Happy Birthday, Little Sister

This is Jinger circa 1988.

It’s my youngest sister Jinger’s birthday today.

I was five years old when she was born, and I had my heart set on a brother. In fact, his name was to be MichaelJFox … one word. There was no¬†negotiating about this, either. I already had a sister, and frankly, it was time for a change.

I’m pretty sure my parents knew the whole time it was going to be a girl, and I’m also sure they were pretty straightforward about it. Continue reading

Time Out

27July2012_

 

Martin sent me this just now. He had sent Lola to her time-out step which leads down to our basement room. When he went to tell her time was up, she wasn’t there. A quick search revealed she decided to use time-out as nap time. We may not be in control here, but we win!!

Flashback Friday: The First Page

This blog will celebrate a birthday tomorrow! 

Shortly after midnight (Germany time), it will turn 11 years old. That’s a long time, right?

Since I published the first page, I’ve posted more than 1,245 times on three different hosting sites.

If someone read just three of our posts a day, it would take 415 days — that’s 59 weeks, more than a year — to read our entire blog … and that’s if I don’t post new content from this date onward.

When I started our website, I did not think it would evolve into an online documentary of our marriage. It started as a way to keep our family around the globe up-to-speed about our wedding plans. It wasn’t until 9/11 that I realized the opportunity to share a more complete snapshot of our lives, sharing our perspective and thoughts on things in addition to updates and photos.

That’s still the blog’s purpose, even though we know our readership has grown beyond those who know us. And while technology and the whole concept and business of blogging has evolved, I like to think we’ve stayed pretty true to our mission, which is just to share as life carries us forward.

So, for today’s Flashback Friday, let’s start at the very beginning: a very good place to start. ūüėČ

I Still Could

Just carried Miss C¬†upstairs to her bed for the first time in years, and managed to tuck her in without waking her up. She fell asleep on the couch next to me, wearing a heating pad on her sore neck and shoulders. Didn’t have the heart to wake her up to walk, but wow – the poor little thing is not so little anymore!¬†It was so bittersweet. I wish she didn’t feel so bad and I wish she didn’t grow so fast. Her birthday is just three weeks away!

I’m acutely aware it won’t be much longer before I absolutely won’t be able to do that, which makes me so thankful that tonight, I still could.

We Are So Lucky

Popsicles and watching a movie in the emergency room.

 

I was sitting in a meeting downtown, listening to examples of successful health care innovations, while Martin was miles away, standing off to the side of a highway with the kids while police officers put up flares and orange cones after he and Amelia got rear-ended by a distracted driver.

I didn’t learn about it until two hours after it happened, when my meeting was¬†adjourned¬†and I returned to my computer. My cell phone doesn’t get good reception in my office building, so it was only after I pulled up my Facebook that I saw Martin’s message to me.

“We are fine. Amelia is not, though. Not my fault. Call me.”

Amelia, of course, is our minivan. The one I wrote about yesterday. The one we just purchased in December because we wanted a safer, bigger vehicle for our family. I knew right away he and the kids were in a car accident.

I called him right away and told him I was coming home immediately. Then I ran from my building through a construction zone to the Metro station, all in a skirt and strappy heels, trying not to panic.

It was not a glamorous moment, but I was in a hurry. Which in the middle of day meant waiting 12 minutes for the next subway train for the 45-minute trip home. 


It was the longest commute of my life.

In an eerie case of foreshadowing, Miss C and I had just talked about car wrecks and randomness the night before. I had to drop off a package to a friend in another county, so she made the trip with me. As I drove along the winding backroads, we talked about the recent Colorado movie shootings since the news radio station was airing reports about the shooter’s court appearance.¬†

Miss C wanted to know why something like that happens, and if it’s really safe to go to movie theaters anymore. We talked about mental illness, how some people are just evil, how things like that are super scary, but rare, and how it’s more dangerous to drive in a car than it is to go to a movie theater.

Of course, she brought up my getting hit by a drunk driver last year, and I told her that was a great example.

We just don’t know when something bad is going to happen, and we have to accept that as a part of life,” I said. “The most we can do is to make every effort to keep ourselves safe because we can’t control what others do. It’s like this car. We can make it as safe as possible for us by driving carefully, wearing our seat belts, not being on the phone, and keeping the radio down, and hoping that others are doing the same.”¬†

And then I monologued about appreciating our lives every day, how we are so lucky to just wake up and have everything that we do. How we just never know what’s going to happen and that’s why we say “I love you” every day, so that if there is a day where something bad happens, you can say without a doubt that your Mom loves you like a maniac.

And then I broke out in a retro-’80s song.

Of course, Miss C did not appreciate the singing, but it was a good conversation.


I thought about it all as I waited (and waited and waited) for the subway train to get me to the station. Good grief, I appreciate a good life lesson here and there, but talk about timing. I was so anxious to get to everyone, but especially Miss C.


Martin was waiting for me at the Metro in our banged-up minivan. I jumped into the back with the kids, and smothered their cheeks with kisses. They were happy to see me. The younger two were beaming, but Miss C looked pale and a little forlorn, complaining of dizziness. We went straight to the hospital.


Over the next few hours, as the kids were examined by an awesome staff of nurses and doctors, the whole story came out.

Apparently, Martin and the kids were driving along the highway when traffic stopped at a red light. He stopped like normal. The car behind him did not. Martin said he instinctively looked into his rearview and saw that the car was not slowing down, the driver looking down and away from the road.

It happened very fast. The car hit the rear right side of Amelia, shoving the minivan into the car ahead of them.

According to Martin and the girls, everyone lurched forward and then back. Jaz started screaming immediately from his car seat, turning dark red. Martin’s first instinct was to turn around and look at the kids. The girls were both sitting in the very back row next to each other, Lola strapped in her car seat and Miss C buckled in hers. Though they were closest to the point of impact, both girls were focused intently on their brother, trying to calm him down.

Martin called 9-1-1. Neither the person who hit him or the lady from the vehicle ahead of him spoke English as a first language. Three cop cars, one fire truck, and an ambulance responded. 


It was quite the scene, I imagine. It surely made the radio’s traffic report rotation, as any accident on that particular highway is going to create a traffic jam. Martin said they were there for awhile. The driver of the vehicle behind them admitted guilt right away, although, while he had a cell phone, he said he was distracted by his cup of coffee. ¬†His car was banged up and his air bag had deployed.¬†

Our van’s rear bumper was banged up, with part of it detached from the body. The front didn’t show any immediate signs of damage, although the car ahead of him apparently had an interesting¬†imprint¬†of our license plate and bolts in it. The medical personnel on the scene determined there were no broken bones and the van was¬†drivable, so after all the paperwork was completed, Martin took everyone home and made some phone calls to our pediatrician and the insurance companies. That’s when Miss C started to complain about a headache, feeling dizzy, and nauseated, so they set out for the hospital, picking me up at the Metro station along the way.

All the kids got a thorough examination. The younger two kids were in car seats, and that made all the difference. They are totally fine.

Fortunately, Miss C doesn’t appear to have a concussion, but she is showing signs of minor whiplash. Kids are less¬†susceptible to whiplash because their joints and muscles tend to be looser than adults, but she was sitting in the corner of impact and distinctly felt her head hitting the back of her seat. The nurse pointed out where Miss C’s trapezius muscles were already swollen and inflamed. She’s going to be sore in the morning.

Martin will, too.

I am so proud of my husband and daughter. Martin handled everything so well, even though I know the whole thing freaked him out. He said hearing Jaz scream like that was really scary. (Both of us are wondering if he had some sort of flashback to being hit by the drunk driver. Do babies remember things from in utero?)

And then Miss C stepped up with such bravery and grace as a big sister. While in the emergency room, the nurse had to ask her a few times to describe how she felt because Miss C only gave answers relating to her siblings. Miss C was so focused on making sure they were getting care.¬†Finally, the nurse said to Miss C, “You are such a great big sister, but I need to know how YOU are feeling.”

It made me a little weepy.

Last but not least, Amelia the Minivan did her part and protected our family. So did the car seats and the seat belts. I know the vehicle is an inanimate object and it’s built specifically to protect its occupants, but boy, does it feel good to know that everything worked as it should.

In the grand scheme of things, this was your run-of-the-mill traffic accident. It’s going to be an annoying next few days (weeks?) as we deal with the paperwork and insurance. Amelia is getting inspected tomorrow. Because she got slammed in the back and hit in the front, and because she was rear-ended once before we bought her, her frame may be totaled. Our insurance is providing us a rental in the meantime. We also have to replace the kids’ car seats.

But that’s all.

Sure, there are a bunch of lessons here. For heaven’s sakes, be careful out there! Put down the cell phone while driving. The coffee mug too, apparently, or anything else that requires you to take your eyes off the road. Distraction is something we all deal with while driving, and some things (like screaming children, rubbernecking, and squirrels) just can’t be avoided, but let’s minimize where we can, right?

The greatest lesson reminder, though, is that we are a lucky family.

Seriously.

We are so lucky.

********

And as if all that wasn’t exciting enough, Jaz said his first word a few times today.

I was playing with him in our family room. He was joyfully babbling and laughing. Patches der Hund came around and put her head on the sofa next to us. Jaz reached for her and said, “dak!”


“Yea!” I said, totally oblivious.¬†


Jaz twisted around in my hands, really trying to wrap his hands around Patches’ ears.


“Dak! Dak! Dak!”¬†


Patches nudged Jaz’s cheek with her cold nose.¬†


That’s when it dawned on me.


This whole time, while Martin and I have been trying to get the boy to say our titles first, Patches has been silently hijacking our son’s vocabulary.


Dog.


I called over to Martin and the girls to be witnesses. Jaz babbled on about something, but when we pointed to the dog, he responded with “dak.” He did again and again throughout the evening.

Ah, so proud of my boy and his dak.

Two Cars. Two Names.

 

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it here, but our vehicles have names.

Shortly after we bought our minivan last December, Miss C dubbed it as Amelia, after her idol Amelia Earhart. At the time, she was reading a biography on the American aviator (whose lineage came from Germany, by the way), and thought it was a good name.

And with a bit of dark humor, I found it especially appropriate since our van, which can really fly down the highway, came with a lot of bells and whistles, but alas, it didn’t come with a navigation system.

The name stuck. Amelia the Minivan.


Last month, Miss C and I were driving around in my Honda, which I bought brand-new when we moved here to the Washington DC area in 2005. During our drive, Miss C wondered if it, too, had a name, and when I admitted it did not, she decided we needed to come up with one.

We agreed the name should be similar to Amelia, in honor of someone legendary, and she pondered if there were any other females who set some sort of transportation record.

I immediately thought of Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space.

This, of course, led to a great conversation about everything I knew about Sally Ride. As I was a child of the 1980s, Sally Ride was one of those living legends for me. I remember watching videos of her talking about space and NASA. Sally Ride was NASA for me. After her first flight into space in 1983, more American females joined her, and it became the norm to see a mix of men and women climbing aboard those flights into space.

Plus, in every single photo I’d ever seen of Sally, she was wearing blue, which just so happens to be the color of my Honda.

So that was it. Our vehicles had names after two really awesome women. When we want the kids to run out and pile into a particular vehicle, we let them know if we’re taking Sally or Amelia for the trip.

In an interesting twist, both those women are in the headlines today.

Today is Amelia Earhart’s birthday. Google’s honored her with a beautiful doodle. There was also a recent exploration of an island believed to have been where her aircraft went down when she went missing all those years ago.

And yesterday, Sally Ride passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 61.

It may be silly to name vehicles, but it would be even sillier if my kids didn’t know about Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride. Every time someone new gets into our vehicle, our girls are ready with the introduction and background on the namesake. Both namesakes were such trailblazing women who no doubt introduced girls to aviation, flight, space, and science. And though both were taken way too soon, they crammed so much life and personal accomplishment in their years, all while using their name and prestige to support others along the way.

Two cars. Two names. Two legends who inspired, and will continue to inspire, young girls that they really can go anywhere.

Around the House

My scrapbook room, shortly after Lola was born in 2008

 

Martin and I made excellent progress around the house this weekend.

If you walked inside our door right now, though, you wouldn’t know it. ¬†As I said, we made progress, but we didn’t finish, which means there is still evidence of our work-in-progress all over the place.

But we’re closer to finished than we were on Friday.

We focused on three rooms: the family room, the basement guest suite, and my former scrapbook room.¬†Now that our third child is becoming more and more an active participant in his sisters’ shenanigans, we need more play space.¬†Over the past few months, I’ve been purging a lot of our stuff, and downsizing our furniture. Slowly, but surely, all of our rooms changed.

But this weekend, we did the heavy lifting. Our family room now looks and feels like a family room, and not just a¬†whittled-down version of it’s former self. The basement suite is no more: it’s turning back into a really awesome playroom.

And that former scrapbook space of mine? Gone. That room will now be the guest room, so we will still be able to host visitors. The *new* playroom will feature an amazing, kid-friendly craft area since Miss C is now the gung-ho scrapper in the family. I no longer feel guilty for having neglected what was once a passionate hobby of mine because she’s really embraced it and is putting all my supplies and tools to great use. Lola also loves painting and coloring, so the area will be perfect for her, too.

But of course, creating this utopia takes work. With the help of Miss C, Martin and I were busy moving shelves, electronics, books, toys, artwork, and whatever else needed moving. We also used the time to purge even more stuff (where in the world did it all come from?) while also shredding and recycling the mountains of paperwork that were hiding in random corners and tabletops.

We have bigger plans for this old house. The bathrooms are in dire need of remodeling, and not just for aesthetic purposes. I’ve been daydreaming on Pinterest while Martin’s been studying up on all the ends and outs of it. And of course, saving our pennies. Eventually, the kitchen will need a facelift. And then our back porch could use a redo, as well.

As much as it daunts me, I really love thinking of new ways to make this place feel more like a home for our growing family. Oh, the never-ending joy of owning a house!

***************

Funny moment while Miss C and I were shredding papers: we came across some of her daily reports from preschool, when she was about three years old, and discovered a series of incident reports.

Most involved her biting other kids on the playground, and how she and the teacher had a conversation about no biting, and how the teachers encouraged us to have that discussion at home, too. (I actually wrote about this here on the blog in 2006.)

To my great amusement, after reading a couple, Miss C shook her head and said, “Mom, I’m seriously starting to wonder about your parenting skills.”

Oh, that kid.

 

Mint Julep Mask

In an effort to wind down after a looong week, I gave myself a facial with some of that drugstore “mint julep” masque stuff that Martin got for free with a coupon.

But now I’m too settled in my bed with all my comfy pillows and blankets and just too darn lazy to get up and wash it off.

It’s totally okay falling asleep with this stuff on my face, right? I mean, Martin won’t be TOTALLY freaked out coming up and seeing this? I won’t wake up and look like a raisin, ja?

I need a real mint julep.

Several¬†minutes later…

I still haven’t washed it off. It’s been about 40 minutes. Is it wrong to say that my face feels like this?

I finally washed it off. Not being able to blink was a big motivator.

No Words

I had another post planned for today: a frivolous Flashback Friday.

But then my alarm clock went off this morning.

It’s set so that the radio plays, but instead of music, I wake up to news/talk radio. Usually, the voice of the newscaster or the jingle before the traffic report startles me awake, but sometimes I get caught in that shadowy, surreal stage of sleep, where I’m not really awake, but not really asleep, and the things that are real and awake influence the things that are still a dream.

This morning, as I slowly slid out of sleep, I dreamed of people screaming and crying, of running from chaos. It was violent and unnerving.

It was more horrifying when I finally woke up and realized it wasn’t exactly a dream. The news/talk station was repeating the news coming out of Colorado, of a lone gunman walking into a packed movie theater and gunning down a room full of innocent people. The news segment included the sounds and screams captured on cell phones from those in the midst of it.

It’s so heartbreaking.

There’s been such a cloud over my heart all day about this. It’s one thing when Mother Nature flexes her power and devastates with a hurricane, tsunami, or wildfire. Yet, when it’s another human responsible for such pain and sorrow?

There are not enough words to express how sorry and sad this makes me or how much I wish this wouldn’t happen, that people would just stop hurting others like this. There will never be enough words.

We’re praying for them all.

Happy Retirement

My dad and me, from early 2001 B.B. (Before Blog)
 

 

My dad’s now officially retired from the Air Force.

He served his last Air Force Reserve weekend this past Saturday and Sunday. I think he’s officially retired from the civilian government work force this week, too. Or maybe it’s just his last work day, and he’s burning off some leave until the end of the month.

I’m not sure. He’s been pretty vague about it.

Per his request, he didn’t have an official retirement ceremony. One of the reasons he called me the other night was to notify me that his office is having a small lunch today at a local Mexican restaurant there in Ohio, where he’ll present flowers to my stepmother and sisters, but that’s about it. He said I was invited, of course, but he didn’t expect me to be able to fly out there for it given the short notice (which I think was intentional), and he stressed again that he doesn’t want a lot of hoopla surrounding his departure from government work.

My dad’s never been one to give into hype or hoopla.

So, I won’t write a lengthy summary of his years of government work, which began when he joined the active duty Air Force in 1975 as a bomb-loader.

I won’t go into detail about the four years he spent serving in Germany and Arizona before leaving active duty in 1979, only to rejoin through the Air Reserve Technician program sometime in the early ’80s. He became an Air Force ground safety guy then, making sure Airmen and Air Force employees remained safe while on the job, whether they were in the office or on the flight line.

Even if I wanted to write a novel, I will never be able to fully express just how much influence his safety career carried over into our personal family life. Suffice it to say that when I got my driver’s license, I got a PowerPoint presentation full of accident photos and video clips of spectacular vehicle mishaps, all with him in the background saying, “All it takes is one second to f**** up your entire life. Don’t be stupid.”

He was always pretty direct like that.

When I joined the Air Force in 2000, I couldn’t go anywhere without someone recognizing my maiden name because of my dad. Usually, it was because they knew his name from his Annual Website List, which went viral over email every year.

Beginning in 1994, my father released a lengthy Word document (about 20 pages) with website addresses and summaries, describing what he felt were some of the best, most interesting websites online at the time. The sites ranged from weather and safety sites (of course) to practical Air Force history sites to movie review sites to whimsical online galleries dedicated to the retro childhood toys of the 1950s.

The email list was sent everywhere. People who weren’t even in the military or who even knew us got hold of that list and published it on their websites.

Keep in mind: this was long before YouTube and Google. My father was way ahead of his time. But I dare not make a fuss about it.

Of course, I could go on and on about how it wasn’t totally random that I set my sights on the Air Force or Germany. There are echoes of him everywhere in my life and choices.

But he’s just not into all that hoopla and sentimental energy.

So, I’ll just post here that I’m really proud of my old man.

And I wish him a long and happy retirement.

And just for fun ….