Thursday, April 29, 2010

There's no place like home

I am currently sitting in a hotel room in Munich, Germany. What an opportunity I had this week to spend the week in Ulm, visiting with other Procurement Professionals from various companies all over Europe. It was absolutely incredible!

I did take note of some interesting things though that seemed at first like small things, but grew to be bigger issues as the week went on...

A taxi from Munich to Ulm costs 200 Euro, when the train breaks down. Yes, I had purchased my train tickets to get from the Munich Airport to Ulm, and was sitting on the train just waiting to see where it would take me. This was after I spent nearly a half hour looking at the freaking map to see if I could tell where I was going. As we were sitting there, some guy got on the train and started yelling at everyone in German, so everyone started getting off the train. Being the stupid American, I followed. He ended up telling everyone that the train had broken down, and there was no estimated completion time. We were to go upstairs and get our money back. (He was just about that friendly about it too.) I went upstairs, noticed the 200 people in line waiting for a refund, said "forget that", and found the taxi stand. Met a wonderful cab driver that was originally from Hungary, who nearly cried and hugged me when I tipped her generously for driving all the way to Ulm for me. The group I was with made fun of me all week because of this cab ride. "Stupid American".

If I see another bottle of mineral water, I will throw up. I drink lots of water - and by lots, I mean LOTS. Literally, probably more than a two gallons a day. We did not have water this week except in my hotel room from the faucet. There is no bottled water in the conference room, or offered at dinner, lunch or breakfast. I drank a lot of apple juice, and started getting used to the mineral water - but I did notice that no one drank a lot. You see us in meetings at work and people are sitting there with their big coffee cups, Mountain Dew, etc. Nope. Nothing like that at all. I was so thirsty when I finally got to the hotel tonight, I drank about 6 glasses of water.

It frustrated me beyond belief that I could not speak German. I found it so rude that when I was addressed in German, I would have to respond in English. Everyone I met spoke good English, so it was okay, but I almost felt ashamed. I was with a group of 35 people, all nearly my age, and all fluent in at least 2, if not 3 language. Sure, I can speak broken Spanish if I have to - but that didn't work in Germany. I did enjoy hearing all of the accents, and find myself using such simple English when I speak now so I can be understood.

Along with the German language issue, I found it frustrating that when I approached a door, I couldn't tell if it opened out or in. The door tells you, but you have to understand what it's saying. THAT was frustrating. Imagine me at a door, trying to nonchalantly trying to figure out whether to push or pull.

There are 863 different ways to flush toilets here. Seriously, every one is different. I laughed at myself once as I found myself staring at the toilet/wall/floor, etc., trying to figure out how to flush it.

Germany is so exceptionally clean, it is unbelievable. We went on a tour today of a large facility in Ulm, and I could not even find a trash can to spit out my gum. All the cans are labeled for their type of recycling, so I didn't want to put it in the wrong can. Spearmint Gum after 3 hours is kind of disgusting.

Everyone I have met is in such good shape. I have not found one obese person, and on the other hand, I would call them quite lean. I noticed that no one really snacked. It seems in the US our events revolve around food. In Germany, their events revolve around the company. You spend lots and lots of time talking and socializing, and eat very slow. The first night I got my salad and main dish from the buffet at the same time. Everyone looked at me like I had lobsters coming out of my ears.

I was surprised at how little of sleep I can actually survive on. I'm sure it will catch up with me this weekend, but I think I have had no more than 15 hours of sleep since Sunday. Had a whole 1 hour on the way over, and was up pretty late every night (dinner would go until 10pm or later every night). Last night I went to bed at 4am.

It is not a good idea to drink lots and lots and lots of beer with your new found friends, and then ask them to teach you German. You will not remember any of it. Everyone was having such a good time with the German Phrase Book I bought before my trip. Seriously, it is a book the size of a cell phone that contains "critical phrases". Those critical phrases include:

"Bieten Sie Enthaarungen an?" (Do you wax?)

"Du riechst so gut." (You smell so good)

"Gen nicht. Ich mach dir Fruhstuck." (Stay. I'll make you breakfast)

"Ich mochte eine herausfordernde Tour unternehmen, aber keine Sauerstoffflaschen mitnehmen." (I'd like a challenging climb but I don't want to take oxygen)

Seriously, the Europeans I was with with literally doubled over with laughter, so apparently the $7.99 I paid at Barnes & Noble was a hit. On a more serious note, why on EARTH would these be considered critical phrases??? If you have got to the point where you are using these phrases, will you seriously be using your Phrase Book? And maybe you require a some therapy.

I can't wait to get home to see my boys. I talked to them almost every morning before they went to daycare after I finished lunch. I asked the question, "When are you coming home" nearly 100 times, but that's just fine. As far as I'm concerned, I can't be home soon enough either!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Random Heartache

Today I had to run an errand during lunch. I typically don't leave the building for lunch, my less go anywhere in my car, so today was pretty unique.

As I was driving down the road, some song came on the radio. I don't even remember what song it was, but for whatever reason, at that instant, I missed my kids horribly. It was almost as if a rush of "Protective Mother" came washing over me, and I felt like I instantly needed to go get my kids and just be with them. It was as if my heart instantly became heavy. I didn't even know what I would do when I got there... I just knew I needed to "be"there.

For that moment, almost 1000 thoughts went through my head...

"Why am I doing this? Why do I work? Why am I not home with my children? They are MY children. Right now, what are they doing???..."

I looked at the clock, it was 11:40. "They are probably eating lunch," I said to myself, but knew it would soon be naptime for them, where Connor naps for the solid 90 minutes, and Tyler usually just rests, as he's growing out of the napping phase. (Luckily, the daily sheets that come home with them give me a slight clue of what happens throughout the day.)

That minute seemed to last for an hour. I even went to the "Why do I have someone else watching my kids? What if I just quit my job and stayed home with them?" place with that thought. The guilt just building up with every second of the thought I was having.

I arrived at my destination, and was again, distracted by the moment of the urgent that I needed to do. That is usually how I spend most of my day at work, which is why that thought today was so new. I had those moments when the boys were babies, but not recently. Not the longing of absolutely needing to be there. The moment then passed.

Maybe I'll always have these thoughts. I see parents walking with their children when I'm down on the University of Iowa campus, and I see the looks those parents have in their eyes. Those parents visiting their son or daughter for the day or weekend. So much pride for their children, so much hope, and so much love. All in just a look in their eye. So maybe that is what I'm longing for when I have those thoughts. Just to see my children so I can feel the most pure sense of pride, the feeling of hope and absolute love for my boys. Maybe that feeling isn't so bad after all...

(Just as I typed that last line, "My Airplane" flew over. And that is why that silly airplane makes me so happy...)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday, already?

What a fast weekend, as they all seem to be anymore. Not a dull moment, though, which I guess is good. As it seems to be a trend I'm starting, here are some highlights from the weekend:

It took Tyler 3 days of riding his bike without training wheels before he totally biffed in the street. Poor kid. I was in the house on Friday night, and all of a sudden heard screaming. Within seconds Kyle had him in the house, and sitting at the kitchen table. When I got a look at his face, I got the "supplies" and we started doctoring him up.

Apparently Tyler was moving pretty fast down the street, and hit a patch of sand. He skidded on the left side, because it looks like someone took a cheese grater to the whole left side of his body. His cheek, chin, shoulder, wrist and knee are all scraped up. He did not like this at all, of course, and especially didn't like it when he looked at himself in the mirror.

The rest of the night, we had a hard time distinguishing between Tyler being actually "hurt" and the drama that he can bring. Oh yes, my young 5 year old is such a Drama King. Holy. Lord. He can milk it - and sometimes he's really hurt, but after a couple hours of literally clinging to me, I figured he was just looking for sympathy, but I think the fall scared him more than anything. He did have a helmet on, thankfully, which did absolutely nothing for him the way he fell. The first impact point was his face.

Next interesting subject, Connor peed in the parking lot of King's Material in Coralville and also on the corner of Dubuque Street and Linder Drive. That kid had to pee constantly yesterday, so in what would usually be a quick trip around town, necessitated a couple of non-standard stops. I always panic when Connor says from the backseat "Mommy, need to go PEE!", because he's not kidding. I asked him to hold it once for about a minute, and he couldn't. He wet his entire seat which meant not only his clothes got changed, but the entire carseat needed to be ripped apart to be cleaned. One good thing, at least he's a boy. That makes it a bit easier. No wonder my boys prefer peeing outside to the bathroom.

At the end of this trip, I decided to take the boys to the Coralville Reservoir to see how high it was. (By the way, at a perfectly normal level now), so we went to the "outflow" of the dam. The dam is open nearly all the way, so the water coming out of it is CRAZY! I was hoping the boys would be able to feel a small mist or get a little splash.

Little did I know... I was bending over to help Tyler with his shoe, when a GUSHER of a splash came over the wall. Poor Tyler and Connor were soaked from head to toe, and my back was soaked! Both of them started crying, so I had to strip them, and put them in the car with only their wet underwear on. Thankfully I didn't get stopped on the way home. Connor was wearing my pink Columbia fleece and Tyler had on a sweater that I need to take to the cleaners (that I found in the back!). My new phone doesn't have a camera, but I think I will carry one from now on just for instances like that. Tyler in a woman's sweater, with buttons the size of quarters - buttoned crooked. It was hilarious!

I've decided Tyler has the most comfortable bed in the house. Sunday morning at about 4am Tyler walked into our room and said he had a bad dream. I always try to coax him back to his bed (he does NOT do good sharing a bed, and being 50 pounds being a tall 5 year old, there is just not enough room, even in our king bed.

I put Ty in bed with us (I was not going to have a 4am tantrum by fighting him back to his room), and attempted to go back to sleep. Within 20 seconds I was kicked in the back, and had my hair pulled so hard I almost cried. I then got out of bed and went to Tyler's room and spent the rest of the morning in Tyler's bed, until both a confused Tyler and Connor came and woke me up around 7am. Connor must've been looking for me in bed, and woke Tyler up too. They thought it was funny. I was happy to just have been able to go back to sleep.

As always, the weekend went too fast, and ended with the typical Sunday night grilling (this time steaks) and a few beers. With the gorgeous weather outside, it seems we cannot spend enough time out on the deck!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The weekend, more or less...

Some interesting things that happened around our house this weekend:

The big one! Kyle bought a smoker. I've never had food off of a smoker (from my own backyard), and IT. IS. AWESOME! We smoked chicken on Saturday and ribs on Sunday. The best part about the smoker, since you have to kind of hang around while it's smoking, it makes for great time as a family. The kids playing outside, Kyle and I can sit and talk and just enjoy the day, and the neighbors all wander over because it smells so darn good! It was worth every penny.

We got to enjoy the firepit on Saturday night. Firepit+smoker+friends+drinks= awesome good time.

I cleaned the kitchen floor three times this weekend. The only way I clean the floor is on my hands and knees (a trick learned from my dad), with my special Melaleuca cleaner that also has a disinfectant in it. Smoker+friends+drinks=a lot of people in the house. I'll take it though..... so relaxing.

Tyler and I went to the store together. This, in and of itself, does not seem like a big deal, but I am just mesmerized with that kid. I love spending one-on-one time with him, just talking. We went to Wal-Mart and walked around the garden center and talked about the plants and flowers, until Tyler had to go to the bathroom. Again, why with needing to go to the bathroom at Wal-Mart!?!?!? It seems I'm doomed whenever I go into the store with one of the kids. At least now, Tyler can run into the restroom by himself while I wait outside. He actually prefers that.

I just love spending time with Tyler. The more we talk, the more I learn about him, and the more impressed I am with him. I especially love to watch his eyes when he talks. He has the most amazing green, hazel, red, light brown eyes that seem to change color while he's talking, depending on the intensity of the conversation. That, and the fact that his freckles (thanks Kyle, these kids don't have a chance!) are starting to spring up all over his face, are so darn cute. I could watch him for hours.

This same "big boy" fell asleep on my lap last night while watching the movie UP. He was so tired from the weekend, and after staying up until after 10pm on Saturday, and no nap on Sunday, he was ready to crash. Before 7:30 he was sawing logs on my lap, while I rubbed his forehead, which totally relaxes him. I could've stayed there all night, if it wasn't for Connor then trying to poke Tyler's eyes out. Sleeping big brother+little brother who is usually the one picked on=a good time for Connor.

Speaking of the movie UP, we watched it twice this weekend (well, it was on twice, and I saw bits and pieces of it). The more times I see that movie, the more I like it. Really not a kids movie at all (as most of those types of movies are). I actually get tears in my eyes towards the end. It has such deep meaning (even with the talking dogs), and it's nice that the kids enjoy it too!

The weekend ended at 3:45 this morning when I woke up in a panic attack with everything that is looking me in the face this week. By next Saturday night, I'm pretty sure I will be off the wagon again.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Airplane

I love to hear the noise of the airplane.

Every night at about 10:22pm (give or take 10 minutes) there is an airplane that flies over our house. That plane has had the same flight pattern for a couple of years now, so it's almost become a part of my routine.

I'm not always awake when the plane flies over, but if I am, it always makes me smile. I think it makes me happy because when it flies over I'm usually laying in bed, next to my husband, watching something good on TV. Any opportunity to watch TV is good. Any opportunity to just lay still is good.

I am safe and warm in my bed. My boys sleeping in their beds in the rooms just outside of ours, and sometimes, even my own husband sleeping too.

It's my reminder every night. A reminder of everything I have. It makes me feel so blessed. I'm the luckiest person in the world...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tyler's New Obsession

A tornado.

Seriously. This kid is absolutely terrified at the even thought of a tornado. The thunderstorm and hail we had last night helped. Holy cow - we had 1,000 questions.

"Mom, is there going to be a tornado? Where are they? How will we know if we have to hide? Does the sky suck the ice off the ground to make hail? Why is there lightening in a tornado?", etc. etc. etc.

I'm not sure what spawned this. My only guess is that they started doing tornado drills at daycare (where he told me they have to go into the women's restroom in the main hallway - so he is paying attention). My guess is that the combination of the activity to shuffle everyone in the bathroom, then sitting there for who-knows-how-long probably scares the bejesus out of him.

We did happen to be flipping through channels on Sunday night, and noticed that this week is "Tornado Week" on the Weather Channel. So, every night we've been watching shows about tornadoes. It's actually neat to watch him learn. He's asking about how hail is made, and why do tornadoes turn in circles, etc. Fortunately, since I also had a tornado obsession when I was in elementary school, I can answer those questions for him.

He never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think I have him figured out, he finds a new hobby, a new interest, or something new to worry about. Now we have to convince him every night that a tornado won't come to our house in the middle of the night.

I remember having nightmares as a child that I was standing at our picture window watching a tornado come right towards the house. Maybe he is a lot more like me than I thought....