Tuesday, December 27, 2011

To Berlin!!!

I've been wanting to go on a trip since we got to Germany almost 5 months ago. I can't believe it's already been 5 months! Things were so busy with getting settled and acquainted with our new home we just haven't had much time. We had to focus on getting our family back together.. (i.e. my baby girls home with their momma). My mom came for a quick visit in November and we visited Garmisch. We made it to the top of Zugspitz and spent an afternoon in the snow. It was wonderful, but it left me wanting more. I begged John to plan a trip for us during Christmas break. He pulled through and booked us a hotel in Berlin for 3 nights! It was a fabulous "short trip". We brought the dogs with us to save on kenneling them. That probably won't be happening again ;).

The trip from our home was just about 4 hours. We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express. It was about 70 euro per night, but they also charged 18 euro for parking per day. And if you bring your pets, it is an additional 11 euro per day. The rooms were very small, but clean and the beds were comfortable. I do wish I had brought my own pillows! There was a small sofa in the room that pulled out into a bed for Aidan, and during the day we folded that up to make room for the doggie Kennel. We take it everywhere we bring the dogs just in case there are any mishaps.

We got a late start and arrived in Berlin around 5pm. So it was already dark. But wonderful for me since I am obsessed with capturing architecture at night. I love how romantic the lighted buildings become after sunset. Our first stop was the famous Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt. We were told that there are about 80 Christmas markets just in Berlin, but this one was supposed to be the best. Even had to pay 1 euro each upon entering. The lights were beautiful and the atmosphere was cheerful. Angels on stilts floated through the crowds, and people gathered at the fountain to watch comical skits. We were adventurous and tried new food too! Even Aidan enjoyed it!

Next we got in the car and drove around the city. Berlin is pretty big but not incredibly hard to navigate by GPS. Parking on the other hand... HA! After driving for what seemed to be more than an hour, we finally found a spot along the road and planned to walk for the rest of the evening. We first walked about half a mile to the Brandenburger Tor (the gate into Berlin).

Right around the corner and down a block was the Reichstag (Berlin parliament building).

On the way back to the car we stopped along the road to take pictures of the lighted trees down the way. What a beautiful city during Christmas!

The following day, I gave John all freedom in choosing what he wanted to see. He plotted our route and realized our hotel building was only about half a mile to Checkpoint Charlie! So we did some more walking! Aidan had his photo made with the guards at the checkpoint, and then we proceeded into the museum on the corner.

I am not one to enjoy reading about history... but John is... and he was swallowed by it. We spent almost 2 hours in that museum. We learned a lot about the Wall, and about the people trying to escape from it. I must say... there were some interesting photographs to see! After the museum, we walked to find the actual Wall still standing. Not just a piece of it... a long stretch of it. It was located right outside the Topography of Terror. There I stopped to take a rest on a bench while John did some more reading ;).

We had plans to meet up with John's Aunt's Friends... so we headed back to the hotel for a quick dog walk and waited for their call. They met us at the hotel and walked with us to the subway. The subway was extremely easy to use! We had plans to take a tour bus the following day, but decided the subway was cheaper and easier! The tour buses were around 20 euro per person, less for children. But the subway was only 15 euro for all 3 of us to ride all day!!! Of course, the tour buses have guides and english speakers, so if that's what you're looking for, it may be worth your while. Our new German friends showed us around the city. We walked to see Museum Island, and the Berliner Dom.

They also showed us a wonderful little shopping area. They brought us to the cutest little shop called AmpelMann. In Germany the walking lights have cute little man symbols for stop and walk.

This shop was built around the idea of that symbol which is called the AmpelMann. It was such a nice experience to see something your every day tourist probably wouldn't see.

After that, they took us to an awesome brewery for dinner. It was right on the corner across from the Gendarmenmarkt. A fabulous meal, and very inexpensive. And the beer was quite tasty ;).

On our last day, we experienced the subway ALONE! John did wonderful navigating the system and took us to Potsdamer Platz where Aidan rode a tube down a man made snow slope.

While there, we also saw another Christmas market. Down the street a little ways was a Cinema that had movies playing in ENGLISH!!! Good to know... but not enough time to stop. Christmas themed statues made from Lego's filled the core and Aidan stopped for photos at each of them.

Back on the subway we went to find Alexander Platz! There we perused 2 more Christmas markets and Aidan spent an hour ice skating around a fountain.

We also checked out the Berlin 360 tower. We went in to see how much the tickets were to get to the top, but decided to save it for next time. If you go to the top of the tower you can see all of Berlin. I want to say the tickets to the top were around 15 euro per person, but don't quote me on that.

Then back on the subway we went to head back to the hotel before dinner with our German friends. They invited us over to their house and we enjoyed talking and drinking schnapps! What a lovely family they were!

I loved visiting Berlin, and have definite plans to go back again (with better walking shoes)! There is so much to see, our 3 days did not do it justice. To see more photos from our trip... check out my Facebook album: BERLIN

Friday, December 2, 2011


From the moment we became parents, we knew we wanted more. We wanted to have at least two children close in age so they could grow up together. So they could "share" childhood memories. John and I both had that. I have 3 younger brothers and he has 2 younger brothers. It hasn't really worked out the way we'd planned. We do love being able to give Aidan everything a little boy could want. Spoiling him to his hearts content. But he's growing up. He's 12! I can't believe I can say I have a 12 year old. Where did the time go? Just yesterday I picked up my little 4 pound baby and kissed him on his cheek. Now.. he is almost as tall as me and moving on to high school. Next time I turn around, he will be off to College!

We have been trying probably about as long as Aidan has been around. I mean... John hasn't been home with us the entire 12 years. He was in Korea for most of the first year after Aidan was born, and then several deployments after that. I remember the moment when we realized it wasn't going to be an easy task. John came home for his first deployment in Iraq. Shortly after, I found out I was pregnant. We were thrilled. But it just wasn't meant to be. It was an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured, resulting in the removal of one of my tubes. The doctors told me it was still possible to conceive another child and that I should not give up. We discussed fertility treatments, but in the states it all seemed so scary and "expensive". But people told me Germany had great clinics and high success rates. It was always a plan to use his Army career to our benefit and make use of the amazing travel opportunities. So we sat still in Clarksville, TN and waited for our chance. I'm not saying we came to Germany just to make a baby... but it was definitely on the pro side of our list.

Now that we're here, I am ready to readdress the whole baby issue. I wasn't sure how long it would take me to get the ball rolling, but I met this girl who was planning on doing the same thing. I took it as a sign. She pushed me to make my appointment and I did. John and I went in to see Dr. V a couple of days ago. I'm not sure exactly what I expected. I kind of knew what he was going to say, but in my heart I was hoping he would give me an easy answer. Germans are very straight to the point. I like that. But I am a sensitive person. I cry for no reason. I make mountains out of mole hills. I go into little bouts of paranoia. I stress over stupid little details. This is me... and I wonder where Aidan gets it from.

Anyway. Dr V told us basically what we already knew. He said we were wasting time. 12 years is too long to be trying for a baby. He gave us 2 options. 1. "The long route" (lots of testings on every little aspect of each of us to find the answer to our sterility). or 2. Jump right into In Vitro Fertilization. Not to say #2 is going to work right away or even work at all. But he suggested that this was our best option. I was not ready to give up on the long route so quickly. After all... Tricare covers most of the things that were involved in that, but they DO NOT cover IVF. Although... it is cheaper here than it is in the states. John and I went home and discussed more. We decided that we are not getting any younger. And we decided that we really don't have much more time to do "the long route". We have been saving for a couple of years so financially we can do it. But it is going to be awful if at least one of those little embryo's doesn't stick!

I emailed Dr. V and told him what we wanted to do and he is having me come in and start the tests and drugs and all that in January. But actually do the IVF in February. I am confused on what all goes into this, but I have a month to google my eyeballs off. John keeps teasing that he wants twins. I could be happy with that. But it's hard enough making one right now, I have no expectations of making more. Only time will tell :).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

PCS'ing to Germany (Part 6/ Communication)...

Will I be able to call you? Can you call me? Of course! It's not as hard as you may think to communicate across countries. Germany isn't on some other planet without definite signs of life or technology. We do have phones... we do have internet. It's just like it is in the US. Our internet connection is a little slow since we live in a very small village further away from everything, but we get great connection for the first 10 days of the month and I am always able to chat or send messages through the ever so faithful FACEBOOK!

Our cell phones however, were not transferable from the US to Germany. As long as both the soldiers name and spouses name are on your orders, AT&T will cancel your current plan without a fee (I'm not sure about other US plans... but I'm sure it should be the same). We had to purchase new ones here in Germany. But on base we have a small TKS phone office (T-mobile). First you may want to find out what service all of your friends and co-workers use. There is another service called Vodafone, but most of the people we speak to use T-mobile... so you get to talk for free (mobile to mobile). If you choose the wrong provider, you may end up having to pay to call some of your friends if they don't have the same one :( . We were able to set up our service the day after we arrived. John got a small plan for 29 euro that did not include much data. But for me, I need to check emails for my business so mine was around 59 euro. We got our phones with our plan for only 1 euro. And yes... they do offer IPHONES!!!! I wanted to use my iphone, but you have to find out how to unlock it and I just don't feel like finding out how to do that. I hear it's a pain in the butt.

For our home phone, we added an unlimited long distance option for only 5 euro! So I can call any of my friends and family back in the US and not have to worry about long distance charges. Sweet right? Easy Peasy! The only set back is the time difference, but once you figure out what works for everyone... you are good to go!!!!

Can my US friends and family call me? Not without a fee :(. BUT... a couple of my Germany friends have Vonage. From what I understand, they have it set up so they have a local US number. So their US friends and family can call them without the extra fees. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but it might be something to look into if you plan on receiving a lot of stateside calls. I am on FB alot checking for messages from clients and things... so if anything my people just ping me real quick and tell me to call them. It works for me :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

PCS'ing to Germany (Part 5/ Finding a House)...

I love this one :). I did tons of research before I got here looking for living arrangements. Quite honestly... none of that research needed to be done. People told me to hire a real estate agent, but there really wasn't a point (especially when there was an extra fee involved). I also searched far and wide on all the Classified websites. I found a few that were adorable, but you really can't KNOW until you get here.

Anyways... we had an incredible sponsor. Probably the best. I keep hearing bad reviews about sponsors, but Jason was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! He really prepared us and put us on the right track to what needed to get done. The day after we arrived here in Germany, he drove around with us looking at available houses. We were told to do a search on AHRN.com to see what our options were. We printed off several homes that met our requirements and we were off! There was one house that stood out to me on our drivebys. It was the one I had my heart set on. I hadn't even seen the inside yet... but it was PERFECT for our family. Just PERFECT! It was a little out of our price range, but we figured out that we could make it work with what we were alloted for OHA and our utility supplement. Seriously... the army pays you EXTRA for utilities in Germany???? How easy!!

On Monday morning I went to the housing office and they gave me the letter of exception to allow us to live off post. But they would only allow us to make appointments to view 2 homes. I immediately told them I wanted to see this ONE. And we were off again. We went to the second one first but it did not make me happy one bit. Next we landed at our cute little cottage... the one I had my heart set on. The landlord was friendly and even made an exception to their pet policy. We smiled every time we entered a new room. I felt at home. We had to have it. And we did. We signed for it 2 days later and it was ours.

I am still in love with it. We have a yard! A garden! A 2 car garage! And no backyard neighbors... just open fields. I keep begging them to let us stay here longer than 3 years... but we will see where life takes us when the time is right. Until then, I am happy in my little corner of the world :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

PCS'ing to Germany (Part 3B/Pets)...

I got distracted and have not written in nearly 3 months! It has been a busy 3 months. Arriving in Germany, getting settled in our new home, setting up my business, and learning the lay of the land. I don't think it's possible to explain everything that has happened in those 3 months. We love our new house, we love Germany, and to top it off... Our doggies came home! All that fuss about getting them shipped over here and it was kind of easy! When we left, it was the middle of summer. Most of the airlines told us they were not allowed to ship pets at the moment because the temperatures were too high and it would be dangerous for the animals. So we left them with our parents. We are forever grateful to them for caring for our babies for 3 months. The paperwork was ridiculous. The shots were all updated, but they needed the forms to be signed in BLUE ink. What is the difference right?? Then they had to get a health certificate within 10 days... and have a raised stamp. Mom's vet didn't have a stamp so she had to drive 2 hours away to get that. Well guess what... all that leg work and the airport didn't even ask for the paperwork! I was a little surprised when I've heard customs horrer stories about dogs being shipped BACK to the states for not having some miniscule piece of information. Oh well... it is done... they are home, and I am enjoying a nice relaxing visit with my mom :).

If anyone ever runs into issues shipping pets... just know that it is cheaper to ship them ACCOMPANIED! Sending them unaccompanied was going to cost us over $3000! But with my mom, we just paid for her ticket (maybe $800 with taxes)... and then another $200 per crate when she arrived at the airport and checked the dogs in. Much cheaper, and if you get the ticket early enough... it will be even lower!

The point is.... My babies are home!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Are we there yet???

I feel like we've been driving for ages.  So far we've driven to and from Alabama (7 hrs each way), to Arizona (26 hours), to El Paso (8 hours),  to Austin (9 hours) then back to Clarksville (13 hours), then to and from St. Louis (4 hours each way).

John had some training at Fort Rucker, so Aidan and I tagged along to get a little beach time in.  I brought my mom down also and we visited Destin, FL.  It rained almost the entire time we were there, but we still managed to make a good time of it!  

Next we drove back to c-ville so John could finish clearing and ship off the rest of our things.  We sent Aidan and Gma off on a plane back to AZ so we would have room in the car for the fur babies.  

John and I loaded up the Cadillac with all four of our pets and drove all the way to Az.  We spent 3 days with my family getting Bailey and Kahlua all settled in at their new home.  I miss them incredibly, but know they will be well cared for and probably even more spoiled when I get them back!  It was a nice relaxing visit.

On our way to Austin, we stopped for a night in El Paso to have a quick visit with gma and gpa Kimball.  We also got to see Johns aunts and uncles.  It was a nice little visit.  Gma stuffed us like little piggies!

In Austin we saw Nana and dropped off the kitties to their new home.  Aidan is going to miss those fur balls, but we know they will also be well taken care of until we can get them back.  We also met our beautiful new niece and visited with the rest of the Armstrong family.

In St. Louis we dropped off our Cadillac to be shipped over the pond, but decided to stay an extra day to take Aidan to Six flags for part of his birthday celebrations!  It was hot, but soo worth it!  He had a blast!  

And now we are headed back to Clarksville to finish up a few last details before we ship ourselves over to Germany.  Only a few more days but it seems like we have been in transition forever!!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011


The house has been packed into crates and sent to the ships. Every wall, every baseboard painted fresh. Every fingerprint, every noticeable sign of life erased from what we knew as our HOME in Clarksville. Well... what Aidan and I knew as home. John didn't spend much time in that house, but I had a hard time letting go. The weeks leading up to the goodbye were incredibly emotional for me. I cried as I watched the movers box our things, and I cried the morning my boys left me alone in that house. I stayed another 2 days alone there. I think it was good for me. I was able to reflect on what I had there and also dream about what we have to come. And now we wait... in this strange sort of Limbo. We don't have a home to call our own. We will bounce around from hotel to hotel for the next 2 months. Already 2 weeks into our hotel stay and I am going stir crazy! We had a little trip to the beach this weekend and I couldn't get enough. I am happy for the friends I've made in all of these places. I'll always have someone to come back to. I don't have anymore moving tips right now. Most of our plans fell through. Our pets will no longer be joining us in Germany as we had hoped. I will continue to try to get my babies to me, but for now our parents have so graciously offered to care for them until we can make further arrangements. Now we will take it one day at a time and try to enjoy the summer :)

Here is a photo of my boys at our favorite beach... Destin, FL!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

PCS'ing to Germany (Part 4/Temporary Living)...

We've been putting it off, waiting for our actual date of arrival. My friend kept reminding me to make a reservation at the Inn on Base. Here we are about 2.5 months before arriving, and they are already booking up. It was possible that we could have even got a pet friendly room. But all of those rooms are already taken! It's ok, because we were provided with a list of local kennel services. These services cost anywhere from 9-12 Euro per pet, per day. Oh well...you snooze you lose right? The good thing is that we have a room reservation on base. If we hadn't done this, they would put us in a hotel off post which we would have had to pay out of pocket and that can be expensive. Yes, you would be reimbursed "later" but who has the money to pay up front for everything during a move like this! Short story... make your reservations months in advance!!!!

UPDATE: We DO have a pet room now! Yay! No off post kennels to worry about (crossing my fingers)!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PCS'ing to Germany (Part 3/Pets)...

This has been the one thing that I've been most worried about for this move. We have 2 dogs and 2 cats. In prior moves it wasn't a big deal because we just drove ourselves and our dogs and cats with us to the next station. But this time we have to fly. There are rules for flying with pets, and rules for taking them overseas. I'm not sure what all of that entails just yet but I want to explain my experience up until now.

I've read and researched... but for the most part, I've listened to rumors. Scary rumors. You can only take 2 pets. It costs over $1000 per pet. You have to put your pets in quarantine for 2 months. RUMORS! Do not listen to the rumors. Do the research yourself, it will ease your mind a bit. John set up our flight date and at the appointment they told him he would get an email explaining what he needed to do next. And THEN we could call the airline that was flying us and find out how they handle pets. But in the meantime, we were waiting for this email that we were supposed to get the next week. 1 month later we still hadn't received it so I had him call. That's all it took. A phone call. Why are men so afraid to make those phone calls? It could have saved us a lot of stressful worry. I'm not saying the worrying is over... it's still there... but it's a relief to know exactly what needs to happen now.

Basically what we were told was all pets need to have their vaccinations taken care of 10 days before departure. Not earlier. I'm not sure if that means you can get it done 8 days before you leave or 15 days before you leave. But you'll bet I'll be making our vet visit exactly 10 days before we leave just to be safe! As far as I know, there are no quarantine laws in Germany, but we will have to make arrangements with a kennel to care for them while we look for housing.

Our particular airline (I think it's American Airlines) will allow you to travel with up to 5 kennels. Each kennel can hold 2 pets, but the total weight (including the kennel) cannot exceed 100 lbs. So if you have 2 small cats weighing only 10 lbs each, they can go together in one small kennel. That takes care of the cats. But the dogs are a bit heavier so they will have to go in separate kennels. The cost for each kennel is $150. Not $600... not $1000. Thank you God the bank account can breathe. There is still one slight worry though. If the temperature is higher than 85 degrees at the time of departure, they will not ship your pets and you will need to setup separate travel through a pet shipping company. We are traveling in a summer month... so there is still some concern. BUT... our plan is to wait for our itinerary and if our departure flight is during the day, we'll try to reschedule it to a morning or evening hour. Keep your fingers crossed... because we do not want to go through a pet shipping
company. I have no idea how much trouble that will add. But for now... a little of those rumor worries are eased.

UPDATE (Thanks to my friend for providing me with this helpful information!):

-Get them Micro chipped (the microchip needs to be inserted "PRIOR" to the most current rabies vaccine)

-Pet must be current on rabies vaccine and the vaccine needs to be older than 30 days.

- Get a bilingual health certificate by a USDA certified vet (military vets are all USDA certified) for German customs. This certificate is good for 4 months. But some airlines require it to be less than 10 days old. Check with your airline to make sure! If you don't have a vet on post, you can go to any non certified vet and send the paperwork to the USDA office of your state.

And a further note... we just received our itinerary. The flight was set to leave at an early morning time out of our local airport with one stop. We wanted to avoid these hours because of the risk of the temperature being too high. So instead we will be renting a Van and driving to the airport that will take us directly to Germany. In our eyes, this is a small exchange for having to ship our pets through a pet shipping company.

UPDATE: All of the above still seems pretty accurate... but since we are traveling in the very hot month of August, we will not be able to benefit from the regular $150 crate cost of shipping them accompanied as cargo. Booo! So we've decided to leave our dogs with my parents, and the cats with his mom. The plan is to ship them over to us when the weather cools off a bit, but it's looking like that may be pretty expensive like the original rumors suggested. Darn why can't we just have orders to get there in October instead!

PCS'ing to Germany (Part 2/Preparing for the Packers)...

The next thing on the list was setting up our packing date! When moving oversees, we were told you need to plan your packing date a couple of months before you actually leave. It takes a while to get your things shipped (on a BOAT) over there so the sooner the better. That's why I decided to go to Ft. Rucker with John this summer. I don't want to sit here in this empty house. And we can make it like a little summer vacation for Aidan. The beach is 1 hour down the road and we have several friends there that we can visit with. You are allowed 2 shipments... one for everything... and then a second one closer to when you leave for the small things that you kept to live on. They suggested not to ship computers or electronics in the second shipment because there is more chance it can get damaged. I'm assuming the second shipment gets over there faster, but is handled with less care.

We have accumulated a lot of crap over the course of our 12 year marriage. In preparation for the movers, we listed and sold several things on craigslist. We are only allowed something like 13000 lbs. So a bunch of stuff had to go. I have learned a huge lesson from selling on Craigslist. You will NEVER get what you paid for it... and in most cases... not even as much as it's worth. We took a huge hit on our four wheelers. Huge meaning several thousand dollars. I loved my little pink four wheeler. But those things depreciate in value very quickly! I almost wish we'd just put them in storage so we would have them when we got back to the states. But I think we've outgrown that phase in our lives. Maybe we'll get Harley's when we get back instead!!

After selling most of the junk and unneeded "big" items, John set up our packing appointment. He had to do this through the online AKO system. Be forewarned... the online setup is a pain in the A**. I'm not sure why... but he was frustrated with it and so were a couple of our friends. I'm glad I didn't partake in that task ;)! He planned for a date of June 7th! OK... I have a few more weeks to prepare myself right? NOT! The packing coordinator came out to assess and give us an idea of what will happen. He then informed us that the packers would be here on June 2nd, 3rd, and 6th. Yes my friends... 3 days of packing and one day of pickup! And that is next week! Slight panic attack. I have not done anything I wanted to do before they come out. I wanted to go through the drawers and closets to get rid of "more" trash, set aside things that we need to keep with us, pack the suitcases that we'll be living out of for the next 2 months, and hide my spices. Haha! Guess my weekend is looking busy! Here we go.......................................................

PCS'ing to Germany (Part 1/House)...

Alrighty... so now I'm going to start documenting our moving process. Yay! Loads of fun. But this is for all of you Army wives who want to know what to expect with a move like this.

Some people may not have this issue because they live on post, or are renting out a house/apartment off post. But for those of you happy homeowners... let's just say... put your house on the market early! Not that your house won't sell in the first week because I've watched several of my friends unload their homes in the first showing. But in our price range, and given the short length of time we've lived in this place, it has become quite stressful. We are living in a time where a buyer has all advantage right now. John and I bought our house right before the market in this area dipped. We didn't plan for it to happen, and how could we know? But I love being a homeowner and I will never regret our decision to purchase this house. I started my business in it. It will leave me with many happy memories. It was perfect for me. John on the other hand... hates this house. We bought it brand new... so we have all the regular problems of a new house (mostly settling). Cracks from settling aren't really a big deal. It happens to all new homes. Nothing a little spackle and paint can't fix. But it annoys John. I think mostly because he hasn't lived here as long as Aidan and I have. He really has only lived in it for maybe 2 years because of the 2 deployments he did while stationed here. To me this is a home. Aidan and I have our own memories that we can look back on. The time he broke his tooth riding his four wheeler in the driveway (eeek...maybe not a fun memory... but a memory). The striped lawn I made last year when trying to fertilize it...hahaha! The friends we made... the backyard bbq's... the pool parties... sitting on the front porch in my rockers. All memories in THIS house. I am actually sad to pack it up :(

We listed the house for sale a few months ago and had alot of great showings. Almost even had an offer! But the showings have stopped. Maybe the buyers are finding new built homes they like better... maybe we have it priced to high... maybe it's just not our time. So we are now putting it on the rental market. I am not worried about renting. We do also have a rental in Fort Hood, TX which seems to be working out fine. And we aren't planning on purchasing another home for a while. So renting it will help us build a little equity and we can re-list it for sale in a couple of years when the market picks back up (if the market picks back up). If anyone is in this position and decides to rent your home... I suggest purchasing a Home Warranty. It will cover your butt if anything ever breaks. These home warranty's usually cost about $400 per year and you can add things to it. But when something is malfunctioning, the warranty company will send out a serviceman to fix it or in worst case replace it. But all you pay is the deductible (roughly $75) if the item is covered under the warranty. In our first home in NC our AC unit was acting up. Would have cost us over $1000 to replace, but we only paid about $200 because we had the warranty. So it's a good investment in my opinion.

There is alot of work that goes into getting a home ready for sale or rent. You can choose to do as much or as little as you want. We felt the most important thing was paint. Repairing those settling cracks and painting over all the sticky little handprints left by Aidan. Noone wants to walk into a home and see greasy marks all over the walls. So that's what we put our focus on. Almost every room has been repainted minus my bonus room where I have my studio set up. And the master bedroom. We also repainted the hand railing out front. We are also trying to make the yard look more appealing. Our grass took a heavy blow this winter and is struggling to come back. We are still playing with the idea of hiring a lawn treatment service. There were also a few holes in doors that John repaired. Good as new! We're almost ready! We dropped off our rental contract yesterday, so hopefully we get some tenants in here soon! Wish us luck!!!!

Monday, May 16, 2011


I made a decision today. I have exactly one year to spend with him until he leaves us again. In that year, there will be several training months where we will be apart (I'm sure). I have decided... if I can help it... if I have the opportunity... if there is a choice in the matter... I will follow him. I will leave my friends, my family, my life... to be with him. It does not make me happy to say goodbye. I promise you... I AM NOT leaving anyone behind. This stop has not been one I will forget. It has actually been the one with the most impact on our life as an army family. We have experienced more in these last 4 years than we have in our entire 12 almost 13 years together (not that any other station wasn't memorable). But, it's time. I watched 2 moving trucks leave my neighborhood this week. And I know of 3 more that will be going soon. It's like someone is telling me it's time to go.

The original plan was for me to stay here in this "empty" house alone for a month after our household goods were shipped. But why? Why should I sit here on a lawn chair and an air mattress in a living room for a month while he is only 8 hours away? What is keeping me here? Friends? Business? Both very important to me. BUT... he will always be at the top of that list. So... if there is a choice in the matter, I will follow him. Even if it means saying goodbye to things I love. I can't help it. The heart wants what it needs. And I need him this year. I don't know what the next deployment will bring. I need to be with him as much as I can before he leaves again. There are so many forces pulling me there. So I will go. But we will be back in July. So don't shed tears for us just yet. It's not over till the fat lady sings. And my vocal chords are just warming up!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Year With Him

How did I let a month and a half slip away without writing? I promised I would write. I needed to so that next time I would have something to relate to. We tend to forget our feelings as time passes by. I do at least. Soo many emotions have flowed through this house in the last few weeks. But most of all happiness. Bliss. I swear it's like I've met him for the first time. I've fallen in love all over again. I get giddy everytime he walks into the room. It's silly, but I can't help it. He is soo good to me. He gives me everything I need... and even everything I want. I wonder sometimes if he feels the same way about me. We've had our moments, and the difficulties are still there. But this time I've embraced this more. This time I will not take him for granted. These moments could be different. I could not have them at all. I am extremely grateful to have him home with me. Extremely. I don't mean to boast. It's not my intention at all. I just want to remember this.

I feel like I haven't seen my friends in ages. We've all begun to follow separate paths. I am distracted with school, with business, with block leave, with selling a house, with HIM, and with my little family. I do remember this part of homecoming. It happens every time. I still try to make time for my ladies, but it's difficult. There isn't enough time in the days anymore. Maybe it's just because he's with me all day and I don't want to leave his side. I've managed to separate myself from him occasionally when I had to work on an assignment. But I didn't want to. I can't stand the idea of him going back to work soon. I can't stand the idea of him leaving me again in June. Just for a month. Just for training. But the thought just makes me cringe. Haven't we been apart long enough?

And then I heard some bad news. I wondered when I started this blog if the title would be fitting after he returned to me. And now I know it will remain the title until my husband belongs to me and only me. He told me a few weeks ago that the new unit we are moving to in Germany is scheduled to deploy in just about 1 year from now. Year on year off has now become a household motto. That will make 3 year's away in a 5 year time frame. 3 deployments in a row without much more than a year in between. No matter how many ways I say it, it still sounds awful to me. Did we make the right decision in our request for Germany? I got my hopes up for the VIP unit that does not deploy. But I do that to myself. It doesn't matter. It is what it is. I will accept it and love my year WITH him. I think the next deployment will be different. Knowing now how unpredictable it can be is scary. In the past I lived in an imaginary world. I never turned on the news channels, didn't read the papers. I hid myself from anything government related. I think I did it to protect myself. But I needed to do it. I couldn't sit and worry about him constantly. It's not healthy... (for me because I go insane looking at that stuff). But next time, I don't know. How can I not sit and worry about him now? Not after the last one. The worst one.

Anyways... I feel like I'm just rambling now. I need to blog about our latest outings. I will soon, and with lots of pictures!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I love him soo much and want to spend every second of the day by his side. I know I am overwhelming him with my neediness. I can see it frustrating him. But he is accepting of it because he knows that I need that. The jet lag still seems to be hitting him. He is soo tired. Our schedules are completely off. The day after he returned, he had to go. He left early in the morning around 6:30am. He has to do this every morning for 7 days straight. I don't know exactly what he does there, but I know they sit through classes and have paperwork checked off. On the first day he brought back all sorts of goodies. T-shirts and stress balls were a few of the things he spilled out onto the bed.

That first morning I slept in. The more time I spent sleeping would mean the less time I would have to spend without him while I was awake. And we were up at 2am so I was still pretty exhausted. I laid in bed waiting. Every time a car door shut outside, I got a little excited and waited for the sound of the door opening. After about 3 of them, I had given up. But on that third one, the dogs rushed to the door panting and barking. I knew it was him. I heard them greeting him at the door and his deep voice calming them down. I felt butterflies as I listened to his boots marching up our stairs. He entered the room and I felt relieved for some reason. Relieved that he was home and we could be together for the rest of the day. I asked for a hug and he willingly accepted.

Aidan had a basketball game that afternoon. We sat in the bleachers together and watched our son play. I can't remember the last sport of Aidan's that we've watched together. I am pretty positive it was a t-ball game about 5 years ago. He has missed out on soo much. We have been married for 12 years and have only shared about 3 anniversaries together. But who's counting? I chose this life. WE chose this life. I didn't know it would be this difficult, but I am proud of the obstacles we've overcome and I look forward to conquering many more.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Boots on the Ground!

I've been going to most all of our unit's homecomings to take photos for the families. I enjoyed it. Every last bit of it. I watched as the wives spotted their soldiers for the first time. I snapped as they cheered. I ran when they ran. I must have made over 1000 photos in the last few weeks. Every one of these families are special to me because they have become my family too. I never thought I would be one of those FRG ladies... but that's what I think I've become this year. "Lancer Ladies" are what we call ourselves. And Proud Lancer Ladies! We love our soldiers and know how tough this year has been for them. The homecomings have been bittersweet. They are coming home with a few less men. May these brave men who made such huge sacrifices for us never be forgotten. And their wives and children, we will always be indebted to. I can't even begin to describe the heartache.

I couldn't keep myself from checking the homecoming flights every day, several times per day (eh hem..or hour). We speculated our group would be Friday. But there was also a group coming in on Thursday. I was excited for the Thursday group too because one of my besties was on that flight. What a nice way to keep me occupied while waiting on MY phone call. Up at 4am and out the door by 5:30am. Off to see Trina return to us. It was beautiful. I got to hug my girl. The rest of the day was spent preparing for him. I got my hair done, my nails prettified, even went shopping for some new clothes.

But we waited. And waited. I swear there were a million hours in that day. I finally got my phone call at 7pm! I excitedly posted a happy face followed by 50 exclamation points on facebook. Then I cried a little.

Aidan and I hopped in the car and headed to walmart for poster materials. It was raining cats and dogs. All I could think about was... "this rain better not get in my way". We stayed up for a few more hours and worked on Aidan's sign. He did a wonderful job on it. My lil man is soo artistic.

I had to drug myself with Advil Pm's to make sure I would get some sleep. My phone rang at 7am. It was Trina. Calling to check in and let me know they were still joining me. I got on the website... the time had changed again. 10:27am now. It was OK, because that gave me an extra half an hour to do my thing. Aidan and I were like lightning bolts running through what we needed to do. Camera.. check, Video camera.. check, Sign.. check. HOLLY.. check! Holly offered to come along and make photos for me. I love her for doing it. She did an incredible job. I hate photos of myself normally. But these ones, I will cherish for eternity!

When we got to the hangar, I felt a surge of energy run through me. It was like I was on crack! I know everyone must have thought I was nuts! But I couldn't help myself. I kept dancing and I just couldn't sit still. And I couldn't focus on anything. I felt like the world was revolving around ME. That there was no one else in the room.

Even though there were several other Lancer Ladies waiting for their soldiers as well. I got selfish. I know I was and I felt a little guilty about it. But it didn't matter... it was my day. The announcer came over the intercom and told us we had 15 minutes before the plane landed. We went outside to watch. It was freezing. My fingers were catching frostbite. But I didn't care. I was watching. It was daytime, so we could see everything. At previous homecomings, we were there at night... so you really couldn't decipher who was who coming off the plane. John told me later that he saw us from the window as they taxied. We watched them file off the plane. Aidan said he spotted him. He said he recognized him by the shape of his head. Kids are funny. He was almost at the end. We were pretty much the last people outside. We saw him.

He blew me a kiss. Holly caught it on camera. She rocks. He looked happy. I wanted to jump the fence. Instead I just bounced up and down and accidentally snapped my rose in half. Oops. When we got back into the hangar, we watched as the doors opened. Screamed as they marched in. What an incredible feeling. I cried. Of course. I saw him in the second to last row. I pointed him out to Aidan. He hugged me. My little guy was just as excited as I was. The chalk leader released them. I planned to stay put and let him come to me. But I couldn't. I ran. We almost tackled him to the ground. But he held us up. I couldn't reach him. I was on my toes trying to get completely around his neck. His smell. I love how he smells. I missed that smell. I buried myself deep into his neck. At last!

We had our 15 minutes. I don't think I let go of him much that whole time. Except to let him hug others. We hugged some more and kissed. We were the only ones in the room. The center of the universe. I'm soo selfish.

Holly took soo many beautiful photos. I was soo proud of her! He had to go. But not for long. I picked him up at another hangar where he turned in his weapon and picked up his bags. We waited behind the white rope. I turned away for only a moment and when I returned my gaze to the piles of camouflage bags, he was standing right in front of me. I squealed. We said goodbye to the other ladies, and walked out the door. To our car. And then drove to OUR home.

He's HOME.

Morning Kiss...

I forgot how good it felt to listen to him getting ready in the morning. I am not a morning person, so I can't remember a time I've ever been up when he was up. Except for the day he left. I was the first person to get up that morning. Not because it was time to get up, but because I couldn't sleep knowing what a day we had ahead of us. This morning was our first morning waking up together in a long time. We woke up at 2am. He held me for a while and we talked. We talked about Aidan, about our move to Germany, about where we wanted to retire. It was nice. Our own little slumber party. He was hungry. He went down to the kitchen to have some breakfast. I left him alone for a little while but then realized I could not, not be in the same room with him for longer than 15 minutes just yet. I snuck up on him and hugged him. We stood in the kitchen holding each other for quite some time. I didn't want to let go. But it was time for him to get ready for reintegration. I fell back asleep while he was getting ready but he woke me with a kiss to say goodbye. It was a familiar kiss. He has never left our home without leaving me with a kiss. EVER. Even if I were sleeping, he'd gently kiss my cheek trying not to wake me. How do I know? Because I felt them. Every one of them. This man will always make my heart flutter with those kisses.

And this... this was my first morning kiss (yesterday) since r&r.

Monday, February 21, 2011


We've been waiting for this for years. At least 5 that I can think back to. Originally when we thought of an overseas tour, we thought of Hawaii (well you know...off of our mainland anyways). When he came back from Iraq the first time, we came down on orders for Hawaii. We were SO excited! But two days later, he got picked up for Warrant Officer training and Flight School. That's something you just don't pass up. He was an E-6 at the time, and he was tired of dealing with new soldiers. The ones who come into the Army because it's a job and it's stable. The ones who don't give a crap about PT, don't shave and make a mockery of the uniform. He was coming home tired and stressed and it was wearing on "US". We talked about it all of 2 minutes and that was that. Our house, we put up for rent. He left for Ft Rucker for his training and I stayed behind with the movers to pack and clean up.

Our time at Ft Rucker was nothing short of wonderful. It was completely "stress free" for me. I'm sure it was different for him because he was training. But we explored in his down time while we were there. We took trips to Panama City or Destin. We went to Disneyworld and Universal Studios. We did more in that year and a half then we have ever done at any other duty station. We met wonderful people who would never leave us hanging. I miss them dearly...even took a trip to Hawaii to visit them this Christmas. When his training was up we had a few options of where we wanted to be stationed, but none of them came up. We were sentenced to Fort Campbell. Yes...sentenced. I can't say I hate it here. But it is not a place I would love to hang my hat permanently.

A few good things have come from this place. I've met some more wonderful friends to add to my arsenal. They are great friends, but it seems that we are all headed in separate directions. We all have different paths to take, and I'm accepting that. It hurts to accept it, but it's what we do as military families. I am already starting to feel the distance. I'm already feeling lonely and left out of alot of things. I'm sad to leave them and that they are leaving me, but excited to start fresh. I need to start fresh.

The second good thing I got from this place was my business. I've grown my photography business from the bottom. When I first started it 5 years ago, I was nothing. Just a mom with a camera. I have learned so much since then. Even enrolled in a university with a program geared specifically towards my craft. I am glad we weren't sent to Germany right away. Because NOW I have the knowledge I need to take great photos while we are there! I am so behind on my scrapbooking...it is pathetic!!

When John came home in August for r&r, he got the ball rolling on this Germany thing. I felt a little bad because I have been telling everyone and anyone that we are going even though I know how the Army works. Just because you are told one thing, doesn't mean it's a reality. But a girl can dream right? I "think" it's pretty official now that he's got something in writing, but that could possibly change to. I can't sit still. I'm ready to start getting the house ready and to sell all this junk we've accumulated. All that is standing in my way right now is that he is not home yet. I can't do any of the things that need to be done without him. I mean I can. But I won't. I would rather we do it together. So we've got some more waiting to do.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


These last few weeks have been a challenge. A challenge to control the emotions that are so close to the edge. I know that any day now I will get that call that says my sweetie is on his way home to me. But at the same time it scares me. What has changed since we were last together? A year. It's a long time. Yeah, there are those two weeks in between. But those weeks are a vacation. There's not enough time to complain or to bicker about whose taking out the trash tonight. We've done this before. This is our fourth time in fact. Four years without him. Not counting all of the months he was away at some sort of training. I've been soo used to doing everything around here myself lately, I've forgotten what it's like to have a man in the house to change the battery in the fire alarm. Or to keep all of the vehicles running properly. Or even to protect me when I'm scared at night. I'm sure we will reintegrate just fine. But we'll have to accept each others changes and make the best of them. He's been through alot, I've been through alot...even Aidan's been through alot.

Now the waiting. The last few weeks/days are pure torture. They seem to drag out. The longest days E-V-E-R! People keep asking me if I'm excited yet. No. I'm not. I will not be excited until his boots are on the ground. Until I see him march through those hangar doors. I really, truly want to. But it's hard. Very soon he will be in my arms again. I love that idea. But it makes me sad for those who we've lost. I feel guilty and undeserving. It's not fair. None of it is. Why her, why them? I've taken what we have for granted in the past. I'm going to try my best not to do that anymore. I love him. Soon.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Can't SLEEP!

Sometimes I lay here and think about what it would be like to be married to a civilian. I can't see it. I can't see our life outside of the military. It's all I've known since the day I became an adult. I joined the army even before I graduated from high school. Then married him two years later. I gave my life to them 14 years ago. And when I married him, I gave it even more. Even though I am a veteran now, I still have to abide by their rules. I think I have a tiny advantage over some military wives because I did experience soldier life for 5 years. I never deployed, but I do understand that when the Army says pack... there are nooo exceptions. And all I can do is accept it, not ask questions, and wait. No matter how much he loves me, the army will always be his mistress. She will always come first. But I have to believe that what he's doing, he does for us. Because he wants us to have a great life together. He is proud to serve our country and he loves what he does. I love what he does. I may not agree or like everything, but this is what military life is. So forgive me when I roll my eyes because you are upset that your spouse is leaving for 2 days or a month even. Be happy that he is home safe. Because your neighbor is lying in bed at 3am worrying about her husband flying over enemies. Waiting for a phone call that she gets only once every couple of weeks. Hoping for a quick email telling her how much he misses her. And in the ultimate case, actually lost him. This may sound dorky... but Thank a military wife today. They aren't appreciated enough for as much as they give.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Christmas in Hawaii :)

In October, I spontaneously purchased 2 tickets to Hawaii to visit some wonderful friends we met at Ft. Rucker. Suzanne and Chris were our neighbors while John was attending flight school. Suzanne has been there for me ever since. It's funny because we never speak on the phone, and we chat online maybe once or twice a month. But every time we visit, we pick up right where we left off. I can still remember the sadness I had when we moved from Ft Rucker to Ft Campbell. Although we were only stationed there for a little more than a year, we managed to create such wonderful friendships.

Anyways... I needed to take that trip to see them. I was stressed out with work, school, Aidan's school, and this STUPID deployment. I just wanted to get away from everything. I asked John, and he said I deserved it and for us to go and have fun. I love that man for being soo generous and never questioning my requests. And so we were off!!

The flight there was actually better than I expected. We met a really cool guy. It's funny...he could almost be my brother. We kept finding weird similarities between the two of us. Aidan had soo much fun talking and joking with him too. He definitely made that 6 hour flight fly by. Thanks Jon!

When we landed, we met Suzanne at baggage claim and she gave both of us Lei's. She tried to sneak up on us...but we saw her coming...hahaha! We love you Zanne! I already miss her soo much!

Chris and Suzanne had an itinerary all planned out for us! So here's what we did:

Tuesday, Dec 21st...
Went to North shore. Watched the surfers and looked for turtles. Snorkeling at Sharks Cove. Butter Garlic shrimp at Romy's. Shaved Ice at Matsumoto. Stroll through Haleiwa.

Wednesday, Dec 22nd...
Swimming and snorkeling with the fishes and coral at Hanauma Bay. Visit to the Blowhole and Lanai overlook. Dinner at Kona Brewing Co. Visit to the Tripler ER (little Lucy busted her noggin). Frozen Yogurt at Menchies.

Thursday, Dec 23rd...
Hike up to Manoa Falls. Swimming and water trikes at Waikiki. Shopping at the International Marketplace. Dinner and Lava Flows at Lulu's.

Friday, Dec 24th...
Pearl Harbor, Arizona Memorial. Shopping at the Naval Exchange. Christmas Eve Dinner at Seoul Jung.

Saturday, Dec 25th...
Christmas!!! Pali overlook. Lanikai beach.

Sunday, Dec 26th...
Dole Pineapple Plantation. Mall. Bubba Gump's Shrimp Co.

Monday, Dec 27th...
Ko Olina Beach and we saw the Black Pearl.

It was such a great visit. Suzanne and Chris were wonderful tour guides. Hopefully we will see them again this summer back at Rucker!!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011


The end of September came with some difficult changes for a few people that I love dearly. It's still painful to talk about, so I won't go into to much detail here. Besides, it's not my story to tell. But things have been different since that day. This deployment has been harder than any we've ever been through. I feel selfish for feeling that way when only weeks from now he will be home. But I can't help myself from still missing him soooo much. John is my life. My honest to God soul-mate. That might sound cheesy...but when I think about him...I feel like I am in highschool all over again. Do you remember that little fluttering feeling you got when a boy you were crushing on talked to you. I still get that with him. Especially when we have our first kiss after a long seperation. I'm not saying we have a perfect marriage. There has to be ups and downs for there to be a balance. So in my eyes...right now...everything seems pretty darn close to perfect "when he's home".

Anyways... back to the changes. Life has changed. School has changed. Work has changed. I was doing a full Fall load at AAU and just couldn't handle it with everything that was going on. So I dropped my worst class (a history class...ugh...I mentioned a few blogs down that I hated history didn't I??) That helped alot. In October, Aidan was having alot of difficulties with his public school. I was getting emails from his teacher saying that he wasn't doing his work. He got in-school suspension for fighting with a bully. He came home every day telling me he was being picked on by the kids at the bus stop. I was fed up! I've toyed with the idea of homeschooling in the past, but this just seemed to be the most obvious answer now. I pulled him out of public school, and we began our homeschooling journey on November 1st!!! What a challenge it is. But at times it is soo rewarding. I am enjoying having him home with me. It does take away time from my schoolwork and from my business. But I think it is worth it. He is doing great! We have a little difficulty with the math, but who likes math!!! He works on the ACE curriculum and completes workbooks. We do go in every 3 weeks to take tests on what he's learned. I love this part because I don't have to be the one testing him. I like having to be accountable to someone higher. And they handle all of the paperwork for us too. I think he enjoys it too. Especially since he doesn't have to get up early in the morning to catch the bus!!!! Ha!!!

Also in November, I made some changes to my appearance. I was introduced to an amazing tattoo artist CJ. I watched her work on a few of my friends and decided she was the one I wanted to do my big project. I have wanted to do this for years, but never quite met the right artist. I just clicked with CJ. Her work is wonderful, her personality is amazing. And most of all she made me comfortable. Sooooo..... the big project...

This outline took 9 HOURS!!!

Here was the first round of color...3 hours.

And I decided to use this concept for my final project in my color photography class. I made an A!!

I actually got A's in all 3 of my classes again. I don't know what I'd do with a B! Hahaha! That's probably why I dropped that class...I knew I wouldn't get an A! The next semster begins on Jan 30th. I decided to only take 2 courses this time since we will be busy with John coming home and homeschooling. But for the most part...I think our changes have made us stronger Aidan and I.


More from our summer.

In September, John went back to Afghanistan to finish out the deployment. Booooo! So right away, Reisa and I decided to start operation busy! We heard about Buzzfest in Nashville, and we knew it was a definite MUST! Basically it was a full afternoon of non-stop concerts. We ordered our tickets a few weeks in advance and then found out that rain was in the forecast. A little sprinkle wasn't stopping our fun though!

We saw soo many bands! Sick Puppies, Drowning Pool, Papa Roach, Seether, and Shinedown. I can't remember if there were others...but it was soo amazingly, incredible!

We started off in the center of the field but got pushed back because of a few mosh pits. Hahaha! Don't worry, we were being protected by some generous, big, strong, shirtless dudes. A couple of times I found myself blocking Aidan with my body to keep him safe from the crowd surfers!

Here we are drenched from sweat and rain.

For the final band, the crowd decided that Aidan needed a front row viewing of Shinedown, so we were escorted...yes escorted by another shirtless dude to the front row. The crowd was pleased to let us through! We were soo close to Shinedown, it was ridiculous!

I must say though... Papa Roach stole the show for me. I liked them before...but now I am obsessed!