Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday :

This is why I haven't posted anything for the last few weeks. His name is Alexander James, and he is wonderful. :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Extracurricular activities

This summer our 3 year old took swim lessons and gymnastics classes. I wanted her to try some new activities and see if she enjoyed them. I also wanted to see how she would do respecting a teacher's authority and waiting her turn, since she will need to do that at preschool this fall. She did ok with both classes, and I think it was a good experience for her, but we're not continuing either one during the school year. In swimming she unfortunately got water up her nose during the 4th class, and didn't trust her teacher after that. So even though she could do the skills, she did a lot of whining and crying and acted afraid of the water. She enjoyed gymnastics a lot more, and loved all the jumping and different equipment. I liked seeing her persistence trying new things, and how she gained confidence each week. In the beginning she clutched the teacher's hand to walk on the beam, but now she will walk by herself with a huge grin. She doesn't always listen to the teacher, and still complains if the teacher scolds her, but it is cool to see the improvement.
Nevertheless, we won't be doing activities during the school year. She will be in school 2 days a week, and will have our playgroup for field trips. She is not asking to continue gymnastics, and I confess I don't enjoy sitting and entertaining her younger brother while she is in class. With the new baby coming any day now, I am trying to keep life as simple as possible. She's only 3, and I'm sure we have years of soccer, dance, and other activities ahead of us. What age did your children start extracurricular activities? How did you decide which ones to enroll in?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The waiting game...

Military wives should be experts in that virtue called patience. We accept a lifestyle where we are not in control of, well, almost anything. I have learned to accept the unpredictable future of career paths, where we will live, when my husband will be with us, where he will be sent in the world, etc. I know how to be patient waiting for him to come home from a field op, a training mission, or even a deployment. If patience is a virtue, I should be a SAINT by now! So why am I finding it so difficult to wait for this baby???
I am almost 39 weeks pregnant now, so the baby is full-term, completely developed, etc. He could be born at any time. In fact, it seems most of my friends having babies in the last year delivered before this point. I've gained a ton of weight, I am feeling heavy and tired and slow, and it's just getting uncomfortable. I have done my cleaning, and baby preparations, and freezer stocking. Right now life feels like it is on hold, waiting for Alex to make an appearance... and I am feeling just about done.
However, the rational part of my brain tells me that there is no rush. My other kids were born in the 40th week, so there is no reason to expect this one to be earlier. And I know all too well that pregnancy--with all its discomforts--is not nearly as challenging as caring for a newborn!!! At least right now I have quiet naptimes and evenings, and I can sleep through the night! Life with 3 children is not going to be easy, so there is no need to rush into it. Whether it starts this week or next, it's going to happen eventually! So I should enjoy these last few days of snuggling with my 2 kids, being able to carry them, and giving them the attention they crave.
I think there are a few big differences this time around. First of all, my husband is deployed. So even though I have WONDERFUL support from my friends and my mom, I still feel a little bit helpless and scared about giving birth 'alone,' and I would like to get it over with so I can move on to the next exciting stage. Secondly, I have been having contractions on and off the last few days, but the doctors confirmed today that there hasn't been any changes and the baby is not close to being born any time soon. With the other kids, once contractions started, they gradually increased in intensity over the period of a few days, so I had a good idea when the baby would come. These contractions that start and stop without actually accomplishing anything are a little frustrating, painful, and discouraging. I don't mind having them if they lead to the birth! But if they are just random inconveniences that don't do anything to the baby... then I want to get this process moving and get it over with!
Anyway, I think I am done venting my frustration. The baby will be here within the next week or 2, one way or another. I'm doing fine, and I can think of lots of things to enjoy each extra day that I am given. Sure, I want to meet Alex and hold him and kiss him! But I can wait as long as I need to... after all, I do have a lot of experience with waiting!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

My bags are packed, i'm ready to go!

I finally made it to 38 weeks in this pregnancy! Not sure I'm ready to be a mom of 3, but I think I 'm ready for the baby. Today I packed my hospital bag. Clothes (including nursing stuff) , toiletries, and snacks for me, plus the going home outfits for little man. I even have a book and some dvd's in case I'm there for a while. And I remembered a bag for all those extras they send you home with. See, 3rd time doing this in 3 years, I feel like a pro! His carseat is in the van, his clothes are all washed in dreft, his bassinet, pack and play, and swing are all set up... I'm ready for him! The only thing I realized I am missing is a baby album for him, but that's an easy fix.
I feel like we have about a week left. My other kids were born on or just after their due date, but I keep feeling this one will be a little early. I have been getting crampy pre -labor contractions today, and with the others I felt like this for several days before active labor began. But I haven't really been nesting yet, and usually that is a good sign things will start soon. My freezer is stocked, and my house is clean, so there's nothing I really HAVE to do. Although I do want to get laundry and grocery shopping done as early in the week as possible! We'll see! Now watch me wait in discomfort for 2 long weeks...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Emotionally Detatched?

Like many military spouses, I try to avoid watching the news during a deployment. I don't mind going to news websites and looking up political stories about what is going on in D.C., but I try to avoid obsessively following military reports from the country where my loved one is working. However, between Facebook and my e-mail home page, it was hard to avoid the news of the U.S. helicopter that was shot down in Afghanistan yesterday, killing 31 people. Since my husband's battalion is "somewhere in Southern Afghanistan" many of the spouses in the battalion immediately became concerned that the largest day of casualties in that country would involve their beloved.
I have to say I was never that concerned. I knew it was unlikely my husband would be on a helicopter, and then when I learned it was Navy Seals, I knew he wasn't involved. I was relieved, and prepared to forget it had even happened. But all day today I am seeing FB posts (from military AND civilians) honoring the memory and sacrifice of those 31 fallen. Has my gratitude for my own husband's safety made me completely numb to the sufferings of other families? Is it selfish of me to care only about him, and not about other military casualties? Last deployment, there were at least 7 deaths in his battalion. But because none of them were his platoon or spouses I knew personally, none of them hit close to home. I think it's healthy to stay somewhat strong and emotionally reserved during deployments so you are not constantly worrying or making yourself sick. But I don't want to be emotionally dead and unsympathetic to others. Do you have a good way of coping during deployments without getting emotionally involved in every news story?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Chillin with the cousins!

Still learning how to post pictures from phone to blog. But here is one from our most recent visitors!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Resource Thursday: FAMILY!

Every week I try to share a useful resource that is available to military families. Usually, I pick something that has recently been helpful to me. Well, this week it has been family!!! I am 9 months pregnant, 50 pounds heavier than this time last year, and it is typically over 100 degrees here in North Carolina. So my energy levels are pretty low, and I get drained very quickly. As much as I want to enjoy my time with my 2 little ones before the baby comes, just getting through the day can be exhausting. This week I had 2 sets of visitors: first my sister Brigid came for a week. We didn't have any special plans. Mostly she just helped me entertain the kids, or stayed home and watched them while I ran some errands kid-free. Plus she helped me cook so I could stock my freezer with post-baby meals. It was wonderful! Then, the last few days we were lucky to finally see my sis-in-law, father-in-law, and the 2 cousins. Even though her kids are a little older than mine (ages 6 and 10, while mine are only 3 and 1), they really play well together! Even every-day things like dress-ups, tea parties, reading books, and blowing bubbles are more fun with cousins around! Plus they had some great times in the backyard and we even spent a morning at the beach! I'm a little tired from all the activity, but I know that without help from family, we would have spent most of our days inside watching TV.
I think a big difference between this deployment and the last one is that I don't really consider family visitors as "guests" anymore. Last time, whenever people were coming to visit, I cleaned the house, did laundry, went shopping, and cooked special meals. I also tried to plan special outings to the limited number of things to do in this area. I always looked forward to visitors, but it was exhausting! This time, I am willing to admit what I can and can't do, and family seems to understand that. I will have plenty of family visits during this deployment, but this time they are coming as helpers, not guests. You want to come see me and the kids? Great! But you might wind up helping me clean, or cook, or I just might ask you to mow the lawn for me. :-) And that is how we will get by!
What is your attitude toward family visits? Are they frequent, or more like annual events? Do you think you treat family visitors like guests or helpers???

Friday, July 29, 2011

Resource Thursday: local cosmetology schools

Yesterday I got a (much-needed) haircut, blowdry, and style. I also got an amazing pedicure! Total bill: $18! How is that possible? All the work was done by cosmetology students from a local college. They typically offer low prices for the full range of salon services: facials, haircuts and styling, manicures, and pedicures. But my prices were even lower because they were reaching out to the wives in our battalion during our deployment as "Project Give Back." The project was developed by one of the teachers to remind the students the importance of being involved in the local community. So all the spouses in our battalion get a temporary discount on pampering, and all the students from the college were delighted to have some new clients and get some practice. The girl who cut my hair got step-by-step directions from her teacher, and she did a great job! Then, seeing how pregnant I am, she gave me an extra-long pedicure/leg massage treatment. It was WONDERFUL! They use all high-quality salon products. It was so great to relax without the kids for a little while, and everyone there was very friendly. I would definitely consider going again!
The school I went to was Miller-Motte School, which has locations around the country. I learned that the local Community College has a cosmetology school with a similar program. I'm sure you can find similar services in your town! Why not try to arrange an outreach program with local military units, like ours did? The spouses will thank you, and a happy spouse at home means a happy Marine, Sailor, or Soldier better able to focus on his job! :-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Oops...

In all the packing and chaos before a deployment, it's natural for some things to get misplaced. Apparently, this time that included our 3-year-old's birth certificate! For years it sat safely in our lock-box with other essential documents to grab in the event of a fire. Then one day my husband asked that I bring it to his office, because apparently even though she was in DEERS she was never entered into IPAC. I dutifully bring it to him, and make him promise to take care of it and return it promptly. That's the last time I saw it.
He claims he last saw it in our house, when he dutifully brought it home in a manilla folder, which at one point was in our dining room. I have emptied out the dining room, and there are no folders there. I don't usually touch my husband's work papers, but if I do there are only 2 or 3 places I put them. I have checked those places. No birth certificate.
At first we thought, "It will turn up, it has to be here somewhere!" and "it's not like a 3-year-old is going to need it any time soon, right?" Wrong on both counts. It has not turned up, and apparently this is precisely the document needed to enroll her in school this Fall! Awesome. So we are now on several waiting lists while I contact the Vital Records department in her home state and request a copy. I just paid $50 to hopefully get one here next week.
*Sigh* it's always something. But hey, if this is the biggest obstacle we've faced during the deployment so far, I'd say it wasn't too bad! Or too expensive to fix. Wonder what it will be next...
What's the worst thing you have even lost or misplaced? Did it eventually turn up?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Laying down the Law

We have been struggling for some time now with disciplining our 3-year-old. Honestly, most of the time, she is a pretty good kid--very happy temperament, likes to help out, can be really nice to little brother. But she also shows plenty of whining, resistance, and downright violence which is often triggered by seemingly nothing at all. Sometimes she just gets hyper, runs into a room, and knocks down brother. Because there's no clear cause, it's hard to consistently punish her.

My husband and I agree on the big-picture of discipline--we want obedient, respectful kids, we are ok with spanking, and we try to enforce the same house rules. But since I am with the kids all day long, I tend to "choose my battles" and only react over the big things, letting lots of minor whining incidents slide, or just giving them a snack or toy if it will resolve the problem quickly. When he's here, Dan has more of a zero-tolerance policy. He thinks that some behavior is just not acceptable, regardless of their age, the fact that they might be tired, etc. He is quicker to react and send Sophie to her room, when I would have just spanked her or sent her to time-out. Of course, the kids listen better to Daddy. He only needs to say things once-- I usually say them 3 times before I get a response. He gets sick of playing the bad guy, and tells me I just need to say no more often.

Since Daddy won't be back for quite some time, one resolution I am making for this deployment is that I need to get tougher on the discipline. Sometimes I am just being lazy when I ignore minor problems or don't bother disciplining the kids. It seems easier to ignore the problem and get back to what I was doing than to stop, get the story, lay down a punishment, and listen to the inevitable crying and complaining afterward. But I know in the long run this is not a good habit for me! And it is certainly not encouraging the kids to respect me and be obedient in the long run.

So, after some soul-searching and a brief period of feeling like an inadequate parent, I decided to write down our house rules. I made a colorful page with pictures beside each rule:
Listen to Mommy
No hitting
No kicking
No throwing toys
No whining
Share the toys
Wait your turn
Eat with a fork or spoon
Talk quietly at meals
Say "please" and "may I"

I went over it with Sophie this afternoon. We crossed out the bad behaviors, and circled the good ones. If she shows the bad behavior, she will get sent to her room. The good behaviors will earn her stickers on our sticker chart, (which is for another post). It seemed to make a good impression. She asked questions about the pictures, and I explained why it was or was not allowed in our house. Then we put it up on the fridge. Immediately afterward, I asked her to put a ball back in the playroom. She said "I will ROLL it. I will not throw, I will not hit, I will not kick, I will not whine. Daddy will be so proud of me!" I was impressed by that! I'm sure it won't be easy, but having the rules written down reminds me I need to enforce if any of them are broken. I don't expect a fantasy world, but I am hoping for some improvement. I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Enjoy it while it lasts...

Today was packed. I usually schedule about one outing or "event" per day, whether that is a playdate or simply going to the grocery store. It seems neither the kids nor I can handle much more than that. But today, for some reason, I agreed to THREE different events-- gymnastics class, a 1-year-old's birthday party, and an adult friend's birthday/dinner gathering. I was a little worried my kids would have shortened naps in the afternoon, be cranked up on sugar, and go into total meltdown stage by early evening. However, they actually did just fine!
Sophie was so excited to go to the 1-year-old's party that she kept coming up to me during gymnastics asking if it was over yet. She had a huge smile and had a good time with the teacher, but she just couldn't get party and cupcakes off her mind! We went to the party directly after class, and it was nice--just 3 families with our kids, so they played together pretty well, the adults got to sit around and eat and talk, and everyone had fun in a low-key way.
We came back home, napped, then went off to the dinner party. This was at my friend's apartment, and she just had a baby, but no toddler toys. I didn't know how my kids would do with limited entertainment in a confined space, but they were mostly happy to eat, cuddle on the couch, and watch some older kids play video games. So I actually had adult conversations and got to sit down! And eat! Yay!
I have decided that while there are many challenges to having a 3-year-old and a 19-month old, it's also a pretty nice age. I can just grab their juice cups and go out the door. The older one is potty trained, and the younger one only needs diaper changes a few times a day, so I don't have to think about that too often. They eat most adult food. They can play together and entertain each other with moderate supervision for short periods of time. This is nice.
Unfortunately, I only have a few weeks before we will have a newborn and be back on that crazy schedule of no sleep for Mommy, and a household controlled by baby's eating and sleeping whims. Sure, I know it's just a phase that will be over in a few months. That doesn't mean I have to look forward to it! So I have resolved that the next few weeks are the closest thing I am going to get to a vacation during this deployment. I intend to enjoy my time as a Mommy-of-2 as much as possible, before I forever become Mommy-of-3.

Friday, July 22, 2011

My new best friend: nook app on my phone!

Since receiving my new phone on mother's day, I have been gradually exposed to the amazing impact a "smart" phone can have on your life. I LOVE having internet on my phone, and the fact that I can access e-mail, Facebook, and the Meetup website whether I am in the car, at the grocery store, etc. I have been finding all kinds of useful apps, and am surprised how many of them are FREE!

But my favorite by far is the Nook app from Barnes & Nobles. I love to read, but since having children, I have often complained about the inability to sit down for more than a few minutes at a time and get into a book. When I did try to read, I usually kept the book on my nightstand, where it did me no good if I got a few unexpected quiet moments in the car, or when the kids were playing outside.
My husband is also an avid reader, and we got him a Nook for Christmas, knowing he would make great use of it during deployments. So by the time I got my phone, he already had a Nook account with tons of books downloaded. I downloaded the Nook app for FREE, and instantly had access to everything in our account! Since I always have my phone on me (a deployed husband has that effect on everyone), I can read a few pages throughout the day--when I wake up, when the kids are watching TV, during naptime, when I sit outside and play with them, etc. I have read at least 6 books in the last month--way more than previously. Best of all, my husband and I have access to the same library during the deployment, so we can read the same books together, each at our own pace, and feel a little more connected and in touch during our separation. I love that! Even though we don't have exactly the same taste in books, it is nice to have a hobby that we can share over this distance. Thank you Barnes & Noble's!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life is not a Strategy Game

Growing up, I played a lot of board games with my sister, who was just 2 years older. The problem was, she is incredibly smart. So she always wanted to play strategy games--Stratego, chess, etc. To even my odds, I always preferred games of chance. My favorite was always Life. You remember, the game with the little car tokens full of pink and blue pegs to represent your family. You spin the wheel and... oh! You wrote a bestselling novel! Collect $150,000! But then next turn... oh! Your house burned down, pay $500,000!

Anyway, I was thinking of that game today, and how unpredictable my real life is now. Since we chose a military life, I think we expected a certain amount of surprises. (The "pegs" in our little car are adding up quickly, and we're about to add another blue one. :-) ) But deployments always heighten the sense of unpredictability. Spin the wheel one day and oh! the car is not working! Spin it again and discover you need to file some obscure paperwork somewhere, and of course they want your husband's signature. So far, so good for us here, but I find myself constantly wondering/worrying-- what problem is going to come up next? I know I CAN and will handle it, because I have to. I just wish I knew when something would go wrong and how hard it will be to fix it. But if I knew that, then I could strategize for it... and life is not really a strategy game is it? If it were, wouldn't that take out all the fun?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Deployment Coping

Well I might as well admit that this is now a deployment blog... at least until February that is! Sure, I will also be having a baby and sharing all kinds of adventures with the kids. But I won't be able to avoid an underlying theme of deployment.
Overall, I admit that I am pretty optimistic about this one. I've been through this enough times before that I know what to expect. Communication should be much better this time than last year's. My husband is in a much safer job position now, so I won't be so worried about bodily harm. I had a newborn (Danny) when our last deployment started, and got through that pretty well, so my confidence is pretty high that I can do it again. And I'm not even taking any online courses this time around, so honestly all I have to do in the next 7 months is have a baby and take care of our 3 small children. Easy, right? :-) That's what I tell myself on good days.
Anyway, we are only on Day 2, so it barely even feels like a deployment yet. However, even though I have hardly cried, I find myself already slipping into my typical coping mechanism: organizing and cleaning. I have always been a bit of a neat freak (just ask the younger sister who had to share a room with me!) but I have become comfortable with a certain level of messiness in the house, caused by husband's gear and hobbies, children's toys, etc. As long as everything is relatively clean and I can work in the kitchen, I'm fine with that. But as soon as husband leaves, I find myself on a rampage to reorganize the whole 4-bedroom house! Last deployment I came home late at night after saying goodbye to him, and immediately started cleaning up his clothes and everyday items that were around the house-- no more boots by the door, shaving cream on the sink, etc. This time I at least waited until the next day to do it. :-) I then started cleaning up all his books and games that were in the downstairs area. Instead of his hobbies taking over the dining room, it is now cleaned out, his things are neatly put away in our closet, and I won't have to look at them for half a year. I think my motivations are 2-fold. Partly, I am doing this because we are about to have a baby and I need to reorganize some parts of the house to accommodate the new little guy: the guest room/ study will be baby's room, so I had to move around some books and make some room in the closet. The dining room will temporarily hold his swing and pack-and-play, so I had to move the table and clean out the corners. But I think the other reason is purely emotional: when I see his things laying around the house those first few days, I get a little catch in my throat and feel melancholy. He was just here a few hours ago, leaving a damp towel in the bathroom, dishes in the sink, food in the refrigerator, etc. Seeing it just reminds me that he won't be around for a long time, so it seems easier to remove all those reminders. I'm not taking his pictures off the walls or anything crazy! It just seems to make sense to temporarily move the things he won't need while he's gone. I've read that there is a psychological benefit to leaving his boots by the door, as a reminder to me and the kids that he will be home soon. That may be true... but it seems silly to trip over them for months at a time when he obviously won't need them.
What do you think? Do you leaves his things around as reminders when he is deployed? Or do you clean and rearrange the house to claim it as YOURS?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Deployment Day 1

Well, I have not been doing much on my blog recently, but that is because I was a little bit busy getting ready for this deployment-- trying to savor as much family time as possible before he left. But now we have said our goodbyes, it has officially begun, and I am ready to settle into deployment mode. Don't get me wrong--I hate deployments as much as the next person! But I think the most stressful part is the few weeks leading up to deployment. You may or may not have an exact flight date, but you know it is coming. You keep thinking of all the things you want to do together, places to take the kids, projects around the house, and so on... and it all has to happen NOW. And while I am focused on all the home/family/paperwork/maintenance things, he is focusing on gear/packing/relaxing. It can be a difficult time for any couple. Once he finally leaves, you can breathe, and begin to settle into that lovely deployment routine.
We were very blessed to actually have a leave block before this deployment, and we took our first family vacation! We had considered visiting family, but he only had a week off, and it was a lot of driving. So we opted instead to just take the kids with us and spend a few days in Myrtle Beach, which is only 2 hours away. We had an amazing time!!!! We were right on the ocean, and the hotel had multiple pools, splash areas, slides, and lazy rivers that kept the kids busy every morning. In the afternoons they took naps and we got to relax, watch TV, and cuddle together listening to the ocean. We also had a BLAST going to Medieval times! Ahhh, so many smiles and good times that week!



It was the perfect thing to take my mind off deployment and just enjoy being a family for a few days. I felt closer to him than I had in a long time--probably because I wasn't distracted by cooking and housework, and he wasn't distracted by work, friends, or video games. We will definitely do something similar when he returns!
So yes, he's gone now, but we have tons of great memories to savor, and I hope that will be enough to keep us strong during the next 7 months!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Well, we survived a month of pre-deployment training! I didn't have a lot of time for blogging, but I did make time to do lots of playdates and field trips with the kids! We went to the zoo, the beach, started gymnastics class on Saturdays for the 3-year-old, and she also just finished two weeks of going to swim lessons every day! Plus, we were graced with a week-long visit from my Mom and sister. They were so helpful taking care of the kids, cleaning my house, and letting me run errands kid-free! And I even got to host a girls' night in/Scentsy party for some of my friends! So all in all, it was a good month. Of course I missed my husband every day, but I was able to keep up with things that needed to get taken care of (like our van door that stopped working) and not stress too much about housework and cooking. I'm fairly proud of how well the kids did without Daddy, and all that I was able to accomplish.


However... I must confess that the 3rd trimester fatigue is catching up with me! I'm not sleeping well at night, which makes me more tired and cranky during the day. Since both my kids still take afternoon naps, I find myself napping with them several days a week. And my exercise machine? Yeah, haven't touched it this month. I'm doing ok, but starting to feel like I am reaching my limits--of energy, patience, etc. I keep feeling that I am just DONE. Which is unfortunate, because the past month was just a short warm-up to prepare for the 7-month deployment that begins way too soon.
On a positive note, my husband is finally HOME, and we have at least a few weeks to enjoy with him, including our first-ever family vacation! I am really looking forward to all that, and hope it will be a good chance to recharge and get fully prepared for the deployment. And the new baby. :-) I can finally relax, share some of the child-raising responsibilities, and try to enjoy my family during the limited time we have.
How about you? What are your favorite pre-deployment tips? Any special family traditions or things you do to make the stressful time leading up to deployment a little better?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Resource Thursday: LINKS classes

Yesterday I went to my first LINKS class. I had heard of these for years, but thought they were for "new" military spouses. Considering myself somewhat seasoned at his point, I figured I already know how to handle deployments, find my way around base, etc. But there was a group of spouses from my husband's company taking it together, and they provided childcare on base, so I thought, "why not?" I am so glad I did!!!

LINKS stands for Lifestyles, Insight, Networking, Knowledge, and Skills. The class I took was for spouses and lasted most of the day, but they have shorter workshops for parents of Marines, children, fiances, etc. The program started 20 years ago during the 1st Gulf War, when spouses who had become used to the "peacetime" cycle of the military suddenly had to handle deployments to the Middle East and learn to navigate military life without their husbands. Each military base offers its own version, and you would get maximum impact if you attended a class when you were new to a base, but even after being here almost 3 years I still learned a lot of valuable info!

The class covers 6 main topics: The Corps (structure and explanation of ranks), Local Services on and off base, Understanding Pay and financial opportunities, Deployment, Military Moves, and Community involvement. I had some experience with most of these topics, but learned a ton of new things in each presentation. Plus, participating with other Marine wives helped me see that my experiences were not unusual or weird, especially when it comes to deployment. There was a sense that "we are all in this together, so let's make the most of it and help each other." So it was a really fun and positive day!

Some of the highlights of what I learned:
-- the infantry at Lejeune is all part of 2nd Marine division, and I now see exactly how my husband's job fits into the hierarchy
-- what to do during Colors on base each morning or evening
-- lots of acronyms and jargon!
-- phone numbers for all kinds of services on base
-- apparently I need to renew my ID card since my husband was promoted last year!
-- details about the base movie theater which I have never used
-- Disney World has a military resort with special military rates!
-- how to get price matching discounts from the Commissary and PX
-- MyPay has a "limited access" option so I don't have to use my husband's login info
-- the RUC code you need for a Red Cross Emergency message is located on the LES
-- how to read and interpret the LES
-- how to use Split Pay
-- the Savings Deposit Program gives you 10% interest during deployments!!!!!
-- there are 6 stages of the deployment cycle, each with its own distinct challenges and emotions
-- you can request a military Sponsor when you move to a new duty station!
-- a dislocation allowance is free money you get for moving: you just have to check the box!
-- how to contact a chaplain besides the one in husband's unit
-- career advancement and education opportunities available to the Marine

Plus I even got a certificate and a goodie bag afterwards! The class was free, the on-site childcare was free... I would say it was a great day! I highly recommend the LINKS class to anyone who hasn't taken it, regardless of how long you have been in the military!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Danny's recent firsts

First time playing with the sprinkler

First time in his big boy bed

First drawing

First time at the bar stool instead of his high chair

First beach trip this summer

Sunday, May 29, 2011

To all new/young Military Wives (and their husbands)...

OK, my husband has only been away at training for 1 week, and we have actually had a great time here! Sure, the kids frustrate me at times, but for the most part we had a really relaxing week, got to spend some time with friends, and I even read THREE books during my free time! I'm realizing how much LESS work I have to do when husband is gone-- I don't have to cook fresh dinners each night or make his lunch, there was 1 less load of laundry, I didn't have to run any errands for him, and I didn't have to watch any hockey! :-)
But already, some of the younger/newer wives in the battalion are starting to bug me. Sure, communication has been limited this week, but my husband has made a few brief phone calls, and we each know the other is doing fine, we say our I love you's, and that's that. But through Facebook and direct conversations, some wives have made it clear that they are already struggling--emotionally, financially, or for some other reason. I was shocked by the situations some wives are in. I want to be compassionate and helpful, but I also think there is a list of reasonable things a wife should have when her husband leaves for any length of time:
1. She should have a phone and a way to consistently pay the bill
2. She should have a drivers' license
3. She should have access to a vehicle to get herself to the grocery store and doctor's appointments.
4. She should be able to pay the household bills and track the family budget
5. She should have at least one person, (friend or family member), who is in the local area and can be reached in case of emergency.

It amazes me that there are wives who somehow get by without some of these things, especially when they are responsible for 1 or more small children! But it amazes me more when husbands leave their wives without working out solutions to some of the above problems. Because then it suddenly falls into the lap of the FRO or the nearest spouse in the battalion when these women aren't able to function without their husband around. Does this list sound reasonable to you? Or are these luxuries that I have come to take for granted?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Welcome to the 3rd trimester!

I am finally 28 weeks into this pregnancy! That means the beginning of the 3rd trimester. I'm pretty excited about that, because summer has already seemed long and hot, and I keep forgetting that it is only May! In some ways I want to hurry up and be done and meet this darling little boy... but I'm not in THAT much of a rush! :-) I am just now realizing what a nice, manageable age my other children are: Sophie is 3, and Danny is 1 and 1/2. That means they can both walk when we go somewhere, and I don't need to carry a diaper bag around (just keep a few diapers in the car for longer outings). They can play together (with supervision and occasional time-outs) and entertain themselves for 15 or more minutes at a time, while I do chores or even read a book nearby. They can express themselves, feed themselves, and the oldest can even dress and bathe herself-- with some assistance. Both kids sleep all night long, and during afternoon naptime too. Now that I am no longer a full-time student, this Mommy gig is actually pretty easy... some days! I'm not saying they don't try my patience on a daily basis, and make more messes than I would like, but life right now is nothing compared to the craziness we will face with a newborn. When I think about those months of sleep-deprivation, when the baby continually cries, nurses, and then cries some more--well, I feel a bit exhausted just imagining it! We have just 3 more months before our lives change completely, so I want to make the most of this time, and try to relax and enjoy my time with just TWO kids as much as possible!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Treasuring Mommy-hood

I had a terrible dream last night. Surprisingly, not about my husband, since it was his first night away in a while. Instead I dreamed that both our children died. No terrible incident or gory event. We were just driving along, they were in their car seats, and they never woke up. Next thing I know I'm at their funeral, burying both my kids, and crying uncontrollably. It was horrible! Of course when I woke up I was relieved that it was just a dream, but the first thing I did was rush to their rooms and make sure they were ok. It was already morning, so they were awake, and those good-morning hugs and kisses were so sweet!
I resolved to treasure this day, and not to have a bad attitude about being a temporary single-mom. And you know what? We had an AMAZING day! The kids were great at church, then we enjoyed donuts afterwards. There is a carnival on base, so we went to that for a while and they had a great time on the Carousel and other rides. Then they took long naps, I relaxed, made dinner, and we had a quiet evening watching home videos and playing together. Sweet and beautiful.
Mommy-hood might be a tough job, but I woke up today realizing what a truly WONDERFUL job it is. It is a gift that can be taken away at any moment. People are always saying that kids grow up too fast. I confess that for the past few months I have been hoping mine would grow up just a little faster. With the new baby coming, I am eager for the oldest to learn to dress herself, and for the youngest to learn to feed himself, so that I do not have 3 helpless children to take care of! But no matter how helpless and frustrating they are, I am lucky to be their mom, and would never give them up. I am hoping to hold onto this positive attitude at least for the next month that we are on our own. I resolve to not sweat the small stuff, and to truly treasure my time with my great little kids. :-)

Treasuring a beautiful day with the kids.

Testing testing...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gearing up for the Month ahead

Tonight Daddy leaves for a month of training. It's not a deployment (yet) but I guess it is a good practice-run because communication will be pretty limited. It's not like this is my first rodeo, but it's still getting me a little down. Partly I am sad because the real deployment is coming so quickly after this training period. And partially I am afraid the kids are going to go crazy and out of control the way they did last time he left for a month, which was in April. So in an effort to pep myself up for this, here are some of the positive things I can do during this month of training:
- Get more sleep! (I have been staying up til midnight with hubby, just to get some time together, but this pregnant mama can't do that anymore!)
- Keep on growing our baby. He has just under 3 months left in there!
- stay relaxed about the housework. I keep a clean, sanitary home. I don't mind if there's a little dust or the grass gets a little tall outside, because I don't need to impress anyone.
- get back to a healthy eating and workout routine. Even though it's the 3rd trimester, I still need to take care of myself, but I won't have to keep up with hubby's tastes and lifestyle!
- Enjoy time with my friends. I am part of a wonderful playdate group, many of whom have deployed husbands, so this is good bonding time.
- make memories with the kids. Daddy is not prone to adventure during his regular work hours, so when he's gone the kids and I like to explore.

Yeah, ok, when I think about it like that it's not too bad! Sure, I'll miss my husband. But there are also lots of fun opportunities waiting for the kids and I during the month ahead. So I intend to stay strong and make the most of it! Anyone else have favorite deployment mottos or tips to share?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Resource Thursday: Free Doulas during labor and delivery


As military spouses, we probably all know someone who has given birth while their husband was deployed. This is just one of the many sacrifices military wives make. I didn't think too much about it until I discovered I would be in that situation, just a few months from now. Luckily, there are some wonderful people out there who believe that no woman should go through labor and/or delivery on her own. Operation Special Delivery is a wonderful resource where military spouses can find a Doula who will be with them throughout the birthing process--and they offer their services for FREE if your spouse is deployed! You simply have to click here to search for a volunteer doula in your area.
I did not have a doula for my first 2 children, and I admit I was unclear on what they do. I thought they were basically birth coaches for people going through completely natural (medicine-free) births. But after contacting one of the local doulas I found through Operation Special Delivery, I am totally sold and totally excited about the experience. I told her I planned to deliver at the Naval Hospital, and have an epidural about halfway through labor, when the pain started getting intense. (It worked well for my other 2 babies, so why change a good plan, right?) She was totally ok with that. Her role is not to fight me or force me to make all-natural choices. Her goal is simply to keep me calm, focused, and feeling confident and in control. The premise is that if you are in good mental control, then the physical part of labor will go better. After 2 fairly good deliveries with my other kids, I agree with that. But of course, my husband was there for the other two, and I did a lot of squeezing his hand, asking for ice chips, and wanting him to put a cool towel on my head. This time he won't be there, and even though I have a good girlfriend who will join me, she is not a medical professional and might not be all that comfortable with the squeamish parts. The doula will meet me at my house during early labor and make sure I am comfortable and fed, helping me keep track of contractions. Then she will go to the hospital with me when I'm ready, hold my hand and help me through those painful contractions, and even be there to assist with the pushing and the less pleasant stages of the process. Then she'll take tons of pictures afterwards! When I explained her role to my husband, he said, "Oh, basically she'll be doing my job!" I am not excited to be giving birth without my lover, but having a doula's support makes me feel so much more confident and in control of the situation. So I strongly recommend it for anyone, especially those whose husbands are deployed!!!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Preschool debate continues...

So our daughter just turned 3, which means this Fall she is eligible for 3-year-old preschool programs. I don't know how it is in your state, but in North Carolina preschool is not required, which means there are no public programs and no consistent requirements. Every private program is different, so we have been looking into the different options offered at each church and daycare center in town. It's becoming a bit overwhelming!
Part of the difficulty is that I can't even make up my mind if I WANT to send her to pre-school in the Fall. The main trouble? A deployment starting sometime in July, and a new baby coming at the end of August. With all that going on, I wonder A) will it be too many changes for her to adjust to without feeling neglected? and B) is it too much for ME to handle transporting her back and forth with her little siblings?
I went on my first "tour" earlier this week, of a program recommended by a friend who had even offered to carpool, so I went there expecting to like it and be excited. Unfortunately, even though I think it is a very nice facility, it doesn't seem much different than daycare to me. Out of the 3 hours she would be there each morning, 1 hour is spent getting settled in the beginning and packed up in the end, and 1 hour is spent eating snack and playing outside. The remaining hour they have crafts and music and story-time, which is very nice... but is that what we would pay over $1,000 a year for? She already goes to daycare one morning a week, which is just supervised indoor/outdoor play. And we go to playdates 1-2 mornings a week, which is where she learns to share, take turns, play nicely, etc. Some of the playdates are crafts or field trips, but I willingly admit I don't spend much time doing the hands-on creative stuff with her. I take her to storytime at the library every other week. And during the deployment she will get one additional morning of daycare (playtime) each week. Plus, we are starting gymnastics classes this summer to get used to following directions, waiting in line, respect for a teacher, etc. So with all that, I am starting to wonder if there is room or a need for Preschool???
I guess it all depends what you expect school to do for your child. At this age, I'm not worried about academic development. She already knows her alphabet, colors, shapes, and can count to 10. I was excited about the hands-on activities she would do at a school-- learning to use scissors, glue, paint a picture, etc because I lack the energy and time to do some of the messier activities with her, and we can't do them when her little brother is toddling around. But I guess most of what I was looking for in a school was discipline and respect. I want her to learn to follow directions, be polite, ask for help, etc. It would be nice to have the encouragement of a professional teacher to do that, but she could also learn that from her 2 consistent daycare providers, and her gymnastics teacher, and me.
I think I have to make the decision myself, but I'm curious-- what are your thoughts about Preschool? What age did you start your child? And what do you like/dislike about their program?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The long, slow goodbye...

Our deployment doesn't begin for almost 2 months, yet we are already beginning the drawn-out goodbye process I hate so much. This weekend we celebrated our last family time in a while by spending time with the kids at the park, playing outside, savoring ice cream, and eating dinner all together on the deck. Hubby is "here" this week, but working strange and long hours, so that the kids won't even see him unless I keep them up late. Then Saturday he leaves for a month of training. Then he'll be back, but just for a brief leave period, and then the 7-month deployment will finally start. I find this stage very frustrating, because it seem way too early to get into deployment mode, yet for all practical purposes (especially from the kids' perspective) he is already gone. Most of our official deployment preparations are done--legal paperwork, important decisions, financial conversations, etc. So even though I am grateful he is still sleeping here for the next few nights, and able to make phone calls during the next month, part of me wants to kick him out the door and just get this deployment started so we can get through it already! Is that a terrible thing to say? Drawing it out another month or 2 is not helping anything!

Does anyone else find themselves frustrated by the in-between stage of training and work-ups? How do you handle this period that is not technically a deployment, but might as well be?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Resource Thursday: Free Childcare during Deployments!

So, how many military spouses out there know that you qualify for free childcare when your husband is deployed? I learned this just in time for our last deployment, and it was a lifesaver! It is called Deployment Respite Care. Each child qualifies for 16 hours free per month. This service is offered through NACCRRA (The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies). They actually do much more than just assist during deployments. They assist military families in finding qualified daycare providers at any time, and offer subsidies based on your location. Their website is: NACCRRA.
Signing up for the free care is a bit of a process, but it is worth it. First, you will need a copy of your husband's deployment orders, stating the location of his deployment. (Iraq and Afghanistan get immediate approval, other locations can take longer to approve.) Then, call NACCRRA at: 1-800-424-2246 and they will give you a fax number or e-mail contact for your local representative, which is where you send a copy of the orders. Once the local office approves you for Respite Care, you then go in person and fill out paperwork for each of your children. Once that is processed, you will be given a list of local approved childcare providers. You can interview, visit, and meet with the providers before you make your choice. Once everything is finalized between you and the chosen provider, you can begin to schedule your free hours of daycare!
Last deployment we had a provider on base, who watched children in her own home. This was a great arrangement, because my kids seemed more comfortable in a home setting, and got to know the other kids well, since she was limited to a few children at a time. The entire program was supervised and subsidized, so she provided healthy meals and creative activities for the kids. I usually scheduled 4 hours at a time, once a week, and would use that break to get groceries, go to the gym, or do something else that was challenging with children in tow. It was a huge relief to know I had a few child-free hours to look forward to for the various errands and unexpected chores that come up during deployments! Plus I never felt guilty about leaving them because it was free and good quality care! If you have a deployment coming soon, make sure you are registered for this program!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday


Who will do fun things like run the leaf blower in our son's face when Daddy is gone on deployment?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Birthday Party!


Last weekend we celebrated my daughter's 3rd birthday! Yes, it is crazy to believe that she is 3 and to see her exhibiting new "big-girl" behaviors every day. I was so excited that my husband was here for her birthday this year, since he missed it last year and will be missing both our sons birthdays this year. So I had planned a fun backyard BBQ with a bounce house, and invited all our friends. Apparently, we have way too many friends! Because a week before the party we suddenly discovered that our guest list was over 60 people (including kids) and we had no idea how to feed them all. So... we had to start from scratch, "cancel" the party invites, and call just a few close friends to come over and celebrate. We ended up with 7 other families, which was a perfect size. Sophia was grinning all day long. She loved her 'bouncy castle,' her friends, the cupcakes, the presents, the balloons, all of it! It was wonderful to see her so happy, and I actually had a wonderful relaxing time! Most other parties I have gone to without my husband, so it was great to have his help serving food and keeping an eye on the kids.
It's also good that he keeps me in check sometimes. I think as moms we are flooded with birthday party ideas in magazines, conversations, parenting websites, etc. As we were faced with our gigantic guest list, hubby commented, "This is a 3-year-old's party. What you're talking about is what my parents did for my sister's graduation from high school!" And he was right. It is easy to get carried away inviting people, planning a "theme" and buying decorations. But at this age it is the little things that make the kids happy. She was thrilled to pick out "Tangled" plates and napkins, and her favorite colors of balloons, and that's really all it took. I went over the guest list with the birthday girl to whittle it down, and was surprised to hear her say of a few playmates, "I don't really like him/her. Danny (her brother) likes them." So she got to pick the guests, in the end. We had a wonderful day, and I was thrilled to be able to enjoy it as a family. Do you have any memorable birthday stories or tips to share?

Monday, May 2, 2011

I've entered the 21st century!

Since next weekend is our daughter's birthday, my husband surprised me this past weekend with my Mother's day present: a new Droid phone!!! I have finally joined the smart phone culture! This is a pretty big deal, since our previous phones didn't have any internet access or video ability. And now it does more than I can imagine! We have been talking about this for a while, and decided it was a must-have for the upcoming deployment. He will have internet access this time (woohoo!) so being able to connect with him when I am out and about will be a big deal. Plus, I won't have to take pictures with my camera, upload them onto the computer, send them to Target.com, and pick them up in the store to give him prints with each care package. That was exhausting! Now I can easily take pictures and videos of our kids and post them to Facebook for him to see. I am still learning all the different tools and having fun downloading free apps. I see there is a Blogger app which I will have to try. And my husband is already enthralled with Angry Birds. :-)
What are your favorite apps? And what technology do you use to stay connected during deployments?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Resource Thursday: Marine and Family Teambuilding

So this week's Resource is coming out on Friday, mostly because Thursday was spent laid up on the couch with a terrible cold. But I'm feeling better now, and ready to share a new helpful link. The resource is the Marine and Family Team building classes, which are part of the Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) Family Support program.

You probably know about at least one of the classes they offer: L.I.N.K.S. This class is a great resource for anyone trying to 'learn the ropes,' whether you are brand new to the Marine Corps, or just at a new duty station. Each base offers its own version, reviewing USMC terminology, and providing tons of local resources. Every time your husband joins a new battalion, it would be great to take this class with some other spouses from the battalion and make some new friends.
What you probably didn't realize is that there are TONS of free classes offered through the Marine and Family Teambuilding office. They have classes for Marriage Prep, retreats for strengthening your marriage, CREDO retreats to build your faith, classes to prepare you or your kids for a deployment, and workshops for handling stress and various life skills. It's amazing! I had heard about a few of these classes, but didn't realize until I went to their website what an extensive schedule they have! It's Marine Corps Family Team Building. All classes are free, and free childcare is also usually available, so this is an excellent resource!

This week, my husband and I attended their class on dealing with Challenging Behavior in children. It's part of a regular monthly series they have on disciplining children. I think my husband was a little wary to take advice from 3 PhD's in Psychiatry who weren't actually parents, but I found their approach and their explanations very helpful. It allowed me to take a step back and look at not only WHY our daughter does some of the crazy things she does, but how MY response will either encourage or discourage her behavior in the future. It gave me a lot of confidence to handle a situation that I was starting to feel was out of control! So I think I will continue to attend their classes, especially during deployment when discipline issues are sure to increase.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Terrible... Threes?

We have nearly finished the terrible two's with our daughter--she turns 3 in a few weeks! Yet as she approaches this birthday, all kinds of new behavior is popping up, and I am not sure I'm a fan of the 3's. It seems that no matter what age your child is, if you talk to any other parent, their response is bound to be, "You think that's bad? Wait until they are (fill in the blank)." This seems to extend beyond the teen years, so I don't know if we have any light at the end of the tunnel! On a positive note, she has recently become much more helpful, able to do chores, able to undress herself, use the bathroom and wash hands alone, play without me for short periods, and (at times) be very generous and obedient. This is all very exciting, and I enjoy watching our toddler turn into a little girl.

However... then there are the new negative behaviors. We have just started the delightful "why?" stage, and the endless chatter and questions is driving me crazy! Additionally, instead of 2-year-old tantrums, she has now become defiant through back talk "I don't want to!" or "I'm too busy!" and through physical violence. Most disturbingly, she has become downright abusive of her little brother, who is not quite 1 and 1/2. Despite our constant efforts to teach her to be gentle and talk to him, she pushes him away, takes his toys, hits him, yells at him, and even sometimes bites him. Of course this horrifies me and we have been trying to discipline her! The problem is, time-outs, slapping her hand, and even strong spankings on her bottom don't seem to have an effect on her behavior. Sure, she might cry or act remorseful for a few minutes, but then she often repeats the behavior as soon as she comes out of her room or the time-out chair. At least she doesn't act this way around other children--just her brother. And it is worst when Daddy is not around for a little while. Unfortunately, with a deployment coming up and another baby on the way in a few months, I am becoming incredibly nervous about my ability to control her and keep her little brothers safe. It's sad that she is such a happy, energetic child, yet shows such ugly, vicious behavior! Does anyone have advice on dealing with defiant/stubborn 3-year-olds? Or discipline ideas besides time-out and hitting? We are considering reward stickers or a chart for good behavior, but aren't sure if she is old enough for that...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resource Thursday: Tornado Victim Aid


Some of you have heard or read about the tornadoes that swept through Jacksonville, NC on Saturday night. Not only did they destroy a trailer park and apartment complex 1 mile from my house, but they also damaged about 100 houses on Terrawa Terrace, the Camp Lejeune base housing. Even though the base is responsible for the repair of the houses, families who lived there are temporarily living in hotels and shelters. Most are not able to claim any of their belongings because of the amount of glass and debris that is embedded in furniture, clothing, etc. One of my friends, whose house was only "slightly damaged," had to shop-vac the glass shards out of her yard so that it would actually be safe for their child to play!

The military and local community has been incredibly supportive of these displaced families. There are many ways we can help! The Red Cross, Salvation Army, and USO are all involved in taking collections and providing comfort to the victims. If you click on their pages to make a donation, be sure to designate the NC Tornado Victims as the recipient.

When I drive down my road, I can see the Salvation Army tents set up in the field across from what used to be the Holiday City trailer park. The Red Cross has set up a shelter in the Enon Baptist Church on Piney Green, and they are accepting donations of clothes, food, diapers, etc on site. The VFW Post 9133 on Piney Green is also accepting donations of clothing and household goods. The USO is working on Terrawa Terrace at the Community Center, and needs the following items urgently: Water, Disposable Cameras (for property damage photos), Food, Diapers, Baby Wipes, Baby Formula, Moving Supplies (boxes, tape, etc). Once families are able to move into new housing in the next few weeks, there will be a need for household goods, furniture, and even school supplies, so if you have access to these supplies, please consider organizing a donation. These families will be hurting and in need for a LONG time! Please consider helping any way you can!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He's almost home...

My husband comes home TONIGHT after being away at training for the past month! I am SO glad. It has been exhausting, and I am ready to have our family complete once again! I realize that 1 month is nothing compared to a deployment, especially since I have some friends dealing with year-long deployments. But sometimes these training missions are even harder, because you never actually get into a deployment routine. Things just go on hold, and you forget to pace yourself the way you would during a longer period. I don't have that marathon mindset right now, so if this were the first month of a deployment I would be in bad shape!
Unfortunately, my excitement over his return is tempered by the fact that we ARE getting ready for a 7-month deployment. The month of May is all we have left together, and then he has one more long training mission, immediately followed by deployment departure (schedule subject to change, of course). So I want to enjoy the time we have, but I also feel a ton of pressure to get all of our pre-deployment to-do list taken care of. And I know all he wants to do is relax and enjoy his final leave periods before deployment. While it will hopefully be a fun month, it will also be a stressful one, and I am not looking forward to what lies ahead of us. :-( Anyone have any good pre-deployment tips about dealing with stress or taking care of projects around the house?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Our Tornado Party!

So Saturday night I had planned a Fondue Party with some of my mom friends. We were all excited about hanging out kid-free and enjoying some wine and chocolate-dipped treats. Plus, I had invited some wives from my husband's new company, so I was looking forward to meeting some new people. Well... we had our party, but it was not at all the night we had imagined. There had been some tornado warnings on the news, so a few people canceled last-minute. But most ladies didn't want to cancel their childcare reservation, so they came anyway. Everyone got here just before it started to rain, and we were all hanging out having a great time.
Then, after we had been hanging out for about an hour, the power went out. I had anticipated this, so no big deal, I broke out some candles and glow sticks and we continued to enjoy ourselves. Then people started receiving frantic phone calls from family members asking where they were in Jacksonville. A tornado had touched down about 1 mile from my house! We were nervous, but there is no basement here, so not much we could do to get into a safe location. We watched the stormy skies and the flickering lightning, but there was no green coloring or the telltale whistle of a tornado. We relaxed slightly, but then moments later started hearing and reading accounts that the tornado had struck the base housing area! This is only a few miles away, and it is where everyone's children were in childcare for the night! No one was able to get through to the childcare center for a while, and when they finally did, they were told "When it is safe to leave your location, please come pick up your child." Well, the storm had stopped at our house, but we could hear police and ambulance sirens continuously down the street at the location where the tornado had ripped through a trailer park. They waited until things quieted down a bit, then started to leave in pairs. But the phone calls and texts they sent back told us of downed power lines and trees, terrible traffic, closed roads, and--worst of all--destroyed homes in the base housing area. Here is one home down the street from the childcare center:

Despite the panic and stress, everyone was eventually able to reach their children and get home safely. And yes, all the children and people I know were completely unharmed. While there were many injuries on base (including a little toddler who is still in critical condition) so far we have not heard of any deaths from the storm. Part of me is extremely relieved to be safe, and to have been spared any damage to my family or my home. But I am also heartbroken for the Jacksonville families both on and off base who are suffering so much. The storm made me feel very alone and helpless, not so much at the time, but more the day after as we tried to process the damage. Not that it would be much different if my husband were here with us, but at least then I would feel like the whole family was safe together. Thank goodness he comes back in a few days, because this is about as much stress as one pregnant gal can handle!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Resource Thursday: Recreation Equipment Issue

This week's resource is a lesser-known opportunity that is available on most major military bases. Recreation Equipment Issue is much more exciting than it sounds! They actually allow military (and family) members to rent out TONS of outdoor equipment, ranging from camping supplies, carnival games, inflatable bounce houses, and yard work tools. Equipment options include small mundane things like ice chests or rakes, for occasions when you just need a few extra tools to make things go smoothly. But you can also rent things as large as a tow-able camper for a weekend trip, a lawn mower, a pig cooker, or even a generator! Their prices are much lower than any other rent-a-center, and all you have to do is pick up and drop off at the proper times. We are renting a bounce house from them for our daughter's birthday-- only $45 for the day, rather than the $90 I spent from a civilian company last year, even with a coupon! We have also previously used them to rent lawn equipment when we were tackling cultivating and seeding jobs. You only need the tools for 1 weekend, and then you don't want to have everything in your garage forever, so renting is a wonderful and affordable solution! Check it out at: Lejeune REI.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Top 10 Reasons I know we are back in North Carolina

Well, after 2 weeks in Pennsylvania, we are back to our home in North Carolina! Hubby still has another week of training, but the kids and I are just glad to be back in our own beds, getting back to our routines, etc. It was a little rough getting unpacked and re-adjusted today on my own. We just went through a deployment a year ago, but man I feel out of practice! So for fun, here is my--

Top 10 Reasons I know we are back in North Carolina:

10) Totally empty refrigerator
9) Base traffic
8) Cooking dinner alone
7) Gas less than $3.90/ gallon
6) parking lots full of mini vans and pickup trucks
5) Mosquito bites
4) grocery shoppers wearing cammies
3) a full social calendar
2) friends just a few minutes away
1) flip flops and sandals instead of boots!

Yep, it is nice to visit family sometimes, but there is no place like home!

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Home" Sweet Home

Well, for anyone who is wondering, I made it to my parents' house safely! It was actually one of our best trips, because I somehow missed both DC and Baltimore traffic. The kids were I bit whiny, no matter how many snacks or toys I gave them, but other than that it was a pretty easy drive. But now that we are here... I am exhausted! I always think it will be a relaxing break to visit my family: extra adults to help with the kids, someone else cooking meals, limited housework and chores for me to do... Yet somehow, it is much more difficult watching my little ones here than when we are home. It's a new place, so for a few days they completely forget their usual routines, act like they don't know any basic rules like 'share your toys' and 'don't hit your brother,' and they don't sleep well at all! Plus, it is much bigger than our house, and not really childproof, so the kids require much more constant attention than in our own home. So even though it has been wonderful to catch up with my family and see some people I haven't seen for almost a year, I find myself worn out and in need of a true vacation! It's a good reminder that it is so much easier on us to entertain visitors at our own house, rather than traveling all over to see family. I will have to remember this during deployment when I get bored and feel like visiting the family will be "a nice break." It is probably a good thing that our next visit won't be until Christmas! Which do you prefer: going "home" to family, or having relatives come visit you?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Packing... SO MUCH STUFF!

So I spent the day packing for my 2-week trip to visit my family in Maryland. I've made the trip by myself with both kids many times before, particularly during the last deployment, but haven't done the drive for 6 months now. The kids are a little older (i.e. more whiny and loud!) and I'm kind of dreading the drive. But as I was packing I realized how different my version of packing is than my husband's.

Whether he is packing for a short training exercise or a long deployment, he gets a packing list, and is expected to get everything into a few relatively small bags. But at least he is only packing for himself. When I pack, it is for 3 people, and 2 of them are completely irresponsible. They can't even be trusted to bring their own toys! So I spent the day rounding up all of the "essentials" that I use every day at our house, which won't be at my parents' house. Not just clothes, shoes, and jackets, but also plastic plates and utensils, baby gates, portable beds and high chairs, baby medicine, favorite DVD's, snacks, etc. I feel like I am packing up half the house! It is currently piled in my dining room and I am searching for the energy to throw it all into the van. I want to do it tonight because my mental checklist for the morning is already pretty long: take out trash and recycling, turn off heat, run dishwasher, load snacks and ice in cooler, get kids dressed, fed, and in car! Not to mention all the little things I have taken care of in the last few days: paying bills early, cleaning out the fridge, getting a neighbor to collect the mail... all this to leave the house for a few weeks! When our husbands leave, they pack up their stuff and just walk away. I wonder if they have any idea of all the "little" things we keep track of to keep the house and family running smoothly?


But hey, at least we have the luxury of being within driving distance of family! How do all of you who have to FLY home with children handle the packing and baby gear????

Monday, March 28, 2011

Alone Again

Well, this is it. My husband has left for some training to prepare for deployment in a few months. He has been here almost every night since returning from deployment last July, and now we won't see him for a few weeks. As a somewhat "seasoned" Marine wife, I realize that a few weeks is nothing. But I am surprised how much this impending training has been getting to me in recent weeks! I guess I have been viewing it as the beginning of the end. After 7 months here, suddenly he's gone for most of April, back for the month of May, gone for most of June, then deploying sometime shortly after that. So even though he was packing for a relatively short, easy training mission, I have been mentally preparing for the deployment itself, and that has created some tension. Especially since our baby will be born AFTER he deploys, I am starting to feel like I need to get furniture moved and set up the nursery soon, while he is still here. It's like going into "nesting" mode when you still have 20 weeks left to the pregnancy!

But in a way, now that he is gone, I can breathe a little easier, and get ready to move on. I am planning to spend the next few weeks with my parents--my first real visit to their house in exactly a year! We got used to visiting every few months during the last deployment, so it has been strange to go so long without seeing them and my "back home friends." I think focusing on the immediate future and this visit to family will be a lot more refreshing to me than focusing on the more distant future where husband will be deployed.

Of course everyone struggles with pre-deployment stress. I just didn't expect it to start so soon! Anyone have some good ways of calming yourself when your mind starts racing months before the actual deployment?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Resource Thursday: Childcare Coupons

One of Camp Lejeune's best-kept secrets is the availability of coupons for FREE childcare! Every $50 you spend at the Exchange or the Annex qualifies you for a coupon for one free night of childcare at the Saturday Night program. And if you spend more than $50, you get additional coupons. So if you are making a large purchase like electronics, appliances, or furniture, you could get several coupons at once. Think of all the date night possibilities! All you have to do is take your receipt on the same day of purchase to the customer service desk in the Main Exchange. They will record your purchase and give you the coupons.
The Saturday Night Childcare program is run every Saturday from 6 PM- 11 PM at the Terrawa Terrace CDC and Youth Pavilion. Reservations can be made starting on Monday the week ahead, and they fill up quickly, so call as early in the week as possible! We have used the Saturday night care at the CDC many times for both our children. They will be placed in an age-appropriate room with certified staff members. You are expected to feed your children dinner before dropping them off, so you just need to include a snack and juice in their bag, along with diapers, bottles, or change of clothes for young children. After playtime and snack, the staff members will put them to bed in cribs or on cots, then turn down the lights and play soothing music. Unfortunately, my kids don't sleep well there, so we always pick them up well before 11 PM, but you have the option to get them anytime up until 11. This gives you time to go out to dinner, see a movie, go to a friend's house, whatever! It is great for getting a break during deployments, and since I always use the free coupons, I never feel guilty about getting some time for myself. If you don't have any coupons, you can pay $3 per hour per child. I highly recommend this program! What a great reward, especially if you were already planning to make purchases at the Exchange!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making Memories

Last weekend was all about family time. With Dan leaving for training next week, it was one of the last weekends we will have to relax and enjoy. Then there's training, and more training, and deployment. Our time together is dwindling down, even though the deployment isn't for several months still! But since Dan was gone for all the winter and spring last year, we are trying to treasure this time together and make the most of what is left.
So on Saturday, instead of sleeping in, Daddy got up early and made "yellow eggs" (scrambled eggs) for the kids. They love our big pancake/egg brunches! Then we went off to the toy store to get Daddy's early birthday present for Sophia-- roller blades! I didn't know they made inline skates for 2-year-olds, but we found some. They slide on over her shoes, and have a few wheel settings so we can limit her rolling abilities. But she actually does pretty well on them, and is already learning how to roll forward instead of just clomping around on them. She and Daddy had SOOO much fun playing with them.
That evening, we were celebrating Dan's birthday, so we had a friend come over to the house to stay with the kids. We put them down a little early, then drove down to Wilmington for dinner. It's about an hour away, so we only get down there once or twice a year, but the historic district right on the waterfront is pretty special. I had reserved a table for 2 on our own private balcony overlooking the water, at a restaurant vaguely reminiscent of old New Orleans. It was WONDERFUL! Right next door is a French cafe with a sofa lounge upstairs, so we went there after dinner to just hang out and relax. Alas, no drinks for pregnant me. :-( But it was s refreshing to get out without the kids and spend time together and feel like ADULTS! There were no highchairs in sight, and everyone else there was older than us--a rare occurrence in Jacksonville!
It was a lovely day, and a great way to celebrate his birthday. Whether or not he is home from deployment in time for his birthday next year, I hope we can treasure those memories throughout the next year!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Resource Thursday: WIC

Part of the reason I created this blog was to compile info about military resources, and share them with other spouses. I've decided every Thursday will feature a new resource. Previously I have written about ITT/Travel, The USO, how to give a Military haircut and the PEERS free childcare in Jacksonville. Today's spotlight in on the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program. This is a government program, not just a military resource, so it can be found in every state, even if you are nowhere near a military base. WIC encourages "Healthy Habits and Healthy Families" by providing women who are pregnant, nursing, and/or have children under the age of 5 with vouchers for specific healthy foods. Qualification for the vouchers is intended for low-income families. (Hey, that's half the military!) I don't know the exact salary cut-offs, but as a Sergeant's wife with only 1 child, I was just above the maximum salary. However, once I became pregnant with the 2nd child we did qualify, and have stayed on the program even after he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.

You have to go to a WIC office for a health screening, and to present paperwork showing income (LES) and proof of residency. Ours is located on Terrawa Terrace: 910-450-0081. After that, you only have to go back a few times each year, and they will screen you or your children and give you 3 months of vouchers. The visits are annoying, and take 2-3 hours each time (mostly sitting in a waiting room with other exhausted parents and cranky children) but the money saved with the vouchers is pretty significant. You can use the vouchers at the Commissary or most grocery stores, but you have to get the correct brands, sizes, and number of items on the list.

A pregnant woman gets $10 of fresh produce, 5 gallons of milk, 1 pound of cheese, 1 dozen eggs, 2 boxes of cereal, 3 bottles of juice, 1 loaf of bread, 1 jar of peanut butter, and 4 cans of beans for free each month. A nursing mother gets similar quantities, except even more milk, and 30 oz of canned fish for herself, as well as TONS of baby food (cereal, veggies, fruit, and meats) once the baby is 6 months old. They will cover some formula and baby food for bottle-fed infants, but they really encourage breastfeeding. After the child turns 1, they qualify for $6 of fresh produce, 3 1/2 gallons of milk, 1 pound of cheese, 1 dozen eggs, 2 boxes of cereal, 2 jugs of juice, 2 loaves of bread, and 1 jar of peanut butter every month. So a woman who is pregnant or nursing and has another young child will easily save $200 a month in groceries. Sure, it's a little frustrating to find all the correct items in the store and ring them up separately from your other groceries, but I see it as my contribution to my family, since I don't have any other source of income right now. If you haven't applied, it is worth a phone call to see if you are eligible!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Idiot's guide to vacuum maintenance

Like many people, I use an upright, bagless vacuum cleaner. We bought it when we were first married, and paid several hundred dollars for it, so we expect it to just work all the time, right? I dump out the filter when it is full, and that's about it for "routine maintenance". Well, in the past few weeks, I have learned a lot about vacuums, and here are some basic tips everyone should know.
- every vacuum has a beater bar on the bottom that sweeps up the dirt into a suction hole. The beater bar should be cleaned regularly, especially if anyone in your house has long hair. When hairs get wrapped around the bar, you should pull or cut them off. You should also check that your beater bar spins easily with your hands when it is unplugged. If the ends wear or get damaged, it will not turn and can break your machine. The beater bar should be replaced every 2 years (and you can order a replacement online for about $40).
- every beater bar is turned by a belt. If your vacuum dis not picking up dirt, check if the bar is spinning. If not, it's probably a belt problem--especially if you see smoke or smell something burning! The belt is made of rubber and wears out. It should be replaced every 1 year (and can be ordered online for about $4.) It's easy to replace on your own if you open up the bottom of your vacuum. It will loop first over the small bar in the back, then over the beater bar.
- if the vacuum isn't picking up, but the bar turns easily, you may have a clog. Check the hole just behind the beater bar, before the main part of the engine. Debris can accumulate there, right where the pipe makes a sharp turn toward the main filter.
- many vacuums have more than 1 filter. You empty out the main filter when you see it is full of debris, but also check for pre-engine and post engine filters that may be located on the side or bottom of your machine. Sponge filters can be rinsed out and reused once dry. Paper filters (such as the anti-alergen kind) can be shaken out, but should be replaced every 1 year. Filter replacements cost around $10 online.
- finally, if your vacuum has a height adjustment for different floors or carpets, you are using the proper setting if the machine travels easily over the surface. If it is hard to push or you feel any resistance, use a higher setting to save wear and tear on your machine.
I hope this helps someone keep their machine running cleanly! I have had mine for 3 years, and just had to replace all these parts at once. Oops! But now I know, so I hope someone else benefits from my experience. :-)

Sleeves up-- it's Springtime!

The first official day of spring might not be until March 21, but on base you know spring is here because we have switched to desert cammies with sleeves up! It is always interesting to me how the military makes their own seasons and holidays regardless of the civilian calendar. Here are some of the interesting USMC holidays I can think of:

1st Day of spring: March 1, switch to desert cammies, sleeves rolled
1st day of summer: May 31, when the base pool opens
1st day of fall: September 1, when the base pool closes
1st day of winter: November 1, switch to green cammies, sleeves down
New Year's: October 1, the start of the fiscal pay changes
Anniversary: October 8, the day my husband's enlistment started
Birthday: November 10, the Marine Corps birthday
Christmas: the 1st and 15th of every month-- Payday!
Graduation: when the annual SNCO and Officer select grade lists are published

In what ways has the military affected your view of time and the passage of the seasons? Anyone want to add holidays to this list?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catholic Media Promotion Day

It seems March 15th is a good day for Catholics to share their favorite media resources with each other. There are TONS of great links on the Facebook page that created this event. Here are some of my current favorites:
Best Catholic Website: US Conference of Catholic Bishops. You can find tons of resources here, such as the readings used every day at Mass, information about Catholic current events and politics, and more info about saints, prayers, and devotions. There is also a search-able bible if you can remember certain words but not the exact verse citation.

Best Catholic Blog: Catholic Icing . This is a great site full of crafts, recipes, and ideas for teaching kids about different Catholic traditions and holidays. The writer makes it clear that it is not a "meat and potatoes" site with lots of theology or discussion. It's the "icing" that makes Catholicism more fun and teachable for our kids.

Best Catholic Ap: The confession ap! I don't have a smart phone, but at Mass last weekend our priest told us all about the ap that helps you record or keep track of your sins as they happen, so you can easily review them and prepare yourself for Confession, whether you go once a week or once a year. It also asks you questions to help you with the Examination of Conscience so you can go into the confessional ready to make a full confession and walk away with a clean soul. Obviously, no ap can replace the sacrament itself, but this seems like a great tool!

I don't get a chance to listen to much radio or music besides Kids Songs these days, but there are many talented Catholic musicians and speakers out there. Would anyone else like to share their favorite Catholic or Christian media? I'd love to know what everyone else reads/follows/listens to!
Lizann

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kind of a Funny Story...

My husband has moments of terrible judgment. Last night was, unfortunately, one of them. We were all outside playing with the kids, and he thought it would be fun to practice some roller hockey with our 2-year-old. She has her own mini hockey stick and everything, and usually she likes chasing the ball around and trying to hit it back to him. Well, he sets up a plastic bin to use as a goal-- and he puts it right in the driveway, directly behind our cars! Everything is going great until... the ball hits the rim of the plastic bin, bounces straight up into the air, and lands on the back window of our minivan. I'm watching it in slow motion, too far away to stop it, thinking, "I REALLY hope the ball will bounce off that window!" No. The window immediately shattered into thousands of tiny tinted pieces from the impact.

Interestingly, I wasn't angry. It was done, we couldn't undo it. We were both annoyed and frustrated, but I realize it was an accident, and all that was left to do was call the insurance company and find out how much it would cost to fix. About $250, in case you're wondering what the cost of stupidity was that day. And unfortunately, they can't come out to replace it until Wednesday. So we are home bound the next few days, and hoping it doesn't rain!
My husband never does these things on purpose. But he certainly seems to break/lose/destroy things a lot more often than I do! Does anyone else have a slightly amusing story about a recent accident at your house?

Friday, March 11, 2011

MilSpouse Friday Fill-In

This is my first time trying this, so I hope I link everything correctly! This week, the link-up is to Wife of a Sailor.

This week’s questions are:

1. During military separations (whether short or long) how do you keep yourself positive and motivated? submitted by Married/Single Parent

So far, I seem to have a baby just before each deployment! Two for two on that! Nothing like a newborn to make the time fly by! But seriously, I do try to stay pretty active, not just taking the kids to play dates and field trips, but also having little projects around the house, taking classes online, etc. I find that hosting get-togethers or dinners for friends give me something to plan and look forward to. Plus, I try to schedule family visits so that we see someone almost every month. That way, when Granny leaves, we can look forward to seeing the cousins in a few weeks!

2. What is your favorite concert you have ever been to? submitted by Young but Not (Completely) Dumb

Honestly, the only concerts I have been to are Christian Bands and Mannheim Steamroller (Christmas music). I know, I grew up under a rock! But the Newsboys are a Christian band that give very fun and moving concerts, so I have enjoyed them. I have been to a few live Orchestra concerts, and my husband and I really enjoy that!

3. What do you miss most about your “hometown”? submitted by A Florida Girl and Her Soldier
I grew up in a very small town, and had no friends actually in town. My friends were from the next county over, because I went to school half an hour away. So while I miss my parents' beautiful house and farm, there isn't much about the town itself that I miss. However, I went to college in DC, and got used to the exciting events and never-ending activities in the city. Even though many of my college friends have moved out of the DC area, I still miss having things to do and people to see all the time.

4. If you could run in any race, which charity would you choose to support? submitted by Wookie & Co.
Well, I have only run one 5K (last year) and it was for the Wounded Warriors. They raise money for injured or killed military and their families. I ran because another wife in my husband's battalion had just lost her husband during their deployment. So, I guess I will do almost anything for my military wives and friends!

5. You find out Willy Wonka is your father, what 3 course meal do you INSIST he create in that stick of gum? submitted by A{muse}ing Mommy on a Pink Park Bench
Haha, that's funny! Hmmm, I think I would go with French Onion Soup, followed by a tender Steak with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and buttery green beans. And to finish it off, a devilishly rich Dark Chocolate cake!