Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh Yeah, I'd Heard That Too.

Caroline has been campaigning tirelessly for a pet lately. Of course, with us being so close to leaving, a pet is really out of the question. She knows, as we have told her, we absolutely won't be getting a dog, cat, bird, hamster or fish not knowing where we'll be next and not knowing when exactly we might leave Germany. But she is taking it well and with her characteristic humor. Along that vein of sarcastic humor, I suggested she might like the baby spider currently residing in the corner of the ceiling in our bathroom (We've named him Oliver). No she says, he's too hard to find.

A snail then? I suggested.

"No, Mom. Snails are notoriously slow to respond when you call them."


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

She'd Rather Make Wine Than EAT them.

Caroline doesn't like Thanksgiving food. Everything I feed her for Thanksgiving is icky. Turkey? Ew! Stuffing? Triple Ew! Home made apple pie? We might as well feed her liver and spinach.

But she told me today that she does like the idea of stomping the cranberries with her feet.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

From Grandma Judi


Here is a note written to Caroline by my mother, "Grandma Judi".

Happy Birthday!!!!...and Halloween stories

My most dearest Caroline!!!Happy Birthday!!! Grandpa and I can hardly believe that you are now 8 years old!! It seems like yesterday that we were waiting at the hospital for you to be born. I was in the delivery room with your Mom and Grandpa was in the waiting room talking to your Dad who was in Australia.

Everyone was so happy when you arrived!! And I can tell you that you were the most beautiful baby in the hospital!!! I stayed with you from the moment you were born till they 'made' me leave you. And, without thinking, I gave you your first kiss on the forehead!! You were the sweetest baby...and you have grown into the smartest, sweetest, kindest, little lady that I know.

We are so proud to be your Grandpa and Grandma!!!

We hope you have a nice Halloween birthday party and trick or treating with your friend. I am glad that the Tinker Belle costume we sent you fit perfectly. I did not know that the wings lit up!! I would love to have a photo of you in [it].

Grandpa and I remember when your Mom, Brent and Jonathan were little and we all got dressed up and went trick or treating. You Mom was usually a gypsy, witch or 'punk rocker'. Brent was a skeleton or 'monster'. Jonathan was a pirate or clown. Of course, there were years that they were other things, but that is what we most remember. It was so much fun watching them dress up and go to parties and for candy!

When your Mom was really little, we would walk her and Brent around the neighborhood, holding their little hands. When we moved to different bases (England, Germany and Panama), the kids would go from house to house...still in 'our' neighborhood. The base security police were often standing around on the streets making sure that traffic was going slow and that kids were safe. Almost always, the squadron would have a party and everyone, including adults, would dress up and play games. That was a very fun time for everyone!!

When I was little, I remember Halloween was almost as exciting as Christmas. When I was about your age, my favorite costume was Sleeping Beauty. It came in a box. There was a long blue cloth dress that tied in the back at the neck. It had silver glitter all over the front. And it came with a plastic mask that had a black elastic band around the head to hold it on. I remember trying it on and thinking that I was so beautiful in my costume.

On Halloween night, we kids were very excited for my Dad to come home, we'd eat dinner and then get dressed to go out. Back then, even us 'little' kids would go all over the neighborhood by ourselves and no one thought a thing about it. We lived in the desert in Arizona. We were more concerned about running into a cactus or a snake than we were of 'bad' people.

Anyway, this one year that I remember well, my Dad came home and we sat down to eat dinner. We did not know that my Mom made BEANS that night!! We hated beans!! They were 'brown' beans (pinto?) and I hated them. So did my brother, Kevin and sister, Susan. But, the rule was we had to eat before we could go Trick or Treating. Somehow, Kevin and Susan ate theirs before I did. I just could hardly get them in my mouth! Kevin and Susan got to get dressed in their costumes. I was still sitting at the dinner table. I remember thinking that my Mom was being so mean to me to make me eat BEANS before Trick or Treating!! In looking back on it, I hardly had any beans at all on my plate...but at the time, it seemed like I had a mountain of them to eat. Then my Mom said that I could put some mustard on them. I had never heard of that before. But, anything was better than the taste of beans!! So, I tried a little mustard and it was better! The more I saw Kevin and Susan running around in their costumes, the better the mustard was with the beans! I ended up putting more and more mustard on my beans till all I could taste was mustard. Then it was gross!! By then, it was getting dark and my friend, Toni was going to be coming to get me. Finally, I made myself eat those nasty, mustardy, brown beans...even though I KNEW I was going to vomit!! But, I didn't.

When Toni came to my house, we got Kevin's red wagon and my Mom gave us pillow cases to hold our candy. The four of us went all around the neighborhood. Susan and Kevin sometimes rode in the wagon and Toni and I would pull. Sometimes, Kevin and Susan would walk and we would put the candy-filled pillow cases in the wagon. We would get LOTS of candy!...and sometimes, we would get a nickel or some pennies!! That was exciting!! Sometimes, old folks would invite us into their homes for hot apple cider and home-baked decorated sugar cookies. You sure can't do that anymore!!!

When we got home, my Dad would go thru all the candy we brought home and make sure that it all looked ok. If he found a piece that he thought we wouldn't like or that looked like it was 'bad', he would eat it for us so we wouldn't get sick from it!!

We loved Halloween when we were little. It was a fun time to be whoever we wanted to be for that one night a year. Our costumes could make us beautiful, scary or funny. And, we would have candy to last us a very long time!!

Caroline, I hope you have your own wonderful memories of Halloween this year. Your Halloween will be much different from mine or your Mom's. But, be sure you keep your own memories cause your's will be different from your own children's...and they will want to hear your stories of how it was in the 'old days'!!

Again, a most happy birthday! We love you so much!

Caroline (in her new Chinese pyjamas) and Calvin, carving the pumpkins together.


Happy Birthday, Beautiful Soul!

It's your 8th birthday today, Caroline, and we are celebrating!

I know I speak for more than myself when I say how grateful I am that you were born, that you are here with us today and that I get to be a part of your precious life. When you were born...when they handed your slimy kicking little body to me and you screamed in my face with the strength of a fog horn, I was yours. Right then, you simply ripped my heart out of my chest and made it your plaything, and I didn't care. I loved you that much, even though I'd only known you mere moments.

It hasn't changed today. I'm still yours, and today I find myself reminiscing about the years in between that first day and today. I marvel at how you've grown physically, of course, but the main wonder is how your soul has got so big and how it fits in such a tiny little package. You have one of the best hearts I've ever had the privilege of being near. Your compassion for those around you is unbounded. You have genuine concern for people. One prime example is that homeless guy we saw outside the walls of the Vatican. He had a huge tumor growing on the top of his head and he was crippled and sitting on the sidewalk, not even able to actively beg, but just staring. You had a bag of snacks you were about to eat yourself, but you insisted on giving him both those and the change you had in your pocket. And you didn't just let it go at that---you still ask and talk about him even today, over a year later. "Mommy, do you think that man at the Vatican is ok now? Do you think someone gave him a place to live?" Most people would have given him nothing and pretended not to see him, and those who did condescend to help would have forgotten him right away afterwards. Not you. And he's not the only one, either---just an example.

Caring for our world is also forefront in your mind---you have started protests at school about the trees being cut down behind your playground, and you have been very enthusiastic about recycling here at home. You are very aware of what is going on around you and you are concerned. This, to me, speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. Aren't 8 year olds supposed to be concerned with video games, Hannah Montana and Tamagatchi? Perhaps so, but then you don't care much for the restraints of "supposed to". Your curiosity is just on fire. You are never satisfied with "Because." or "That's the way it's always been done." You want logic and reasons. You want solutions and results. You question everything, and that is something I will never discourage, even if it means being questioned myself. Respect for authority is necessary sometimes, but some of us were raised with an unhealthy amount of it and we never thought to question the way things were. I vow to never do that to you, because I'm proud of your inner fire. It's what makes you YOU and I never want to see it die.

And, lest you begin to think you're perfect, let's keep this truthful and remind you that along with a free spirit and active mind comes a sharp wit--translated into an attitude problem. You are very smart, and yes, you are very quick, but as of yet you haven't learned when to curb your tongue and when not to. That attitude that usually comes with teenage-hood instead came to you at four. You are excellent at sarcasm and you don't miss or forget a detail. There is no getting by you or attempting to put you off--you know exactly what's going on and you feel absolutely free to say when you don't like it. This all can be a very good thing if channeled properly, but channeling is not going to be easy and I know my work is cut out for me. I'll try to teach you when to soften your response a bit and when it's ok to let it be as sharp as you like, but learning and teaching such a subtle skill is never easy. Indeed, more adults than not have never mastered that, methinks. Perhaps I'll leave that lesson to your dad, the master. Your dad? He's one of those people who can be right up front about telling a person they're wrong, but make them happy to hear it AND make them wholeheartedly agree with him at the same time. The man never ceases to amaze me with his lion-taming skills. Yep, I think I'll leave it up to him to polish you. ;o)

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy you for your good-heart, your delicious imagination, your active brains and your biting humor. You are an amazing person, and I am so glad you were born. Happy Birthday, my beautiful daughter. I love you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kontanz and Klaus

So yesterday we went to Lake Constance, several hours south of here. You know, just to putter around, see what was there and enjoy the nice weather that wasn't.

Despite the gloom though, we had a great time. I was pleased to see some appreciation for some of the most underappreciated and most villainized women that ever lived: the courtesans. In this town, they not only appreciate the important past that the courtesans share with the city, but they revered them by erecting this large statue....

...which looks out over the lake and celebrates the courtesan. It spells out pretty clearly exactly the kind of power she held, as not only the epitomy of physical pleasure, but also as a respected advisor to the influential. Courtesans were known to be the most highly educated women in the world and at a time when "ladies" weren't allowed to go to school or learn to read anything beyond what they must for the running of the household. This was a great honor (albeit an honor long overdue) and most did not take it for granted.

In this statue, the courtesan holds a pope in her hands as well as a king. I guess there's no mistaking the message.

Other various views of Kostanz (Constance):

All in all it was a great trip. Too short, but at least next time we'll know to make more room for exploration. Apparently they have a great fishmarket. That'll be on the list for sure.

In other news, our litle sprout was really on the ball this week, and last night, unsolicited, she handed us her Christmas list (!!) and asked us to mail it to Santa. Here it is, copied exactly:

Dear Santa Claus,

I do want alot this year. Here is what I wish for this year.

1. a DS (Or Nintendo DS) with games.

2. A Happy Family.

3. stuffed animal My Little Pony that walks and talks.

4. A real Puppy

5. A baby doll stroller and crib

6. Robots and a Robot tech dragonfly.

7. Puppy Pals.

And that's all!!!

P.S. You do not have to send all of this. Just the happy family.

And it's followed by her own rendering of an elf in a stripey hat.

Well, I got news for ya! That happy family part? NO WAY. I'm happy to say we'll continue to lock you in the basement and feed you bugs and brackish water. With an occasional orange so you don't get scurvy, because I'm caring like that.

I don't know what Puppy Pals are. Guess I've got my homework cut out for me, huh?


Monday, October 6, 2008

Pumpkins, Alarm Clocks, and Smurf Explosion

Our Pumpkinhead does not like mornings. At all.
Nor does she make any effort to hide the fact. Mornings are always a struggle here, as both she and Calvin find waking up akin to swallowing raw liver.

A few mornings ago:

"Carolinebabygirl, good morning! It's time to get up and get moving!"

... from under the covers, without even a pause...

"I'd rather grow hair all over my body."

Sometimes though, she's just too incoherent to say anything of sense. One morning when I went to wake her up, she sort of sat up, blinked a few times, looked at me with squinty eyes and said:

"It's just as I suspected!"

"What? What's just as you suspected?"

"It's as I suspected" she said again, "You DO have real feathers!" which point she fell unceremoniously back onto her pillow and began snoring.

Once she's up though, she's great, whereas I feel I need a nap after only being up for 3 hours.

Caroline observing all the sights at the anual Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Fest.

This is what happens when I say "Yes" to a Smurfberry Gelato after school.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Visits, Concerts, Broken Cars and Unhappy Eye Balls

Wow. Nearly a month since I've posted. Absurd when clearly there has been much worth posting. Since I have a month's worth, should I start with the good news or the news about how the world wrapped itself around my skull and started drilling mercilessly?

OK, yeah, the good news. I'm all about eating the maraschino first.

In late August, I reconnected with some old friends from long past assignments. Important friends that I regretted ever losing touch with. Particularly Ragan and Fiona. I met Fiona in Australia when we lived there and when she was an Australian Air Force Officer. She was also my workout partner and never balked at a challenge. She and her husband are now here for 3 years, and I could not be happier that they're around. I hope we can make up for the lost years. There's Ragan too, whose emails I have enjoyed immensely, and who's life story I'm following with zeal. We have even more in common now than we did in Junior high, and I have to tell you, I really needed this soul-connection. Hi Ragan! I'm so glad you're back and I'm with you every step of the way on your new journey. I believe in you!

I enjoyed spending Caroline's last days of summer with her, feeding ducks, sleeping in, and laughing our tails off. And I enjoyed seeing her go from dread to excitement about her first days of school again.

Then our good friend, Francesca, previously posted about, arrived from Australia via UK to spend three weeks with us. We had a marvelous time. We needed that time to laugh and relax, and I so enjoyed showing her around our world here. The markets, the Weindorf, the dairy farm, etc. We spent some hours at the 24 hour Marathon, which is to raise money for the children's programs on the base. There were trips to Rothenburg and Neuschwanstein.

Then there was the Madonna concert that we, along with Fiona and Gosia went to, and was that ever a good time! A girl's weekend right in the middle of the week, complete with Irish Pub, trains, hotel, beer, awesome conversation, laughs and convenient places right under the stage where we all gawped at Madonna's up-close-and-personal muscles for 2.5 hours. Seriously, does that woman ever age?! Is she really 50 with two kids?

Top: Gosia and Francesca, Bottom: Fiona and Gosia. Aren't my friends beautiful?!?

There was a trip to Europa Park:

And of course, some days were just enjoyed sitting at home with popcorn and a movie and good conversation, which is just as much fun and certainly good for the soul.

Enjoying a Weizen at Neuschwanstein.

We all got very used to having Francesca around. We got used to seeing her putter around every morning with her cup of tea. We got used to seeing her cheery, stripey socks, to getting some good laughs out of her own special brand of humor, and to hearing her thoughts on various happenings, ideas and events. She's family, really, so the fact that she's gone has left a hole in our home. As she left I remember her thanking me for letting her come and stay. And I don't think I responded to that, in the middle of heavy thoughts as I was, but all I remember thinking was "Thank ME?". Because really, Franta, we thank YOU. Thank you for choosing our home as the place you wanted to stay and our family as the family you chose to be part of. Thank you for hanging around us even when the times got tough (see rest of the story below). It was a great experience for all of us, but especially for me. I miss you already.

Now, that covers the cherries and frosting. How about the other stuff?

On the 13th of September, we (me, Calvin, Caroline and Francesca) decided we'd take a weekend to stay at the Edelweiss Lodge in Garmisch. Just a relaxing weekend with good food, workouts, pool, Cosmopolitans, etc. And all started well...we did get there. And we had a goooood dinner. After that though, we all went to the gym for a quick workout before heading to the pool. Caroline had her new bathing suit on and was so excited she could barely hold still. So while we worked out, she played with the exer-stretch bands to bide a few minutes. You know the ones you use to mildly work your muscles by stretching them? One was tied to a steel bar by the mirror and she was pulling it, pretending to work her little toothpick biceps. None of us thought anything of it, of course; they're rubber bands. Stretchy rubber bands....pretty much the most harmless thing in the gym and perfect to keep a 7 year old occupied for a few minutes? Right?

Except the tied end of the band came loose and snapped back straight into her eye. Didn't hit a bit of skin around her eye, either, just straight eye ball. I had turned around for just a second as she was happily playing and making faux gruntings, and when I heard the pop I turned back around to see her doubled over on the floor. She was not making a sound; she was not able to, stunned as she was, which was my first clue that something really was wrong. My heart dropped into my feet and I rushed to turn her over and see. When she opened her eye, I had to stifle a yelp. Her eye looked like a glass half-full of blood. Blood was actually pooling up between her cornea and her iris.

She was still stunned beyond making a sound, so I rushed her over to the front desk and asked them to call security. From security, we were given the directions to the nearest hospital that would see Americans (being out of Stuttgart at this time was not a good thing). To make a long story short, there was no sleep that night. We rushed from the hotel to the ER, from the ER to an emergency opthomologist on the other side of town. That opthomologist told us Caroline needed surgery right away, that she couldn't wait until morning, and that we needed to go either to Munich or Stuttgart asap. So we had to drive back through the night to reach Tuebingen, the university hospital near Stuttgart. At around 6am we arrived there, only to be told by a very bleary-eyed doctor,who'd come in just for this on a Sunday morning, that Caroline's eye would absorb the blood itself most likely and that we should just go home and see our own base clinic on Monday morning for a check up. We got home on Sunday morning at 7:30 at which point we all promptly fell asleep and slept all the day through.

Monday morning first thing, I took Caroline to the clinic where the doctor seemed very concerned with the blood in her eye (though it did look much better by this time) and he set up an appointment with another opthomologist for that hour. We drove over there to have the opthomologist tell us what the doc in Tuebingen said, "It will probably absorb itself. Hang in there and come back in a few days so I can look at it."

Now, I have to tell you, I was not comfortable with these breezy diagnoses, but it did appear to be getting better, and I was being assured at home that it was all ok and that it would absorb itself, no worries. So I went along. I set up an appointment for two days later, and we went back home.

But that night, as Caroline was getting ready for bed, I heard her scream from the bathroom. As I was getting up off the sofa to go to her, she came rushing in, grabbed my wrist and pulled me with unbelievable, panicked strength toward the bathroom where she looked up at the light and showed me what she'd been screaming about. The eye, which had heretofore been partially filled with blood, was now fully filled. Instead of going away and absorbing itself, it had re-hemorrhaged and now resembled a black marble in her head and she was fully blind on that side. It was....well...truly frightening. This time I was not taking "No, calm down." for an answer. I grabbed her and rushed her to the hospital in Sindelfingen, carrying her the whole way as she was hysterical and muttering loudly about being "blind forever". There they told us that they didn't have any opthomologist on staff and that we should go downtown to a hospital there that did.

Thirty minutes later we arrived at the Katherinenhospital in central Stuttgart, where the doc looks, tested her with a few numbers and letters and admitted her right away. Luckily, they let me stay with her. Wise of them, since I would have won in the fight I was prepared to have. In fact, they were welcoming. Calvin went back home that night and I stayed in a cramped hospital bed with Caroline, cuddling her and trying to reassure her all night. The next day, we saw the Chief Opt. and he suggested that we opt for surgery since, he said, waiting might only mean a more difficult surgery later. Caroline agreed when it was explained to her that she would not feel a thing because she'd be asleep, and so Calvin and I nodded and agreed too.

The lead up to the surgery was more stressful for me than it was for her, I think. She was in good spirits and fascinated at the thought of the "magic medicine" making her sleep. Naturally, I was feeling all these attacks of mother-guilt: why did I let her play with that rubber band? Why didn't I just skip my workout and take her straight to the pool? Why did I listen to those who told me "Don't worry, it's nothing." when I knew to listen to my gut instead? Would she ever show me rainbows again? Would she ever notice all the tiny but beautiful things she notices every day, like caterpillars, ants, leaves, pretty rocks? Or would she be half blind for the rest of her life?

All these thoughts were running through my head, and they might seem melodramatic to anyone who isn't facing it with their kid, but honestly, they were tearing me up. The thought of general anesthaesia was too, as one of my favorite authors died from it. Caroline, on the other hand, was proudly beaming to me that she was going to be the first person to do the backward count and make it to 1.

In her little gown just before they knocked her out. Doesn't she look way too tiny for that bed?

She didn't even make it to ten. They never told her to count. They just injected the juice and said "This might burn a little". I was holding her hand when she started crying and saying "It burns!". She went to sleep just then without warning and I hadn't even had a chance to say anything else. I worried for the next hour and a half that she'd gone to sleep in pain and hadn't heard me trying to comfort her. Yes, melodramatic to you, but so painful to me.

Fortunately, the surgery went well. She slept for hours afterward as the anesthaesia wore off, but Calvin and I were there right by her side the whole time. When she woke up she was well and in no pain.

For the next few days I stayed with her (we had our own room by this time and two beds). We played Blackjack and War and I read to her from her book, "Sea of Monsters", which she loves. We watched movies on our portable DVD player and we drew pictures and chatted and cuddled a lot. Daddy got a bit of cuddle-time too, which I think they both needed.

Her class all made and sent her Get Well cards, which she loved. She lit up as she was reading them to us, and laughing at the cute and funny things her classmates said. What a creative and smart bunch of kids! Those cards are brilliant and will go into Caroline's scrap-box for keeping.

The card display Caroline made out of her classmates' cards:

On Friday night, her teacher, Herr Zappey, and our friends, Shelley, Riley, Ben and Brooke Johnson all came for a visit.

Left to right: Caroline, Riley, Shelley, Brooke, Herr Zappey, Ben.

There is no place that family can't light up! Caroline loved having them in her room and she loved the balloons and MickeyMouse they brought, but mostly she loved the good wishes and laughter that came with them. She and Riley and Brooke built a dummy out of Herr Zappey's motorcycle jacket and helmet. Herr Zappey, ever-patient man that he is, stood by and let them enjoy themselves with his gear.

She was released on the weekend with the condition that she not do P.E. or physically exert herself for a few weeks at least. There will also be regular weekly checkups with the doc and surgeon back at the hospital so they can monitor how her eye is coping. Her pupil is still almost fully dialated and her whites are still pink, but we're hoping for the best and that it will all go back to normal eventually. Her sight has mostly returned. In the meantime, Caroline is back in school and handing out eye-ball candies as a joke. Lemons=Lemonade, eh?

To add to the stress of EyeBall Week, our car wouldn't start yesterday as I left the post office. So today my chore, as well as catching up on a week's worth of school that I missed, is to find a mechanic who will work with 10 year-old Infinitis. You would be surprised to know that not many here will. Huh.

BUT, all things considered, with all that's happened, we really got off light. Things could have been far worse. What if she'd been wearing her glasses when that band had snapped? Shattered glass in her eye? Thanks to the Powers That Be that she wasn't. It's this I'm going to focus on to remind myself that we really were fortunate, and this I'm going to focus on as I cuddle Caroline a little tighter and a little more often every day.

Flowers from Grandma and Grandpa Myrick:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

School Days, Hot Men, and Possums

So, school started again this week, and while Caroline is taking it very well, I can't say I am. True, I'll have more time to myself to exercise, study, play, read, think complete thoughts, clean without someone running behind me making a bigger mess, and catch up on correspondence. But you know what? I'd rather have her here. I will miss having hours to play and cuddle every day. I will miss taking her down to the dairy farm for fresh milk, and to the self-pick for flowers. I will miss taking her to the zoo and watching her scream in delight at everything she sees. I will miss her following me around wherever we go, reading from the National Geographic and trying to educate me on global warming and endangered species. 'Cause really, would a day be complete......?

Instead I will hold her hand every morning now as I walk her to her bus stop and kiss her good bye just before she gets on. And I'll wander around every day by myself. I will be getting stuff done and having conversations with other adults that are not interupted because an acorn to beat all acorns has been found, but I won't be enjoying my day as much. I will sweep the floor and it will stay clean because no one will be trampling mud through the house, but I will be lonely.

She, on the other hand, was quite happy to be starting school again. Understandably, she was anxious to see her friends, and dive into the the repertoire of adventures her wonderful teacher has planned.

She was also excited to try on her new glasses, which I picked up and brought to her at lunch time. And man, does she ever look cute in them!

She is astounded with the change in what she can see and keeps taking them off and on to compare how wonderful the world is now with how blurry it was then when she didn't actually KNOW it was blurry. In short, she's a happy camper. Or as my dad says, a happy cabbage, whatever that means.

And Calvin was happy about the start of school too, though it's going to mean an extra huge workload on top of his already huge workload. He is, in case you hadn't heard, the new PTA president. He had to make his first speech as president yesterday at the first-day orientation. 'Course, his reputation may be ruined now that his wife stood up in the first row and started snapping photos like the most seasoned and pushy paparazzi. He should just be grateful that I didn't run up and grope him because, for real, tell me this isn't tempting!

Yeah, so now you know what kind of temptation I live with daily. He's kind, smart, funny, responsible AND he has lovely shoulders. What did I do right? Next time he gets up on the stage, I'm throwing my panties at him.

In a few days, our good friend, Francesca, will be arriving for a three week visit before she returns to Australia. The last time she came to visit, Calvin was in Diego Garcia and we had THE BEST time. We took a girl's trip up the East Coast and laughed 'till our stomachs hurt. Even when we got lost on the way from New Jersey to Massachusetts......and ended up near the border of Ohio. Even when every window in the car suddenly fogged up for no explicable reason and she was forced to hang out the passenger window making hand signals to the other vehicles and screaming "Go left" and "Go right" and "Stooooooop!" directions to me. And even when I hit a possum in the road and scared the dirt out of the sleeping Francesca with my ensuing shrill scream. She never slept again in the car after that, but she did laugh; that's just what kind of person she is. So yeah, if she can put up with us, we're glad to put her up and keep her. Welcome Francesca! And please feel free to stay forever because....well, we love you!

So here's to a new school year, good company, possums that stay out of the road, great school adventures and the PTA!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Laughter and Sadness

So, Calvin has been on TDY for 8 days now, and over the last few days Caroline and I have been having lots and lots of Girl Time. Which basically means that we turn off the door bell, and we sit in the living room or on the balcony and play monopoly and giggle alot, or we build things with the Lincoln Logs while watching one of our favorite DVDs. It's been good fun and I enjoy the crap out of spending time alone with her. There hasn't been enough of it lately, and now that school is about to start, I'm soaking up as much Girl Time as I can get. While I'm excited for her about a new school year, I'm not looking forward to having her gone for 6 and a half hours every day. I will miss her.

She's not looking forward to going back to school though either, and that is somewhat disturbing to me. By the end of every summer of my childhood, I was chomping at the bit to get new school clothes and a new lunchbox and take off to my new class. But not Caroline. The education aspect is no problem for her, but the social aspect seems to disturb her a great deal. She has pointed out to me several times lately--including today when I took her to one of the on-base playgrounds so she could get some social time and sun--that none of the other kids want to play with her. That they think she is "weird" and that she has become increasingly embarassed to speak to them or be assertive in her efforts to make friends because she is afraid they might think what she has to say is "strange and stupid".

I don't know where this is coming from exactly. I know she doesn't speak like a 7 year old and that she uses very adult words and phrases, but really, could that be it? She's still a kid and she has a brilliant imagination and a ready laugh! Are the kids confused by her because she likes to talk about her books and the stuff she's read about in National Geographic instead of about Hannah Montana and Barbie? Or is it in her head because she suspects she's different and has developed a complex? Is this more to do with the afore-blogged subject of religion and hell that they harassed her about in school? Either way, watching her today at the playground as she sort of skirted around the edges and looked longingly at the groups of screaming, laughing kids just broke my heart. When she came to me and asked if we could just go home and play a game broke it even further. It isn't that I don't want to play games with her, obviously. It isn't that I don't love being home with her. It's that it seems unnatural for a kid to want to hang out with mom and watch Shark Week on a gorgeous sunny day, rather than run around screaming, covered in mud and laughing. I could have cried. Her sweet little face looking so sad and lonely just kills me. I just don't understand and I welcome any thoughts on the subject, those of you who are listening. I have a smart, funny, good-hearted little girl with a great sense of humor. Why is making friends so hard for her?

On the other hand, this revelation of difference that affects her so when she's around other kids doesn't seem to affect her at home. She came into the bathroom to brush her teeth tonight with streaks of her hot-chocolate all over her face, particularly in her eyebrows and on her forehead. I could see she was trying very hard not to giggle and to maintain an air of fierceness.

"Caroline, why have you got hot chocolate on your eyebrows?!"

Beaming proudly, "It's warpaint!"

"Warpaint? For what? Who are you at war against?"

"Those who think I should go to bed!"


Friday, August 15, 2008

Bespectacled and Bewitched we knew it was a great possibility, and today it became a reality. Caroline needs glasses.

In the German optometrist's office this morning, as Caroline was being tested, it became immediately obvious that there would be no question: Caroline would be starting school with a new pair o' spectacles. Even the larger lines proved difficult for her. It sort of scares me wondering how long she's gone on living with this short-sightedness and not knowing any better. But at least it can be fixed now, huh?

Lucky us too, glasses aren't the social death of a kid anymore. They make them in all shapes and sizes and they are more often cute than not, and Caroline had a ball trying on pair after pair until she found the one she liked. Her only stipulation ahead of time? NO PINK!

After trying on all sorts in wild purples and greens and blues, she shocked me by going for a very sensible, wire-rimmed copper colored pair. She looks adorable in them and seems very anxious to go pick them up next Friday.

Pictures will follow. ;)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August August

It's a big month for us this time, August. We've got our close friend, Francesca, coming to visit from Australia at the end of the month, and our friends Fiona and Zev (who we also met in Australia) are getting stationed here. Small world huh? It will be so nice to have Fiona (sweetest woman ever!) and Francesca (who we consider family) together again. I can see the girl-dates now and the laughter that will ensue. I'm looking forward to it more than I have anything in a long time.

Caroline also starts school this month. She'll be going into the 3rd grade, and will be fortunate enough to still have Mr. Zappey as her teacher. She had him last year too, and we could not feel more pleased with this hard-working, caring, intelligent, imaginative and supportive man. Knowing Caroline is in his hands every day does incredible things for my ability to relax. She couldn't be in a better class.

This summer, unfortunately has been a bit ugly on the weather side, so the outdoor adventures I had planned for us on a daily basis haven't panned out as planned. We did get to Sweden though, and have spent time at the zoo, dairy park, self-pick flower garden, and farm. Caroline also got to spend lots of time with her good friend, Mila, who lives in the apartment downstairs.

Mila's mommy, my friend Alex (the artist who is responsible for the header photograph), has just been diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts, throwing a sad shadow on our lives. Alex has been and is being brave and optimistic, and keeping up a great sense of humor, despite her atrocious taste in hats. She doesn't like my taste in hats either---apparently, I pick out hats that go on eccentric old ladies. Alex? She likes looking like a pirate. There, I said it in public instead of just teasing her constantly like I have been. Despite this, we love her and the sunshine she brings to everyone she talks to and we're hoping very hard for a speedy, easily-won battle. She and her beautiful family mean so much to us.

Beautiful Glamourpuss Alex

The other morning, Mila was over having breakfast with us, having spent the night giggling and playing monopoly with our own Sprout. And, like my mother (and probably her mother before her) I was following the family tradition of dancing around the kitchen, making up silly songs with the names of whatever children happen to be around while simultaneously flipping pancakes. I never thought of this as a particularly strange activity, as Caroline loves it and I've always done it. Never thought it strange at all, that is, until I looked over at Mila to find the strangest expression on her face. It seemed to be a mixture of "If I run now, can I make it to the door before you?" and "It's amazing I survived a night here with this fruitcake who is obviously dangerous".

So I asked her, "What's wrong Mila, doesn't your mom sing to you?"


"What about your dad? He doesn't sing to you?"

A very small pause in which she appeared to be considering how to put the bad news gently, and.....

"Um, Trinity, that's what the iPod is for."

Hm. Yes. Well, I bet I can ad-lib better.
Caroline and Mila, as Pocahontas and Mulan.

This month is also Calvin's birthday (the 12th for those of you he's refused to tell. Shhhh!). He's gone on a business trip but we'll be celebrating it when he gets back.

Playing in Sundsvall

He is now 41. And he doesn't look a day over 41. Still fine as ever. Actually, better. The cute little baby face is gone. Also, most of the hair. And yet......he's just a stunner. Caroline, you're a lucky girl to have such genes. And I'm lucky to look at my husband 11 years after I met him and still think, Wow, I'd totally ask him out!

So Caroline wanted to make her dad a birthday cake when he returns. Not just any birthday cake, though. Chocolate? Nah. Vanilla? Snore. Yellow? Haven't we done that a million times?
No, this cake must be special. A serious multi-decker fantasy. Her idea? 41 layers. 41 different flavors for the layers. Topped get this.....41 power bars, 41 Oreos, 41 Pop Tarts, 41 kinds of frosting, 41 Diet Cokes (oh yeah, she knows this man) and 1 candle. 41 candles might set off the fire alarm.

If I can work up enough energy for this gargantuan task, I may perhaps consider it.

At least we didn't forget the obligatory sock and underwear gifts.

Today, Caroline had her school physical. I was there as she took the eye test and I watched her read the lines the specialist told her to read. And I watched as she got nearly every letter wrong. Well, we know her reading skills aren't in question, so that only left one conclusion. The doc referred her to an optometrist on the economy. It is entirely possibly our little girl will be sporting a pair of brand new glasses soon. Stay tuned for photos.

Caroline, Daddy and I love you.

Alex, we're all with you and we love you.

Francesca and Fiona, we eagerly await your presence and the fun that always accompanies you and we love you.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Thank You, Grandma Rogers

My Grandmother, Caroline's Great Grandma Rogers sent this to me this morning, and as I read it, it reminded me of the "Confessional" post I made. Let this be a reminder to all mom's, especially myself, about how fast time flies and how precious is our time with the innocent souls in our care. Thanks for sending this to us, Gram!

To My Child Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.

Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.

Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.

Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.

Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles.

Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by.

Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made where you are concerned.

Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.

Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.

Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you. Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.

Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.

Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.

Just for this evening I will be patient as you get ready for bed, and I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.

I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they can't handle it anymore.

And when I kiss you goodnight I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day...

---Author Unknown


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Call the FAA!

So last night before bed, Caroline announced to us that we shouldn't come and check on her for awhile as she would not be there and we'd be wasting our time.

Calvin: Why? Where are you going to be?

Caroline: I'm going TDY.

Me: TDY? TDY to where?

Caroline: To Mount Olympos. I'm supervising a project for the Gods. They want to know how long it takes a human to fly from Stuttgart, Germany to Mount Olympos.

Me: that so?

Caroline: Yes, and I'm packing right now.

Calvin: What are you taking?

Caroline: My running shoes, my memo pad to write down notes about my trip, and Violet.

So Calvin and I wished her a safe trip and asked her to let us know how it all went when she got back.

Ok, she said, no problem. We kissed her and sent her off for her journey.

Ten minutes later, as Calvin and I were watching a movie (this is, of course, after we got through giggling over her imagination) she stomped back in.

"Mommy! Daddy! My flight is delayed. We can't take off yet because we've forgotten something essential."

Calvin and I in unison, "Essential?"

"Yep, we need Juicy Juice. Quick! Got some?"