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Thursday, June 30, 2005

The post that just won't be 

A couple of months ago, I wrote an email to Fred about watching the finale of the most recent season of Survivor with the kids. That show was one of our guilty pleasures as a family before he deployed, and the kids and I kept up the tradition every Friday night (seen a day later on AFN) even though it wasn't as much fun without Fred. Anyway, Fred casually wrote back something like, "One of the guys I work with here was on the second season of Survivor. Really good guy."

Excuse me, but No. Freakin'. Way! And you were going to mention this WHEN? Apparently, I'm more of a celebrity groupie than I was aware of, because this bit of news just about stopped my heart cold.

Make sure you get a picture of the 2 of you together, I instructed Fred. He assured me that he would, but when he got back to Baghdad after this recent round of travels, Captain Survivor (as I had come to think of him) had gone on R&R and won't be back until after Fred is home. Alas, the post that I had lovingly entitled "Two Survivors" will never be.

I'll get over it though, because my survivor is coming home! As a matter of fact, he should be on his way to Kuwait as I'm typing this.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Waiting to exhale 

When I was a kid, I liked to try and hold my breath any time we drove over bridges or through tunnels. I remember how it felt to be within sight of the end, feeling as though my lungs might just explode and psychically willing my parents to please-please-please drive faster. In fact, when I became the grownup and passed along this little game to my own kids, I found that I had to abstain or risk speeding up to 100 miles per hour before passing out from lack of oxygen--not a good thing to do while driving!

As we come up to the end of this deployment, I have the same feeling. We're coming out of the tunnel, and the light is so bright it's blinding. Tomorrow afternoon Fred will pack up his Bronze Star (go, Fred!) and get on a plane for Kuwait, where he will wait for his ride home on July 6th. The counter at the top of my blog says there are 7 days to go, but there is really only 1 until he is out of Iraq for good, and I can breathe again.

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Cracking me up since 1973 

I can always count on my sister for a good laugh. Just a little while ago, she sent me the following email:

MEEEEE! (We less computer-savvy people have to take a picture of the
screen with our cell phone.)
along with her South Park persona:



The kids are very impressed. "That looks just like Ninny!" they exclaimed, because yes, that's what they call her.

I wrote back to say I didn't know she had a camera phone and that I was totally jealous. Here is her response:

I don't have a camera phone. It belongs to a friend of mine. We even less technology-savvy people are content to use our rotary phones. : ) Will you forward my picture to Mom, if you haven't already deleted it?
Send it to Mom? Heck, I'll share it with the world!

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Come on down to South Park . . . 

Have you ever wondered what we would look like if we lived in South Park? About like this, I suppose:


I made my South Park family portrait at this really cool website that I found courtesy of Bookhart and Karla.

Mike thinks this should be our Christmas photo this year.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

The grass is always greener . . . anyplace other than my yard 

Grrr . . . it just shouldn't be this hard to water the stupid grass! I made it through last summer with a hose that was poorly attached to our back yard faucet, but this year I wanted to do better. I actually had 2 hoses--the poorly attached one and one that wouldn't attach at all. I took the one that wouldn't work at all to Self Help (where you get all the stuff you need for maintaining your government quarters absolutely free), hoping they would swap it out for a new one that might actually work.

The guy at Self Help was horrified at the notion of ditching this hose, which is--he promised me--a "beddy, beddy good hose!" So instead he sent me home with the beddy, beddy good hose and a baggie of brass fittings that would make it attach once I had Housing come out and put a new faucet on for me. I called in the work order and had the faucet guy come out, and it was indeed like a miracle. No leakage at all where the hose met the faucet! But then the sprinkler stopped working.

So I went back to Self Help this afternoon with the busted sprinkler, and they gave me a different one. THIS one has some funky weird connection that required me to cut the end off my beddy, beddy good hose and screw on said new connection. Like an idiot, I cut the hose without double checking that it would FIT the connection, and it doesn't.

Now I have a hose that I cannot attach anything to--sprinkler, sprayer, NOTHING. And a faucet that I cannot attach any hose to except for the not so beddy, beddy good hose. And the grass just keeps getting browner. Stupid grass.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Done! 

Well, 11 crates of crap later, it's all over. Unless, of course, you count the part of the festivities where you THOUGHT you were a reasonably clean person living in a reasonably clean house and then all your furniture disappeared and you could SEE the big scary dustbunnies. That part of the fun is just beginning. Back, bunnies! Back!

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A moving experience 

I moved a fair bit as a kid, and I've kept up the habit as an adult. Fred and I have moved 7 times in 15 years, and we have gotten pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. Moving just gives us so many opportunities to strut our obsessive-compulsive stuff. We sort, discard, label, and organize, like one well-oiled Type-A moving machine.

It wasn't always like this though. The very first time we moved together was a few weeks after we got married, and it was just down the road to our new condo. It was, however, a miracle that the marriage lasted through that move.

There are 2 sides to every story, but this is my blog, so let me just say that he was quite a jerk that weekend. Nothing I did was right; any and all suggestions were met with silence and a withering glance. When we went to bed that night back at the old place, I--who had read somewhere that communication was the cornerstone of any good relationship--said [think of a quivering voice when you read this]: "I just want you to know that you really hurt my feelings today."

His response? "Sorry." (Oh, really? You don't sound sorry!) AND THEN HE ROLLED OVER AND WENT TO SLEEP! I went out into the living room and stewed into the wee small hours of the morning.

The next morning, I left Fred and his brother Frank to handle the remainder of the move, as my input was obviously not welcome. Instead, I sat in our empty living room watching a live broadcast from the Ft. Bragg Officers' Club. This was in the early days of Desert Shield, and the morning show was hooking up wives with their deployed husbands. They would flash some poor guy in desert camouflage up on the big screen and somewhere in the audience, a woman would go batshit: "Oh my god, that's Billy!" Then the host would run over to her, followed by the camera man, and all of America got to watch while this poor woman sobbed her eyes out. I cried right along with them because their husbands were gone and they missed them so much, and mine was home but he was such jerk.

Four years later when it was time for us to leave Fayetteville for Charlottesville, VA, I was determined that we would redeem ourselves by having the Best Move Ever. We opted to do a DITY (pronouned "ditty" and short for Do It Yourself), because the government would pay us something like 80% of what it would cost them to contract it out, and we were young and poor. I'm no biblical scholar, but if Job ever moved, I would imagine his experience was a cakewalk next to ours.

First of all, the Army toyed with reassigning Fred to Kansas instead of Virginia about 4 days before we were set to pick up our U-Haul. Then the U-Haul was too small, and we packed it twice trying to make everything fit. We caravaned to Charlottesville, Fred driving the U-Haul and towing my car; me and 2-year-old Michael driving Fred's pickup. The U-Haul ran out of gas about an hour outside of Charlottesville, and when we finally reached the new house, we found that the teenagers we had been counting on hiring to help Fred unload the truck were out of town. We did it all ourselves and made it through without a single argument. That move was the turning point, and ever since then we have moved quite well together.

I was very anxious about handling this one without my moving buddy, but I think it has gone rather well. Fred and I have found ways for him to help from a distance. For example, when I met the packers at his office this morning, I was armed with a Word document that Fred had put together using digital photos I sent him a couple weeks ago, and we were able to move methodically through the room, quickly distinguishing the packables from what was to stay.

This is the third day of the packout, and we have hit only one minor snag: The government furniture people tried to deliver our short-term furniture at about 10 o'clock this morning. Didn't matter to them that the rooms were still full of boxes waiting to go on the truck. They were perfectly willing to leave it all in the yard for me to deal with later. I don't frickin' THINK so! I called the lady at Transportation who convinced them to change their minds, and they went away for a while. They're back now though and currently setting up the beds in my deliciously empty, freshly vacuumed bedrooms.

I'm glad that I decided to be brave and handle the move on my own. We will be able to kick back and relax and enjoy Fred's first days at home instead of going into manic moving mode. It's not like he's missed out on all the fun anyway; in a couple of months we get to unpack it all into our new house, which looks like this:



(Anytime I start to feel sad about leaving Germany, I look at that picture and feel a little bit better.)

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Monday, June 20, 2005

It's moving day! 

I've had 3 packers working hard since 8:30 this morning. Mike's room is empty; Annabelle's room is almost empty. My living room looks like this:



And my yard looks like this:





I feel like I should be helping, but really there's nothing for me to do. It's all on autopilot. So I've been playing around on the computer all day, but I keep having to move. I was on the couch, but they took my couch. I was in an armchair, but they took my armchair. Ain't nobody takin' this lawn chair!

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Another poem by Annabelle 

Ever since she started writing poems a couple weeks ago, Annabelle has been unstoppable. She has churned out poems about books, poems about Neopets, poems about the circus and about moving. Last night she wrote one about war.

Unbiased reader that I am, I thought it was outstanding and suggested she should put it on her blog. She was hesitant though, because "what would Republicans think?" I'm not hampered by such concerns, so I asked if I could post it here, and she said yes. How freakin' sweet is she though to not want to alienate her right-wing readership?! Anyway, here's her poem:

My grandparents were just kids
Growing up in World War Two.
I'm growing up in the Iraqi war,
But I'm sick of war, aren't you?

People just do nothing
Besides kill and fight.
A gun fires, a cannon blows,
I think that's just not right.

Before you go to war, ask yourself
"Will this really do?"
If you say no, I'll be proud
And I bet you will, too.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Violated 

Earlier this evening, Mike came dashing in saying some kid had stolen his bike from the carport and was riding it around behind our house. I ran out to do my cranky old lady routine: "Hey, you kid! Off that bike!" but he was gone. I was pissed, so I grabbed the keys to the car and drove up to the entrance to the neighborhood, hoping to cut off their escape. We saw about 6 kids riding bikes on one of the other streets, and I hollered for the gate guard to call the MPs, who intercepted the kids as they did, in fact, leave the circle.

Naturally, they say they found the bike "lying in the field." Uh huh. Turns out that the kid who was actually riding it got in trouble YESTERDAY for stealing a bike. So we gave our statement, and the MPs wanted to know if I wanted to press charges. Given that we couldn't identify which one actually did the stealing, I said that I would settle for everybody's parents being notified.

So now, naturally, Mike is worried that he's going to get jumped for revenge. I can't say that I blame him. I have had similar thoughts and fears myself. Hell, they know where we live.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Happy 15th Anniversary! 

In honor of our anniversary (second consecutive one spent apart thanks to this deployment), here are a couple wedding photos. First, do you know how HEAVY all those roses can be? Verrrrry heavy:



Second, SMOOOOOOOOOOCH:



I'm not feeling very creative this year, but last year I made a slideshow for Fred that I thought turned out rather nice.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

FINALLY something worth posting 

I realize that photos of my dishwasher and coin purse will be really hard to top, but I just have to try. The kids and I got an email from Fred a little while ago:

My Afghanistan trip is not going to happen. I will be on the flight from Kuwait to Germany on 6 July. Adjust the counter, Daddy is coming home…

Love ya/LAMY,

Me/Dad
I have adjusted the counter accordingly.

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Pictures of random things that make me happy 

I just haven't had many blog-worthy events happening lately. I suppose I could whine incessantly about the move, but how boring would that be? Sure, I could vent about the customs inspectors who blew off our appointment yesterday. Or I could confess that my method is moving from methodical sorting and purging to more of a maniacal "pack it all, we'll figure it out in Kentucky" approach. Ho hum. So instead, I shall offer you an assortment of photos that make me happy. Here they are, alphabetical by file name:




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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

An experiment in grossology 

SOMEBODY left this banana peel on my coffee table this afternoon:



I do not know which somebody it was, but I know this much is true: That is not my banana peel. And as it is not MY banana peel, I am not going to pick it up. No matter how much it pains me, no matter how simple it would be to just grab it on my next pass through the living room and toss it into the trash, I am not going to do it.

WHY am I not going to do it? Because I am sick and damn tired of picking up after people. I have enough trouble picking up after myself, but even I would never just leave a banana peel lying on the coffee table like it's this month's Southern Living.

It is going to sit there until it naturally decomposes or until somebody (NOT ME!!!) picks it up and moves it to the trash. I will, however, take its picture occasionally and post it here so that you may follow The Great Banana Peel Strike of 2005.

UPDATE: It's 9:30 p.m., and the banana peel fairy just visited the Taylor home. I still don't know whose banana peel it was, but I saw Annabelle taking it to the trash just a little while ago. If it wasn't her peel, bless her little heart. And if it was her peel . . . eh, bless her little heart anyway. The Great Banana Peel Strike of 2005 has ended.

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Send in the clowns 

I'm sure I've mentioned the kids' Zirkusschule here before, but I don't think I've said much about it. Basically, Mike and Annabelle have been part of Zirkus Trolori, a kids' circus group that practices every Friday afternoon at an Asylbewerberheim (asylum home) down in an industrial sector of Mannheim. The circus school is financed by the city of Mannheim as a resource for the children of the asylum seekers who live in the home, but a handful of children from outside the home also participate. Mike and Annabelle, however, are the only American kids in the program.

When the semester started in January, each student chose 2 circus skills to study. Annabelle chose poi balls and juggling; Mike chose juggling and ball walking. (I'm sorry, but every time I think of the term "ball walking," I giggle to myself. I am not a nice person.) For the past few weeks, however, everybody has focused on one area in preparation for their performances in May. Annabelle has become a whiz at swinging those poi balls, and Mike's juggling skills have really taken off.

The first performance was at the Max-Joseph-Strassenfest on May 14. Annabelle was horrified that she had to change into her costume in the middle of a pizza restaurant (Germans aren't nearly as hung up on nudity as Americans), but aside from that, it was a great day.

Here are Mike and Annabelle at the fest:



If you go here, you can see a picture from the fest website of the kids getting ready to perform.

A couple weeks later, the kids from Trolori took part in the Kinderzirkusspektakel put on by Zirkus Aladin. This was a 4-day fest that brought together circus groups from various parts of Germany to perform under an actual circus tent.

Annabelle's performance was the first day of the fest. Annabelle had conquered her stage fright at the street fest, and she was very excited to get another chance to perform. Here she is doing her solo (click to view Windows Media file).

Mike's performance was a couple days later. He and his juggling partner have been working on some snazzy moves. They can stand side by side and juggle as one person, and they are learning to toss balls to each other as they juggle. Click here (again, Windows Media file) to see highlights from their routine.

I had a great time watching all the troops do their acts. During the first performance, I had the additional honor of serving as Schirmherrschaft, which is sort of like the patron of a formal event. A photographer at the show explained to me afterwards that this would be the person to sit under a cover such as an awning at the head table. A Schirm can also be an umbrella, so in this case, I was the honored person who got to sit under the confetti-filled umbrella. Here I am at the end of the show with the ringmaster when he came back to collect his umbrella:



Of all the things I will miss when we leave Germany, Zirkusschule ranks right up there at the top of the list. It has required a leap of faith for me to drop my kids off every week in what is basically a tenement, but they have surely benefited from the experience. While their German speaking skills are still fairly basic, their ability to understand has improved tenfold. I get such a kick out of hearing Mike and his partner counting "eins, zwei, drei" under their breath before they toss the balls to one another. I have taken friends with me a couple of times to drop Mike and Annabelle off for practice, and I always feel I am showing a part of Germany that not many Americans get a chance to see. How many American kids get the opportunity to study circus skills in German with children whose families come from Bosnia, Kosovo, Iran, Iraq, etc.? We've been very lucky, and we know it.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

The final month? 

I was hoping that maybe we would know today whether or not Fred will be able to make the July 6 flight home, but alas, we don't. It's very possible though that we have entered our final month of this deployment. If not today, then next Sunday, one month from the July 12 flight. I'm too beat tonight to write more, but I didn't want to let the potential occasion pass by without any comment. :::tossing a little confetti in the air and heading for bed:::

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

There once was a hermit named Dave . . . 

Our house has become a center for poetry writing over the past week. It all started last Thursday when one of the TDS attorneys in Iraq posted a lizard-poetry-writing challenge on his blog. Apparently, his office is overrun with lizards, and he and his daughter have been writing lizard poems back and forth. He challenged his readers to submit poems of their own and even offered up photos of his office invaders as inspiration. I couldn't help myself, so I penned the following:

"With Apologies to Poe"

Once upon a midday steamy, while I pondered slightly dreamy,
Over case file after case file to keep my clients out of jail,
As I sat there, nearly sleeping, silently there came a creeping,
Yet another critter sneaking, suddenly I turned quite pale.
"Where's the bug spray?" I was frantic. "Beast, be gone!" I did wail.

Quoth the lizard, "Where's my tail?"
I shared my poem with Annabelle, who was inspired to make one of her own. She worked furiously for a couple of hours and came up with this:

"Major Efaw's Lizard-Bug War" by Annabelle Taylor

Of Lizards, Spiders, Geckos, and Fleas,
All of them sworn enemies.
And one lizard said as he bit an apple core,
"I declare a lizard-bug war."

Everyone agreed, and started to prepare,
For everyone was fighting, and every lizard cared.
They met some spiders at the gate, and everyone was ready.
Those spiders didn't look hard to beat, for they were weak and petty.

They battled the spiders for a few minutes,
And beat them with much ease.
When they tell the lizard king,
He will be quite pleased.

The lizards got through the city gate,
And then they started to fight.
The bugs lost spiders by day,
and lost cockroaches by night.

By the next day the bugs had lost,
To the so-called Lizard-Beasts.
The lizards tied napkins around their necks,
And had a huge bug army feast.
Annabelle found that once she got into poetry mode, she just couldn't turn it off. So she has spent the past few days working on her newest project; she is writing poems about Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events books. This morning she finished her poem for the first book, The Bad Beginning. Granted, I'm her mom and therefore not entirely impartial, but I think it kicks some serious poetry butt:

The Baudelaires, a terrible tale,
Full of sorrow and woe
For misfortune follows them
Wherever they must go.

Their story starts at the beach
And then their lives had turned
When Mr. Poe had told them
That their house had burned.

When the three children got the news
They felt as if they were locked in a cage.
But the children will get their parents' fortune
When Violet comes of age.

"You will need a guardian," Mr. Poe said,
"And I will find one for you.
Come to my house for a bit
And I'll see what I can do."

They saw their guardian, Count Olaf,
Standing at the door,
As he told them that they must
Do each and every chore.

That night for dinner the Baudelaires
Made pasta with a sauce.
Count Olaf hated it
And threw it with a toss.

Then Count Olaf went mad
And locked Sunny in a cage.
"I'll get your fortune," he said to Violet,
"Before you come of age."

"I'm very sorry," he said the next day,
"And I have a treat for you.
You can perform in my play,
Your lines are just
I do."

The children all agreed,
But nervous they were very
Since none of the orphans knew
That Violet would have to marry.

They got to the theater
And changed into different clothes.
They didn't know what they had to do
Since the plot only Olaf knows.


The Marvelous Marriage was Olaf's play,
They were at the marrying scene.
"I've got you now!" Count Olaf cried.
Not yet, Violet's just fourteen.

The police carried Olaf away
And his sidekick with a hook.
"I'll get you Baudelaires," he shouted.
"Just wait for the second book!"
Literary agents may contact Annabelle through my email address in the sidebar.

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