Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Arizona Beachfront Property

My good friend Juli and have a code of sorts. When one of us is having a horrendous day or is under a lot of stress, she will call up the other and ask, "I'm running away to Mexico, wanna come?" 

Let me assure you that being in the middle of a intercontinental move qualifies as being under a lot of stress. So after being back in the United States for one week, the kids and I decided to leave it once more - to go to Mexico. My parents had a week scheduled at their shared condo and invited us to go with them.

We've been going to Rocky Point since I was a teenager. First camping at Playa Bonita and then later staying in the condo.  My husband has never once been able to come with us. Initially because of school demands, then because of deployments and now because active duty members can not go into Mexico. But if you know me, you know I am pretty independent and don't stay home just because Geoffrey can't accompany me.

The last time the kids and I were all at the condo was in 2006 while Geoff was in Iraq.
Here's my cuties 7 years ago. Rory was just a baby.

I visited a few years later with all my sisters and some cousins for a great girls trip. And during our move from Utah down to Texas, my oldest two spent some time with my folks and got to visit the condo then.

But it was great to be all together again. We did all our favorite things - eating pollo asado (roast chicken) with fresh corn tortillas, cabbage and limes. Buying warm tortillas from the tortillaries by the dozen and making quesadillas with chihuahua cheese. My kids though this was hilarious and immediately renamed it puppy feet cheese. And of course we had to go buy paletas nearly every day. Paletas are Mexican popsicles. They are good sized, come on a rough thick wooden stick and are available in flavors like mango, lime, coconut, strawberry with chili and pistachio to name a few. They melt quickly because there is nothing artificial or weird in them and they are delicious!

And of course we spent lots of time at the beach.

The water was warm and shallow. It took us a few days to figure out the tide schedule but once we did we went tide pooling and collected crabs, slugs, tiny fish and weird worms in a bucket.
My mom and I took long walks on the beach in the morning. One morning we came home with this:
As I was still doing school with the kids whenever we weren't at the beach or in the pool, we turned it into a science lesson. Gotta love homeschool.

One Saturday we went shopping in an area we call Shacks Fifth Avenue.  Years ago it was really just shacks along a dirt road but lately its been developed with pavement and sidewalks. It's still the best place to find souvenirs. I bought a hammock chair, hoping our new house has a back porch. Delaney, Brannick and Carson all bought hats. Carson's was a bit unusual but he loves it.

For those of you who watch Studio C, we decided he could dress up as the Awkward Avoidance Viking for Halloween. Evan got a necklace and Rory settled on a back scratcher. Yeah, that was a weird one but whatever makes him happy.

My most interesting find was these bracelets:

Yep, that is the Turkish nazar boncuk and a khamsa!! But what are evil eyes and the hand of Fatima doing in Mexico!! Mexico has its own set of home guardians and superstitions but they don't include these. We asked the shop keeper about them but she didn't know much about them. I got the impression they were just another bead she could buy to make bracelets out of. Crazy, huh?

Sunday we went to church at the local branch and tried to sit quietly through the Spanish service. A little boy in front of me was fascinated with my Kindle. I had it out reading through a Sunday School lesson. He could not take his eyes of it. When I handed him a pen and a piece of paper from Evan's notebook he drew a perfect replica of it, right down to the small icons on the bottom of the screen and the cut out of the case for the speakers.

Monday Mom took the older boys and I to a shrimp place for lunch. Delaney and the younger boys don't care much for seafood. We sat on the top patio of the restaurant and watched the pelicans dive into the water and engulf huge beakfulls of tiny fish. The seagulls pestered them, picking at their mouths as they slowly let the water escape. Then the pelicans would throw back their heads and gulp down their meal, wagging their tail feathers in satisfaction before taking flight to repeat the process.
No, that's not a margarita. It's just the world's best lemonade - which in Mexico is made from limes.

My hot lunch dates.

After we got back from lunch,  the whole crew headed down to the beach one last time.  We were leaving the next day and had decided that our final hurrah would be to take a banana boat ride.

Here we are, all loaded up and ready to go.  We ended up paying $5 per person for a 5 minute ride. That's a bit steep but it was a fun and made a great memory.

Tuesday morning we packed up and cleaned, got our last hits of pollo asado, fresh tortillas and paletas and then hit the road.  Adios and via con Dios!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cochem Castle - Last visit to Germany

 Yes, I am back in the United States preparing to lead a much less adventurous life in Nevada. But things moved so fast at the end of the summer that I never got to blog about our last trip to Germany. And as my new life is going to be depressingly devoid of European travel, I have to maximize the memories.

Back in early August I took Brannick and Delaney up to Germany. We flew up in a C-130 - their first time doing a Space A hop in a military plane.  Delaney had been invited to attend Girls Camp with the Kaiserslautern Stake and Brannick just needed to get off base for a bit. We were able to stay with our good friends Mark and Karen Bowen, who had just moved from Incirlik to Spangdahlem.  Since we arrived a few days before the camp started, the Bowens took us to a castle festival they had heard about.

This is Cochem Castle. It's a darling castle on a hill overlooking the Mosel River.  It was built around the year 1000 by a count. That nasty Frenchie - King Louis XIV, aka the Sun King, pretty much destroyed it in 1689 and it lay in ruins for almost 200 years. Then in 1868 a German businessman named Ravene bought it and rebuilt it in a Neo-Gothic style. As was the fashion, he used it as a summer home.  Can you imagine? Forget a villa, or a beach cottage, let's go summer in a castle.  Since 1978 the castle has been city owned and every year they have great little Medieval type festivals.
Me and my peeps.

 To my everlasting disappointment, there were no knights skipping around banging coconut halves together. (Is it wrong that my image of history is influenced by Monty Python?) But they did have these guys:
The cheesiest sword fighting you can possibly imagine. We decided that WWF wrestler rejects get jobs as festival swordsmen.  Not only were they completely unbelievable but in manliness they were a pale second compared to these guys:

Bare chests, long leather skirts, big drums and bagpipes. Yep, it doesn't get more masculine than that. Brannick loved them and I'll admit the music was pretty rockin' even in another language. Too bad they weren't selling CDs. 

Eventually we took a tour of the castle, which advertised an English tour guide. I have no doubt that he could speak English but the tour was most definitely in German. He gave us a paper with a short English description of each room and left us on our own. 

Boy armor.

Girl armor. (Just kidding).
And Goliath's armor.
 Seriously, that guy was tall. Too bad there were no pro basketball teams in the Middle Ages.  Maybe it would have been too hard to dribble a basketball and bang your coconuts together at the same time?

We really enjoyed the festival. It was a beautiful day, good company and good fun.

Here's the crazy part. Stay with me cuz it's a bit convoluted. Last October the whole family visited Burg Eltz (this post) and for Christmas Carson found a small resin plate depicting Burg Eltz at the base thrift store.  He was so excited to give it to me.  Then just in time for Mother's Day he found a similar plate with another castle on it.  I hung it on the wall next to the Burg Eltz one. After I got back from this trip I happened to look at the plates and realized that the Mother's Day plate was of Cochem Castle!! How's that for a coincidence?

Finally - just to prove that I really am in Arizona - here's a picture of two javelina we saw in Saguaro National Monument one morning. Kind of a smaller version of the one the boys shot in Pozanti.  And see those mountains in the background? Those are the Catalinas, an indelible part of my childhood mental landscape. They say 'home' to me.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back in the Good Ol'

A long time ago I heard about a funny bit published in Reader's Digest. A travel-tired little girl lay on a pile of suitcases in an airport while her military daddy saw to the details of yet another flight. A nearby woman sized up the situation and remarked, "You poor dear. You don't have a home, do you?" The little girl sat up and replied, "Yes, we do. We just don't have a house to put it in right now."

Such is our state at the moment.

This house was merely a container for our home this past year. As containers go, it's a pretty good one. I liked it.  But it's time to say goodbye.

Goodbye house. Goodbye friends. Goodbye Turkey.

Our 'home' has been on its way for a few weeks now. The family left Incirlik on Wednesday, September 4th.  We were one of only four families who made it out of Turkey that day.  A problem with the cargo weight resulted in almost everyone who was booked for the rotator to Ramstein getting kicked off the flight.  For some fortuitous reason, my 7 person 10 suitcase family wasn't kicked off. The delay meant we didn't get into BWI until after 2 am, turning our planned good night's sleep into a three hour nap but at least we were back in the country.

Did you know that there are lovely people who show up to greet returning soldiers at BWI no matter what time of day or night?  It may have been the sleep deprivation but I will admit that when we were met with a handshake and a "Welcome back to the United States," I got all teary-eyed.

Two more flights from Maryland through Chicago to Vegas and we were done with planes for what we hope will be a very long time.  Hello Vegas!!

Geoffrey's dad, Leo,  picked us up at the airport. We had asked him to rent a 15 passenger van or something comparable for the drive down to Phoenix.  He showed up with one of those bus style RVs. My kids were over the moon. After being strapped down in airline seats for over 30 hours they could lounge and move around and get snacks and drinks out of the fridge with out waiting for an airline attendant's cart. And since this grandpa drives trucks and buses for a living, I passed out on the rear queen size bed for some catch up sleep with no shred of anxiety. Well played, Grandpa.

We had a great reunion taco dinner with Geoffrey's family which he and Leo were very late for. They had gone to return the RV and came home two hours later with a motorcycle. Have I mentioned that Leo can be a bad influence on my husband? Actually, the bike is exactly the type he's been wanting, was a great price and its purchase means I won't have to listen to months and months of motorcyle research.

The next day my parents drove up from Tucson to bring the crew down.  We had dinner with my oldest sister, Treisa and family that night and with another sister (Michelle) and brother (Traver) and respective families the next day. It was fabulous to see everyone again. And both Treisa and Traver brought party packs of Eegees. Best welcome home gift ever.

Sunday we celebrated birthdays - Grandpa Riggs, Cody - Michelle's 3 year old, and Evan - who turned 11 the day we drove down to Phoenix.
Yet another bypassed birthday make-up.

On Tuesday Geoffrey left for Vegas via Phoenix. He had collected his Jeep from Treisa whose talented husband Ed has it running better than when we left it with them.  A small trailer for his acquisition and his golf clubs later and he is on his way. He will stay in a relative's home until we find a new container for ours.

Meanwhile the kids and I are hanging out in Arizona. My parents have three extra bedrooms and lots of patience. They have a week at their Mexico condo and a week at their mountain cabin that we will take advantage of. My sisters have both invited us for visits.  So being 'houseless' is not so bad.  Because I'm feeling right at home.