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

Vacation/Momcation

 

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]M[/dropcap]artin and the kids are in Ohio at the moment.

Miss C went out there first almost two weeks ago with the intention that she would stay a week, and then Lola would swap with her for her own week out there. But after that first week, the grandparents called our house, said everyone was having such a great time, they had no intention on sending Miss C home, and asked if we could send Lola right away.

It was hard to say no. And since Martin is back from Arkansas, he decided to drive out with the younger two and enjoy a nice vacation, too.

So, as I stay here in DC for work, I get tagged on social media with photos of my kids doing awesome things like kayaking on the Ohio River or in one of the many lakes around Cincinnati, going to amusement parks, hanging out with their cousins, shopping with their Grandma, and doing all the other things you do when you’re around family and have no worries in the world.

 

But don’t feel bad for me.

Oh, no.

I’m enjoying my “mom’cation.”

Make no mistake that I love my tornado of a family and all the hustle and bustle. I feed off their love and energy.

Yet…

While working from home the other day, the house was so quiet that I could hear Patches Der Hund snoring in the next room.

As I prepared a dinner of my choosing using just enough to fill one plate, I noticed that the sound of the crickets in my backyard was pretty intense and wonderful.

And the time I went through drive-thru for a grilled chicken salad, it dawned on me how I just took the bag of food, put it on the seat next to me, and I simply drove away. No twisting in the seat to hand out juice boxes. No double-checking the bags so make sure there were enough straws or the correct number of kiddy prizes. I just said, “Thank you,” and I pulled out of there.

I go to the bathroom and nobody is wiggling fingers under the door.

My morning routine is 15 … maybe 20 minutes. Tops.

I cleaned up the family room, and put all the toys in the toy box, and the toys are still there. (I just got up to check. Yup. Still picked up. It’s been 48 hours.)

And my schedule is full of things for my own needs. I eat breakfast without scarfing it down. When I’ve gone off for a run or something, I didn’t have to explain to anyone why I was leaving on my own. Running errands means grabbing my bag and leaving without begging or bribing anyone else to put on their shoes and get out the door along with me.

And I’ve had the time and energy to sit down and write this blog post.

I’ve heard it so many times … one day, these are the things I will miss, but I gotta be honest … today, these little moments and actions of freedom are so awesome and refreshing. It’s allowed me to think complete thoughts, and finish up on projects around the house without distraction.

So here’s to vacations/momcations!

Hope you’re able to get away (or not!) for a break this summer, too. 🙂

 

 

Where’s Martin?

Oh, look. I wrote a novel in November.

Honestly, I didn’t think I could do it, but being trapped in a vehicle for more than 10 hours on Thursday was very effective in boosting my number count.

The story itself is still not finished, but I’ll keep at it. Martin will be super annoyed if I don’t after he had to do all this research and character discussion, and read incomplete scenes and chapters this whole month.

Wait. Where’s Martin?

So I jump out of bed to share with Martin the good news about NaNoWriMo, and I run thru the house, calling for him, but there’s no answer.

Then, I look out the back door…

Metal detecting.

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I always get a kick out of people’s reactions when my mother and I are together. We do look a lot alike, don’t we? She and her partner Trev traveled from Oklahoma to be with the family for Thanksgiving at my sister’s house in northern Kentucky. It’s the first time in about 14 years we’ve all been together for Thanksgiving.

My sister’s house is already decorated for Christmas.

My niece does this whenever she’s unhappy about her environment. In this case, she was reacting to a kitchen full of relatives who were very excited to see her.

My plate of food this year: turkey, mac and cheese (twice!), potatoes, stuffing, veggies … WAY too much. But I filled my plate twice. Sooooo good.

My dad took this photo during our traditional game of Pictionary. We play this every time we get together. I love my family!

On Our Way to Ohio

 

 

At our pit-stop where the donuts are fresh!
Our noble and impatient driver. He ranted a little about American drivers, driving patterns, and the benefits of the metric system. Ah, Martin.

It was merging (or lack thereof) that created the miles long backup. Once he realized that, Martin took an exit ramp to bypass a mile of it, then merged like a European to bypass even more because the drivers were not driving all the way up to the merge point to zipper in. THEN he bypassed even more when the construction lane merged to one because everyone merged at the first construction sign versus going all the way up to the merge point. If you’ve ever driven in Europe, you got all that. LOL

It Was Quiet For Awhile

It wasn’t quiet at this moment, obviously.

It was pretty quiet for a little while.

It was quiet on the blog.

And it was quiet at home all last week which could only mean that there were no kids in the house.

It was true: Martin and the kids and Patches Der Hund were off in Ohio and enjoying two weeks of summer vacation while I got to stay behind for work.


As much as I missed them, I also enjoyed the silence in the house and setting my own pace in the mornings. And all the laundry was done.

It allowed me to focus on a few things I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. Like read a book from cover to cover within a few days.

I can’t remember the last time I did that.

Meanwhile, Martin and the kids were off visiting museums, and kayaking nearly every day, and attending barbecues with aunts, uncles, and cousins.

It makes me so happy they have these summertime experiences stored in their memory banks now.

This week, though, everyone is home and under one roof again, meaning the noise is back, along with the constant hum of activity.

Martin served his first weekend of Air Force Reserve duty, and though most of it involved hours and hours of in-processing and introduction briefings, he did get to meet people from his new unit.

During the week days, though, he and the kids have been making the rounds: visiting the splash park, the playground, the museums.

And the stinky corpse flower at the US Botanical Gardens.

We hope you are enjoying your summer, too!

 

They’re smiling because it doesn’t smell like death yet.

Das Vogelnest Verlassen

The Frau (gray shirt) standing on a streetcar in Nuremberg in June 1999.
The only photo I have of her from the exchange.

As a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, I would have never imagined that I would have anything in common with my German language teacher — The Frau, as we called her.

Especially not after getting the grades I got that first year.

At the time, I was a teenager who probably could have taken homework more seriously. She was a twenty-something newlywed starting out her teaching career with a sassy group of students.

She was passionate about German and the benefits of learning world languages in general.

I was passionate about growing up and getting the heck out of my hometown.

I look back and laugh at the memory of her and I sitting in the hallway just outside her classroom, sitting across from each other as she patiently waited for me to stop butchering the German pronunciations required for my final exam.

While I really loved and enjoyed her class, I was not her best student, but now I consider her one of my best friends, and I know she feels the same about me.

Life is funny.

Even though I was in her German class for three years, it wasn’t until my senior year that we really connected, that it dawned on me that she was invested in me as a person.

That was probably right around the time she agreed to accept my application for the summer exchange program a few days late because my divorced parents couldn’t make up their mind whether I should go or not, or how we were going to work out the logistics of hosting a German student between my two homes.

She was so gracious, and a few days after I was accepted to the program, she called me up to her desk.

“So, I had a little bit of an issue pairing you up with another student,” she said, explaining that most students were paired up according to gender. “The only person who remained was a young man named Schindler, and he lives in an all-boys Catholic boarding school. Now, I’m going to call and talk to your parents about this, but I don’t think this will be a problem, you living at the boarding school for most of the exchange. You’ll still stay with his family on the weekends. I wouldn’t do this for any of the other students, but you’ll already be graduated, you are mature, and I know you will conduct yourself in a responsible manner.”

That’s how I got paired up with Schindler.

Who was friends with Martin.

Who ended up becoming my husband.

But that’s another story.

I last saw Linda at the airport upon our return from the exchange program in July of 1999, and then I went off and joined the Air Force. We stayed in touch over sporadic email, which became more frequent when Martin and I got engaged and married.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2002 that I saw her again. Martin and I were newlyweds then, and we traveled to Cincinnati to spend Thanksgiving with my family. We agreed to go in and talk to her German class about our lives in Europe.

That was the first of what would be many more visits to her classroom whenever I was in town.

It wasn’t until 2007, though, just before I deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, that Linda and I really connected. It was my last visit before leaving, and I went out to dinner with her, and my former journalism teacher, Lisa. All three of us brought our children, who were close in ages.

That pretty much sealed the deal: we were now just all three moms. After that, I didn’t feel so inclined to call her “The Frau” anymore.

Our correspondence — through email, the blog, and a new site called Facebook — became more personal as she followed my deployment and kept up with Martin. When I returned home, she helped me arrange a surprise visit to one of her students, who had been writing me, too.

It made the local paper.

Ever since then, we’ve been communicating almost weekly, if not daily. We talk over the phone, and in this day and age, that’s saying a lot.

We talk about our kids. Our marriages. Our husbands. Our jobs. The work-life balance. Growing older. Making decisions.

Of course, she and her family were there when Martin and I renewed our wedding vows in 2012.

While she’s often used my accomplishments as an example of the value of learning a foreign language, her own personal and career projectory is very impressive.

She’s been named World Language Teacher of the Year in the state of Kentucky, and earned both regional and national recognition within the field as well. She’s known throughout the country, and when I moved to the Washington DC, she actually connected me with a language teacher who lived in my neighborhood so I could pick his brain about the local school system and where to find classes/schools with strong language programs.

She was an awesome teacher when she taught me.

And she’s still an awesome teacher today.

Which is why it is bittersweet when she officially announced today that she’s leaving my alma mater to teach elsewhere. Similar to how I knew it was time for me to leave the Air Force, she reached a point where it was time for her to move on, too.

It’s the right step for her career, and also her family.

But it’s a huge loss for my high school.

During her 20-year celebration dinner recently, her current students put together a photo montage with pictures spanning the two decades she’s taught at my school. (My exchange group is at the 1:30 mark, a group shot while touring Bamburg.)

Not only is it fun to see some familiar faces and regrettable hairstyles in the photos, but to just think that she was “The Frau” to so many people … that she influenced so many young people … it’s so remarkable.

While not all of them went off and used German in their everyday lives, their path into the future was made broader because of her.

And of course, let’s not understate the influence she had on my life.

So I’m excited for her, and this part of her career. I know she’s going to do awesome.

And did I mention where she’ll be teaching?

At an all-boys Catholic high school.

Good luck, Linda!!

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Title translation: Leaving the Bird’s Nest. My high school’s mascot is the Bluebird. 🙂

L’s Vacation

L is on vacation in Ohio.

Considering that it’s still a long time before her Dad gets home and we go to Disney World … and considering that C and I will soon be leaving for Texas ourselves … I felt like L should have a happy distraction via an extended visit with her grandparents, who have long offered such an opportunity.

So she stayed behind when we went there for Easter. I’m glad that the grandparents are really getting to know her, too, without her siblings there to talk over or distract her.

J, C, and I got to chat with her over webcam this evening, and it was so sweet! She showed off a new mug she got, and told us about her day.

There are plans to go to a train show, a museum, the zoo … so cool to see her so grown up and having a great time. 

Easter in Ohio

I packed up Amelia the Minivan and ventured off to Cincinnati over the weekend with the children and Patches Der Hund, to celebrate Easter again with our family in Ohio.
On Sunday morning, we headed over to Grandma MJ’s house, where we feasted on a traditional lunch with our family. My sister Jill and brother-in-law were there with my niece, the fabulous Miss J, who is just six months younger than Jaz.
I’m convinced our kids are actually twins masquerading as cousins. Out of the four parents, none of us have blond hair nor do we have blue eyes, yet here we have blond-hair, blue-eyed children with wide smiles and cherub cheeks.
Weren’t they adorable in their Easter outfits?
Jaz in a sweater vest just kills me.
Anyway, the kids all participated in an Easter egg hunt in Grandma MJ’s backyard. Miss C and Lola did very well, and the younger two got a second chance for success with a smaller egg hunt in the living room.
All the kids ended up with baskets full of goodies.
Despite being surrounded by so much family, though, it was obvious that Martin was missing. Everyone asked about him, of course. As the kids ran around in their bunny ears, or did something cute, or cheered as they found their treats, I felt the pull of wanting to turn to Martin and say, “Did you see that? Aren’t our kids adorable?”
But of course, I didn’t. Instead, I passed around some stationery for everyone to sign, and they did. I also took a lot of photos and video of the kids running around and laughing.
At least he’ll be able to share in the memories when he gets home.
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Jaz looking dapper while hanging out with Max the Dog.

My sister Jill with my niece Miss J, who can’t decide if she loves the bunny ears.

I have no idea what they are reacting to, but it cracks me up.

Miss J and I mugging for the camera.

Our cousin Rob was such a good helper! The kids just adore him.

I have photos of Rob with each of my children like this. He’s just so cool!

A girl can never eat too many Peeps.

Saying goodbye!

Food, Family, and Friends

My hometown. The Queen City.
This past weekend was the first time since 2007 that we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in Ohio.
At nearly the last minute, Martin and I decided to pack up the minivan and head west. My stepmother Linda was out of town, traveling with Grandma MJ to visit with a relative, but my Dad still whipped together a Thanksgiving pot roast and feast.

The beginnings of something wonderful.

 

While I prepared a few dishes on Thanksgiving, Grandpa and Martin took the kids on a walk through the Cincinnati suburb of Mariemont. An ancient Indian village was recently unearthed there, and Grandpa wanted to show them the area.
Once they returned home, Miss C got to work setting the table. She made name cards for each plate, too, and had each of us write inside what we were thankful for about that particular person. It’s something I started doing for our Thanksgiving dinners here at home the past few years, and she wanted to keep it going.
I was so proud of her!
 

Grandpa and Jaz

Miss C arranged this with some help from Lola, too.
Of course, we had more dishes than that shown here. 😉

 

After dinner, Martin and I snuck out to see “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis. You probably already heard about that movie. You probably heard great things about it. And you probably heard great things about Daniel Day-Lewis and his performance.
All true.

Go see it.

Martin and I on the Newport Levee.

 

The following day, we gathered with Jill, Greg, my niece, and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins for another dinner. I think at one point in the evening, there were more than 30 people in the house.
Our kids were in heaven, too, because a third of the crowd were age nine and under, and there was an abundance of toys.
There was also a hilarious game of Pictionary, which is a family tradition. My family is awesome at that game. The humor. The ability to read minds and intentions. Just awesomeness.
We didn’t get back to Grandpa’s house until late that night.

Food coma after two Thanksgiving dinners.

 

Bubbles!

Photo by Miss C of her and Lola playing with airplanes on the back porch.
 

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On Saturday, Martin and I got treated to a couples massage, thanks to my Dad, who arranged it for us.
About a year ago, my Dad reconnected with his childhood neighbor Rob, and learned that Rob and his partner Steve are certified massage specialists, and they turned a room on the second floor of their house into a spa room.
And not only that, but their house is also the house where Rob grew up (it’s been in his family for more than 100 years), completely renovated and restored, and it is only three doors down from where my Dad grew up. In fact, Rob’s mother and my grandmother were friends, and my Dad spent a lot of time in Rob’s home, as they all had siblings who were the same ages, and often played together.
In fact, as Rob was walking us through the house, he pointed out areas where my Dad often napped as a kid.
That was really cool. In fact, we spent a good half hour before the massage talking about the history of the house, the area, some stories about the neighborhood, family history, and how Martin and I met and ended up living in Washington DC.
The massage itself was awesome. Both Martin and I have done a couples massage before — remember that time Martin was on a television in a bathrobe? — and while that one was nice, we both agreed this was the better experience.
Of course, the connection with my Dad and family history played a part of that. But I also think it’s because Rob and Steve are the type of people who just radiate good energy. After the massage, we hung around just a little bit longer, chatting about Europe, real estate, careers, social media, and whatever else came to mind.
We left feeling we made new family friends, and a reservation for the next time we’re in town.
We ended that date night by doing some Christmas shopping, but not before grabbing dinner at Mecklenberg Gardens, the German resturant in Cincinnati where we held our anniversary vow renewal ceremony. I was so disappointed when I learned their chicken spatzel dish is only a part of their catering menu, and not their dining menu. We served that at the vow renewal and I’ve had dreams about it ever since. (Not even joking.)
I almost ordered a vat of it anyway.
But instead, I got the Portabella Spaetzle, which was delicious as well. Plus a hefeweizen. And the Mecklenberg Pie, a pecan chocolate chip crust with a mocha filling topped with a mocha mousse that is perfect shared with a handsome date and a steaming cup of coffee.
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During our last day in Cincinnati, we went downtown to attend the CinciDeutsch Christmas Market. It was the first year for such a market, and we wanted to check it out.

We could smell the gluhwein and spiced almonds as soon as we walked into Fountain Square.

After finishing off the hot cocoa, wine, funnel cake, and almonds, and chasing some pigeons and watching the ice skaters, we walked over to the Westin Hotel to see the giant tree in the lobby. Then, we settled down into a horse-drawn carriage, and got a tour of the main blocks in the city. The coachman even pointed out some historic buildings and architecture details I never noticed before, even though I spent most of my life in that city.

And while we were stopped at a red light during the tour, a car pulled up alongside us and the occupants leaned out the window to wave to us and say hello.

It was Rob and Steve, our new friends from the day before!

As they drove away, Martin looked over at me and shook his head.

“That always happens here! Is there anybody we DON’T know here in Cincinnati?”

And I told him nope.

Because Cincinnati is really a city full of family and friends you know … and friends you just haven’t met yet.

The tree in the Westin Lobby.

The girls LOVED the carriage ride and asked if we can do it again next year.

Statue for Cincinnati native and former President William Henry Harrison.
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