Friday, March 28, 2014

Leaving Europe

Paris, France 2011
It's that time again. It's time to leave Europe and move back to America for the second time in seven years. Matt was selected to attend SAMS (School of Advanced Military Studies). We will head back to Leavenworth, Kansas (we lived there from 2009-2010 and own a home there) in early June. While I'm very proud of Matt for getting into a good military school, I'm heartsick.

I posted about this recently on Facebook. I posted that I was crushed to be leaving Europe and had no desire to move back to America. It created everything from amusement to confusion and, possibly, even some anger or disappointment that I could make the proclamations I did. 

Do I feel entitled? No. I do not. Living abroad under the SOFA agreement has been a privilege. That doesn't mean I cannot be sad. It doesn't mean I should love the idea of moving back and embrace it wholeheartedly, giving up my life here happily, and doing a little dance that I get to move back "home." I feel the way many people feel when they move away from a place they adored, whether that be a place in America or any other place in the world, and that is heartbroken. I'm entitled to that, even if it doesn't make sense to some of my readers.

Living abroad doesn't do a lot for some people. In fact, traveling abroad doesn't do it for a lot of people. Some people are very content to spend their vacations at Disney World, or a campground an hour outside of the town in which they live. Some people don't even like to travel at all. Vacations are spent at home gardening and/or welcoming visitors. Some people think just the idea of military life is the worst idea ever. Who could move every three years (or less)? Insanity! Do you know what? That's okay. I love that. I love that people find happiness in many many different ways. I'm the crazy woman who dives right in to European life, embracing it and the challenges that come with it. I love it!! I feel empowered by all the things I do that presented a challenge and I did it anyway.

Can I be really honest here? I'm still heartbroken about Portugal. I follow various Portugal Facebook pages and I sometimes have to click on "don't want to see this" option when pictures of Sintra or Cascais show up in my newfeed. I become choked up. I'm choked up just writing about Portugal. Damn, I really miss that place! The long walks by the ocean, the evenings with friends at a delicious South African restaurant, the afternoons sitting at a cafe, drinking coffee and reading a book, listening to waves crash, the delicious, inexpensive wines I could buy just at a small grocery store around the corner from my house, which was situated 200-meters from the Atlantic Ocean. Matt had to drag me kicking and screaming onto the plane leaving Portugal and the entire year I spent in Kansas did nothing to ease the pain. While I made great friends, and carried on, I woke up every day with a broken heart. Learning we were moving to Germany helped considerably, but my heart still longs for Portugal. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that I am, once again, feeling so crushed at the mere thought of moving back to America. That's okay. Europe will always be here. My dear friend, Nina, from Heidelberg, has promised she will always have a place for me to come visit. And maybe, just maybe, we'll be lucky enough to get another overseas tour before Matt's time in the military is up.

I thought it would be nice to come up with a list of things I'll appreciate about being back in America:
  • Lots of parking lots with big spaces. Much less parking hassles.
  • No language barriers, which is actually kind of huge and encompasses everything from reading menus, making travel arrangements, to helping my children with homework (my girls attend German schools).
  • I can order something online on Monday and, likely, have it at my doorstep by Wednesday. Even overnight, if I want (I can do that here - but it's paid in Euro and with the US dollar being so weak, it's usually not worth it). 
  • I can finally buy some appliances that I've been wanting but didn't want to hook up to a power converter (That doesn't always go over well long-term). Can't wait for my Instant Pot!
  • Closer to friends and family. 
  • One stop shopping - I can hit up a grocery store, a clothing store, a shoe store, and more all in one stop. There are malls everywhere in America. Here, I have to park in a garage and walk from shop to shop. Malls are far and few between. 
The list could go on. But, you know what? That list is just ridiculous. If I really missed all that crap, if I really needed it, I wouldn't be heartbroken about leaving here would I? 

Less than a year from now, we'll find out where we're moving to next. Hopefully it's a good one, though I don't expect it to be Europe. Back at the top of our list will be Ft. Carson, Colorado, Fort Lewis, Washington, and Scholfield Barracks, Oahu. If there is a possibility of a division staff job (Matt has a division staff commitment after SAMS) in Europe, that will be on our list - but I think there isn't an option. Italy, maybe? I can't remember. Ft. Drum, NY, because it's closer to family, will probably end up in our top five. I have little interest living there though. I spent a considerable amount of time there when Matt and I were dating and thought it was dumpy. Though, there is plenty to do within a one to two hour drive. Family lives within a three to five hour drive. Matt *thinks* it will be easier than before SAMS to get an assignment in our top three, though, we have always gotten one of our top three requests and luck has to run out somewhere. There's a chance Matt could deploy from Ft. Leavenworth for a year.  So, who knows.

How do I feel about Leavenworth? Look, I'm not going to lie. I liked living there four years ago. It's almost a relief we can reintegrate to life in America in a place we have lived previously. I know where my favorite restaurants are, I have a great friend there who is very like-minded.  I even have a hair stylist. I'm about to work on signing up for a milk-shares and order grass-fed meat for the Fall and Winter. However, I didn't love it there. I honestly don't know why anyone would want to retire there, as many military families do (I think post-Army retirement jobs are very enticing, thus the pull to stay?). But, that's probably the Burlington, VT snob in me. It's nothing like Burlington, not in look or feel and let's face it, Burlington area is just a great place to raise a family. Not that we'll raise our family in Burlington (there won't be viable job options for Matt upon retirement there. Not for the line of work he's interested. Which is another whole blog post for a much later date), but, if I were to make a list of fantastic places to raise a family, with easy access to the things our family loves to do, Leavenworth, KS would not be on the list. I'm not bashing Leavenworth. But, Matt is a climber. He needs to be near mountains that have elevation. We need to have access to ski resorts that aren't just bunny hills for beginner skiers (Snow Creek, Missouri will possibly be doable for this coming year, but long term, it would not fit our skiing needs/desires). 

I'm optimistic that 2014-2015 will be a great year for our family, despite having to leave the Europe that I love. It's going to be okay...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The New Guy

Mark Owen McQuilton joined our family on October 30, 2013. Matt was deployed (Afghanistan). I was surrounded by my friend, Amy (her infant daughter was on her back), my midwife and my three children. His birth was at home (Would I do it any other way? Come on now) with Matt Skyping in live during the final half hour of his birth.

He's now just about five-months-old and our easiest baby. He's also our biggest baby. This boy is, surely, going to be bigger than older brother, Colden. Here are a few pictures:

Waterbirth Baby

Point in photo-shoot when everyone is over the shoot.

Home after seven months away

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Need to Eat Well vs Cleaning

Each and every time I intend on spending the day cleaning (which isn't getting easier now that I'm approaching 30-weeks-pregnant), I get side-tracked by the obvious need to feed my children (and myself, of course). Colden, now nearly two, has become quite the little human garbage disposal. He could eat all day. I did not experience this type of need with my two girls. Therefore, it was much easier to keep fruit and nourishing snacks around because they didn't snack more than once or twice a day. Colden keeps me on my toes (they do eat more now than they did then). It would be so easy to just throw junk at him. I could stock up on organic granola bars and fruit snacks (which I admit I do buy for vacations or when I have company because I just don't have as much time to be in the kitchen) and just throw something his way when he cries for food.

Before Matt deployed, I shamefully admit that I did resort to that from time to time because he had such things as gold fish crackers in the house and a few other "junkie" items I don't usually allow and I was too tired to cook (pregnant and all). I tell ya, it is easy to resort to that kind of trashy eating when you are also trying to keep your house up - which is a real struggle for me. Now that Matt's gone, I'm on a mission to up the protein and keep processed foods out of the mouths of my children. I've even given up festing (Germans are all about fests - there is one every weekend around these parts!) so we stay clear of junk food. Colden, however, has challenged me like never before!

Today, as I was in my room unpacking from a recent trip to Austria, he came running in screaming for food. I tried to distract him and he wouldn't bite. So, downstairs we went. I found some yogurt and sat him down. He had about four helpings and still wasn't done. Out of eggs, an easy, quick snack, the girls grabbed him and brought him to our egg guy down the road. He's out until this weekend. So, into the van we went. I dropped off some recycling, picked up the mail, dropped off books at the library and hit up a local store for some good-quality free-range eggs. Back home, after a very quick rest (15-minutes, tops), I ventured into the kitchen and grilled up some pork cutlets and fried up some zucchini using a great recipe from one of my favorite real food bloggers Holistic Squid (Recipes at end of post). Colden ate the zucchini like it was candy. Whew!! But, he wanted more after his meat and zucchini. Enter in a nutrient dense hot cocoa from another favorite blogger, The Polivka Family. Colden had three helpings of hot cocoa before calling it quits. Wow!

I spoke to my mother-in-law the other day and she said that Matt was never a big eater like Colden. In fact, to this day, I would say that Matt isn't a big eater. He's definitely not a foodie. He just doesn't appreciate food like many of us do. It's what fuels him to work, run and climb mountains. If the cocoa bean crop was wiped out tomorrow, he would wonder how that made the news - he cares that little about chocolate or sweets. Oh, how I envy him sometimes!

Tonight, once the kids are in bed, I think I'll whip up a batch of my favorite banana muffins. I'll add some 70% dark-chocolate chunks to them and hopefully one will hold him over tomorrow morning while I make some scrambled eggs or something with lots of protein. I do hate to feed him carb-heavy because it's simply not healthy for any of us nor does it keep him filled up for long.

Backing up a bit to this morning - As I was getting dressed earlier this morning, I realized I was out of deodorant. I no longer use store-bought of any kind. I avoid chemical-laden products as a general rule (I either make my own body lotion or just use coconut oil, sometimes with a few drops of essential oil added. Though, I am on a mission to find a good hair shampoo that isn't filled with chemicals I can't pronounce and actually cleans my hair and scalp). I buy my deodorant from an Etsy seller, Honey Bee Holistics. Her Organic Extra Strength Deodorant is the best all-natural deodorant I have tried. She lists her ingredients - so I suppose I could try to duplicate her recipe. However, I don't know the correct combination of ingredients and I do love to support the stay-at-home mom. So, I buy regularly from her. Her body creams are excellent too. I use them mostly for travel as they don't melt like coconut oil does. Her Organic Coconut Banana Creme Pie Lotion is to die for. I do almost want to eat it! Anyway, I've placed an order with Honey Bee, however, her shipping is a bit slow (but worth the wait - and no, she's not paying me to endorse her products. I just really love them). So, I spend a few minutes making some to hold me over until her product arrives (recipe I used at end of post).

So, how did the cleaning go? Well, I managed to pull diapers out of the dryer, throw a load from washer into the dryer and put a load of sheets in the washer. I cleaned the kitchen and fully unpacked my bag from recent travels. Add in the errands, cleaning up the kitchen and the other things mentioned, that was my day. I'm exhausted and I really feel that I did too little! I can't keep up! I don't know how those of you with clean houses do it!! My house is always just barely presentable. Barely. Well, at least these days. When I'm not pregnant, it tends to be a bit cleaner. But, with a deployed spouse, hungry toddler and two daughters constantly at odds with each other, I probably spend a good 10-minutes crying each day over the things I didn't get to. Maddening!! Today's Recipes:

Fried Zucchini and Squash Rounds (Grain Free)
Knock Your Socks off Hot Chocolate
Banana Muffins (I use Einkorn flour)
Homemade All-Natural Deodorant