Our First Day in the French Alps

Heading out to find our adventure! But first … locating the recycling bins!

Martin and I decided to take the family to the French Alps for a week to celebrate the New Year. I found a ski resort near Modane, France, not far from the border with Italy, that was a pretty straight shot south of us through Switzerland. Various websites praised its beautiful views and tobogganing trail, so we packed up and headed that way on Jan. 1.

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Oma Takes a Tumble

Soooo, my mother-in-law (who is visiting for a few weeks) miscalculated a step and stumbled down our staircase this morning. Fortunately, Martin and I were nearby, and got to her quickly. It was obvious her ankle was in bad shape.

I volunteered to fireman-carry her out to the car, but of course, we called the medics instead. Two strapping young men arrived, bandaged her up, and wheeled her out as the neighbors watched.
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No Worries

Well, that was fun.

Of course, when I say that, I mean the furlough.

And of course, I’m being sarcastic.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the furlough is over. And for me, it was awful. It was not a vacation, though a few folks kept pointing out that “at least you’ll get paid later! It’s like a paid vacation!” But it was the farthest thing from a vacation for me.

Here’s the truth: I did not trust Congress to agree on retroactive pay for federal workers.

Even though they said it would happen, I did not believe it. Which is unusual, because I’m normally a pretty optimistic person who believes things usually work out for the best, who can usually see the silver lining in just about anything.

But I still applied for unemployment.

As the sole breadwinner with no other income coming in? That weighed on me so hard.

And I did not trust that Congress would reach a decision on the debt ceiling, and I sincerely anticipated a very bad financial situation for everyone. Not just federal workers and those directly affected by closed government programs and parks … I mean everyone.

And then to see all the hatred and negativity on the Internets and in the headlines … I’m sure you saw it, too. I don’t need to re-hash it. I did my best to avoid it. It was just ugly. And demoralizing.

And for what?

On top of that, during those weeks, Martin had surgery on his hand. He’s now in a full arm cast as it heals. I tried my best to be a good nurse to him, but I realized fairly quickly that I don’t have enough patience to be a very good nurse to a grown man who refuses to take his pain meds, but insists on letting everyone know (many times) how bad the pain is making him feel.

Still love him, though. A lot. 🙂

And I got bit on my toe by a mystery bug (most likely a spider), and my entire foot swelled up and now I’m on antibiotics as it heals. For awhile there, I had only one good foot and Martin had only one good hand, and the kids were running the place.

Upon my return to work on Wednesday, there was a meeting where we were asked to go around the room and mention something positive we did during the furlough. I couldn’t bring myself to be Pollyanna. I mentioned the German-American celebration, but I also mentioned Martin having surgery and me being bit, and how everything we did had a cloud of dread hanging over it.

I had to be honest. Those three weeks (to include the week leading up to it as I worried about it) sucked. It was hard to feel upbeat about anything. We barely left the house. I barely changed out of sweatpants.

I barely blogged. (You know that’s bad!)

But looking back, I really could have mentioned in that meeting that Martin and I have great friends and neighbors.

Not only did they come for our German-American day, but when Martin had his surgery and my foot went crazy, they brought us food and hung out with us and kept my spirits up.

And wrote me emails like, “Your silence on the blog has me worried. Are you good?”

I love my posse. And I’m grateful for them.

Very grateful.

These days? Now I’m back to work.

My foot is almost completely healed … just a few more days on the antibiotics … and I’m walking with no issues again. Martin has a follow-up appointment and he’ll soon get out of that cast.

We celebrated Martin’s birthday with pizza, we went out to Mount Vernon over the weekend, and I feel like we’re falling into a good routine again.

Even better, I feel like blogging again.

So, no worries.

We’re here. And we’re good. 🙂



I dropped off Martin for his hand surgery. They knocked him totally out since they discovered that he still feels pain when given local and regional anesthesia.

I told him, “Don’t worry, Martin! Most people don’t die from general anesthesia.”

And he said, “Yeah. It’ll suck for you if I do. Good luck getting the Air Force to pay my SGLI [life insurance]. I left all the papers you’ll need on the kitchen counter if they refuse to pay you.”

Ah, Martin. Always thinking ahead.

Related: we still haven’t heard back from Fort Belvoir about his referral to the military hand surgeon. I’m going to say the furlough may have something to do with that, but at this moment, dealing with the military in any capacity is the least of my worries.

As you know, we can’t sue the military because of horrible health care, but I can write detailed and factual certified letters and photos to the chain of command over there letting them know where they can improve customer service. Already began scripting my podcast, too, if I don’t get a response or if I get a generic form letter. If the AF is going to mandate participation in “morale events” they need to anticipate injuries, and they need to provide medical care that Airmen can trust that will return them to duty. Martin needs his hands for his job. Our doc already said that the way Martin was healing with those shitty splints was going to limit his use with that finger.

Hence: surgery here today.

The Finger and the Furlough

Martin and his finger after finally getting the care he needs.

Today was my first full day as a furloughed government worker.

I took Miss C to school in the morning. I made Nutella toast for Lola and Jaz. Martin was gone most of the morning: he had an appointment with our family doctor first thing, and it stretched into hours spent in the orthopedics clinic having his broken ring finger x-rayed and re-set in an effort to correct the shoddy care he received at the Air Force clinic during his recent Air Force Reserve duty time.

Oh, have I not mentioned that one here on the blog?

It’s been a wild ride.

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That Time Martin Caught a Soccer Ball

The kids and I skipped “family day” at Martin’s base today because, as he texted, it was just a bunch of adults standing around, eating, and playing sports. Nothing for the kids – no static displays, no activities, no face-painting. Nothing to hold their interest. So, we stayed home.

However, we missed the excitement. Martin’s currently at the hospital on Andrews AFB, getting an x-ray for his finger which he *may* have broken while playing goalie during his unit’s soccer match.

Apparently, when he showed up to be treated, they were like, “Um, our computers aren’t showing you as military. You’re still listed as a dependent under your wife in our TRICARE system.”

Martin just got home and showed me the result of his visit to the hospital on Andrews Air Force Base.

I hate that what I’m about to reveal to you may perpetuate some military stereotypes, but it was a lieutenant that wrapped up Martin’s injury. Martin said he was just ready to leave the place (after waiting and waiting and waiting for care), and figured he could fix it at home. But not before I took a photo of this awesome tape job!

I think it was more painful for him to remove the tape than the injury itself. On the bright side, they DID give him Vitamin M. Scotch tape would have been better. It was super sticky and tight, and pulled on his skin, which did not feel awesome, especially on the other side of his knuckle, where it’s all purple and swollen.

I now feel he’s officially “in” even if the TRICARE system refuses to accept it.

And there you have it. I proved to Martin that NCOs really do fix what hapless lieutenants bust. Now, maybe I’ll begin the conversation about using some sunscreen next time.


Street Fighter And Other Excuses

This is my street fighting face. 🙂

It would be much more fun to tell you I injured my wrist while working out, lifting way more than I should have.

Or doing way more push-ups than I should have.

Or that I flipped off a jaywalker downtown, things got ugly, I pulled some street-fighting moves, and I won.

Or that I finally mastered a back flip, but not the landing.

Or that I stopped a moving vehicle with my bare hands when it rolled through a red light.

Or that I did any number of dramatic and interesting things that would require me to wear this strappy brace and type this blog one handed.

But none of that would be true.

It’s just a flare-up of the carpal tunnel pain I had when I was younger, and again when I was pregnant. (Note: I’m not so young anymore, and I’m not pregnant.)

It was so weird how suddenly the pain started to throb as I did my usual work at my ergonomically-correct desk. (Seriously – an adviser came and adjusted everything for me to be as comfortable as possible.)

I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary. It just snuck up on me.

Typing was fine, since my keyboard is angled to keep my wrists level, but I couldn’t lift my purse, dial my telephone, reach for papers off my printer, or anything else without muttering an F-bomb under my breath from the shock of pain. Fortunately, I recognized that pain, and knew what I needed to do for it. Unfortunately, my hand braces were at home and I was not about to go out in that muggy, swampy heat wave today for a trip to the drug store three blocks away to buy a new one.

Not that I had an issue with the heat. I just didn’t have a coupon. And you know what that means.

So I went to the department’s clinic and had them wrap it for me with a bandage. The nurse was so nice, and said a number of people have come in lately with the same issue. She blames it on the recent weather fluctuations.


What I do know is that the few hours I had on that bandage at work, I got so much attention. People wanted to know what happened.

I felt lame just saying, “Oh, you know. Carpal tunnel.”

So, I started throwing out really elaborate descriptions of how I got my injury, and invited my colleagues to pick the most plausible.

Most agreed I probably hurt it while street fighting.


When I got home, Martin dug through our first aid boxes for the braces. He managed to find the one I used to wear in Germany, which I got from the military clinic there when I first experienced the wrist pain. (The doctor thought I injured it doing too many push-ups. Because back then, that was actually plausible.)

The brace is so solid, and so awesome. But so clunky. And so restrictive.

So, we’ll see how it goes in the morning. Maybe this is weather related, because I still can’t figure what caused this.

Maybe it’s just being of an older age?

Totally plausible.


I know it’s not Friday, but I couldn’t help but think about the other time I was wearing a brace, when I was pregnant with Jaz.

Remember that one?

Ah, good times.

Oh No
Go ahead. Click on the photo.

Flashback Friday: Keeping Us in Stitches

I got home from work last night only to learn that Martin had rushed out of the house just a few minutes earlier to take Lola to the emergency room.

Both Miss C and Miss Mary shared with me the details. Lola was playing around in the family room, ignoring the warnings from her father, her sister, and her nanny as she leaped with abandon, propelling herself into the edge of our entertainment center and splitting open her eyebrow. Again.

Yes. Again.

For my Flashback Friday post, I’m going back to May 2011, when Lola made her first trip to the emergency room. She injured herself in a similar fashion: hurling herself forward and hitting a piece of furniture. That time, things were a little bit frantic. That time, Martin nearly fainted.

But this time?

Apparently, nobody panicked. According to Miss C and Miss Mary, Martin scooped her up and cleaned her off. He couldn’t tell if the cut was deep, but it was a bleeder, so he played it safe and took her to get checked out.

Turns out, she didn’t need stitches after all. She didn’t even need glue. Instead, she got five stickers and a doctor’s warning to be more careful next time.

Fingers crossed she listened.

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.


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.


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.