Friday, May 30, 2014

Here we go again.

I've got a sad girlie on my hands, again.
The move is hitting home and I predict a difficult three weeks ahead of us.

She was wiping away tears on the walk from the bus to the school this morning, and again I'm at a loss as to how to make it better.

I've tried the reasonable responses to her questions--

"Why does Daddy have to have a job that moves so much?"
"Can't he just get a regular job? He could be a postman or a taxi driver."
"Why did we even bother making friends here anyway if we just have to say goodbye?"

I answered her questions, but she didn't really want to hear it.
Her sad heart was not interested in hearing about military regulations, visas and citizenship, or how our world gets bigger when we let other people into it.

Even as we walked past a man sleeping on the street, her brain could recognize that we should count our blessings, but her heart didn't want to hear about it. Not just then.

So I just said, "I know. It's really hard."

Their little Spanish school friends are not used to forever goodbyes, so it's been more of a topic of conversation at school. Alex is making rainbow loom goodbye gifts for her amigos.

Derek is also expressing how he wants to stay here, and will miss his friends. This is new territory for him, as he's been too young in the past to really have those feelings.

Derek's English teacher left to go on maternity leave, and so he's had a new teacher who happens to be an American. She asked him where he was from in American and he didn't know how to answer her. After school he asked me where he was from. Definitely a military kid! Even funnier is that I wasn't sure how to answer him! Idaho, N. Carolina, California...

I knew that moving would get harder on the kids as they got older, but I was really thinking more of the high school years-- not elementary school! Hopefully one day we can all look back on these experiences together and realize what a opportunity we've had to live life in so many places.

I'm guessing that wont be happening during the next three weeks. So I'll be doing lots of snuggling and sympathizing...or maybe looking into getting Josh a taxi license.


Here are a few more pictures, and I have no idea why they show up small, but I think if you click on them they will get bigger.
Or maybe they will disappear.
I wouldn't know.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May-in-Review Hodgepodge

It's the HodgePodge-- you know the drill.

1. What news story are you following right now?
Lots. Checking a couple of different news websites each morning is part of my daily routine.

I'm following the story of the Sudanese woman who has been sentenced to death for her Christian faith, and who just gave birth to her daughter in prison. Praying that international pressure will help her situation.

Also, I'm super frustrated with the case of American Saeed Abedini, the pastor who is being held and beaten in an Iranian prison for being a Christian. My heart goes out to his wife and two young children in Idaho.

I'm waiting to see what's going to happen with the U.S. Marine in custody in Mexico. I enjoy oversimplifying things, but I think it should go something like this:

"Hey, Mexico. We give you a lot of money. Give us this guy or we wont anymore."

 2. What's the last thing you wanted but didn't get?

An answer to this question.
3. May 28th is National Hamburger Day...when did you last have a hamburger? Other than your own kitchen or BBQ grill, where is your favorite place to go for a hamburger? And for all you non-meat eaters out there...when you're invited to a cookout what is the one side dish you hope is on the menu?

Spain can't do a good hamburger. And we lack a grill here. I am really looking forward to grilling out this summer and visiting some of my favorite restaurants in the States. Red Robin is a favorite with us, and they refill your fries. And now my mouth is watering.
Spanish food is good, but sometimes you just need the flavors of home, especially after a year and a half away.
4. How have your priorities changed over time?

I am in an ever-present struggle to keep an eternal perspective in a very temporal world. Some days I do better than others, but I want to make decisions and have reactions based on the question: "How important will this be on the day that I die?"

The list of things that don't really matter grows longer every day: Where I live, what kind of house I have, how fashionable are my clothes, what grades do my children bring home from school, how much money do we have, what kind of car do I drive...almost everything under the sun.

What's left is loving each other well, time spent together, enjoying our blessings, and a chance to try again tomorrow.

Parenting provides an immense number of opportunities to put this to the test. I assure you that before I was a mom, I was quite certain that my mad mom skillz would net me some super well-behaved children who were always polite and got along wonderfully.
I realized after a while that I was really just trying to get my kids to put on a show in front of other adults, and I wasn't really dealing with their heart issues. What a challenge it is to really and truly try to root out the natural selfishness that is deep inside all of us. We are daily in the trenches of this battle, because it is a priority.
Not that they appear as perfect angels, we lost that battle long ago, but that their hearts move toward love for others.

5. What's a favorite memory with your grandparents?

As a military kid, I didn't get to spend much time with my grandparents, so it was always a treat when they would come to visit. My "Nauny" would make up bedtime stories with characters with our names, give us 'slips' of her coffee, and generally we would just laugh a lot together.
We also made many a trip to Michigan to visit all of the grandparents and I always remember that being fun, and getting spoiled.

 6. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being fantastic!), how good are you at multitasking? Share an example.

0. I just can't do it. I even have to go into a separate room when I talk on the phone, because my mind can't keep up with a conversation when anything else is going on around me.

 7. How would you summarize your highs and lows for the month of May?

Like a roller coaster. May is our last full month living in Madrid, and in addition to feeling the weight of an impending move, we also had lots of events on the calendar.
Josh and Alex went to Paris, they both had birthdays, Alex had her class trip, I was teaching Sunday school for the month, Josh has been plugging away at all the time-consuming details of getting us from Point A to Point C, with a long layover in Point B.

So we've been happy, busy, sad, and frustrated by turn.
Así es la vida.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

We're moving over to the hotel in 2 weeks and 1 day. The hotel has a gorgeous roof-top pool, and it dawned on me that I will be required to don a bathing suit.

For the benefit of those who will be around me, I thought maybe I should try to tighten up the middle section a bit.
After all, I have not set foot in a gym since I lived in California. Which happened to be the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve.

Now, I don't plan to go crazy, I just thought maybe I should take a few minutes each day and do some crunches and maybe some pushups for the 'ol bingo wings.

I started on Monday.
I woke up on Tuesday morning at 4:30 thinking that I should have started a little slower. I am so out of shape!

This is what life in Spain will do to you ;)

But I still recommend it highly.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stuff and Nonsense

I must begin by telling you that despite my worst fears and what I felt were significant odds, my daughter made it back from her class trip! And with all of her stuff, too!

She was full of stories about how they were allowed to stay up until 11pm each night, and that at lunch they could have unlimited Coca Cola, and at dinner unlimited Fanta.

I am certain this made the teachers' days much more...lively.

There was bed jumping and pillow fighting, hiking, kayaking, archery, museum visits, and she also judiciously used her spending money to buy...candy.

She took lots of pictures, to include the square-seat on the toilet, the television in her room, the bathroom sink, and stray cats.
She reported that she had so much fun that it felt like she was only gone for one day and no nights.

I'm happy to have my whole family back under the same roof, even if that makes the space a little noisier.

Moving on.

The countdown is at 28 Days. Twenty-eight. Ventiocho.

This is painful. It's like pulling a Band-Aid off slowly.

A super-sticky generic brand bandage.
On a hairy part.

Today we walked around the touristy area of town to pick out our Madrid magnet. We like to collect magnets from the places we visit or live. Because it's the cheapest thing to collect and when you're in the habit of moving about the country and/or world, it's best not to collect expensive breakables.

I was too busy thinking about how much I'm going to miss the city to enjoy it. And Retiro was its usual haven of green-ness and great people watching. The temps dipped back down into the high 60s-70s this past week and I'm happy to enjoy a little more spring before the heat hits.

Don't worry, I'll move past my depressive state soon enough. And certainly there are things I miss about "home" that I'm looking forward to this coming year. Mostly food related.

Today was the last Sunday in May, and so my last time teaching the children's class. I would tell you I'm sad about that, but I try to keep it real around here.

Ha. I kid.
Kind of.

Let's just say that if working with groups of children was my calling in life, I'd probably do best if the group could all speak that same language. Also, if the children would maybe listen. That would be cool, too.

We'll chalk it up to a learning adventure and further evidence that I did not miss my calling to be a teacher.

In other news, we got our photos back from our rainy-day photo shoot.
I am not photogenic.
The temperature dropped suddenly and we had to change the plan for our supposed-to-be coordinated outfits at the last minute.

Also, it's a good thing we stopped at 2 kids, because I'm not sure how bigger families manage to get any pictures in which everyone is looking at the camera and doesn't have crazy eyes.

All that being said, it's about the memories not about perfection. Right?


This is one of the last shots we took, and if you look in the water behind us you can see the raindrops.
This is the side of the Palacio Real.

I will drag out the photo reveal by adding a new one every post, until such a time as I don't like any more pictures of me.
I will, however, throw a stoned-looking Josh under the bus if I look good.

Heh Heh.

Look at these little boogers!

I have no idea why it let me make the top photo bigger but not this one. Technology also is not my calling.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Home through the years

Well hello there, interworld.

The Emotions. They are all running amok today. I accidentally glanced at my calendar, which is a terrible thing to do when you're in love with the city you're living in, but you can't keep living in it much longer.

I was already in a fragile state, because my little girl's bedroom was empty this morning and although she is a bear in the mornings, it's still so very strange not to have her here.

Alex left yesterday on her class trip to Cazorla, Spain which is a whole 4 hour drive away. We received a text letting us know they had arrived safely, which allowed me to cross off one thing on my prayer list-- leaving only a hundred more.

Some more important than others, as I'm not sure "Please God, give her the wisdom to remember to take showers" is a big-picture concern.

I did not have a whole lot of time yesterday to dwell on her being away, because it was "International Night" at Josh's school and I was running around all day preparing my chili and rice krispie balls* and all of the other little things that were required to help the evening go as planned.

*The Spaniards didn't know they were supposed to be square, so no one was the wiser that I can't even make rice krispie treats look the right way. Win for the home team.

I slipped out of the event around 9:00 to get Derek home and to bed, and imagine my dismay when I pulled out my phone on the bus home and saw that I had missed three calls. THREE. From the same number, which I recognized as a number from the kids' school.

I may have panicked a little bit, until I heard the message. Apparently the school has each child call home to check in.
I felt so bad that I had missed the calls, but it was so loud in the room for the international night that I just didn't hear the phone ringing.

Her voice sounded so little and sweet. Because she's far away.
At home it sounds sassy.

And it was her birthday, and I didn't get to say Happy Birthday one more time!

Fast forward, I gave Derek a fast bath, put him to bed, and settled in on the couch to relax.
Then my phone rang again at 10:30-- It was Alex! Apparently they just keep on trying until they get through.

I asked her why she wasn't in bed, and she answered that they didn't have to go to bed until 10 o'clock which for obvious reasons made no sense. But judging from the noise in the background, it didn't sound like any rules were being enforced.

We spoke just briefly, but it made this mama's heart happy to know that she was safe and having fun and excited to go have a pillow fight.
And I got to say Happy Birthday one more time.

In honor of Alex's 9th Birthday, I shall present you now with a themed photo montage of:
The Many Houses of Alex.

Like many military children, my girlie has been uprooted and transplanted often.

We brought her home from the hospital to this base house at Sheppard AFB, in Wichita Falls, Texas. We had just moved into the house that month, because I enjoy doing exhausting things while very pregnant.

She celebrated her first birthday here, and was a Texan for about a year and a half before our first move.

Our next stop was for Josh's training in the F-15E, at Seymore-Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, North Carolina. We lived in base housing again. We had only one afternoon of snow that winter, but we took advantage of it. Alex turned two in this house.


We left North Carolina for Idaho with our little guy tagging along en utero. We moved into our Idaho house with two weeks to spare before he made his arrival. This is the location that Alex has spent the most time, celebrating her 3rd, 4th, and we just squeezed in her 5th birthday as well before leaving. She attended pre-school here.

Then, because we like to drive cross-country as often as possible, we went back to Goldsboro, North Carolina. This time we rented a house off-base and enjoyed our time in the Maple'hood. Alex had her 6th birthday in this house. Well, technically in Disney World, but this was our house at the time. She went to Kindergarten here, and then we homeschooled first grade.

A little under 2 years later, we were off for our favorite state-side location: Monterey, California. Happy days here! Alex had her 7th birthday and attended a half-year of second grade.

Which bring us to house number 6 for her-- an apartment in Madrid, Spain. Alex has now had her 8th and 9th birthdays here. She attended half of second grade, and will have completed third grade by the time we leave.

Dear Alex,

I can't believe how quickly you're growing, and all the places you've been in your short life! I just want you to know that Daddy and I are so proud of you and how you've handled these frequent changes. I know that it's getting harder and harder to leave friends behind. I wish there was a way for us to make that part easier. It's hard for us, too.
Alex, I know that you didn't want to come to Spain. You didn't want to learn another language. You were scared to go to school here and we shared lots of tears in the first few months. Baby, look at you now! I hope you are as proud of yourself as we are of you. You stuck it out! And now you speak fluently in another language, you've made friends, and you've experienced things most people never have the chance to do.
We'll have your 10th birthday in Alabama, and your 11th somewhere else. But no matter where we are, you'll be "home" for your birthdays because home is family, not a place.

We love you more than you can know, and pray that God will bless you as you grow!
Love, Mama

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hokey Pokey

You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out...

I feel like I'm living the hokey pokey these days. We leave Madrid in 6 weeks to fly back to the U.S. and we're at that point in the preparations in which it is impossible to be completely present here.

We're living in the familiar limbo of the "pre-move" that doesn't allow us to belong to any one place. We're in Spain, the kids are in school, Josh is at work, I am...on the couch.

And yet our thoughts and plans and calendar are divided between here, Michigan, and Alabama.
I'm signing permission slips for Alex's class trip here, filling out registration forms for the summer day camp the kids will attend in Michigan, and printing off sports physical forms so Derek can play fall soccer in Alabama.

I've had friends mention before how lucky we are that when we change locations, the military "moves us." And they are right, to a great extent. The movers will show up and put all our things in boxes, and then take those boxes away. The heavy lifting is cared for by someone else.

The prep is another story. We will have lists upon lists and carefully separated piles will appear throughout the house. But even that is simple enough.
Keep= Everything we need to live for the next couple of months + suitcases+ car booster seats
Send in early shipment= Enough pillows/linens/kitchen necessities to "camp out" in an empty house
Regular shipment=Everything else minus the European electrical items we're passing along to the next family.

And then comes the easier-to-forget things:
- pick up dental records
- re-register the expired license plates on the van sitting in Michigan
- plan our 'summer school'-- Derek doesn't know how to spell in English!
- get physicals for the kids now, because by the time we get to Alabama we wont have time to wait for an appointment before the sports season starts
- fill any prescriptions that will expire while we're in between locations-- like Derek's epi-pen

We're looking at our flights out and realizing that we might need to change things-- the connections are tight, Josh might now be the one driving the van down to Alabama, the kids and I need new dates on the last leg of the trip.
We're talking in circles with the housing office in Montgomery about a move-in date, the time change means phone-tag, Skype will drop a call at the least opportune moment.

We'll need new cell phones once we arrive in the States. If you've met my husband you know this will require more than a simple trip to the store. Josh's boss from Germany is flying in on Tuesday, we're meeting for dinner, we don't have a sitter. I'm teaching Sunday school this month. We have to make the engine, interior, trunk, and spare tire on our 13 year old vehicle look, and I quote, "like a brand new vehicle" in preparation for shipment. Alex has a birthday next week-- buy a cake mix.

Do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around...

If you need me, I'll be making lists.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Beep Beep

We live on a busy street. During traffic hour in the evenings, there is plenty of noise outside and it just so happens to be windows-open season around here.

Madrileños use their horns with reckless abandon, and it's completely normal to double park and then when the blocked-in people need to move, they just sit in their car and hold the horn down until someone runs out to move the double-parked vehicle.
There are sirens, motorcycles revving their engines, dogs barking, and general city life.

There. Now I have set the scene.

A little bit ago I was sitting here on my couch, because it's what I do, and after a few minutes I registered an annoying beeping noise, and then immediately disregarded it. It's traffic hour.
Must be a delivery truck backing up.

10 minutes later I'm thinking that someone really stinks at backing up, but who am I to judge since I have to give myself a pep talk to even drive forward in the city.

5 minutes later I realize that all of my neighbors probably hate me, because it was time to flip the pork tenderloin. Oven alarm.

I didn't recognize the sound since it so rarely used.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


Our world travelers returned from France having accomplished all of their goals-- the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, boat rides on the river Seine, other stuff I can't remember, crepes, ice cream, and croissants.

PTB sent Alex some birthday money a little early so that she could take it to Paris for souvenirs, or as I like to call it, junk.

What is it about kids that they just want to collect stuff and leave it out all over their rooms and drive me crazy? I can't even throw away the cardboard roll at the center of paper towel-- every last one is needed for some special craft that I will never be able to throw away.

I learned my lesson the hard way. They saw something they made in the trash and the guilt trip was unreal. Big tears and "I worked really hard on that" and all that jazz.

 Now I follow this three part plan:

1) Purge "Crafts" when the children are not home.
2) Put said handiwork into a trashbag, and hide that bag in the house for 5 days.
3) If no one has noticed the missing items after 5 days, dispose of the trashbag outside of the house. OUTSIDE is key.

That way, if they return home from school and immediately notice the absence of that painted paper towel cardboard roll rocketship* then you can get it back out and mention that you'd needed to admire it up close in your room for a bit.

*term used loosely

Where was I? Oh yes, Alex adding to her collection of stuff.
She returned with a pair of rather large dangly Eiffel Tower earrings, a free standing Eiffel Tower model, an Eiffel Tower key chain, and a t-shirt of-- you guessed it-- the Eiffel Tower.

The t-shirt isn't actually that bad.

Josh emailed me a photo while in Paris of Alex showing off her new earrings.
Later, he emailed me a photo of Alex showing off her new t-shirt.

In both photos it looked as if Josh was neglecting to remind Alex that I had indeed packed a hairbrush.
It made me smile a little, because it's such a typical Dad-on-his-own-with-daughter thing.

I love that they made that trip together, that Alex will have those special memories of having gone to Paris with just her and Daddy, and that I married a man who loves to invest time in his children.

He planned everything with her in mind-- which museums he thought she'd like the most, using a waterboat for transportation, taking her to a light-show one night, even taking along a museum scavenger hunt to make it more fun for her.

I got a good one!

Selfie at the top of the tower

Fact: We have not finished looking at all of their pictures from the trip, but I just scrolled through quickly to find some for this post.

So I have no idea what exactly this is supposed to be representing, but I am not surprised that they decided to take a picture...and you're probably not surprised that I posted it.

Meanwhile, Derek and I took advantage of our time together and the wonderful weather to have a picnic in the park, watch the Lego movie, head to the mountains with some friends, and snuggle on the couch.

Oh, and he made a bunch of crafts.
I'm off to put them in a bag...