Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Friends! The hardest thing to leave behind.

We'll see if I can get through writing this post without crying.  I'm a big girl and can handle saying goodbye to my friends so much more gracefully than I can seeing the kids say goodbye, the girls in particular.  Something about childhood friendships just gets me.  Maybe it is just my crazy, mad love for my children and the heartbreak it causes me when they are sad.

The girls are at that age when they are able to make deeper friendships.  I knew it was going to be hard to leave the friends again because if we left even for the day they couldn't handle it.  It was almost like starting over when we first got back home to Germany.  All they could think about and talk about was the next time we'll see their friends and how long till we move back to the states...three years from now!

Our bucket list of things to do while in the states consisted of a little clothes shopping for the kids and a lot of eating.  We hit Buffalo Wild Wings ($1.49 unlimited kid's meals) twice, our old fave (4 free kid's meals!) Barley and Hops, Chick-fil-A several times, Panda Express, On the Border, and of course, my true love Sonic Drive-in.

Barley and Hops

Buffalo Wild Wings

We made our rounds visiting all kinds of friends while we were there.

One friend we visited while in the states was moving back right as we were moving to Germany.  We were ships passing in the night.  But this trip we were finally able to meet her little boy.  He's about 3 months older than my Bob.

Ah, and the pool!  The thing I'll miss the most this whole summer!  We have pools here, but they are all cold and most are indoors.  The best thing about our old pool was the people, of course.  That is something you just can't duplicate.

These two were too young to hit it off when we lived there, but became fast buddies during our visit.  One of them would say something silly and the other responded with a deep belly laugh.  Adorable!

Bobby was a huge fan of the zero level entry pool.  He sat and splashed for a long time even when the water was a bit chilly.
We had a wonderful time and, hopefully, didn't overstay our welcome.  We are thankful for the opportunity to spend that time with friends and family!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Germans have crazy medieval festivals too.

This was another first for us.  Lots of people dressed in costumes since you got in free if you dressed up.  Even my husband wasn't cheap enough to go that far.  Luckily there was a family price regardless of how many kids you have.   

See the salmon hanging above the fire behind Isaac?  The kids and Brian love this kind of salmon.  I'm not a fish/seafood person.

Ordering the salmon

There were some traditional fest foods, but we had a few new things as well, like a pita filled with meat and creamy sauce on top.  I also had a Knobibrot that was different looking.  It is a grilled round bread that they pile sauce, cheese, veggies, and meat on.  We had roasted nuts too.  The good thing about having all thee kids is we can try a bunch of foods at these fests without getting too full.  We also had Flamkuchen and the salmon.  I had some Mead, AKA honey wine.

There were a couple of ladies walking around with owls you could pet.  Hannah was not brave enough  to touch them or get any closer than this.

Look hard for the tiny owl here.
We walked around looking at the crafts and wares for sale and the medieval tents to observe.  Then there was the torture museum, sword fighting, archery, and that was about it.    No giant turkey legs like in Texas.  It was different.
This guy was brewing beer over and open flame in a cauldron.  He offered Brian a taste by pouring it into his hands from a wooden spoon.

This was very creepy.  There were these ghoulish people randomly throughout.  Not sure why my husband wanted a picture of our children with them.  Bleh!

Sword Fights

I need one of these at home, huh?

They even had a torture museum which was just weird.

Archery:  Genna and Isaac were the only ones interested in this.

Another long day for Bobby to tag along in the Ergo.  He's not a good stroller rider yet because I am usually wearing him on these adventures.  He was a good boy in the Ergo but happy to be home.

Bobby's becoming quite the little man.

That smile gets me EVERYtime.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Is this just a streak of bad luck or what?

It all started back at the beginning of May when our van windows shattered.  Then Drew got sick in the convent where St. Bernadette died and was buried.  Next was a terrible run in with a weed whacker. 

The boys were jumping on the trampoline while Brian was mowing and doing yard work.  I was down in the school room doing some work on the computer when I heard hysterical screaming from Drew and Judah.  They've been fighting a lot, so I waited a moment giving Brian time to turn off the weed whacker and deal with it.  Screaming and weed whacker sounds continued so I headed upstairs and outside.  The girls come flying down the stairs asking what happened.  They had seen Drew holding his arm from their windows.  By this time the weed whacker had stopped.  When I got out there, Brian saw me and turned to go back to his yard work.  Drew is still crying and holding his arm.  He told me he was hit by a weed whacker string and lifted his arm to reveal a good cut across his arm.  I won't to into all the hairy details, but it took me a minute to even see his precious face that was all cut up too.  Judah was still crying and holding his head.  Turned out he did get nicked just inside his hair line so we couldn't see it at first.  When I was cleaning Drew up, he started saying his eye was hurting.  Turned out he had a pretty bad corneal abrasion.  Luckily those heal quickly.  Children are no longer allowed to be outside at all when Brian is weed whacking.  The ridiculous machine flings broken plastic string pieces left and right.

Next up was the return of he stomach bug.  Hannah and I felt really nauseated and lost our appetite fr a couple of days, but when Genna said she didn't feel good and her tummy hurt.  I knew what was coming.  She threw up for around 8 hours.  She ended up sleeping in between on the floor of the bathroom.  After the worst was over, I made her a bed on our floor with an extra mattress.  

The next day when I was reading Judah his nap time story he told me his mouth hurt.  Not two seconds later he turned and threw up all over the floor in his room.  He only felt miserable for about 3 hours.  After the last time he puked (in his hair) I put him in the bath and he started to play and tell me he was better...and so he appeared to be.  That was two days before we were supposed to fly out.  That was a tough decision to make.  I was so afraid someone else would get sick on the plane or at our friend's house.  It ended up being fine and that was the end of that bug.

Just wait.  There's more!  We were blessed that we were able to go to our old homeschooling field day and see many people we might otherwise not have been ale to see.  However, as we were leaving in the rental van, I was backing out so slowly thinking about all the kids around and the fact that I didn't have a back up camera in the van.  I am rolling backwards when I hear a thump.  I hit the brakes hard.  I say a prayer that I didn't just hit a child and look out my driver's side window.  A lady I know has her hand out to tell me to stop and her eyes wide with fear.    I get out of the van and run around the back of it to see our stroller on the ground with two wheels snapped off.  Phew!

I was so happy that I didn't hit a kid or a car that I didn't even care about the stroller.  The witness said something along the lines of, "Oh no! Your stroller!" when I was thinking, "I'm so glad it was just the stroller."  

And so it continues...

Isaac had to go to the emergency room while in Maryland because I was unsure if his arm was broken or not after he fell out of the swing and landed on it funny.  It turned out to be just a sprain, but still a trip to the ER makes the cut for the bad luck streak.

And finally, or at least I hope it is finally, on our attempt to fly space available on the way back to Germany we were waiting to decide which air base to drive to and try when three flights to Germany opened up on one day in Dover.  There were two flights with 53 seats firm released and one unknown.  I thought it was a sure thing.  I rented an expensive one way mini van there.  We said our good byes and we got on the last flight of the day...taking 7 of the last 8 seats on the plane.  We were on the bus next to the plane when they pulled us and our luggage back into the airport sending the cargo flight on ahead due to a computer issue without the 53 passengers hopping on.  That was the end of all hope getting out of Dover.  

It was after 11pm.  We had no transportation of any kind.  We had no hotel room booked.  We spent the night in a private lounge in the airport sponsored by a very nice family.  We had two wing back chairs and two couches.  We had no pillows, blankets, or anything more than a sweater a piece.  I made a pallet on the floor for Judah with my sweater.  Drew and Isaac both took a chair.  Hannah and Genna shared a couch and I had the other couch.  Bobby's makeshift crib was the funny part.  I used the wall and our bags to form a crib, albeit shallow, with the one baby blanket that I brought on the floor.  We turned out the lights and Bobby and I were up with the sun since the room had a wall of windows.  The rest of the kids slept in though.  Drew slept all the way until 9am with all of us awake and moving around in the room. 

There were two flights scheduled the next day.  One was cancelled early on and the other had only 19 tentative seats.  Guess who was never going to get those seats.  The last 7 people on the flight from the night before with about 45 people ahead of me who also did not fly out the day before.  I hung out anyway because you just never know for sure until you try.  I didn't get on the flight and was trying to figure out what to do since the on base lodging was full, the hotels off base required a taxi or rental van that was going to cost a minimum of $70 just to get to the hotel, not to mention the cost of an extra big room for us.  Just when I had resigned myself to spending the night in the not so private "kid's room" where there were cribs and couches, the Holy Spirit stopped me as a walked past this mom who was playing a board game with her son.  I asked if she got on the flight, and she said that they did.  I was just telling her that we had no where to stay and that we stayed in the airport the night before.  She said she had a hotel room on base that she could give us since they were flying out.  It was 15 minutes until the shuttle stopped running to the hotel.  I caught the last shuttle and her husband even drove over to the hotel, taking some of my bags that wouldn't fit in the shuttle, and personally handed the room over to me at the front desk.  Then he even offered to leave the keys to his van with me, to which I refused politely.  A total stranger!  We slept in the cheapest nicest lodging ever.  I had run out of diapers and was able to walk to get some more.  Plus, we ordered pizza.  There was screaming from the two and four year old...a lot, but we had a place to sleep and food to eat.  It was a blessing.  It was the next morning that I found out that Brian had found cheap one way tickets back for us.  I went ahead and tried for the one more flight to Germany out of Dover that day, but knew it would take a miracle.  We didn't get on, more and more people (in a higher category than us) were showing up coming from other air bases that had been cancelling flights due to the computer issues.  He booked the tickets and we headed to the rental car place again to pay an insane amount of money to drive a one way rental mini van back to whence we had come just three painful days earlier.  
Even through all our "bad luck," you could see the good that came out of it and in spite of it.  I am thankful that none of these things were actually catastrophic.  We survived and hopefully will be better persons for all our experiences.

I have been loving this quote lately by St. Sebastian.  "At the end you will not regret having suffered, but having suffered so little, and having suffered that so badly."  Amen to that!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Flying Crazy

So I was actually crazy enough to fly back to the states with the kids alone.  My cousin was getting married and my children were dying to see their friends that they so dearly missed.  My mom was planning to come to the wedding.  And to top it all off the wedding was a short eight hour Space Available flight away with no stops.  How can you pass up going to your cousin's wedding when it only costs you $32.50 per passenger?  You'd have to be crazy, right?  So I did it.  Why is it I can just close my eyes and jump into a situation like this, but the high dive is impossible for me?

It wasn't too bad actually.  The flight there was pretty easy.  It just made for a very long day when you get up at 5:30am to be at roll call at 7am with all your bags.  We waited a long time just to sign in for roll call.  Then the roll call doesn't actually happen until 9am.  Checking bags truthfully was the roughest part, but we were still on our high that we actually just took the last seven seats on the flight and we were actually going to the US to see friends and family that very day which made it bearable.  I think we were in line for that for an hour and a half.  Then we had to go through security and passport check even though we'd had our passports checked three times already since arriving that morning.

So we board the plane and our seats are not even together because we took the last seven seats.  Hannah and Isaac had to sit four rows in front of me.  Genna and Drew had to sit on the row in front of me.  Bobby sat on one side of me and Judah on the other.  I clearly did not get the good end of the deal here, but to minimize problems this was the best way to arrange everyone.  Bobby had his infant car seat that I wanted to get him to sit in for at least one nap and for meals.  As we were getting settled, Bobby was falling asleep on me, so I laid him in the car seat and he stayed asleep.

Judah fell asleep after take off.  He slept for close to two hours.  Bobby didn't sleep that long but he was happy after I nursed him and fed him lunch.  He took one other nap, but he was mostly awake and happy the whole time.  Drew had one time I had to deal with him, but he was mostly happy to watch Star Wars on the back of the chair in front of him and do the activities that I brought in his backpack.

The first four hours went by quickly, but I was counting down a little closely for the last four hours.  When we got off the plane they so kindly took our stroller that I had gate checked over to the baggage claim.  Do they not know what they are doing here?  I am flying solo and was relying on that stroller to help me carry a child and a few carry-ons hooked on the back.  I had to carry the car seat, my diaper bag (which is big,) my messenger bag with my lap top, and have Bobby in the Ergo.  We first had to go through the crazy long customs line.

We picked up our two bags at the baggage claim.  Yes, we only had two bags to check.  I know that is shocking because so many people kept commenting how little luggage we had for so many people.  I just know from experience that the baggage is most of the trouble.  Reduce the baggage and you reduce the stress factor by a lot.

After going through yet another checkpoint, we were welcomed by a huge USO group and hailed as heroes which I totally felt bad about since I'm not the one in the service.  They gave us care packages and helped direct us to the terminal that I needed to sign up at for our return flight.  After we got in the elevator, Genna turns to me and says, "Mom you looked really awesome when we were just walking out of there with Bobby on you, the car seat in one arm, and a big bag in the other."  What a sweetie!  I needed a compliment like that.

After signing up, we waited for a shuttle to the rental car place where Brian had reserved a van for me at the last minute once we were on the flight.  The first three shuttles were full and didn't stop, but just as the children are giving up all hope a shuttle stops and we pile in.  As we are sitting in the shuttle, our conversation was making the men around us chuckle.  At one point (Drew had asked so many questions already) Drew asks me, "Who was the best on the trip?"  My response was, "Bobby, because he didn't ask me any questions."  That got a good laugh out of our shuttle audience.

We had a little trouble with car seats in the rental, but nothing that couldn't be dealt with.  Then we get in the van to head to our old house, aaaaand I realize it's five o'clock.  Peak traffic time.  Only an hour of traffic later (not as bad as I' have thought) we arrive, and happiness and bliss consumes the children.  All travel blues exit their little bodies, and I take a big sigh of relief that we got here.  Half the traveling is over and now I can relax with my friends and family until it's time to repeat this in reverse...if we are just as blessed to get on the first flight again.  If not...well, I can't think about that yet.

I Spy with Judah

Judah plays I spy in such a cute way.  First off he can't say many of his "s" blends so he pronounces the game, "I fy."
A Judah-in-the-Box
Second, he loves to spy something, but he always tells us immediately what he spies.  "I fy somefing blue.  Pshh, there!" pointing to the blue object.  It's pretty humorous, but tends to make the game go too quickly when using it to kill time in a line or at a restaurant.

We are giving potty training a real go this week.  First day halfway through and he's only had one accident, plus he pooped for the first time ever on the potty without any real coaxing.  So far he going au naturale because the minute you put those underwear on him he forgets he's not wearing a diaper.  I'm hoping he's more like Isaac than Hannah here and figures it out after a week or so.

One of the stranger places this guy likes to play is in my bathtub.  He just crawls right on in or slides down the side and sits in the bone-dry bathtub and plays with the toys while I get ready.  He is usually very happy to play on his own unless he sees something really fun the other kids are doing that he doesn't want to be left out of.
And, in other news about Judah, he is going to start German kindergarten in September with Drew.  We'll see how that goes.  I hope it helps them to bond since they are the two that are not getting along currently, but hopefully, doesn't slow them down too much from learning that German.  I am really hoping that we can get a lot more schoolwork accomplished with two munchkins out of the house every morning.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Special Visitors

It seems I have lost a post completely.  I don't think that has ever happened before.  I wrote this whole post and even thought I posted it, but all that I can find is the skeleton post with only the pictures.  So this is the redo of the post.  I have surely forgotten all the good stories that go along with it by now, but here it is nonetheless.

Right during our one week break between our trips to Italy and France, we had visitors come.  Brian's mom, grandmother, and uncle all came to visit.

Brian took part of the crew sight seeing the first day because I had appointments and Drew had kindergarten to get back to..

Adult Dinner Out
We also went on a Rhine River cruise.  It was a chilly day to be out on the top deck, so the adults mostly stayed inside the dining area.  The tea was ridiculously expensive, but the view was breathtaking.

Braving the wind and the chill.

We got off the boat and walked around a quaint village before the boat came to pick us up again to take us back to our van.

Oh my, what a cutie pants!

Gelato break!

Bobby loves that gelato!  Great Nanna was holding out for some Black Forrest cake because it really was too cold for ice cream.

We couldn't get enough of this guy.

We did a great many other things together, and their visit came to an end just the night before we left for Lourdes.  Here are our last minute group photos.

My favorite memory from the trip is when I was thanking Great Nanna for making the trip over to see us, and she said to me, "I wouldn't have missed it for the world, Kelle.  Not for the world."  What a heartfelt and precious thing to say to me!

She asked for a cutting of one of our lilac plants in the front.  As we walked them out to the car, Brian hastily grabbed a piece, and he was worried it wasn't a good enough cutting.  Great Nanna became so animated and excited, insisting that she could make it grow.  The joy that we saw in her face was such a gift for us.