Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My life in Germany & more advice..

Change and the unknown don't scare me I embrace change I see change as a new adventure so right now I am in my element...I say bring it on Army.  I don't feel comfortable talking about life on just "any Post in Germany" since I am only familiar with life on Illesheim so I will be sharing my advice, tips and observations on living on my new post.
we are adapting well to our new home today is day 11 in Illesheim Germany.
Miss Maddie Belle still refers to our new home as the hotel even if we correct her she just looks at us like "you people are crazy" at times I think I might be.
I admit it is different going from living in a single family home to stairwell apartments in reality calling it an apartment doesn't do it justice more like a suite.  I can see where Maddie could mistake our place for a hotel it's big, spacious, sweet bathrooms the tub is to die for, shiny new wood floors and furniture that is not ours I can see how that could confuse a 3 yr old at times I feel confused. 

Some things that really stick out in my mind that I think newcomers should know.

* Store hours are different here
Be prepared to be living on an Army post that pretty much follows German customs holidays and work hours.
Everything is closed on Sunday except the library however the Library is closed on Friday and Saturday seriously why have a library a learning center closed on days when people more then likely will be able to go to the library it's the weekend craziness and the shopette which is a convenience store so if you run out of TP be prepared to pay $3.00 or more for a 4 pack of toilet paper.
To German Sunday is a quiet family day you are not suppose to be "seen" doing chores in public now I don't know about y'all but an excuse to not do yard work or wash windows outside sounds lovely to me lol however living in stairwell housing you really don't have a yard so skip cleaning balconies or windows. So I would say living on Post we observe this Sunday quiet day more by being quiet hence not letting your kids outside at 9AM to run around and have fun...plus suffering from no retail therapy.
The commissary is closed on Sunday and Wednesday so you have to make sure that you have enough food on hand to keep your family fed during the week even though Illesheim is a small post it's a little jot to the commissary and I will admit it is hotter then hell here right now so it makes for a long hot sweaty walk back if your carrying a bunch of groceries trust me I have done this way too much in the past 11 days..

* Money $$$ be prepared to have to restock your pantry & household items...My advice before moving overseas hit the store and buy your favorite shampoo, conditioner, hair products, deodorant, tooth paste, tooth brushes, makeups, bath products double bag them and use a large flat rate USPS shipping box for $12.50 you can mail this to your CRM box at your new post...WHY?? well because 1 there is no guarantee that your favorite shampoo is at the PX or better yet you don't want to be me put off buying a new bottle of cover girl liquid cover up  and end up living on a Army post that's PX doesn't carry make up yep you read that right NO MAKE UP AT ALL ok so let me also for warn you the PX at Illesheim also does not carry clothes, shoes, socks, underwear, purses or Jewelry ok so you get the picture right? lol so come prepared with the above items either pack them and bring them on the plane or mail them prior to coming..since you will have to leave the Post to get these items either on the economy or at another Army Post.
MO' Money..
ugh well in all honesty it's expensive when you first get here especially if you are unlucky like our family and your soldier didn't get to finance until the middle of week 2 of you being here. So currently we are living off base pay & single rate cola which is ummm difficult since you have to restock your pantry and refrigerator so my advice is have some money set aside and maybe have a ride lined up to help you transport the groceries.

Being car less is not fun...living over in Germany means you are in the middle of everywhere so plan on traveling once your car arrives if you don't have little children to tote around traveling by train is not that difficult for me personally I'd prefer traveling by my POV the kids would be more comfortable.

* Internet / telephone less
here is my major angst I could live without alot of comforts from my old home, my comfy bed, my perfect pillow, my snuggily blanket, my couch, my kitchen stuff all this means nothing what I am missing horribly is internet ugh ok so here is another thing to be prepared to drop $$ money on TKS which is the internet/ cell/home phone and cable provider has a store on Post..you can get an Iphone for 1 euro with a contract only thing you need to do is set up a bank account with the on post bank...this is for cell phone service however if you want internet/home phone/cable then it is a $$50.00 deposit plus you have to buy the modem which is $$50.00 as you can see it adds up so this is something else you will want to have money for or have your soldier have set up prior to you arriving..trust me in this isolated area you are going to want to have your internet to keep you sane .

* Time Differences
Big one my friends back in the USA are going to sleep when I wake up it's weird and makes for quick mathematical calculations every time you go to call a friend back in the USA  6 hours to the East Coast, 7 Central, 8 Mountain and 9 Pacific ...

* GHOST TOWN ok if it weren't for all the kids on the playground you would think that you were the only wife/mother on the post I don't know where all the wives are hiding but don't be surprised if you hardly see them my first day here it was like the Children of the Corn movies where there are no adults in the town lol ok well on day 2 I did catch a glimpse of a woman walking a dog lol
So other then meeting the nice wife who I had been corresponding with to get our new puppy snazzy,1 couple from my husbands unit had us over for a BBQ on my 2nd weekend here, 1 other guy from my husbands unit, the 2 ladies at ACS and the cashier at the PX I have had no other adult contact not one wife has stopped by asked if I needed anything, welcomed me or just said HI...so lack of manners?, rudeness?, disinterest?, shyness? I don't know but I plan on changing things around here...there isn't a facebook page for Illesheim wives but I will get one up and running as soon as I have internet there is a page called What's going on in Illesheim that list activities and stuff but I think newcomers should be getting a warm welcome and that means forming friendships before arriving so new families know someone and feel like they already fit in...so if you are reading this and headed to Illesheim let me know I would love to meet you...

What Illesheim has....that I have seen so far wink wink..will keep adding as I find more places

* There is a thrift store on Post it's open on Tuesday and Thursdays 12-5PM
* A movie theater
* A Bowling Alley
* A gym
* A Bank
* A Commissary
* A PX & A PXtra
* A Shopette
* A Chapel
* A Library
* A Subway
* A Pizza Place
* A awesome playground
* A Elementary School
* A Train stop right outside Post
* A CYSS for teen program
* A Do it yourself Auto place to work on your car


Auf Wiedersehen

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Advice on.....

For a list making, multi~tasking planner like me the inability to plan for the unseeable future events that the Army has a way of throwing at us is like trying to squeeze an apple and make apple juice it's just not going to happen. With my PCS to Germany in the near future everyone was commenting on how excited I admit that finally being reunited with Pachenko and living together as a family is always the ideal goal I was dreading the process of getting from Montana to Germany even keeping the end goal in sight I knew the process would be trying.

So once again I turn to blogging as a way to help my fellow Army wives meander there way through the BS that comes with a PCS oversease..what I learned along the way, what I would of changed, brought or not brought and anything else I think might give y'all an edge I wish I would of had before I began our journey just consider me a virtual sponsor lol which is a joke since we are suppose to have a sponsor assigned to us from our gaining posts to "help" us with any questions we might have....so here is the tale of my journey to Illesheim Germany..

 I think I will start with I did this all on my own with my daughters my husband Pachenko had already reported to Illesheim not by his choice but due to screw ups at his AIT which left me to handle everything alone including clearing out of our house in Montana.

My advice on PCS-ing
Don't waste your time packing...sit back on the couch and facebook or blog you will miss that when you are without internet for awhile lol
next have your soldier get advance travel pay from finance it sucks trying to pay normal bills and have to worry about travel costs..
Hopefully y'all won't have the calamity of events I had the last week I was in our rental...first the laundry room door fell off and landed on the doll house popping a hole in the cheap wood luckily I had a friends husband fix it, next we had a kitchen fire yep damage to the microwave hood, stove, floor as well as smoke damage to the ceiling...was not pretty at all then we have all the last minute expences that occur when you are moving out carpet cleaning for an entire house and any unpaid bills...then of course unexpected car repairs had to have 2 belts in the car replaced luckily my friends husband handled that too..
ok then when the movers come and take your HHG ummm yep you are left with empty cupboards to feed your family until you leave in our case it was 5 days in an empty house eating out of the fridge and freezer pretty rough at the end..
Now I am going to do more research on this subject but our closest port to drop off our POV was Tacoma Washington so I had to drive 10 hours with 5 kids to Washington from Montana now I love road trips so that wasn't all bad however I think that the Army should be a little bit more helpful in this department 1 pick our cars up at our homes and not make us drive to another state where I had to stay in a hotel for 2 nights in a strange city being stuck in a hotel room with 5 kids can be trying at times thank god for the disney channel.
P.S just last night I had time to go over the movers inventory sheets and they are a calamity of a mess not in order at all plus missing from the list are the xbox and my husbands electric guitar better yet my brand new schwinn bike trailer/stroller is listed as W which is worn well it's brand new used once and other then the fact that it's out of the box which it was sitting next to in the garage it is definitely NOT WORN ..so hopefully the xbox, electric guitar made it ok as well as my bike trailer..so my advice even if you don't have time or are exhausted take a minute and check the inventory sheets prior to the movers leaving check for the expensive items and important items that you don't want misplaced..

My advice on POV ports...
So lets talk POV Port I was told or read that they have a car wash on sight to wash off the dirt prior to turning it in well I assumed incorrectly that they had a CAR WASH like with a vaccuum that I could clean out the car my mistake in relaity they have some guy who washes your car for $5.00 what I learned is one vaccuum your car wherever you can because 1 they don't have a vaccuum cleaner and 2 they sent me out into a metropolis looking for a vaccuum cleaner 5 gas stations later I found a car detailing place called the pink elephant where I had to pay some teenage girl $10.00 vaccuum my disgusting car..of course after sucking choclate out of the cupholders I tipped her an additional $5.00 ugh it adds up
As for the actually POV paperwork part it was pretty fast I think they should however offer some sort of shuttle service for people since it costs like $50.00 to take a cab back to the hotel luckily I had made an Army wife friend in the Area who offered to pick me and the girls up at the Port advice make Army wife friends every where and don't be afraid to ask for help or better yet offer to help I say pay it forward...it's the only way to live
P.S SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS FOR EVERYTHING your soldier can turn them into finance and you will be reimbursed ...

I'm leaving on a jet plane don't know when I'll be back again...
love that song but this is the first time I can sing it and actually mean it. Up until my husband was in AIT I was deathly afraid to fly have been since I was a child...I have always had this knowledge that if I got in a plane I would die no waivering on this issue at all when my husband got orders to Germany I entertained the Idea of sailing over ;) lol anyways I came tot he decision that if I wanted to be with my husband I was going to have to fly and if I am going to die I am going to die so I don't have much control over it..plus I trusted in God

My advice on Airports is...
Airports alone are enough reason to drive someone insane and a huge reason why the Army should make it a point to have your spouse there to help you or pay for another adult to assist you..My daughters are well behaved no yelling, running or wandering off however traveling through a busy Airport with a train line of children is difficult at one point an elevator was broken so we had to use an escalator where one of my 3 yr old twins got flipped head over heels and it was only me being able to grab her by her feet and holding her that way until we reached the top that kept her from having her scalp ripped off or at the top when her twin and my 5 year old all came to a tumbling heap yeah escalotors are not for children..
P.S. that guy who shows up with a rolling rack expects a tip I was cashless without an ATM in sight so I had to write the guy a check. Also some of those rolling car racks don't accept ATM cards so have cash available..preferabily $1 bills
Lufthansa is not Army PCS-ing friendly when it comes to checked bags the weight limit is the weight limit I had a suitcase 3lbs over so they actually made me unpack it and move the stuff to another lighter suitcase ummm seriously so anyone who has heard they give PCSing Army families a break when it comes to luggage it's not true at least not at the Sea-Tac location.

My advice on packing luggage and Carry ons...
I thought packing a back pack for each kid as a carry on was a good idea turns out the light back packs were too much for my 4 youngest daughters and my 12 year old and I looked like pack mules by the time we trudged through the Frankfurt Airport to board our 30 minute flight to Nurenberg..So even though you get a carry on for each person as well as a check bag if you can't carry it or pull it all then go without it now that I have actually lived it take my advice utilize the discount on the USPS flat rate large boxes and mail as much clothes and necessities as you think you will need..So pack your bags with everything you want to take then mail 90% of it lol
P.S. USPS large size flat rate sent to an APO is $12.50

My advice for getting through security as FAST & PAINLESS as possible...
FLIPFLOPS also put any non-essential jewelry in your carry on, skip belts...also don't jam alot of stuff in your laptop bag that it makes it difficult to get your laptop out of the bag or being able to put it back in ..it's a pain in the butt..

My advice on snacks for flight...
after security be prepared to hit the over priced store to purchase snackies especially if you have awhile to wait for your flight just be prepared to drop $30 bucks on cheeze its and a bottle of water or two lol...as for snacking on the plane on my 10 hour flight they served a drink and snack not too long after take off, dinner not too long after that then next thing I knew it was breakfeast all mixed in with the drink cart going buy...which completely spoiled my 7 yr old Helen because when we switched planes to our 30 minute flight to Nurenberg Helen proceeded to call the stewardess Miss Miss I am ready for the drink cart lol ....yep

My advice on entertaining your kids for a long flight...
I spent a ton of money buying activity items for the girls to keep them busy on the flight so they wouldn't disturb the other passengers...ok well they watched movies on the airplanes built in personal tv players and when they weren't watching movies they were watching the very cool option of watching your own flight on a map with flight details but don't worry all those activity items come in handy when you get to your new home and the kids are toyless...unless you move to Illesheim and have a super playground in your yard..so as for lugging activity items, books, pillows on the flight...
P.S.one book each would be plenty and the airlines provide a blanket and pillow on each seat ;D so mail mail mail these things to yourself at your new home..

Now from my experience the flight part was a breeze...would of loved a hand with the Airports part and luggage..the thing that we had the most trouble with was...arriving

My advice on first Arriving...
When we landed at Nurenberg my daughters were hot, tired and very thirsty...my advice is once you get off the plane gather your luggage find your ride then get your kids a drink or something to eat...my girls were dressed in light sundresses but the soliders who picked us up with my husband were driving an Army van BMW but the Air Conditioning didn't work they had the front windows down but it was hotter then haddes in the back of the van also they had drinks they had obviously bought on the way to get us..which just added to my daughters misery it would of been thoughtful of my husband or the guys with him to bring a little cooler or had stopped to grab some water bottles or something..when we stopped for gas I did ask the one guy driving us if they sold drinks inside but I had no euros and by then we were 5 minutes from our new home..so my advice get your kids a drink let them go to the bathroom if they need it and don't feel bad for making the soldiers picking you up wait they rather have happy refreshed kids riding in the van then kids screaming their heads off because they are hot and thirsty..
P.S. tell your soldier to have drinks or Euros to stop and get drinks ready for when you arrive..

My Advice to you to pass on to your husbands prior to you arriving...
My husband moved into our new home about 3 weeks before I arrived however he had been out in the filed for the week prior to us landing so he was pretty much just sleeping at our place and eating at the DFAC...my advice is have your husband go to ACS to the lending closet get pots, dishes, bowls, cups, pitcher, silverware,can opener, coffee pot, toaster, Iron, Ironing board whatever you might need to be comfortable....
next we arrived on a holiday weekend added in that in Germany 1 you celebrate American holidays, German holidays...as well as offices/stores have weird hours and are closed on certain days...So tell your husband to hit the commisary to get the basics milk, bread, butter, cereal obviously... but tell him to get things for lunch and dinner for a few days..without a car it's a pain to lug groceries back home while dealing with dragging your kids along..here at Illesheim the post is relatively small but if your carrying a bunch of groceries the bags are heavy and it makes for a long hot walk..having your soldier picking stuff up prior to your arrival lessen the last minute rush or the having to figure out what is for dinner or what to use to make dinner.....in our case my husband had tuna fish sandwiches planned for lunch however he negelcted getting a can opener he ended up using a knife...soldier skills come in handy lol
P.S. Have money set aside for groceries at new home...

I have added important little P.S. reminders above like save receipts, check your inventory sheets before signing them, have cash handy for tips and carts, have your husband get Euros ..

* it is important to also be prepared for the wait for finance to reimburse you for your travel and for your pay to reflect you being over here...

* it takes some getting use to not having a car my advice is if you can send your car ASAP before you leave do it...that way you have less of a wait once you get over here..however you can survive without a car just bring comfy walking shoes

* if you don't have kids or one kid it is easier to go explore off post via the train if you have alot of kids you might prefer to wait until your car arrives..

* A little taste of Illesheim I was disappointed when I arrived to find out that our post PX does not carry clothes, shoes, socks or makeup...you either have to go out on economy for these items, have a family memeber mail them to you or purchase online my advice make sure you hav enough of the above items prior to arriving so getting out into the economy can be a pain without a car..

* Illesheim has a thrift store hidden next to the car registration, POV &  Auto Clinic..it has a mixture of random items..

*TKS is the home phone, cell phone, internet  and cable service...they have offices on Post
you have to open up a bank account on Post to beable to get service with them though..

*Advantage of living on Post you can send your kids outside to play without having to constantly worry about them..military kids are better quality of kids they are use to being the new kid, they don't bully, they are friendly and less judgemental..my girls all have made new friends and have already been invited out bowling..which is right here on post so they can walk..another great thing about living on Post is you can pretty much be complelely entertained here movie therater, bowling, stores, pizza place, library and gym...

* While you are out walking and exploring your new post you will cross paths with other wives make eye contact, smile and say hello...even if you don't stop to chat...and if you have a question just ask her she might be your new best friend....

one of my biggest challenges so far has been my lack of internet I am full of ideas, knowledge, info I need to share, blog...I have things I need to research and friends I need to poke

I am enjoying my new adventure in Germany...I wake up each day in Awe of the fact that I am living in Germany it just amazes me I love my new home I traded in a huge 4 bedroom, 2 bath, living room, family room, dining room, huge kitchen with a 2 car garage for a second floor 4 bedroom, 2 bath stairwell apartment and I couldn't be happier lol...which is sorta funny because I love Montana the mountains, the air, the crystal clear lakes I loved my life there, my friends there...but being me I see an adventure in every new opportunity I am now fascinated with the old buildings, the rows of stairwell apt housing, the cobble stone paths, the super playground,the fact that the school is right across the road and I can watch the girls walk to school from the comfort of my living room, the built in closets that would make a shopaholic green with envy, my kitchen door that traps heat in the kitchen when the ovens on, the frosted glass door to the hallway that shuts off the sleeping area, the giant windows in the living room and dining room ohhh and the uber awesome giant tub in my bathroom that is heavenly...amazingly I haven't even ventured off post yet...there is so much excitement out there just waiting for me to see