Friday, August 28, 2009

John Deere has gone soft!

Okay, I know I'm behind with blogging. It's been a week since I last posted and I still haven't finished telling you about our trip to the States, but I do have a great excuse in that we moved... only four houses down, but we moved just the same.

I just saw something very interesting today that I'd never seen before and wondered if I've been living under a rock or what.

I grew up seeing John Deere tractors and lawn mowers, didn't you? They were manly-man kinds of vehicles like these...

Check this out...

We saw someone in the NEX pushing one of these babies. I wouldn't have necessarily noticed until my husband pointed it out. Evidently John Deere has expanded its focus to include baby strollers. Who would have thought it?

Friday, August 21, 2009

U.S. Vacation - Part I

So... after four tries we finally got on a Space-A flight and made it to the States, to Jacksonville, FL, to be exact. That's not exactly where we'd planned to go, but the plane was headed to the east coast, so we jumped at the opportunity to get on board. We had to re-plan our vacation route as a result of our delay, but it all worked out.

Upon landing in Jacksonville, we noticed an open hangar with a huge American flag hanging inside and lots of people who appeared to be waiting for something or someone. As it turned out, those folks were waiting for the large group of Navy men and women on our flight who were returning from a deployment. It was a very touching scene, one I felt privileged to have witnessed. I love homecomings!

Because there is no way of obtaining a one-way rental vehicle in Jacksonville, we stayed overnight in a hotel and got on a commercial flight the next day. Our consolation was eating at Cracker Barrel for our first stateside meal. I don't think food had ever tasted so good to me! And the sweet tea was the best ever!

The next morning we boarded a flight which would eventually take us to Louisville, KY, but naturally we had a few stops along the way... Nashville to Chicago and then on to Louisville. Our flight out of Chicago was delayed too. It seemed like for each step we got closer to our destination, we took two steps back. We were just laughing at this point.

We sat back and enjoyed people watching, which can serve for hours of great entertainment. Good thing for us, huh? There were crying babies, bratty kids, drunk passengers, ticked off passengers, rude passengers, smelly passengers and just plain weird passengers. We're magnets for all of the aforementioned. Of course I wonder what people think about us upon first sight.

We finally made it to Louisville, got our rental car and drove to my parents' home where we stayed for four nights. We visited with family and friends and stimulated the economy in a big way. In fact, I have no doubt that the media reported a significant increase in spending in central Kentucky during our time spent in the area. Seriously. We shopped 'til we dropped for school clothes and birthday gifts for the boys, and we ate like we'd been deprived for months on end.

We enjoyed every minute of our time in Kentucky, but I'll have to say that the biggest highlight for me was having the opportunity to meet my 9-month-old niece for the first time. You know I've talked about her quite a bit and had been more than a little anxious to see her. "Miss B" is quite possibly the cutest baby ever... well, next to my boys, of course. I've got it! She's the cutest baby GIRL ever! Check out this bundle of energy and sweetness...Look at those beautiful baby blues! They just sparkle, don't they?

Miss B smiles most of the time. She's content and animated as can be.

M really enjoyed playing with his baby cousin. He was simply intrigued with her! I think he would have made an excellent big brother, however, since he will never be a big brother, he can settle for being an awesome cousin.

The Gerber baby's got nothing on my niece!

D got in on the act and had fun with Miss B too. He loved hearing her "talk."

She has so many different expressions.

I got my "fix" with my adorable niece. Hopefully it'll hold me 'til we get to see one another next year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Space-A Travel is NOT for Wimps!

Our vacation is over and we're trying to come out of the haze that jet lag and time zones seem to leave us in. We had quite an adventure, some of it fun and enjoyable, and some of it not-so-much fun or enjoyable, but all of it was memorable and made for blog fodder.

We decided to fly space available by taking a military plane (It's referred to as "hopping" for you non-military types) to the States. My husband has been in the Air Force for more than 20 years and we'd never experienced a hop, therefore we figured we'd give it a whirl. People have been telling us for years we should try it... it's so easy... blah, blah, blah.

Well, maybe Space-A hops are easy for some people, but it didn't really go down that way for us, which is so totally predictable for our family. What were we thinking?

Let's just say it wasn't so easy, in that it took us quite some time to get on a flight going to the States (4 days), as well as quite some time to return to Spain (another 4 days). All four of us had to show up hours in advance of each flight just to see if we could get on. And of course the flights are at all times of the day and night, so we were exhausted before we ever got on a plane. It's such a gamble, and the waiting game is mentally, emotionally and physically draining...

Will we make this flight or are there too many people ahead of us on the list?

Will the plane be taking passengers or is it carrying hazardous cargo or already at max weight?

Will the maintenance issues be taken care of before the crew duty day ends?

I felt total and complete empathy for the people working in the passenger terminal as they often receive the brunt of angry, weary, emotionally distraught travelers. I'm sure they don't get paid enough. What people tend to forget is these flights are FREE for military folks and their families, and it's a privilege to be allowed to travel in this manner. We, the passengers, aren't really the priority. The plane, its mission and crew are the priority. We're just along for the ride. As painful as the process can be, we should still appreciate being given the opportunity and realize how fortunate we are.

All's well that ends well, and the actual flights were great, so no complaints there. Both crews were very accommodating and professional. The boys got to experience flying on a C-5 and see what their dad used to do on a regular basis. That was cool. Plus the C-5 has leg room, which is a HUGE bonus for me, not to mention the fact that flying Space-A meant escaping a commercial flight and having to go through Madrid's airport, another HUGE bonus for me as I find Madrid to be incredibly confusing and painful.

I'm telling you, it definitely takes patience, stamina and a keen sense of humor to roll with Space-A travel. It ain't for everybody! I'm glad for the experience, but not sure I want to do it again anytime soon.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What did you say?

My oldest son was reading aloud from a book a few days ago and he came across a word he was unfamiliar with... AUTOPSY. He used his phonetic skills, however, what rolled off his lips came out as "AUTOPUSSY."

My husband and I looked at one another, then we looked at D and I asked him to spell the word. NOTE: I did not ask him to repeat the word, for fear of cracking up. Keeping a straight face was difficult enough.

We corrected his pronunciation and explained what an autopsy is. Then my husband and I looked at one another and proceeded to surpress the belly laughs that were promising to break forth.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

We made it!

In case you're wondering, we FINALLY made it to the States on the 4th try. Patience and determination is what it takes to roll with Space-A travel. It's a very long story, and eventually I'll share bits and pieces with you, but for now just know we're doing our very best to stimulate in the economy in the USA and enjoying every minute. We'll chat more with you soon!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Groundhog Day... still

Yep, it's Groundhog Day, which means we're still in Rota. The Space-A gods clearly aren't smiling on us. In fact, it feels like they're poking us in the eyes with very sharp sticks.

We returned to the passenger terminal at 1am this morning to wait for a flight, only to find out there was a problem with the toilets on board the plane, something about not being able to flush them. I kept thinking they could simply avoid the problem by handing out Depends to everyone. Hey, it's one solution, right? Don't worry... I haven't completely lost my mind... yet. I didn't actually make the suggestion.

We obviously didn't get on the original flight, but there was a second option leaving just a short time after, and even though it was going to take us several hours out of our way, it was headed to the east coast of the States. We were committed to getting on that flight.

We got on this second flight and were even airborne, but about an hour into the flight, the plane started experiencing maintenance issues and we had to divert right back to Rota. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I'm starting to think the Lord doesn't want us to go to the States.

Our kids are wiped out and disappointed. I'm so tired I can't sleep. My poor husband has scheduled and rescheduled car rentals several times now due to all the flight changes, and he continues to search for other possible flying options. Flying commercial is simply too expensive at this late date (nearly $8000 for the four of us), so that's out.

My husband says today is quite the orientation for our family to experience a typical C-5 crew duty day. I could have done without the orientation, thank you very much.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

To fly or not to fly... that is the question

I had hoped that my next blog post would be from the States as we were planning on already being there by now. Alas, the C-5 we were to "hop" out on had some maintenance issues and the flight has slipped. This is not out of the ordinary, of course, but this is a whole new experience for our family as we've never "hopped" before.

All day yesterday we kept watch on the scheduled flight time and the mission continued to slip a few hours at a time, but we were patient. I kept reminding myself we wouldn't have to go through the Madrid airport, and we'd have some leg room, both definite perks of going Space-A (space available), but a gamble too, in that nothing is guaranteed.

So today is like Groundhog Day in that we're going to do it all again... following the same routine, only this time we're hoping to actually make it on the plane and get airborne with no maintenance issues. Keep your fingers and toes crossed that we're a go tonight.