Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is Anybody Ready for some Football?

I love watching High school and College football, especially when you know people on the team.  I enjoy watching Sam play.  But as a military mom, I hate team sports!  Every time we move, my kids have to prove themselves and if they aren't amazing- beyond belief they get cut.  And even if they are amazing they have to prove it over and over and over, before right about the end of the season, the coach believes it (and so do the other players- at least the ones that aren't getting their spot taken.)  We got Sam to the states as soon as possible so he could start working out with the team.   I would have much rather have traveled around Europe for the summer and come here in August!  It took until we found a house and had an agreement with them that they would allow him to practice with the team.  We figured this too, so the day after we hit the ground we were running, looking at houses. We landed Friday night and signed on a house on Sunday.
Football is intense and a little over the top, here.  Everyone I talked to was trying to get their son into college ball and were paying for extra coaching on the side or recruiting agents.  They had all been in football since they could walk too!  Summer training was mandatory- expect you weren't allowed to say that out loud, since it wasn't supposed to be mandatory.  Once I finished a run early and watched the practice and realized immediately why it was mandatory.  They weren't doing conditioning, they were doing full on practices- running plays, offense, defense, the whole ball of wax!  
Practices started at 6:15 am.  We lived on the base until we could get into our house at the end of July.  So from the end of June until the end of July I drove Sam to practice, leaving at 5:40 every morning.  I would sleep a little in the car and then go for a run.  There was no vacation time and anyone that suggested around July 4th that they may not be around some of the next week were told that they might as well give up on their dreams of playing that year then.  If we had gotten Sam there any later in the summer, I'm sure he wouldn't have made the team.  
They did end summer "conditioning" with a fun water fight and slip and slide.  

They all divided up according to grade on different sides of the field and then came at each other.  The seniors started out with vehicles, 

but this was quickly kiboshed by the coach!  Looked fun, but I can see the possibility of serious injury!
Sam made Junior varsity.  The kid in his position on varsity had the fastest time in the nation for the 400m.  He was running olympic women's winning times.  Last year Sam never came out the game.  This year it seemed he barely went in. 
The first game was a scrimmage- it's never good when your kid is one of two kids that come out without a jersey on!  Never a good sign.  He ended up having to get a jersey off a kid on Varsity after they were done playing.  Gross!
He played offense

and special teams, 

but they took him out often- anytime they were running the ball and they ran the ball a lot!  Considering that there were about 120 kids on all 3 teams there were plenty of kids that never got into the ball game, period!  His grandma and grandpa came down to see him play and that game got canceled midway through because of rain.  He started the game, but we were late and didn't see.  He had just been taken out when we got there.  They only put him in a couple of times after that.  So Grandma and Grandpa didn't get to see much.  
Then there was the whole Homecoming fiasco.  Everyone on Varsity and JV were allowed to dress out and stand on the sidelines for the homecoming game, except Sam.  He was ineligible, because he was a transfer student.  He wrote me this from school after he found out and I went nuclear parent!  I emailed and texted coaches and athletic directors.  In the end they made me do exception paperwork for military students and he was allowed to dress out.  He told me that I never told him, but I did.  He just thought I was saying, "oh you are going to be allowed to dress out if I have anything to say about it!"  So he didn't bring his stuff.  In the end, it was probably a good thing.  No JV player got to play even though it was a blow out game, so they all just sat around with their pads and helmets on.  Sam on the other hand, stood on the sidelines and comfortably played catch with some of the injured guys.  Later I had a sit down meeting with the athletic director and football coach to advocate for military children to hopefully make sure nothing like that ever happened again to those who were just trying to fit in and become part of team.  These kids lead a hard enough life!  They thought I was going to go all nuclear on them again so they were recording it and trying to be all diplomatic to begin with.  When I was done calmly talking to them they were amazed and relieved.  I am afraid this school knows who I am and they shake a little when I come in.  I have never been that kind of a parent before, but sometimes you just have to go a little crazy to make sure your kid is treated fairly in a school that doesn't understand what a military kid goes through!
It took until the last game of the year that they finally agreed he was good enough to play both offense and defense. 

He still got taken out a lot, but that's because it was the last game of the season and the coach made a point of getting every single kid in.  He took Sam off of one kick off and put this kid in that was so super excited he messed it up!  They had to re-kick!  It was so cute.  I did feel bad for him though.  It meant that he hadn't played much if at all the entire season. Sam got to catch multiple balls that game and even ran one to within 10 yards of the touch  down, but he never did get that touchdown.  They always took him out at that point.  Made me so mad!
He has started individual sports now- Wrestling- and shockingly enough, he is Varsity.  I like individual sports.  You either have it or you don't and there is no politics involved.  There is no bias from the coaches who have "not" recruited players.  There is no quarterback that favors the other kids more than yours.  Sam promised us that this wasn't the case for him, but all we know is that he was open a lot!  The coaches noticed it too and started yelling at the quarterback over and over until he started looking at Sam a little more.  That's team ball.  
You know, I always thought I would be a team mom or a big time booster club parent, but those women here are scary.  They look at you like they want to bite your head off, but always with a smile on their face.  I think I'll just stay with my husband in the stands and send in cookies every once in awhile!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Summer Birthdays Aren't the Same!

My poor boys don't quite get the celebrations that most kids get.  We are either traveling or moving around their birthdays every year.  They say they don't mind- and they do get to do cool things on their birthdays, usually.  It just doesn't involve friends very often!

This year Max turned 11 on our big trip.  That day we saw Arles and the lavender of Provence, 

France.  He did get to choose presents and souvenirs, though!  That's how he got his Neymar shirt in Barcelona the next day!

We went out to dinner for Sam's 17th birthday.  I know- lame.  Sorry buddy!  We will try and do something fun for the big 18!

For Joseph's 14th birthday we were up visiting family- which was nice.  We went just for a quick weekend to pick up our truck and see everyone.  It was a nice visit, but a quick one with lotssssss of driving!

At least we were all together!  And they take it all in good stride. They are the best military brats ever!

So Many things to Love about New Mexico

We arrived in the summer, so it was obvious that there would be a lot of sunshine here, but I had no idea that there would be so many pretty rainbows too.  Many days there was a very brief rain shower in the afternoon or early evening and there would be these beautiful rainbows afterwards.

 Many times there would be double rainbows and they are all so brilliant!  This place and it's sunshine has blown us away.  I have never lived somewhere with so much of it!!  You have to wear sunglasses constantly.
 We went to the 4th of July celebration soon after we arrived.  Albuquerque is actually big enough to have bands playing that we have actually heard of.  They also had some fun fireworks!  But the lines at all the booths were ridiculous so we didn't get anything to eat.  Big does mean lots of people!
 Balloons!  We see them out our windows and on our runs every morning. They are so pretty and make me happy.
 They have a real life state fair!  With performances like these pogo guys (this one was from Russia) to real concerts and a honest to goodness official rodeo.
 They had sponsors like the dairy guys where you could pretend to milk a cow
 They had rows of places to eat and lots of buildings with people selling stuff and competing!
 This was a little place inside one of the building where they were racing pigs.  It was a cowboy exhibit where you played horse shoes, saddled a horse
 milked a cow- hee hee, I had to take a picture of that sign!  It was so tempting to drink the cow water!
 And make rope!
 They also had a little exhibit of Aussie animals.  See the Albino Kangaroo?
 We finally get to have our trampoline up again.  The boys are ecstatic!  Sam is learning a layout full twist right now and Joe has perfected his front flip.
We got to go watch a Lobos versus Boise state game.  College football is fun. 

Max's class got to go to the balloon museum.  They made their own balloons using a tutorial online.

Then when they got to the museum they had these stations where they filled them up with hot air 
 and let them fly!

 Then the kids caught them and if they need repairs, they went to a repair station and then they did it all over again!  The kids had a ton of fun.
The balloon festival is amazing!

 These two balloons- Darth and Yoda were obviously owned by the Lucas company.  They had all these guys dressed up that were just there to interact with the crowd and take pictures with them as the balloons filled up.
They even sent two balloons off from Max's school yard one day.  You just had to get up a little early to come see it.

 This is an English bobby.  He had a robber that he floated with most of the time.

 A Heffalump!  The kids didn't even know what a Heffalump was!

I know some people think I don't like Albuquerque much, because of the difficulties we have had in this move.  Everything has taken 3 times as long.  The schools are crazy about their registrations.  I had to go in 3 times for Max and Sam until they decided I was finished and twice for Joe.  I have had to fight the high school over issues with sports and grades and AP credit.  The closing of the house took over a month, just because that is how long it takes to approve people for loans here.  The ward is huge and full of mostly Utah transplants that have never moved in their lives until now and find it extremely hard and cry about it often, or have lived here their whole lives and have family and friends all over the place.  They are also very young- very young!  It's hard to feel wanted, needed or even a part of a ward like that.  But in the end, I am trying to keep a positive attitude.  I think the stuff with the schools is finally worked out!  I got to advocate with them for military children and that was a good thing.  I am loving the sun and all the outdoors stuff.  We are playing tennis and running and riding bikes on the many trails.  We have hiked the Sandias.  Life is good- for now.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Why I Loved Living Overseas

There always seemed to be two types of military folks you meet overseas- those who absolutely hate it and can't wait for their tour to be up and those who love it and would do it again in a heartbeat.  I fall in the later category and heres why.

1) is the most obvious- the travel! Travel is expensive no matter where you live, but it's way cheaper to see things in Europe and Asia when you live there!  Besides Europe has cheap airlines.  Supposedly so does America- um, no they don't!  or at least I haven't figured it out yet!  I could get to England which was roughly a 10 hour drive, plus a ferry ride across the English channel, plus however long to get to where I wanted to go in an airplane for $300 round trip for my entire family of 6!  I can't find an airfare ticket from New Mexico to Utah- approximately a 10 hour drive under $300 a person!  Cruises still cost about $1000 a person, but you hit 3-5 countries!  So much more worth the price!  The people that didn't travel much were always the ones that hated it.  People would complain that their husband had to go TDY (temporary duty) all the time.  Guess what, so does everyone's.  Travel takes planning.  It would take me weeks to plan and we had to decide where we were going way in advance so my husband could get the time off.  The nice thing was that the DoDea schools let the kids miss school without having a fit, so you could go any time you could spare.  They figured with all the history and cultural experiences they were sure to have while traveling it would make up for school they were missing.  You still had to complete the work, but if you could do that and travel too, more power to you! I miss that attitude, so much, now that we are back in "regular" schools!

2) Experiencing another cultural and another way of life is enriching and opens your mind and the mind of your children.  People who live in one place their whole life tend to think that is the only way of living.  Even moving around the United States, which is huge and varied helps, but going to another country helps even more.  I saw this debate online where people were commenting about Christian values and celebrating Halloween.  Some people were very against it- these people were by in large not from the United States.  To us, Halloween is just a time to dress the kids up cute and parade them around the neighborhood looking for candy handouts from our neighbors (that we will secretly eat while the kids are at school)- nothing else.  The Americans could not understand the force with which some of these people were negative about Halloween.  Living in Germany when I was younger taught me about Hexenacht- German's version of Halloween.  There were a lot of pranks played that night and plenty of destruction.  It was celebrated mostly by teenagers.  Now Germany has adopted our ideas and dress their kids up cute and seek out Americans to get candy from!  But if you had grown up thinking Halloween was more about mischief and destruction and horrible things, you would have a very bad idea of people that celebrated it.  A little understand of others views goes a long way in helping bridge the gaps between us.

3) Learning another language- so many good things here!  Just look up all that good research!  I always shook my head at those people that complained about how hard it was and how they (the host country) should try a little harder to make themselves understood, because after all, English was the international language.  Really??  People, seize the day, seize the opportunities to learn and to grow!

4) Different food, different stores, different ideas- all worth exploring.  Sure, Amazon got most of our money while we were overseas and sure it took forever to get there- you just had to learn to plan ahead, which isn't a bad thing!  But exploring different stores helped us find Primark!  Love Primark! And Kath Kidson and her cute bags.

5) Healthy living-The food was mostly fresh and free of dyes (and the chocolate divine- ok that may not be so healthy!)  Recycling is a must.  Solar and wind energy are prevalent, energy efficient cars normal and public transportation everywhere.  If you don't live in places like New York or LA public transportation is slim to none in America.  It's kind of frustrating!  They also belief in a good walk outside at least once a day.  There are walking and biking trails everywhere!  Now if only they didn't smoke like fire chimneys they might actually live a little longer!  There are so many people who are fighting like crazy over the research on global warming.  I just shake my head- who cares if it is true or not? This earth is ours and we have a responsibility to take care of it. Why would doing something that would make the world a better place (whether it helps with the warming or not) be a bad thing?

6) Sure, you miss seeing family, but you miss seeing family most of the time you are in the military.  Few of us live close enough that we can go see them on a regular basis.  Your European family becomes your family.  It includes people from all walks of live and experiences.   Mine included quite of few from other countries like Thailand, Brazil, Italy, France.  You learn a lot from these people and they enrich your life.

7) Edit for Rob- Rob wants to add round a bouts and priority roads.  He hates that America hasn't gotten up to speed on those two things.  They make driving so much smoother!

Now don't get me wrong- I love America and think it's the best place in the world to live!  Life in Europe, is getting a little more dicey.  You had to watch that you didn't make it obvious that you were Americans.  I remember the AFN "commercials" when I was little about fitting in!  We mostly laughed at that, but this last time we were there, we tried.   Living on base was really hard for people too- it's all stairwell living there.  I would have hated living over in the enlisted stairwells.  They were nasty!  But we had really good neighbors who rarely, if ever complained and for the most part were clean, so I didn't mind it!  It was always easy when you ran out of something to either go a block to the store or down one flight of stairs to the neighbors!  I really enjoyed my time over there and I really believe I gave my children a gift.

There are always lasts!

After our cruise the boys had to go back to school for a week, finish up all their assignments and take exams, except Max.  He was checked out early and they didn't mind if he stayed out.  He did go back in the very last day, however, to say good-bye to friends and his teacher and to throw a pie in the teachers face.  It was only allowed if it was lemon.  I was lucky to find one at the commissary, since I
 had no way to make one!

 We went to our last ward game night which we always had fun at.  Games inside and out!
 Karaoke - amazingly Sam actually sang!  He had done the congo line on the ship too!  I thought I would never see such things out of that kid- thank goodness for crazy friends!
 Got my face painted
 We spent one last day at our favorite Schwimbad- Aquatoll- with friends!
 This slide was super crazy, but so much fun- as long as you didn't drown.  We always came away with bruises, but it was so worth it!

 Love these crazy kids and their families!
 And then it was time for one last good-byes

 These ladies are the best!  

 And finally, our last time at the airport in Stuttgart.  Good-bye dear Germany and all our Germany family!  We have enjoyed our time here 100% and will miss you all!