15 December 2008

Annika, Child of God

Annika was baptized on Sunday. We had a friend take pictures, and the light was not very good, so slightly blurry. Katrina behaved very well and seemed engaged in the whole proceeding. Annika looked around with wide eyes the whole time...even when the water was poured on her head. No crying, just looking about as if to say, "what's going on here?"

This morning, Katrina said, "Annika is part of God's family now." Yes she is, baby. And so are you. Thanks be to God for the miracle of you both.

12 December 2008

7 Quick Takes Friday

Jennifer at her excellent blog Conversion Diary has begun a meme that suits my random, sleep-deprived brain. So here are my 7 quick takes for this week.

I have not succeeded in getting Annika to nap for any significant amount of time in her crib or bouncy seat. Which is why I'm typing this with one hand. She does sleep well in her crib at night, up one or two times per night but usually quickly back to sleep after a bottle.

She slept from 9 pm to 7 am the night before last. Hopes were raised.

She was up at 2:30 and 4:30 am last night. Oh, the desolation (mine, not hers).

My computer keyboard is broken. The numbers five and six, the hyphen, and the page up key do not work. I've been using the "on-screen keyboard" for those keys. I use the hyphen/dash a LOT. For the second time, now, I get to go computer-free soon so HP can fix it. I think we bought a lemon laptop.

A friend brought us dinner a few days after Annika's surgery. Until yesterday, I had been holding her dishes hostage because I kept forgetting to either call her to drop them off, or in one case, actually take them with me when I was going to see her at a meeting. And yet I can recite the jingle for a local shoe store from my childhood (Super Shoes, for those playing along). Maybe I need to write my to-do list in rhyme.

Katrina played a cloud in "Scarecrow's Christmas" at the school. She had one line and delivered it admirably. The cast included the preschool, kindergarten, and first grade ages. They were all adorable. I was relieved that Annika, though awake through the performance, did not make a peep.

We traded in our Volkswagen Passat for a Mazda 5, mostly so we could fit more people than just the four of us. The Mazda was the smallest vehicle we could get that seated six. I like it so far. Katrina was very sad that we got rid of the Passat and had to go through some time of mourning. You know, until she discovered that she could open and close the Mazda's cool sliding doors herself.

I'm reading a book called Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person. My mother-in-law gave it to me mainly because of its interesting concept of work being either Drudgery, Craft, or Calling. But as I'm reading it I realize that I fit into way more personality traits of highly sensitive people than I thought. I thought I was just pretty introverted, itself in the minority in American culture. Now I'm highly sensitive too, which the book says is only 20% of people? I really am a bit out of step.

And did everyone else already know this about me (being highly sensitive, not out of step :) ), because now I'm thinking, well, duh, of course?

I think everyone should go watch my cousin Dave's porcupine videos. Katrina was fascinated and now wants to "see a REAL porcupine, not just on the computer."

11 December 2008


Advent is a time of preparation, church folks hear nowadays. Not the preparation of buying and wrapping gifts, but preparation for the coming of Jesus. Not too long ago, my pastor noted last week, it was a time of repentence, like Lent. The two aren't too far apart. In Scripture and in other spiritual writings, the holy Presence always shows us that we are not holy. The same robes of righteousness that look white in the grey of early dawn turn out to be dirty rags when the sun breaks through.

Perhaps that's why Advent speaks to me more than Christmas. The longing, the waiting, the awareness that what we see is not quite right. Perhaps because the world seems oh, so dark right now.

But "those who have lived in darkness have seen a great light." We know that there is something wrong in the world. Those of us who are Christian as well as those who believe in something else, or nothing else. We know it, bone-deep. Something is not right.

Christians believe that once upon a time, God came to earth to heal it. And that he will come again. And we wait...for the child, for the Christ, for the healing.

"Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God.
You've been promised, we've been waiting..."

10 December 2008

Me, Too

Ode to Obnoxious Christmas Letters.
Send me your Christmas letters! I read and enjoy every word. I'm working on mine right now...you just may get it in time for New Year's.

06 December 2008

In Which I Channel My Dad

So the stereotype is that women worry about turning into their mothers as they get older. I, apparently, should worry about turning into my father.

I was getting dressed the other day and rummaged through my sock drawer. And then I thought, "You know what I really need for Christmas? Some new socks."

26 November 2008

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

These are the three books Katrina chose at bedtime.

Together, they just about sum up her personality.

In other news, Annika and hubby went up to Mainz today to get Annika's stitches out. Because of her prematurity, the anethesiologist is being extra careful and keeping Annika overnight in the hospital just to make sure she has no adverse reactions. So it's awful quiet this evening. I have one picture of the "new, improved" baby, taken with hubby's phone, so not my usual stellar photo quality (it's hard to write that with a straight face). So, here is the preliminary "reveal" of Extreme Makeover: Baby Edition.

More pictures to come, of course.

But for tonight, a good night's sleep. A luxury...if I could just stop feeling like there's something (someone) missing.

21 November 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

Annika and I are home from the hospital! The surgeon said the surgery went perfectly. Her nose is already looking much more symmetrical. Her incision is covered with thin strips if medical tape, making her look like she has whiskers. But her upper lip looks nearly normal to me, except for the vertical line of black stitches slightly left of center.

She doesn't seem to be in much pain, and is smiling off and on. Eating is a bit of a challenge. She seems to be trying not to engage her upper lip too much, which makes for somewhat messy feedings. On the other hand, when she does use her upper lip, the milk comes a bit too fast for her and she chokes a bit. We may experiment with slower-flow nipples as she heals a bit more.

My husband will take her back up to the hospital next Wednesday to get stitches out; she will need general anaesthesia for that, so they may stay the night just for observation afterwards.

Annika's face will continue to change over the next year. It should be interesting to watch. Right now, we're relieved it all went well.

17 November 2008


Tomorrow Annika checks into the hospital, with me rooming in. Wednesday morning, she will have surgery to correct her lip. Germans like their patients to stay in the hospital a bit longer than in the States. Doc said she'd be an inpatient for 5 days. Stay tuned for "after" pictures once she's healed a bit.

If everything goes as planned, we should both be back home by Sunday night. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, please. "See" you next week.

07 November 2008

Everything's Gonna Be Alright

Katrina's had a tough few months, what with the addition of a brand-new baby and starting at a brand-new school. And being the little extrovert that she is, all of her feelings are expressed...loudly. Trust me, unless you have been here to witness it (hi, grandparents!), you have NO IDEA how loudly.

But things seem to be calming down a bit. And Katrina's fallen in love with the baby, bit by bit. And Annika's first real laugh, just a week ago, came when Katrina leaned into her line of sight and smiled.

The other morning, I mentioned the upcoming surgery to mend Annika's cleft lip (November 19).

"Oh, poor Annika!" said Katrina.

"I know, but she needs it to fix her lip," I said.

"No she doesn't! She's cute the way she is!"

And, that, folks, is when I fell in love all over again with my amazing older daughter.

20 October 2008

Typisch Deutsch

One Friday evening in late August, we returned home from a dinner out. As we got out of the car, we heard music from across the way and walked over to investigate. It was the Kindsbach Kerwe. I took the opportunity to take pictures of a typical German event. Now, I believe Kerwe is dialect for the anniversary of the founding of a church, which is also considered the founding of the town itself. In real terms, a Kerwe usually is a festival of some sort...the Kaiserslautern Kerwe is a week-long carnival. Here in the small town, the Kerwe includes a small carnival and some evening events.

And what does one do to celebrate the founding of the church? Well, pull the beer truck up to the church grounds, of course!

Don't get me wrong, though, bratwurst and beer equals socializing and celebration, not (necessarily) drunkenness, here. It's just a bit unusual to raised-a-Methodist (founded during the Temperence Movement) me.

Anyway, it's also not a German celebration without long tables under a tent, conducive to communal talking, eating, and drinking. Very few individual tables.

Music, too, is essential. We hear live music pretty regularly coming from the church grounds. I don't know if community bands, orchestras, and singing groups are more common in Germany than in the States, or if they are just easy to overlook in the DC suburbs as opposed to a small town.

And really, what's music without dancing?

OK, OK, so my kid was the only one dancing. And I was the only one taking pictures. Yeah, we blended well. But I wanted to record this typically German celebration. Wherever you go around here, you can find these elements...beer, brats, music, long tables, white tents, community.

16 October 2008

I Want...Compare and Contrast

I listen to both Christian contemporary music and whatever is on the radio. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two. And sometimes the differences are striking. Case in point...

The Pussycat Dolls "When I Grow Up" is about doing what it takes to become famous. Being "nameless" is seen as bad...the goal is for people to know your name. This YouTube version has the lyrics written out so you can see what I mean.

Are these the values that American pop culture is pushing now? Being famous as the highest goal? I know that some people look up to celebrities, and, sure, having that much money might be fun, but, really? I can't believe that being famous or rich gives your life much meaning.

Contrast with Sara Groves "When the Saints." (Unfortunately I couldn't find a video with lyrics attached.) Where the highest goal is to be part of the company of people who live what they believe. Whether you're famous or not.

I think these two songs point up a key difference between (one type of) a so-called secular worldview and a Christian worldview. Which seems more attractive? More meaningful? More realistic? Do you think the Pussycat Dolls song is typical of the values of our current pop culture?

13 October 2008

Becoming Solid

After Katrina was born, I did not call her by name for months. "Baby Girl," I would say, with all of the love and wonder and paranoia in me. At first, it seemed bad luck to call this little stranger by name quite yet. She was small and fragile and I was drained of blood and of sleep and of my old solitary self. She was always there, all the time, unlike anyone else I could remember. I had been freelancing for five years by that time, used to long stretches of time alone in the house. I was never alone now.

Baby Katrina

My first came into the world with a vengeance, with a loud voice and seemingly constant need. She took over, as first babies are wont to do. She was fire and passion and noise. She made me a mother, which for me--and I suspect, for most women--was a profound shift in my heart, my soul, my thinking. Everything was different. And despite my initial anxiety, Katrina made her impact within weeks. I was taken up with her, and everything else fell away. I could not imagine anything other than mothering her.

Annika was Annika from the beginning. The name sounded strange in my mouth, but I said it often, to make her real for Katrina. But she was even more fragile, delicate, translucent skin stretched over bony limbs. I looked at her through clear plastic, judged her health by the sounds of the beeps. Went home and put on a good face for Katrina. Others would say, "oh, it must be so hard not to have her home." And it was, but not as much as they thought. Subconsciously, I kept some distance, I think, just to survive. When I was home, Annika was like a dream. I tried not to think about her (often unsuccessfully), lest fear overtake me. When I visited her, she was real, but not quite solid. She was light in my arms, always pale, usually quiet. Ethereal. And after almost losing her, I found it even harder to trust that she would come home.

So when she finally did come home, it all still seemed quite unreal. Newness usually does, to me. Some quirk of mine. I was juggling baby care with older sister care. Katrina remained fiery and loud, a giant next to her baby sister. She took up so much space.

Annika still seemed ethereal, waking only to be fed, making her thoughts known fiercely, but briefly. I held her close, or others did, trying to make up for those weeks in the warm, hard incubator. But the distance remained. In the back of my mind, I worried. Despite her hard entry into the world, she did not make the splash in my heart that Katrina had. Perhaps because I was already a mother. That shift had already occurred. Perhaps the weeks of suppressing worry, fear, and maybe? love as we drove back and forth to the hospital had taken their toll. I loved her, of course I did. But the all-encompassing surge I remembered with my first baby, well, that did not happen. A futile attempt at self-protection.

Slowly, though, Annika grew and changed. She gained weight. She now has chubby cheeks and fat legs and little creases around her wrists. Her weight in my arms, or lying on my chest, is noticeable. And one evening, last week, I held her to me, the unmistakable weight of warm baby on my chest, and everything changed. She no longer seems breakable, a translucent fairy child in a world of giants. Finally becoming solid, deepening her imprint on my heart.

Self-protection and motherhood just don't mix.

24 September 2008

Baby Talk

Eh, eh, eh, eh (accompanied by head moving back and forth) = "Mother, I'm feeling a bit peckish."

Eh, eh, eh, ehEHeh, EHHHHHH! = "I'm starving! Gimme food NOW!"

WAH! (accompanied by arching of back or drawing up of legs) = "Oh! The agony of gas pains! OWIEEEEEE!"

AhAHah, ahAHah, AhAHah = "You're not moving fast enough! Pick me up/give me bottle/get me out of this car seat NOW!"

(grunting, with face going red) = "Oh! The agony of pooping! Better gear up to change diaper!"

And finally...

"I can hold the baby if you need help." = "Give me my grandbaby. Now."

17 September 2008

Double Digits

Annika is now 10 pounds! We had a follow-up appointment at the preemie clinic, and the doctor deemed her normal and doing well. She is still slightly anemic, but we were able to cut her iron dosage in half. Someday I'll have enough brain cells and quiet time to write an actual...post whatchmacallit...that makes--whatdoyacallit?--sense...and lasts longer than, well, this.

Aw, no one cares about the words. Bring on the baby pictures! Well, only one today. What a blog slacker.

Snoozin' on Grammy...don't you dare put me down! I will scream the scream of the the lonely and unloved! I don't care if you're hungry, thirsty, or unclean...as soon as I touch the crib/bassinet/bouncy seat I will wake up, and you. will. be. sorry.

28 August 2008

Bleary and Disjointed

The house is in chaos, of course; it's iffy in the best of times, but the advent of a newborn with her attendant stuff, added to the getting-to-be-severe sleep deprivation of mom and dad, leads to piles of laundry--clean and dirty--lying everywhere, to books and toys and papers and dishes and cardboard boxes (that used to hold the stuff) scattered over every horizontal surface. And, apparently, to run-on sentences.

Annika is doing well, and Katrina also. Katrina has had way too much TV and computer time, in between running and fetching for a mama with hands full of baby. She starts school on Tuesday and will ride the bus for the first time. Rather, the mini-bus--according to the transport person, there are only 4 children on the bus. Advantages of a small school.

I backed into a parked car last week. I blame the sleep deprivation. It was a beat-up old van in need of a paint job, thank goodness, so the owners were not terribly upset. A few hundred euros and they were satisfied. Good thing, too, since they live right around the corner from us. I was upset with myself. My husband was very tolerant, however. "I'm not mad," he said. "These things happen..."--he smiled just a little--"to you." I had to laugh, because he was right. My spatial perception is just not all that good--particularly when backing up the car. No wonder we've been looking for the smallest car we can get away with that would still have space for two car seats and an additional passenger or two.

So Annika sleeps peacefully...during the day. Her longest and most peaceful stretches of sleep are during the afternoon and then again between about 8 or 9 and midnight. By peaceful, I mean quiet sleep, without grunting and arching her back and struggling to get gas out. Her cleft lip prevents her from making a tight seal on the bottle nipple, so she gets a lot of air in her little tummy while feeding. We started giving her Mylicon drops, but haven't seen much of a difference. She is over seven pounds now, and her cheeks are getting chubby. She looks like a baby now, instead of an old man. When we take her out, people comment on how tiny she is. But to us, she looks ever larger and more solid.

She studies the world around her with dark-blue eyes. She sucks on the bottle and stares up into my face, sometimes with furrowed brow, as if wondering who this person is that holds her. She smiles sometimes, to herself, just a flicker across the mouth and then gone. I think of her as a plugger, hanging in there, trying her best...to suck with a bum lip, to sleep even through tummy discomfort, to live despite a too-early arrival, to figure out this strange and wondrous world, so different from her little incubator.

We saw the lip surgeon two weeks ago. He was personable and confident. He said that he'd like to wait until at least November to perform the surgery on her lip, until she was stronger and bigger. We go back in late October for another check and to decide for sure on the surgery. The biggest issue in deciding is not the procedure itself, which by his description is relatively simple, but in her tolerance for the anesthesia. He will do the least that can be done--sew the muscle around her lip together. No extensive work. Once the muscle is where it should be, he says, we wait and watch. Often the growth of the face with the restored muscle re-shapes the (now-flat) nose. Further surguries may or may not be needed. Orthodontic work may or may not be needed later. She will be in the hospital for a week. I can stay with her.

The surgeon put a dental mirror in her mouth to examine her lip and palate. He pushed gently down, testing her muscle tension. "She has good muscle tension," he said. "Some babies have very little muscle tension--a bit floppy. She's a fighter!"

She sure is.

08 August 2008


Annika came home Monday late afternoon. We're all doing well, though sleep-deprived.

02 August 2008

Almost But Not Yet

Friday, the doctor said Wednesday night. If she continued to do well, we could take her home on Friday.

Thursday was hot. Very hot. No air conditioning in the hospital. Annika was dressed in a onesie, a long-sleeved shirt, and fuzzy velour-like pants. And socks. And two blankets on top. She had multiple instances of shallow breathing, leading to drops in heartrate (bradycardia).

We're not happy about the shallow breathing, the doctor said Friday morning. We'd like to keep her until Monday, and then re-evaluate.

No bradycardias today or yesterday, only Thursday. So, maybe Monday.

In the meantime, pictures!

23 July 2008

Mean Girls

Katrina (in aggrieved tone): K. was mean to me today.

Me: Oh, yeah? How was she mean to you?

K: Well, I stuck out my tongue at her...

Me: That wasn't very--wait. YOU stuck your tongue out at HER?

K: Yes, and I said I was sorry, but she made me feel SO BAD.

Me: ...

17 July 2008


"She looks sick," said the doctor, turning her back and forth after examining her. The words echoed in my head, and my mind leapt to that old sleepover game, when all the girls put two fingers under a girl lying down in the middle, and each repeats "She looks sick" and then...

No! Don't think about that!

So she went back up to intensive care, after three days on the regular sick-baby ward. The IV went back in, the feeding tube went back in, antibiotics and infusions were started. And Saturday night, the nurse assured us that she looked okay. Her heart rate and blood oxygenation levels were very good. We should go home and get some sleep.

The phone rang at 9:15 am Sunday morning. We needed to get to the hospital immediately. There was something wrong with her abdomen. She needed to be transferred to another hospital, one with pediatric surgeons. When we arrived, our baby was naked in the isolette because, the nurse said, just the touch of the diaper around her tummy pained her too much. She laid on her right side, her legs drawn up. Her stomach was hard. She whimpered and sometimes cried in her sleep. She was too pale.

Within minutes of our arrival, her isolette was surrounded by doctors. It was clear they had no idea what the problem was. Infection, they said, but from an unknown source. Or a twist in the bowel. Or meningitis. Or, or, or. Her vitals remained steady, which each doctor reminded us of just after he or she mentioned one more horrifying possibility. And the monitors did chug steadily on, the only reassurance.

An enema seemed to relieve some of the pressure. Her tummy became soft again. But she was still in pain, still clenched in a ball, her little legs drawing up as far as they could go. The doctor decided to wait two hours and then re-evaluate. She remained stable. They took blood again. Her white blood cells were down, her hemoglobin declining. Both indicators of infection...somewhere.

They made us leave the room for the lumbar puncture. When they let us back in, she was lying so still, with a sheen of perspiration on her face. The sedative, they said. It would take several hours to wear off. At least she wasn't in any pain.

By this time, it was 2:30 pm. Time for the nurses' shift change. The kind nurse who had cared for Annika since the early morning hours peered into the isolette one more time before she went home. "Her color looks a little better," she said. "This morning, she looked gray. It's hard to describe, but her skin looked...yes, gray. Bad. Her color looks better now," she repeated. We took some comfort from this. Nurses can tell, right? They have seen many sick babies.

Through the long afternoon and evening, we waited and watched and reached our disinfected hands into the isolette to cup her head or hold her hand. Each time the doctor came back, we asked more questions. He admitted that he just didn't know. She didn't have enough of the right symptoms to add up to any one diagnosis. She got an X-ray and an ultrasound. We saw her intestines, liver, gall bladder, kidneys, brain. All clear. They would wait another few hours (again) and then re-evaluate (again).

Sitting there, watching her, I was seized by the urge to go home. To go home to my healthy, robust 6-year-old, where I could do something. Hug her, talk with her, put her to bed. Contribute to her well-being. Anything but watch and wait and cry and pray and think entirely too much.

Finally it seemed that she was going to remain stable, that perhaps the worst had been in the morning, that maybe, maybe, she was holding her own. We left the hospital at about dinnertime. We'd had only a snack or two all day. Grandma, who has been taking care of Katrina, made dinner. We ate together, trying to be cheerful for Katrina's sake. My husband went back to the hospital immediately. I stayed behind to read stories, sing songs, provide a bit of normalcy to Katrina before bed. When she was asleep, I went back, as well.

Annika was the same. Holding her own, vitals stable, but still very sick. Her anemia (low hemoglobin) had nearly reached the point where a blood transfusion would be needed. Last blood draw had showed hemoglobin of 8.3. If she went below 8, she would need a transfusion. One more blood draw, at about 9:30 pm. Results would be back in a few hours. I decided to stay for the results. My husband went home to get some sleep.

I sat in the darkened NICU beside the isolette, the only adult in a room with five sleeping babies. I must have dozed a bit, because the doctor was suddenly there, kneeling down to my level in the chair. "We got the results back and her hemoglobin was up slightly," she whispered. "There will be no transfusion tonight." I smiled wearily and thanked her, then patted my baby one more time and left for the night.

It was midnight. She had made it through the day. We would start again tomorrow.


Since Sunday, Annika has improved. The doctors have not yet made a definitive diagnosis and are still testing for a variety of possible bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. The leading contender at the moment is some sort of virus. The doctor said to me yesterday, "Doctors treat, but nature cures."

After several days with no milk, just a glucose and vitamin infusion (plus three different antibiotics and immunoglobulin), they started her on just a few milliliters of sterile formula diluted with water every few hours. Today they went to undiluted formula, just 4 milliliters every three hours. Thanks to the infusion, she has continued to gain weight even through this crisis. She is still pale but pink, and is now lying comfortably on her back, stomach, or side with no apparent pain. She is still anemic, but not enough to require intervention. She managed to pull out her feeding tube yesterday and, in one doctor's words "killed" her IV today. So, mostly back to her active, kicking self.

But I don't think her father and I have recovered yet.

Before the crisis

29 June 2008


It's hard to tell in pictures just how small Annika is. Of course, there are babies in the NICU who make our little one look large and robust. Anyway, perhaps this picture can give you a better idea.

And another one, just for fun. She often has her hands up around her face, and when she deigns to open her eyes, she looks around, brow furrowed, as if to say, "How in the world did I get here?"

28 June 2008

In Between

It all feels just a little bit skewed. I'm no longer pregnant--no longer waddling around, feeling kicks, wondering what is to come. But I have no baby at home, either. And when I'm at home, giving birth, having Annika, all seems like a dream. Life seems normal--taking care of Katrina, thinking about what to have for dinner, planning playdates and trips to the playground. I'm pumping around the clock so that Annika can have breastmilk, but other than that, moment-to-moment, it seems like nothing has changed. Except a vague feeling that something's missing.

Until I arrive at the hospital, and see my baby in the isolette. She's becoming familiar now. She no longer looks impossibly small--even though she still is. The lines of her face, her cleft lip and slightly flattened nose, her long fingers, her muddy bluish eyes...she's no longer a stranger. I stay as long as I can, just holding her, a little gnome wrapped in a towel, sometimes looking at me, mostly sleeping. It is often peaceful in the room; monitors beep every few minutes, but nurses generally speak in hushed tones. And I talk softly and sing softly and feel the weight of her on my chest or in my arms. And that missing part falls into place, and for the only time that day, everything feels right. I am where I am supposed to be, holding my child, cupping her small head, telling her I'm her mama.

And then I have to leave, to tend to my beloved older child, to go home and pump once again, to eat, to sleep. So I give my baby back to the nurse, and tell her good-bye, and walk away.

And it just feels wrong.

So I give myself a pep talk, and try to put aside my longing, and go home. And again home feels the same, yet different.

Something's off. Someone's missing, a someone who hasn't even been here yet.

27 June 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

A friend of ours is working in Baghdad for about six weeks. He's a contractor working on computer-type stuff for the military. With his permission, I'm posting some of his pictures and thoughts. I thought you all might find it interesting.

I’ve been consistently pulling 16 hour days so I come home and crash pretty fast. [My wife] sent me a box the other day with some cash and our little camera so I finally have some pictures to share.

This first shot is walking up towards Al Fah Palace where I work. We’re on a bridge over or at least next to the water. The two guys in front of me are my co-workers/friends here. M. is the big guy on the left, and the Navy guy on the right is CDR B. They’re running my project for the government. Both are terrific people. We have lunch and dinner together every day along with a few other people from the office. It’s nice to have companions that you enjoy spending time with.

One of the others is an Army SFC and behaves exactly the way a senior NCO should. He respectfully guides the 1LT in our group while taking good care of the whole office. He has something like 13 kids. Seriously. The guy has the biggest heart. It’s a bit of “hers, mine, ours and theirs”. They have been adopting children and fostering children for some time. His wife is in Hawaii living on post in special housing because of the number of kids. He grew up poor and can’t believe how lucky he is to be in the Army and able to provide for his family. Amazing guy and a good dose of perspective for us all. I’ll have to find a picture. Oh yeah, his favorite word is hoo-ahh, but it’s the fun, friendly style, not the aggressive one. On his wall he has a list of 15 definitions of hooahh for the Air Force and Navy guys.

If you look at the palace you’ll see some black SUVs. Those are General Petraus’ vehicles. I sit within earshot of his morning briefs and use that conference room for my training. Hooah! Can you say ring-side seat to history?

Below is a common sight, but it still gets my heart rate up. I love seeing the helicopters take off low and fast.

Sunset around the palace. I think we were walking back after dinner.

My bed. They take a single wide trailer and divide it in thirds. Then two people share each third. So it’s basically just enough room for a bed and your clothes. I walk about 100-200 yards down a set of gravel roads to go to the bathroom or take a shower. I wake up every morning to my bladder telling me to get moving. You have to get dressed and make the walk. Sounds silly but it is almost always an emergency and is the worst part about living here (beside being away from my family). Be sure to show M. [my son] his picture on my wall.

These are the toilets in the palace. Picture doesn’t do the palace justice. The detail work is all some sort of gold. It’s quite a luxury to have these bathrooms. The palace is pretty amazing. The overall workmanship isn’t always the best, but the sheer volume of detail work is amazing.

Another shot in the bathroom.

Walking out of the palace. This is the exit along the same bridge. Notice the white blur in the sky. That is one of the blimps that is tethered to the ground and always out there presumably monitoring Baghdad. Also, look at the tower on the left. When you get close you can tell that it obviously took some hits during the war.

I miss you all terribly. I don’t know how these guys do these long deployments. I’m only over here for a month and I’m already dying to get home. Thankfully the work keeps me busy and is something I mostly enjoy. I’m also getting lots of runs in and am getting into better shape, although not marathon shape.



23 June 2008

Fingers and Toes

Quick update: I'm home from the hospital and doing well, with hubby and Grandma playing fetch and carry for me. Annika is staying stable and has gotten back to her birth weight plus about an ounce (as of yesterday). She's sleeping most of the time, so has not taken much nutrition by mouth...too sleepy to suck. But the gastric tube is doing its job.

And now, pictures!