Monday, February 28, 2011

a streak-free S H I N E

The sun decided to make an appearance again today- that's two days in a row, yeah! It's also a huge reminder of how filthy our windows are. I love clean windows. The problem is I've never been very good at cleaning them. I know quite well how to do it, I just don't. For some reason, washing windows is always at the very {very} bottom of my cleaning priority list- always has been. By the time I get the rest of the house clean, I either run out of energy or motivation to pull out the Windex.
 
As embarrassing as it is, I think I average maybe once or twice a year {if that} washing them. I'm even worse with the outsides which rarely get cleaned. Even then, we usually get the outdoor Windex mix that you hook to the garden hose and Jim is great about spraying them down. Kind of cheating, in a way- horrible, I know. But, I am very hopeful that I might just change things up over here. I just needed these German windows.

I've already mentioned that the windows over here are pretty cool. Since these {concrete} walls don't breathe at all, it's very convenient to crack the windows by opening them up on top. I do this daily in every room to get a little fresh air circulating to help a little with the huge, horrible problem with mold.

They're even more convenient to wash- inside and out. By pressing the handle up, the window cracks. Then, to the side, it opens up. To open the other side {if there are two in the frame} Justin discovered that you just pull out the lever and it opens as well. I think it's a very cool concept making it a breeze to clean all windows- especially those on the second and third floors of our house. The newness might wear off but for today- we have clean windows and I'm loving it.
This is the view out Justin's window

Sunday, February 27, 2011

B U D S on the trees

Right now, the sun is out and everyone in our house noticed it. By the time I finish this post, I'm sure it will be hidden back behind the clouds. The days are still so dark here, but I'm still holding on to the hope that Spring is just around the corner.
Returning from a grocery shop this week, I inadvertently purchased more frozen food than would fit in our little mini-freezer. I didn't have Jim shopping with me {to remind me} and forgot. Our last refrigerator/freezer unit was the largest in stainless steel that Costco sold. There was plenty of room. Additionally, we had a medium-sized chest freezer in our basement which was very easily filled as we returned from our Costco runs in Kansas. Oh, I was such a spoiled girl and didn't even realize it. In order to make the food fit in our freezer this week; I had to take out a bag of ice. Even with rearranging the food and shoving it in really fast before slamming the door shut, there wasn't enough room.

I stuck the ice outside. Remember, there are no ice makers here- our ice comes in bags or trays. Three days later, the ice is still frozen as it sits outside our door. The end of February and it's definitely still winter. Yes, a lot like Alaska.

I asked a friend the other day if the end of Winter was in sight. She's lived here for two years, so I knew she would know. She hesitated, then gently broke it to me that there is at least another month of yucky winter-ish weather here in Deutschland. Maybe, it would have been better if I just didn't know. Until it arrives, I'm trying to focus on the buds I just found on our neighbor's tree.

The date imprinted on the carton of milk I bought this week is March 5. At least March is close, right?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I'm I N D I F F E R E N T

My Ty. He's a great kid- we love him more than he'll EVER know. This week was a little rough for him. He lost games. In Ty's world- that's huge. He loves his games- always has. It probably started with his Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance. Moving on to his Nintendo DS, Gamecube, Playstation, PS II, something like that {I think there was more than one}, XBox, iPod, ipod Shuffle, iPod Touch. For the last little while the XBox 360 is the electronic unit of choice. I'm sure there are others I've forgotten.

I'm a huge believer in dinner as a family sitting around the table together every night. Doesn't matter if we're eating cereal or steak, it's a time that we connect and spend together. Even if someone decides they don't want or like what is for dinner {usually Coleman}, we make them sit at the table with us. About a year ago, we were sitting around the dinner table with the conversation centering around leverage. The leverage we have as parents and what makes each kid tick. It was a no-brainer that taking games away from Ty is the worst form of punishment. For Justin it was food, Coleman it was dessert. We struggled with Caden- I think in the end Justin said we could take work/cleaning away from Caden to best punish him. Go figure. The bottom line is we all know Ty loves electronic games and will pretty much play every spare second he has available.

Up until this last year, we didn't allow the big boys to have games on during the week. They were for weekends only and we really liked it that way. We figured they were getting old enough, doing well with their sports and keep their grades up- we'd ease up and let them play when they want to.

in November at our hotel when we first moved here
Right now, Ty has all A's and only one B. He's in tough classes, but nothing that is too much of a challenge for him being that he has little to no homework. I also feel strongly {and remind them often} that B's are BAD if the classes are easy. If they're struggling and working hard with tons of homework- I'll leave them alone if they are carrying a B. If they're just not doing the work and their grade is a B- be ready for this mama to pouce.

Even carrying high grades, I still think Ty spends way too many hours a week playing games. I'm the mom, I should regulate this- right? In his opinion, it is a kind of socializing- especially since he plays LIVE where he's on his headphones playing with kids from school and even friends from Mulvane. I get this, but still don't totally buy in to his justification.

So, this week {Tuesday} after a solid three-day weekend of games and a little attitude, I told him games were off for the week- through Friday. One would think it was an eternity and I've had one very upset kid. I asked the other night if he was mad at me. He said, "No." Jim asked if he was happy {cracking yet another funny...}. He replied, "I'm indifferent."

Indifferent? Of course, I had to look up the dictionary definition to see if it was totally fitting. The dictionary says, not thinking about or interested in someone or something. Basically, not interested.
In KS at a football game with his girlfriend, Tay

Synonyms include cold, cool, aloof, blase, detached, callous. Yes, this described his mood perfectly. And, all because of games? He's warmed up a little this morning with games back on. I'm sure he's still not totally happy with me, but we're making progress. My point to him- it's all about balance and life as a whole. There is more to life than gams. His point to me- games aren't bad and he's not on them all the time. It's so tough being the mom.

Makes me wonder how many hours per week other kids play and how other parents regulate time in front of these electronic devices. According to Ty, I'm definitely one of the "more strict" parent. He can't believe he gets good grades and we still limit him. Life is so unfair. Our of curiosity, I've decided to do a completely unscientific poll. I've added a survey on my side bar just for the heck of it. Feel free to vote!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jahresendabrechnungsbetrag

This one translated means year-end balance. Seriously, I don't make these words up! I feel {a little} like I hit the jackpot this week. I finally found the one person at our propane company who speaks a little English. After mailing our bank information to them and still not seeing a payment come out of our bank account, I got brave enough to make a call to their office.

Her name is Evelyn and she made my day. If we were still in the baby-making business, and happened to have a girl I might have even consider naming her after this English-speaking German woman. That's about how frustrating this whole utilities mess has been and about how excited I am to finally have it figured out after three months in this house.

I figured our year-end balance, actually just one month of propane use {November 25 - December 31} was $454.00. Being US military, we get that break on taxes, which is nice. The 19% tax alone would have been another $87.00. That's a lot of tax.

I also got her to understand and withdrawl our January and Feburary payments, so about $1000 total due just on our propane to get squared up through February. Yes, this place is a bit expensive. We're now paying about $250 (USD) per month- hopefully, we've guessed close to what we'll use so we're not left with a huge bill at the end of the year when we get our next Jahresendabrechnungsbetrag. I'm pretty sure I've never been so excited to get a stinkin' bill figured out and paid. A very painful process especially for a girl who doesn't like bill paying. Now, if we'd ever get a water bill, we'd be set.

See... I am adjusting. Why waste electricity when athletic shorts {that my boys wear quite often} air dry so fast!?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

like a D A U G H T E R

I woke up this morning to more snow falling- still feeling a little worked up over our house inspection we received yesterday. I decided to keep it light today and announced {to my precious little Caden} that we were going to clean. You would think it was his lucky day. The kid absolutely LOVES to clean, I don't understand it. I know I've blogged about this before, but it's truly unbelievable and I live with him! He's normally very energetic {as mentioned earlier- a little Justin} but with an announcement like cleaning- he steps up to a whole new level of craziness.

I told him I was going to vacuum, immediately he let me know he was on the "pledging and windexing" and had everything out and ready to go. I usually can't let him know I'm going to do something until right when I'm ready to start otherwise, he'll nag until I drop everything and get on it. Oh, he's going to make a wonderful husband one day. Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dusting, windows, laundry- he loves it all.

While baking my one batch of cookies a few weeks back {the batch that took forever to finish up} I had the thought to take some out to our landlords. Good ole' Johannes and Rosa. I saw them out in the back yard and thought it would be the nice thing to do. I'm still trying to get over them taking total advantage of us- thought this might help soften my heart.

Caden was helping me, so we packed up a bag of yummy, soft snickerdoodles and headed out back. I told Jim we wouldn't be too long since our conversations are rather short! They thanked us for the cookies. He was practicing his fly fishing {yes, out on the grass} casting and reeling it in. He really is entertaining to watch.

So, I talked to Rosa for a few minutes. Oh, Rosa. Remember, they speak no English so it comes down to my German. We talked about the weather, then she asked me if Caden was in Kindergarten. I tried to explain no, he just turned five... he's home with me.

I continued to say how great he was and what a huge helper he is around the house. I like having him home. How he loves to vacuum... clean... any word I could remember in German. Johannes said he had seen Caden washing windows and thought it was funny. Well, he laughed any way.

Then, Rosa said, "He's just like a daughter." I had no problem translating that- I knew exactly what she said. The very liberal part of me wanted to say in response, "Excuse me... did you just say what I think you said? No, he's my son who happens to clean because boys can clean just as well as girls can..." But, I didn't. I'm not sure I said anything at all.

I was a little shocked especially hearing this from a woman. Although I'm pretty sure my G'pa never cleaned or cooked, I was raised with a dad who wasn't afraid to clean anything and a husband who helps in every aspect of our home. My brothers cleaned every bit as much as I did.

After thinking about it for a minute, I realized this is just how they are. I also think this is another area to us that this culture seems way behind the times. I'd be willing to guess {especially with them being older} the men work and the women clean and cook. Maybe it's even more of a male-dominated culture in Khasikstan, {where they are from}. I would guess the German culture is similar. I do know it's not just a cultural difference, but a generational difference on top of it. Here, perhaps its both.

I've wondered if the newer generations of little German kids are taught that the men work and women do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, babies... As much as I like to clean and cook, I'm afraid I wouldn't have done too well as a subservient wife with a dominant husband afraid to get his hands wet in dishwater. Just wouldn't have happened- I'm way too outspoken.

In our house, I'm the one who is home right now so of course, I do the majority of the cleaning, laundry and cooking. If Jim's gone all day at work, I like to have a nice meal ready when he returns home. I actually like the mom-at-home role and always have.

When I was working tons of hours a week, {even from home} there was no way I could keep up with everything. Jim stepped in {willingly} and we did it all together. Even with me not working right now, he still cooks and cleans. I know I'm a lucky girl. He has never had a problem doing any of it. If he did- that's where I think we'd have a problem.

My boys {not just Caden} are going to know how to run a household. They might not all smile and love it as much as Caden does, but they will do it. Especially after talking to Rosa, I am even more convinced my sons will not have the attitude that the woman's place is cleaning and cooking! It's not an option- it's real life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

a S O L I D contract

YEAH- we finally have a contract on our house in Kansas. A solid contract. After eight {or so} months on the market, looks like an end might be in sight. We ended up coming down about {$30,000} from our original asking price, but at least we won't be making two housepayments for too much longer. I know we'll both be able to breathe a little easier once it's a done deal- should be final with a closing date no later than April 3rd.

Yesterday, we got the list of requested repairs from the buyers based on the inspection they had done. Luckily, it's only five points we have to address. It could have been a lot worse. When we sold our house in Alaska, we had a much longer list of things to do. We had purchased a new house, made a few improvements and still had a list of seventeen things to fix before we could sell it. Things that were unchanged from the time we purchased it until the time we went to sell it. So frustrating. Back then, we thought they wrote thing up just to make it look like they were there. Stupid things.

 More than anything we're wondering where in the heck do they get these inspectors from?

One of the points on this inspection:
Buyers request that the hardi-board siding on the houes be repaired to restore it's warranty. Nails/screws have been "overdriven" into the boards. Some corners were not installed properly. The inspector believes these items can be corrected {without full replacement and major expense}
and the warranty can be restored.
We're glad he thinks it can be replaced without major expense, but what in the world does that mean?

We haven't touched the siding, why is it an issue now? Apparently, the guy doing our inspection didn't catch it or let it go. But now, we're responsible for fixing it? Sure, Jim noticed a few of the screws were screwed in too far, but didn't think much of it. It's not like we turned the boards upside down and screwed the nails in as far as we could get them to go in the time we've lived there. Seriously. We didn't even realize the siding warranty wasn't valid. 

As the first owners of our house that we purchased just 3 1/2 years ago, this was the last thing we expected to come up.  Where is the consistency between inspections and inspectors? I know when we had the inspection on our shop, the inspector immediately recognize that it was Triple B's {the company we hired to build it} work. He basically told us, he could practically sign off on the inspection without even looking at our building knowing they do quality work. Is it all in who you know or who you get?

Another point:
The "cutoff" electric switch for furnace service is not located near the furnace {in another room}. For code, it must be moved closer to the furnace unit.

We bought a house with an unfinished basement. Yes, we put a wall up to enclose the furnace room and make it a shelter area. The switch is still right next to it- just on the other side of the wall, but that is not close enough? All we did was put up a wall- it's remains in the same location. Ugh. Who makes these rules?

He also said:
The gas fireplace has an apparent leak near the orifice and must be corrected for safe operation.

I think we're reasonable people and this is definitely understandable. Asking for a roof inspection for possible hail claim is legit. We get that- it's Kansas. I'm just grateful we're not trying to sell a 30 or 40 or 100-year old house- especially being overseas.

I can hardly wait for the appraisal guys to come out. I don't get them either... Is it asking too much for just a little consistency? These guys are killing me... oh, I just wish I could have a little face time with them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

no counter S P A C E

There is a huge moving truck in front of our house. The same one that delivered our household goods just more than a month ago. It's been there all day- packing up our {American} neighbors who are headed to North Carolina.

She told me she's a little sad to leave after five years here. I can't help but wonder if I'll feel the same. Right now, it feels like I'm doing time- hard time. The biggest part of me just wishes that truck was here for us- packing us up to move us back.

I  k n o w  it's all about adapting. I also know it is all temporary. That doesn't make it easy. I have to remind myself this fact everyday. With our house, I think we're starting to accept and adapt in every room except the kitchen.

A couple weeks ago, I was complaining about something {kitchen related} and Jim brought it to my attention that I was being quite negative. I think I probably aplogized, told him I was working on it and would try to do better. This last weekend, we were working in the kitchen side-by-side and I heard several times out of his mouth, "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH this kitchen sucks." I simply let him know I think I need him in there with me on a weekly basis to remind him how tough it is. It still frustrates me on a daily {several times daily} basis. I wonder if the wealthy people here have the nice accessories we have gotten used to- larger appliances, counter and cupboard space, garbage disposals, timers and lights on the ovens, ice makers... Are we just in a stripped-down basic mini-version of a kitchen being renters? How can they know how to install a sauna inside our house but not a garbage disposal? Makes no sense to me.

Cooking and baking especially have now become necessary tasks rather than enjoyable. It's near impossible to wash dishes in our RV half-sink without becoming soaked. A regular pot or even an a 9x13 dish will not fit entirely in the sink. It's quite an accomplishment to wash something by hand and rinse it off. Luckily, our dishwasher is working well- even if it is half size and water is outrageously expensive. We still haven't seen a water bill... yes, we are afraid. 

After making a batch of cookies a couple weeks ago, I decided I won't be making quite as many cookies as I always have. It took what felt like forever to bake what I'd normally whip out in an hour or so. I used to fit two cookie sheets in my old oven each holding at least 15 cookies. For this {Easy-bake} oven, neither of those cookie sheets will fit in it. So, I'm down to only one {much smaller} cookie sheet and I'm lucky to get a dozen small cookies baked at a time. No thanks, I think I'll switch to cakes, brownies and other desserts. Better yet, I might loose some weight by baking less.

I still think we need an island or something to extend our lack of counter space. It does force me to have the kitchen totally clean before starting to cook- otherwise you have no space to work with. Even then, there still isn't room. What do you do with hot pizza coming out of the oven and more to go in? Use a bar stool, of course!

I've also learned to slightly adjust my meals. There are no baked potatoes to go with meatloaf- there's no room in the oven for both. Just one, or the other. I'm slowly figuring it out...

Monday, February 21, 2011

no more S N O W please

I do know it is February. I still think Spring should almost be here. Ladybugs, pansys and green last week turned to snow and more snow this weekend. And, it's still snowing. Seriously. Even knowing a lot of it is already melting doesn't help the fact that it is snow. I feel like I'm missing out on these 70 and 80-degree days that they are enjoying back in Kansas. I know I'll live, but I still don't like it. I've already been thinking of where we will end up after our assignment here. I know we want to get back to Kansas, but we might have to wait until retirement {4 1/2 years} until we can make that happen. Days like today, I'm thinking Guam or Hawaii or some other tropical location. Oh, I love the sun.

Germans don't seem to let the snow stop them from doing anything- especially walking. These senior citizens sweep and they W A L K. I mean, they walk every day- rain, sleet, snow or shine. We haven't even made it to the sunny months here- I'm sure the bike trails are going to be packed. As for winter, if it's raining or snowing, they use their umbrella. I have an umbrella, just haven't ever used it. Maybe, I should.

Today, we found this older man walking with his loyal {Boxer} companion by his side. He stopped, the dog stopped. He stared at us as we tried to figure out where to park. The dog stared right along side him. We were picking up Coleman from a birthday party and trying to figure out where to park. After a couple uncomfortable minutes {only for me, Jim wasn't bothered} of him staring as we sat parked, I talked Jim in to moving and parking somewhere else. It would be different if they looked a little nice, but they look so mean. It might help if they would smile every once in a while. I now understand what the word staunch, or the expression staunch German means... loyal, stout, firm, strong, true, steady, immovable. It's a great adjective to describe this culture.

Even with his walker, he could barely get over the curb. Didn't stop him from going on his walk, did it? I'm quite amazed and think the average life span here must be somewhere around one hundred years judging by the age of those we see on the streets and bike trails. I should be inspired, instead I just want to curl up and read a book from the warmth of my bed. What's my problem?
When I look at this picture, it mostly reminds me of my Grandpaw Burgan. Still going strong even in his upper ninetys. He even gets online daily- pretty cool for a Grandpaw.
Don't you think Grandpaw... he even has the Boxer next to him- that's your kind of dog, right?!? xo

Sunday, February 20, 2011

one hundred Y E A R S old

Another picture from Coleman that just makes us smile! It was the 100th day of school this week, so he had lots of fun projects and art work. He even remembered the wrinkles on his face- so detailed. He's still writing Coleman Luke on all of his papers. I just have to hide them from Caden or he gets furious with his brother trying to use his middle name.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

not a N U M B E R S person

I'm not a numbers person- at all. Write a ten or twenty-page essay about nothing- no problem. I hated college algebra and withdrew after a frustrating month in the class. Luckily, statistics was the other quantitative skills option for my degree. I loved it and passed {even got an A}. I think Justin was a freshman when I could no longer help him with his math homework. This is why I now rely on both Justin and Ty for any equation problem I might have. Fortunately, they’re both math brains.

I decided to get a membership at the video store on base this week. The library is great, but as much as we watch movies now, I thought it might be nice to see some newer releases. I made it all the way through my one-page application until I got to the telephone number line. In Kansas, I asked the phone people for an easy phone number. Our house phone ended up being 524-4444. Now, that’s my kind of phone number. Here, I still don’t know our numbers.

As soon as we moved here, Jim made me a handy-dandy cheat sheet with all the information I needed to know and had not yet memorized. I probably had a moment of being overwhelmed with so much new information that I couldn’t keep straight. I’m sure I cried- it’s pretty humbling starting over especially in a new country. He tucked it in my wallet pocket and I think I’ve pulled it out daily for the last three months. It has our cell phone, addresses {I do know both of these now}, PO Box combo, his work unit {HQ USAFE/A4MQ}, his work number, his work number when calling from a real phone off base and now our home phone number. This is just too much to learn while my brain is already on overload most of the time.

Back to my application- I pulled out my reference sheet, filled in all the info and turned it in to the video-store lady. Without realizing it, I overlooked the box to put Jim’s work phone number in. Big mistake. She looked it over and said in her slightly condescending tone, “Do you not know his work number yet?” I about exploded. Looking her straight in the eye I said, “No, actually I don’t know ANY of my numbers yet.” I stopped there, not that I didn’t have a few other choice words to say back to her.

Phone numbers here are so complex to me. Our cell phone number is 01706046434- that is eleven digits. Our new home phone number is eleven digits as well. If you call from the US to Germany you dial 011 + 49 + City Code without the 0 + Number. I’m not even sure what the city code is- maybe the first two or three digits. Whatever it is, it’s too many numbers for me.

We’re still working to figure out our phone charges, but do know that calls from our home phone are about 27 cents each- that’s more than a payphone! It’s more than that if you call a cell phone- ridiculous when we’re paying a monthly charge just to have a phone number. In the US, I’ve called 844 forever for time and temperature. I just realized here they have it as well, but in the German language. The number is 0900-100-1191. Is anything easy over here?
Here's one of these crazy houses with the barn attached. They have cows which are in the open part. Looks to me like the front door of their house is right next to it. I like cows, but that's just a little too close for me!

Friday, February 18, 2011

loads of P O W E R

One evening last week, I had just about finished making dinner when Jim and the boys walked through the door. We were having Hawaiian Haystacks-a dish with rice being one of the main ingredients.
After a few minutes Jim asked, "Where is the rice?"
My quick response, "Why, upstairs in our bedroom- of course."
Don't we always cook the rice in our bedroom? What a bizarre conversation, but it's true. This is my life- absolute craziness that is some day going to turn in to this fabulous worthwhile experience! Some things are just so inconvenient and hard to get used to over here- power being one of them. I'm starting to get it, but most days, I'm still not totally sure.

I didn't know any of this before finding out we were moving over here...
The standard American voltage is 110 volts. In Germany {and probably a lot of the rest of the world}, it is 220 volts. You can buy items that are rated for 110 to 220, or dual voltage that can be used just fine here with the flip of a switch. Not only is the power different, the outlets are different as well, so if you do have something that is rated for 220 voltage, you have to use a converter in order to get it to fit in the socket.

The thing that is most irritating to me is all outlets do not have the holes going the same direction. Some are horizontal, others vertical- no obvious pattern that I've figured out yet. So, most of the time I have to have a light on to see in order to get it to fit in. Just irritating more than anything. I bought a hair dryer here that is dual so all I have to do is make sure the switch is pointed at the 220, then plug it in to the converter, and into the wall. Pretty easy {now}. 

Not all electrical appliances or gadgets are rated for 220- this is where it gets a little tricky. If you plug something that is 110 {US} in to the wall through just a converter there is just too much power and you'll blow it up. I think Jim blew up five surge strip protectors trying to figure this out. Better than learning the hard way by ruining a tv or computer. It does make a pretty good pop when you do it- a little scary as it has tripped the breaker every time. Hopefully, we've figure it out and won't blow up anything else. I simply just don't plug anything in that I'm not sure of- yes, I'm a little scared still.

Transformers are what we have that allow us to use US voltage products here. The problem is they suck a lot of electricity {that is already expensive to start with} and they are hard on appliances.  The base issued us two of them to use. We bought a third one from a guy moving- the one seen above in our room that we plug our DVD player into. The second one is upstairs in Ty's room for games. The third one is in our living room that we use for the DVD player downstairs. With only one downstairs, you can either watch tv or use it in the kitchen. This is how the rice cooker ended up in our bedroom. 

Transformers are always pulling electricity as long as they're plugged in to the wall. So, you're supposed to always unplug them when not using them. You're also supposed to unplug appliances from the transformer before they are disconnected from the wall plug or they can become damaged. On top of all of this- there are different sized transformers to use with different appliances. A 75-watt transformer is for small radios, sewing machines, etc.There are also 300 watts, 500 watts, 1000 watts, 1600 watts, 2000 watts and 3000 watts options.

This is the part I haven't figured out yet. A 500-watt transformer is supposed to be for hair dryers but also refrigerators. You would think there's a huge difference between those two appliances. Maybe they're talking about German refrigerators- that would make more sense.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

out to D R Y

Oh, I sure hope it's a sign of S P R I N G. I'm hanging on to any hope I can find. Last week, the neighbors {on the other side of the red-tape neighbors} had laundry out on the line to dry. This might be just another thing over here that seems very behind the times. Why spend the time hanging clothes out when you can throw them in the dryer? I'm afraid it's that practical factor. It is common to see clotheslines out in most yards. We are seriously considering getting something to hang clothes out to save a little on running our dryer. I've been called Laura Ingalls before. Might have been my curly brown hair, outspoken nature or being the outdoorsy-tomboyish girl I am. Hanging clothes out to dry and living in this country, I feel as close to Laura Ingalls as I might ever. While we still have so many conveniences, it is definitely a simpler life even if it is a little behind the times. I miss having a garbage disposal. No automatic ice-cube makers, either, and Jim hates ice-cube trays. Why they don't have these things, I just don't understand. Guess we're lucky to have a base-issued fridge with a freezer on top.

Last night, a little ladybug made his way in to my bathroom. I found him on the edge of my Q-tip jar. He surely wouldn't be flying unless it was going to warm up. Plus, this week I noticed they have planted pansys on base. It has to be spring, right? No more snow or cold, please! I desperately need some sun- even if it doesn't warm things up. I'm ready to pull out my flip flops.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

a little R E D tape

We were told in our orientation that once we're settled in, it would be a good thing to introduce ourselves to our German neighbors. The instructor said we needed to do this simply because they absolutely won't. He even warned they might stare out the window at us- to not get mad, but to just wave and they'll stop. He wasn't joking. I'm still not sure what to think about our neighbors and I still haven't introduced myself. On one side {connected to us} are the very nice Americans who let us use their Internet while we waited a month for ours to be activated. On the other side are the Germans. Jim thinks they're nice. I'm not convinced. Maybe it's because we were spoiled with the absolute best neighbors we could ever have before moving here. The kind that will remain friends for life. I'm definitely not used to having neighbors so close and can admit I kind of don't like it {at all}. It's quite possible it's all me- a little bitterness lingering from moving here.

Or, maybe it's them. Last week, we were in our driveway getting ready to go for a walk with Lady. They were headed out on their walk as well and walked right past us- without turning their heads or saying a single word. They even speak English- quite well according to Jim, so it can't be a language barrier.  I just thought to myself- this can't be normal, how rude. I was smiling, just waiting for even a quick hello and they were gone. It was even a Sunday- I thought they were supposed to be a little more relaxed on Sunday. Apparently not. It's just a husband, wife and their pre-teen daughter. Jim's talked to the husband a couple times. I've only ever said hi to the daughter. It's not because I haven't wanted to talk to the mom, I just haven't. Monday, Caden was outside playing and I noticed the mom {in the driveway} telling him to throw the stick for their lab. He was having a great time letting the dog retrieve the stick- I let him play, but wasn't forward enough to go out and say, "Hi, my name is Sheila." So unlike me. Soon afterward, I noticed Caden {still throwing the stick} but he had moved a little into their yard. I poked my head outside and told him to get back on our concrete {I still don't really call it a yard} so they didn't get upset. He quickly came back to our side of the little fence with the dog following. I didn't think much of it- until yesterday morning.

Justin looked out and saw this tape across their side of the house going to their backyard. He cracked a joke and said, "Are the neighbors starting on a construction job?" I'm not normally the type to be easily offended but my first reaction is to wonder why they couldn't just ask me to keep Caden out of their yard. Did they put it up because of him? Is it for their dog? They leave the dog out alone all the time without tape. That piece isn't going to keep the dog in anyway. I wish if they had such a problem that they would have just come and talked to me. I'm a nice neighbor- really. Somehow, I'm going to figure them {and their stinkin' tape}out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

san A N T O N I O texas

He's gone again. This time it's a two-day conference in San Antonio, Texas. As much as I hate to say goodbye, I can not complain when I am surrounded by women dealing with four-month and year-long deployments. Putting it in perspective, I can handle sleeping alone for three nights.

When Jim found out about this trip, he asked if I wanted to take him to the airport. Of course, I agreed without thinking it through. The more I did think about it- driving to Frankfurt {1 1/2 hrs from our house} and navigating the fifth-largest city in Germany, I felt a little intimidated. Especially considering my run in with the police at the train station just last month. Luckily, he had a better option and he took it. There is a shuttle that picked him up here at our house this morning {bright and early at 5:30} and dropped him off at the airport. Upon returning, it will bring him back- straight to our house. Pretty nifty. No stress about getting lost {hearing our GPS recalculating a dozen times} or even missing his flight. No stress for me having to deal with those idiot airport "police" who freak out if you stop for even half a second. I can't stand them and have let them know it in the past. The ones in Anchorage are the absolute worst- Wichita airport is a little more laid back. As impatient as they are in the US, I can't imagine dealing with the German equivalents here.

Caden is a little upset that his dad actually gets to go to the "United States of America" where they speak English {in his own words}. He's been so upset about the fact he didn't get to go, I think he's forgotten that he's stuck with me putting him to bed tonight. I'm realizing he's a little more affected by the language barrier than I was aware. The other day, we were trying to find a building- on base. I stopped at the pool and asked a guy where it was. He gave me specific directions {straight down this road, third building on the left} that I couldn't mess up. Wrong building. I was a bit irritated as we had to ask someone else where to go. As we got in the car, I said to Caden, "Ugghhh... I can't believe that guy told me the wrong place." Caden's {very calm} response was, "Well, at least he spoke English."

Monday, February 14, 2011

all about L O V E

Happy Valentine's Day! I love, love, love February... so much love! I feel like the luckiest girl around to have the most wonderful {loving} husband. I also think it's pretty cool to have four amazing boys who still tell us every day that they love us. I know I am so blessed. 

Family dynamics are always interesting. For us, it's pretty cool to have our big guys and our little guys with ten years in between. It's exciting to have teenagers preparing for college in the next couple years, but also nice knowing we have the little guys home for a while to keep us young. Between the four, there is plenty of teasing and fighting. There is competition and good 'ole sibling rivalry. There is also a lot of love. 

It's no secret- our little Caden absolutely loves his brother Justin. He dresses like him and wants to do every thing exactly like Justin. While Justin gets tired of a little shadow following him around all the time, he's actually very patient and loving in return. Justin would much rather play his games alone, but more often than not lets Caden sit and play next to him. Most of the time, Justin puts it on one player and hands Caden a controller so he thinks he is playing as the other team. He doesn't usually know the difference and he's mostly just happy to be next to his big brother. It works.

Last night, Justin went to bed not feeling well. He woke up around midnight sick- very sick. In the bathroom throwing up with chills and sweats. A horrible flu bug that I hope won't make it's way through our family. We told Caden this morning to be quiet so Justin could sleep a little {on the floor in our room}. He knew he was sick, especially if he was missing school. Before long, Caden was up in Justin's bedroom cleaning. He put all of his clothes away {shirts on hangers}, made his bed and even swept the floor. These are the moments I want to remember- so much love in the air around here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

our little D A R E D E V I L

Oh, Caden. He's the reason we keep band-aids and neosporin on hand at ALL times. What do you do with a daredevil child? He's the only one with stitches {busted chin} and a glued-up nose. We've already accepted the fact that he'll be the one with the broken bones and ER visits. It's just him. Of the four boys, he's definitely the one who needed our five acres in Kansas to drain his energy. He came and went as he pleased as he always had school or football games or something going on {in his imagination} that he played out in the yard. It was nice not having to worry about him or having to watch him every second since we had so much space.

Here, we're still adjusting to the itty-bitty concrete yard on our crazy-busy road. Coleman and Caden have both discovered they love to cruise down the side of our house on their wobbily-wheeled scooters. Coleman likes to ride on this toddler three-wheeler as well with his feet up in the air. Caden screams the whole way down- I'm sure our German neighbors are just cringing especially since today is Sunday- quiet day. Just two days ago, he flipped over the handle bars and ended up with a nice raspberry on his forehead. Yesterday, he was already back at it- absolutely no fear. I almost can't watch.

This was a smooth run. It's when he moves the handlebars back and forth for a little extra excitement and the wheels start wobbiling that I just know he's going to wipe out.

No, it's not warm here yet- but since the big boys wear shorts, he thinks he needs to as well. We pick our battles...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

sweeping the S I D E W A L K

I try to give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the Germans are fun people. I'm not totally convinced but I'm trying. From an outsiders perspective looking in, they're all business- very serious, rarely smile and work, work, work. Something I don't do very well. I know how to work and like to think I'm a very hard worker, but if I have too many consecutive days in a row of all work and no play, I go a little crazy. Jim's the opposite- he can't stand sitting for too long and actually enjoys hard work. Enjoys it? Yes. I don't  understand it either. Jim has the farmer's mentality. Along with the early to rise, early to bed schedule his body is set on, he works. He started working at a young age- maybe around twelve years old. Walking beans, cleaning out hog pens, bailing hay, cleaning silos, mowing waterways between the fields and lots of other miscellaneous jobs.

The more I think about it, Jim probably could have been just fine growing up a German boy. Not only is he a very hard worker, he rarely smiles or talks to people he doesn't know. Works great over here since they really don't talk to strangers. The furrow in his eyebrow also gives off the illusion that he's either mad or way too serious most of the time. Personally, I think he's very, very funny and makes me laugh every day, but from the outside you would never know. I'm not so sure I could have handled growing up here with so much seriousness and quiet. I still have a hard time going in to the grocery store and not talking to anyone.

In my whole life, I don't know that I've seen too many people sweeping their sidewalks- until moving here. The Germans take the maintenance of their sidewalks very seriously. As residents, you are responsible for the sidewalk in front of your house- shoveling in the winter and sweeping the rest of the year. If someone slips on the snow and gets hurt in the winter because your sidewalk isn't shoveled or have ice melt on it- you're responsible for their injury. The house can be crumbling, nasty and falling apart, but the sidewalks don't have a spek of dirt on them. Every clear day- they're out there sweeping. It doesn't matter if they're thirty or ninety- they sweep. Not just sweeping the dirt in to the street- they use a dustpan and actually sweep it up, then throw the dirt away. My favorite thing to watch is the ninety-five year old couple sweeping together. I always have Jim slow down while he's driving because I think it's just so cute. The old Grandpa will hold the dustpan while the Grandma sweeps it up or they switch it up and do it the other way around. They can barely walk, but their sidewalk is spotless. Oh, so sweet. Maybe that will be us in fifty years- I'd like to think so.
oops... this guy caught me...

Friday, February 11, 2011

thirty eight is G R E A T

Jim took a little grief last week {thanks Scottie} for the flowers that I actually bought for myself. In his defense, he is very good at randomly bringing home the most beautiful flowers even if it is for no other reason than "just because" or to surprise me. He said he can't do it too often, then it wouldn't mean as much. I truly don't think a girl can
E  V  E  R get too many flowers.

Today is actually my birthday and he never disappoints. This might be the most beautiful arrangement of tulips he's picked out. I absolutely love the lacey edges- so dainty and pretty. He had them sitting out waiting for me this morning as I got up {along with a few other surprises}. I never think of birthdays {my birthdays specifically} as that big of a deal. Especially now as I don't really need anything and don't really want to spend money on myself. I usually just love my family to be with me- to hang out with everyone happy. I'm pretty easy to please, at least I think so. It is however very nice to have a man who thinks ahead enough to make it a special day for me.

Coleman's teacher sent a note home today saying "Happy Birthday" and let me know I share the same birthday as her dad. She said she told the class that her dad is 87 years old today. Coleman spoke up and said, "My mom is 78 years old today." After a few giggles from the class, she said he changed his number to 38. What a funny kid!

I didn't want to go out for dinner tonight, so Jim insisted we have lunch together this afternoon. He took us to a new place {duh, I guess everything is new...}called Kebabhaus not too far away. It's a little hole in the wall- our favorite spots to find. We had what they call Doners. They have meat on a big steak spinning {slowly} in front of heat to sear it. He cut the tender meat off the bone, then loaded up a wrap with the meat, white and red cabbage {my favorite}, cheese, a tomato, a pepper and the best cucumber {white} sauce. It was delicious. Jim ordered, and they prepared our food. We sat down at a table {one of two tables in the little joint} and ate. Once we finished, Jim went up and paid. Seemed a little backwards to me. A very nice lunch with even better company with my favorite man {and little guy}.

As we left, I was driving and Jim pointing directions. We stopped at a light and he let me know I was way too far up. I pulled up to the line which happened to be the cross walk. Oops. I had to take a photo across the intersection to show how far back you're supposed to wait. How is someone new supposed to know these things?

See that car across the way- it's not parked, it's waiting for the light to turn. Gotta have room to get around the corners on these super narrow roads. I was actually surprised no one honked.

Looking forward to a fun evening once my hubby and the boys arrive home from school and work. I'm just as excited for another great year. Even as a teenager, thirty seemed so old to me. Not anyone specifically, it just sounded old to be thirty-something. Now as I'm in my {late} thirties, I feel so young- what was I thinking? These are really great years.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

coleman L U K E

Poor kid- his name really is Coleman James. In Kindergarten, he wanted his name to be Sam. Nice and short- less effort to have to write it. He did in fact write it with a Sharpie {black} on our white bathroom cabinet. Not good. We told him he could go by Cole which would be almost as short. No, he'd rather stick with Coleman. Now, he's decided he wants us to call him Luke- as in Luke Skywalker. Yes, it's that Star Wars obsession again.

How could we have given Caden the middle name Luke instead of Coleman? Life is just so unfair. This paper came home from school this week. At least, he's using Luke as a middle name instead of as his first name. I'm sure his teacher would be completely confused if he decided to drop the Coleman all together.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

funny L I T T L E things

Look at this fog. It's cleared now, but this was the view first thing this morning. So thick you could cut it- almost a little eerie. It's cleared up now with even a little blue showing through the clouds. Still chilly, but a very nice day!

Almost daily, I think we see something new. Something odd or different that we've never seen. I wonder how long it will last or if we'll ever become so used to Germany that we won't even notice these slight differences. Most of the time, they're little. Occasionally they're bigger things. All of them simple reminders that we're living in a foreign country that definitely does things different than we've grown used to. Not good or bad, but different.

The other day, I opened a new carton of eggs to find one brown egg. Just one in the carton of white eggs. Jim is the one who bought them, so he had already seen it when he checked to make sure none were cracked before adding them to his cart. Did they not have enough white eggs? Is this normal? So strange to me.

It's not uncommon to see these covered rolls of something- we're guessing hay- as you drive through the country. Especially where we live out in farm land we're surrounded by fields.
What looks funny {to me} is how they keep their tarps on with these old tires. Guess it's a great way to re-purpose the rubber, but it still seems strange. These Germans are resourceful people.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

time for the B O Y S to come home

Oh, this little lady just drives me crazy. Really, she's a wonderful dog and we wouldn't trade her for the world. But, every day around 3:30, she knows her boys are supposed to be returning home from school. The bus drops them off down the road and they walk through the door about 3:45. She did this in Kansas as well- somehow she just knows their schedule. She does the same thing at night when it's time to go to bed {with Justin}. She'll lay down on the floor in our room while we're all hanging out or watching a movie. Pretty close to 10:00, she's ready to head upstairs- just like clockwork. She knows.

After school, the problem is they don't always come home every day right when she's ready for them to arrive. From 3:30 until they walk through the door, I get to listen to her whine. It's really so annoying. She alternates between sitting up and lying down right smack in front of the door, on the rug of course, with the most pathetic whine.  I can scold her, but within a minute she's right back at the door waiting. Waiting and whining. On Friday, Coleman was home sick. Justin and Tyler stayed after school {as they do Monday/Wednesday/Friday} to lift weights. Once 3:30 came around and she didn't know what to do with herself.  So, she whined ALL the way until 5:30 when they showed up. Two solid hours. I thought I was going to lose my mind. How do you break something like this? She's going to be so lost when Justin goes away to college. We're going to be left with one depressed dog. Oh, she loves her boys.
The other morning, Ty was still {trying} to sleep. She's absolutely forbidden from jumping up on our bed, but knows the boys let her up on their beds. She jumped up to go back to sleep and Caden covered her up with his blanket. Maybe this is the problem.

Monday, February 7, 2011

super B O W L party

 
I have two very tired big boys! Both were invited to a Super Bowl party last night. Here, it started at 1:00 {in the morning} just a slight difference in time. Way too late for us to stay up to watch a game- especially for Jim who's not a football fan to begin with. This morning, I had to go to a parent-teacher conference for Coleman, so I had to go wake them up to come home to avoid being locked out of the house- again. The only good thing about these doors is you don't have to double-check at night to make sure they're locked since they lock EVERY time you shut them. We do now know where to get more keys made... I just need to go do it. Caden went with me and found Justin quite quickly. Looking around the huge room of sleeping boys, he couldn't find Tyler- he's probably still sleeping in a corner somewhere.

Caden was absolutely convinced last night that they wouldn't be spending the night since neither of them took their toothbrushes or deodorant. Nope, they stayed {all night} and I'm sure it smells like a boys locker room- yuck!

I posted a picture of this building in December thinking it was a church. There are bells at the top which ring daily at 11:00 and 6:00. I was wrong. It's actually an old schoolhouse {used for that purpose up until about forty years ago} that has been turned in to a {huge} rental house. It is huge. It's also the house that hosted the party. The {brave} mom said she thinks they had about fifty {50} kids throughout the night. Some went home, most spent the night. With today being an in-service day, I'm guessing they have it figured out over here. Very nice timing.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

K I N D A like a lowes

Lowe's is one of my favorite stores. Call me crazy. I'll never forget the one of the first times Jim and I went to Lowe's together. He probably couldn't believe how much I loved the smell of wood. I was just so excited to have a man who loved power tools, knew how to use them and would make anything and everything I ever wanted him to do. We love doing projects together. Usually, I have an idea of something that I want done and he agrees to do it {without a complaint}. Sometimes, the price is a new tool which I usually agree. Jim's motto is "you gotta have the right tools". Now that he has most of the tools he'll ever need for any project I could come up with {that's my opinion, definitely not his opinion} he's out of luck and stuck with what he has.

Yesterday, we decided to take a trip to the local hardware/home store here. It definitely took us a while to find our way around as it is all in German- of course. But, we still enjoyed walking {in circles, at times} and looking at everything. I thought the little store locator on the carts was a cool thing- if you can read it. Just letting you know what aisle major things are on is a great idea that I've never seen before. Maybe this cuts down on the amount of talking and asking they have to do. Along with just about every other German store I've been in, was insanely quiet. Everyone seemed to be either not talking or whispering at the most. I'm not exaggerating.

While looking at the prices of wood {and of course, taking in the scent}, Jim ran in to a guy he worked with in Charleston- more than twelve years ago. What a small world. Neither remembered the others name, but both remembered working together. In fact, the guy told us that Jim had come to mind not too long ago. He recalled a time that they were working together and had to paint something in their shop. He wanted to just paint the front of it and be done. Jim told him something to the effect of, "If we're going to do it, we may as well do it right." So, they ended up painting the front and back. Not too long ago, he was working on a task, and he said Jim's words echoed through his head, "If you're going to do it, you may as well do it right." What a cool thing to stand out as being remembered for.

I was taken back. I already think my husband is all that, but to hear something so good from someone else was such a compliment to the man I was lucky enough to marry. Funny thing is, I desperately need some kind of bookcase. For some reason, we don't own one. With everything hinging on selling our house, we've been holding out on buying anything until we're back to one house payment. Once we do sell it, I've been planning on making a trip to IKEA for a bookshelf. I like their clean, simple style. Jim thinks a lot of what they sell is the pressed board that is cheap. He likes solid wood. So, we've had this debate. He finally said he'd rather just build me a bookcase. He'd do whatever I wanted just so that it's done right- sturdy and it will last. When his friend asked us what we were looking at, we told him Jim was going to build a bookcase. He laughed and said, "You know IKEA is just down the road, right?" Jim told him he wanted something a little more sturdy. He joked, "Sounds like you haven't changed a bit." This is a good thing.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

so so O L D

I wonder just how old this place is. In most {I'd almost venture to guess all} US cities or even smaller towns, you can drive around and know immediately when you get to a bad area. The houses are run down, the yards are unkept and it just looks old. These areas are easy to spot. Here, I haven't seen a village that doesn't look old. It all looks so, so old. That doesn't mean that it all looks run down, just old. In our village alone, I couldn't tell you where the nice part is. Someone mentioned that it might be a WWII mentality here that they didn't want the outsides of their houses to look nice in hopes that they would be spared and left alone. There are larger and smaller homes, but it all kind of looks the same. Everyone, well not everyone but the ones who know where it actually is have commented to us that Oberstaufenbach {our village} is a nice village- lots of families with lots of kids. Driving through, we would have never guessed it to be a nice village. The more we're here and the more we drive around we are realizing most villages look the same with lots of old in each of them.
There are horses {two different sets} quite close to us that Caden loves to look at. On a recent walk to see the horses, we even noticed that some houses have attached barns. Horses, cows- doesn't matter. ATTACHED- not next to it, but connected- as in sharing a wall. So strange; so old. As much as anyone loves their horses or livestock, I can't image any new house going up today with plans of an attached barn. Garages are meant to be attached, but barns with stalls?

Below are a couple houses {in our nice village} just down the street from us I caught on our walk along with a little boy who {once again} didn't want his picture taken.  I probably should have used a synonym for old... aged, mature, elderly... I just can't think of a better word to describe this place.