Big Time Small Town

As a mother of military kiddos, I often marvel at the idea of living in a small town, putting down roots, and having them grow up from kindergarten through 12th grade in the same school district. Does anyone do that anymore? It seems like it would be idyllic in some ways, a nice idea, but hardly a possibility given our active duty status.

I always thought I’d grown up in a small town. That was until I met my husband and he showed me where he grew up! No locking doors, everyone know everyone else. Friendly midwestern peeps who are genuinely interested in the answer when they ask, “How are you?” These travels have been repeated encounters of small town life.

While in some random bathroom in Wyoming, I sneezed and heard a random “bless you” from out of no where! (It actually quite startled me as I thought I was the only one in there!) Usually not a chatty kathy in the stall, I had to laugh to myself and offer my thanks in return.

While visiting my husband’s family in Minnesota, I jumped at the chance to run a 5k with my niece! (You can read her awesome blog here!)

Me and Missy after our race! (Photo credit goes to her! I liked her selfie better than the one I took!)
Me and Missy after our race! (Photo credit goes to her! I liked her selfie better than the one I took!)

When we headed out for the run, I asked her, “I don’t need to lock my car, do I?” She shook her head no, it wasn’t a big deal. I tossed the keys in and off we went to the starting line. The race was fun, humid and she ran a PR! (I on the other hand ran with my hands clutching my chest due to starting out way too fast (as usual) and couldn’t breathe in the humidity! I felt like a beginner all over again!) After the race and pancake feed at the local fire department, we returned to discover my keys are in fact locked inside. It’s an auto-pilot habit. Crap! What do we do? I can’t call the hubby because the phone is locked ever so securely in the car.

“Let’s go find Ralph!” she suggests.

Huh?! Who’s Ralph?

Of course. Ralph is the chief of police. Apparently unlocking car doors is something they do for free! Who knew?! Where I grew up, I locked my keys in the car on a fairly regular basis, but the cops didn’t come to help you but would instead would refer you to a locksmith. (My particular locksmith and I were on a first name basis. Yes, it happened that often.) After Ralph finished his pancakes at the firehouse, he popped by to help me out of my predicament! While regaling us with stories from the job, his cell phone rang. It was the theme from the show COPS. Seriously. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

In addition to my niece being on a first name basis with the chief of police, we discovered that she is also neighbors (literally) with the in-laws of a milspouse friend of mine from Washington! Talk about a small world!

While I was doing all of this, the hubby (who was one of those kids that went to the same school from K-12th grade) took the minions fishing where he went as a kid. We attempted to fish during the salmon run in Washington, but we didn’t catch anything. Luckily the fish were biting in Minnesota! They caught 17 sunfish – and they were delicious!

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I often think a small(er) town life would be great. Then, I think about how much I would miss Target. And Starbucks. And museums with the kids. And giant grocery stores, And, and, and…

I suppose there are pros and cons to both like anything. I often vacillate between being a hermit in a tiny town, living off the grid, shutting out all social media, being completely isolated, and living a more anonymous urban life in some bustling city. I’m not sure one is better than the other, but as a hermit with social butterfly tendencies, I need regular down time like I need oxygen.

Perhaps that’s the beauty of this military life – for a while anyway, we get to experience all different parts of the world, in 2-3 year doses. As hard as it is in some ways, it’s also pretty dang cool, and we get to meet all sorts of people and expose our minions to opportunities that they otherwise would not experience.

What about you? Small town or bustling city? Knowing everyone or complete anonymity? Friendly chat in the bathroom with strangers?

I think I may always be a private pee-er. The sneeze blessing was nice, but it’s just weird chatting about randomness while taking care of business. But, that’s just me.

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It’s Here!

It’s moving day! Or, rather, days – as is plural. Who moves in just one day? I’d like to meet them…and take notes!

It’s a sea of boxes around here, tent is pitched in the back yard, and PCS season has arrived!

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We are camping out in the back yard this time around. It’s great for a few reasons:

1. Easy access to clean up the joint after the packers have left.
2. Not having to pay for a hotel room.
3. It’s an “adventure” for our kids. And us.
4. Camping = Memories
5. Annoy the heck out of our neighbors as our extremely large tent takes up the entire yard!
6. Late night giggles
7. Early sleepy faces that slowly break into a grin as they realize “Yes! We are camping!”

It’s also been cleaning time as evidenced by the surplus of Magic Erasers and rubber gloves!

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But, all that cleaning couldn’t have happened without the help of my friend Payton who offered to watch Hannah (Jacob migrated over, too) so we could get to some serious scrubbin’! Not only that, she made us dinner last night (delicious!) and lunch today!!! Everyone needs friends like this! (Payton – you rock!)

And the neighbors across the street brought this awesomeness:

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Jake’s head nearly exploded when he set eyes on it!

Despite the chaos that always ensues, the inevitable delays (moving truck 1 day later then originally planned), the packed-but-wasn’t-supposed-to-be-items, so far it’s shaping up to be a great move!

Spiking My Coffee

There are days. And then there are those kind of days.

Slightly drowsy from last night’s cold medicine, I was suddenly jolted awake as the warm pee seeped onto my side of the bed. “Gonna be a good day!” I thought to myself. “Cause it can only get better from here!” Ever the Positive Polly, I loaded up my arms and headed to the laundry room. Plopping the peeing offender into a bath, I got the other minion dressed and fed and then got myself assembled to head to the gym.

Luckily for me, I glanced at the preschool calendar before I stepped out of the house because, SURPRISE! It’s our snack day today! We are celebrating Hannah’s non-birthday! Yippee! (Our preschool has birthday celebrations for the kiddos with summer birthdays.) Fantastic idea, and as a summer birthday person myself, I often lamented not being a “cool kid” that brought the yummy treats to share with my class.  Good thing we were a bit early – cause it was time to hit the grocery store for non-birthday treats.

Despite the level of snot that was attempting to escape my sinuses, I managed to get through leg day, shower, and pick up the kiddos from school. Hannah became enraged by her inability to “beat me” in the seatbelt buckling race I didn’t know I had signed up for, and threw a prize-winning tantrum. The screams were awesome, from “I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND” to “I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A NAP!” and my personal favorite, “I HAVE STOPPED CRYING!!” All while scream-crying and kicking and practicing for the Oscar that she is sure to win someday.

At decibel levels no human should have to endure, we head home. When we were pulling up our road, she peed. In her pants. In her carseat.

At this point, I have a choice. I can either go to bed and as Bill Cosby always threatened “let them have the house”, or I can try to get them to take a nap after lunch. I attempted for an hour. No go. After an hour and a half of reading kid books the only person I’ve successfully made drowsy is myself.

I am making the executive decision to wear these kids out. As I type this, they are putting on their coats and rain boots and I’m going to run them all over our neighborhood. I’m going to run them to the playground. I’m going to chase them until they beg for mercy. Luckily for me, I’ll get to go for a run and burn a few calories myself. But my primary mission is to make. them. tired. Like 6:30-7pm bedtime tired.

Wish me luck!

These are the days when I wonder why I don’t spike my coffee.

What I Do All Day

Oh boy. Here we go.

Before I fan the flames of the so-called mommy-wars (which is the most ridiculous moniker), let me preface  by saying it is not my intention to say working moms are better/worse than work from home moms, or vice versa. Being a mom is hard, period, regardless of how one goes about it. Note: I use the term “work from home mom” because being a mom is WORK, even if you don’t cash a paycheck. 

When my first (and at the time only) child was around 4 months old, conversations were happening all around me about what moms do all day. Those that chose to work outside of the home felt strongly that they would be bored, or that they just weren’t cut out to do the at-home thing. In abundance were assumptions like, “My house would be so clean!” and other such nonsense. On the flip side, those that chose to be at home couldn’t fathom how to fit in punching a time clock. About the same time, I remember seeing a letter to Dear Abby from a working mom who was ticked off that a friend now didn’t seem to have time for her after having a baby. “What does she do all day?” the letter writer mused.

Today I took stock of everything I did. I wrote it all down. Just so I could see what exactly it is I do all day.

  • Woken up by 3-year-old at 4:40am. Soothed her back to sleep. In her sleep she clings to my back, nudging me ever closer to falling off the bed. She is a heater and I am now sweaty and hot.
  • 5:15am: Son joins us in bed as husband hits the shower. I become a mom sandwich.
  • 6:30am: Am poked in the face by grinning 3-year-old daughter. She announces that it’s time to go downstairs.
  • 6:35am: Heading downstairs, I am hollered at to “WAIT! Mommy! I HAVE to hold your hand when we go down!” Silly me, I forgot. I have but two things on my mind: breakfast and coffee.
  • 6:36am: Turn on kettle for coffee and contemplate breakfast options. Hmmmm, scramble? Pray that we have bacon.
  • 6:45am: Hubby leaves for work. Kids beg him to stay home and play. Every. Single. Day. I again remind them that Daddy going to work means we have food to eat.
  • 6:46-7:00am: Put away last night’s dishes, reminding myself to do them tonight so I don’t have to start tomorrow already ‘behind’. Start breakfast. Suddenly remember that the laundry I started last night is still in the wash and will likely need to be re-washed to eliminate musty smell from sitting wet. The laundry room is by the garage, which is also where our freezer is located. Mental note: pull something out for dinner tonight. While sniffing clothes for evidence of mold, debate whether to put them in the dryer and let the bounce fabric softener take care of it or just rewash. Check dryer and there is a load of clothes in there. Not wanting to fold, I restart the washer AND the dryer. Dryer = ironing. Yay! Look at me I’m multitasking! Washing AND drying at the same time.
  • 7:00am: Pry minions off of the T.V. or whatever else they are doing and hit the table. Remind them that this is breakfast – if they are hungry they need to eat now, and to please refrain from asking for waffles as we are driving to preschool. (Sometimes I wonder if they think I have a mini fridge in the car.)
  • 7:30-8:30am: Assemble workout gear. Wrestle sports bra, burning calories before I even workout! Get myself dressed. Play “Rain down clothes on my head” aka: throwing the kids’ clothes over the bannister while they run back and forth trying to avoid getting beaned in the head by socks and shirts. Luckily for them, my timing stinks! (Makes my day when I nail ’em, though!)
  • 8:30-8:45am: Time to head to school! Find shoes, coats, and school bags and get in the car. Sometimes I start this process at 8:20 because it takes that long to get in the car. Who knew it could take 20 minutes to put on shoes, walk 10 feet and buckle up?!
  • 8:45-9:00am: Drive to preschool, playing “I spy” and “Slugbug” on the way. We spy the same things every. single. day. And I know where all the parked Volkswagens are located on our route.
  • 9:01am: Sigh of relief as 2.5 hours just opened up. This feels like the clouds of heaven parting for the singing of angels.
  • 9:15-10:30am: Workout with the neighborhood ladies. (So fun!)
  • 10:30-10:45am: 15 minute window to cram in 1 errand that is preferable to do sans kids. Usually it’s the post office or a quick grocery run.
  • 10:45-11:15am: Race home, wrestle sports bra back off (which is now sweaty and much more of a challenge), hop in and out of the shower, find clothes that don’t look like I picked them up out the floordrobe. (Foor + wardrobe = floordrobe. That’s the pile of clothes that isn’t dirty, but I’m too lazy to put away.) Throw goo in the fro and off I go to pick up the minions.
  • 11:30am: Pick up minions. They insist on running around the grassy area at school for at least 15-30 minutes. Cool. Wear yourself out!
  • Noon: Back at home, we clean up dishes and prepare for lunch. While lunch is in the works, I remember forgotten laundry and promptly switch loads. Finally remember to take out of the freezer what will become dinner. Fold a load of clothes, but don’t have time to put away just yet. Throw ingredients into machine to make bread. Lunch is ready!
  • 12:30pm: Hear all about school day and whether minions had any time outs. May also be entertained by random preschool song. Decide what needs to be done between now and dinner.
  • 1pm: Head outside to play (ignoring what needs to be done) because it is finally sunny out. Promptly get blown away by crazy windy Whidbey weather. Oy. 5-year-old suggests frisbee. In the wind it should be called boomerang. Play tag instead.
  • 2pm: Kids watch a show, play play dough, ask for a snack, build with legos and/or draw. Then puzzles or games. I am still determining what we will have for dinner. Put away some laundry while playing “get your booty” up the stairs. (That’s me pretending I’m going to pinch their rears as they run away squealing.) Put all the laundry away while we are playing hide and seek. I hide in a good spot to catch a quick nap.
  • 2:01: Damn. They found me.
  • 3pm: Get serious and start picking up. Laundry, vacuum, scrub a toilet or two, inevitably making it a game for the kids who beg to help, thus making the task take twice as long, and do some writing. Mow the lawn if it’s getting too shaggy. Finalize dinner plans, do any prep work/marinating etc.
  • 4:30-5pm: Hubby arrives home. Round 2 of angel chorus singing. Catch up on the details of the day while kids exclaim “Hooray! Daddy’s home!” Daddy retreats to mental man cave to decompress from the day. Hide and seek doesn’t work for him either. Minions are becoming stealthy. They find him.
  • 6pm: Dinner makes it to the table. We eat and then clean up. This time, I do all the dishes so tomorrow I can come down to a sparkly kitchen.
  • 6:45pm: Bath, teeth, stories, bed.
  • 7:15-8:45pm: Live the real life version of the beloved children’s book, “Seriously, Just Go to Sleep”. They are finally out. Round 3 of angel chorus singing.
  • 8:45-10pm: Everything that didn’t get done is crammed into this time slot before we hit the hay. Mail, bills, laundry, mopping floors, writing for work, designing workouts, internet research, television date nights, and more singing of angels.
  • 10:01pm: Coma.

And that’s my day! No daytime TV or bon bons for this mama! (What is a bon bon anyway?)

What is the best part of your day?

V-8 Running

With a 5 mile training run to do today, I had to make the decision to either trudge along on the treadmill again (I’ve been doing that all week and I really don’t like it, but it’s a necessary evil at times) or brave the weather and do an outside run.

Let’s just say that this old 80’s commercial of the sideways walking dude was EXACTLY what I looked like trying to run in the 20+ mph wind today. Running along the sea wall, the ocean was literally slamming the rocks and splashing up over the sidewalk! It was funny, and I actually laughed and giggled at what a ridiculous sight I must’ve been. As I type this a few hours later, it’s still windy but the rain has stopped and the sun has decided to finally appear, if only for a moment. Go figure.

While running, leaping over puddles, and trying to breathe as the wind gusts literally made it difficult to get air into my lungs, I kept thinking about how this pursuit of fitness, and even a single run can be such a metaphor for life.

Everyone has hardships, life throws curveballs and unexpected events happen. It’s part of life. In a military family, we deal with all the same stuff as our civilian counterparts, but often it’s while our spouse is away. We have to say goodbye (again) to dear friends, and teach our children, as well as ourselves, to continue to keep an open heart even at the risk of it breaking.

We all have a backstory and hardships to bear, and it’s important to not compare life’s hurts. There is no “I have it so bad” because really, do we ever really know what someone else is walking through? Or if they have the skills to deal with what life can throw?

While running sideways, V-8 style, rain pelting me in the face and trying to keep my feet underneath me, it occurred to me that life is the same way. I can either choose to sit on the sidewalk, bury my head in my lap and get rained on, or I can do the best I can – put my head forward and run into the wind with the best of my abilities. I can’t control the weather or life, but I can control how I react to it. It always boils down to a choice.

Today I chose to run into the wind. It was a great run, I felt good and what started as a 5 mile training run that I wasn’t looking forward to, turned into a fun and windy 10k.

It was a good day to run outside. Even if it was a little stormy!

Do you prefer treadmills to cold weather conditions?

Music…and a New Adventure

For the past month or so, I’ve been slightly freaking out. Going about the daily routines; taking care of minions, grocery shopping, laundry, etc., but just underneath the surface: freak out central.

Not life or death freak out, but first-job-in-six-years kind of freak out. I accepted the spin instructor position at a local gym and my first class is tomorrow.

Gulp.

I’ve seriously changed my playlist of 14 songs 87 times. I hear music differently now. I mentally decide if the song I hear on the radio would make a good spin song.  While in the car driving, I cue pretend spinners in my imagination. Out loud. My kids have decided that I’m nuts. I’m sure that opinion will stick when they hit 12. Whatever.

A recent WordPress weekly prompt was to write about music. A favorite song, why certain lyrics speak to us, what our life’s theme song would be – all viable topics. My question is how the heck could you narrow any of those down to one song? Like most people, music is more than just noise in the background in my world. Our iTunes library is filled with “please don’t judge me” songs as well as Top 40. Every genre, multiple decades, with both the hubs’ and my tastes thrown in for good musical fun. He’s more of a beat and instrument guy. He loves the intros and the guitar solos. As a writer, it’s not surprising that the lyrics are what speak to me.

Now for the first time, I’m really hearing beats per minute, phrasing, and how that translates to a good spin class. As I crafted (and re-crafted, and crafted again) this playlist for my first class I listened to my favorites, had help from friends, and had to weed them down. As I look over this list now, it’s not surprising how this list speaks to me.

1. It’s Time – Imagine Dragons

Not only a great song for a warm up, great lyrics. I love that it’s (finally) time for me to put this certification and the studying to good use! And to quote another instructor friend who told me “it’s about damn time!”

2. Ali in The Jungle – The Hours

The lyrics in this track are superb for working out. Introduced to me by my neighbor on Oahu, this song reminds me of her and her determination to get healthy despite being in the middle of a long deployment with 4 kiddos. It isn’t easy, but as the lyrics say, “Everybody gets knocked down, but how quick are you gonna get up?” Love.

3. Sail – Awolnation

This one reminds me of my favorite trainer. Not only did she help me in so many ways, but she introduced me to all kinds of music that I never would have considered otherwise.  And every time I hear this song, I can almost feel the Hawaiian breeze blow across my sweat soaked-skin as I panted in relief that I had survived another one of her killer workouts.

4. Crabbuckit – K-Os

When I first heard this peppy little tune, Eric was deployed and I heard it come on the radio. Done with sappy sad songs, I was ready for this one and immediately thought it would be good for some jumps on a spin bike!

5. Dynamite – Taio Cruz

The perfect party song, but also a great running song. This one is always on my running playlist, and I had to include it in my first class. Perfect for a 5:30 a.m. class to get us all up and at ’em!

6. Everybody Talks – Neon Trees

Not a great thinker in terms of lyrics, but I like it and it works good for spin. It just sounds “happy”.

7. Money Make Her Smile – Bruno Mars

I love Bruno. Every single song. LOVE. That is all.

8. Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself) – Ne-Yo

When you’ve been believed in by someone who sees your potential before you do – that’s magic. That’s what I take from this song.

9. Give In To Me – Michael Jackson

For all of us growing up 80’s, Michael Jackson typifies the decade, among other things. Not only was this my favorite song when I first started going to spin, but I remember much of my struggling in that first spin class. Pushing beyond what I thought I was capable of. It was time to “give in” to the process and trust that I was going in exactly the right direction!

10. China Grove – Doobie Brothers

The first time I heard this song in a spin class, you could just feel everyone smile with recognition. I love a song that EVERYONE knows.

11. Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi

Oh Bon Jovi. I remember watching him on MTV, rockin’ out with my hairbrush microphone and my mile-high bangs. Good times. And it works for spin – bonus!

12. Shake it Out – Florence and the Machine

This song made me cry when my friend Katy sent me her spin playlist. At the time she had just started teaching, Eric was deployed and I remember it was a rough week. I had put the kids to bed, plugged in her playlist and imagined myself halfway around the world in her spin class. When this song came on it was a sort of release of knowing the end of the deployment was in sight, I was shaking it all off, all the tired, all the stress, and just trying to get back to myself. Tomorrow I will imagine her smiling at me in the back of my first class.

13. Red Hands – Walk Off the Earth

This song reminds me of endings. Ends of relationships. Ends of struggles and sad goodbyes. Goodbyes are hard, but out of them can come tremendous growth.  A tad melancholy, but makes for a great cool-down!

14. Home – Phillip Phillips

I love the beat of this song. I love the lyrics about making this place your home. As a military family – wherever we go is home. “Pay no mind to those demons they fill you with fear” speaks right to the whole Brene Brown and Daring Greatly thing. I have a feeling that spin may be my home away from home.

So there it is. Tomorrow morning me and a few friends will be spinning our hearts out. May I not puke, faint, or fall off a stationary bike as I did so gracefully in my dream nightmare last night.

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day(s)

I suppose that’s a tad dramatic, but – well, I’ll just get right into it.

Wednesday morning we wake up and the kids are just having a morning. One of those mornings. Everything is a struggle. “I don’t wanna brush my teeth!” “I don’t wanna go to school!” “I don’t wanna eat!”

“I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!”

Me neither! But the kids made it to school, I had an appointment, then it was back to pick them up. We get home and Hannah heads to the bathroom. Let’s just say that I didn’t know I should have to tell a child NOT to play with her poo. She hollers that she needs “help” and holds up two very poopy hands.

Seriously?!

While trying not to vomit in my mouth, I scrub her down, and dip her in Clorox. Okay, not really, but I sanitized the heck out of everything in the vicinity. Oy. We then had a very serious conversation about how things that come out of our body are not toys and should not be touched. Toilets are not water tables and hands don’t go in the water. Ever. Who knew this would be a conversation I would have to have? Isn’t there some biological repulsion mechanism to leave the poo alone?! If not, there really should be.

After baths, sanitizing dips, dinner and bed, I decide to run an update on my computer. I’m still recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction, so I pop an Ibuprofen for the pain and wait. I get an error, it says I need to “reboot and try again”. I end up in a never-ending loop of rebooting, hard drive has damage and needs to be repaired, but it won’t let me fix it. Great.

The next day, I drag the minions down to the Apple store for our appointment with a tech. Long drive, but the kids were good. Found out that the hard drive = dead. Not repairable, had to be replaced. Lost all music and pictures. As in all the pictures from before Jacob was born until present day. 6-ish years of photos of the kids. Gone. Poof.

Naturally, the first question you are asking is “Didn’t you back up your computer?” A smart person would have. I have seen the episode of Sex in the City where Carrie loses all her writing on her hard drive because she didn’t back up her work. Did I back up? Nope. Not once. It was always the I’ll-get-to-it-later deal that never got done.

While we are waiting to have my new drive installed, we decide to check out the mall’s child play area, or as I like to call it, the higher-concentration germ arena. We walk up only to find it gone with yellow tape around the area where it’s been torn up. “Coming soon: Children’s Play Area bigger and better than before!” a sign tells us. At this point I’m laughing at our luck.

We instead kill some time at Target “visiting” the toy aisle. After the computer is done, we made the return trek home with my new formatted hard drive in hand. After today, I’m happy to report that it’s nearly back to normal. Luckily, the music was duplicated on the hubs’ computer, so that wasn’t a huge deal. Losing the pictures though, that stung. There are some pictures that we’ll never get back – mostly the first year of Jacob’s life. I was a serious shutterbug, but it was pre-Facebook, Instagram and WordPress. There’s just no way to get those pictures. It makes me sad, but of course it was my own fault, and there are far worse things in life. And since joining Facebook, Instagram and WordPress, I do have access to so many pictures that I’ve been able to download back into my files.

It won’t be like it was, but I can assure you going forward, I will be backing up.

What about you? Are you a backer-upper, or do you like to play computer-roulette?