Halloween 2014

Let’s do this! Or not.

We loaded up both our vehicles and headed west to celebrate one more holiday with the family in Ohio. Even though we won’t be moving for at least another month, the winter months get kind of crazy under normal circumstances with the holidays and unpredictable weather and road conditions, so as our international move looms closer, our window of time to do a visit like this gets smaller.

So my sister and I set our sights on Halloween to get all the grandkids together and make some memories. It’s been 20 years since the last time we canvassed the neighborhood together: the first time we headed out as parents ourselves. Halloween was always a big deal at our house. We share memories of homemade costumes, pillowcases full of candy, super late trick-or-treat times, and all kinds of fun. Continue reading

Bring Your Parent to Work

 

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]I [/dropcap] took my mother to work with me earlier this week. She commuted with me via car, Metro subway, and taxi, got to sit in my office, shake hands with my supervisor, chit-chat with my coworkers, and take in the view of the Capitol Building from the top floor. She also met up with one of her childhood friends from her small Texas hometown. They first met in first grade and stayed classmates all through high school. Now, her friend works just two blocks away from my office, one of the folks responsible for the Capitol Dome restoration.

Small world, right?

Frankly, I think there should be a National Take Your Parent to Work day, just like the day for children, but for the ones who raised you. (After I typed that, I googled it. It’s an actual thing for millenials.) I think my mother got a kick out of seeing what it is I do, where I spend my hours, how frenetic the pace here is in Washington DC.

I made plans with her to do it again with my new job in Germany. 🙂

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My mother and I were going through my closet, and as she pulls out one of my print shirts, I said, “I bought that before realizing it’s a little too old-lady for me.”

And she goes, “Sweetie, you’re over 30 now. I think it’s just fine.”

Family is So Cool

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]M[/dropcap]y mother — also known as Nona by the younger crowd here — is visiting. She flew in last week from Oklahoma with bags full of goodies for everyone. Candy for the kids. Hand-me-down business clothes for me.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I really take after her. Same face. Same size clothing. She’s always had such a classic wardrobe, and fortunately, I fit in the things she no longer wears. Normally, I get a box or two once a year, whenever she purges her closet, but for this visit, she stuffed a huge suitcase with nothing but clothes for me. I was shocked: it was the heaviest and biggest of her bags, full of skirts, jackets, dresses, and tops that are already tailored to fit her … my … frame.

It pays to be a clone, ya’ll.

Not surprisingly, the kids have been floating on cloud nine: they love waking up and finding Nona downstairs every morning.  Every day, I wipe away a trace of chocolate or Nutella from their faces, no doubt slipped to them by their adoring grandmother.

Of course, this visit is tinged with a sense of change in the end. Not finality, but the knowledge that we’re going to be moving to another hemisphere soon. Which is funny, because our in-person visits with Nona weren’t nearly as frequent as our visits with Ohio family. And just like now, there will still be almost-daily Facebook, Skype, email, and all that jazz no matter where we are in the world.

In that physical sense, it’s not going to be a huge change. But still. Different.

So far, Nona’s helped fold laundry (which is clearly the fastest way to my heart, if you haven’t noticed), sort toys (we’re giving some to my nieces), and put aside items to hand over to family in Ohio as we prepare our things for the move.

But she’s also quickly and easily molded into our daily routine: fixing Lola’s hair before school, signing in as a guest to eat lunch with them at school, almost-daily trips to the dollar store, reading bedtime stories, cooking dinner.

All that jazz.

It’s pretty awesome.

In related news about family, I decided to go ahead and pay for an account on one of those family-research sites.

As I may have mentioned in previous blogs, Martin was contacted by his father’s family last Christmas. Since Martin’s parents were divorced when Martin’s father passed away in 1985, it had been decades since Martin (who was 6 years old at the time) and his brother were in touch with that side of the family.

 

Martin, his brother Christian, and their father Klaus in 1982.

In 2001 and 2002, we tried to locate some of his father’s relatives to invite them to our wedding, but we were very limited in our efforts back then. Martin didn’t know very much about his father’s family, couldn’t remember names or dates, and of course, the Internet back then wasn’t what it is today. (That’s so weird to say because 2002 wasn’t exactly the Stone Age, know what I mean?)

But then, last winter, we got a letter from Germany explaining that Anna, the third wife of Martin’s father’s late uncle Wilhelm, passed away. A neighbor named Heinrich had grown close to the elderly Anna, and was in the process of helping her create a family tree, and through his research, was able to connect Martin and Christian to a family of living cousins, aunts, and uncles, as well as the names and dates of generations stretching into the 1800s.

After speaking with Martin over the phone and including our family’s information in his research, Heinrich sent us a family tree that was several pages thick, all delicately taped together from several print-outs. It was amazing, both the information and the level of care that went into preparing it. We finally had names, dates, occupations, birthdays … everything.

For months, the family tree lived in our safe. Occasionally, I took it out and searched for things via Google. But this weekend, I invested the money and opened the account and starting plugging away names and dates both from my family and from Martin’s side. I got very little sleep Saturday evening/Sunday morning.

But it’s pretty addicting.

Not surprisingly, I found all kinds of documents and paperwork about my side of the family even though it’s truly an American mix of heritage. While my father’s side is all completely German both before and after the fateful boat trip across the Atlantic in the 1880s, my mother’s ancestors and relatives have roots from all over the place — a chunk from the United Kingdom, some Czechoslovakian, a sprinkle of Native American, etc. Almost all of them settled in Texas, and they’re all traceable going back several generations. That I can find all this is not surprising. We Americans love documenting the crap out of everything and making it all readily available.

On the other hand, Germans tend to be much more private in general, and official records aren’t normally easily accessible. So I was very, very surprised to be able to find a lot of paperwork and documents related to Martin’s family from a variety of generations.

Of course, I also Google’d my findings, and discovered a photo of one of Martin’s male cousins. I knew immediately that it was a relative just by recognizing some shared facial features, and was able to confirm that the grandfathers of Martin and the gentleman were, in fact, brothers. From him, I was able to find others with photos published online.

I was constantly running up and down my stairs with my laptop, showing Martin my findings. You can imagine how crazy strange it is to go from having almost no knowledge about your family to seeing photos of people who kinda-sorta look like you online.

We had already planned on meeting up with his living relatives after the move to Germany, but finding all this information over the weekend just solidifed them, especially since I know now what I want to learn and ask them.

Because it’s not just Martin’s history now.

It’s my kids’ history, too.

And they’re super interested, especially after I showed them that their great-great-grandmother — the mother of their paternal great-grandfather — was named Elsa Anna.

Not even kidding. Her first and middle name.

Elsa Anna.*

Family is so cool.

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* For those who don’t know a single child right now, Elsa and Anna are the names of the lead characters in the movie Frozen.

 

Watching Football with Nona

Skipping naptime to watch the Bengals with Nona.

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Who is finding a bunch of online military documents related to Martin’s great-grandfather’s service as a German infantry soldier in World War I?

This girl. History, especially long-lost family history, is so intresting! I’ll share more about it soon!

Visit with the Chief

Martin and I met up with my former Air Force supervisor, Chief Matt P last night! Three hours of hilarious anecdotes about our life and times in the Air Force that I swear Martin didn’t believe were true until Chief confirmed them. Good times!!

Our exchange online afterwards:

Matt: You got off easy. I can go 4+ hours without breaking a sweat.

Me: You sound like a writer!! Have you ever considered it? (He just published a book.)

Matt: I’m really more of an editor. I should have whittled it down to 2 hours. Apologies to Martin. Poor ol’ Port Dawg trying to get a word in between 2 PA weasels.

It’s Not Goodbye

We’re actually the same height, ya’ll. I was on the sidewalk, she was in the grass on a slope. Hilarious.

 

I am writing this blog post very quietly. If I use anything, but a whisper, my voice will crack and I’ll be a blubbering mess again.

Our friends Sarah, Kevin, and their son Mr. A moved away today.

They are driving from Washington DC all the way to their new home in Seattle, Washington. One extreme corner of this country for another. Of course, in the near future, we ourselves will be packing up and heading in the opposite direction clear across the Atlantic Ocean.

But as I said to Sarah this morning — partly teasing, partly being selfishly honest — this whole farewell business would have been a lot easier for me if we left first. Continue reading

Photo Memory

Martin and Jaz, October 2014. Jaz is three.

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]I[/dropcap] was going through the photos I took this past weekend and I had to stop when I came to this one of Jaz asleep on Martin’s shoulder.

I instantly recognized that it looks very much like a photo I took in May 2006 of Miss C and Martin at a local Relay for Life event. So I pulled it up and confirmed that yes, my kids make the same face when they are asleep and yes, my memory is still sharp despite decades of irregular sleep patterns, skipping the fish oil pills, parenthood, and all that jazz.

Martin doesn’t understand how my brain is able to work this way, and it drives him nuts. I can recall a single photo I took nearly ten years ago, but I can’t recall where I last put my favorite pair of shoes. (Maybe downstairs by the door? My closet? Under my bed?)

This drives him nuts.

But come on. Look at these photos! How could I ever forget these sweet little faces? 🙂

Martin and Miss C in May 2006. She was two and a half.

 

The Question

I admit that I did not pay attention to the weather forecast today.

As a result, I do not have my umbrella or my wellies.

Why do I do that?

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“I have to officially ask you this question: has your three-year-old son Jaz traveled to and/or returned from any country in West Africa, such as Liberia or Sierra Leone, and/or been exposed to anyone suffering from Ebola within the past 21 days?” — the hotline operator for our provider’s on-call nurse, who was smiling (I could tell) before patching me over to ask the nurse about congestion medicine.

Colors and a Book

One of Miss C’s pictures from the passenger seat.

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]O[/dropcap]h my goodness, what a weekend.

The weather was gorgeous, the colors were vivid. On Sunday, my friend Stacey had a booksigning event over in Winchester, Virginia, so Miss C and I hopped in the car and set forth to visit with her. Every time we crested a hill, the two of us screamed at each other about “OH MY GOD, THE COLORS!!!” as she went crazy trying to capture it all with the camera.

We also decided there needs to be an app for all those history markers along the side of the road because we passed so many, but who is going to stop on such a busy road just to read a metal sign, right? Later, when I got to my laptop, we learned there’s already an app for that.

OF COURSE there is. It’s a brilliant idea. I told Miss C we need to be a few years faster with these clever ideas as I paid and downloaded it. (Way to be, David Kocevski!)

Anyway, our friend Stacey and a few of her daughters were at the booksigning event, and even though we were at her house the evening before for a Halloween party, she and her posse greeted us as if it had been ages. Oh, to be loved.

She had a great turnout, and both her Girls Guide to Ghost Hunting AND the Boxcar Children Guide to Adventure book were completely sold out by the time I got there. Like, the store’s entire stock was g-o-n-e.

But of course, I snagged a few signed copies of Haunted Stuff because not only as gifts for others, but I am giving one away for free to one of YOU — my lucky blog readers.

Just use the widget below to sign up with an email: you get an extra point by writing a blog comment about your favorite Halloween memory or haunted object experience, and then the raffle widget will pick a winner at the end of the week!

Good luck!

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