Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A New Tradition?

I'm not sure if we have started a new tradition or not, but the other day I realized that we've been in Iowa during the end of August and beginning of September for the last two years.  Last year, the kids and I were in Iowa for 2 weeks (and Minnesota for 1 week) while Jon was in Australia on a business trip.  We did all kinds of fun stuff with Jon's parents last year such as going to the Iowa state fair, swimming at a local water park on it's last day open for the season, fishing, golfing, and just doing fun "stuff" with Oma and Opa.

So far this trip, we have gone to the local water park on it's last day open for the season, gone fishing, gone golfing, gone to a science museum, and added a motor to a go cart they built last summer.  Tonight we are going to a local farm where the kids are going to be able to drive their own mini John Deere tractors.  Early this morning Jon left for another business trip (this time 4 days to Texas).  It sure is nice to have others around when Jon is on his business trips.  It makes the time go by more quickly and gives me adult conversation as well.

I'm not sure we'll do this again next summer but it has been nice being able to let the kids spend some quality time with Oma and Opa.  I remember such trips to visit my grandparent's fondly and I'm sure my kids will too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family Fun

I have not been a fan of fishing for many years.  I used to fish with my grandparents whenever we would visit them, but I would NEVER touch the worm or the fish.  What ultimately turned me off of fishing (and eating fish for many years after) was watching my grandfather clean a fish that was pregnant.

I still don't like to fish (again touching worms and squirmy fish does not appeal).  I also don't like the idea of fishing for sport.  It seems cruel to hook a fish knowing you will be immediately releasing them (not to mention the poor worms).

Well, last night the golf course community where my in-laws live had a "Fishing Derby."  The goal was to catch the largest fish (we didn't).  They also had a contest to see who could catch the largest frog (again we didn't, but there were some HUGE ones caught).  Then all the frogs that were caught were raced against each other to see whose would win (not us again).

I've already stated my opinion on catching fish for the sake of catching fish.  But I think the poor frogs had it even worse.  They were also caught with hooks (interesting how well it worked I must admit).  But that was not the worst part.  Some of the kids were really rough with their frogs.  I watched kids throw them high into the air toward the finish line (rather than coax them to jump that direction).

I am happy to say that my kids were very gentle with their frogs.  Unfortunately, they both had frogs that once put at the starting line just sat there stunned.  They did eventually move back into the pond but it involved picking them up and moving them to the edge of the water.

As barbaric as this exercise seemed to me (and hubby too), the kids had a great time.  Their fish and frogs did seem fine when we let them go back into the water, so I guess it was a good night.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Revamp or Give Up?

We have been visiting my in-laws and today they were out of the house so I decided it was a good opportunity for the kids to do some school.  The goal was to do a basic review and just get them both used to the idea that school will be starting in-force soon.
My daughter was excited.  She wants to start reading and doing math like her big brother.

Her big brother on the other hand, wanted (and wants) nothing to do with school.  He cried and whined about how much he hates school.  He told me he hates reading and writing and the only thing he likes is math and doing crafts.  I was able to get him to read a little and write even less, but it was like pulling teeth.

I've been reading around and getting advice from different people and I've heard the following:
  • Bribe him (paying him something like $.01 a page or a larger amount like $100 if he does it every day till ____).
  • Force him to do school.
  • Send him to school so someone else is forcing him to do school.
  • Send him to a Montessori school so it's at least a little less formal.
  • Leave him alone.  He'll get with the program when he's ready. 
I have so many things running through my head right now that I just don't know what to do.  Jon was a reluctant learner till he was about 9 (so I have 1.5 more years).  I want to leave him alone and see if he will come around on his own, but I also don't want to get in trouble with the school system.

Any new suggestions our there?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Up Close and Personal

Jon has been friends with T for 20 years.  They have traveled long distances together and even lived together for multiple summers.  It's safe to say that they know each other pretty well.  But it's amazing what you learn about people when you help them pack.

For example, among other things we learned:
  • Their friends LOVE giving gift cards.  We found them all over the house.  Some had been partially used and some had not.  
  • We already knew that they had a love of books, but you don't realize just how much till you have to pack them and lug them around.
  • Their dog is the sheddingist dog I've ever seen.  I mean, it's impossible to keep up with the hair he produces.  I would sweep a room after it had been cleaned of all their luggage and stuff and then someone else would come in behind me and they thought I hadn't done anything.  I do not envy the sweeping that will have to happen in Qatar (where the lows don't go below the 70's - ever).
  • Only offer to help with laundry if you are OK with seeing all their dainties.
  • People change as they get closer and closer to a deadline and there was no exception in this case either.  It's amazing to see how attitudes and priorities change when they realize time is running out and they HAVE to get certain things done in a very short time.
I've helped people move boxes before and in those situations you just learn how much stuff they have.  When you actually help people box up their lives for storage or shipment you really do learn a lot about them.  Be warned.  Only offer to do this if you know you are OK with learning new things about them, because you may find some interesting and strange stuff that could change your opinions about them (for the better or worse). 

Good news T & K... we still love you and would do it again if necessary.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A New Addition

Guess what?  We have a new addition to our household.  We have a "new" cat.  Our friends who just moved to Qatar have been trying to find her a new home for a while.  She's 11 year old and declawed.  We know how hard it can be to find an older cat a home (we did it a year ago).  It's even harder because they want the option of taking her back when they come back stateside.

We have taken care of this cat before.  In fact, she and Jon ended up with a bit of a love-hate relationship from that time together.  You see, while she was with us, we had her declawed (upon the request of her owner).  After I took off her pain patch early one morning, she promptly found Jon and treated him poorly (I won't go into specifics.  Let's just say it was not pretty.). 

Since then, she has been known to run away, vomit, and hiss whenever she sees him.  This time though she has mellowed a bit.  There was no vomiting or hissing and she even lets him hold her.  We realize we have a ways to go before she is comfortable, but at least we are making progress.  And her "owner" is happy that she's with someone who loves cats and has children which will keep her acclimated to such things (since they have a 16 mo old).

Unfortunately, all this change has affected the cat in some less than desirable ways. We have traveled with her before and she did very well that time.  In fact, she curled up in our laps or on our sholders in the car and slept most of the way.

The two days we just finished traveling were very different.  She pooped in the truck minutes after refusing to use the litter box (luckily we had vinyl down to protect the seats from the kids), meowed most of the way, and every time she got nervous she would climb into my lap and invariably scratch me.  I think all of this has determined that while traveling she will be in the camper rather than the truck.  We did that for the last part of the trip yesterday and it seemed to work better for not only us but her as well.

We're excited about our new addition, but can't wait to be in a house so that she can settle into her new life.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Score One for Me

While helping our friends pack to move overseas, we learned something very important.  We learned that it's very expensive to take care of a horse.  We've always known that horses were not cheap, but what we really learned was that it can cost upwards of $20,000 once the horse has been "retired."  What is retired?  That means the horse cannot be ridden anymore. 

One of the things drawing Jon to Texas was land so that we can have a horse or two.  I think the discovery of how much it could cost to care for a horse after it can no longer be ridden has officially deterred Jon from wanting to own a horse now.  That is now one less thing that makes Texas so appealing.  Score one for me and my desire to stay in Florida! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Joy in Her Eyes

Today was a good day.  Nope.  Today was a great day!  After 10 days of helping our friends pack we decided not to get back on the road just yet so we had a day of leisure... the kids and I actually got to use the pool at the campground.  Boy was it an expensive swim.  But it was SO worth it. 

You see, today my daughter overcame her fear and she put her face in the water.  Not only that, but she completely submerged her whole body under the water.  And then she swam about 10 feet before inhaling water.  But you know what?  That didn't deter her and she tried again.  She still has a long way to go, but today was the turning point.  Today she overcame her fear and there will be no stopping her.

The shear joy in her face as she shivered her way back to the camper to tell Daddy that she could swim was a sight to behold.  Days like today make all the rough days as a mom worth it. 

Pain Relief!

I'm not sure what caused it, but about 3 months ago my sciatic nerve started bothering me.  I've had it happen before, but the pain didn't last nearly as long that time.  The good news is that I think I've found the answer... regular use of a hot pad and stretching.

One of the first things I did when I got to Virginia was to see a chiropractor.  When I had the sciatic problem before, he was able to adjust me and it was fine in a couple days.  Unfortunately, I think I let it sit so long it didn't fix quite so easily this time.  He was able to give me some stretches to do and they helped.  It wasn't until I started using a hot pad a couple times a day that the pain would actually not be present when I woke up in the morning (when it would bother me the most).

Interestingly enough, when we visited Jon's grandparents recently, I found out that his grandmother was having the same problem (on the same side no less).  She'd been given some stretches as well but she hadn't been using a hot pad either.  I mentioned it and she decided to give it a try right then and there (it was bothering her at the time).  Guess what?  It worked for her too! 

Now, if only I could stop lugging boxes (or children) for a few days, maybe it would get completely better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Role Reversal

Late Summer 2010

Our lease in Virginia was up and we were being told that a visa to move to Australia was in the works and we should be moving down under in about 3 - 6 months.  We decided to sell our furniture and move to a house in Ohio that had been on the market for a while but was furnished.  The price was right for us, and it worked out for the owners (people we knew from church) because their house wouldn't be sitting empty and we were both willing to work with 1 month notice.  This house was particularly convenient because Jon's best friend and his family lived 1 hour away.  We ended up in Ohio for only 2 months or so, but we were able to get together numerous times.  I remember a conversation we had about our plans to travel the country in a camper while we waited for the visa to get processed.

Fast forward to present day...Late Summer 2011

We are back in Ohio.  This time we are here to help Jon's best friend and family get packed and on a plane.   You see, earlier this year, he agreed to take a 2 year teaching job at an international school in Qatar.

I'm very happy for them to have this opportunity.  I just find it interesting that the roles have been reversed a bit.  We ARE living in a camper like we mentioned we were thinking about doing a year ago, but they are the ones getting on a plane today that is taking them overseas.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Yesterday morning, the kids and I hopped in the truck and drove to a park to meet a friend of mine who I have not seen in 10 years.  She happens to have a daughter who is around the ages of both my kids so the kids played while we caught up.

Needless to say many things have happened since we saw each other last, so there was lots to catch up on. That said, she and I have that kind of relationship where we can just pick up like we saw each other just the other day.  Facebook has certainly helped us keep in touch over the last couple years, but even before that, we always seem to pick up where we left off.

In the afternoon, the kids and I picked up Jon and headed off to our friends to help them with their air freight pickup as well as some final packing.  We also had dinner with some friends of theirs (who happen to be moving into their house once they are gone).  They are a very sweet couple and I can certainly understand why they get along so well.  If we lived in the area, I would guess we would get together with them on occasion as well.

Days like yesterday just make me so thankful for the friends I have (especially the once I've had for many years and who still like me and "get" me) as well as the opportunity I have of making new friends.  Friends have a way of enriching our lives like nothing else can.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Day of Rest

In our house, Sunday is typically a day of rest.  That means that after church we take it easy.  That could mean a nap, watching TV, reading books, knitting, or visiting with family or friends. 

Being that the friends we are helping move right now, are having their air freight picked up today (Monday), our typical Sunday did not happen.  Rather, Jon slept in (he fell down some stairs on Saturday so he was a bit sore and didn't sleep all that well) and then we went over to our friend's house to help finalize the shipment being picked up today.

Even though there was boxing, hauling, and labeling of packages it was still a restful day in a way.  It's amazing how enjoyable packing can be when you are having good conversations with friends.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ohio Observations

Many of my readers may not be aware, but I grew up in Ohio.  Most of my life was spent in Virginia, but some of my most formative years were spent in Ohio (I remember our house and a few of the places we visited often to this day).  Anyway, when you live in Ohio as a child there are some things you miss.

For example, when trying to get directions from our friends, they asked, "Do you know where route XX is?"  My reply, "Uh, no."  In Virginia, it would be a case of, "Take a right and drive till you see an Exxon gas station.  Then turn right."  In Ohio, that doesn't work, because it would be something like this, "Take a right at the end of the street.  Then drive till you pass the 5th corn field.  Then turn right.  Go past a soy bean field and turn left.  You'll see the park in another 1/2 mile."

I also don't remember seeing a Mennonite woman (dressed in typical Mennonite attire) get into a $60K Mercedes before.

There must not be much to do in the burbs of Ohio but camp.  I remember as a child going camping in our pop-up camper.  When it came time to find a campground for this trip, it was hard to do.  Not because they don't exist, but because most of the campgrounds I found that weren't run down were state parks which had no sewer hook ups (something we can live without for a while, but not for 10 days).  We have also found that our campground fills up on the weekends (starting on Thurs night).  Because of that, the campground charges more on the weekends (supply and demand).  Oh, and their weekday rates are the highest we've paid yet.  I know from looking at brochures of places we stayed in Florida, the rates are higher here in Ohio than the premium charged at most places in Florida during the winter too!

I must say, the temperatures the last few days have been spectacular though!  With the exception of some wind and rain that rolled in suddenly last night, it's been just about perfect.  I can't remember if this is typical or not, but I will certainly take if over the 95+ temps we had in Virginia.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Banking at it's Finest

About 6 years ago we switched banks.  It was an easy decision to make.  You see, we'd deposited a check and had the receipt proving we'd made the deposit, but the bank could not find a record of it so they spent 2 weeks looking for it.  Finally they decided to deposit the money in our account even though they couldn't figure out where it had gone (internally any way).  That was a $30 check.  At the time, my husband's company was getting one check that was worth 800 times that.  We decided that if they "misplaced" one of those checks, we'd be in deep trouble... thus we switched banks.

Rather than use a local bank we ended up switching to a national chain.  We wanted to have the ability to access the money from all over the country especially since we weren't sure we wanted to stay where we were at the time (Guess what? We didn't).  As some of my readers are probably aware, when all the bank problems happened a few years ago, some bank mergers happened (mine included).  Since then, they have been slowly moving my bank to the "new" bank.

Last weekend, all account holders who opened their accounts in Virginia were converted (meaning us).  Being that we had 2 companies and our personal accounts to convert, I went a little type A... OK, I went completely type A.  The night before the conversion was supposed to start, I ended up printing off copies of all my balances and online bill pays for all my accounts.

The day after the conversions were supposed to be complete, I went online to check things and both companies were converted just fine.  The problem came when I went to look at our personal accounts.  The accounts themselves had been moved over, but I couldn't find a record of any of my online bill pay stuff.  There were no vendors listed, nor were the 4 payments that I'd set up before the conversion (one of which was set to be paid two days after the conversion).  That necessitated a phone call to my new bank.  After a 45 minute phone call with them, I was told to give the vendor a call whose payment was due the next day and see if they got the payment.

I didn't end up calling the vendor on the date the payment was supposed to be paid because I went online and guess what?  Everything had miraculously shown up!  (Being that I'm a type A person I did call the vendor the next day and found out that the payment was in fact made on time.)

Except for a little bit of a hiccup, the conversion went well.  Overall, I'm pleased.  I just wish they would have called or sent me an email after they'd found my missing data.  Unfortunately, I think that's typical of just about all business dealings.  They fix the problem you call about, but they don't notify you that it's been dealt with. Why is that?  Are they too lazy or is it just the new (low) standard?

Friday, August 12, 2011


Earlier this week, some people I know witnessed a horrific accident.  They quickly jumped into action but in the end were not able to help the people involved in the accident.  Afterwords, they said it was the worst thing they've ever experienced... being completely helpless as you watch and know that someone is or has died right in front of you.  After speaking to the authorities, they all decided they were going to go out and "Enjoy Life."

That got me thinking.  In light of the fact that life can be very short, what if anything would I do differently.  What does "enjoying life" look like for me?  For the most part, I have no regrets.  I am not going to be one of those people who wishes I'd had time to visit a certain place.  Rather, I would be the person to regret not doing something with or saying something to someone.

To that end, I want to make sure I make time for family (spouse, kids, parents, grandparents, siblings, etc).  I want to make sure I make time for friends.  I want to make sure they all know how much I care for and love them. 

To my regular readers... thank you for consistently reading my blog.  It shows me how much you care about me and my family.  We love you too!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

View From the Outside

Last night, we went to a prayer meeting with our friends.  The kids had a great time paying hide and seek with some kids their ages and of course we got to meet some really nice people as well.  Everyone knew we were there to help our friends pack for their move next week, so they were curious to know where we lived and how it was that Jon was able to take off work to help out.

We told them of Jon's ability to work anywhere there was Internet (which of course they found cool).  Then we told them of the fact that we were living in a camper (which they found interesting from the perspective that we've been and will be able to see lots of the US traveling around).  Then Jon mentioned Australia and the fact that we've been in limbo for the last year and then attitudes changed.  Then they got sympathetic.  It almost seemed like they were pitying us because we were in such a horrible position.

I admit, there are times when I wish our living situation was different (usually when the kids are fighting over a toy and I have no way of really separating them in the camper), but for the most part I've actually enjoyed living in the camper.  I don't see our living situation as horrible at all.  It truly has given us opportunities that others have not had.  I think it's even brought the kids closer to their dad (kinda hard not to do when you are in such close quarters).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Family Stories

As regular readers are aware, within the last 15 months, Karrie has lost her 3 remaining grandparents.  Living in Virginia for pretty much all the years of our marriage has allowed Jon and I to live no more than 3 hours away from one set of his grandparents.  Since we are going to be moving out of the area, we decided that when we were in the area on this trip, that we HAD to visit them.

The last time we saw them was Easter, so it's been a while.  Every time we see them, I am amazed at how much they are able to do.  I pray that I am fortunate enough to be able to handle as many of the day-to-day chores when I am in my 90's as they do.  Yep, you read that right.  Jon's grandfather will be 94 next month and he still does yard work!  In fact, when we got there, he was power washing patio chairs.  His grandmother will be 91 in a few months and she cooks feasts whenever we visit.

Upon our arrival, Jon was put to work doing a couple things around the house that were a bit difficult for his grandfather to do.  While that was going on, the kids and I played a few games with Jon's grandmother.  My son won the game of dominoes, while my daughter won the game of Monopoly.

I think the part of the trip that Jon and I enjoyed most however, was listening to his grandparents tell the story of how they meet and their first year together.  They were married during World War II so it is quite the story.  60+ years later they are the epitome of the happy couple that I hope Jon and I will be some day.  I think it's safe to say that we are happy we made the trip (even though we spent 4.5 hours in the car to do so).

We are already planning to spend more time with them when we come up to see our nephew in a couple months so we can hear the rest of their story.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Trip to Ohio in Numbers

Day 1
Miles traveled: 286
Hours traveled: 6
Bathroom / gas stops: 2
Average traveling speed: 45MPH 
Average mpg: 7.5

Day 2
Miles traveled: 236
Hours traveled: 4.5
Bathroom / gas stops: 2
Average traveling speed: 60MPH 
Average mpg: 12

The difference:  5 "heap big" hills and a rain storm we had to deal with on day 1.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dreaming of Baby

My nephew that is.  Today I went to a baby shower for my sister-in-law.  I was able to surprise her too!  Originally we were not going to be in the area, but we decided to postpone our departure from VA a couple days so I could go.  As some of you know, I've been working on some knitting projects for my nephew and now that they have been given, I figured I would share pictures of them.

I'm not sure if the pictures show the detail well, but I tried sticking with a theme... hearts.  I found a really cute pattern for a hat with hearts on it and then I decided to adjust the pattern a bit to make it smaller and then add it to the mittens and socks as well.

I don't know what it is, but I'm already attached to this little fella.  I can't wait to meet him (and spoil him).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Huge Sigh of Relief

Today I took my daughter to get an ultrasound of her abdomen.  Yes, my 5YO daughter got a sonogram.  The last few months she's gotten multiple UTI's and her pediatrician decided that we needed to make sure that 1. she hadn't damaged anything or 2. that there wasn't some underlying problem that was causing them.

As we were sitting there waiting, I looked around at all the other people waiting for their particular procedure.  It's safe to say she was the youngest there by at least 20 - 30 years.  Then it hit me... my 5YO daughter could have a serious problem... something that could require surgery, or worse, could end with her having a shorter life that I would like for her to have. 

So what did I do?  I said a quick prayer that everything would be ok.  And guess what?  Not only did I feel peace immediately, but the radiologist and her pediatrician both said she has a clean bill of health.  Praise God!  Not that we know exactly why she's been getting the UTI's, but at this point I could care less about that.  I'm just glad that my baby girl doesn't have a serious malady.

Oh, and did I mention she had a great time getting "tickled" by the ultrasound wand and her big brother loved watching how it all worked.  All-in-all a good (yet I'm sure expensive) day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

SO Over It!

I think I've just about hit the end of my rope when it comes to living in the camper.  Last night, my kids had yet another whine fest over having to share a room with their sibling.  You see, my daughter likes to flip through books when she goes to bed (Where did that come from, I wonder?).  Unfortunately, my son has trouble sleeping when she's doing this.

Last night he asked to  go to bed before her so he could fall asleep before she even got in the room.  I gave him 30 minutes before bringing her to bed and he hadn't fallen asleep yet.  Then the whining commenced in earnest.  Tonight I'm going to try to put her to bed first and see what happens.

All I know is that I can't wait for them to have their own rooms again.  Then they won't be able to keep each other up at night or wake each other up (and me with their whining and screaming) early in the morning.  I'll even be able to better separate them when they start to bother each other (or me).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Book Lover in Need of a Book

I love to read right before I go to bed.  I've been doing it since I was in elementary school.  I remember many nights in high school where I got only a couple hours of sleep because I was reading a book that I just couldn't put down.  I even remember the names of a few.

Talking with my husband about books, I discovered that his required high school reading list was very different than mine (he went to an International school in Germany and I went to a small Christian school in Virginia) .  In fact, it would appear that my repertoire of classic literature is quite lacking.  To that end, I have been reading classics that I have never read before (it doesn't hurt that I have no access to a library while on the road and I can download most of them for free onto my iPad).

Recently, I have read Treasure Island, The Jungle Book, Oliver Twist, and The Scarlet Letter.   Now that I've finished the series I got from the library in Virginia I'm in need of another classic I can take on the road.

What are some books that you think I should put on my must-read list?  Any I should avoid?