

I did get to see some friends briefly, but thought I would have more time to talk with them. Oh well. The long weekend went by quickly! The weather was typical England weather-cool, cloudy, some rain, and bits of sunshine. At least you can always count on that!


Mother-Daughter Tea

I love all things tea. Several weekends ago we attended a great afternoon get together hosted by our local Girl Scouts. The room was decorated with brightly colored lanterns, balloons, teapots and flowers. We enjoyed small sandwiches, fruit, scones with jam, petit fours, tea and lemonade. Why, oh why didn't I take any pictures of the room? It was held at the Reinlander Club at Baumholder. I can only post several pictures of the girls because I just wasn't able to take pictures much of the time. I was part of the planning committee, so I was busy with check-in and registration at the beginning of the event, and then it didn't occur to me to take pictures after that because the girls were busy with craft activities-a flower pot and paper flowers.

I left looking glamorous and arrived a little early at the event to help with the final decorations. After setting up the room the previous afternoon, we just had some easy last minute preparation, right? Not so. We had stopped at the local nursery to pick up some gerbera daisies for the greeting table and the day was starting to get windy and warm. I carried those it and set those up. Well, it just so happened that the girl who had volunteered to pick up the balloons forgot, and another girl and I had to drive a short distance to pick them up. So, after cramming 150 balloons in our cars, we had to get back and quickly place them in the dining hall. The room was a little warm sans air-conditioning, and humidity was not helping my curly hair. After sitting at the front of the room with registration (and sadly the furthest from the windows/doors and thus cool air), I just wasn't in the mood to be in pictures. I thought these were cute of the girls, though. They had a great time with their friends and were a super help to pack up my teapots that were being used as centerpieces. We arrived home and I took off my 3-inch wedge heels. Ahhh....what was I thinking anyway?


Greetings from Japan?

update: My SIL actually left a reply! Yeah! I see that she had to create a profile to do that, so maybe, just maybe, she will have a fun blog that we can visit too! She is all organized and creative like that. If she will send me a computer photo, I will add it to my blog so people can see my gorgeous nieces and their adventures in Japan this summer. I also corrected my Japan visit date. I originally put 2005. Maybe I was thinking 1995 and put 2005. Crazy. We went there in 1994, although it doesn't seem that long ago! Thanks for reminding me !

I can see from the traffic flow on the side that my sister-in-law and her family from Japan have been viewing my blog. Konnichiwa! My nieces and my SIL go to Japan every summer to see her family. They are cutting their visit short this year to see us in Texas-yeah! I cannot wait to see them and let the girl cousins just be girls together. They are such smart and gorgeous girls, and they are growing up so quickly and I am missing it. I won't use their names or post a picture until I get their permission. Maybe they can even send me an updated picture on the computer?

My father and I went to Japan in April 1994 to see my brother and my SIL get married. My brother was stationed there with the Navy. They had a beautiful wedding ceremony with the traditional Japanese customs. Having been married several months earlier on a US territory, this was the fancy part! K changed her dress three times during the ceremony-she wore both a red and white kimono, and then a traditional wedding dress. I think I remember her telling me that she rented the dresses, which I think is a great idea. I know it's nice to have a dress for sentimental reasons, but do you really need it stored in that acid free box at your mother's house? I also remember that the food was so ornate and beautiful. My dad tried everything, but I was less adventurous. The bridal cake was about 7 layers high, but I soon figured out that it was fake! They had a small piece in the back that they cut and fed each other. Just an adaption of a western tradition, I guess. So, I was of course saddened that wedding cake was not served. Wedding cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes! The ceremony was beautiful, and I feel so privileged to have attended.

K and her parents were so hospitable while we were there in Japan. We visited many beautiful gardens, shrines, tea houses, a natural spa/hotel, Tokyo, Kyoto and the cherry blossoms and a theme park that had people-size world attractions (the pyramids, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, etc). I didn't really plan on writing this post, but seeing their cyber visit reminded me of the great times that I had while in Japan. I have been dreaming of California sushi (hint, hint). It has always been a dream of mine to return to Japan with the kids so they can experience it as well.


Turn up the volume

As I have mentioned before, I have been told numerous times that my children are so well behaved, and that I make mothering look easy--blah, blah, blah. What people have failed to mention is just how noisy this crew can be!! I am constantly saying throughout the day "Please use an inside voice" and "O.K., how far away from you am standing??" (usually right next to the child). The volume of each child is loud in itself, but when you combine the five together-it can be deafening. A mixture of girls giggling and sometimes taunting each other, boys laughing and making silly sounds, and a baby babbling and shrieking. It's enough to use in lieu of water torture.

Dinnertime can become a circus of singing, laughing, and talking over another with my reminders to lower the volume until I eventually raise my voice over everyone. I really hate that. Why does it have to be that way? It seems that some days they don't think that I mean business until I turn up the volume-then we have total silence. That's not fun either!

It would be nice to find a "happy medium" volume that we are all comfortable with-oh, maybe in the next nine years. While considering our upcoming trans-Atlantic trip, it makes me nervous to have to deal with the thought of yelling at the kids during the long flight. Some people tell me-"Well, you have five kids-what do you expect?". I know that having five kids can be chaotic and noisy sometimes, but the whole world doesn't have to be aware of your presence at all times. I have a feeling that the grandparents and relatives will be so happy to meet and love on this wonderful crew, but that they will breathe a sigh of relief and just listen.to.the.silence. when we leave. Hmmmm....unless Allen and I escape amidst all of the chaos. Chances are, they wouldn't even hear our escape.


Now you see 'em

and now you don't! I really can't believe that I forgot to post this sooner! I am such a slacker-forgetful mom.

Lauren had braces put on March 5th. Her teeth were getting that crowded, snaggly, expensive-needing-braces look. The dental clinic on base agreed to put them on her, with a plan of four to six months to straighten those babies. We were so thankful since I have heard that getting into the orthodontic program is hard, and we wanted to get this taken care of while it is free overseas (well, not really free...it is part of our benefits).

She was so excited to get them. She really didn't experience much pain since she only had them placed on four front teeth. She thought that the best part was choosing the colors-she chose red in March and light blue in April. I didn't get a picture of the red, but they were easier to see.

After April, Lauren didn't get to make another color choice since those teeth had straightened and braces were no longer required! We felt so blessed that we had probably saved thousands of dollars by this two-month investment. Lauren had them removed in early May. What a fabulous smile!
Since I just haven't made it to the third floor to upload more pictures, let's see what other cute pictures I have overlooked! I'll have a look soon....details to follow.....


We're back!

We made it back with just a little more luggage than we left. (The two boxes that we mailed to ourselves should be arriving soon. Hehe.) It was really a struggle to travel with only carry on items. We flew with an airline that charged quite a bit for check-in items, so we decided to do without. It also charged us to check-in at the counter! It was free online, but we couldn't check-in online since we do not have EU passports. With the liquid and weight restrictions, it definitely takes some patience and planning. I had my new hair product confiscated at Stanstead-boo hoo. I had meant to mail it, but forgot. The kids are such good travelers, so that made the trip enjoyable.

I will try and write more about our trip, but it was so nice to be back in the UK. I really miss being able to read signs, understand the radio news, and shop at familiar places. We stocked up on some cute clothes! I had missed my trips to Next, Matalan and H & M. There was also a cute store called The Pumpkin Patch. We think it might also be a store in the U.S. Allen just requested that I bring back some Walker's Sweet Thai Chili crisps (potato chips). The store only had one bag-they must be popular.

We had a nice time with our friends, but just didn't have time to see many people! It definitely is different when you don't have your own transportation. My friend Tasha had a BBQ with a bouncy castle and fabulous dips. One was made from Tastefully Simple's blueberry dip-it was so good! I haven't heard of this company-I need to check it out!

O.K., so I will post more later. I have some laundry and suitcases waiting for my attention. My little man is awake (the monitor tells me) and I need to cuddle with him. He did well with Daddy, but his Mommy really missed him. He still is not drinking milk from a cup, but we are working on it.