Friday, December 10, 2010

Why Yes, Yes I Did

Back in August Kevin and I were toying with the idea of going to my parents' Hawaii.
In September his leave was approved for the Christmas holiday.
By September 30th I had bought five round trip, first class (I wish) tickets to the island of Kauai.
On the night of said purchase in the middle of my conversation with the reservationist, Kevin suddenly got cold feet, or his wallet had a stroke, I'm not sure which.
After he recovered and/or revived his wallet, I happily bought the tickets.
Even one for Kevin.
Our next big dilemma was trying to find a way to occupy three children under the age of ten for 24 hours of airplane time.
So I did it. I bought iPods for my kids.
A few things brought me to finally do something that I thought I never would.
1) Recently my oldest has taken a very keen interest in music. I picked up a radio alarm clock as an add in to some other purchases I made from a guy off a local yard sale site. Eli was instantly drawn to it and asked if he could have it in his room.
I agreed.
It turns out, though, that English radio programs are much more liberal than the ones we are used to back in the states. Not only do they not edit the music but their talk shows tend to be a bit racy as well.
I wanted to keep a closer eye on what he was listening to.
2) It turns out some iPods can have a dual purpose. If you so desire you can download educational apps and force your children to learn while they think they are having fun. And most of those apps are free so it was a win win.
3) And finally I started thinking of the iPod as the Walkman of my children's generation. Except theirs is much cooler with the whole it plays a movie thing going for it.
So those were my justifications for getting them. That and the 24 hours that I knew would be filled by them.
And I have to say it worked out very well. We gave them as an early present at the London airport while we were waiting for the first of many planes and the look of shock and joy on their faces was priceless. (I'll post some pics as soon as I figure out where I/Kevin put them.) And the next 24 hours and the 24 hours on the way home went wonderfully. They were quiet, and not fussy. I didn't hear the dreaded phrase "I'm bored" once. We even received compliments on how well behaved they were.
All in all a huge success.
(One word of warning though if your child'd iPod has wifi capabilities I would strongly urge you to keep this feature turned off, sometimes getting on the web when you aren't supposed to can be too big of a temptation.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Little Game I Like To Call Catch Up

So much has happened that I just haven't had time to write about. Life is funny that way. So I'll hit the highlights and be done with it.
We spent the first weekend of November in Germany at a resort called Edelweiss. It is in the Bavarian part of southern Germany. It was beautiful. Not really in the traditional sense. All the leaves had already fallen and the snow hadn't come yet. Everything was still green and because of the leaves being gone we were able to see all the beautiful villages that would have otherwise been hidden away.
It was the kids' first experience flying on Ryan Air and they all did fabulously, a good trial run for our trip to Hawaii in December. And we were able to pack all our things into the required one carry on per person.
When we arrived in Germany the nice car rental lady after seeing our brood, gave us a larger car in the same class. This came back to bite us less than an hour later. We were happily traveling on the autobahn when the sliding door next to our youngest flew open.
As you can imagine since we were on the autobahn and my husband was driving we were not going slow.
Luckily all turned out fine. As I was clinging on to him for dear life, Kevin was able to safely pull over.
AJ was them relocated to the middle seat. And since the car came with no child locks the other two were given strict instructions not to touch the door handles. This of course made them immediately irresistible to our daughter.
Since the theory of whether or not the doors could be opened while we were moving had already been tested, she decided we needed to know if the doors could open while moving even if the door was locked.
They did.
The rest of the vacation was a bit more uneventful.
We saw Neuschwanstein, did some window shopping in Oberammergau, went up the Zugspitze, went to the salt mine in Salzburg, the Sound of Music house and the Salzburg fortress, and saw the Glockenspiel in Munich.
But the highlight of the whole trip was that there wasn't a pothole or dip in any road. Talk about the pinnacle of German engineering. I think I'm ready to move.
We had friends over for Thanksgiving and the beginning of December seems to have gone by in a blur.
Now to gear up for our mid-December marathon trip to my parents' house in Hawaii!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

As It Turns Out..

I may not be as computer savvy as I have always considered myself. Not that I can make my computer jump up and do cartwheels on demand but I have always felt fairly confident in my web navigation skills. And thanks to Kevin, I am usually up to date on new browsers or other forms of technology, although I have pushed back against owning a smart phone for some time now. I just don't feel like I should have to pay that much to access the web on a tiny mobile device, but I digress.
The point of this post was to thank all those that have emailed my their comments on my previous posts.
See this whole time I thought no one was listening/reading and I was totally fine with doing this for myself and Kevin, I love to hear him laugh at my interpretation of the happenings of our lives.
But as it turns out there are some of you out there. And the comments that you send, although to this point have gone into the black hole that is my gmail account, will now be noticed on my radar. I had no idea that you were sending things in response to what I put out there.
So I apologize and say thank you for reading my lowly blog if only to laugh along with us and commiserate along side us.
It turns out I love to hear from you too and will be more diligent in checking that account.
I just wish I could figure out how to let you comment on the page itself but like I said I may not know as much as I thought I did.
Shocking, very shocking.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Halloween That Wasn't

There comes a time in every mother's career when you have to ask yourself just how far you'll go.
Today, I drew the line.
After a morning out of haircuts and new lunch boxes we ended up back home in time to bake some cornbread and make new trick-or-treat bags for all the little monsters so we could go and party at the trunk-or-treat.
But what to do with the kids to make them help out and earn the privilege of gorging themselves on mounds and mounds of goodies?
Oh, I know I will make them work together in the close confines of the car cleaning out all their random things that never seem to make it back into the house despite repeated reassurances that they will.
What could go wrong, right?
After about one minute of me being inside and them being outside shouting ensued.
Children were called in and warned that if said shouting happened again they would not be dressing in their Halloween garb or collecting any free candy and then sent back out to finish the job.
What could go wrong, right?
In record time they again were shouting at each other loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear. Instead of calling them in again, I went out to observe the situation so I could adequately assess the problem and decide whether or not to follow through with my still very fresh threat.
After about two minutes my oldest finally noticed me watching him.
His look was priceless.
Two children were then informed that we would not be going to the trunk-or-treat.
(Now before you start judging me, it wasn't like we didn't celebrate this pagan holiday on at least two other occasions in the past week. Between work and school this has been a week long celebration. And the dad doesn't believe in limiting their sugar intake. "Just let them eat it all at once and get it over with," he says. And then he of course leaves for six days somehow skillfully missing the sugar high, ugh.)
You would be surprised how not bad my night was.
After the obligatory wailing and gnashing of teeth, I learned a few things about my kids.
One-My oldest has a problem with really beating himself up over the little things. We had to have a very serious talk about why he wasn't the stupidest person on earth.
Two-My middle can be very altruistic. This was something that I already had had glimpses of over the years.
Several years ago when the oldest was told the toy bug (he couldn't be a monster because that was way scarier that the thought of a giant bug coming to collect toys that weren't put away, but I digress.) When the oldest was told the toy bug was coming that night because he chose to play rather than clean he stood fearless of the threat stating that he knew it was just us. Meanwhile his sister is sobbing on the floor pleading that he be given another chance to clean his room.
So today just like then she came downstairs to where he and I were talking and threw herself on the sacrificial alter for him again. She says to me very calmly, and with huge tears in her eyes, "Mom, it was my fault. I was the one arguing and complaining. Please can we go to the trunk-or-treat and I will stay in the car and Eli can trick-or-treat, I know how much he really wants to."
I applauded her on being so giving and making such a grown up decision.
I turned to her brother, who looked like he was holding his breath because he thought I might go for it.
I asked him if he had anything to say to his sister expecting him to say something like, "I don't want to have fun if she isn't." Instead he said,"Yeah, and I can share my candy with her."
Then I told her that I couldn't change my mind because then the next time I asked them to stop arguing and I gave them consequences they wouldn't think I was serious.
This piece of news was received better than I thought it would be.
No wailing, no gnashing of teeth, just quiet disappointment with a side of resignation.
And like I said my night was not so bad.
We had fish sticks for dinner, kid requested and super easy.
The youngest was happy with putting on just the accessories of his costume and going to the eight houses on our street, minimal work on my part and super easy.
We watched Scooby-Dooes and Ben 10s for our evening entertainment, Halloween appropriate and not parentally annoying, super easy.
And there were two volunteers to help hand out candy (with parental supervision, of course).
It was nice to see them excited about giving the candy away. They may have started a new tradition.
We'll see how next year goes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Order of Things

Yesterday a good friend invited us to go bowling with their family. I declined wanting to spend the only night of the week that I didn't have to be in my car, well, not in my car.
Ironically when my husband arrived home he almost immediately remembered that he had to go back to work to do something that would take him ten minutes to do but couldn't wait until tomorrow. Knowing this would interfere with any **cough, cough** dinner plans that I had in the works, he turns to me and says, "We can go bowling and eat there."
So we all hope in the car and head out to get some work done.
My plan was to have the kids watch a movie in the car while I read a book that I had strategically placed in my bag on the way out.
Kevin's plan was to punish me by insisting that all the kids go into his office and watch a movie in there so they could "practice" being good and earn the privilege of going to the bowling alley for dinner.
After 15minutes of him trying to get the sound to work on the TV and me trying to get the kids to stop twirling in the office chairs, I was ready to throw in the towel and take the kids back to the car where I could strap them down and make them immobile.
Instead we turned to a box of crayons.
Kevin was able to finish up quickly and we headed out to the bowling alley. This brought on a whole discussion of who would get the privilege of being first to hurl a florescent ball down the lane.
Eli wanted to go first and AJ wanted to go first...nobody could decide if the oldest should go first or if the youngest should go first. This resulted in a breakdown of communication and everyone yelling "I'm first" all at the same time. Everyone that is except for Addie.
In a lull between the shouting it was decided that they would redo the shouting and whoever said it first time would win.
They counted down and two tied for the "I'm first" shout and there was an unexpected taker for second. While Eli and AJ came up with the "I'm first" tie, Addie came safely into second by exclaiming at the same time, "I'm second!"
I decided we should go bowling more often.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another House Bites The Dust

So there we were, August of 2009 moving into a great house in the tiny village of Stretham. Our kids were enrolled in the local primary school and we had bought their uniforms and they were all set for school to start.
Fast forward seven months to February 2010 and we still love the house but the kids weren't doing so well in school and their social lives had hit an incredible low. They were no longer thriving outgoing children but kids just surviving day to day.
At the end of February I was scheduled for a short break back to Kansas to visit a friend who just had her third baby. Through a few twists of fate and promptings from the Spirit I ended up canceling the trip. Kevin had the week off to watch the kids in my absence and opted to still stay home. We were able to assess our family situation together and decided we needed to make a few changes.
We started by checking out the DoD school that was offered at the base for service members children. We loved it and instantly felt like this was the place for our kids. We enrolled them to start the next week and let the primary school know that the kids would no longer be attending.
The only draw back of this decision was that the kids would have a very long bus ride to get to school. In England even though things may be 12 miles away as the crow flies it will still take you about 30-40 minutes to get there because of a general lack of straight and direct routes between two places. So it was a ten minute drive from our house to the bus stop in Ely and another 45 minutes by bus to the school. And they had to do it all again at the end of the day.
This is something we felt we were willing to do for at least the rest of the school year but we knew this summer there would have to be a change in our housing situation to get the kids closer to school.
With this in mind we put our names on the base housing list at the housing office indicating that we wanted a house on the base where the kids school was located. And decided that if we didn't get a house we would still be moving somewhere with a smaller commute time for the kids.
This would also change our ward boundaries so in an investigative step we attended what would be our potential new ward. They weren't too crazy so it seemed like all the pieces were falling into place.
It also turned out that there were two families in the ward that lived in some of the houses that we qualified for on the base. As luck would have it they were both moving out in the summer and the houses were coming available. One of the families let us invite ourselves over and we were able to take a peek inside their home.
We were feeling better and better about our decisions and were prepared to wait until summer for a house.
The kids immediately adjusted to their new school and teachers, made lots of friends and were soon back to the upbeat kids that we knew and loved.
A couple months later, around the middle of May, I was checking in the housing office to see where we were on the list and if anything was coming available. Little did they know that I knew that there was a house that was supposed to be coming available at the end of May. The big problem was that even we thought we qualified for the house we were mistaken. It was in the next category that we did not qualify for because of Kevin's rank.
So what we thought was two houses coming available in the summer turned out to be just one house. The downside of that was there were two people ahead of us on the housing list that wanted a house on the base as well. So our chances were looking pretty slim.
We didn't know what else to do so we prayed and fasted and hoped for the best. The best being that the two other people would have found a house that they loved and were happy and didn't want to move.
About a month later on the last day of school, I was headed to the base to pick the kids up from school and take Eli to the end of the year cub scout party. I thought I would have enough time to go grocery shopping beforehand but by the time I got out of the house and to the base I was running behind and didn't have enough time for shopping but I did have extra time and thought that maybe I should go over to the housing office and check on things.
It was a prompting that brought good and bad news.
The bad news was that someone else on the list ahead of us had changed their preference to the base we wanted. So now three people would have to say no to the one house that would be coming available.
After this discovery I checked the three bedroom housing list to see if there was anyone wanting a house on the same base as us. Miraculously there wasn't. By this point I had been stalking the street where the houses are at on the base and I knew that someone in the three bedrooms had just moved in or was moving out. So I asked the lady at the desk if she knew of anything coming available and whether she thought it was a good gamble to switch from the four bedroom to the three bedroom list. She went in the back to check another book and came back saying, "I can't give out any information as to whether something is coming available or not." But the way she said it was her way of telling me that something was.
So we had to decide if we wanted to waive a bedroom and switch lists. Kevin of course was flying and couldn't be reached and he had to sign the paper changing us to the other list. As soon as he got home I told him everything and he agreed that we should make the switch to the other list. We went in the next day and signed the paper and actually ended up meeting with the lady who is second in charge.
Personally I thought she was working in the wrong office. She was sweet and polite and sympathetic to our plight of limited housing options available to us,not exactly the temperament that any housing office is known for. We also went and knocked on the door of the house where I had seen the boxes at and sure enough they were headed out and of course let us look at the house. It is nice to know sometimes what you are getting yourself into.
So here is the rough timeline of how things happened. Thursday I went in and found out the bad/good news. Friday we went in and switched lists and finally felt like someone in housing office might actually want to give us a house. Monday and Tuesday I called and talked to the lady that was filling in for our lady who is always sick or on vacation which is okay because she should work for the housing office, it suits her{wink, wink}. I didn't get an answer either day because this person had to talk to that person and they didn't ever seem to be around at the right moments (haven't these people ever heard of cell phones). And on Wednesday they formally offered us the house and told us we could set up a time to go look at it (which I already had but went back so Kevin could see it). We saw the house on Thursday and accepted it, of course, the same day.
It then took a few weeks for them to schedule Kevin to get in and sign all the paperwork. We told our landlady about the house offer. And when I say we I mean I made Kevin do it. We scheduled movers and made ready for the big day.
We finally moved in on July 20th and things couldn't be better. All the boxes were unpacked by the weekend. Kevin installed some shelves on Saturday. I have been working on getting the house outfitted so it is functional and feels like home. I barely see the kids for most of the day because they are off on this adventure or that, playing with friends on the street. We are expecting two new neighbors at the end of the street sometime soon and hopefully they will have more kids to add to the mix.
We, and by we I mean I, closed up the last house, got it clean and ready for a final check by the letting agency and said goodbye to another chapter in our lives. Even though Kevin didn't change stations and it was a relatively local move it still drastically changed our circumstances and our surroundings. We love the house, me because of the garbage disposal and American size washer and dryer, the kids because of the location and all the new friends, and Kevin, I think, finally feels like this is our home and not just a house like the other one was.
We have been to our new ward a few times, my 25th ward in thirty years, ugh. And the kids are excited to start school in a few weeks...and I'm excited for them too.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Abbreviated Life

Kevin left for some training back in the states today and last night it had me thinking about all the abbreviations and acronyms that I have to deal with, not only in everyday life but over his whole Air Force career. I just wanted to jot a few down and see what you thought. So, let's start at the beginning.
In 2003 Kevin graduated from ASU. And having completed ROTC commissioned with the USAF.
Shortly thereafter we PCSed to Moody AFB in Valdosta, GA. Where he abandoned me (not really but that is how I fondly remember it) after two weeks to go to ASBC at Maxwell AFB, AL. When he got home he began IFT which he successfully completed six months later and began UPT. When done with that we PCSed again to Laughlin AFB, TX to continue with SUPT. When we got there we decided to divide and conquer. I took the two kids we had at the time and went to UT to work on my BGS from BYU. Having survived all that with only one prolonged DNIF, Kevin attended SERE school and water survival (which they I think is about the only thing they haven't come up with an acronym for) and then we went TDy to Altus AFB, OK for MFT. After which we PCSed to McConnell AFB, KS where we managed to stay put for about four years.
(All of those moves and training were done between May 2003 and Nov 2005)
When we got to McConnell Kevin had to go through MCAT so he could officially fly the KC-135R at the 350th ARS. And as was becoming the norm, he again abandoned me two months after our arrival to go TDy to the desert where he was temporarily assigned to the 179th EARS. He did that two times the first year we were there. He then went through AC upgrade, and CFIC and two more deployments before we left four years after our arrival.
Not to be out done, shortly after we PCSed to RAF Mildenhall, where he was assigned to the 351st ARS here in England, Kevin again deserted me to go back to the US to attend SOS. Which brings us current to his departure for the US again this morning to attend AIS in OKC.
Now these are all the acronyms I have had to learn for his career, but there are also a lot that I deal with in day to day life. Here are a few.
I shop at the BX and the DECA Commissary. If I want to work out (hahaha) I go to the HaWC. If I want child care for my kids they would go to the CDC. The American schools are called DoD schools. I drive a POV which restricts me from going certain places on the base. The SP checks my ID as I go through the gate. I know my sponsors SSN, DOB and duty phone by heart. I have belonged to several OSCs. I know that the QCS at the TMO is your friend when they are carelessly tossing your boxes onto a moving truck. With this last move I had UAB, HHG, and storage items to separate. And the list goes on.
So this kind of brings me to a funny story.
The other day Eli needed family participation with his math homework. He was supposed to ask us what we thought of the different temperatures of things that are found around our house. So he started reading the list and we commented on each one. Then he got to E-T-C. I asked him to repeat what he said. He again said E-T-C. I was baffled. I was about to chalk it up to some strange English thing when my husband said "Do you mean etcetera? etc."

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Pre-Emptive Christmas Morning Strike

This year my youngest, AJ, turned three in September. He is the upwardly mobile type, in that he is up and mobile long before everyone else rises in the morning. Usually this only creates small areas of chaos in the kitchen, the worst has been his fascination with removing all the keys from the laptop keyboard, but that only makes his dad really mad so I won't dwell on that.
Since he is three and I know a few things about three year olds, having lived through two already, I knew not to put out any Christmas presents prior to Christmas morning.
Now being a woman with a scientific background (I majored in Biology for a semester in college with aspirations of one day being a science teacher) I felt it necessary to test the limits of my three year old's capabilities.
We had received a few years back a box of books from my parents that was intended for the kids but never seemed to make it into the massive collection of books that they had already given us. So this year I told my parents not to send any gifts for the kids and I would wrap the books that I already had and put grandma and grandpa's names on them. I labeled them with the appropriate child's name, dressed them up with red ribbon and put them under the tree about a week before Christmas Day.
Now this is where having a three year old with a two letter name can be a drawback. He already knows how to read and write it.
The next day being Saturday, Kevin and I were enjoying being able to sleep in until 7 am. At which point the house started to buzz with the activity of my early riser and we reluctantly decided to get up. I was the first one out of bed and in my absence AJ came to our room asking his dad to read him a story. My first thought was, "Oh how adorable. I hope Kevin says yes." But it was quickly interrupted by his dad exclaiming his two letter name followed by a "where did you get this?" That is when I knew something had gone very wrong with my experiment.
He had located the beautifully decorated package bearing his name and since it of course was his decided to open it.
The present was re-wraped and placed again under the tree with strict instructions not to touch it until Christmas morning.
It turns out I wasn't specific enough in my threat.
Christmas morning the crafty AJ again arose early and using his stealth like ninja powers, he slipped downstairs before the rest of us. Now as any parent knows you have to put the presents out on Christmas Eve, nobody wants to wake up to an empty Christmas tree.
My problem is that I should have known to lock the door behind myself.
Eli, our oldest, was the next one down the stairs.
Now, you have to understand that all our bedrooms are upstairs and the floor creeks and moans like nobodies business but apparently you have to have a certain amount of weight in order to trigger the not so silent warning that someone is up and moving and a three year old just doesn't have the same mass as a nine year old and is thus able to slide by undetected.
When I heard Eli going down the stairs I knew it would be time to get up because it wouldn't be long before the other two had descended the stairs and I wanted to see all the fun.
What I wasn't expecting was Eli's exclamation of that now infamous two letter name.
It turned out that AJ took advantage of his sleeping parental figures and helped himself to all of his presents, which even though they had no name on them they were easily identified with the Cars wrapping paper that I knew he would love.
He opened every single one of his presents...and then one of his brother's...and three of his sister's.
Now he is a smart boy and I would like to think that the opening of the wrong presents occurred prior to him realizing that all of his were in the same wrapping paper.
You may be laughing right now about the whole situation, but I'm not, not yet. Maybe in the years to come I will but it is still too close. I wouldn't say that he ruined Christmas morning for me but I was a little less motivated to go downstairs.
He on the other hand was very excited about his presents. They were just what he wanted.
Next year there will be some different rules about Christmas morning because I will be one year older and wiser too.

O Christmas Tree

AJ, my three year old, might have a bit of OCD. He becomes completely fascinated and fixated on certain things and there is no stopping him.
Well this Christmas he turned his fascination towards the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
Now our tree isn't the type with all coordinating balls, bows, and other bobbles. We have made it a family tradition to collect Christmas ornaments from all of our travels and vacations. It makes the tree very personal and I love how it is a storybook of our lives.
This year we laid out all the travel ornaments and put them on the tree one by one reminding the kids where we got each one. It was fabulous to see them remember the small details from each of those times spent together as a family.
The kids also have their individual ornaments that are usually a gift from the grandparents. Two of these were the center of AJ's world for several weeks and both of them belonged to his older brother. One was a hallmark Buzz Lightyear, complete with buttons for sound, and the other a Blue Han Solo M&M that Eli's Grandma Gibson acquired for him from an ornament exchange we attended together in Wichita.

The Buzz Lightyear turned out to be very well made and only ended up suffering a single leg amputation below the knee.
The Blue M&M on the other hand (no pun intended) started off by loosing both of his hands. After they were repaired and re-hung they disappeared again, this time suffering from a total loss of both arms and one leg. After more super glue was applied and they were once again re-hung, a little higher up on the tree, they mysteriously vanished again. This time one foot one leg and both arms needed the healing powers of the Super Glue.
After their last re-constructive surgery they entered into the "Christmas Ornament Relocation Program" and were hung at the top of the back of the tree. Here they lived out the rest of the Christmas season peacefully until the taking down of the tree a week later.
I'm sure next year, when he is a year older and wiser too, this won't be a problem. Until then I think it would be prudent to invest in 3M stocks.