Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Four Years Later

Four years ago, Steven and I exchanged vows in front of our family and friends. Its amazing to see how far we've come and how much we have experienced in just four years. We've added two amazingly beautiful children to our family. We've spent over 15 months apart (spanning 4 deployments and a TDY). We've lived in Germany. We've weathered four surgeries, six weeks of bed rest, three PCS moves and, most currently, Steven on crutches. We are so blessed to have such amazing family and friends who have supported us and pushed us to be better people. And we look forward to spending the next few years close to our family and making new friends.

Today we celebrate our anniversary together, which all military families know is not a given. We will spend time with our children and may be lucky enough to have a few moments alone to reflect over the past and look forward to the future. We'll do something "special" like dinner or a movie when time allows (and Steven's foot heals a little more), but we know that everyday we get to spend together is special and not to be taken for granted.

The most thing we will do today, is something we do everyday: say 'I love you.' And hope th
at our love shines into the lives of our children.

I love you Steven.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Car

Here it is, my new ride!

Airport Adventure: Germany to USA

Here it is, the tale of my Airport Adventure, as best as I can describe it having relaxed a few days.
Saturday morning came quickly. I thought I had everything under control, but as soon as Greg and Matt showed up at the door to help me load the cars, everything went so fast. Luckily, I only packed one thing in a suitcase that I needed and, of course, that one was on the bottom. After loading, 3 Alwines and the other family of 4 that was on my same plane (thank goodness!), into 3 cars, we headed off in the snow for Frankfurt Airport. We then were able to off-load our luggage onto 5 carts, oh we also had a dog, and found our ticket counter. Or so we thought. Here is where I would have lost it had I been travelling alone. Heck, I nearly lost it anyway. The man at the United line told me we'd have to check in with Lufthansa. He said we had to move, now. I asked for some help because I couldn't push the two luggage carts and my stroller. He rather rudely asked me how I thought I was going to manage on my own. I was shocked he would treat someone like this and didn't have a chance to tell him, "because I thought my husband would be here and not in the hospital with a broken leg!" before he moved my cart about 10 feet and stalked off.
The airport was so packed, due to previous cancellations, that you couldn't even tell where one line ended and the other started. We had absolutely no idea where to go. But, we did need to check in Taunus, the dog. Thankfully we were able to sweet talk that agent into checking all of us in. As the 6 of us (2 babies, 2 preteen girls, and 2 moms) found the end of the security line, we were 15 minutes from the boarding time. Then a wonderful man came through the line and started picking out the families with small children. Score! We were escorted to a second line that was merging with the very front of the main line. The only thing missing was my friend's husband with my second car seat. Oh, did I mention I was bringing both car seats on the plane? He showed up, but without the car seat. After another quick trip back to the check in, he met us in line and said, they made me check the car seat. No worries, it was Abigail's and she's easy to hold and pass around.
Security was actually not that bad, just logistically challenging, but since Declan can walk and one of the agents scooped up Abigail until I had the stroller assembled again, it was probably the easiest part of the process. We were just two passport control points from our gate, with about 20 minutes until take-off. I pushed through passport control with the double stroller and then headed for the gate. Hoping I would make it in time and would be able to keep them boarding until the other family got there. When I hit the gate, I saw we had a 30 minute delay. Never in my life have I been so happy to see a plane delayed!
After some time to have snacks, feed Abigail, change diapers, and a quick phone call to Steven to see what his status was, we were being called to board first since we had the babies. Yes! Another jump to the front of the line because I have small kids. :) We got all 6 of us on the plane and then I was told Declan's car seat was not allowed. Cue meltdown #2. I fought with them explaining that in September I flew on this airline, this plane with this car seat. Eventually they relented. We had a relatively painless flight. The kids were good, and both fell asleep about 20 mintues before we landed.
After landing in Dulles, it was all downhill. We made it through passport control easily and managed to cram our baggage onto 6 carts (American baggage carts are smaller than European ones!) and get through the customs line. We had added a customs check due to the dog, but it was quick. Next came the best part of our trip, walking through the last door and seeing the grandparents! Two sets of grandparents extremely happy to see their respective grandchildren and equally happy to assist their favorite daughters-in-law.
Oh, the adventures the army gives us!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Final(ish) PCS Step

Well, just when we thought we were on track to leave Germany on time, the inevitable happened... an Alwine ended up in the hospital. No, not me this time, Steven! While rushing to get those last army things done Thursday afternoon, he slipped on the ice and broke his leg/ankle in 3 places. And then it started snowing, of course. So, in the midst of the snow, I walked up to the hospital to learn he would need surgery, sometime within the next week. So, long story short, the kiddos and I flew home on Saturday and Steven is in Landstuhl living it up until his surgery. Then he'll fly back here and we'll do a late visit from Santa and start the next leg of our adventure, no pun intended.
(And for those of you curious about just how I got home from Germany with 6 bags and 2 babies, stay tuned. That trip deserves a post all its own.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

PCS Update

Greetings from the American Arms! For the second time in 3 years the Alwine family is "living" in the American Arms Hotel. This time, with double the people! We have a nice suite, with a sofa bed and crib for the kiddos. We awoke this morning to a Winter Wonderland (again). Today we hope to get the rest of our things out of our apartment and either mailed off or transferred back to the hotel. Then the next step is cleaning the house. Luckily, I've been working on this over the past week so it should not take me more than a few hours. After that, its the last minute errands, shipping the car, and saying goodbye to friends. We leave here on Saturday.

In other very exciting news, Steven got promoted last Friday! That's SSG Steven now! Check out the profile for the new family picture!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

2010 PCS - Step 1

This past week we completed Step 1 of the 2010 Alwine PCS. We packed our household goods up on Thursday and Friday. What an experience! First, let me say how absolutley wonderful our packers were. They were polite, professional, and fast! The only hiccup was the weather. It snowed and was so cold the levers and controls on the lift froze. But, after some hot water, it was up and working. They loaded all of our boxes and furniture onto this lift and crammed it all in 6 crates. (Just a comparison, we arrived in Germany with 2 crates.)

When preparing for the packers, I had to separate out what was going in our big shipment (on a boat, think 60 days to get to the US) and what was going in our smaller, express shipment (think 30-60 days on an airplane - similar to the way the mail gets here). This was a challenge as the things I wanted to keep here the longest were also the things we used everyday. As I was dividing out the toys, I had to explain to Declan that his Legos had to stay in the laundry room because they were going to our new house on an airplane instead of a boat (like his bed). This immediately made sense to him (because he knows he is going on an airplane). He spent the next few days carrying Monkey with him everywhere and each time he put him down, he did so in the laundry room. At one point, he even tried to put Abigail in the laundry room.

I was initially concerned about how Declan and Abigail would react to an empty house. They love it! There is more room to play and Declan thinks sleeping on an air mattress is a novelty. And, of course, the both continue to climb all over Daddy.

Step 2 - wait for news on our departure date and ship the car.
Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Daycare Adventure

Thursday and Friday of this week, Declan and Abigail went to hourly daycare. To my surprise (and concern) they were put in the same room on Friday. Now, this is absolutley no different from how they are at home everyday. Until you add in all the other kids ranging from 6 months to 3 years! This was my concern, thats a huge age range. My second concern was a repeat of the PWOC Potluck Pandemonium of 2010. In this case, I left Abigail in the crib in the nursery to take a nap and brought Declan downstairs to eat with me. Wow. Big mistake. Screaming, crying, refusing to walk, "Mommy, go get Abi NOW!" Needless to say, I was concerned that if they had to split up the kids on Friday, Declan would go postal.

I returned to pick up the children and was informed that they were both angels. I was not surprised. Not one bit. It warmed my heart to hear about how Declan would wander over to Abigail's play area to check on her throughout the day. And how he helped Miss Virginia get Abi's diapers and bottles and how he wanted to feed her squash. And that the first thing he did when he got up from his nap was "go check on Abigail."

I can only hope that when she grows up she realizes how lucky she is to have such a wonderful big brother.

Here is Declan, enjoying his enchiladas, in the hat he made at daycare.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Markets

Cold. Rainy. Cold. Snowy. Cold. Dark. Cold. Dreary. These are some of the words we can use to describe Germany in the winter time. However, each Advent season there are bright lights and hot Gluhwein to ward off the dampness of the winter season: Weihnachtsmarkt!

The most famous Christmas Market in Germany, is without a doubt, in Nuremberg. And, for this reason, you will never catch me there. I've been to that market place, there is no way you'd have enough space to breathe, let alone enjoy it. I prefer the smaller markets, to include the little towns who go all out only one weekend during the season. I also prefer to go during the day (especially if going with children) and during the week. The crowds are much thinner at that point, sometimes you can even navigate your stroller around the market.

Some of the best things about Christmas markets include Gluhwein (or Kinder Punch for those underage or pregnant), hot potato pancakes with fresh apple sauce, rides for the kids, and lots of things to buy. I also absolutely love that the birth of Christ plays a role in each market.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving in Pictures

I couldn't resist posting some of the pictures from our 2010 Thanksgiving Extravaganza.
Here's Declan ready to dig in to his plate. You all know how hard it was for me to let him feed himself.

And Abigail was not a happy camper! We finally figured out she was tired, so Steven brought the pack'n'play and she took two naps there. She was much happier after she slept.

Thanksgiving is best celebrated with friends and family. I am lucky that they are one and the same! My army family is amazing and supports me through so much, especially when we are so far from home.

Here's the link to more pictures from Thanksgiving 2010.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanksgiving mornings of my childhood were filled with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, smells of deliciousness wafting in from the kitchen, and my father frequently running out to fight a kitchen fire, promising to be home in time for the meal (and usually succeeding!). As kids, we gathered around the TV watching the floats, celebrities, and balloons. As we grew up, we started helping in the kitchen, making mashed potatoes, pies, cookies, etc. When we moved to Virginia in 1996, we transitioned from the traditional "family" gathering and spent the time with close friends. At least once we did a non-turkey dinner and just made the sides. Throughout college, I always looked forward to Thanksgiving Break (it meant the semester was almost over!). Although one Thanksgiving I became one of thousands on the New Jersey Turnpike heading south, extending my 4 hour drive to 9 hours!

Thanksgiving 2006 brought an addition to our family, when I brought Steven home for the first time to meet my family. In 2007, we joined my grandparents, aunt, and uncle in California. Thanksgiving 2008, Declan and I were back in the States and Steven was in Afghanistan. We experienced our first Army Thanksgiving in 2009 with a potluck at Karin's house, where Peggy kept feeding Declan whipped cream. In a few hours, the kids and I will head over to Karin's again and celebrate our last Germany Thanksgiving for the near future. Steven will be joining us later, after he is finished with work for the day.

As I spend this (quiet!) time thinking about the past year, I realize I have so much to be thankful for. I am so glad that Abigail joined us and was born healthy. I'm thankful for my friends and family who supported me through another deployment. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to live in Europe, and we are blessed to have the consistency that the army brings us. I am so very thankful for all the people who gave so much to help us out this year, especially during the time I was on bedrest. Without the support and help from all those amazing people, I'm not sure I could have gotten through that trying time in one piece.

To my family: Words cannot express how much I love you. Thank you for listening without judging, supporting without questioning, and most of all, for loving me.

To my friends: Life would not be as much fun without you. Scattered around the world as we are, others cannot comprehend the bond we can make within only a few hours of meeting each other. I hope we will all be reunited one day.

To my children: Thank you for your patience while I learn how to be a mother. I cherish each second I get to spend with you and I look forward to watching you grow and experience life each day.

To my wonderful husband: You are my best friend and I cannot imagine life without you. You protect me, spoil me, defend me, listen to me, and love me, unconditionally, and for that I am truly grateful. I love you with all of my heart and I am so glad you are home with me this year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!

Last night Steven and I (along with a great group of friends) experienced the Opera for the first time. We got all spruced up and headed into Frankfurt to see The Marriage of Figaro, composed by Mozart. What a night! The talent was amazing and the evening was unforgettable. An added treat was that the two main characters (Figaro and Susanna) were played by a couple married in real life. Surprisingly, I was able to follow most of the plot using my limited prior knowledge of the story and my equally limited comprehension of Italian (due to my Spanish). My only regret is that we discovered our love for the Opera so soon before we leave Germany. Repeat trips will definitely be on the agenda for our next European Adventure. And to all my friends still in Germany, GO, you will not regret it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

I've always been a proud and patriotic American. However I never realized the sacrifices our military members and their families make every day until I married a Soldier. In my nearly 4 years as an army wife, I have met some of the most amazing and strong people in the world. Families who go months without seeing their soldiers, children who rely on teddy bears and Skype to see their parents, service members who spend multiple birthdays, anniversaries, holidays in the desert; thousands of miles away from their loved ones.

These selfless men and women are willing to give their lives for the United States of America and for you. Remember that every day, every time you see the flag flying, every time you vote, every time you enjoy one of the many freedoms Americans take for granted.

Today's message is simple: Thank a Veteran.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010

Halloween doesn't exist in Germany, unless you live close to a military base. Then, it is a cross-cultural event. I will never forget last year, hordes of people seeking candy! This year was a little more subdued, however, because we tricked them! (Pun intended). Due to daylight savings and the 31st falling on a Sunday, the army in Wiesbaden decided Halloween would be on Saturday. Two hours of Trick Or Treating and then a full day for the kids to run off their sugar highs before going back to school.

This year was Steven's first Halloween at home since we had Declan. I couldn't wait to get the kids in their costumes and start snapping pictures. Those of you who saw Trinette's pictures of Declan last year will understand when I say I didn't get as many pictures as she did but I enjoyed the evening immensely.

Being the Old Navy shopper that I am, the kids had Halloween shirts/outfits to wear during the day and under their costume. Here they are playing in the laundry basket and with Steven prior to getting dressed up.

We headed out Trick or Treating and were lucky to have Memere and Pepere with us. (Think extra hands to chase kids, take pictures, and push the stroller. Also, more people trying to sneak Declan candy!) Declan made it two houses before we loaded him in the double stroller. He got tons of candy since most people wanted to give some for Abi too (how silly!) and didn't scare very easily. When he was done, or more accurately, I was done pushing the stroller, we ended up at Karin's house. There Declan helped hand out candy from the comfort of Dana's arms.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Steven and I frequent Mainz regularly, but we haven't taken pictures or done the tourist thing there since we moved here. We took his parents (and Abigail) to see the sights. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and we took full advantage of the sun when taking many, many pictures.

Our first stop was the Gutenberg Museum, to see one of the Bibles. Sorry, no pictures allowed of that museum, but trust me, it is well worth the 5 Euros! After the museum, we went to our favorite Italian restaurant, Da Vitos. Oh, the Lambrusco alone is worth going to this place.

After lunch, we walked around downtown, seeing sights like the Gutenberg Statue (which is no where near the Museum), the Dom, Steven's old hangout, which is now a Thai Express, and the Fashing Fountain. Here are a few of our pics:


Our Trip in Pictures

At the top of the Bromsburg Castle/Wine Museum, looking out over the Rhein.

The beautiful stain-glass on the inside of the Evangelical Church.

My first Rudesheimer Coffee in Rudesheim (lots of booze, little coffee).

Apple Picking

Memere, Declan, Abigail, and I headed out to Mainz-Marienborg, home of the Appel Happel (Happy Apple).
Declan learned all about trees:
*they grow on trees
*they can be red or green
*they are a fruit
*we can eat them
*they start with "A"

I taught Declan how to pick apples. Each time he chose one, he would say "turn" and then "pull." Sometimes he would say "pull hard." Our next lesson was to place the apples in the bag, instead of throwing them.

We spent about half an hour picking apples. It was a wonderful outing for Declan and he learned a lot. Anyone have suggestions for our next "field trip?"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ice Cream Scoop

My sister Maggie, the writer/college student/world traveler, has recently started her own blog. Read it here.
In an effort to update the picture of her and our younger brother John ....

Isn't that cute? I cannot wait to be closer to them both, and the rest of our family.
Oh, and since we're talking cute, let's add a picture of our other sister and her adorable daughter....

Sunday, October 24, 2010


What trip to Munich is complete with out a beer at the Hofbrauhuas? Delicious German food, festive polka music, and phenomenal beer made for a wonderful evening.

Wednesday morning brought some rain, but we brushed it aside for a view of the Glockenspiel in the Marienplatz. This is the oldest Cukoo clock in Germany and still has moving parts. After the music, we whisked off to the BMW World and Olympic Park. We saw the Olympic Swimming Pool where Mark Spitz won his 1972 medals. After a quick bite at the Munich Hard Rock, we explored some more of the Marienplatz and Pedestrian Zone. We visited the oldest church in Munich, St. Peter's.

Steven's favorite piece: Thursday was spent in the Residenz and Treasurery. Jewels, jewels, jewels! I could not believe the wealth that was housed here. Declan was a champ throughout this museum, which also included a tour of the Residenz, where the royal family would live when in Munich. The tour of the house was astonishing. It's hard to believe that so many decades ago such intricate things were crafted, entirely by hand!


Day One of our adventure found us in Nuremberg. Home of the Nuremburg Trials, Hitler's Rally Grounds, and the most famous Christmas Market in Germany. We arrived just in time to grab some eggplant cheese and bread from a vendor at the Farmers' Market. Then we explored the HauptMarkt and found a delightful German Restaurant for dinner.

The next morning we were up bright and early and ready to hit the town! Coffees and cake at a local cafe were in order before taking the bus to the Historic Nazi Rally Grounds. What an amazing site! The museum was full of history and pictures showing the Nazi involvement in Germany straight through until the end of the second World War. In the final room of the Museum, video footage from the Nuremburg Trials were playing. As you exited the last room of the museum, you could stand in the middle of the arena that was being built for Nazi Party Rallies. If you stood out on the end of the platform, you were standing in the exact spot that was intended for Hitler during his rallies.

Next up .... Munich

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Night Out

Last night Steven and I were lucky enough to get an awesome babysitter and head out to our friend Greg's promotion party. We had an awesome time! Good friends, good beer and good times by all!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baby Wearing

As many of you know, I am a big fan of wearing my babies. It is just so much easier to have both hands free and be able to cuddle with your chidlren. I've even convinced Steven to do it, although he prefers the pre-constructed Ergo. This morning, while I was watching YouTube videos of back carries for Abigail, Declan was insistent that he had to wear monkey. This was the result:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Week 1, Day 2

I didn't get to start training until after Declan went to bed tonight, but I did do it! I walked 2 minutes then ran 2 minutes for 12 minutes, then walked 2 minutes, ran 1 minute for 7 minutes after that. I did a little over a mile (almost 2km - 1/5 of the way there!) today.

This was today's route.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sending Love

Today we gathered to send our quarterly care packages to our deployed soldiers. After we ate some delicious soup and salad, we set to work. All of this stuff (and more!) had to go into 14 bags. Needless to say, we sent a few extra bags of goodies.

We do these care packages every 3 months, so our next packages will get there in time for the Holiday Season. If you would like to send some things or send some money to help us bake things, please let me know. These packages mean a lot to our soldiers, who are away from their families.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Race for the Cure 2010: A Huge Accomplishment

Today was a huge deal for me. Friends and I participated in the 2010 Race for the Cure in Frankfurt, Germany. Two walked the 2km, and the rest of us ran the 5km. This was my first attempt at any kind of running race and most definitely the longest I have ever run at one time. The big thing is: I finished. It was not all running, it was not fast, but it was complete. I am very proud of myself for doing this, I am thankful for my supportive husband who ran with me for the first part, I am glad for the strangers who encouraged me (in several languages) throughout the route. I am glad that for a little while today, I was part of something huge. Something that will make a difference.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Two Babies, One Doctor

This morning the kids went for their well-baby appointments. Declan was adamant about going first. He was weighed, measured, and checked out by the doc, then it was "Abi turn." When it was time for shots, Abi went first because Declan didn't need any immunizations. Abigail screamed, of course. Declan ran over to her, tried to hold her hand and immediately began singing: Abi, Abi, Abi. When she was done, Declan bravely said, "Declan turn!" He was such a great big brother today, he made me very proud.

Declan, 27.5 lbs, 33 inches
Abigail, 14.4 lbs, 23 inches
Both are perfect, of course.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Sunshine

This morning the kids and I ventured to church on our own. Today's message was about slowing down and not trying to do everything all at once. It was a very appropriate message for me, and probably for most army wives out there. We often try to prove we can do everything on our own. Like its a competition. When really, the smartest thing to do is to ask for help when we need it. I am so blessed to have friends I can count on when things just get too hard, or too hectic. And while I cannot often repay them, I cannot wait until the day I can help out someone in my shoes. Paying it forward is the way of the army wife.

My goal for this week is to remember my priorities. To take care of my children and my self. The laundry can wait.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Downtown Adentures

This morning, the kids and I ventured downtown to the Farmer's Market. Just getting there was an adventure! Once we arrived at the market (thanks to the German couple who carried my basket and held the doors for my double stroller!), I immediately purchased the most gorgeous strawberries I have ever seen. We also bought some blueberries. We wandered the market and then saw the set-up for the International Fest that is being held tonight. After passing the Fire Truck display, we went shopping in the downtown Pedestrian Zone. I unloaded the kids to go into the Gummy Bear Store and from that point on, Declan was intent on walking, without holding my hand. Luckily, he stays close and enjoys the freedom without pushing his limits. As we circled back around towards the market, Declan started clapping his hands to the salsa band that was warming up and even danced a little. It was adorable. Abigail slept most of the time, of course. So, my first venture to the Farmer's Market was a success, we will definitely repeat this next weekend.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Two Fests in Two Days

I thought this summer and the 4,000+ miles my kids and I spent in the car together proved how awesome they are. This weekend, they proved it yet again. We hit two fests this weekend, with hours of fun, and no tears!

Idstein Witches Festival
Saturday was spent in the best way I know how .... with my girlfriends! We headed out to downtown Idstein and toured the town. Ice cream cones, creepy witches on stilts, and a gorgeous church later, we headed back to Chas's house and caught up on all I had missed this summer. Declan played with the "older" kids for hours. It was a perfect day.

Mainz Wine Fest
On Sunday, we took the train down to Mainz and walked to the Wine Fest in a beautiful park. Declan walked about 1/2 of the way and then gave up. I couldn't get too mad though, because he wanted Mommy cuddles. This fest was huge, and had more than enough for kids of all ages. Declan spotted the bouncy castle and wanted to play. I was prepared for a repeat of last time (sobbing hysterically). We had to go back a second time so he could play more! Abigail slept through most of the adventure, which is her style. We ate some Frikadellen, Curry Schinken, Pommes mit Mayo, some delicious beer, and a Nutella and banana crepe to top it off.

I'm not sure how this week will go, especially as I take on the kids full-time by myself, but I know that if they are half as good as they were this weekend, I will be just fine.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Our adventure back to Germany began Thursday morning while trying to fit all our stuff into Dad's Honda Civic. We did it! Final count: 1 garment bag, 1 big green army duffel, 1 duffel bag, 1 huge suitcase, 1 double stroller, 3 carry-ons, 2 car seats, 2 kids, 1 mom, and 1 Gramps. The flight was as enjoyable as possible with 2 kids. We sat in the bulkhead row where Abigail flew in style in her bassinet. Declan fell asleep before take-off and awoke only because he smelled the food they brought for him. No one slept too much on the plane, which I decided was a good thing, because we would all sleep when we got home. Good plan, right? Well, it worked! We arrived back in Wiesbaden and were all settled into our beds by 0730 CET (thats 1:30am EDT). We woke up at noon and did some food shopping and unpacking. Later on we took a walk around housing and had tilapia for dinner. Luckily the kids were settled in bed (albeit MY bed) by 9pm and I woke them up around 10am.

Thanks to the wonderful Lufthansa staff for providing us world class service, Billie for making sure there was milk for Declan in the fridge, and Dad for hauling the darned car seat through two airports.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Last night Declan was bringing me piles of books to read, and one of them was Happiness by Charles Shultz. Here's my version:

Happiness is iced coffee at 6:45am.
Happiness is spending days with my husband.
Happiness is reading books with my 2 year old.
Happiness is Declan on one side and Abigail on the other, for naptime.
Happiness is lunch with my best friend.
Happiness is driving a stick shift.
Happiness is the view from my parent's kitchen.
Happiness is the feeling I get when Steven is logged on to google chat.
Happiness is when Abigail smiles at me like I'm the most important thing in the world.
Happiness is having friends who will answer the phone at 2am.
Happiness is knowing that 15 minutes with Grandma makes her week.
Happiness is getting kisses from Declan every time I ask for them, even if its five times in a row.
Happiness is cuddling on the couch with my kids.
Happiness is talking to my siblings on facebook, when 3 of us are in the same house.
Happiness is watching Declan play with his golf clubs while he tries to remember which one is the driver.
Happiness is getting packages in the mail, when its not my birthday or Christmas.
Happiness is German beer.
Happiness is watching Declan and Abigail play together.

Happiness is knowing the right answer on Jeopardy before Steven.
Happiness is going to bed at night knowing I had a productive day because I spent it with my kids, even if the laundry isn't done.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Peaceful Morning, Eventually

This morning did not start out peaceful. Declan was awake and loud in my bedroom by 6:45, clamoring for milk, wanting to cuddle (take up the whole bed) and babbling incessantly. After 15 minutes, I gave up. We all headed downstairs and the morning began. Breakfast, two loads of laundry, clean dishes, two changes of clothes and a large glass of iced coffee later, we are all playing outside. Declan alternates between the red car (see picture), his golf clubs, and an empty toilet paper roll. Abigail is content having a front row seat to Declan's antics and is busy blowing bubbles.

I am sipping some more iced coffee and catching up with the world. Its a gorgeous morning in the Shenandoah Valley. The sun is out, the front porch is still covered by shade, the birds are singing, and all is quiet. Except for the occasional rumbling of a truck passing by or the whining of a table saw in the basement.

I am cherishing this time, as I know colder weather and rain await me in Germany in just a few days. As I go home to my wonderful friends, I leave behind the unconditional love of my family. I return to my apartment, with my things and my bed and my (gasp!) husband, I leave the comfort of my childhood home and the spaciousness of a house. I adore the cobblestones and the atmosphere of downtown Wiesbaden, but I will miss the familiarity of my college town, and the ease of asking for directions at the corner store. All in all, it has been an amazing summer. I have discovered a lot about myself and who I want to be.

Here's to the rest of the year. Only four months left in 2010, but I intend to make them fabulous!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lifestyle Changes: Week 1

I've decided that my life is not how I want it to be. Therefore I have made a list of changes and have decided to implement them one at a time. This week's change was a daily devotional. I have decided that if I have time to watch TV or be on Facebook, I have time to give 15 minutes a day to God. Granted, I frequently multi-task during those 15 minutes and read my daily devotional while feeding Abigail or watching Declan play with his trains. But I don't think God minds. He understands that I am a mother 24/7. In fact, I do not think He expects any less of me.

This morning in church, Pastor Dave mentioned giving God credit for all we have. He spoke of positive things, our money, our relationships, our house; but I thought of the challenges that God brings us to, and through. I am grateful for the things I have learned through the hard times, particularly through these deployments. I have learned to live on my own, to raise my children on my own, to rely on family and friends when I need help, and probably, one of the most important things, to ASK for help! I have learned that I can survive this army lifestyle. I have been fortunate to spend most of these separations talking to my husband online. We have grown stronger as a couple despite the distance between us. I thank God for the good things He has brought me and the challenges He has brought me through. I strive to keep up these daily devotionals, and to bring them into my family's daily routine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rebecca Alwine, M.A.

Today I received the wonderful news that my diploma has been mailed! It reads:

American Military University
Master of Arts, Emergency and Disaster Management, WITH HONORS

Woo hoo! I am so excited. I knew I was close, but wasn't sure if I eked out the honors. Can't wait to get this framed and displayed. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hospital Adventure

Well, last week I had quite the adventure. I was admitted to the hospital with contractions on Wednesday. I had to stay in bed and on medication there until Monday, when they sent me home on strict bed rest. Now I am on semi-strict bed rest. My doctor, concerned for my mental health, has allowed me one, non-stressful, seated outing a week. Otherwise I'm home, resting, not allowed to do chores or lift Declan. A challenge, I tell you!

On the positive side, Declan started full-time day care last week and loves it! He's thriving and learning so much. He is becoming more independent every day. He is now sleeping in a toddler bed and is progressing quite nicely. I love having a little man, but I miss my baby! At least he hasn't given up the cuddling yet...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Challenge

5) Exposure
6) The Shunning
7) The White Queen
8) My Father's Country
9) The Confession
10) Snowbound (in progress)

Looking for more books/authors to read. Let me know of some good ones!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quick Update

Steven's surgery on Thursday went swimmingly. He's recovering great at home, even able to play his video games. He's probably going stir crazy, so maybe we'll get him out of the house tomorrow.

Declan is teething (still!) and becoming more independent each day. Has to feed himself and walk by himself. Its adorable.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

While I do not know a lot about emergency management and response in Haiti, or other poor Carribean nations, I do know this: Whatever they have is unfathomably simplistic to us. There is absolutely no way we can understand what is going on in Haiti right now, not even with the advance of 24-hour news. My dad has a friend who specializes in Carribean Search and Rescue and he says that in other areas they use shovels and rakes to dig through the debris, where as in the United States we use tools powered by electricity, such as the Jaws of Life.

As colleagues of mine are packing and preparing for trips to Haiti to assist in their various areas of expertise, it is so hard for me to sit half a world away and not be able to help at all! I am hoping that some of them will take me up on the offer to post their stories in various forums to make the world aware of the situation. I have included a post from a colleague already in Haiti....

"I'm on a DoD Crisis Action Team. We have been working 24/7 - two of my colleagues did 36 hour shifts. Just a few tips - crisis centers are being inundated with e-mails and RFIs. Please try to use use channels - nothing is worse than trying to do analysis, deploy resources, and riding herd on a herd of cats in terms of trying to de-conflict overlapping requirements."

So, as we keep all Haitians and first responders in our prayers, please keep in mind that while this disaster will fade from the news in a few weeks, the impact will remain in Haiti for generations. And, if you are willing to donate in anyway, please go through a respected agency.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Italy Trip!!

We just returned from our Italy trip. We had a wonderful time! Steven, Declan, and I stayed with my friend Brenda in Vicenza and were able to explore the region at the perfect pace for our family. The weather was a typical northern Italian winter, with temperatures in the high 30s and rainy/cloudy. We explored a local mall and went food shopping Italian style (they have wonderful fresh produce!). Steven and I ventured off to Verona for the weekend and left Declan in the capable and spoiling hands of Brenda. We took the city bus tour (the best way to see any city) and admired the view from the seats in the Arena.

Saturday night we had a fantastic dinner at a little restaurant downtown. We had an appetizer of grilled eggplant, mozzarella, and tomatoes which was out of this world. Steven had pasta figoli (bean and pasta soup) and I had homemade tortollini stuffed with pumpkin and mushrooms. By far the best thing we tasted on this trip was the coffee! We hope to get back to Italy soon, maybe even during this upcoming year. Steven would really like to see Florence, and we loved the welcoming feel we got in the country.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 Book Challenge

I've started a book challenge for 2010 and I encourage all of you to do the same. I hope to read 50 books this year. So far, I've finished one. Not so bad, plus having the Kindle makes it so much easier and fun to read.

1) Midnight in Madrid
2) Conspiracy in Kiev
3) Countdown to Cairo
4) Mossy Creek

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve in Germany is an experience everyone should have! Fireworks are illegal in Germany, except on New Years. The sky lit up at midnight in downtown Wiesbaden for at least 30 minutes. It was a beautiful, unorganized chaos. All the fireworks displays were by individual people, but the effect was more amazing than if it was orchestrated. About 12:30am, the smoke from the fireworks mixed with the fog and although I could still hear the fireworks, you couldn't see them anymore.

As I was standing on the commissary hill behind Dawn's house, toasty warm from the fires and enjoying my sparkling grape juice, she mentioned how it must have been similar to the WWII bombing that took place on a very foggy night. How crazy would it have been to be standing on that hill watching the bombing of the outskirts of Wiesbaden and across the river in Mainz? I'm so glad for the amazing opportunity to live in Germany and have such interesting and unique experiences with such amazing people.