Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thetford Fireworks Night

It's getting colder, that's for sure. And darker. Winter's on it's way, and there's fat little we can do about it!

We went to our town's local firework display/family day event this afternoon. It was fun! There were plenty of rides and English fair food (which, I have to say, is a bit different than American fair food! Not nearly greasy or sweet or salty enough! I guess that could be applied to most English food, though. Not just fair food!)
One of the rides was a small train, which immediately caught Caleb's attention. We took a few turns on the tiny, circular track, which made his day.

Caleb also tried cotton candy for the first time. He spit it out the first few times, but eventually caught on to it's sugary goodness!

I wasn't sure how Caleb would do with the fireworks, but he did alright. He didn't freak out or cry, but after a couple of minutes, he buried his face in my neck and said very quietly, "No, no, no." After a few minutes, we left, and when we got far enough away from the fireworks, he lifted his head and said, "Go 'way, fie-wohks." However, since it never escalated into all out fear and freak-outtedness, I'd say he did all right!
All-in-all, it was fun! We'll have to do it again next year when Caleb will probably want to ride more rides and eat more cotton candy and, who knows? Maybe he'll want to see more fireworks!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Approaching Our Last Year

I've been feeling a bit reflective lately. Just kinda stuck in my own head. It happens sometimes. I'm going to blame this session at least partially on the change of season and the time change we experienced last week here in the UK. It's now SO dark by the time I get home that I can't be bothered to do, well, just about anything. Making dinner is such an accomplishment these days. So instead I read and reflect.

I've been thinking a lot about the fact that next year is our last year in England. Unbelievable, really. This upcoming January will mark three full years here, with just one left to go. When I think of all the things I still want to see and do, I realize a year is not nearly enough time. There are so many cathedrals, so many castles, so many estates, so many countries and cities that have yet to be tackled. And I'm supposed to do it all within the next year? Impossible!

In many ways, I'm so ready to get back to the states. Even though I realize I probably won't be living in the same city as my family, I miss be at least in the same country. The time zone difference alone can be very frustrating. It'd be nice to be a two hour plane ride away as opposed to a nine hour plane ride away. (Stupid Atlantic Ocean! Why you gotta be so big?!)

And I won't miss our frustrating laundry situation in this house, which means dragging my dryer into the middle of our kitchen to vent out the window on laundry day. I won't miss our strange parking arrangement that means I have to park five houses away from our own. I won't miss balancing three checkbooks and paying half our bills in dollars and half our bills in pounds.

And I certainly won't miss Friday afternoon traffic on the A-11. UGH.

But I will miss Tesco. And I'll miss the Thetford town center, complete with its river and ducks and Saturday market and fresh rolls and doughnuts at Baker's Oven. And I'll miss the way the fog lies low on the fields along the A-11 on an early drive into base. I'll miss driving through the Thetford Forest this time of year when the leaves are all changing colors. I'll miss being able to drive within two hours in just about any direction and finding the ruins of a castle or a preserved estate house to explore.

I don't like thinking about the fact that this next year is the last. I guess the obvious solution is to "make the most" of this last year. See as much as I can, do as much as I'm able, and leave with no regrets. But the sad fact of life is that often we are busy with various activities or just too tired from our regular week to make the efforts we should. Life happens, and I find my weekends slipping away without having done what I wanted to do.

Foof! That sounds depressing, and I don't mean it to be. I guess what I'm saying is just that I'm thinking a lot about our last year. But I don't want to get stuck in my head and let life prevent me from doing those things I really want to do. Some of them require serious saving and planning, so the time to start is now. I want to go out with a bang and remember my time in England fondly. If I have to bother living a "last year," then I kinda want to do it right, ya know? goes!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Planes, Trains, and Classroom Transitions

This week is transition week. Caleb is moving from the 1 year old class where he's been since January into a new 2 year old classroom (which, incidentally, is much further down the hall from the entrance. Sheesh!)

So far, he's done okay. He wasn't excited when his teacher brought him to this new room. He kinda wigged out the first time on the new playground. And he hasn't napped as well as normal. But I suppose these are all normal signs of transition.

I was super lucky and had Monday off for Columbus day. Normally, most everyone on base would have had it off, but we're in the middle of a Big Fat Not-So-Greek Inspection. Or we were at that time. It ended today. Hooray!

These guys and girls on base have been gearing up for this inspection for months. Records have been scrubbed, gear has been checked, scenarios have been played out. These only come once every so many years and they are a big flipping deal. We'll find out Friday how it went. Fingers crossed!

One of the best (and worst) things about working where I do is that I drive around the perimeter of the flight line at least once a day. It's a pain because Caleb's day care, as well as nearly all the food and completely all of the shopping options are on the opposite side of base from my office. But driving around the flight line a few times a day affords you some pretty cool sites.

For instance, this week I was driving past the "play area" of the inspection where all of our players were "deployed" and playing out the scenario set by the inspectors. As I was approaching the area, bright red smoke was billowing towards the sky. I don't know what the scenario was, but I imagine our guys and girls were geared up to the teeth and running around trying to assess the situation and determine the next best steps.

And there I was, just a few feet away, driving with my windows down, listening to BBC Radio 1. Crazy. Anyway, it was such a surreal and oddly pretty sight, those big towers of red smoke. Certainly not something you see every day.

I also love when I get to base first thing in the morning, and there's almost no activity on the flight line. It's getting darker in the mornings, and sometimes there's a bit of fog on the ground, and it looks like the planes are all tucked in for the night. There's just something about being on base when nothing's going on that feels so peaceful that it almost makes you forget about the greater, real-world missions taking place around the globe.

But the best is when a plane takes off right over your car as you turn the very edge of the runway. I love that. I really do.

I wish I had pictures of this stuff, but it's not Kosher to stop your car on base to take those kinds of pictures, unless you're PA. If I was a bird watcher just outside the fence, that'd be a different story. But I'm not.

Anyway, I do have pics of my trip to the zoo with Caleb on Columbus day. So I'll just share those instead.

Here's Caleb inside the Farm portion of the zoo. The goats behind him were just babies the first time we went to the zoo this past spring. They've grown up, just like my big boy!

I've been wanting to get a picture of Caleb and this big ol' dinosaur for a while, but he was kinda freaked out by it. There's also a dinosaur park about an hour away from here, but I'm not sure he's quite ready for that yet.

I wasn't excited about bringing his stuffed Mickey Mouse to the zoo, because I thought for sure he'd be dropped a billion times and possibly lost. But Caleb absolutely insisted on bringing him with us, and he carried it the whole time! Never even put it in the stroller or asked me to carry Mickey. (In case the pic is too small, Mickey is peeking over his shoulder.)

Caleb loves trains. LOVES them. We've never been able to ride the little "train" they have at the zoo, so we stuck around with the express intention of getting to ride the "too too ten." I was worried he'd get bored and want to get off, but he loved it! When the ride ended, he waved at it, saying, "Bye bye, too too ten! I miss you!"

One more shot of my big boy and his Mickey on the train. One sure sign of Caleb fatigue: those two fingers. It was about 2:30 at this point, and he hadn't had a nap yet. He did really well, though, and we had a great time together!

It was totally awesome having a fun Mommy/Taybub day. I loved it. Hope we can do it again soon!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Well, shucks.

The Handy Manny piƱata I ordered from E-Bay for Caleb’s birthday party arrived today…just five days after the party itself. Nuts. I ordered it with plenty of time (about a month before the party.) It was shipped with plenty of time (more than three weeks.) But military post being what it is, it showed up too late. Ah well. I find something to do with it. Turned out good though, no?
I also received a Microplane zester I ordered off of Amazon about a month ago, as well. I’m pretty stoked about this one. I had never even heard of a Microplane zester before I became addicted to the Pioneer Woman. Thanks to Ree, I have an ever-growing list of kitchen gadgets and items that I would absolutely love to have in my perfect kitchen. Don’t even get me started on her kitchen itself! I get a total sense of kitchen envy every time she posts a recipe. Now I just need some lemons or cheese to zest!

What killed me about the zester was the packaging. What an unnecessarily huge box and ridiculous amount of packaging for a small tool. Couldn’t this have just been put in a padded envelope? The tool itself has sharp edges, but it came in a plastic protective sheath. Surely it would have survived a trip in a nicely padded envelope!

(I had a classmate in one of my graduate classes who went off on a mini-rant one night about unnecessary packaging in items like cereal and how un-environmentally conscious it is. For some reason, that rant got stuck in my head and I think of it often, especially when trying to remove innocuous children’s toys from impossibly difficult packaging or receiving silly items like this zester in the mail that have been packaged as if they were made of crystal.)

Anyway! I blogged about Caleb’s birthday, but not the party, so I just wanted to say how much fun we had! We did it big and pretty much ran the Handy Manny theme into the ground. Noone complained, though! :)

Caleb really had a lot of fun playing with his friends. He spent most of the night laughing and squealing while chasing and hugging his friends. He couldn't be bothered to eat dinner, but did manage to slow down long enough to eat some cake. Oh well, it was his birthday!

The Handy Manny Pin-the-Tool game turned out well. Most of the kids were too young to really be blindfolded, so they were allowed just to pin theirs on directly. The older kids did pretty well with the blindfold, though! I was worried the double-sided tape would tear Manny up, but he surived surprisingly in-tact!

He didn’t enjoy when we sang him Happy Birthday (he cried both this year and last during the singing.) He also kind of panicked about half-way through opening presents. Something about being surrounded by a ton of other kids who wanted to “help” him open presents made him withdraw a bit. Too be expected at kids parties, for sure! But Caleb got to a point where he’d rather play with the toys he’d already opened than worry about opening more.

Thanks again for everyone who came out! It was exhausting, but totally fun. Can’t wait to do it again next year! Of course, if this year’s guest list compared to last year’s is any indication, half our guests won’t be here by this time next year! Unfortunately, that's blessing and the curse of a military family. So many cool people come in and out of your life all the time. You can only hope to run into them down the road.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Happy 2nd Birthday, Caleb.

Happy birthday, sweet boy. Has it really been two years already?

Sometimes it's hard to believe you're the same helpless, scrawny baby that had so much trouble entering the world.
Having recently sorted your baby clothes, I was reminded of how sweet and tiny you once were. I was so proud and so excited to be your mom! Those early days were a bit rough, with Daddy in the desert and our troubles with nursing. Your poor little body got smaller before it got bigger. We were still trying to figure each other out and learn our way in this new world together, but we eventually found it!

And it wasn't long until you were smiling, cooing and eventually sitting up by yourself and rolling over. It all seemed to happen, one right after the other.

Zeus and Zoey have always been your best buds. You had a very early love of your pups that you still have today...even if they are a bit wary of you most of the time! You love to chase them and try to play with them. Unfortunately, they are mostly interested in you as the purveyor of dropped food.

Shortly after your first birthday, I went back to work. It was very hard to leave you in those early days. Even now, nine months after returning to work, there are times I want to call in sick and play hooky with you. It took a few weeks to settle in, but you've really grown and thrived in your classroom. I'm constantly amazed at the new things you are learning.

Your vocabulary has exploded this year. You went from just a few words to complete sentences. Of course, they are still baby sentences, such as "I go here!" but you are putting your own thoughts into words, which still amazes me. You love to narrate your surroundings, such as "Bird fly away!" or announcing to all, "Big truck!" and "Mommy's car!" Unfortunately, you're still at an age where I have to bring you with me in the stalls in public restrooms. And you like to narrate bathroom activities, too, complete with your own commentary, such as "Ew!"

You've got opinions now, too. You're quick to tell me "I like it" or "I yuck it," depending on what "it" is at the moment. Fortunately, the "I like list" is much longer than the "I yuck it" list. You're also rather bossy. You're quick to say, "Sit down, Zeus!" or "Come on, truck!" and of course, "Let's go, Mommy!"

You are full of energy and hard to keep up with, some days. You definitely have your toddler moments. But you are also sweet and loving, and have a tendency to know the perfect moment for a spontaneous, "I love you, Mommy."

I love you, too, baby boy. Always have. Always will. Happy birthday. Love, Mommy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Caleb at 23 Months

I love going back to read old blogs because they remind of behaviors Caleb has grown out of that I might have otherwise forgotten. So in the spirit of remembering, here's a snap shot of Caleb at nearly 2 years old.
Caleb is currently going through a very possessive phase, as I'm sure most nearly-two-year-olds do. EVERYTHING is "Mine!" He wakes up crying and saying, "My Daddy! My Mommy!" Another child at the food court had a similar stuffed Mickey that Caleb has and he said, "My Mickey!" When Tommy is on the football field coaching the 5 and 6 year old flag football team, Caleb spends the whole time on the sidelines crying, "MY DADDY!" Very. Possesive.

He's also super sweet. He joined the kissing and hugging game late. Far after his peers, Caleb finally got into kissing and hugging, although he's still very particular about when he doles these treats out. In fact, (and I know this will knock me off the Mom of the Year list), I've taken to bribing him for kisses. When he asks for cheese (on a daily basis), I make him say please. Then I make him give me a kiss and a hug! Hey, I have to get it any way I can!

He's finally saying, "I love you" which comes out "Iyuhoo." Every now and again, without any prompting whatsoever, he'll just say "Iyuhoomommy." Freaking breaks my heart into a billion peices!

He's pretending now, which is super cool. He pretends to eat (usually a pretend apple) and pretends to drink (with a huge slurp) any time there's a table nearby. He will aslo pretend emotions, such as being sad. He'll put his little fists to his eyes and rub them and making a whimpering sound to imitate crying. Then I'll say, "Oh no, Caleb is sad! What makes Caleb happy?" And he'll yell, "BIG HUGS!" and run into my arms for a squeeze. He also loves to pretend to sneeze. He'll give a big "ah ahh AHH TOO!"

He's definatly learning the art of a toddler tantrum, which is less than fun. He can be a bit of a sensative soul, too. It'll take very little, sometimes, to set him off. Even a gentle reproof can unleash a torrent of tears.
Here are some pics of Caleb at school. They have Parent Involvement activities where we get to come in and hang out with the kiddos for a bit. This week there was a spaghetti lunch. Caleb was a bit cranky at first, but settled down once he had some food in his mouth. The little girl next to him is his best bud at school. He's going to miss her when he transistions into the 2-year-old room next month!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Convo with Caleb

Here's a snippet of a conversation I had with Caleb this morning on the drive into work, just as we approached the base.

Caleb: "Pane!"
Me: "That's right Caleb, planes!"
Caleb: "I yuhoo, pane!"
Me: "You love the plane? What about momma?"
Caleb: "Pane FASS!"
Me: "Yeah, that plane is going fast. I think it's taking off."
Caleb: "Bye-bye, pane!"

Geeze, I love this kid.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Procrastinator Extrodinaire

By default, I'm a rather bad procrastinator. I'm prone to leaving things to the very last minute (and beyond), sometimes to the point of forgetting all together.

It's irritating. Just ask my husband. I don't like it myself.

And I'm not always as bad as I've been this year. Some years I'm pretty good at getting out birthday gifts on time and tackling my to do list within a reasonable time frame. Sometimes I go through absolute fits of organization and control where I actually send cards out early and remember to go shopping well before a birthday.

Not this year.

I'd like to chalk that up to returning to work, finishing my graduate degree, and trying to balance family life during all of that. And when I type it out, I think, "Wow. That does sound like a reasonable batch of circumstances for becoming such a slacker." Except that I know I'm prone to being a slacker to begin with and the addition of these outside factors only exacerbated the problem.

I finished up my degree in June, but it's been difficult pulling myself out of the habit of putting everything off just one more month. But following my husband's eye surgery, it's become necessary to address my demons. The biggest one of all: my ever-increasing pile of things to mail out.

Is anyone else really, really bad at mailing things? If I don't mail something out the DAY I think about it, I may not mail it out for a year. Literally.

So I'm currently preparing for the Great Mass Mail-Out of 2009. If I don't do it now, before Christmas rapidly approaches, I may soon die in a pile of envelopes and postage stamps.

In this beast of a pile are things I'm embarrassed to admit I've never mailed out. A birthday present for my friend's girls that I purchased last summer. They've both since had another birthday since then. (Kristy, it'll be on it's way Tuesday!) The sad thing is, they were actually in the same country as me this time last year! I could have given it directly to them, not just at the time of their birthday, but for about six months after that until they moved!

I've also got pictures of Caleb taken at school from April. But really, that's not so bad. That's not bad at all. I've also got pictures of Caleb taken from August...of last year! Awful, I know. My mom said I may as well not even send them out now. But I paid for them, darnit! I paid for them with the idea that I would send them out to certain people. By golly, those people are going to get year-old pics of my son, whether they want them or not at this point!

The idea is that if I can get over this ginormous obstacle of mail, I can become better. Right? If I just put this past behind me (you know, the past I'm still holding onto 13 months later) then I can get a better grasp on the present and be more prepared for the future. I have to believe I can get a grasp on this situation before it takes over my life.

And I'm getting there. I've sorted the pics, written the thank you notes, picked out the birthday cards, and am very nearly done addressing the whole stack. In the mean time, I'm just trying not to think about how much postage will cost when I mail this out this week!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Driving on the Right Side

When we moved to England, I was really quite nervous about driving on the left side of the road. It was nerve-wracking enough sitting on the bus from the airport to base watching cars coming from the "Wrong Side," the idea of remembering to drive in what seemed like an unnatural manner was very intimidating. And I'm not going to lie, I made some mistakes. Fortunately, they were all on base where drivers are more understanding and forgiving.

Driving is easy enough in traffic. Follow the cars. Simple. But when you approach an empty intersection? Shoot. Which one is it? Left? Right? We drive on the right in the states, yes? No. Yes. Okay, remember Beyonce. "To the left, to the left, over here in England we all drive to the left!" Maybe those aren't her words exactly, but I'm not lying when I say I recited them over and over for the first few weeks (months?) we lived in England.

And then, gradually, it became natural. In fact, I remember watching an American movie and there was a scene in a car and for a split second my heart rate doubled when I thought, "Ohmygosh, they are driving on the Wrong Side!" I remembered, though, that the right side used to be the Right Side and felt a bit foolish and amused at my mistake.

So much of driving is habitual. We don't think long and hard about what to do at a red light. We don't mediate on what a yield sign means. All of the littlest details about driving cause us no more than a nanosecond of thought, a flash of quick decision, and we're off. Even the stupidest things, like which side to pull your seatbelt from when you get into drive, can set you off when you start driving on the other side. It took me months to reach to the right for my seatbelt in England! I got into the wrong car seat many times before it became natural to get in on the right.

When we were planning our trip to Germany, I began to feel that familiar flutter in my stomach, that anxious feeling that I'd be going against the grain to *gasp* drive on the other side again. This wouldn't be my first time driving on the other side. We made a trip back to the States last year, and I'll be honest...I drove on the British side at least twice. Both times were when there was little-to-no traffic and were easily corrected.

What made me more nervous this time is that I'd be driving my husband's British spec car with the steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle. And I'd be trying to navigate through a very foreign country with a very foreign language I didn't speak. Ohhhh, I was nervous.

Ten days later, I will say that it hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. For the most part, there's plenty of traffic and I keep in line with everyone else. Also, the roads in Germany are top notch. Mad props to you, Germany! England, I love ya, but your roads? Your traffic? They aren't my favorite. Getting around Germany is a piece of cake. Getting from our house in England to the base is like pulling teeth....painful.

That's not to say there haven't been...umm...incidents.

In Belgium, I pulled out of a gas station onto the left side of the road. It wasn't terribly busy, but there was oncoming traffic approaching down the road. And they flashed me. More than once. I was so into the habitual diving zone, it took about three flashes and my husband yelling at me to snap me out of it. Not a proud moment. Took about fifteen minutes for my stomach to unknot itself.

And then there was this one time here in Germany. It was on base, actually. I was pulling out of the parking lot of the BX, and again I found myself in the left lane again. Imagine a bit more yelling here from my husband, which put me into a bit of a panic. I was in the left lane. I need to be in the right. I was approaching a roundabout. OHMYGOSH, I'M APPROACHING A ROUNDABOUT! Yield to the right? Yield to the left? I DON'T KNOWWW!!!!!

I totally entered the roundabout going the WRONG DIRECTION. Lemme say, driving on the wrong side? Easily correctible in most cases. Going through a roundabout from the wrong direction? Not so much. Enter more yelling from both me and my husband and sprinkle a bit of Caleb crying because he has no idea what's going on, and you've got a good idea of what the chaos was like in our car at that moment.

I managed to get out at the very first exit in the roundabout with no damage done other than to my ego. Took nearly an hour to come unglued from that one, during which I mostly (and unjustly) blamed my husband for my panic. To be honest, I don't remember much of the day beyond that.

I will say this, though. I haven't driven on the wrong side since!

So tomorrow, we head back to England. About five hours of driving on the right side, a ferry ride, and then nearly three hours of driving on the left side again. I think my car will be happy to see the "correct" side. I, on the other hand, am starting to feel nervous.

So if you're in the UK and you see a BMW driving at you from the wrong side sometime during the next week, flash your lights, honk your horn, and shake your head at the poor befuddled driver trying to determine just what IS the Right Side!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Well, it's done! My husband had Lasik eye surgery this morning. We weren't sure up until this morning if he was having PRK or Lasik, and he was told he'd be a good candidate for either. But the surgeon felt that Lasik gave him the best chance of perfect vision.

It's been a long day. Showtime was 0700. Fortunately, we don't have far to go to the hospital. It was a cattle call type of sitaution, with numerous individuals from many bases all over Europe coming for surgery. We were told we (the escorts/families) could leave and come back. The surgeries weren't to begin until 1000. Since Tommy was initially the third person in line, we left and came back just after ten to be waiting for him.

However, since he was the only patient getting Lasik, he was bumped to the end of the list. We initially thought he'd be done about noon, so we stuck around and didn't bother grabbing lunch. Unfortunately, he didn't come out of surgery till after 2:30! Neither Caleb nor I had eaten lunch (although Caleb had eaten a fair share of Cheetos, animal crackers, raisins and gummy bears. What is it with Germany and gummy bears? They seem to go hand in hand.)

By the time Tommy came out, we were shot. Caleb had thrown a few fits and hadn't napped. It was getting ugly. I felt patient with him, but I didn't have enough patience for other people's kids by the end of the day who all wanted to steal Caleb's cars and get in his personal space. (Kids! No idea of personal space!)
So Tommy is resting now. His eyes sting and are uncomfortable and he mostly wants to keep them shut. Caleb and I are trying to stay around if he needs us but not too close so we aren't bothering him while he recovers. The nice thing about Lasik is that he'll have a much faster recovery! Woo hoo!
The hospital at Landsuhl is HUGE! It's got numerous hallways/wings all connected by one shared hallway. There's a nice dining facility, a Burger King, a shoppette, a Community Bank, and a mini coffee place, among other things. It's very clean and nice. Largest base hopsital I've ever seen. Caleb enjoyed exploring the "tunnels" (hallways) and haging out in the smoking area (because it's outside and has a small fish pond.) He did really well most of the day, but certainly had some toddler moments, especially at the end when he desperately needed a nap but couldn't fall asleep in the busy hospital.
We have two more appointments before we leave next week. Depending on Tommy's recovery process, we might try and do a few things during our free days. If not as a family, Caleb and I will at least explore the local towns once or twice and see some friends of ours that are stationed here.

So far, so good!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bruges and the Drive to Germany

Oof. It's hot in Germany. It was hot in Belgium. Weeks like these make me miss living in the States where everyone has A/C. our stinking cars don't even have working A/C, and lemme tell ya, that has made for some miserable long drives. Sleeping at night with no A/C can get pretty uncomfortable, too.

The ferry ride to Dover was quick and easy. Caleb enjoyed going to the top deck and looking out as we watched the cliffs of Dover grow smaller and smaller. The other two decks we were allowed on had a couple of coffee shops, a restaurant, a bar, some shops and some general seating areas. We spent most of our hour and a half trip chasing after Caleb who has no concept of sitting still.

The drive through France was unremarkable and fast. We had no problems finding Belgium, but got a bit lost trying to find the B & B we had reserved. I have to say, the lesson for this trip is that no amount of planning can adequately prepare you for the actual trip. Both the GPS and the printed sets of directions have led us astray on many occasions so far. The nice thing about the GPS, though, is that you can get SOME sense of orientation after you've driven through a town four times. Fortunately, the owner of the B & B was able to find us and we followed him to his gorgeous home.

We ventured into Bruges next. What a beautiful city! We only had a few hours to spend and managed to squeeze in a boat tour of the canals and a half of a horse and carraige tour. We also managed to eat too much chocolate and some waffles.

I guess I was confused about what half a horse and carraige tour meant. I thought we'd take a mini-tour and end up back in the same spot. Instead, we were dropped off way on the other side of town in an area we hadn't been to yet. Now the nice thing about this is that you get to see another side of Bruges that we might have otherwise missed. The not-so-nice thing is that I was so engrossed in eating my waffle that I didn't pay any attention to where we were headed and became completely lost. We hadn't gone far, but we got so turned around on the tour that it took us ages getting back to our car. We passed the same church three times. By the end we were just ready to get back to the B & B.

This morning, we ate breakfast at the B&B before setting off to German. The four hour drive ended up taking almost six due to a severe traffic accident and stops necessary for maintaining toddler sanity. We did have to fuel up for the first time since leaving base, and it was painful! €80 to fill our tank. OUCH! That's $114 on that day's rate. And we Americans complain about high gas prices!

While driving through France was unremarkable, the drive through Belgium and Germany were beautiful. The hills and country side were very picturesque. I wanted to take pictures, but as I was driving, it wasn't feasible. There must have been hundreds of windmills, though! I am so distracted by windmills. I find myself wondering how on earth they were erected, what would happen if those giant blades suddenly fell, how much power they really generate, and all kinds of entertaining ideas while I drove up and down the hills of Belgium.

We got to our TLFs (temporary living facility - complete with our own kitchenette and living room) by about 3 pm. Tommy's first pre-op appointment is tomorrow, and we'll know for sure if his corrective eye surgery is a go. In the mean time, we're trying to make the best of this hot weather and the lack A/C.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day in Dover

Mm, I’m tired. I’m going to sleep that deep, delicious sleep you can only achieve by being crazy busy the day of said sleep. I am knackered.

Today is day one of our Great German Adventure. We left our house at about 8 am this morning, as scheduled and made good time to Dover, even though the GPS took us further into London than we would have liked. We had no problems finding the B & B that we reserved online. It’s a quaint, older house in the middle of town that smells like a grandmother and is really cozy and welcoming.

After settling in, we headed for Dover Castle. Although it’s really close to the B&B, the massive hill it resides on and the extensive grounds make it worth driving to, unless you’re keen on being exhausted from the get go. We were able to park in a nearby field and took a shuttle up to the ticket booth near the castle. Caleb wasn't too terribly happy when we arrived at the Castle.

The castle itself is definitely worth a visit. You ever visit a castle or stately home and think, “Huh. This is?” Dover is not that castle. In fact, we ran out of time to explore everything! And by “ran out of time,” I actually mean “ran out of stamina and were frustrated for not bringing the stroller along.” The Great Tower itself is not stroller friendly, but there is a “buggy park,” and the rest of the grounds pretty much require a little help from a set of wheels. I myself was wishing for a stroller to sit in.

We managed to make it down to the Medieval tunnels, which are a really interesting feature of the castle’s defensive system. . We got to go down below the castle and see where the soldiers would have lined their cannons and muskets in defense of the castle.

Unfortunately, we were too wiped out to make it to the war time tunnels, a complex of tunnels which were initially built as barracks during the 18th century but utilized as late as WWII as an underground hospital and operations and communications center, among other things. Unfortunately, we were just too tired to make our reserved time for the tour, so we’ll have to come back another time. It sounds like it is really cool!

Despite our exhaustion, we did make it to the White Cliffs, which are pretty stinking gorgeous. We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day to visit Dover; it was beautiful! We took a nice, slow walk along the cliffs and watched ferries sailing in and out of the ports. You can see the horizon of France from the coast of Dover on a good day. Interesting side note: when I was standing on the edge looking towards France, my cell phone received a text message from Vodafone welcoming me to France and informing me of the rates!

Tomorrow it’ll be our turn to be on one of those ferries! We’re off in the morning for Calais followed by a short drive to Bruges, Belgium. Can’t wait! For now, though, I better get some sleep. :)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

From the Mouths of Little Dudes

[Originally written 2 Aug 09. Forgot to post!]

Why is it ordinary, every day words sound completely new and adorable from the mouths of toddlers?

Caleb is rapidly approaching two and quickly picking up new words almost every day. He's stringing together the words to communicate whole thoughts! It blows my mind. Today at the playground, he managed to climb up a rather scary ladder-like set of stairs that cause my heart to beat fast every time he appraoches them. But for the fist time, he got up to the top all by hisself. As he reached the top of his mini Mount Kilimanjaro, he annouced, "I did it!" I was so stinking proud of him.

He also learned the words "chocolate milk" today, which come out more like "cah-cae mook." And he's keen on adjectives today. Everything is a big truck ("bee cuck!") or a tall tree ("tah tee") or a shiney car ("siney cah"). In fact, the other day as I was squatting down to clean some of his meal time mess from the walls, he pointed at my backside and said, "Butt!" To which I replied, "Yep, that's momma's butt." Caleb responded, "Big butt!" Thanks, buddy! Thanks a lot!

He's also getting better with names. He knows some of his classmates names, his teachers, and a few of his out-of-school friends. And he's finally trying to say his own name, although I don't think he beleives his name is Caleb. One of his classmates calls him "Caybub", and his own pronouciation is more like "Taybuh." But he's getting there!

He recognizes people in pictures and loves to sit on my lap as I browse through pics on Facebook. He recognizes his grandparents - Mama and Bubba are my folks (MamMaw and Bubba Bob), and Nana and Papa are Tommy's (Nana and Grandpa.) And he's starting to get to know his cousins. Sophia is Feeah, and he loves to give her pictures kisses. But my favorite are his names for my brother and his son. Uncle Steve and Ben are "Cheese" and "Bun."

Caleb is also trying to sing along to songs. He'll throw in a word or two in songs he recognizes such as Little Einsteins' theme song, Johnny and the Sprites, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But MAN, did it throw me for a loop today when he tried to sing along to Beyonce's Halo! No kidding. We were driving to base, and he was busy sucking on his middle fingers and zoning out when suddenly he popped those fingers just as Beyonce was singing "Baby, I can see your halo, " and he belted out "Hayo!"

Honest to goodness, Caleb's first non-kiddie song was Beyonce. Weird.

It's fun, all this chatter. He loves to say "HI!" to anyone who will listen and tells them what he's up to. "I eat!" He's also rather bossy, and quite often tells me and Tommy to dance if we're eating out and there's music overhead.

At some point, all this chatter will get to be a bit much and I'll wish for a volume or mute button. But for now, it's all novel and new and fascinated, and I love listening to my little chatter box.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

My Baby Has Friends!

There are two primary reasons that I'm the worst blogger ever lately. One is that I'm busy finishing up my last semester towards my graduate degree through the University of Oklahoma, and quite frankly there's a lot to do!

Second, there's been sun lately. SUN! The big yellow ball in the sky has been uninhibited by those pesky clouds and their rain. Caleb has actually worn SHORTS to school this week. Unbelievable. As a result, we've spent way more time outside at the playground than usual.

Don't get me wrong, we're still in England. A week ago we had a miserably cold and rainy day. Well, cold for May anyway. But the rainy days are becoming less and less common and the sun has been a good friend of ours lately. Honestly, it's enough to make me sing. Bring on the Fresh Prince, put an umbrella in my drink, and find me my flip flops! It's pradtically summer in the UK! At least for today. I'm sure that will change tomorrow.

So the most precious thing ever happened yesterday after work. Dinner was done, and we were relaxing upstairs when I heard someone knock on our front door. As I approached the door, I could tell it was the neighbor kids, so I assumed a ball had popped into our backyard and the wanted permission to retrieve it. Instead they asked if Caleb could come out and play! Well technically they asked if I was going to bring Caleb out to play, but all the same.

My baby has friends! Like actual neighborhood kids that come to ask for him at the door!

I was already in my pajamas, but I rushed upstairs to change so we could go hangout at the playground with Caleb's new buddies. Of course, they are all a good bit older than him (ranging from 3 to 8.) They all love him because he's the "baby." They get to push him on the swing, help him up the jungle gym, and hold his hand as they run around. Caleb loves the attention and the silly things they'll do to make him laugh.

In other news, Caleb is learning so much. New words include moon, rock, Manny (as in Handy Manny) and money (he likes putting money in his piggy bank.) I think he's trying to say "doggie" finally. He's been calling them "deedees" forever, it was one of his first words. Now he calls them "debbies" occasionally, with I think is a transition to doggies. He no longer calls cars "beep beeps," but actually calls them cars, (which sounds more like "cah.") He can do baby sign language for dog, frog, bird and his favorite, horse.

(On a side note, it makes me sad a bit when he graduates from his baby words to big people words.)

Also: Caleb has said his first sentence! He now says "I see you!" which sounds like "Ahtheeoo!" whenever we play peek-a-boo.

Oh, and he's a monkey. He climbs on ANYTHING. I found him STANDING in my window sill the other day! Like he's stinking Peter Pan coming to teach Wendy to fly! We've had to start putting a dining room chair in the middle of the living room for him to climb on. He does better climbing without the table to get in his way.

And I guess that's about it! I should be completely done with my classes, comps and internship come the end of July or so. Until then, I'm just plugging away trying to wrap things up!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Today started off lovely, got better from there, took a bit of a nose dive around dinner time, but corrected itself into a pretty good day.

Caleb is cutting his last canine tooth, and as a result wakes up 2-4 times a night screaming and hasn't slept past 5 am in at least three days. Ugh. My husband was very kind this morning and took that early morning shift with Sir Crabby Pants while I slept in to the luxurious hour of 7 am. (Seriously. Remember when sleeping in didn't count until you had slept till at least 11, preferably 12?)
Caleb and I were ready for church early, so we headed to the playground while Tommy got ready.

By the way, for grins and giggles, here is Caleb on Mother's Day last year. What a marshmellow!

After church, we went to downtown Thetford to enjoy the beautiful weather and to have lunch at Red Pepper, a delicious Thai Food restaraunt with fantastic Pad Thai. Caleb enjoyed his chicken skewers. I love that he's still at an age where he'll try almost anything (when he feels like it.) I hope he stays this way.
Then we stopped by Argos to order some things we've been eyeing for a while. There's really no good US comparison for Argos. It's a store front with very little on display. Instead, you leaf through their latest catelogue, present the cashier with the item numbers for whatever you want, and then wait until they bring your item to another counter.

We picked up this awesome pot rack. I had seen one in my friend Tina's house and have been wanting one ever since. Now it's not so darn crowded in my cookware cabinet! I seriously love this thing. Hooray for creative storage options!

We also picked up a grill. We actually have a grill that we like, but we've had so many issues getting it sorted with a British propane tank (you have to use a really annoying adapter for US grills that never seems to work), that we decided it would be best to get a cheap British grill for the next two summers. Tommy took a nap, so Caleb decided to help me put the grill together. As you can imagine, he was more of a liability than a good assistant, but at least he was cute.

All of the hard work really knocked Caleb out.

I was super impressed that I managed to assemble the grill all by myself (well, with Caleb), but disappointed to realize the tiny propane tank we had for the American grill was out of gas. No sweat! I hopped in the car and searched Thetford for a gas station that sold propane tanks. Four gas stations later, I found a tank! After a quick stop at Tesco express for some cheese and rolls, I was on my way home, eagerly anticipating burgers!

Unfortunately, a new grill + a new propane tank did not = burgers. The propane tank doesn't seem to fit the grill valve! I seriously don't get it. Do we have the wrong tank? Do we need some sort of adapter? Why won't this fit?! By this point, I was so irriated. I had been craving Pioneer Woman's Favorite Burgers, and it seemed like nothing we did could make our Summer of Grilling dreams come true.

In the end, I finally just fried up the burger in a skillet. And they were good. But not grilled good. Still good, though.

So here's my trouble shooting section. Any and all thoughts are appreciated! We have a British grill and British propane tank. Here is the tank, just after we purchased it. Is it odd that there's no valve to turn it on and off? You just remove that orange cap (which was a bit trickier than I thought it would be).
Here is it with the cap removed. I wish I had gotten a better picture of the inside of top, but it's too dark now.
And here's the valve from the grill. That black switch on the left turns to lock the valve in place.
No matter what we tried, though, we can not get the valve to latch and lock. It feels like it just doens't fit. Should we buy a new tank and hope that it's the right kind? Or should we search for some kind of adapter? Or should we just throw our hands in the air and realize our fate of non-grillers as long as we're in the UK?