Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Switch

Since John returned a few weeks ago I have found myself in awe of the attitude switch that occurs between my deployment mode and my-husband-is-home-and-I-am-a-damsel-in-distress mode.  For example, if I see a bug?  During deployment:  Scream into a pillow so I don't scare the kids and then suck it up and dispose of the bug.  Post-deployment: Scream like a banshee and run and find John to dispose of the bug.  Outside.  In our neighbors yard.  Then let him take care of the two scared toddlers.  See also: opening jars, unclogging toilets, changing light bulbs, putting air in my car tires, and, most importantly, packing for road trips.

Traveling was part of survival during deployment.  I needed company, adult interaction, a change of scenery, and to attend family obligations or important events.  I won't lie and say it was a breeze, it took many hours of packing as quietly as possible because the only time to do it was during naps or when they were sleeping in the evening.  But I did it. And I didn't need much wine or Valium or cheerleading to get it finished.  But now?  Oy vey how the hell did I do that all by myself?

Watching John try to pack all of our crap into our car for this road trip made me laugh wonder if I could have done it without him.  Deep down the answer is a resounding "duh, of course", but seriously, I am starting to understand why people are so quick to say things like "I could never do that" when they look at your situation from the outside.  I think we naturally let our guard down to the point where you can live happily and healthily with the resources we have.  This avoids gray hair, overeating, and divorce.  So if our husbands are gone, our guard goes up and we work it out.  Husband home?  He gets to mow the grass and I let lots of things just seamlessly slip into the "his" category without a lot of fanfare. 

Those of you who know my husband know that when he gets home I yield to him in all things packing, organizing, and filing.  He is borderline OCD and when it comes to certain things it really is his way or no way (or really, his way or he will re-pack the car, re-fold his laundry, re-organize the office). So I save myself some time and just let him do it (or in the case of the laundry, begrudgingly learn how to fold things the "Naval Academy way".  Yes, our shirts look like little rectangles).  During my deployment road trips, I did not care if certain things were in the trunk or if I had to use the area below the carseats to store things.  I didn't think too hard about having a "base" in luggage before stacking other lighter objects.  I just packed.  And I am proud to say I was never that person on the side of the highway whose items were strewn across the lanes.  But it wasn't perfect.  And I surely didn't optimize space to the perfectionist standards of Johnny.  A few times I even thought about taking a picture of my packed car and emailing it to him just because I know the reaction would have been funny.  And that he would have had a small tic for the rest of the day.

Overall, our road trip was a success.  Gifts got where they needed to go (and we packed all or them with plenty of rear-window visibility), the kids had a blast with their cousins, the food was excellent, and we lost just enough sleep to make us appreciate our own beds by the time we returned.

Hopefully my three readers didn't think I was a total scrooge for not blogging the obligatory "Merry Christmas" post on 12/25.  I really do hope you had a wonderful holiday (no matter what you celebrate) and got to soak up a lot of quality time with your loved ones.  For your patience, and overall viewing pleasure, here is the holiday photo that sums up what it is like to try and get four kids under five to pose nicely for a Christmas photo:

The soundtrack is even better than the picture.  Three adults laughing, three toddlers crying, and a train whistle just for fun.  This photo is totally going in the "wedding rehearsal dinner slide show" file.  For all four of them.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thank You, New York Times!

Yesterday in the Op Ed section of the New York Times they published a short opinion on why the military pension system should continue.

The middle of the article sounded a lot like my personal plea to keep the retirement system in the military stable.  It reads:

Needless to say, there are critical differences between the civilian and military work forces. Soldiers who have risked their lives for our nation should not also have to risk their retirement savings in stocks. But there are many more mundane sacrifices required of career service members that also make it hard for them to build up the kind of wealth — whether in their houses, their careers or the careers of their spouses — that cushions civilian retirees from the whims of the market.

Service members are often required to move, for example, which hinders their ability to build home equity. Many have to put off purchasing homes, and those who do buy do not have the option of choosing not to move if their mortgages become underwater. For this reason, the housing crash of recent years has hit service families especially hard.

Frequent moves also make it hard for service members’ spouses to find work and progress in their own careers. This is most likely a primary reason that median household incomes for military families are lower than those of their civilian counterparts.

Hopefully, these items will start being discussed more seriously and not be a mere footnote (or non-none as I saw in some original proposals).  Thank you, New York Times, for bringing these important factors into the mainstream news.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

So, How'd I Do?

Somehow a week has flown by since Johnny returned from deployment.  I have spent a lot of time walking around on cloud nine; I cannot tell you how amazing it is to have someone to take a baby out of your hands and replace it with a cup of coffee after a deployment.  John has had to stop me a few times and just say "I'll handle it" because I have become a scurrier these past seven months.  There were days where I honestly didn't stop moving (fluid motion between diaper changing, feeding, playing, laundry, more diapers, more feeding, trying to keep the kids from killing each other, cleaning the kitchen, going out on errands, more diapers, etc, ad nauseum) between 7AM and 7PM.  And then after bedtime I would walk downstairs and want to cry because of the mess in front of me.  My mom will attest that there were days when she was here that at about noon she would ask me if I had eaten anything and I would look at her and say "uuuh, no actually".  Forgetting to eat was the norm for awhile.  I wasn't the priority - the kids were.  Showering, eating, exercising...  they were all second to making sure the kids were fed, clean, safe, and happy.

Parenting, especially parenting a 2 and 1 year old, is a two person endeavour.  Probably a 5 or 6 person endeavour but let's be realistic.  But there were many times during the deployment where I would feel that what I was trying to do (be a good mom to two small kids) was nearly impossible with my setup (a deployed husband and no family nearby).  One of the 2432423 reasons I'm happy Johnny is home is that I think I will be a better mom - less stressed, more rested, and a lot more excited to go do fun things.

I've been thinking a lot about how I handled myself the past seven months.  If you have been reading, I started this blog as a way to remember the ups and downs of this deployment.  In my very first post I wrestled with the idea of time and how our life doesn't pause when things we don't like happen.  How, no matter what my attitude was toward deployment, nothing can change that I had seven months on my own.  So I better make the most of those seven months. 

On a very basic level we did great. The kids are happy and healthy, the house is still standing, both pets (and even koi fish!) survived.  Bills were paid, cars are in good shape, our rental properties are doing well.  Nothing fell apart.  Yay me. 

But as I strip the layers down, I know that there were many times where I wish I could have just relaxed and let things happen more gracefully.  Because of my anxiety, I often pick things down to the most minute detail and perseverate on them.  This isn't healthy.  I probably drove my mother halfway insane by my inability to let go and let others help me without worrying constantly about everything.  I worried about putting people out, about asking for help, about a babysitter coming over and seeing a messy kitchen, about not sending Johnny enough packages, about my neighbors thinking the grass was too long, etc.  I think that I would have done myself a huge favor by just letting some things go (and really letting go) over the past months.  Appearances aren't everything, and honestly, having a glass of wine instead of scrubbing your kitchen floor is sometimes the best choice.

I have a few friends who have recently said farewell to their husbands.  I really hope that they are good to themselves and worry less than I did.  I hope they find the joy in the everyday.  I hope that they pour themselves a glass of wine and just put their feet up a few times a week.  Put your coffee maker on a timer and pour yourself a cup BEFORE you pour that sippy cup.  Make sure you hire a babysitter and get out of the house at least once per week on your own.  And don't don't feel guilty about it.  Don't be afraid to ask for help because so many people are really genuine in their offers. 

I am going to compile a deployment survival guide in the next few days.  Mostly so that next time I can remember what really helped me.  But hopefully it will help a few others too.
Saturday, December 10, 2011

Go Navy-Navy-Navy

The slogan of the day is BEAT ARMY (sir!). 

If Navy wins today it will be 10 straight wins.  As a matter of fact, the last time Navy lost was the weekend that my husband and I got engaged back in 2001.  Not the greatest omen, eh?  Thankfully I'm not a very superstitious person.

If you love tradition and flyovers and men in uniform and (mediocre) college football, I urge you to tune in.  There is something very special about Army vs. Navy.  A respectfully vicious rivalry.  One of the best things about Army Navy are the spirit spots - short videos that the midshipman and cadets make to show their pride in their schools (and of course to tease each other).  Think of them as low-rent but more genuine Super Bowl commercials. 

Here are a few of my faves from this year so far:

Teach Me How To Mid
(I swear I could write a whole blog post on just this video and how I totally see my college self in these girls prowling around Annapolis, but I won't embarrass myself)

Party Rock Anthem

I hope everyone is having a great weekend!  I am soooooo enjoying having my family back in tact for snuggling up in a warm house with college football.  Bliss!
Friday, December 9, 2011

You Put Your Arms Around Me And I'm Whole

On December 7th at about 1:30 I got to see one of the most precious sights I could ever imagine.

Six and a half years ago, at our first homecoming after our first deployment, I would have never believed you if you told me I would let another girl have the first hug at homecoming.  I was so territorial about wanting it to be just about us.  Things have obviously changed since 2005, and it was very clear who wanted that hug the most.

To say I am happy that John is home is the understatement of the century.  I am happy for our son who will finally get to know his daddy.  I am happy for our daughter who has missed him so much these past seven months (and hasn't for one second forgotten about him or stopped asking about where he is).  I am happy for myself because I think my quality of life is going to improve drastically.  Adult conversation, hugs and kisses, and extra set of hands on our outings, someone to laugh with and watch the kids grow with.  I can't tell you how many times Kate or Connor has done something hilarious or adorable where I just wanted someone else there so badly it hurt.  Or at least wanted someone to share the story with at the end of the day.  We are finally whole again.

Connor has adjusted incredibly well.  All morning before the homecoming he was babbling "dadda" around the house.  I'm not sure if it was because I was telling Kate that we were going to see daddy, or if he had some kind of sense things were going on, but he seemed to get it.  And when I handed him to John for the first time there was no tears or apprehension.  He seemed totally at home in his daddy's arms.

I feel so incredibly lucky that my other half is home safe.  I am so lucky he is home for Christmas.  This was our third deployment but our first as parents.  I can't even begin to explain how having children changed the experience for Johnny and me.  We are still processing it and deciding how it will impact our decisions but if either of us took our blessings for granted seven months ago, we absolutely do not now.  We are very blessed to have one another.

Tomorrow, December 10th, will be a homecoming for about 6,000 families in Norfolk when the USS Bush and her strike group (USS Truxton, USS Anzio, and USS Mitcher) return.  It will be a wonderful holiday for so many people and I couldn't be more excited for all of them.  If you are interested, they are going to be live streaming the homecoming so that anyone who wants to can see the festivities. 

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season.  Please keep deployed service members and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Not everyone is as lucky as me; there are many soldiers, sailors and marines who are still overseas and away from their loved ones.  And if your husband or wife is returning tomorrow with the big homecoming, I wish you an incredible day!

A huge thank you to my dear friend Audra who runs her business, Simple Soul Photography in the Hampton Roads area.  Not only did she take the beautiful photos you see in this post, she helped me wrangle Kate and Connor while they waited for their daddy and contended with some very loud (read: terrifying) jet engines.  As a fellow Navy wife and someone I consider a close friend, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect person than Audra to be with me capturing the day.  If you ever need photographs taken, or want to capture a special event, call her first.  She rocks.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Today is THE Day!

Just a few more hours until our little family is back together again.  Everything will be wonderful and amazing.

Well, until he tries to hijack the Netflix queue or use all the hot water in the morning.  But we'll take him! Happy happy happy day!
Monday, December 5, 2011

Tick Tock Tick Tock...

Oh you've gotta love the last few days of deployment.  Time slows down and at the same time the laundry list of things you thought would be done before your spouse returns mocks you from the kitchen counter.  I have become neurotic about hand sanitizer and avoiding germy places like the YMCA or mall play area (just keep telling me that the kids and I can avoid illness until he gets home, mmmkay?).  Sleep is harder to come by as 30 year old women are reduced to giddy restless 5 year olds on Christmas eve.  The long and short of it:  homecoming is pretty awesome.  Even the anticipation is amazing.

I have a lot of friends whose husbands are returning this week with the USS Bush's strike group and air wing.  My Facebook page is a flutter with excitement and big plans for seeing their spouses for the first time since May.  Women who have been married for decades with butterflies in their stomach (mentioning excitement about sharing the toothpaste or a carton of milk).  People comparing this week to the anticipation they had before their wedding day.  We are all so excited to get back to our "new normal".  To have our partners home, for our kids to have their dads back, and to just immerse ourselves in holiday family time.

Even though I am one of the women who is losing sleep and trying to do countless things before "the day", I have been humbled by the excitement I see in others.  The military isn't an easy lifestyle.  And sometimes I really really (REALLY!) struggle to find the silver lining.  But this week I am seeing one of the illustrations of why the military can be good for a marriage.  You will never see this kind of excitement about husbands coming home from business trips or long weekends away.  I'll even go out on a limb and say that most normal "civilian" marriages probably don't even think about how lucky they are to have each other all the time.  They do what is natural - they take each other for granted - and that "butterflies" feeling fades as the years tick by.  In a way, these long stretches of time away from one another are a good way to recharge batteries and remind us of what is truly important.

More than anything, I cannot wait to see my daughter's face.  She is going to flip out.  It is going to reduce me to tears and I know it is just going to be unbelievable for her to see him and feel him and smell him for the first time in oh so long.  She is a total daddy's girl and I have wondered what has been going through her little two year old brain these past seven months.  But I know that very soon she will just be overcome with JOY in the purest sense.  It is going to be unbelievable.  I.can't.wait.
Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Haven't Been a Single Mother

I'm a Navy wife but I'm not a single mom.  My husband has been gone for almost seven months, but he has been here in every way he knows how.  I might not have his hands to help, but every ounce of energy that he can put towards our family, he does.

I know that when people tell me how they could never do what military spouses do, or could never handle two kids so small alone, that they mean it as a compliment.  That when they ask how "single motherhood" has been, that they are trying to acknowledge my efforts as an accomplishment.  Not insult me.  And definitely not insult my husband.  But I know that when John thinks of our family and hears me described as a single mother that it breaks his heart, fills his mind with guilt, and certainly doesn't help him feel like what he has been doing the past seven months is noble.

Don't get me wrong, single mothers are amazing.  In my opinion, they have it much harder than I do.  They don't have a husband to lean on in hard times (even if it is just over email), they don't have flowers sent to them on bad days, they usually don't have the luxury of staying home with their children, and they don't have a loving partner who tries to be present in spite of his absence.  While I am physically a solo parent, financially and emotionally I have an unbelievable husband and father as a partner.

Solo parent.  This has become my little catch phrase over the past 7 months to describe the fact that I might be changing every.single.diaper. but I have a sweet husband supporting me in every other way possible.  He writes, sends packages, reads books to our kids on DVDs so that they can "watch daddy" whenever they want.  He has been amazing, and I am so lucky to have him.  Deployment is hard, but it is not divorce or death.

Recently my good friend Julie wrote a Facebook status saying that she was about to embark upon a long journey of single motherhood.  She was referring to her husbands upcoming training and deployment.  Within a few days the rumor mill in her family was buzzing about how she was getting divorced and she received a few confused phone calls asking what had happened with her marriage.  It was funny in a way, but solidified my feelings on the verbiage we use to describe ourselves as military spouses.  Our husband's deserve to be acknowledged in our family when they are deployed.  Saying we are single moms is not fair to them.

I know that some of you probably feel like what I am preaching about is semantics, not a big deal, or that I making a big deal out of nothing.  I disagree.  I see the guilt and anguish that lies just beneath the surface with my husband.  While he is proud of his service to the country, he needs to be encouraged about his contributions to the family.  The military lifestyle really does challenge his ability to "be there" for everything that most fathers and husbands can count on (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, the birth of children, graduations, recitals, etc).  It takes it's toll on even the strongest and most stoic men and women.  By accepting the label as "single mother" I am agreeing that my husband isn't here.  And he is here. 

As we finish up the final days of this deployment, I want the world to know that most military parents do every.single.thing they possibly can for their families while they are deployed.  They leave a big part of themselves with their spouses and children.  John has made every effort this deployment to help me be a good mom and to help our children live a happy life.  So while solo parenting has been hard, I have never been a single mother.
Sunday, November 27, 2011

Salutations de Aix-en-Provence

It has been too long since I updated this blog, but I am very happy to report that I am currently in the land of



narrow, winding streets (with lovely Christmas decorations)

smelly cheese

and most importantly... 


The USS Bush pulled into Marseille, France (despite Fox News and other outlets giving me a heart attack by implying they had diverted to Syria) a few days ago, and I got to hug my husband for the first time in nearly seven months.  We are enjoying some quiet time together before the "real" homecoming madness with our kids, the holidays, and our extended families.  I can't thank my family enough for caring for my 2 and 1 year old so that we could have this time together.  It is priceless, and oh my did I ever need this break from my routine.

Au revoir, for now.  We are off to drink too much, eat too much, and enjoy our last night in this beautiful city.
Sunday, November 13, 2011

6 Months (and 3 days) Down

Sorry for the late monthly update.  It has been an insane week.  My daughter is pretty sick (croup, and she just can't seem to shake it) and it was my son's birthday (and birthday party) this past weekend.  Between those two items I was lucky to get a shower during the day, let alone keep up with my blogging.

So it has been over six months, half a year... a long freakin' time.  We are very close to homecoming, but for some reason it still feels like I am in the middle.  Am I becoming jaded after all these years?  Probably!  Until I see my husband on terra firma and he is in my car driving home I won't really believe it.  But then I will be over the moon, ecstatic, and you probably won't hear from me for awhile. Reminds me of some signs that we are making in my spouse's group to put outside Oceana as a welcome home...  They will read:

It's been seven long months

Away from our spouses

We're busy re bonding

Stay away from our houses

Welcome Home Carrier Air Wing 8!

Classy, right?  I am having a friend over on Tuesday to make a bunch more posters and signs.  I'm excited to break out the glitter and markers and wine and just enjoy the fact that my husband is slowing pushing westward.

The past month has been a blur.  Here is the rundown...

The Good:

*  I have a one year old!  And the party was great!
*  I finally was able to buy some new clothes (the 3 month challenge ended 11/4).  Thank goodness!
*  Halloween was fun.  Kate's preschool had an adorable little party.  It is fun now that she is starting to understand how awesome getting candy from strangers is.
*  Lots of time with friends, especially friends whose husbands are away like mine.  It is a sisterhood that keeps us sane!

The Bad:

* Croup.  This sucks.  Really really badly.  I am worried that once Kate is feeling better that Connor will get sick. 
*  I am bummed that I couldn't run the 10K.  I was so excited to see all of the costumes and to run a race with the stroller.  Hopefully next year!
*  I am exhausted.  Like really really really tired.  My usually patient self has become much shorter and more easily frustrated.  I feel like I spend 99% of my time feeding, bathing, cleaning, and essentially maintaining my kids, my pets, and my house.  Because of that, I feel like I have aged 5 years in the past 6 months.

What I'm excited about:

In less than two weeks I will be in Europe!  With my husband!  I won't paint you a picture.. but I am so so so so excited about a few days with him and a few days where I can really just relax and treat myself to some good food, lots of sleep, and time with my best friend.  Then when I get home I will be rushing around to prepare for HOMECOMING!  Glorious, wonderful, romantic, amazing homecoming.  The thing that almost makes all this time apart worthwhile.  I cannot wait to see my daughter's face.  It will be priceless.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How fun to turn 1 on 11.11.11

Happy Birthday to my sweet, funny, energetic, mischievous, flirtatious little love, Connor Patrick.  You are always the life of the party, you want to see what is around the next corner, what is in every box and behind every piece of furniture.  If it is plugged in, you unplug it.  If it is looks edible, you eat it.  If it is a place you shouldn't be, it is the place to be.  You love trying new things, eating (lots of) new food, and being next to your sister every minute.  If you didn't need sleep, you would probably say it was for losers and just keep on going.  I love your zest for life.  You are a total ham and make me smile all day long.

Connor, you have taught me how "evil possessive" mother in laws are made.  It is so true about little boys and their moms.  You love me in a way I couldn't imagine and I just feel so incredibly blessed to have you.  Nobody will ever be good enough for you (ha ha). 

Having your dad leave for deployment when you turned six months has been hard.  I know that when he gets home that the two of you will be like two peas in a pod.  Kate and I will be in trouble because I know that you two will have some fun making our lives crazy.  Your daddy loves you and misses you every second, it has been the hardest thing in the world for him to be away from you this long and to miss so many of your milestones.  I know that once you see him again that you will remember him.  I know that you two will be best buds.

Happy happy happy birthday, sweet boy.  I love you more than I could ever tell you in a lifetime.  I can't wait to see you grow up and am so excited for the next year.

Eating on the move - totally your style

I love your mischievous little eyes

I love your bright smile...

Happy Birthday, handsome little guy!
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

There Just Isn't Enough Wine in the World Right Now...

I am an anxious person by nature.  I should probably be medicated - but of course, as a mental health practitioner myself, I tend to avoid medication and therapy like the plague.  I am a bad patient.  There have been days during this deployment where I have even picked up the phone to call my doctor to chat about some solutions (other than wine) and I have always stopped.  Or been interrupted by a child screaming from across the room.  And now as we are in the final stretch of this deployment my new excuse is that things will get easier once John is home.  Excuses excuses...

Right now I have a lot to look forward to.  My son's birthday party is this weekend.  I am headed to Europe in a few weeks to see my hubby.  Then less than a week after I return from our rendezvous, it will be homecoming and this deployment will be o.v.e.r.  But instead of celebrating, I am fretting.  And worrying.  And there just isn't enough wine in the rack right now to get the "what ifs" from eating me alive.

This is our third deployment and the weeks prior to homecoming have always been challenging to me.  I feel like such a weirdo because, at least on the surface, everyone else seems to be celebrating (and cleaning, trying new dinner menu items, and buying new underwear).  I just get sad.  And time seems to go by at a snail's pace.  It isn't because I'm not excited for my husband to be home because I am.  He is my best friend and has been since we were 15 years old.  I think it is that I tend to reflect toward the end of a long separation and get a little bit sad about how much time has gone by, how different things are, and how much we have to catch up on once he does get home.

I have been worrying constantly lately.  Worrying about when I go to Europe - will my mom and other family members be able to handle my kids?  Will they be angry at me for putting them in a position where they need to watch them?  Will something happen and I feel guilty?  If something happens, will they be able to get in touch with me?  What if what if what if.  And I could keep going downhill about basic things like my husband's safety landing on an aircraft carrier these last few weeks... but I won't go there.  Because that is just too depressing and beyond the scope of tonight's glass of Shiraz.

I just need a second seventh wind to get through this last month.  And the ability to walk into the airport in a few weeks and be confident that everything will be fine in my absence.  Everything will be fine. 
Friday, November 4, 2011

Babies Don't Keep

One week from today my baby will turn one.  I feel like the last year has gone by in a whirlwind.  He was born right on the brink of holiday season, we moved when he was two and a half months old, and then my husband left on deployment the day he turned six months.  Since then I have been torn between wanting time to speed up and slow down simultaneously.  My husband has missed so much of his babyhood and I just can't imagine how he feels.  I sent him a video the other day and while he loves every single thing I send him, the guilt he is feeling right now is palpable over the phone.  It breaks my heart.

I just can't believe my baby will be a toddler.  It sounds so cliche, but the older I get the faster time flies.  And I just wish that I could have my cuddly newborn back for one more day - night wake ups and all.

My sweet boy, 1 day old

For the next week I am going to soak up every moment.  I know that there isn't some magic thing that happens on his first birthday, but there is something about the transition that makes me incredibly sad.  I love that he is growing up and so happy and active, but I will miss the snuggles and the smells of babyhood.

  Cleaning and scrubbing will wait ’till tomorrow, but children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs! Dust go to sleep! I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.

– Ruth Hamilton

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Wicked Rainout

Unfortunately, the 10K I was going to run with my kids last Friday didn't happen.  The race was a rain or shine event, but running with a stroller doesn't allow for much rain or wind.  I wish John was home so I could have gone and ran the 10K alone and gotten to people watch and eat chili and drink beer.  But alas, we ended up dry and warm and hanging out at the mall play area instead.  There is always next year, right?

Halloween was a mixed day.  The morning started with our first ever trip to the ER.  Connor went mouth-first into the coffee table and tore his vestibule (skin between top of teeth and lip).  Blood was everywhere and I was insanely freaked out that he had chipped or loosened his front teeth.  Luckily, it looked a lot more scary than he was.  It was a short ER trip - checked in at about 10:15 and discharged by 11 with directions to just keep an eye on it and make sure he stayed hydrated (I guess some babies don't like to eat when they injure their mouths).  In Connor's case, it will take a lot more than a cut mouth to stop him from eating!

Trick or treating was fun!  We live in a great neighborhood and everyone gets really excited for the holiday.  Kate enjoyed lugging around her pumpkin bucket and blowing kisses at the strangers giving her candy.  I was proud of her for walking the whole way and understanding I couldn't carry her.  Connor was still a little grumpy from his rough morning so I carried him in the Ergo all night long.  She is becoming such a good helper and big sister. 

The only other news from the past few days is that I finally entered the 21st century and bought an iPhone.  Ohmygod where have you been all my life?  And what the heck took me so long?  I love it and cannot get enough of the fun apps - especially "words with friends" (I thankfully have a lot of geeky friends to play with) and the Sanda Boynton board book "Moo Ba La La La".  Genius. 
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where do we go from here?

Before I got back to my regularly scheduled family blogging (read: not as interesting as the debate going on about retirement) I wanted to just answer a few questions that I have gotten a lot since I posted on Friday.

Many people have asked me what I think the solution is.  You know, since I have an opinion I must be crunching numbers in my free time to balance the budget.  As I stated in my blog post, I am not a politician or a finance person at all.  The point of my post was to illustrate a major piece of the financial life of military families that was missing from the considerations made by the DBB when formulating the new retirement system.  So what I want is for the people making decisions to see "the forest through the trees" as one commenter wrote.  I want them to acknowledge that the average family in this country is dual income and really think about how that impacts military families and their budgets.  If I saw some thoughtful analysts crunching those numbers (which, by the way, all of my research came from journals available at the Joint Forces Staff College library in Norfolk) I would be much happier.

Some accused me of making the private sector look like rainbows and puppy dogs.  That wasn't my intention at all.  My point just goes back to family choices.  Of course people in the private sector struggle to make decisions about money and retirement.  Nothing is perfect.  If a mom or dad has always wanted to stay home and can't because of the economy - that is no fun.  The economy is hard on everyone right now.  The major difference between "us and them" is that they get to make those choices.  I got dozens of emails from women talking about their Master's degrees collecting dust, their "swiss cheese resumes" that are hurting them, and the companies they work for that do everything in their power not to hire military spouses.  This is an issue!  And it is a unique issue.  I wasn't talking about deployments (of course people in the private sector travel) or hardships like that.  I am talking about the PCS schedule of the average military family and how that impacts a woman's ability to hold down a job and contribute toward a 401K style retirement plan.

Lastly, some of you have been really wonderful and talk about how you will just "adjust your budget" and move forward.  While I think it is incredibly awesome to have good financial organization and saving, I would caution you against just mindlessly allowing whatever happens happens because you are organized.  The bottom line is that they are taking money out of your pocket.  That if they pension goes away, you are losing literally millions of dollars.  And you would have to figure out how to make up those dollars.  Not something that I think can be whisked under the carpet in the name of coupons and a good Quicken spreadsheet.

My plan is to reformulate my post into an official letter.  I will take some of your comments to heart when doing it, take out the slang of my original post, shorten it (so people actually read it), and send it off to everyone I can think of.  I welcome all feedback and suggestions.
Friday, October 28, 2011

The Invisible Military Spouse: how the new retirement proposal misses a huge piece of the financial planning puzzle

Even as Secretary of Defense Panetta starts to back pedal about the proposed radical changes in military retirement, there is a lot of fear of the unknown.  Just today I overheard a conversation between a military spouse and an active duty nurse while trying on some jeans at the mall.  It seems that nobody really knows what is going on.  There are people who swear that retirement "can't" be changed.  They believe that the bait and switch of it would be such an affront that it just isn't possible and are comforted by the fallacy that the public would be too outraged to allow such a change. Then there are the people who look at it and feel that financially, our current retirement system is extremely expensive and out of date.

As is true with most organizations, people are pricey.  Whether it be salaries, benefits, or retirement, the human factor of most budgets is enormous.  In the military, keeping up with the costs for retirees who have earned free health care and a pension is draining.  In today's system, a young person can enlist at 18 and retire at 38, then go on to collect their pension and medical benefits while working a second career.  As people live longer and require more medical care, the costs are higher than ever.

At first blush, I get where "they" (The Defense Business Board) are coming from when they take aim at my husband's retirement benefits.  It looks like a windfall, out of date, and too good to be true retirement package that needs to be updated.  The times, they are a changin', right?  Yes.  But as this committee seems to have missed completely, the ways of the world have changed in more ways than one.

Recently a PowerPoint was distributed to active duty military members outlining the proposal.  Lucky for them, I was just geeky enough to read every last word.  My background is not in economics or finance nor am I particularly in love with researching it.  But there is no excuse for putting your head in the sand and willing this issue away.  I want to be educated because my husband and I are a team, this is my money and security too. I am not naive enough to think this won't be on the table again for another 10 years when my husband will be eligible to retire.  Please.  Panetta might be able to stiff arm it for now, but retirement is going to change - it is just a matter of when and how.  And the more we know a spouses, the more we can question the people making these decisions and hope that the decisions are smart and fair.

Reading this details to the retirement changes made me feel invisible as a military spouse.  It made me wonder if the people who created it and researched it actually gave thought to the military family as a whole and not just to my husband as a monetary expense that needs to be lowered.  I actually searched the document and in 24 pages the word "spouse" isn't mentioned one time.  The word "family" is mentioned one time.  It made me sad and really illustrated the painful truth that at the end of the day, the military doesn't truly get the sacrifices that the whole family makes.  Or how retirement benefits are for the family, not just the service member, especially in this lifestyle.  My rose colored glasses are officially off. 

Even more laughable was how the entire presentation was comparing the military lifestyle to the private sector.  If I have learned anything over the past eight and a half years, you cannot for one solitary second compare the military family experience to the private sector experience.  I'm not going to go into some whiny diatribe about why but it is painfully obvious that the DBB glossed over some really important factors when making their recommendations.

When I was a brand new military spouse and in graduate school I was completely naive to how draining starting and stopping a career is.  How every time I move, even if I am lucky enough to land a new job, I am exhausted the whole first year while I learn a new system, culture and set of personalities and responsibilities.  Since my husband and I were married in 2003 I have left two wonderful jobs where I earned good money and benefits.  Two tenured jobs.  I realize how completely golden tenured positions are in this economy, and I have walked away from both of them because Uncle Sam needed my husband somewhere else.  The latest one just last fall.   In between those jobs I didn't make an income.  Our family had to depend on my husband's salary only. When I'm not working, we save less.  Simple math.

In a report I did for a class back in 2005, I researched the losses that military spouses experience while being married to active duty service members.  Here is a small excerpt (references will be at the end of the post):

On average, military families earn substantially less annually than their civilian counterparts. Hosek (2002) states, over the 1997-1999 period, husband-and-wife family earnings totaled $51,115 on average for civilian families and $40,587 for military families, or $10,527 less (p.xii). Military families often times have a great deal of difficulty making ends meet. 41% of wives married to E-3 and below characterized themselves as being "in over [their] head" (Bureika, et al, 1999). Importantly, the primary reason for this problem is the lower earnings of military wives as compared to earnings of civilian wives. It has been documented that military wives may be willing to accept jobs at lower wages rather than spending more time to find a higher wage job (RAND, 2003, p. 2). Lower earnings for military wives often stem from variables over which they have no control, including frequent moves, undesirable duty stations, lack of seniority, and overwhelming familial responsibilities due to deployments. The total undiscounted loss of a three-year rotation policy is fully 40% of what the wife would have earned had she been able to remain at one location for six years (Gill & Haurin, 1998). Military families are also three times more likely to have an out-of-country move during their career. The longer distance moves entail a greater financial loss due to decreased work time for spouses (RAND, 2003).

40% over six years, people!  Do that math over 20 years, then add interest that the money lost would have made. Because the military expects families to PCS every 3 or so years, they are asking military spouses to sacrifice a lot professionally.  And if the Defense Budget Board is going to start comparing the military to the private sector, they are going to have to start looking more closely at the choices families living in the private sector are making.

It is a sad fact that many families need to be dual income in order to survive.  Especially ones in the income range of military members.  The idea that a woman will stay home when the children are born and dad will work to earn enough to live on and retire is "a thing of the past" and the demise of pensions is a large part of that.  In order to afford to live and play for tomorrow, two incomes is the norm.

Here is the crux of the issue (sorry this has taken me so long):  If the military models their retirement after the private sector then we cannot afford to stay in the military.  If every penny we make today is the only money that we will ever have to invest and save, then I need to be working.  Full time.  Just like a gigantic portion of the civilian population.  We can't afford for me to take a 40% hit every 6 years if the military removes the pension security blanket.  My husband loves his job and is extremely loyal, but we are not martyrs.  And I refuse to jeopardize our future, the future of my children's college educations, and our comfort because the military decided that somehow our lifestyle mirrors that of a doctor or accountant.

The pension isn't perfect, but it offers some financial security that allows us to live this unique lifestyle, that allows my husband to serve his country without worrying about how he is already making a fraction of what he would make at a private engineering firm.  If the military decides that we aren't worth the pension, I have a feeling that many valuable assets (people) will decide to go make a go at the 401K system from the comfort of a job that doesn't send them away for 12 month deployments or ask their kids to change schools 3 times in 6 years.

I hope that the DBB, the President, the Secretary of Defense, and all other powers that be start paying more attention to the finances of the military family and not individual service member when making these retirement changes.  If they do, I think they will realize that stripping the pension would make the military unaffordable for many families.  And a financial sacrifice that many good people aren't willing to make.


Bureika, R., Riser, M., Salvucci, S., Maxfield, B., & Simmons, R. (1999).
Effective strategies to assist spouses of junior enlisted members with employment: analysis of the 1997 survey of spouses of enlisted personnel. Defense Manpower Data Center Report 99-007, Arlington, VA.

Gill, H.L. & Haurin, D.R. (1998). Wherever he may go: how wives affect their husband‘s career
decisions. Social Science Research, 27, 264-279.

Hosek, J., Asch, B., Fair, C.C., Martin, C., & Mattock, M. (2002).
employment and earnings of military wives compared with those of civilian wives.
Monica, CA: RAND

RAND Research Brief. (2003).
13, 2005, from The employment and earnings of military wives. Retrieved April
Sunday, October 23, 2011

This Morning...

This morning I woke up and noticed black paint under my fingernails.  Paint from making HOMECOMING SIGNS with the VAW 124 OSSG last night!  We are getting so close!

It is the little things...

The past week has been very routine.  I have actually enjoyed the slow pace and the feeling that I really don't have to worry about being anywhere specific.  The weather has been gorgeous so I have been walking Kate to and from preschool every day, walking to the library, and spending a lot of time at the playground.  Yesterday I had my backyard professionally overhauled so that a summer's worth of debris and pine needles and weeds wouldn't preclude my kids from having fun.  Kate LOVES being outside, but after several major storms I didn't feel comfortable with her back there and truly didn't have the time or energy to fix it myself.  Plus, the mosquitos have been KILLER this year and my daughter inherited my "if a mosquito is within a 5 mile radius it heads straight for me" gene.  John can sit outside for an hour - no bites.  I sit outside for 10 minutes and get covered in them.  As it gets cooler, I have noticed a decrease in those little suckers.

Overall, this has been a good week!  Sorry for the series of boring blog posts.  I have some things on my mind that I want to write about, but lately I have been spending my free time reading and exercising and not as much time on the Internet.  That is probably good - but my blog is a bit neglected (I need to keep working on that education section!).

I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend! 
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Love Affair with Fall

Glorious, wonderful, amazing, delicious fall.  With your pretty colors, crunchy leaves, pumpkins, apples, football, hoodies, perfect weather, outdoor farms and festivals, hayrides, pumpkin carving, Halloween, and family. 

I went up to Northern Virginia for the weekend to visit family and friends.  It was so exciting because I knew I would see friends and those extra hands would mean getting to do so many of the fun fall things I love and want to share with Kate and Connor.  I saw my mom for the first time since August and my grandparents for the first time since July.  I also got to see some good friends, hit the wonderful playground near my mom's (Clemyjontri Park for those in Northern Virginia), went to a pumpkin patch, and more.

Kate and Connor got to enjoy their first hayride...

Krops Crops, Great Falls, VA

My dad and Connor enjoying the ride

We got to pick pumpkins...

Connor smiling at someone else's camera

Kate with her bestie, Auntie Mel
Eat apples...

And even fly a plane...

It's obvious that Connor is driving and Kate is sightseeing

It was a wonderful weekend.  It was my last planned road trip until after John gets home.  While traveling is an adventure and helps pass the time, I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to having my partner and best friend back to share the load with. 

I hope you are all enjoying the fall season!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Remembering our Babies

I can still remember the sounds, the lighting, and the buzz of the place.  But I remember it as though it is an out of body experience, like I am looking at myself from across the room and not believing it was really me or that it really happened.

I was sobbing.  Hiding my face in my hands, elbows on my lap, wondering what I was doing and how I had gotten there.  Trying not to look up and see the happy families around me.  I was embarrassed, ashamed, devastated, and confused.  I felt invisible and alone in the huge void of that hospital waiting room.

But someone saw me.  A perfect stranger walked over to me, took my hand and placed a small note, and then walked away before I could even look up.  I never saw her face.  I'll never know who she was. 

You are beautiful.

It's obvious you are hurting.  I'll be praying for you.
And remember, God always has the last word.

Four years later, I still have this scrap of paper.  Four years later, I still remember the kind words from the perfect stranger.

Four years ago today my husband and I got the news that no parent ever wants to get.  Our first baby, a much wanted, loved, and anticipated baby, no longer had a heartbeat.  I was in that waiting room to get a higher resolution ultrasound to confirm what we already know - our baby had died.  And along with it all of the dreams and anticipation and hopes for that baby had died with it.

Miscarriage is extremely lonely.  If you haven't been there, you just simply don't understand.  It has been called the silent sorrow because even wonderful, well intentioned husbands, friends, and family members cannot grasp the level of sorrow that women have when they lose a child.  It doesn't matter if the woman has been pregnant for 6 weeks or 36 - the pain resonates deep in their soul and just simply does not go away.  Four years later I still miss that baby and wonder about what could have been.  I have had two healthy babies (and one more loss) since then, and I still feel the gravity of the loss.

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.  If you have lost a baby - I am so sorry.  If you know someone who has lost a baby - a sister, friend, or co-worker - acknowledge her loss. 

I learned an important lesson the day the sweet stranger placed that note in my hand.  I learned that kind words matter.  Compassion matters.  It costs no money and takes very little effort but you can truly lift someones spirit with a simple kind gesture.  If you are ever see someone in need of compassion, don't be afraid to say something.  Or write something.  Chances are high that your actions will be treasured and remembered long after you forget.
Monday, October 10, 2011

5 Months Down

Whew!  I'm not sure why, but the past month has seemed to crawl by really slowly for me.  I think it is a little bit fatigue and a little bit my son's new "talents" (crawling like a madman, loving the stairs, cruising all over, trying to walk, eating everything in sight, etc) and a little bit the season.  As I have mentioned before, I absolutely love fall.  But this fall has been especially bittersweet because while I enjoy the scents and sights and fun things going on, it is extraordinarily hard to enjoy it without Johnny.  No matter how you slice it, getting around with a 2 year old and almost 1 year old is a daunting juggling act.  And trying to take them both to a pumpkin patch or fall festival alone has proven to be something that isn't very enjoyable or practical.  So my favorite season has turned into jealous season.  Jealous of all the other families who get to go to the pumpkin patch, pick apples, choose a pumpkin, and plan their family Halloween costumes.  Weekends are hard again, just like they were back in May and June.  So I feel like i am coming full circle in a way - but not necessarily in a good way.

We are getting there.  But I am a little angry at myself because my goal was not to look so far forward that I forgot to live in the present.  I think that as my life has evolved over the past 5 months (my "easy to take anywhere baby" has become a "holy crap how did you get all the way over there?" baby) and has made things a little more challenging to just get-up-and-go.  And the feeling of being trapped in my house has taken a little bit of a toll on me.

Here is my monthly recap:

The Good:

*  Still alive! (though, I'm not taking credit for the dog because she has been at my dad's for about 6 weeks)
*  I BOUGHT PLANE TICKETS TO SEE JOHN!  I finally felt comfortable enough to click the "purchase" button for a trans-Atlantic flight in late November. 
*  Kate is loving school.  The adjustment has been good and it has even made her more excited about the YMCA daycare. 
*  Connor loves life.  I just can't get enough of him and his joy for just plain old living.  He is smiles all day long and just wants to be part of everything.  I am very lucky to have such a fun loving little babe.

The Bad:

*  My poor mom fell and broke her left wrist very badly.  It was a compound fracture that required surgery and pins.  She has been out of work now for awhile (due to the painkillers) and it has taken a toll on her emotionally.  :(
*  Kate is still adjusting to Connor's mobility.  She is very sensitive to him being in her space - which, according to him, is the place to be.  I have to take a deep breath several times a day.  Otherwise, she would be living in the time out chair.
*  I got into a fender bender.  Nothing serious, but just "one more thing" to deal with alone.  Nobody was hurt and the car isn't that bad. 

Goals for the next month:

*  Run the Wicked 10K in late October (while pushing two kids).  We are dressing up in an "Alice in Wonderland" theme.  I'm the Queen of Hearts, Kate is Alice, and Connor is the white rabbit.  I will decorate the stroller like the mad hatter tea party and we will be running because we are "late for a very important date!" Fun times.
*  Try to snap out of the funk.
*  Enjoy planning Connor's first birthday part (which is just around the corner! ah!)
*  Try really hard not to dwell on John being gone during my favorite time of year.

So that's about it...  5 months down, 2 (please God, let them come home on time) to go!!
Thursday, October 6, 2011

Connecting the Dots

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." ~ Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Sometimes I feel out of control.  I don't know where we will be living in a year or two, I don't know how many children I will have, I don't know when my husband will be home from this deployment or when he will leave on a future deployment.  I don't know when I will go back to work.  I don't know what tomorrow brings.  I don't always understand why bad things happen to good people. 

What I do know, is that when I look back on my life, things will come into focus.  The dots will connect.  I have faith that as long as I can keep approaching my opportunities with a positive outlook and with compassion and honesty that I will be proud of my life.  That the picture I have created and will continue to create with the many different points in my life will be beautiful.

Thank you Steve Jobs for your innovation, your wise words, and your vision.  You once said that you wanted to "put a ding in the universe".  I think you did.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I Have Been Good!

Two months ago today I started a challenge where I vowed to buy no new clothes for 3 months.  I had felt like I needed to reevaluate my wardrobe and figure out what I wear most often, how I can use pieces in different ways, and most importantly - save a little money.  It is amazing what you can do when you just tell yourself "no".  I feel that way about dieting too.  It isn't "I want to lose weight" it is "I have to lose weight".  If you don't give yourself the wiggle room to fail, mentally it is much more likely for you to succeed.  So when LOFT or JCrew or Banana Republic would be yelling at me in my in-box about how I NEED to purchase their fall sweaters TODAY or they would be gone FOREVER I would just hit the "delete" key.  And I also did a lot of email purging and got rid of 75% of my email retail clutter.  The unsubscribe button has become my friend.  And you know what?  I am surviving and am not naked.  And those sweaters are still there.  My closet is more streamlined and my credit card balance is lower.

I really haven't cheated.  I even borrowed a dress for the Centennial Aviation Ball.  And wore shoes I already had.  And carried a purse that was a Christmas gift last year. 

There have been a few almost-relapses along the way.  At one point I almost ordered a dress that I really loved because it was back-ordered until mid December.  I thought "hey, it's back ordered until after my challenge, I'll just order it today and it won't 'count'".  Then I stopped myself.  No.  I will not go into a gray area where if things are supposedly back ordered beyond November 4 I will just order them now.  Leave it to me to create an imaginary loophole for myself.  Similar to how chocolate doesn't count on my birthday and things that I eat after a long run don't have calories.

I'll be honest.  The late summer was fine.  I had plenty of tops and bottoms to mix and match with summer belts and shoes.  The beginning of colder weather is posing a new challenge and I am honestly really happy that one month from today I can buy a few things.  The good news is that I now know what I need and won't be just emotionally purchasing items that probably look almost exactly to things I already have in my closet (but had forgotten about).  I am also excited because I am heading to Europe to see my husband in November and will have a little time to get some new clothes for that rendezvous.

Overall, I recommend this challenge to people who are impulse shoppers.  If you were like me, and are sucked in by the "amazing" clearance sales that hit your inbox and then find a package on your front porch that you had forgotten about (I can't be the only one that wonders what the heck that box is, can I?) then I think this is worth trying.  Three months is long enough for me.  My friend Karen is doing six months (eek!) and I think even one or two months would be an interesting endeavour for the average shopper.
Monday, October 3, 2011

Into the Green

There are many deployment rituals to help count down to homecoming.  Some people make a paper chain and remove one link each day to count down ...

Some people keep a huge jar of M&Ms and eat one (or let their kids eat one) each day...

this would be dangerous for me...

And some people keep excel programs on their computer like the popular "Donut of Misery" that counts down the years, months, days, hours, minutes, and even seconds...  It is mildly depressing to be able to see see how many seconds my husband has been gone. 

a random example of the donut

As of right now, according to my Donut, John has been gone 5, 581, 615 seconds. 5 MILLION. Awesome.  If that isn't a case of too much information I'm not sure what is.

For me, my countdown technique is more simple.  If you are a friend or family member of mine you know that I have a slight addiction to all things paper and stationery.  Buying a new calendar every year is an exciting occasion (I just ordered my 2012 refill and it was way too much fun choosing what I wanted).   I would be totally lost without my planner.  As of right now I don't have a blackberry or iPhone nor do I really care for the idea of keeping my life planned electronically.  I used Outlook at work because I needed to separate my "social" from "work" calendar and my secretary and co-workers could schedule appointments for me and send them to me easily.  But for my everyday life, paper and pen is what I prefer.

Every week I note the number of day's John has been gone.  Somewhat depressing but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment.  This week marks days 146 through 152.  That is a lot of bedtimes, baths, meals, holidays, weekends, and milestones that Kate, Connor, and I have done solo.  And while it is sad to look at it from a general standpoint, it is also something for me to celebrate.  I have done okay and we have been happy and healthy.  Plus, the days tick by. Surely and steadily.

John left last May and the calendar tabs in my planner were red...  When we hit July they turned orange...  Because I am always looking for something to look forward to, a baby step to get excited about (pumpkin spice, anyone?), I noticed that October, November, and December were a fitting color - green. 

Green is a color that tends to represent forward motion, easiness, and simplicity.  We all want to get the green light when we are driving.  We want green grass, green trees, and are usually happy to have a green beer in March.  "Going Green" these days tends to evoke thoughts of change and innovation. 

This year, for me, green represents being close to having my husband home. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mimosas for all!

My son, God love him, hasn't been the best sleeper.  John left the day before he turned six months old and I knew that one of the biggest challenges I was facing as a solo parent was his unpredictable overnight sleeping, early wakings, and then having to face the day without naps and without any help.  Go to bed early?  Well, I try, but I am usually faced with a house that looks like a bomb went off at the end of the day.  Cheerios everywhere.  Toys, play doh, and baby wipes everywhere.  Me?  Hungry, tired, and annoyed that I can't just plop on the couch and watch something mind numbing like "Extra". 

For the first few months that John was gone I would go to bed at 10, be up for the first feeding at about 11:30, up again at about 3, and then for the day at about 6.  Connor and I worked very hard to remedy this and eventually I had him to just one feeding at 3, and up for the day at 6.  But the goal has always been 7-7.  Down at 7PM, up at 7AM well rested and ready to throw more Cheerios.  You should see my bedside table... Ferber and Weissbluth and all of the "sleep doctors".  Shoot, if Justin Bieber came out with a sleep book I would probably buy it.  I have been desperate.

For most kids, sleep takes effort, strategy, and resolve.  Nobody likes to listen to their baby cry.  It is just one of the many layers of mommy guilt.  Lying in bed, listening to the baby cry and your mind swirling with "this is for his good, he needs to learn to sleep" versus "he is too little, he needs cuddles, he needs me" versus "if I go to him he will just learn that crying = cuddling" and so on and so forth until your baby has settled and you are still lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and beating yourself up over your choices.  Everything is always worse at night.  And for me, it is always worse without John to chat with and make parenting decisions as a team.  It is all on me.  Therapy bills will be my fault alone.

But the times, they are a changin'.  For the last several nights my son has gone to bed without an issue at about 7 PM and slept, without a peep, until 7 AM.  I find him in his crib with a gigantic smile on his face.  No crying, no fussing - just a well rested, happy, baby.  For the last few nights, I have actually slept from about 10-6:30.  Uninterrupted, amazing, wondrous sleep that I haven't experienced in about... mmm... two and a half years (by the time Kate was sleeping soundly at night I was pregnant with Connor... and when I'm pregnant I sleep terribly).

So this morning I don't need coffee.  Caffeine is not an absolute requirement to function.  Celebratory mimosas for all!

(I realize that by writing this post we are going to have an epically bad night of sleep tonight, but whatever, I'm celebrating for now!)
Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I have talked about friendship quite a bit on this blog.  Mostly because one of the only major perks to deployment is the bonds you form with spouses and girlfriends going through the same thing as you.  They get it, they empathize, they help, and they don't give you the "oh my gosh I could never do that" line.  The "I could never" line is meant as a compliment but sometimes feels like a veiled insult to your lifestyle choices.  I often want to challenge that notion by asking if they would have walked away from their husband if he had been in the military.  I hope (for the sake of their marriage) that the answer to that question would be obvious.  But I guess you never know.

One topic that has come up a few times in the past week is the idea of having a hard time forming friendships because of the military lifestyle.  I have written about the ease in which friendships are formed because of how open we tend to be in previous posts.  But this was a new angle that I hadn't really thought about.  Will I have a hard time making friends in the future because other ladies won't want to make the investment?  Don't want to get "attached" to someone (or encourage their kids to get attached to my kids) when it is 100% certain that we won't be there more than a few years?

Gosh I hope not.

But it is something that a lot of my peers are facing.  Some are feeling like an outcast at the preschool drop off because other moms look at military spouses as gypsies.  Who come and go so frequently that it isn't worth the emotional investment and eventual disappointment of the PCS.  Can you really blame them?  I try to put myself in their shoes and wonder if I would be so open to the comings and goings of my friends if I wasn't coming and going myself?  Or, will I get to the point where I am just so exhausted from the "goodbyes" that I don't want to bother anymore?

So far, after a little over 8 years as a Navy spouse I haven't become apathetic about forming friendships.  Even when we were weeks from leaving our last duty station I was still enjoying being social and meeting new friends.  Interestingly, one of the women who I made a connection with in the last months I was in Maryland, whose husband flies a totally different airplane than mine, and who I thought I would never crossed paths with again - surprisingly (very) - moved to Norfolk.  She lives about 3 miles away from me now.  If I had closed my mind and never chatted her up because of the factors listed above, we wouldn't have each other now.  And that would suck.

How do you feel about this?  Do you tend to put up a wall right before you move?  If you aren't affiliated with the military, would you avoid befriending a military family? 
Sunday, September 25, 2011

100 Years

Last night I went to the Centennial of Naval Aviation Ball in Virginia Beach

I had a hot date with me

He was kinda quiet, but didn't drink and followed me around all night long.  Awesome!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dark and Dreary

This week has been pretty tough.  I think it is safe to say that when you see a lull in this blog that it means I am probably having a bad week.  That I have been run ragged by my kids, chores, obligations, and just life in general.  By the time the day is over I just want two things: dinner and bed.  Sometimes I just skip the food and go right to sleep (aka deployment diet).  I try to keep things on this blog fairly positive because I am not a complainer by nature.  I try to look at things with a "glass half full" outlook and see the good in them.  One of my mottos is that anything can be done with a "can-do attitude and a sense of humor".  This week I have been struggling.

I think "rock bottom" was on Tuesday night (I think?) when I looked at my front yard and realized that I just needed to mow it.  It had been a long day - the kids and I had been out and about a lot - and I was already tired.  After baths, books, and bed I tied up my sneakers and went into the garage to turn on the lawnmower.  I got started on the front yard and about halfway done I realized that it was DARK outside.  And that mowing probably wasn't super safe.  The days of being able to put my kids down at 7 and have enough time to mow my lawn are over apparently.  And as I continued to mow in the dark I started feeling very sorry for myself.  I had just run myself ragged after two small kids alone, cooked meals, changed diapers, kissed boo boos, read books, done arts and crafts, fed bottles, cleaned the kitchen, given baths, grocery shopped, put them to bed, and kept a positive attitude all day long and here I was.  Alone.  Mowing the lawn. IN THE DARK.  Seriously?

I don't have enough hours in the day.  I am overwhelmed.  I am sick of this deployment.  I am ready to have my partner back.

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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