Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reality hits

Woah. It's real. It's really, really real. The recruiter stopped by today while bringing Jon back home to ask if I could send his diploma and high school transcript with him next week when Jon takes his ASVAB. The physical was a breeze--the boy is healthy--can't even be unhealthy when he tries! But WOAH. I wasn't quite prepared to hear "He'll need to inform whichever officer will do his enlistment that we'll need him probably either Wednesday or Thursday of next week".

Even Pete is in a bit of shock.

The folks at the troop medical clinic even started calling him "Private" today, just to get him used to it. Jon is all grins, ear to ear. His parents......are just in shock.

More reality hit half an hour after Jon came home. The movers came by to do a run-through of the house and take measurements of all the furniture so they'll be prepared when they get here next Monday. It wasn't until they got here that I realized exactly what a disaster area this house has turned into, trying to get ready for this. I'm sure the two overhwelmed guys who did the run-through are VERY afraid of what they're going to see next week!

I thought I was on top of all of this, but I'm INCREDIBLY behind. Another rather MAJOR to-do to add to my list occurred to me this afternoon, and I have to get it DONE this weekend--the scrapbook/picture board for the grad luncheon at church has to be done before our stuff ships, or I at least have to have all the pictures, embellishments, papers, and a seriously well-planned-out layout set aside so I can do it after everything's gone.

Eek. Suddenly I have heartburn.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rollin, rollin, rollin.....

Today is the first day of the madness. Just five weeks from this Friday, the last of our stuff will be picked up and shipped, and we will move our elated little (or not so little, as the case may be) hineys into the Patriot Inn so we can ready our house for the housing inspection! In SIX weeks, Pete's unit will deactivate. He's stressed, trying to get things in order for that and to ensure that everyone's paperwork is moving along in short order, but things here at home are pretty nuts too! My to-do list includes (among just the normal day-to-day stuff) a WIC appointment to get transfer paperwork, making lists, and cleaning out closets to make room for the stuff we're going to duct tape IN them next Monday when the packers arrive so they don't get packed. Then I've got to make sure all of the excess "stuff" is out of corners, pulled out from behind bookshelves and dressers and from under beds, so we don't have a box of homeless junk for each room that I will have to weed through on the other end of the Atlantic in July. All of the curtains have to come down, all the linens we're shipping have to be cleaned and stored and I've got to separate out all of the kitchen items, toys, and other sundry items that we're not shipping so they don't inadvertedly get packed! Oh, and of course, the recruiter called to tell us that he can't pick Jon up from the train station tomorrow for his pre-enlistment physical, so he picked him up TODAY and is getting Jon a room at the American hotel in Wiesbaden so he'll be right there to pick up for the physical tomorrow. So...one of my hard laborers is away for two days of the heavy work, but that's life, right?

Wednesday, we have a customs agent coming to look over the things we'll ship back to the States to be sure there is nothing harboring the gypsy moth or any other harmful critters. So far, I think we're good. We shook the spiders out of the strollers and bikes a couple of weeks ago, so the worst we'll have to do as far as critters go is to brush off anything new. The big work is going to be cleaning the outside toys of any dirt. US Customs really doesn't like imported dirt!

Thankfully, I've already done a lot. I knew what needed to be done this time around, so I knew to start WAY early. It doesn't eliminate the last-minute (or, rather, last-week) stuff, but that's unavoidable. As far as our big stuff goes, we have PLANE RESERVATIONS!!!!! Pete has to get just one stamp from the Trasnportation office and he'll be able to pick up the tickets as early as this afternoon!!!! Hey, Jill and Chuck, we're landing in Atlanta!!!! Our van arrives for pickup in Atlanta the day before we fly, and thankfully we had an understanding travel agent who booked us a flight TO Atlanta instead of the other option, which was through our least favorite airport in the whole world--Dulles in D.C.--and we'll pick up our van the day we arrive!!! We'll get to hang out in Atlanta for a day or two before heading to Huntsville! Just one wonderful little perk in all of this has all of us on cloud 9!

Now I've got to find some time in the next day and a half to sit down and make up some sort of meal plan that I can live with for the next week that won't require too much of me, because Lord knows I need all the simplicity I can get! Eek!!! One more thing to add to the list--clean the fridge out and make sure all my Tupperware is stored for shipping by Sunday! Ack! Thank goodness for those semi-disposable Ziplock storage containers!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Doing things backward to end Earth Week

Well THAT was an odd experience! For the last six or so months, as gas prices have creeped slowly higher toward the $3.50 mark (for the record, it's now $3.67 on base here in Germany, with the horrid dollar-Euro rate, it's over $7 a gallon off base!), we've been very careful about conserving fuel. It seemed almost ironic that Thursday night, Pete and I had to spend almost two hours driving around to purposely WASTE fuel. It felt very odd....and not in a good way! As the gas gauge dropped, we could practically feel the money we were wasting, and how just plain ridiculous it was in this economic and environmental crunch to be doing what we were doing.

So why'd we do it, you ask? Well, Friday morning we had an appointment to ship the van. Regulations require that a vehicle's gas tank be holding less than 1/4 of a tank of fuel when it's shipped...and of course, like a doof, I'd spent most of my week at home. Thursday morning, I realized it was time to make those "last minute" trips to the bases 45 minutes away, because I wasn't going to get the opportunity to do it again, plus I had just over half a tank of gas! Wouldn't you know it, the van picked that day to get the best mileage it's ever gotten??? Driving for nearly an hour and a half, the needle barely moved. And yes, that was at Autobahn speeds, folks. OVER 100mph. We won't say just how much over, but it was over. Hey, I quote Raymond from Rain Man often--"I'm an excellent driver".

Oh well. Pete was able to get the gas gauge to drop. The van doesn't like him as much, I guess. We shipped it with EXACTLY 1/4 of a tank. Good thing, too, because it'll probably take us a while to find a gas station when we pick it up in Atlanta!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Glitches in the system

With any endeavor, there are bound to be glitches. With BIG endeavors, though....look out! We've been sort of holding our breath these last few weeks to see what big glitches were going to pop up and surprise us with this big move--hopefully our LAST!!! So far, so good. There aren't any really big issues this time around, but just a bunch of little ones.

Pete's leave form still hasn't come back from Battalion, meaning we still don't have a flight reservation. At this point, with seven people and a cat needing space on a plane destined for a relatively small airport, well, it's pushing it! It may mean our travel gets backed up one, two, or even three days, and that kind of, well, STINKS. The last thing we are going to want to be doing after Pete signs out of this place is sit in a hotel room for three days. Ack!

Jon's casual graduation photos....well, they aren't happening. Kelsey did an amazing job of actually getting GOOD shots of Jon, but when Grandma picked up the sample printed pics from CVS, the one he wanted wasn't good enough to put in with graduation announcements. The resolution wasn't adequate. Bummer. Oh well, it looks good on a computer screen...see?

I guess we'll have to go with the black & white one we have as a backup. It's not as good, but hey, it matches his black and silver announcements! Besides, he's agreed to actually sit in front of a real camera in a portrait studio when we get back to the US, so I guess I'll just have to choke back my perfectionism for a few minutes and use the "backup" pics.

By the way, yes, I realize I am *supposed to be* grieving my oldest child's graduation from high school, but I'm not. This is what we have invested all these years into, and he's certainly not upset about starting his own life, why should I be? It's almost funny to be co-planning the graduation luncheon at church with the other "graduating" mom (yes, the church is so small we only have two graduating seniors), our temperaments and the ways we are approaching this new phase of life are so different! I don't see this as the end of something, I see it as a beginning. Jon is starting his own life, beginning his own career, and for the first time in......well......ever (!!), he's finally looking at things as an adult. He may not be choosing the career I'd choose for him (Lord knows I don't really enjoy the months of endless fear that go along with deployments, I'm sure it will only get worse when it's my SON instead of my husband), but it's what he's choosing. It's an honorable career, and I know it's well thought-out. What else could I do but approach this new beginning with the same enthusiasm Jon has? It's funny--the "other" mom is clinging to the last few months before her daughter leaves for college with everything she can. She cries at the drop of a hat, and is putting together the picture board we're doing together for the grads like she is assembling the momentos to be displayed at a memorial service! I guess this is one "glitch" I'd like to minimize. Graduation isn't a glitch, it's a natural process of life!

Our van....still hasn't shipped. They told us at the last minute that we needed an appointment! It leaves Friday. That really cuts the in-transit time close to when we'll arrive in country, but we'll just have to hope and pray it all works out well.

All in all, not that bad. Sure, there are others, but they're REALLY minor. Live-with-able. They all are, I suppose. Some just stick in our craw a bit more. The only really big glitch is that none of the realtors in Huntsville want to do any business with someone outside of the country, meaning ALL of our house-hunting will have to wait till our feet are firmly planted in Alabama. For those of us (me, me, ME!!!) who don't handle uncertainty well, this is a source of sleep loss! However, since nothing can be done about it......I'll still lose sleep, just needlessly. OH well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A rare moment

This doesn't happen often. The living room is clean and all three girls are eagerly (and QUIETLY) watching a movie. Which movie, you ask? Why it's only The Little Mermaid....for the 6,000th time! But this was just too cute to pass up with the camera.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quote of the day

Amid all of my decluttering in an effort to streamline things and make this move just a smidgen smoother on the un-packing side, I'm getting rid of a TON of stuff. Seriously, if we had a dumpster all to ourselves, I'd probably have filled it four times over with stuff that's been cluttering closets, storage rooms, and every other nook and cranny of this house. Just ONE of those little decluttering projects included doing some rotation in my cloth diaper 'stash'; getting rid of the ones we don't use or CAN'T use (Dani staged a one-baby coup against all things velcro, so any diapers with velcro closures have been nixed) and making way for a new itty bitty stash for what now looks like yet another bundle of pink.

Oh yeah....teeny little announcement that got lost in the chaos of the week--the new little one is yet another GIRL! God indeed knows what He is doing here...we have very little to buy, that's for sure! Ah yes, and a name has been settled on--Stefani Kathleen. MUCH better than Quinn Marie, which is what Daddy, Jon, and Kelsey wanted to name the poor child. I just couldn't get past the mental reference to the Queen Mary.....we're not bringing an oceanliner into the family here, ya know!

Back to the day's story--I've been listing a bunch (like a whole 48-gallon Rubbermaid "tub" full) of cloth diapers on the internet's biggest cloth diapering marketplace, Diaper Swappers, and I've already made enough on the resale of diapers I used gently with Dani and Jamie to buy everything I need for Stefani! No, used cloth diapers aren't "gross", not anymore so than clothes you get at a thrift store, because in a lot of cases, the diapers have actually been cared for really well and come to you stain and smell-free! Anyway, though, I had to make a trip to the Army Post Office on base today (which, by the way, is now open only three hours a day, five days a week, thanks to this "transition" thing we're going through as the base closes), to ship off two of the packages of diapers I'd sold.

The clerk took one look at the customs forms and shrieked, "CLOTH DIAPERS???? Who uses those anymore, seriously???"

He then proceeded to tell me (without letting me get a single word in edgewise) that when his wife brought up the topic of cloth diapers with their daughter nine years ago and that she'd wanted to cut costs, he said no way and told her to "invest in the disposables" because with cloth you have stink and grossness, with disposables, you just wrap the thing up and toss it in the trash.

Yeah, ok. RIGHT.

Over the last two months, as we've traveled and fought illness, crazy schedules, and the lack of available washing machines, we've resorted to the cheapo disposables. We've got two in diapers right now. In fact, we've had no less than two in diapers for the last 38 months. In the time our girls have worn paper diapers these last few weeks, they've had more rashes, more "blowouts", and more leaks than we have in the last year with cloth. And oddly enough, even though no one actually does it, there is a note on the side of the disposable diaper package that states each soiled diaper should be emptied of all waste BEFORE disposing of it. Meaning you still *SHOULD* be scraping poo off of Junior's Pampers before you roll and toss them in the trash anyway. NO thank you. Oh, and the smell? Shoot, I have been able to smell our trash can from halfway across the HOUSE since we've been using disposables; I usually can't smell anything coming from our diaper pail until I open it to take the diapers to the wash!

I'm not a big environmentalist. Sure, we do our part as concerned citizens, but I'm not into earth-worship. But the more I've thought about it since my postal clerk's rude and uninformed little comment today, I'm seriously thinking about why on earth cloth diapering hasn't had a bigger "push" from environmental folks? I have seen TWO Earth Day-type specials on TV lately that detailed what Americans can do to reduce their impact on the earth, and no mention was made whatsoever about cloth diapering. Why not? Of course, putting cloth on a baby's bum is a bit more time-consuming than disposable diapering, but it's so CUTE nowadays, with so many more convenient options than the pins and plastic pants of my babyhood. You'd think the word would be getting out a bit quicker! Just LOOKie how cute these things are!

Dani at about five months in my favorite diaper (that I'm trying to find someone to replace elastic on....it's breaking my heart to see it sitting lame in the drawer!), a blue Hawaiian print Mudpie Babies diaper:

At about three months in the most "pettable" diaper we've ever owned, a Fuzzi Fanny furry fleece diaper:

This is how the old-school prefold diapers (fastened with a gizmo called a Snappi instead of pins) are covered nowadays--in cuteness like this Wiggle Worm Bottoms cover:

And for all-time favorite prettiness, this is it. Another Mudpie Babies creation:

I'll have to snap a few pictures of what this "obsession" has done to us...but right now I'm just barely managing to keep track of all visible floor space while stuff gets cleared out! You know what's really odd? By the end of next week, I'll have received all the diapers I need to keep Stefani's bum covered (in cuteness, I might add) until she's six months old! And all for less than $50, total. This is one "obsession" that is definitely paying off!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


See, now THIS is what happens when you tell your 18-year-old that you need at least ONE decent head shot of him to include with his graduation announcements. Silly me, thought for once the boy would take it seriously. HA!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Long overdue--Morgan's birthday

I can't believe I've let the time slip this far past me. Morgan's fourth birthday was March 2nd, and just NOW I'm blogging about it. Yikes, how awful is that? Oh well, at least her "party" was on time, and she's been enjoying her princess-0-rama ever since!

Mo is our princess fanatic. It simply would not do to have anything other than princess mania for her birthday! She even wanted a castle birthday cake....but alas, without the proper tools, Mom wasn't even going to attempt those kinds of decorating acrobatics! Maybe next year....but we did pretty well bestowing our little princess with the royal treatment! Her favorite (and most useful) gift this year was a custom-made child-size backpack, emblazoned with castle and crown embroidery, jewels, stars, and her name embroidered on the front. She LOVES it, and that little bag goes everywhere she manages to sneak it! I wish I'd have gotten better pictures!
Then, of course, was her Leapster. She just NEEDED a handheld video game, since Jon and Kelsey seem to be joined surgically to their PSP's. Her favorite game, by all means, was and is her Disney Princesses game from Grandma and Grandpa. See how thrilled Daddy is to finally have some way to connect with Little Miss Princess?

The cake....ah, the cake. We compromised. Thankfully, one of the local PX's had just gotten a truckload of princess-ey stuff in and among the stock was a Disney Princess cake topper kit. It was a perfect match to the Carvel ice cream cake Mom snagged from the commissary. We have a winner! Oh yeah, one little "problem" with ice cream cakes--BRAIN FREEZE!!!!!!
Oh well, brain freeze is okay as long as it comes with a blue mouth!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sick and tired of being sick and tired!

Okay, so I had grand plans of blogging about our vacation and getting "caught up" on other fam happenings as of late this weekend. THAT did not happen. Obviously.

Instead, first Jamie (Thursday), then yesterday Morgan and I came down with a very ugly stomach bug that has had us leaned over a potty (or a hospital emesis basin....who knew those things would come in handy for what they were intended for and not just a bathroom cleaner bin?) all weekend long. I will also say this much....sometimes it's NOT a good thing to have the odd ability to avoid tossing one's cookies when the body says "let it fly"!

TMI? Well just be glad tummy bugs aren't contagious computer viruses or I'd be "sharing" more than just too much info!

Pete and I were talking just a couple of days ago about how it seems like our family hasn't gotten a break from illness for more than a few days all year long. For some reason, I've been especially suceptible to every bug that has come anywhere near Europe, and it is taking me far longer than usual to get over all of this. It has seemed almost like there's an underlying issue that is making me generally sick. I'm not normally a "sick" preggo. I've had relatively painless pregnancies with all five other kids, with the exception of the last couple of weeks--but who ISN'T miserable those last few weeks? This time, though...wow. Well, apparently there IS something else going on. I had blood drawn last week for a standard anemia test, and while I'm not anemic, I do have some sort of infection going on. Of course the doctor's office called to tell me this Friday afternoon when there's nothing that can be done before they close...so I'm going to have to wait till Monday to actually go in and have some other tests run to see what is going on under the surface. You'd think the antibiotics I was on a few weeks ago would have taken care of this!

Okay, enough whining. Back to business. We attended our final unit organizational day on Friday, and it was pretty pitiful. The family readiness group had to blow all of its remaining money, so we had three of the inflatable bouncy castles, plus a maintenance bay full of BBQ chicken, burgers, dogs, and ribs. Hmm, that doesn't sound all that pitiful, does it? Not until you consider that there were probably fewer than 100 people there. Pete says they still have something like 150 soldiers on the books, but everyone is trying to clear out of here! We had pretty much all the ribs we could eat with the "crowd" that actually showed!

As for us, this week looks to be the start of the big stuff. Two months from today, Pete will "final out", meaning he'll sign out of the unit, out of Darmstadt, and be put on leave. WOW. Sixty-one days! He is awaiting his leave paperwork to be approved and returned (we're told Tuesday) so he can get our flight arrangements made. He *could* wait as late as the day he starts the ten-day clearing process in June, but that's craziness considering he'll have to make flight reservations for seven people! Anyway, today Pete and Jon and Kelsey are cleaning the van, readying it for the agricultural inspection required to ship it back to the States. Tomorrow, he'll drop off our paperwork to get our (hopefully) 12-day countdown toward household goods shipment moving. Tuesday, I've got another OB appointment (and the "big" ultrasound) and then Pete and I are driving to Mainz to get the van shipped off!

All passports accounted for, suitcases are pre-packed with hot-weather clothing (as if we'll use THOSE anytime soon now that winter finally decided to arrive here in Germany), cloth diapers suitcased and ready to go, pre-K and kindergarten schoolbooks are suitcased so we have something to do after all the "stuff" goes, and we have working lists of what stays and what goes! Yep, I think we're ready!

Well, I'd not want to have you go through all of this reading without at least one picture, so I'll attach one that we took of the kiddos in the gardens of King Ludwig's Linderhof castle near Oberammergau last month. For reference, YES, I know Kelsey got that goofy half-grin from me....and no, we didn't forget Danica's hat. She hates hats (notice that sad face because we kept trying to plunk it back on top of her noggin?), and it was the first article of clothing to go! It wasn't *too* cold, though, despite being March in the Bavarian Alps.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


We've been home from our trip to Southern Germany for almost a month now, and life is rolling along full steam, just as we knew it would, but you know, it still calms me just to sit and look at the pictures we took. I've come to realize that there are two places I am most "me" in this world--standing at the ocean's edge or the foot of a mountain. It's somehow intensely comforting to feel incredibly small, and to know that the One who created the awesome forces that shaped this world is still in charge, and even through all the noise, all the stress, all the mess that surrounds us day after day, He is still there, knowing full well what every one of us needs.

For me, spending a week looking at the view in this picture was exactly what I needed. Just LOOK, it's amazing....it's glorious, it's awesome. No other flippant use of the word 'awesome' even comes close to the reality of seeing what real awesome-ness looks like...and THIS is it:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Total craziness

Let's recap the last month:
  • trip to Bavaria, not much snow in the Alps, snowboarding on slush
  • Dani's ear infection
  • asthma diagnosis for me (ASTHMA????), plus a respiratory bug that will NOT let go
  • Kelsey began her job as a commissary bagger
  • first OB appointment and ultrasound showing us a "mystery" baby
  • almost a full week of snow for our birthdays
  • Kelsey turning 16
  • Jon turning 18
  • me turning 35..........UGH!
  • breaking my big toe with a 32-ounce jelly jar (I don't recommend this, it HURTS)
  • waiting not-so-patiently for orders
  • shopping for homeschool curriculum so we don't have to do it during peak time
  • shopping for spring/summer clothes in freezing weather so we have something to wear when our PX closes and we have no vehicle

Okay, so written down, that doesn't look like much, but lived? It's a lot.

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