ESSO 77

I had great plans to write this post on Monday night. Then on Tuesday I planned to write it, but from a very different angle. Today, I finally have some time to sit down and try to do this post justice.

20 years ago due to an airplane malfunction 20 Washington State Air National Guardsmen lost their lives on Geilenkirchen Air Base.

I was asked to help with the execution of the memorial service. This being my first event of any scale I was on edge. 75 people had flown from the US to honor their comrades and family members lost on Jan 13, 1999. There was a 20 minute ceremony and a lunch that I was responsible for. Though the weather didn’t cooperate, the entire day went off without a hitch.

I didn’t realize how much of myself I had invested into the event until Tuesday morning. We forgot Ana’s book bag at the house (thanks to Zed for running home to grab it), forgot my cell phone at home (a whole day without a cell phone is hard), after my shower from the gym I realized I hadn’t brought boot socks or an uniform shirt, oh and I left my hat in my car so I got to do that walk of shame.

As I walked out the of gym in a smelly uniform shirt, with no hat on, and ankle socks I saw the school bus pull up. At that moment I just needed a hug from my girls. I got two amazing hugs before they headed off to school with their pony tails wagging behind them and went back to my car to figure out what had just happened.

Why was I in tears at 830am over such trivial things? It was then I realized how much effort I had put into this event to ensure the family and friends of ESSO 77 had a memorable time. For some of them this was the first time they had ever been to GK and for others the first time they had been back since their squadron mates had passed away.

It was also then that I remembered the importance of hugging those you love and making sure they know how you feel. And finally, it was when a new friend tapped on my window to ask if I was ok and gave me a hug.

So to ESSO 77, thank you for your service to not just the nation, but serving with NATO means you’ve provided service to the world.

Articles if you want to learn more about ESSO 77.

https://www.141arw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/863999/esso-77-memorial/

https://l1.nl/l1mburg-centraal-geilenkirchen-herdenkt-neerstorten-tankvliegtuig-in-1999-147093/

https://www.aachener-zeitung.de/lokales/geilenkirchen/gedenkfeier-bei-awacs-20-jahre-nach-dem-flugzeugabsturz_aid-35641261

Tasting Tray of Tarter Sauces

Though the title only really applies to one lunch Zed and I have had over the past 2 weeks it also explains our holiday break pretty well. We tried a little of a lot and saw some new things. Enjoy the long, but fun post to follow.

We spent an entire day in Maastricht, NL while the kids were at daycare. If you’ve been to Georgetown, MD imagine a European version and that’s Maastricht. Their Christmas market was still going, but everything was on sale! We rode the Ferris Wheel, walked the shopping district and ate at a small burger place named FAB (Famous American Bistro). Sharing 5 sliders and some deep fried Mac & Cheese we felt a little piece of home, except for the glass bottled waters.

The church on the left has been restored from the 1700s to its original painted color and structure. The church on the right is from the 1500s.

View of Maastricht from the top of the Ferris Wheel.

Another view from the Ferris Wheel of the two really old churches.

This book store has taken up residence in an old church. The vast cathedral houses three stories of books in a multitude of languages.

Zed and Ana went shopping at Rammstein, aka as American as you can get in Europe. They saw Mary Poppins, bought discounted Christmas decorations, and visited Bastogne.

New Year’s Eve Day, we stayed local as I had about 5hours to play in between my shifts. Heerlen is where our ward building is located, but also a really neat town close to home. We enjoyed the site, shopping, and some yummy sushi before I headed back in to work.

These bricks are found in the sidewalk outside of buildings Jews lived in. They say the name, the birth year, when they were deported, when they died, and the camp they were sent to.

During the winter a sledding hill and ice rink are set up in the square.

Pock marks from bullet holes can be seen in the bell tower left over from WWII.

New Year’s Eve was quiet inside our home, but the Dutch sure know how to celebrate. The firework display was a 360 degree show that lasted from 11pm to 3am. This display was put on by everyone, but us. We were not aware that to live in the Netherlands you are obligated to set off fireworks on New Years…we have learned for next year. The fireworks set off also are not able to be purchased in the US. The rockets are large and fuses short.

Jan 2nd brought another date day where we got to test out our new GoPro at the indoor ski slopes. Completing 12 runs in two hours, we were pretty tired and ready for some lunch. Back to Maastricht we went to enjoy some Fish and Chips at Jack White’s. Here is where the title of this post comes in. We enjoyed gourmet fish with a tray of five different sauces to choose from. Zed ordered the cod battered in the traditional seasoning. I got Mackerel battered in various herbs. Our tarter sauces consisted of traditional tarter, curry lime, spicy beetroot, mango, and garlic. The mango was our favorite and the garlic made an amazing dip for the chips. It was at this restaurant we learned the best way (cheapest) to drink out is to order the largest water they have and split it. We also stopped in a costume shop to begin our Carnival costume planning. Here’s what Zed is considering.

The 3rd, on a whim we went to Trier. This is the oldest town in all of Germany with many Roman ruins still present. We ate in a historic cellar that displayed numerous crests from the region. Unfortunately both of our phones were unusable halfway through the day so we didn’t get pictures of everything…guess we’ll just have to go back. We intend to bring family as they come to visit because we enjoyed the town so much.

One of the many churches in the town. I am standing at the opposite side of the square in order to capture the full height…at least 12 stories.

Better lighting and side view of the same cathedral.

Inside the Constantine Basilica. The most interesting thing to me here was the history of the church. In the history it explains how many times the church was rebuilt (at least 5) due to different ownerships. The most recent reconstruction of the Basilica was due to “the necessary consequences from the Nazi era”. The altar is the place of the previous Roman Emperor’s throne. It was the plainest church we saw in Trier, but according to the guide “it has been divested of its former pomp and splendor. Marble and treasures have no place in it.” The guide made us wonder who was responsible for writing it due to the blunt nature of the words.

Ironically, this is connected to the back side of the Basilica. Covered in pink paint, gold leafs, and Roman statues the electoral college had ownership of the building at one time. This opens up into what I can imagine is a gorgeous garden in the spring and summer time complete with fountains and reflection pools.

Porta Nigra. The one remaining port entry gate from the Romans, there were a total of 4. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My first ever to visit.

After this picture my phone died. We also saw the amphitheater which felt much life a Division 1 football stadium and the main bath house. Oh, and we did some shopping of course.

We put some miles on our shoes, checked a few stops off the bucket list, and enjoyed some quality time as a couple. Because of these small trips, Zed and I have realized we need to make a list of places to visit based on driving distance so as we have a random day or long weekend off we can hop in the car and go.

I’ll be sure to have a phone charger in the car and the GoPro always prepared from here on out so you don’t miss any of our travels.

-S

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Merry Christmas from Germany…well the Netherlands. Live in one country and work in another, pretty cool concept.

We would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This was our first year recording the chaos thanks to an early gift, 1.5hr of opening gifts and a full day of lounging and playing with them. I tried to upload the pictures in progression of the events.

Back in the Classroom

They (not sure who they is) say you should never stop learning. In my new job with the Air Force I learn something every day. As a mom I learn something every day. As I wife I learn something almost every day. I recently decided to take my learning to new levels and I’ve enrolled in a Masters Program through the University of Oklahoma.

For 3.5yrs we lived 20min from the campus and I didn’t step foot on it once. Now, living in Germany, I have been on their satellite campus here many times. I have successfully (I hope, grades won’t be released for 2 more weeks) completed my first course. I’m getting my Masters in International Relations. My first course was Latin American culture.

The program here is pretty intense, I should be able to graduate in May 2020 just 16 months after starting. I am able to take classes online and some are offered in person. The in person classes are 4 days of 6-9:30pm and 2 days 9-4pm. They usually conclude with a final paper being due 2wks after the class completing and 3 credit hours are earned. It’s tough, but so far it’s been nice not to be away from the kids as much as an 8 or 12 week online class would. Zed may not agree with me on this due to he is the one with the 4 kids while I’m in class all week.

I’ll be sure to keep you all up to date on the exciting world of a Masters degree. Pop (www.elfidd.com) has asked I fill him in on all my research. If there’s every something I learn that is SUPER interesting I’ll be sure to share it.

-S

Writers Block

As a pseudo blogger, writers block is a very bad thing. Often times I don’t have an issue with writers block, I just have issues with blocking out time to make a post. I keep a journal of funny things the kids say or do. Sometimes I write about experiences I have at work or just thoughts that cross my mind throughout the day. I have plenty to write about.

Except right now…I am currently in my first Masters class. My final paper is due Monday at 6am my time. I kind of have a start to it. I have great resources to help me write it, but I’m a procrastinator. I rarely become inspired until 24hrs before the due date. Any other time of the year I think I would be ok and could just get it out. But with it being Christmas, I have a million excuses to put it off until the last moment.

Wish me luck as I try to put the priority of the paper over decorating the house and wrapping gifts.

-S

The Great Potty Training of 2018

Can you feel the tension? It’s so thick that I wouldn’t be surprised if you all had bit off your nails and your hair had turned gray.

We’ve been working on potty training Dax for about 6wks now. We have used Grandma visiting as a bribe, offered him gifts wrapped and unwrapped, bought him a urinal and his own potty, bought him super cool undies, and now we’re on to cold turkey. We’ve got the peeing down…well mostly. He hasn’t had an accident overnight in a week (woohoo!). He only has a pee accident maybe once per week. Sounds great right…wrong.

Pooping is an entirely different subject. He’s scared to poop, he doesn’t know how, it’s too easy. He’s used all the excuses under the sun to explain away why he keeps pooping in his pants. Tonight he sat on the toilet for 30min and as soon as he hopped off he pooped his pants. The trouble we’re having is we know he needs to poop (because he holds for 2-4 days at a time), but we can’t get him to poop on the potty. Watch him closer you say? We do and when we see he’s about to poop we stick him on the potty and the little bugger sucks it back in for another day. It’s also impossible to watch him 24/7 with 3 other kids and a life of our own. He pays attention and lets it flow the moment we’re not looking. Tonight we made him empty his own undies of the poop into the toilet. 30min later he pooped again.

If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

-S

I’m Back

I feel like I do this quite frequently. I get on a good roll and then fall off the face of the blog universe. What brings me back this time? Christmas cards. I just finished addressing all 129 of them and they each have the blog address on them for people to follow. I figured I should probably catch up on the blog for anyone who may check it out.

Christmas is in full swing here in Europe. Not too many decorate the outside of their homes with lights, but every town has a Christmas market. At these markets mulled wine and bratwursts are served. Various vendors are set up selling homemade baked goods, cheese, candies, and decorations. If you’re ever visiting in December, be sure to attend at least one. I have only been to one, Monschau, but it was amazing. The town is what you would image Europe to look like at Christmas time. They bring in a giant tree and set in up in the centrum for the season. Zed has been to a couple more and said Monschau’s was the best.

We’ll be sticking around for Christmas this year. We will be hosting a Christmas Eve party, a tradition I learned from my parents, for friends from work and church. We’ll enjoy Christmas morning and FaceTime the grandparents as they are falling asleep (Oregon) and waking up (Maryland) throughout the day. I have to work on and off throughout Christmas and New Years’ week, but it’ll be pretty relaxed.

I plan to do a couple more posts to fill everyone in on life in Europe and to get in a better routine.

-S

I Hate Sundays

Before everyone gets bent out of shape, please read the entire post. Yes, I could choose to title this different, but I believe it’s the right one.

I decided to write this post today, rather than yesterday because I was/am still wrestling with my feelings. Sundays are supposed to be days of rest, relaxation, time to focus on Christ and our blessings from Heavenly Father. Well, that always feels impossible for me. No matter how early I wake myself and the kids up, we are always late and it’s always a fight.

Yesterday morning was no different. I woke up at 8:15, picked out everyone’s clothes, and headed downstairs where Zed and the older girls were playing. Everyone was happy and I had great faith it would be a great Sunday. Within 5 minutes there was yelling and crying and poop in underwear. You see…we’re working on potty training Dax. What I quickly found out was he is scared to poop on the potty. After cleaning him up the fight to get everyone dressed began. The girls no longer wanted to wear the outfits they had picked out the night before. After 4 different decisions on outfits they returned to the original decision. Thank goodness for Zoe who doesn’t quite have a say yet, but she’s learned to spit from her older siblings. So though her outfit wasn’t needing changed, it still needed some attention so the Nutella mixed in with the spit didn’t stain.

Dressed and with shoes on, the fight to control unruly locks began. The fight over who had to go first was quickly followed by the fight over who wanted to go first. In between Dax needed to potty again and decided his vest and tie were not suitable clothing to wear while doing his business. Successful in peeing on the potty, I went in search of finding which girl still needed her hair brushed and pulled back because I had already forgotten. Finding Zoe and turning it into a game to accomplish a small ponytail, all kids were now ready to go.

Being about 915 (we have to leave no later that 935 to get seats) I knew it’d be a quick shower, messy bun kind of day. Shower accomplished, dressed, and shoes on I set out to begin loading kiddos up. I hoped air drying my hair by running around collecting kids would be a good idea (it wasn’t). I couldn’t find Dax and realized he was again on the potty. I couldn’t get upset because he was really picking up the potty training thing, but it was 935. Once finished I picked him up and plopped him into his seat. Ready to run back inside and grab a brush to do my hair on the way I realized he didn’t have shoes or socks on. Guess those are not suitable items to wear while pottying either. I grabbed the brush and shoes and headed for the car.

As Zed climbed in I realized I had no diaper bag (not smart when you’re potty training) and no activity bag (not smart when trying to keep kids quiet during church). Back inside I quickly throw together both bags and head back out. 945 and we were finally pulling out of the driveway.

With all 4 kids yelling (no joke) my name asking random questions I snapped. All that kept running through my head was “I hate Sundays.” I turned around and in the calmest voice I could muster I said “Mom is off the clock. I need from now until we get to church to have some quiet time. If you need something, ask Dad. Otherwise talk to each other.” It took about 2 times for the kids to learn I was serious, but then it was the best ride to church I’ve had in a long time.

What did I do during this time? I looked out the window. I said a prayer. I let myself relax. Most importantly I went off the clock for 15min and reset myself rather than getting upset with the kids.

And what was the result? No kids ran in the street as we walked from the parking lot to the church building. The kids were well behaved during the meeting. All kids went easily to their Sunday School classes. Zed and I’s first Sunday School lesson (we team teach the 10-12 year olds) went really well. And most importantly, I was able to focus on the Spirit and enjoy Church for the first time in a long time.

I learned an important lesson, and typing it now is helping me to remember the lesson I learned. Everyone needs a timeout every once in a while. Anger and frustration will get you no where. Taking a few minutes off, even if that’s putting yourself in a bubble in a very energetic car, does wonders.

So do I really hate Sundays? No, of course not. What I hate is how that is the one day every week I am easily frustrated and agitated. I had the thought, I’m just going to stay home today before getting in the car the final time. But, if I would have done that Satan would have won and I would not have learned an important skill.

Side Note:

For those wondering where Zed was in this whole ordeal…he did breakfast for everyone, found all the shoes, cleaned up the dishes from the night prior, coaxed the girls into keeping on their clothes and not changing their minds for a fifth time, and got himself ready. He was very much a help, not looking forward to when he begins traveling for work again.

-S

Fill Your Life With Wonder

A few weeks ago we saw signs that the circus was coming to town. Zed and the kids have never seen a real circus so we immediately put it on our list of weekend activities. We showed up a couple minutes late, but were met by a very nice ticket taker who spoke no English. We figured out that it would cost €120 for the “good”seats and €80 for the cheap seats. If you could have been there to see the looks of this circus you would have be hesitant to pay €20 for entrance. The ticket taker rushed us in before we could make a decision and communicated to pay us after. She then disappeared, only to reappear in the circus itself as a trapeze artist. It was then that I began to seriously reconsider staying if the ticket taker was also part of the act. The kids insisted we stay so we chose seats.

The difference between the cheap seats and good seats was about 10 feet. The good seats were folding chairs and we elected to sit in the bleachers. Within 2 minutes I learned a very important lessons.

All four kids, and Zed, were transfixed by what they were watching. It was nothing equal to the Greatest Showman or Ringling Brothers. It was a family of 6 putting on a show. There were hula hoops (Zoe’s favorite), camels, horses, fire breathing, balancing acts, a clown, and Elsa showed up (a 7 year old girl dressed up and singing Let it Go in German). The entire time I watched as the kids’ eyes filled with wonder. A few minutes in, it didn’t matter that we couldn’t understand the words they were speaking, we still understood the intent.

At intermission Zed went out to pay for our tickets, to the clown this time. When he came back we made the decision that we will never limit our kids from an opportunity to be filled with wonder because of money. We are blessed to both have well-paying jobs and what is money if you don’t spend it on experiences that you can take with you rather than items you can’t.

Go out and do something that fills you with wonder today. That could be a walk through the woods, taking a drive down a back road, or trying a new food. It doesn’t have to be flashy, but it does need to make you feel something in your soul.

Happy Friday.

-S

It’s the Little Things

Tonight we stayed out late looking for a house. We saw two good options, but it meant we got home about 7:30. 7:30 is Zoe’s bed time. 7:30 and all kids are bathed. 7:30 and our family begins to calm down. Not tonight.

Side Note: I just looked up and had to tell Ana to stop putting the noodles up her nose.

I opened up my European sized refrigerator (think something a little larger than what you find in a hotel room) and saw not much. There was ground beef, milk, sliced cheese, yogurt, and salad. Now my Granny could easily make a 4 course meal out of those items, but I am not that skilled. Make grilled cheese…nope out of bread. Make a casserole with the potatoes I have…don’t have a dish or really a true oven. Spaghetti…my family is tired of that after eating it the past few days.

I did what any good millennial would do…I went to Pinterest. I found an easy potato and ground beef skillet recipe (that didn’t call for cream of mushroom, heavy cream, sour cream, etc). I began making the meal and put on the last of the spaghetti. Now it is 8pm, I taste the concoction and the potatoes were still raw and it tasted horrible. Prior to me breaking down Zed said he had it and set out in search of food, not forgetting to bring cash with him because most restaurants do not accept cards here. The kids were falling apart so I gave them the spaghetti and they ate two cans of green beans. Good thing they’re young.

How did I get myself in this predicament? The small refrigerator and not having a true grocery store on base is what I’m blaming. Really what it is, we haven’t figured out a good routine and once we find a house (everyone please say a prayer) things should relax a little more.

So…

Things taken for granted so far:

– A commissary on base

– Zillow

– A full sized refrigerator…we are coming from having a garage fridge, a deep freezer, an upright freezer, and the biggest residential refrigerator you can buy for inside the house

– fast food

Say a prayer the kids survive the next month or really until we find a house and move. I highly encourage you all to stay away until we have our lives figured out. Once that happens our home is open to visitors.

….

Zed just walked in with pepperoni pizza, spaghetti (haha!), schnitzel, French fries, and a coke. I got the kids bath started and piled them in; Zed came up and relieved me. I’m currently listening to Zoe say “Dada” over and over, Zed teach Mia how to use a handheld shower head (I don’t know the actual name), Ana trying to escape without clean hair, and Dax saying watch me and then giggle. An hour ago I was close to tears and now I’m relaxed and listening to my little big family enjoy each other. Though there is quite a bit to get used to here, this assignment is going to be a blessing for our family.

Dax and Zoe just came down stairs and Dax is currently trying to put Zoe’s diaper and PJs on. A camera crew really should be following us around.

-S