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

Boundaries

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.
Saturday, September 17, 2011

61% and 58% Dinners

I am lucky this deployment because I get to hang out with two spouse's groups.  My husband is part of a staff that oversees squadron operations on the aircraft carrier (just makes sure that flight schedules jive and that everyone is working together nicely) so he isn't really in a squadron right now.  The staff has it's own little spouse's group but we are really casual. We don't have a President or any dues or organization other than we like wine and lots of it.  Because of that, I have been adopted by the E2-C squadron in the air wing (since that is the plane my husband was trained on and the community we will go back to one day).  The spouses group for VAW-124, the Bear Aces, is much larger, more traditional, and just as interested in drinking our sorrows away having a good time.  Twice the support, twice the get togethers, lots of nice women who are going through the same thing.  Between the two groups there is always something fun going on. 

Last weekend we had a "halfway" (58%) dinner for the staff support group.  We went to a nice restaurant in Virginia Beach and proceeded to get really loud.  Last night I went to a "halfway" (61%) dinner for the Bear Aces at a beautiful restaurant in Norfolk.  (I am aware that non military spouses reading this are probably rolling their eyes at the percentages.  But seriously, every.day.freakin.counts. when your husband is gone 200+ days).  My babysitters are making a killing off of me this month, but that is okay.  I am happy to have something to celebrate and nice ladies to celebrate with.  Oh, and one gentleman (Mike)!  Mike is the one male spouse between the two groups and he got a lot of attention at the restaurant for sitting at a table with 10 young women.  Another table sent over a few bottles of champagne and claimed it was in honor of him and his "skills".  Later they did the patriotic thing and came to toast the military and our brave husbands.  But still, I think that it honestly was Mike and his entourage that got the generous table's attention.

Last night at the 124 halfway dinner we were given flowers, a note that our husband's had written and sent to the CO's wife to give us, a frame with our favorite picture (as a couple) at our place setting, and a pretty engraved wine glass.  The guys had put together a video for us to watch (which, in true aviator fashion was a bunch of footage of them landing on the aircraft carrier.  how romantic.) and we watched the video that had been mailed back for them to watch. 

The menu:
Yummmmm..... (btw, if you go to B&B you must have the Mexican Chocolate and Kahlua Mousse. To die for.)

The room:



I love the tradition of halfway dinners.  There are many things about deployment that really truly suck big time.  But there are many things that make it a growing experience laced with some major perks.  Last night went into the "perk" column.  Now we all get to look forward to finishing the last 39% and the biggest upside to deployment of all - HOMECOMING.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's a Picture Worth?

I really believe in the value of good photographs.  You would think that with my interest in pictures and scrapbooks and stationery and all things "paper" that I would have learned the tricks of photography or graphic design by now.  No.  Unfortunately, I didn't really exercise the creative portion of my brain when going to college or graduate school.  That being said, I completely appreciate the value of photography.  I have absolutely no problem spending a good chunk of money on photographer's time, talent, and product. 

Keeping that in mind, it is extremely hard to shell out hundreds of dollars on a good photography session when a very important person in the family is missing.  On one hand, my husband is sitting on an aircraft carrier completely craving photographs of Kate and Connor.  I want him to see them grow while he is away these 7 months.  I don't want to look at a photo album in 5 years and see the majority of 2011 missing.  Connor is a baby and this time is precious; he changes every single day.  On the other hand, I can't wrap my brain around spending so much money for something that isn't complete.  Our family just simply isn't whole without him.

I was recently given an enormous gift.

My good friend Audra just moved back to the Hampton Roads area from Honolulu, Hawaii.  She and I became fast friends in graduate school at William and Mary.  We both lived a good distance from the campus and in order to save on gas and stave off boredom would meet and carpool together.  Over the course of our two year program we got to know each other really well.  She is one of the most talented people I have ever met.  Artistic, bright, funny, and sweet.  All without knowing it.  You see, Audra is probably the most self deprecating person you will ever meet.  But she awesome. 

Audra is also a Navy wife.  She understands what deployments are like and how John will feel when he sees good pictures of his children.  She also understands that it kinda sucks to take pictures without your husband there.  That putting on the "happy family" smile while daddy is 9,000 miles away can feel forced and unnatural.

A few weeks ago she came over and we went over to the Hermitage Museum and Gardens to take some family pictures.

She captured the way our family looks right now,


  she captured Connor's toothy smile,


Kate's gentle nature,


sarcasm,


playfulness,


and that at the end of the day, they really do love one another...


I honestly am humbled by her generosity of time and talent.  I have no idea how I will repay her for these photographs.  She is an amazing friend, mother, and photographer.

If you are in the Hampton Roads area and you need someone to capture your family, Audra is the best.  Check out her website at http://www.simplesoulphotography.com/.
Saturday, September 10, 2011

4 Months Down

I think at this point I can say with certainty that a 7 month deployment seems a lot longer than a 6 month deployment (and yes, I know I am lucky that it isn't 12 or 16 months.  Got it.).  6 months used to be the traditional length of a Navy deployment - many cases to the exact day.  Your husband or wife would leave on say March 15 and, almost without exception, be home September 15.  Not so much anymore.  The powers that be have slowly but surely made a typical Navy deployment 7 months, sometimes as long as 9 or 10 months (which, on a ship with very little access to fresh food, sunlight, internet, phone, or a beer is a long time).  And the idea of us actually knowing the date our husband's will grace us with their presence?  That is a pipe dream.  We should be thrilled if we get a window where we could possibly see them.  But exact dates?  Pshhhhaw.

Usually at 4 months we would be talking about mail holds and the route home.  Not yet.  Patience patience patience.

So here I am, 4 months done with about 3 to go...  Here is my rundown from the past month:

The Good:

*  We are all still alive and kicking.  Our koi fish even survived hurricane Irene (I was worried his pond would overflow and I would find him in my backyard..eek)!
*  I ran that stinkin' 1/2 Marathon.  And if you read my blog, you are totally sick of hearing about it.
*  Kate started preschool.  I am very excited for both of us.
*  Temperatures are averaging in the low-mid 80s now, a vast improvement from the high 90s. 
*  We experienced and survived an earthquake and a hurricane!
*  We had some family pictures taken by a dear friend of mine.  I'll put a post up about that soon.
*  Pumpkin spice lattes, bread, cupcakes, etc. 
*  Last, but certainly not least:  Remember my complaint about not visiting John during this deployment in my last monthly milestone post?  Well, it looks like we will be breaking that streak!  I can't divulge details but I am very excited!

The Bad:

* My mom had to go home.  Days of extra help, a cleaner house, and someone to hand me a glass of wine when I needed it most are gone.
*  Kate has become very territorial of her toys and books since Connor has been on the move.  I often feel like more of a referee than a mom.  My patience is definitely being tested.
* Cooking is becoming a MAJOR chore.  I hate having to cook for myself (and a toddler who eats like a bird) and then have a huge mess to clean up after doing baths, books, and bed for both kids.  HATE IT.
* Our yard is looking pretty bad.  Dear City of Norfolk, saying you will have yard debris pick up "by the end of September" is a little ridiculous.  Seriously? 

Goals for next month:

* Keep running and training for the Wicked 10K in October.  Running 10K with a double stroller should pose a new challenge (Kate is a ticking time bomb in strollers these days so I know my time frame to finish the race will be limited by her patience).
* Enjoy Connor on days where Kate is in preschool.
* Party at the Centennial Aviation Ball.  We are celebrating 100 years of Naval Aviation on September 24th in Virginia Beach.  ALL Hampton Roads based Navy squadrons are invited.  Jets, Hawkeyes, Helos... all in one place.  Shall be quite the sight!
* Try to keep a positive attitude.  If not for myself, for Kate and Connor.

I'm heading to a "halfway" dinner tonight with Air Wing 8 staff spouses.  We'll make a toast to 4 months down, 3(??) to go!
Friday, September 9, 2011

Pink Shirts, Barbie Bows, Bedazzled Pimp Cups, & my Best Friend...

What do these things have in common?  They were partners in an elaborate surprise constructed by my two best friends from high school, one of my best "navy wife" friends, my sister, and my sister in law.  I posted a little bit about the half marathon earlier this week but it barely scraped the surface of the unbelievable effort my friends made.  I mean, they took out glue guns and glitter!  And my sister, who gets hives at the sight of hot pink, wore a gigantic pink barbie-bow for 13.1 miles.  This was big, people!

At about this time last week I was upstairs changing Connor's diaper when I heard creaking on the stairs.  I thought it was my babysitter who I was expecting shortly and thought nothing of it.  But when she didn't respond, I sprang into action quietly walked into the hallway to peer down the stairs.  Standing on my stairs with a big old smile on her face was BECKY!  Surprise #1.  Becky, my best friend from high school, lives in San Diego.  She is active duty Navy and is generally an extremely busy person.  If you had asked me who the last person I would have expected to be standing on my stairs in Virginia on a random Friday morning it would probably be her.  But there she was!

Along with her was my other best friend from high school, Melissa (who actually went to high school with my husband, but that is a long story) and her husband, Jeff.  Melissa and Jeff had fought DC rush hour traffic on Thursday evening to drive to Norfolk, got a hotel, and picked Becky up from the airport at about midnight.  They had talked to my local friend Julie who had called my babysitter and told her that she had to pretend she was coming on Friday morning but was not to show up.  My poor sweet babysitter got wrapped up in this craziness but was a total champ about it, promising to contact Julie if I had decided to change times for her arrival (in which case Mel, Becky, and Jeff would have changed their arrival time).  Whew.  I get tired just thinking about all of this scheming.

To say I was surprised was an understatement.  And for a few hours I could only think two things:  1.  Damn, I'm so lucky.  2.  Damn, I really need to run this stupid 1/2 Marathon now.

You see, training had been derailed by an upper respiratory infection, a fall down the stairs, and the simple fact that I am the mother of two small kids with a deployed husband (excuses excuses, right?).  I seriously hadn't done a long run in over a month.  And I hadn't done ANY runs over about 6 miles.  I had pretty much decided that the 1/2 Marathon weekend was going to be more of a "family and friends" weekend where I would just enjoy some company and cheer my sister and sister-in-law on.  Ummm... Then they showed me the shirts...

Surprise #2 was bright pink shirts with my freakin' name on them.  How on earth can there be "Team Jill" when Jill is sitting on the sidelines eating an ice cream cone?  There can't be.  So when those t-shirts made their appearance I realized that I had to run even if I had to be dragged (drug?) across the finish line.  Becky tried to calm my nerves by telling me we would have "so much fun" and that we would just "leisurely jog" 13.1 miles.  Okay...  Psycho.

But the surprises didn't stop.  Surprise #3 was a bedazzled "pimp cup" that I was supposed to keep full of beverage (preferably alcoholic) for the weekend.  Surprise #4 were homemade bows that were at least 6 inches wide that we were instructed to wear with our pink shirts.  Mel is a lifetime cheerleader (literally, she has been a cheerleader or cheerleading coach pretty much since she could walk) so to her, "go big or go home" applies to pretty much everything, including hair bows.  Insert dirty joke here.

At the end of the day, the biggest surprise (for me at least) was that I actually ran that whole 1/2 Marathon.  I learned a lot from the weekend.  I learned I have wonderful friends.  I learned that my body, even in the wake of infertility treatments, back to back high risk pregnancies, and motherhood is very strong and resilient.  I learned that the loneliness of deployment can be overshadowed by the thoughtful nature of friends. 

Thank you so much Melissa, Jeff, Julie, JoJo, Julia, Jimmy, and Becky!  You have no idea how much your efforts warmed my heart and gave me a second wind.  I don't know what I would do without you guys.
Thursday, September 8, 2011

School Days are Here!

I just dropped off Kate for her first day of preschool.  She walked right in and didn't look back.  We had been practicing her teachers names for a few days and I was so proud of her when she approached her new teacher and said "good morning, Becca".  She is such a sweet girl and so excited for her new routine at school.  This preschool is really a structured "mother's morning out" - 2 days per week for 3 hours each day.  They have chapel and music and art and eat lunch together.  She will learn things from adults other than me and meet little people just like her (and little people nothing like her).  I really believe in socializing kids as early as possible and giving them the chance to do things outside the shadow of their parents.  The decision to send her was made even easier by my desire to spend a few hours a week alone with Connor.  Having babies 16 months apart has made my time with him much more rushed and less relaxed than when it was just Kate and me.  Hopefully we can really take advantage of our alone time.


Kate before school this morning

Education is a passion of mine.  I finished my Master's in Education in 2006 and worked as a school counselor for several years.  When Connor was born I resigned and have made the decision to stay home for a few years, maybe until both of my kids are school aged so that we are all on the same "schedule" with snow days and summers and holidays.  We'll see.  I am very career oriented so whether I can stay away for that long remains to be seen.

Being a military family has definitely pros and cons.  One of the issues that has given me pause and some anxiety is how to be sure that both of my kids receive the best education possible in light of PCSs, deployments, and all of the other unique factors that define this transient life.  My husband and I both grew up in homes where we went to school with the same group of friends from Pre-K through 12th grade.  I went to public school and he went to private school but both of us had stability.  We never worried about being the "new kid", our parents never worried about moving to a new area where the "best schools" are either a mystery or have waiting lists 100 kids long.  We don't have the luxury of buying a fixer upper in the best school district and slowly creating our dream home.  We have to look at things one year at a time, one school year at a time, and react in the best way that we possibly can.

I am thrilled with the school Kate is going to this year but I had several advantages:
1.  We knew where we were moving prior to applications being due.
2.  We had lived in the area before and were familiar with the school options.
3.  She is 2.  This is the first year possible for her to go to school.  So I wasn't at a disadvantage to students who had been enrolled in previous years.

We won't always have these advantages.

When I created this blog I wanted it to be more than just my ramblings.  Over the next few weeks I am going to start building an education section for military and other transient families.  My goal is to compile the amazing resources that are out there into a user friendly format.  I will also include tips from school counselors and administrators on things to keep in mind (and out of boxes!) when moving.  If you have anything you think would be helpful to add, feel free to write me.

I hope all of your kids had a great first day!  Here's to a wonderful school year!
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pumpkin Spice

As my friend Becky and I ran the 1/2 Marathon last weekend I focused on running one mile at a time.  Looking at the run as 13.1 miles was daunting for me, especially considering how I didn't train the way I should have.  But one mile is doable.  I can "easily" run one mile.  So I slowly but surely completed my race one lumbering mile at a time until I was only a mile from the finish.  Then the race became "finish this mile and you are done".  And we did.  Because of our baby steps and ability to not get overwhelmed by the big picture, we finished what most people consider a very long run.

When John left for deployment I approached it as a different kind of marathon.  I divided the 7 months into similar baby steps.  The first 45 days or so was "survival mode".  I forgave myself for eating frozen dinners, putting my kids down to bed early, not working out regularly.  My goal was to hit that 45 day mark with two healthy and happy kids and my sanity in tact.  Months two and three were defined by my mom being here.  I had man to man defense again.  I could cook nicer dinners, go on solo runs, and even have dinner with friends after bedtime without paying a babysitter.  I knew that those two months would be the easiest of the deployment. 

Today marks another milestone.  My pumpkin spice milestone.

Fall is my favorite season.  Living in the mid-Atlantic my whole life I have always gotten excited for what fall brings.  The sweltering heat and humidity starts to cool, school supplies line the aisles, leaves start changing, apple cider hits the grocery aisles, and pumpkin spice hits the coffee shops.  I love the corn mazes and hay rides and Halloween parties.  I love wearing hoodies and jumping in piles of leaves.  I love Saturdays full of college football and friends.

When Johnny was packing on the night before his deployment I told him that when I could buy a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks that I could start to get excited about him coming home.  Well folks, today Pumpkin Spice is here!


And I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rock 'n Roll

There is a much longer post that will be written in the coming days about this amazing weekend and my AMAZING friends and family.  I cannot remember a time where I felt more spoiled, supported, loved, and cared for.  And 99% of this weekend was a huge, enormous surprise.

For the time being, to make a long story short, we ROCKED the Rock 'n Roll.  My goal, to do a 1/2 Marathon before Connor's 1st birthday in November, is complete.  And for a girl who gained almost 100 pounds due to infertility (stress, hormones) and two high risk pregnancies back-to-back I can't tell you how good that feels.  I wasn't fast today, but I finished.  Ran the whole thing with my best friend (who surprised me from San Diego).  I know she could have lapped me twice and probably walked at my running pace.  But she didn't, kept me going the whole way, and we had a blast. 


Becky, me, JoJo, Julia - before the race

In the starting corral - "Team Jill"!!!  I have never had my name on a shirt before!

Still smiling 13.1 miles later

More on my amazing weekend to come!

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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