Monday, February 22, 2016

I always have good intentions about writing right after something happens but it never works out! I think I will start jotting down notes on my phone when I have blogging ideas. Do you do that? Am I behind on the times?

When we first arrived in London, granted it was an airport, it was love at first sight. Mostly because I could read everything. I understood what people were saying (for the most part). It was this completely foreign and unforeign experience!

I would like to mention that I did this trip alone. With 3 kids. They did great.

Anyway, we met up with David, and got in our left-handed car. I wish I had video of everyone's faces as we drove for those first few miles. Yes, they speak miles in the UK! I felt sooooooooooo at home except for the strange driving situation.

First stop?

Don't judge me. I honestly felt like maybe I was in heaven. I was sitting in this place surrounded by quite a few red-headed people speaking a language I understood. Most of them were eating buckets of chicken, or sipping Starbucks. And then there I was with my garlic butter sauce. ooooohh man. This pizza tho.

Since this first day was awhile ago, there are many things I have really come to appreciate about the UK and where we are staying.

The house we are staying in has a sink disposal.
The sun has been shining quite a bit.
There is no shortage of Pepsi products.
People are quite friendly.
The car we drive has seat heaters.
Bookstores. Everywhere
Antique/thrift stores. Everywhere.
Did I mention the friendly people?
Brands I recognize:
Haven't eaten here yet. Saving it for a special occasion. 

This trip has come at the perfect time. Since we haven't been home since coming here, the UK has served as a great reminder of how much I love the US of A. It also makes me appreciate Germany! I feel crazy blessed to have these experiences!

In the interest of full transparency, I'd like it noted that my kids have begged to stay home. lol.I don't know that many kids who wish for that. Like hey, "do you want to go to London today?" "No".
Um. Okay. Also, we are super sick. So we have paid for the crazy amounts of traveling we have done in the last week. Germs everywhere. I watched Dr. Oz the day after we got here and his medical team conducted a study on the germiest places on an airplane. according to his study, headrests are the grosest. according to other studies though, it's the tray tables. 60%  tested positive for MRSA and norovirus. That's more than half. I'm grossed out.

So here we are and here we have been for quite some time. I can't wait to tell you more!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I wish I could read minds right now. I want to know exactly what you think when I mention the word refugee. I want to know what you think when you hear (or have already heard) that there were 1.1 million refugees who entered Germany last year. Where does your mind go when you know/hear/read there might be members of ISIS hidden among them?

What do you have to say when I tell you that the very majority of them are just regular people...people like you and people like me?

I don't generally write with a purpose in mind. I suppose I do subconsciously, but today I would really like to inform you of a few things that you may not know.

1. On average, a refugee in Germany receives €500 euro's a month in benefits.
2. The cost of living is higher in Germany than it is in middle-eastern countries.
3. Many refugees want to leave because of the harsh realities that face them  here: living conditions, lack of job opportunity, and treatment from immigration offices, among other things.

I believe it!

We had an awesome opportunity to visit a couple of shelters a few weekends ago with a group of amazing people. 2 women I had never met in person organized a Caravan of Compassion for the community here at and around USAG Bavaria. It was a huge success. PLEASE visit Betsy's post about our experience. There are some great pictures and information there.

The people we went with (and took items in behalf of) were SO generous!  I wish I could have recorded the whole thing but what I felt was way different then what I physically experienced.

At the first shelter, a men's shelter, we dropped off warm blankets, shoes and other hygeine supplies to aid in the what once was lack of heat in the shelter, their long walk to a place with accessibility to a kitchen (2 km) and cold weather. I was completely overwhelmed when I stepped inside. This building used to be a school and in the gym were cots lining the walls, and the center of the floor. Their belongings were all within a few square feet of them. Their jackets (if they had them) hung on the walls. Otherwise, there wasn't much else there except men with a longing in their heart I'm sure, for something better than this.

We each passed out blankets and shampoo and shoes to the men who were there. They loved the kids and smiled big every time we approached. They especially loved Nevie's blonde hair.

Next we went to the family shelter housed in an old school as well. We were one of the first families to arrive and because we were, we had a few moments to spend with some of the families. There was a particular family I attached myself to. It was a family of 6. One of their teenage sons was particularly friendly. He even spoke pretty good English! He was more than helpful with getting stuff out of the cars and helping other people find what they needed. The littlest of the family (2 years old) was super cute. He kept giving Nevie kisses on her arm.

 We had planned on spending most of our time there but because of the lack of communication among guards, we were unable to go inside. So we made do! We set up our mini-shopping mall in the courtyard of this building. There was so much stuff. More than enough to fill a Goodwill. People brought suitcases, and toys, new clothes and coats, shoes,  hygeine supplies (good brands) and baked goods.

It was amazing watching how humble these people were. I've heard stories of refugees that would say otherwise but what I witnessed was nothing short of amazing. Towards the end we were pushing empty bags onto the families telling them to take more. A lot of them were surprised. I also realize that what they own has to be confined to a small space. Have you ever considered what that would be like? Packing your entire life up in a suitcase?

We had an opportunity to visit with these people and that's what I wish I had more of: time. Time to hear more stories. Time to get to know these people. Just one of the boys there witnessed his family burned inside of his home at age 12. He was able escape with burns covering the middle section of his body. He has scars to prove it. He waited until he was old enough to come to Germany where he currently resides, less than a mile from me.

It's stories like these, and many others that make me want to do more. However, I can't do it alone. I'm reaching out and asking you for help. I'm asking you to consider what you have and if there's anything you can part with. I've listed a few of the things they are in need of currently:

Hygiene Items (shampoo, conditioner, pads, razors, etc)
Diapers/Wipes (at the shelter we went to, they are rationed. They receive 4 diapers a day)
Old cell phones
Other comfort items one might want/need

Consider donating cash if you live far and we will shop in behalf of you. The thing is, this is a great opportunity for you to get really involved in the refugee situation because I live right here. Right among the news story you see on TV. I'd be glad to be your proxy and serve those who so desperately need it. I'm telling you, nothing changes you like seeing adults and children walking around outside in flip flops and short sleeve shirts.

I appreciate each and every one of you. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the community I live in. For our outing on Saturday, I had 4 friends (1 person I had never met) donate items to me. My trunk was packed full of stuff and I came home with just as much excess. SO! I'd really like to another Caravan. My friends and I have already discussed doing another similar type event. Just as one of our coordinators said, the 2 shelters we visited were 2 of 1000 in that area alone (Nuremberg). So if you want to get involved please send donations to:

Lisa Nickle
CMR 415 BOX 6880
APO, AE 09114

(It's a US Post Office so there isn't any additional charges for sending overseas. In fact, there's a discount)

OR you can PayPal me a cash donation. Please make sure to include a short message noting it's for the Caravan of Compassion.

Also, Betsy wrote another post before the caravan which is still relevant and very informative. You can find that here

Thank you again for reading this far! Sending you so much love!

P.S. That boy in the picture with Jackson was so super wonderful. He was so busy helping other people he forgot to get shoes for himself. The ones he is wearing in the picture are way too big for him. We searched high and low for some that fit and found a pair that semi-worked. I'd love to buy him a new pair of shoes. Will you help? :-)

Wall Street Journal

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I remember having to watch the informative video on this before we left the hospital with Jackson. My thoughts were filled with judgement towards any parent who would even consider shaking their baby to death. How could they ever?

Now I understand.

Except I've moved on to Shaken Toddler Syndrome.

Don't judge me! I'm mostly kidding.  Let me just tell you how the events of today unfolded.

Nevie really wanted to ride her bike today. The sun was out so I totally understood the desire. I told her what she had to do to get ready to go outside since it was still chilly...just the regular things really, shoes, pants, a jacket at least to go over her summer outfit she was wearing.

Genevieve did not want to wear her summer romper/jumper as that. She wanted both legs in one hole. As I was helping her with this task, I noticed she had Sadie's bathing suit bottoms on which were much too big for her. I mentioned something about it and you can probably guess how that went down. Then we got to her shoes. She hates socks. She had on capri's "tied" at the waist by her own doing. I really was pushing the socks to at least cover some part of her exposed legs. No. No. No. I wish I could take a picture of the outfit but she tripped and fell in a big puddle so we had to change the outfit.

So then I went outside to get her bike out of the garage. I was going back inside to get a jacket and she immediately started crying about how she was scared to be outside alone WHICH has never been an issue until this very day. Last year in the summer I would often find myself with an escapee on my hands...the same one standing before me crying about being scared? What?

Anyway, so I decided to sit in the car because I was cold. She then told me she wanted to get in the car with me and I told her no. So then she cried again. We went inside after that.

Thankfully her favorite person lately, David our neighbor boy friend, came over and he entertained her for much of the day. Even after that though, there have been a few times I have wanted to give her a tiny shake. But not really. Please don't call CPS on me, although in the Army it's called FAP just in case you do decide to call in which case I will promptly remove this blog which won't do any good because ...interwebs.

In real life though, she is a really great kid. She brings joy to my life on a daily basis. Often times, after getting on her for something she will say, "You are the best mommy ever" and I want to hide my head in shame. She is generous and kind and one of the most thoughtful people I know even at 3 years old. So while I complain about the nuances of threenager life, I really am grateful to have this one in mine.

Friday, February 5, 2016

First off, I have no idea what I am/was supposed to capitalize in that title. Can someone help me with that?

The night before last I was totally inspired by a family who travels full time with their 4 kids. They call it worldschooling. I freakin' love that and I'm totally adopting this title. So when the opportunity came to take a random trip on the train to Bamberg, I said yes! I figured since we have been there before it would be less daunting to do alone than something less familiar.

We took a taxi from our house which if you know where that is in relation to the train station, you'd laugh. It was cold and I was alone with 3 kids, remember that! So we arrived at the train station just in time to miss the train. lol. We sat in the convenience store bakery and ate doughnuts. And read (well one of us did).

We boarded the next train and rode quietly and in peace for an hour to Nuremberg where we were to meet up with our friends! As we were getting ready to exit the train, a German woman complimented me on my well-behaved kids which is the highest compliment (I think) one can receive. Germans are pretty quiet people in public (unless it's Volksfest or Fasching or beer-drinking time).

This girl melts my heart with her drawings

I didn't even tell him to pose like this

It was helpful to have my backpack full of supplies. In it I had something I knew each kid would enjoy. A book for Jackson, the Kindle for Nevie, and a notebook and pencil for Sadie. I also had a few fun snacks, water, tissues, wipes, hand sanitizer, extra gloves, lotion, chapstick, and a portable charger for devices. What I wish I would have brought and ended up getting in Nuremberg was a book for myself. I was planing on using my phone but was worried about running out of battery (even with the extra charger cause I'm a spaz). We used it all! I left my big purse at home and just had the backpack which I'm SUPER thankful for. Other things I wish I would have had: a small coin purse full of coins just for bathroom breaks. It was a teeny bit of a hassle to have to take off my backpack, pull out my wallet, and dig through my coin thing to find the right change to use the potty. Next time though (as in, 4 days from now eek!) I'll add this to my list. I also want to get headphones for the kids. We bought a nifty splitter* for the Kindle so they can all watch movies at once in confined spaces without it being too loud but the ear buds don't really work for little ears. Does anyone know where I can purchase budget-friendly earphones for kids in Germany? :-)

Yay! We met at the platform we were supposed to depart from and in the time from when we arrived until 2 minutes to departure, the platform changed. We rushed to where we were supposed to go and made it just in time to wait some more.

From there, it gets really foggy. I can't remember how many times we got off, and back on again.

We never made it to Bamberg.

Something happened and everyone was rerouted back to Nuremberg.

We ended up eating KFC in the train station. It was amazing! I felt a little bad for Cole who was visiting from the states. He came all the way to Germany to eat KFC. ha! It was delicious to those of us who don't get to eat it very often. Jackson said he felt like he was in paradise eating his chicken.

It was actually quite hilarious and fun!

I remember riding the train a lot as a kid and I remember it being super fun! I really hope my kids remember these fun adventures. Have you ridden the train? Where did you go?

*I am not compensated for you viewing/buying anything I link. Amazon fired me from their affiliate program. I don't think I'm meant to be a salesperson for other companies.