Saturday, January 28, 2012

In 30 Seconds...

John calls me to say his flight was cancelled (due to torrential rain and wind), can I please wait for him to go to the gym.  Sure.  After a few seconds of waiting:

Kate decides she needs to pee, I put her on the little toddler potty in our den...

And the roof starts leaking.

As I run to get a bucket to stop the leak from getting on our hardwoods, Kate is done peeing and runs off naked.

Connor finds the potty.

Pee goes everywhere.

Dog decides that the pee looks delicious and proceeds to drink the pee.

I race to put down the rain bucket, keep my 14 month old from getting covered in pee, and wrestle my dog away from the temptation.

Dog starts gagging.

Dog pukes all over the floor.

I find myself covered in rain water, dog puke, and pee.  Holding my 14 month old and racing to find my naked 2 year old.

If I had just walked out the door to go to the gym in the first place I wouldn't have dealt with any of this.  Therefore this is all my husband's fault!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why, hello there!

It has been way too long since I updated this blog and I really don't want to become one of those bloggers who starts each post with an apology.  So in that spirit, I hope I will write more in February.

This month has been wonderful and very busy.  We have had lots of visits from friends and family, spent a lot of time together as a foursome, and just gotten into our post-holiday/post-deployment routine.

Some of my favorite highlights from the month...

*  My dad visited earlier in the month.  He has a bunch of horses and wanted to check out a horse that was for sale in Virginia Beach.  We drove (and drove and drove) down to Pungo to check the horse out.  I proceeded to jump on and nearly get bucked off into an electric fence.  Not cool.  English trained rider on a Western style horse who doesn't like being in an enclosed ring = bad idea.  Very very bad.  Another sad aside, my legs hurt for like three days.  After being on the horse for like three minutes.  I am getting old.

*  Connor's godparents, Josh and Christine, visited for a weekend.  It was awesome to hang out with them and see their sweety pie Sofia (who is about a week older than Connor). 

*  Johnny continued to be an "acts of service" kind of guy and built Connor an awesome rocket ship bookcase.  About half of the furniture in our kid's room are things that Johnny has constructed in his spare time.  He is awesome at looking at a picture of something I love in Pottery Barn Kids and reproducing it in the garage for about 1/5 the cost.  I already have a few things on order for the next warm weekend.

Connor's very cool rocket ship bookcase

And because I'm in a braggy mood...

Kate's faux PBK dresser

The last big milestone of the past few weeks has been that Kate has moved to a big girl bed!  It has been a (fairly) smooth transition and we are so proud of her.  We are hoping this will make traveling easier because she can just sleep in a bed instead of a crib.

As we have moved though January we have noticed that our 2012 calendar is filling up.  We have weddings in Philly and Charleston and a trip to California all in the next few months.  It should be an adventure to see how well our kids travel at their ages.  We are running a 1/2 Marathon in March (yeeea, need to get to running a tad more) and heading to DC in a few weeks for a Villanova vs. Georgetown basketball game.  Busy busy. 

I hope you have all had a nice start to 2012! 
Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Deployment Survival Guide

John has been home a whole month which is crazy.  We have been spending a lot of time as a family adjusting to our new (better) normal.  I have had some time to think about all of the things that helped get me through his deployment and want to share them on this blog.  Remember, this is MY survival guide as a 30 year old mother of two toddlers.  I am perfectly aware that we all have different wants, needs, and situations.  If I had written this on John's first or second deployment (with no kids and graduate school/a full time job) it would have been totally different (um, survival tip #1 would have been dinner and drinks with friends at least once per week with a trip to the Norfolk BANQUE for good humor).   Notsomuch anymore.

1.  A sense of humor and a can-do attitude.

This isn't just a deployment survival tool, but a life survival tool.  There were many mornings where I would be standing in the kitchen at 6:30 AM while two kids cried and whined, the dog was standing at my feet looking for breakfast, and the cat was meowing because of the kids crying.  And I would just LAUGH.  Maybe in a maniacal way, but I still laughed.  It was either that or run screaming out the front door. 

Look for the humor in things, embrace the fact that you can't change your situation, know you are capable of much more than you think.  The days where I let the dark words "I can't do this" into my mind were my worst days.  The days where I would remind myself that "this too shall pass" and work on one issue at a time, forgave myself for not being perfect, and remembered the big picture were the better days.

2.  Family and Friends

It is okay to accept help.  It is okay to tell people you need something.  In October (rock bottom) I called my mother in tears.  I was just absolutely at my wits end.  My mother got in the car and drove the four hours down to help that day.  Be HONEST with yourself - I needed help.  Thankfully, my mother arrived as my knight in shining armor.

Surround yourself with as many supportive, happy, encouraging people as you can.  If a friend offers to help you and you need help - take it.  There is no trophy for doing everything yourself all the time. 

3.  Boxed Wine

I'm not kidding.

Although the name of this blog implies that I drink a lot, it isn't really the truth.  I probably have one glass of wine about three times per week.  Early on in the deployment I would open a bottle of wine and inevitably it would get dumped down the sink a few days later because I didn't drink it in time.  I'm sure a lot of solo parents have this issue. Enter my friend Melissa, the guru of wine, and she recommended Black Box.  (this is not an advertisement, I am not being paid, blah blah blah)

Black Box is 4 bottles of wine in an air-tight bag in a box and lasts about a month.  It gave me the freedom to drink wine at my leisure without worrying about wasting another good bottle of wine.  It is a high quality boxed wine so it doesn't taste gross or make you feel like you are slumming it.  If you are the type of person who enjoys a relaxing glass of wine in the evening but doesn't like the pressure of having to finish the bottle alone then BB is a good ticket.

4.  Get out of the house every day

Even if getting out of the house is a long walk around your neighborhood or a trip to the grocery store - just go.  There was nothing that gave me the "blahs" faster than sitting around the house all day.  I got cranky, the kids got stir crazy, and toward the end of the day it would be a train wreck.  I needed to talk to at least see that there were other adults in the world.  The kids needed the change of scenery.  We needed milk.  It was almost always a win-win to get in the car and go somewhere. 

5.  Luxuries

Reward yourself.  Decide what you love, what you can afford, and make sure you do something nice for yourself.  My luxuries during this past deployment were a cleaning lady every other week and a babysitter once per week.  For you it might be a bi-weekly pedicure or massage, buying yourself new shoes each month, or something else that makes you happy.  Obviously this is at the mercy of your budget and your preferences. 

The military pays you more during deployment for a reason.  Taking a parent out of the house makes things markedly harder.  You cant' just run to the store after bedtime while your spouse holds down the fort.  You can't schedule doctor's appointments for when your spouse is available to watch the kids.  If I wanted or needed to go somewhere without the kids, I had to pay someone $10-$12 an hour.  You start understanding why "family separation pay" was created... and it isn't to save for the new car when you husband returns.

Go over the budget before your spouse leaves and see if there is some room for a babysitter, drop in daycare once per week, or any other thing you desire.  It is important to recharge your batteries and look forward to some alone time every once in awhile.  If being a good mother is the most important thing to me, then getting away from them a few hours per week is an imperative. 

6.  Set Realistic Goals

You will inevitably have some time where you can get some goals accomplished - do it!  Be realistic, write it down, put the time aside.  It can be anything from weight loss to getting your scrapbooks or picture albums organized.  After 7pm I often felt lonely and would look to my goals for inspiration on what to do with those hours.  You can only watch so many episodes of the Real Housewives... 

7.  Hit the Road

I traveled a lot less during John's first two deployments than this one.  Back then I was very busy with graduate school.  We lived on the southside and I would commute to Williamsburg nearly every day for class (about 45 minutes one-way without any traffic).  I usually didn't get home until close to 10pm.  I had internships in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, worked as a substitute teacher in my spare hours, and was just spread thin with my professional and educational obligations.  Because of that, I really didn't travel at all.

This time my obligations (Kate and Connor) were more portable-ish.  I would try to plan at least one trip per month.  Most of them were to Northern Virginia where my family is, but we also went to Connecticut and I went to Florida and France.  Packing and getting there were usually pretty stressful, but there wasn't one trip I went on that I regretted.  I got to see friends, the kids got to see new places, and I had a few extra sets of hands to help me.  It made time go by quickly and gave me small milestones to look forward to throughout the seven months. 

8.  Coffee on a morning timer

'Nuf said.

9.  Memberships

We belong to the YMCA and have year-passes to our local zoo, botanical garden, and children's museum.  I had zero excuse to be bored.  The YMCA has a daycare so if I was having a rough morning I could go put the kids in the daycare and run upstairs to jump on a treadmill for 45 minutes.  I could then shower in peace, get dressed as slowly as I pleased, and then pick the kids up feeling like a million bucks.  Our Y even has a "reading room" that is a quiet space for perusing People Magazine while someone else watches your kids.  Priceless.

Aside from being a good investment, seasons passes give you the freedom to go to the zoo or museum and only stay as long as everyone is happy.  If one of my kids just isn't having a good day, I can leave after 20 minutes and not be worried about the $20 I just wasted.  It gave me amazing freedom to just put them in the stroller, go see the monkeys, and leave.  No biggie.  No stress. 

10.  Make Communicating with your Spouse Easy

I like paper letters and love to send them to John.  To make it easy, I have a stationery drawer in my kitchen where I keep a big supply of cards and notes.  When I am at Target or Hallmark I don't buy one card - I buy 10.  Then when it strikes me, I can just go into the drawer and have plenty of cards to choose from, write it really quick (or let the kids scribble on it after breakfast), and throw it in the mail.  If it is easy you will do it.  If you have to go to the store, but the card, write the card, find the address in a pile of junk, then hit the post office for a stamp you will never do it.  But our spouses love and appreciate mail.  I'll never forget when it clicked with John why people are so happy and proud of their kids' artwork.  For him, having something that "her little hands" had touched and created meant the world to him.  So I made a huge effort to regularly do this.

If you don't love paper letters, use your iPhone or email account to send lots of notes and pictures.  Keep it simple and set yourself up for success.  If it is a headache you won't follow through and communication is incredibly important for everyone in the family.


That is all I can think of right now.  Of course, if you have some great ideas for women who are going through deployment, please share them in the comment section.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oh What A Year! (a few days late)

Happy new year, friends!  This morning I took a deep sigh of relief at my outlook for 2012 vs. 2011.  On January 1, 2011 I had a 7 week old newborn and was surrounded by boxes and paperwork and the stress that moving brings.  We moved in late January and then faced the "real" Navy for the first time in three years.  I knew I was staring down a deployment that would take my husband away for the majority of the year.  I was scared about what 2011 would hold for me and our family (and my frown lines).

But we survived.  Whew.  And unless the Navy pulls a surprise out of their hat, I should have John home for all of the holidays and happy outings that 2012 brings.  I couldn't be more thrilled and am really excited for this year.

Here is my year in review through pictures...


In January we were still living in Great Mills, Maryland as John finished up his time at VX-20.  Kate was 18 months old and Connor was 2 months old.  We were living somewhat in limbo - Connor didn't have a nursery (since I knew we would be leaving so shortly after he was born) and Kate was just starting to get used to her new brother.

Who is this guy??

Kate - 18 months
Connor - 2 months


In February, we made the big move back to Norfolk, Virginia. John joined his current command, CVW-8, and we moved into new (rental) house. While John worked with the movers and boxes and cleaners and property managers, I took both kids to my mom's house to hide. Connor was baptized at the Naval Academy.

Illustration of why babies and moving don't mix


John went out to sea for the first time in three years and gave me preview of what I would be in for in 2011.  When he was around we had fun re-exploring Norfolk with a different goal in mind.  Instead of being DINKs looking for a drink, we were parents of 2u2 looking for a way to entertain our kids.

Kate kissing John's picture while he is away for the first time in her life

Getting to know one another


Pre-deployment dread starts to kick in. John starts getting ready for deployment, I start getting ready for madness. The weather mercifully warms up and more outdoor activities become possible. I start interviewing cleaning services and therapists babysitters and ordering daddy dolls and recordable books. Our family comes down for Easter to celebrate the holiday and say farewell to Johnny.

The first (and only) time at the beach as a family this year

John's brother, Rich, takes a few family photos for us at Easter


On May 10th we said goodbye to John as he departed aboard the USS George HW Bush on their maiden deployment.  The rest of May is spent in a fog of figuring out how to juggle everyone alone.  I started this blog in May determined to "write it out" and have some accountability for my goals.  Some of my goals were to stay active, stay positive, and live in the moment. 

USS Bush leaves on her first deployment


I spend a lot of time outdoors with friends, take my first solo road trip to DC to hang with family, and get into a routine.  The goal: get out of the house  No pajamas after 10AM.  The microwave should not be the sole way to cook food.  Small steps but they did wonders for my mood.  I officially became addicted to caffeine. 

Three reasons to be calm...  Wine, cosmos, and family


Kate turns 2 on July 3 and I throw her a birthday party.  One of my best friends from Villanova flies down to hang out with me for a weekend.  My mother (bless her) arrives for the summer.  Things are looking up!  We spend mornings outside in the backyard playing and afternoons getting out of the house for the zoo and botanical garden.  At the end of the month we take a LOOOONG drive up to Connecticut to celebrate my amazing grandmother's 90th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Kate!

Thank the lord, my mom is here!

Kriste too!

How we spent most mornings...  Connor was a happy tug boat captain!

My lovely sister and grandmother at her 90th birthday shindig


In August I take a weekend away from the kids and head to a wedding in Florida.  I realize how lucky Johnny and I are to have known each other so long.  The wedding was for his USNA roommate, and despite the fact that everyone attending the wedding are "his" college friends, I have a blast and felt completely comfortable going solo.  On the family front, while my mom is away on a much needed vacation with girlfriends, John's brother Tommy and his family invade the house from Atlanta.  It was so awesome to have such a full house and catch up with them.

Hanging with John's friends in Florida

Brady and Connor (cousins, born 1 day apart)


In September I get the surprise of my life when my best friend from high school surprises me from San Diego to run the Rock 'n Roll 1/2 Marathon in Virginia Beach. I was so overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of my friends that weekend and it really recharged my batteries. Kate starts preschool on September 7th (sniffle). She absolutely LOVES it and Connor and I get some much needed one on one time together.  At the end of the month I attend the Centennial of Naval Aviation Ball with a group of girlfriends and "balloon John".

Mel, Becky, and I the weekend of the 1/2 Marathon

Becky and I before the race

Kate on her 1st day of school

Solo at the ball!


October is when I started feeling sluggish and sad.  The summer had been a whirlwind of friends and family and activity.  The fall brought a little loneliness and jealousy.  I love autumn but had a difficult time watching other families enjoy everything while I physically couldn't do it logistically.  Aside from a few outings to the beach, a short road trip to DC, and Halloween with friends, October was a quiet month.  If I had "rock bottom" I think October was it.

Connor and the great pumpkin!

Going stir crazy and ready to kill each other.  Literally.

Alice and I trick or treating.  Connor wasn't feeling too well that night.


November came and I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Connor turned 1 on 11/11 and I threw him a small party.  At the end of the month I got to jump on a plane and head to Marseille, France to spend a few wonderful days with Johnny.  My family banded together to watch Kate and Connor for us.

Clearly, Connor loves cake.

Gorgeous Christmas decorations (on the left you can see the market) in Aix En Provence, France


HOMECOMING came on December 7, 2011. 

VAW 124 Bear Aces come home

Connor is THRILLED

As am I

We had a lot of down time in the middle of December - hanging in our jammies (I waived the 10AM rule), visiting Santa, and driving around seeing the Christmas lights.  At the end of December we headed to Northern Virginia for Christmas with Johnny's family.  We all enjoy lots of time with family and food. 

Kate in the life-size snow globe before visiting Santa

Connor climbing the gifts Christmas morning

I think that overall, 2011 was a success.  I had a lot of fun with my friends and family.  I missed Johnny every day but our relationship is great and I know that I appreciate him more.  I am stronger, more independent, and know that I am capable of doing things on my own.  It is amazing what can happen when you are given a challenge that seems impossible or difficult.  Plain and simple.

I am happily bidding 2011 adieu and look forward to the fun things in store for 2012. 

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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