Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mom's Night OUT!

Tonight I was invited by some friends to do a girls' night out! This is pretty exciting for us, since we are all moms who almost never get time away from our kids. And there's something special about just hanging out with the girls, enjoying glasses of wine and appetizers and desserts we don't usually let ourselves indulge in, that brings out the fun-loving inner teenager that many of us have been suppressing for a while now. I'm looking forward to it! Unfortunately I can't share in the wine because I am pregnant, but it should still be a pretty fun time. I felt a little guilty leaving my husband alone on Valentine's weekend, but A) we don't usually do much for Valentine's Day; B) we are going to cook a nice dinner together tomorrow night, and C) I realized I have not done a single activity with my friends since he came home from deployment. That was 7 months ago! While he was deployed, I was on my own with 2 kids, and yet between the coupons for free Saturday Night childcare on base, and some helpful baby sitters, I managed to go out and do something fun without kids about once a month. Nothing wild, I am not a party girl and have never been into the clubbing scene. But just dinner or ice cream with friends is exciting to me! Now since he has been back, we have been trying to do date nights together once a month, but anytime I heard my girl friends wanted to do something on a weekend, I would think, "Well, I can't do that. Weekends are our only time with Daddy!" So I have gotten out of touch with the very people who were most supportive and helpful to me during the deployment! I think family and couple time is a wonderful thing, and will always be a priority in our marriage. But we shouldn't have to neglect other friendships too. Now that we are getting ready for the next deployment this summer, I think it is a important thing for me to get back in touch with my friends, and help our friendships to grow even before the deployment starts. What about you? How do you balance time for your family and your friends? And what is your go-to hang out spot? Ours is either Starbucks or Olive Garden. :-)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Childcare options in Jacksonville

The disadvantage of being stationed so far away from family is that there is no one to turn to in emergency situations. I am solely responsible for our 2, soon to be 3, kids while my husband is at work. If something happened to me, I honestly don't know who I would call to prevent the kids from riding the ambulance with me. There is no fallback support system.

Typically, the kids go with me wherever I go. I have gotten to used to going grocery shopping and to doctor's visits with both of them in tow. And we love any service that has a drive-through window! The bank, the dry cleaner, even the local Subway-- those windows are a time-saver and a life-saver! But sometimes children simply aren't allowed to accompany me, and that's when I have to get creative.

My favorite childcare option in Jacksonville is the PEERS Family Development Center. It is part of the Onslow County Social services. They offer free childcare 1 morning per week on either Monday, Wednesday, or Friday from 9 AM- 1 PM. If is a little tricky to get on the schedule, since it is first-come, first-served. The schedule opens 2 weeks in advance, and you have to call the morning it opens to get a reservation. Their number is 910-455-4145. But once you're in, it's great! They have an infant room and a toddler room (up to age 5) all run by trained social workers. You pack your child's lunch, and then they will supervise them eating it. If you have an appointment, you can try to work it around that schedule, or you can just use it to get a break 1 morning a week, which is what I do with my 2-year-old daughter.

However, as wonderful as PEERS is, they have left me in a bit of a pickle this morning. The social worker for the toddler room got sick, so they had to cancel us. I am supposed to go to the dentist in a few hours, ideally without children. There is a "drop-in" childcare center on base, but they are almost always filled a week in advance. Also, they are $3 an hour per child, so when I am leaving both it adds up quickly! But they are a nice facility, right next to the PX. Plus they provide all the meals, so you don't have to pack anything! Their number is 910-451-1220, and I strongly encourage making a reservation in advance.

Thankfully, this morning just got a little easier. I had already arranged for my friend to watch Danny, my 1-year-old. When I told her about Sophia's cancellation, she said she would be happy to watch her too! So now I just have to pack their lunches and take them to her house. Then it is off to the dentist for me! I think I really need to find more friends who are comfortable watching my kids. I always feel bad asking people to watch both at once, but that really limits me. Does anyone else have good childcare solutions, in or out of the Jacksonville area?

Anchors Away!

Well it seems I am not just a military wife anymore; I am also a military sister! My little brother was just sworn in to the Navy, and will start boot camp in a few months! He has been talking about this or years, and even though his interest appeared to wane while he was in college, when college courses didn't work out for him, the Navy was his first choice job. I'll admit that part of me is very proud of him while another part is surprised and worried. The pride comes from what I have already experienced with military training and deployments. I know they will make him into a stronger, better, more disciplined man. And that is what he wants right now.

But the worry comes from my own experiences too. I know how painfully frustrating and heartbreaking it is to know that a loved one is in battle. You can watch the news on TV, but you don't get any real news from them for weeks or sometimes months at a time. It is hard enough praying, supporting, and worrying over a husband. I don't know what I would do if they were both deployed at the same time! Hopefully, that won't be a problem in the next year or so. I feel for his young girlfriend, because I know the challenging journey that is ahead of her. I was with my boyfriend/fiance/husband every step of the way, from the day he announced he wanted to join the Marines, to bootcamp graduation, and all 4 deployments. I still haven't met her, though they have been dating for a while, so I hope that their love and friendship can get them through his upcoming challenges.

And finally, I have to confess there is just a little bit of surprise. Even though my brother has talked about the military for years, I don't think we quite took him seriously until recently. Our father didn't have any military experience besides ROTC, and even though our grandfather was in the Army Corps of Engineers, he never talked about his military experience much either. So it's not like we had big military role models growing up. It was expected that we would go to college and find careers that way. But my brother's story didn't unfold as predicted, so now the military really is his best option. I think in his case, it will give him the guidance, discipline, and direction that he needs in his life right now. They will pay for him to complete his degree, and give him some very interesting experiences. So I'm happy for him, and I'm proud of him. But I am going to have to start saying more prayers...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Waiting Game

Military life demands so much patience! It seems we are always waiting for something: training dates to be set, deployments to end, orders to be processed. Right now the wait is pretty simple, and hopefully short: waiting for my husband to come home. This is no 9-5 job, and he is only occasionally home in time for dinner. Tonight, the children are already in bed, and the wait is longer than usual. The threat of snow has caused the base to announce that they will be closed tomorrow, so the class he is in is keeping him extra long. Presumably, they are trying to squeeze 2 days worth of material into 1 day.
Sometimes waiting is frustrating, but at times like this, when the wait is short, I try to treasure the "gift" of time alone. Of course I prefer evenings when he is home, but the time I have to myself in the house gives me a chance to relax and do something _I_ like. Sometimes it's stupid tasks like cleaning up and starting the dishwasher. Other times I indulge in silly TLC shows or romantic comedies I know he would never watch. Tonight I may even do a workout! So I try to see the time apart as a blessing, not a punishment, and to use it for something special I can't or wouldn't do with him around.
What ways have you found to improve your patience? If you had a few unexpected minutes of quiet, what are you most likely to do with them?

Beginning of Life as a military wife:


Well, here it is, my first blog post! For years I have watched blogging grow in popularity, and always thought it was not for me. Recently, I have changed my mind. After completing my Master's in Business Administration a month ago, for the first time I can say that I am finished with formal education classes! Not only do I suddenly have more time on my hands, but I also find myself missing the educational environment, and the opportunity to continue growing mentally. So now I am starting a blog. Here are my reasons for being "here," in the bloggo-sphere:
1. To have intelligent conversations with people over the age of 2!
2. To share my stories and experience as a military wife, and to continue learning from others who have been through it.
3. To have an audience for the numerous hilarious moments of motherhood.
4. To make new friends that share common background and views, regardless of where we are currently stationed.

I have decided to call this blog "The Homefront," to reflect my position as a military wife and a stay-at-home mom. What can you expect to find here? First, some of my experiences as a military wife. My husband joined the Marines 10 years ago, and during that time I have visited 29 Palms and lived in Quantico and Camp Lejeune. We have done one move (DITY) and had 2 children in the military hospitals. We have been through 4 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and are preparing for the next one later this year. So even though I certainly haven't "done it all," I am happy to share the glorious pride and frustrating pains of being a military spouse.
Next, as a stay-at-home mom to a 2 year old daughter and a 1 year old son, who is expecting #3 later this year, every day is a little battle here on the homefront. Sometimes I am the general trying to lead my little troops through the day in an orderly manner, and other times I feel more like the enemy-- outnumbered, surrounded, and without adequate supplies! Nevertheless, I love this job and am proud to serve my family and my country this way. So I will be happy to share the joys and struggles of motherhood with you all.
Finally, I hope this can be a place for enlightening discussion and supportive friendship. I am not a drama-queen, and I have not created this page to be a whining session about the difficulties of being a military spouse. I am an optimist and a strong Christian who tries to see the best in every situation and be confident in God's ability to get me through. So I welcome your comments, but please, be nice! After all, I am a newbie! :-)