What Homecomings Are REALLY Like

Most of us are familiar with this image:

With all the romance and nostalgia this photo evokes, you might be led to believe we military folk lead extraordinarily dramatic lives.

Well, we do. Sort of.

For some, the deployments get easier. I don’t agree. The longer we are together, I seem to love him more and in different ways. For me, the deployments get harder. Yes, I know what to expect, and how to rely on myself and get stuff done, but I just like my hubby, I like to hang out with him and cringe at the thought of another chunk of time spent apart.  The drama of being separated definitely proves the point that absence makes the heart grow fonder. We miss each other. Desperately. We hang on the phone as long as possible until they have to head back to work, (or sleep as they are into the next day on the other side of the world) or the kids are just making it to0 dang difficult to carry on a coherent conversation.  We look forward to emails and calls and Skype conversations and feel lucky to be living in an age where we no longer have to rely on snail mail.

But what happens when the deployment is over? We live happily ever after until the next deployment, right?

Ha!

Well, yes, and no. There is that honeymoon period where it’s all romantic and fun and frankly, it does resemble a honeymoon of sorts. As much as we plan and prepare for that perfect homecoming; the outfit, getting “prettied up” with facials, waxes, haircuts, etc., getting the kids’ outfits right, doing all the stuff around the house (mowing the lawn, cleaning the car) so you don’t have to do anything pressing for a little while, the banners on the side of the house that say “Welcome Home” – all of it – it’s great. It’s fun, and a good way to get the kids excited and participating in the homecoming festivities. The anticipation is similar to waiting for Santa at Christmas, and it seems to be amplified each time we go through this process. But more often than not, it seems that despite all the planning – it never quite goes the way I imagine it.

Usually there are other factors involved:

  • He’s jet lagged, tired and/or sick.
  • The kids get sick.
  • The flight/ship home arrives at some ungodly hour so we are dragging sleeping kids/babies along
  • I want to go see everyone and parade him around, he wants to be home and just sleep
  • He wants to go visiting our family/friends, I don’t want to share him yet
  • I want to “celebrate”, he wants to have a home-cooked meal. (Hello, ship food?! Blegh!)
  • Gasp! He has ideas of plans HE wants to do. What?! I’ve been making all the decisions for a year! Now I have to check in with someone else?!
  • I’ve vacation/adventure plans for the months after homecoming, he’s made plans too – but they fall on the same days/weeks!
  • The kids end up staying up way too late, resulting in cranky behavior
  • The kids getting up way too early, despite being up past bed time
  • The kids interfere with “other” activities!

You get the idea. While homecomings are highly emotional, very romantic and dramatic, I’ve found that the fewer expectations I place on the actual event, the better off we all are. Laying low and taking the time to just be with each other as a family is really all we need for a while. The bills, the to-do lists and the summer plans can wait. There will be time for all of that.

For now, at homecoming, my “plan” is to just enjoy the moment, let it flow and watch the kids’ faces light up again when they get to see and be with their daddy.

And I can’t wait.

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To The Military Community

I didn’t get it for a long time. My husband is the social one. I ALWAYS have a great time when we go places and attend parties or other such work functions, but my nature is to be more of a homebody. Putting myself out there, having “witty repartee” with strangers while not simultaneously spilling a drink on someone or falling down in heels I can barely walk in, or some other such social faux pas = my worst nightmare. I have visions of finding myself in awkward social situations (think Bridget Jones) but really, those moments never materialize, we have a great time and I usually  have something in common with at least one person. Enough that a semi-intelligent conversation is possible.

Driving home last night after visiting a friend in Seattle, I look out over the bay at the city lights and was thinking about how our new town is comprised of a majority of military and retired military families. How long it took me to fully embrace our military family!

Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island
Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island (Photo credit: brewbooks)

I am embarrassed to admit it, but I was reluctant. For the first years of our marriage, we chose to live off base. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it definitely sets you apart. There is something unique, intangible, and understood about living amongst fellow spouses. Living on base for the first time at our last duty station taught me that.

There is something to be said for having other spouses who know exactly what you’re going through. We can all knowingly nod our heads as we talk about crazy movers, the heartbreak of saying goodbye to friends yet again, or having your kids each born in a different state, or country! Having to keep it together long enough to comfort the little ones when they don’t understand why mommy or daddy have to leave AGAIN, changing schools for the umpteenth time, and all the other stuff that goes with this life is just understood.

To the military community: For the immediate acceptance of our family, even though you don’t know us, I thank you. For the smiles as we walk to the playground, thank you. For the welcome to the neighborhood hug, thank you. For teaching my children, as well as me, resilience, thank you. For teaching me to stop resisting what is, and embrace it – I thank you.

I thank you.

And I won’t take it for granted.

Wonder and Grattitude

As we gear up to move I find myself more and more excited. I love to move. Really. Yes, it’s a headache, yes, it’s even more of a trauma with kiddos, but I still love it. Taking the time to review belongings, purging what is no longer needed, cleaning and gearing up for the big day – I really do enjoy it. What I love even more is that “new possibility” feeling when we get to the new place. Finding a home for things, arranging the kitchen, feeling organized, refreshed – it one big ole piece of canvas on which to paint our life. Arranging furniture and decorating possibilities are so exciting. It may seem odd, but perhaps that is one reason we are well-suited for the military life. How awful would it be if we hated moving?!

Which brings me to my point – how often do we resist what is, and strive and strain for what was or what could be? I know I’m guilty of wishing certain phases of my kids’ were over. Only, I am sure, to realize that the next phase may be just as challenging, but in a new way. My non-New Years’ resolution then, is to consciously look for things to be grateful for. (I don’t usually make resolutions, as there is too much pressure and I end up breaking them completely by January 14th.)

Last Thanksgiving there was the Facebook deal where each day we said one thing we were grateful for. In doing that, I was surprised at how many days the things I was most appreciative of revolved around the kids. Or perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a negative rut where all I seem to see are the things not going right. I want to change that. And what better way than to declare it to cyber space!? So to put this “non-resolution” resolution into practice, I will do a week-in-review of things big and small in our little world that I am especially grateful for. Starting today. Wonder-full Wednesday.

This wonder-full Wednesday I am thankful for places to play like Jungle playland and Perch and Play:

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These establishments offer a warm place for my monkeys to burn some serious energy! I am so thankful for these businesses especially in a region of the country that rains so much! Watching my son anticipate with wonder, then grin a HUGE grin all the way to his toes as the balls in the ball pit “rained” down on his head was simply bliss! I adore his smile and treasure moments when he is so joyful.

And finally, I am grateful for the weaning process. My body will soon be my own again. I know it is not something for everyone, but for me breastfeeding has been a very special bond, a thousand special moments, and needs that I alone could fulfill. While I am glad to have had the time to go this route with my babies, I am ready to bid a fond farewell to this season and welcome the next!

Here’s to the wonder in your Wednesday!

friday favorite things | finding joy

Ripples

With the onset of fall, the upcoming hustle and bustle of the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas hoopla, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about our life (and weather) in Hawaii. There is much I do not miss about life in Hawaii, but when I’m freezing my tootsies off in the pacific northwest rain, wearing warm boots and still cranking up the thermostat – I sometimes wish that I could go back – maybe for just a bit to warm up.

More than the weather, the beaches and eating fresh delicious pineapple whenever I felt like it, I miss my peeps, the people who have made such an impact on my life. Makes me wonder about the impact I have on the people around me, and in turn the impact that they then have on others.

When I met Katy and Liz,  they were just a couple of moms with their kiddos at the playground. They’d been friends for a while, and their easy camaraderie was attractive and easy. It would have been so easy for them to shut me out, do the “mean girls” thing, and off we go our separate ways. But they didn’t. And it’s made all the difference.

As Katy put it – she had to stalk me for a while before I came around. I am slow and cautious to make friends. (In my defense, I had just had Hannah and was a little out of it too!) Katy is one of those people that makes friends easily, and makes the process look effortless.  She has the gift of being a great friend yet isn’t a doormat, and she is still able to keep her family the priority.  Her husband also rocks and gave me some great training tips along the way. (Not to mention that he is seriously one of the funniest people ever! 😉  With her encouragement, we joined a bootcamp class and forever changed our lives through diet and some hard core workouts. We met other people. Liz ran a post pregnancy run with such joy that I marveled at her and didn’t “get it” then, as I wasn’t really a runner at that point….I have been inspired by Nina, another close friend who I looked up to as a fitness mentor (aka ROCKSTAR!) although she downplays how awesome she really is. Seriously?! Who wakes up at o’dark thirty to run and is jumping around all excited!!??? (That would be Nina!) I found confidence I didn’t know I had – and even went to the 3 day class. I was sad to not be in the same class as my friends anymore working out side by side, but I knew with limited time left in Hawaii – I had to suck up as much of our instructor as I possibly could!

Which brings me to Christina – the seriously bad a$$ trainer. Words don’t describe (although I’ve tried) how much she has taught me. And more than just about fitness and diet. And then along came a new neighbor,  Jayde. She is rockin’ her deal called This Strong Body on Facebook which is a community of like minded folk who are doing their daily diet/fitness thing.

All of these seemingly random people that either for a short time or lifetime, have had a ripple effect in each other’s lives.

If Christina had never become a trainer….
If Katy hadn’t “stalked” me…..
If Katy hadn’t been a runner…..
If I would have declined invitations to parties….
If I had said “No” to bootcamp…..
If I would have quit bootcamp….
If Nina didn’t run like a gazelle……
If Nina didn’t make me laugh and turn me on to Shut up and Run…… 🙂
If Jayde hadn’t moved in next door….
If I would have stayed inside and not set out the sprinkler to entice her kiddos over, thereby baiting her….(muahahhahahhaha!)
If……

Even people now through the medium of Facebook can affect each other. I know I am inspired by people I only know through my friends on Facebook. I’ve watched lives transformed and become “friends” with people I have yet to meet. (Hey that’s you Laura and Casey!)

All of this to say, that it’s amazing what a ripple affect one can cause by person’s choices. Choices to smile and and say hello. The choice to risk new friendships, put yourself out there and know that sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

I hope my “ripples” can positively affect someone to be their best, the way that I’ve been bettered by the ripples of others.

Idaho vacation!

Ah! There is nothing like a good get-away vacation! The kids and I joined my sister and her family for a week at their cabin in Idaho! So much fun!
Hannah is ready to ride!! Lucky for us – Uncle has some awesome quads!! My kids were in serious heaven!

 

Hannah and I headed out for a ride!
Jake and his Uncle!
Jake even let me join him for a ride!!

 

I chopped wood for the campfire!! Watch out! I’m pretty dangerous with an axe!

 

We discovered that Jacob gets wacky on chocolate and smores!!

 

Hannah has a sugar crash!

 

We visited this beach on a huge lake a couple of times! Pretty much the closest I could get us to Hawaii without a 5 hour plane ride! It was nice and hot too – we soaked up that warmth!
 We learned to play FLINGO!!! So fun! (When we weren’t whacking our sibling in the face with a golf ball!)
Hannah is ready to go!! She kept saying “Faster! Faster!” This girl seriously has no fear!

 

They played so hard – and slept harder!! Neither of them napped during the day because we were just outside fishing, playing, picking rocks, riding quads and having a blast!

 

Little miss! She is so cute it kills me!
Jake got his first tackle box, fishing pole, and fishing trip! I seriously wonder why I buy him toys when the tackle box, a 12 pack of bobbers and rocks kept him entertained for HOURS. Seriously.
 Tall tales around the fire!! So much fun!
 The newest face of Moka Joe Coffee! Hannah got ahold of an “almost” empty coffee cup and got some grounds on her face forming this ‘stache!!
It was such a great little get-away and for their first vacation that included a LOOOOONG drive and completely new surroundings – they did FANTASTIC!
Hooray for Idaho!

It’s a Wonderful Life

Wow. What a day. I’ll apologize up front if I am a bit incoherent! These kinds of days I never seem to have trouble falling asleep – I literally collapse into bed.  And why I seem to save it all for one day is beyond me. You’d think I would be better at spreading out activities over the days – but lately it has been feast or famine!
Had a fantastic workout this morning – the best in a quite a while. We were sweaty hot messes and it was awesome! Definitely gonna feel that tomorrow! After lunch and playtime with the cousins, we rested a bit (although not long enough for Hannah as she was in rare form!) Then had a snack before running some errands.
Normally I’m not a big fan of having chips in the house, and if we do, it’s tortilla chips. (Mostly because I “can’t eat just one!” If it’s not in the house – I don’t eat it. But Jacob wanted “daddy chips”. They are the the chips Eric eats. How do you say no to that? I didn’t. He ate them and was comforted.
And then Hannah and Jacob fought over the bag:
After the chip bag holding crisis of 2012 was overcome – we hit the road with 3 stops. We were headed to the craft store, the bike store (Jake’s bike is broken) and then the party supply store to prepare for both upcoming birthdays. Why I think with little to no nap that the three of us would make it to all three stops is beyond me.
After we got our goods from the party store, we headed to Michaels. I cannot escape this place with just what I need. They always have other “goodies” and ideas for projects I just can’t seem to turn down. I had a project in mind – and it turned into 4 different projects for 3 of us. But more on that later. So then we hit the bike store for 1 bolt and 1 washer. They don’t sell the kind we need. Of course they don’t. Why would it be that easy to stop at one place? So pile the kids back into the car and down to Home Depot we go where they”should have that bolt.”
After we found a human to help us in that cavernous store, and that human looked in 4 different places 37 times all while I was trying to keep the minions in the cart and not grabbing the loose bolts and washers out of the tiny little drawers, he offers me a bolt that he “assures me” will work.  But more on that in a bit.
So by this time – we are all hot messes, too many stops and Jacob just wants to get home to his project.
So here’s the project run down:
I was making this:
It’s a “feeling thermomether’. Green is “happy good feelings” and the red is “Mad uncomfortable feelings” It’s a tool that we were given at our counseling session for Jacob to be able to articulate how he’s feeling. (We go to Focus – a group on base that trains military families resiliency tools for deployments/family separations and reintegrations. They are FANTASTIC!) I picked up the poster board, markers and sticky-back velcro for the “feeling foxes” that have different emotions and where they fall on the thermometer. We are still getting the hang of it, but not too shabby, if I do say so myself! I managed to even color inside the lines!
Before I set up the kids with their projects and aprons, I attempted to re attach Jacob’s bike wheel so he can ride it. Out come our shiny new bolt and washer and….
it doesn’t fit.
Shocking. So after all the trips and the fiasco at Home Depot trying to find the right one, it’s wrong. And did I mention that in the process of trying to fix Jacob’s bike, one of the drawers on Eric’s tool box is locked open and I can’t even close the thing? It’s completely jammed. Really? Ugh. So I left it there to do art.
I set Hannah up outside with some finger paints and she created this masterpiece:
Jacob found a “treasure chest” at Michael’s and wanted to paint it black. He tells me that “black” is the color that “puts him in the green and makes him feel happy”. Can’t complain when he’s using the tools we are teaching him! Ha! He also found a bag of big beads to make necklaces and bracelets. So we get those, but after being told not to put them into his mouth to spit them into his chest (they are small enough he could still choke) and he did it again – the beads went “night-night”.  And let me tell you how much I LOVED digging the dang things out of the grass – as he had one by one slid them all down the slide!
So he painted black on his chest – here it is all black and drying atop the grill outside.

Somehow during all the painting projects – I decided I needed a little color too!

 

 I still haven’t figured out how the heck I got it on my leg.

 

Jake played a bit while I cleaned Hannah’s now poopy diaper. Then he looks at me and says he needs to be changed too. Fantastic.
So between the paint, the dirty drawers, and the backyard being a painted disaster – off to the bathtub we go. Then it dawns on me, that I NEED to mow the lawn or by the time we get back from our upcoming mini vacation – it’s going to be a forest back there and I won’t have time to do it.
So then I drug out the lawn mower while the kids played/fought with each other.
So after the 3rd time of warning Hannah that hitting is “not ok”. She was going to bed. Awesome. Fighting sleep for an hour due to being over tired and Mama trying to cram too much into one day. I got paid back by an hour and half bedtime routine.
Whew. Days like today make me want to be a slug the next! But my lawn did get mowed!
Here’s to a less busy tomorrow!