Martin’s Blog: Family Volkssport

I know Julie sometimes wishes we still lived in Germany instead of the States. She really liked the lifestyle there. I miss some things about life over there, too. We miss the bakeries, the movie theaters with the big seats. 
Julie misses the old churches and villages. 
I miss the Autobahn.
But there is something we don’t have to miss about the German lifestyle.

Something we don’t have to miss is the Volksmarching, or Volkssport.
It is simply the act of going for a walk in the nature around you. Volkssport is when you include bicycles or rollerblading. Though the word has “march” in it, there is no marching like in the military. Usually the small villages have organized groups with specific times and meeting locations and then everyone goes for a walk. Germany is very good about having trails in their neighborhoods for this. I participated in them all the time with my family when I was a little kid. 


We are lucky to live in a place in America that has a lot of paved trails and paths in the neighborhoods. It’s especially nice to live in an area that has protected woods and creeks, so even though we are close to one of the busiest cities in the country, we can be in the middle of thick woods where all you hear is the water in the creek and the frogs who live there.
Okay, sometimes we hear the airplanes fly overhead too.
This evening, all of us went on a family Volkssport. For the first time in a long time, all of us rode our bikes. Actually, it was the first time for a lot of things. It was the first time Jaz went on a bike ride. He and Lola rode together in our bike trailer. He cried at first because he did not like to be buckled in, but as soon as Julie started riding, he liked it a lot. 
It was also the first time Julie has been on her bike since she had Jaz and it was the first time she went on the paved trail that is near our home. It is a long trail and Miss C and I ride our bikes on there a lot. But due to bad timing, Julie never had the chance until now. When we moved into our house, she was pregnant with Lola. Then when Lola was finally big enough to sit in a trailer and Julie was riding her bike, the trail was closed for construction. Then it opened just when Julie was very, very pregnant with Jaz. 
But now everything came together and we were able to enjoy a bike ride with the whole family. Whether we live in Germany or in the United States, I think spending time like this together is the best thing for our family.

Martin’s Blog: Getting Nervous

Taking notes in my Bundeswehr days. It wasn’t fun even back then.

This weekend, I will be taking a test and I’m nervous about it. It will be the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL test. It is required for foreign nationals to take it in order to attend college here in the States.

It’s to officially confirm that I can speak, write and understand enough English to not fall behind in college and keep up with all the good things they are teaching. 

I am worried that I won’t pass it.

Taking tests has never been my favorite thing to do. As a kid, I was always getting low test scores although I participated well during class and knew most of the answers. When it came to languages, I was never good at it. In fact, I failed English about three or fours times in my school career, a fact that makes Julie laugh every time she hears that. I hated languages, so of course taking tests were a pain.
On the other hand, math was always my favorite. I corrected the other kids’ tests after the teacher handed them back out to us, and I usually was able to find extra points that would give them a better grade. It also happened every now and then that I corrected the teacher with the things he or she wrote on the blackboard. 
I remember once I just couldn’t get behind a new math problem and started talking to the teacher about it. It took about 5 minutes and the rest of the class later admitted they had no clue what the teacher and I were talking about. But I was able to make sense out of things again in my math world. To test if I really had understood, the teacher wrote an equation on the blackboard and asked me to solve it. I did, to his surprise, without any hesitation. Yet when taking the tests, I always managed to make a silly mistake somewhere along the line and not get my ‘A’ as final grade.

So not only do I seem to not test well, I also get so nervous especially when the stakes are so high and the outcome so important.
This nervousness around taking tests never changed for me. It happened when I went to Naples, Italy to get my legal resident card. We were living in Italy at the time. Julie was already back in the United States, our daughter was staying with our Italian friends, and I needed this legal resident card so I could go to America and our family could be together. We had started that process two years prior, and it was a very long process full of delays, returns, and lots of paperwork. To get all that way to the interview part and fail and have to start over? That would have been awful.

When I got there, I learned it wasn’t a test you needed to study, but there was going to be an interview. I heard so much about the interview, and how people were there for the second or third time because they got turned away the first time.

My nerves got so bad that the day before my flight to Naples, I got really sick. In the end all I had to do in the interview was to explain to the clerk how Julie and I met, and where we were going to live to America. It was just a five-minute conversation while the clerk was finalizing the paperwork to give me my green card.
The last test I had to take and really study for was to become a licensed banker. Again, I heard many talking how they failed it mainly due to the legal part of the test. Legalities are hard to understand even if you are a native English-speaking person. You can imagine how I felt when I started to prepare and learned what others had been talking about. I got this sick feeling to my stomach again. I had to read the same sentence 10 times just to get an idea what these book were trying to tell me.

I was grateful they gave foreign nationals an extra 90 minutes additional test time, but as it turned out, I didn’t need it. I was very surprised that I finished the test 30 minutes before the regular time was up. Thanks to internet-based tests, I didn’t have to wait long to learn if I passed or failed. While we waited for the results to be displayed, the administrator told me that he sees about two thirds of all bankers come back at least a second time because they failed the legal part of the test. Then he announced that I passed on my first try.
So here I am just a few days away from taking my TOEFL test. I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about it as much as I can, but I keep thinking about it, nervous again that I DO have to take a test this Saturday. 
Wish me luck.

Martin’s Blog: Who’s The Boss?

Writing a blog is easier said than done.

Since I am responsible for the blog entries for the month of May, I’ve been trying to come up with something to write about. Julie is doing it almost daily, so it can’t be that hard to find a reason to write, right?

I’m not as talented as Julie is as a writer. She has the ability to write longer blog entries, yet it is all interesting from the first word to the last. That is not so easy for me.
Continue reading

Martin’s Blog: Drunk Drivers Suck

Drunk drivers suck.

I learned that at a very early age, although I never lost a friend or family member due to an accident involving a drunk driver. However, I had to drive with one for about seven years as a kid. Every Friday night, my stepfather took me bowling and that included him drinking with the other older men. And then we’d go home. Every Friday, I was just hoping to get home safely and I was promising myself that as soon as I’d get my license, I would never touch a drink when I had to drive somewhere afterwards.

That has always been my personal rule. No driving when drinking a sip of alcohol,  not even if I was driving hours later … or even if the drink was small … or if food came along with it.

And I’ve kept my own promise to this day.

When the phone rang Saturday night, and I saw Julie’s number, I was happy to get a call from her. But from her voice, I could immediately hear that something bad had happened.

I never worry when Julie goes to Ohio for her Air Force Reserve duty. I’m actually happy she goes there for a few days. She loves being with other Airmen, and seeing her Ohio family and it gives her some time off from me and the kids.

It allows her to serve and I’ve never worried about her the way I did during her deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

This phone call late Saturday night, though, was very scary. She told me she was in an accident, that someone slammed into her from behind. And it wasn’t just a regular traffic accident. The girl who hit Julie was drunk.

I was both instantly worried and scared for her and the baby, and I was also very angry. It was a very helpless feeling to not be able to get up and immediately go to Julie. I had to wait for her to call me with updates from the hospital.

The next day, after Julie was released from the hospital and was recuperating in her hotel room, the girls and I had a web chat with her. I had told Miss C about the accident. I didn’t go into detail right away, but Miss C had a lot of questions and when I realized she wasn’t going to be satisfied with my short answers, I finally explained to her how someone could run into Mom without seeing her. I explained drunk driving, how the girl who hit Mom drank too much alcohol.

Needless to say, Miss C got angry, too, and very concerned for her Mom, so I had Julie come on the web cam and talk with the girls to let them know she is really okay. Luckily, we have the technology to do that, and it went well with the girls singing songs to make their Mom laugh.

Although it was clear throughout that Julie was in a lot of pain and loopy from the medication.

With all the news and coverage about drunk driving, why are there still idiots out there who think having a designated driver is unnecessary?

I grew up in Germany; yes I had a few drinks long before I was 21. But it was legal, and there was ALWAYS a plan, even if it meant walking home.

There are so many things that can happen. Mostly people are worried about getting caught by the police. That should be the last worry. You are risking your own life and that of everybody around you. Not only do you ruin your life, you could ruin so many others. And if that happens, it has a long-lasting effect for everyone involved.

We now know that the girl who hit Julie was only 20 years old. In an ideal world, she should have never been drinking. But the reality is, young people drink. She should have had a better plan.

As I talked to Miss C, I wondered how that 20-year-old drunk driver would feel if she was the one in front of Miss C explaining why she hit her Mom. I wonder if that 20-year-old would be so confrontational, as she apparently was to my wife, when faced with my seven-year-old.

We don’t know yet how long it will take Julie to fully recover from this accident. It could be a few weeks but also a few months. She suffered bad whiplash and back pain, and is currently taking pain medicine. She also is six months pregnant with our little Bug. I hope nothing happened, or will happen to him, due to this accident and the medication Julie has to take.

To those who drink and drive, the biggest concern shouldn’t be if you get caught. You should think of how bad you impact other peoples lives when you decide to drive drunk.


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Martin’s Blog: Boy or Girl

I always wanted to be surrounded by beautiful women. I am pretty lucky to have my wife Julie and our two daughters, Miss C and Lola, with me every day.

At an appointment today, we will find out if this third baby will be another beautiful girl or if it will be a little boy.

I’m excited to find out what it is.

Many ask me what I would like to have.

It would be a big life change if it were a boy. It would help to have a little man at my side. Also, my brother has two girls and I have two girls. Who is going to carry on my family name? I know we live in the 21st century and more women keep their name and it is possible for the man to take the wives’ name. But how often does that really happen, especially when it is a name like mine where you have to spell it and correct people every time the last name is mentioned.

But to be honest, I wouldn’t know what the difference between a girl and a boy would be, other than the physical differences of course. I am so happy with my girls and don’t know any better. Apart from the dressing in pink, which isn’t really exclusive to girls anymore if you read the headlines, is there anything different with boys? Miss C loves playing Frisbee and Soccer with me. Lola keeps us hopping with her constant need to live dangerously and push limits, all with a sweet smile on her face.

Sure, the difference will become obvious later when girls become young women and I have to stand in the door with my shotgun when those boys come calling.

But even then, I wouldn’t trade my girls for anything.

Boy or girl, I look forward to seeing this baby.

Martin’s Blog: Daughters After Dentist

Lola gets her teeth cleaned.

Today was my day off from work, but I got up at 7 a.m. because that’s when the kids get up. Normally, I have to help get Miss C ready for school, but today we had an appointment for both girls at the dentist for a routine check-up and cleaning. 

Everything went fine on the drive there, up to about two minutes before arriving at the dentist. Lola decided to claim Miss C’s stuffed Panda as her own. So there was a bit of a dispute. Luckily that lasted only two minutes. Lola calmed down very quick when we went in the building and up the elevator.

After a short wait in the waiting area, where the kids read up on the new hot spots for fine dining in this area, we were seen right on time for our appointment.

I’m always questioning doctors appointments where you have to show up 10 minutes early, but aren’t seen until 40 minutes after the scheduled time. The fact we were asked to get started even two minutes before our scheduled time was much appreciated by me.

Miss C immediately jumped in the chair, laying down and waiting for her cleaning.

On the way to the dentist, in the car, we had a brief discussion about my experience with the dentist when I was young. I had to confess that I really didn’t like to go, as my dentist in Germany was well over six-feet tall, a real huge guy, who always seemed to try to scare me into taking care of my teeth. 

Miss C does not share the same feelings about her dentist at all.

She chose pineapple flavor for cleaning and peppermint for her vitamin treatment. Maybe that’s another reason i never liked the dentist: I did not have these options. Everything tasted horrible. 

Lola was sitting on my knee very quiet and very focused on Miss C, studying everything that was happening to her big sister. It helped that Miss C was giggling the whole time she got her teeth taken care of. This got Lola very excited, and as soon as big sister left the chair, Lola climbed into it waiting to be entertained.

The dental assistant was great explaining things to Lola. The first tool was called the teeth tickler and she demonstrated it on her little fingers. Lola enjoyed the cherry-flavored cleaning, which was followed with some exercise for the teeth using a jump rope, also known as floss. Once the grape vitamins were given to the teeth, the dentist came over to count all her teeth and check if they are all in line.

Both kids have healthy teeth and no problems. I talked to the dentist quickly about the following appointments while my two brave girls browsed through the toys they were allowed to pick as rewards for good behavior.

All in all, I had a very nice morning with the girls and a dentist’s visit. And maybe seeing how brave they were, and how many flavors you can enjoy during a dentist visit, I will be less scared next time I go.

Martin’s Blog: Dolls and Dinner

Today was a very fun day for me. I didn’t have to work, but Julie had to attend a meeting in her office. It was just me and Lola for most of the day while Miss C was at school. When Julie got home, she asked what we did all day probably expecting me to share some of Lola’s nap protests.
But Lola was great and I told Julie that for most of the day we played with her dolls and doll stroller and even picked up Miss C’s room together. Lola likes to play with her older sister’s toys, but doesn’t pick up those toys. So I thought having her do that was a pretty big deal.

Then Miss C came home and told us all about Martin Luther King, who she learned about, and also about Native Americans. She really knows a lot about them and explained how they used salt to preserve the buffalo skins they used to keep warm. So amazing to learn these things from my 7 year old.
Guess who was making dinner for these girls while they had web cam fun?
Then I also made dinner which was hard work! Nothing seemed to appeal to Julie until she thought of something and then she had to have it. If Julie’s recent cravings are any indication, Bug is going to have some pretty specific preferences. Spinach salad with only carrots? Beef bourguignon? Pulled barbecue pork on toasted homemade bread? I had to go to the store this evening for the last one. This is getting ridiculous!!!!!! 
But as long as Julie is happy and fed, we’re all happy. Ha. Ha.

Martin’s Blog: Excuse Note

To Whom It May Concern:

Please excuse my wife Julie from any current blog writing. She is not feeling well these past few days and spends a lot of time sleeping on the couch, drinking lots of real ginger ale (don’t even suggest Canada Dry in her presence, she’s sensitive about that) or lemon water, and trying not to dry-heave all the time.

You may have seen Julie out on a date on Sunday. We needed to get out of the house and the girls behave better when they are on a date, so we tell them that it is a double-date when the four of us go out together. Miss C sits taller in the seat and Lola only blows bubbles in her soda some of the time instead of all of the time. Julie was feeling well enough to eat a nice chicken dish and I had the jambalaya. Our waiter even brought the girls a complimentary ice cream sundae.

You may have even seen Julie up off the couch on Monday and fixing dinner with me in the kitchen. Apparently, Bug had a craving for some French cuisine, so we made Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. It took a long time, but it made the house smell good and the kids liked it, too. And Julie liked it so much, she ate two servings but told me this morning she will never be able to eat it again. Morning sickness is so funny.

So to whom it may concern, please excuse Julie from hanging out on this blog for a little while. I will post in her absence as she grows our little Bug.