Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Joshua's End-of-School Awards

Joshua has had a wonderful 2nd grade year. He adores his teacher, Mrs. Jones, and has learned so much. I cannot help but be so proud of my baby boy for such a successful school year.  Great job, Joshua!

Joshua receives a certificate for all As for the schoolyear!
He manages to avoid eye contact with me all the way to his seat.  =)
So proud of this handsome boy!
Yes, honey, you have to take a picture with your mom.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Remembering Heroes on Memorial Day

Memorial Day 2011
We need him to be there right now,
We know this in our hearts.
But watching him go fight for us,
It's bitter from the start.

Our minds can grip the case for peace,
the importance of the cause.
But the mind cannot convince the heart
when all we wish for is what was.

We honor and remember those
who have fought this fight before us,
And mourn for every last lost child,
Sons and daughters who implore us ...

Never forget the sacrifice
Of your Nation's daughters and sons.
Honor those who fought for you,
And remember them, one by one.

So while we wait for our Soldier's return,
We wait with love and expectation,
That all he does will be for good
And be honored by our great Nation.

Happy Memorial Day 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Silent Salute Award

I was surprised and grateful to have received this award from a fabulous fellow blogger. HUGS and a big thanks to Sarah, who authors the blog, 'Tis the Life of the Army Wife. Thank you, Sarah!

The Rules for this Award:

You must pass this award on to ONE person.

You must tell the world of three ways you and your members silently salute our troops!

So on to following the rules ...

I follow quite a few of truly fabulous blogs and would be happy to pass this along to any one of them. The blogger that came to mind, first, though is a fabulous lady that I met (in person!) several years ago at Fort Hood. She was active in supporting the FRG then and has gone on to be incredibly helpful to many military spouses across the globe. Her talents seem limitless as she has published work in the area of early childhood education as well. So this Silent Salute Award goes to my fabulous blogger friend, Candace, and her fantastic blog, Army Wives' Lives!

Three ways you silently support our troops:

  1. I believe that silently supporting our troops is commonplace to anyone who is married to a servicemember. Constant support, care, and concern for my Soldier and his troops is a part of my daily life and the most important way I support our troops.
  2. I would consider my support of and participation in our unit's Family Readiness Group (FRG), no matter the unit, another avenue of supporting our troops. I know there are a lot of folks who have negative impressions of the FRG, but I firmly believe in the potential of this group and its ability to support and encourage our Soldiers and their Family members. I will always work to ensure that the FRG we're associated with is as positive as possible for all involved.
  3. Finally, my blog has become a constant source of both comfort to me and a way for me to express my experiences in the Army ... hopefully to the encouragement of another. With each post, I am hopeful that something written there will touch the life of another person in a positive way.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Those Crazy Things We Do

It is true that I am an emotional person by nature, and the onset of a deployment takes even my highly emotional self up a notch or two.  I don't think I'm entirely alone in this ... or at least that's what I tell myself to preserve some sense of pride. 

The first days of a deployment find me in a haze of sorts as I sort through my new situation in life.  Emotions run amok and the most innocent of comments can cause my eyelids to sting as the tears form.  It's really quite embarrassing which is why I typically avoid public places for a few days. 

This highly emotional state creates some interesting moments for me.  I find myself doing things that would otherwise make no sense at all ... and perhaps don't make a lot of sense no matter what.  So here's the question for military spouses the world over ...

Have you ever ...
  • saved a load of laundry just to see something of his in the basket?
  • stretched a pot of coffee over three days or more because he was the one who made it?
  • kept his pillowcase scented with his cologne so you could smell him as you drifted off to sleep?
  • had a flash of reality when he didn't walk through the door after work at the normal time?
  • ticked off a list of 'firsts' in your head once he leaves (first night, first meal, first trip ... without him)?
  • been brought to tears in the grocery store when you passed by his favorite snack?
  • gone to bed with a cell phone in your hand to make sure you didn't miss his call?
  • picked up the phone to call him before realizing you now have to wait for him to call?
  • hit 'refresh' on your email inbox repeatedly, willing an email from him to appear?
  • left your computer volume on high so you could hear the Skype tone from anywhere in the house?
  • slept in his shirt so you could feel him near you?
Out of context, this list could be the entire storyline for a really bad girlfriend-turned-stalker "Fatal Attraction" kind of movie, but in context ... isn't it kind of sweet?  And not bizarre or stalker-ish at all?

Deployment Care Package Basics

We've been around this deployment block a time or two, and my honey has done a great job of answering my endless pestering questions letting me know what he really likes to receive in care packages.  He is not a center-of-attention kind of guy and doesn't enjoy listing his preferences for others, but I insist ... and he obliges.  Here are the top 10 basics that are always stocked for care packages we send:
Cobalt 5 sugar-free gum is an all-time favorite.
Senseo coffee pods are always a hit with his beloved Senseo coffee maker!
Liquid creamers are a must with round-the-clock coffee.
Shelled and salted, pistachios are a favorite.
Soft dried fruit ... not the crunchy kind ... and never, ever dried bananas (well, that's just for my hubby!).
Deluxe and salted mixed nuts provide a quick protein-filled snack.
Vaseline Daily Skin Shield Protective Body Lotion with SPF 15 20.3 Oz
Unscented with SPF helps counter the hot sun.
Carmex For Cold Sores Tube 12X.35 OZ
Carmex in a tube is needed to fight wind-chapped lips.
PURELL Instant hand Sanitizer .05oz. Bulk Case - 500 each
Mini hand sanitizers fit great in an ACU pocket.

Lysol Neutra Air Freshmatic Automatic Spray Kit, Fresh Scent
Battery-operated air fresheners are a big help in small, cramped CHUs ... extra batteries and refills are great, too!
These photos are all from http://www.amazon.com/ but the actual items can be found in your favorite grocery store.  Happy care-package creating!  What are YOUR honey's favorites?

Friday, May 27, 2011

I'm Published!

My article in the Fort Hood Herald
I'm published! Well, in a local paper ... and as a one-time thing ... but, still! I was excited to see my words in print.

After I posted about my husband leaving for Iraq in What It's Like When He Leaves, I got a message on Twitter from one of the editors at the Killeen Daily Herald. She asked if they could run my post as an article in the Opinion section of the upcoming issue of the Fort Hood Herald.

I was thrilled, of course, and was happy to share. She told me she'd just said goodbye to a Soldier, too, and the post really hit home with her.  I hope it is helpful in some way to others who are experiencing goodbyes as well.  Here's to sharing this deployment adventure!

Field Day Fun

Whew! I spent the last two days at each of my boys' Field Day events at their schools and had a great time.  Mountain View has a fabulous P.E. program and I am always impressed with the coaches and all the fun things they plan.  This event is all about fun, but includes some crazy physical fitness challenges as well.  It is moderately competitive, in that the classes do split into teams to compete against each other, but there is no hardcore competition ... or awards to be won.

Joshua's Field Day was held on Thursday and it was a beautiful day for it ... warm with a breeze.  Friday showed up with a little more heat, but still with a good breeze, and both days were full of fun.

Joshua with his teacher and his best buddy, Jeffrey.
Finishing strong in the hilarious Rubber Chicken Run!
Joshua, Jack, and Jonathan playing Tip the Hat.
Loving having his picture taken during lunch.  =)
Trey and Judah on the field of competition
Mrs. Griffith's Tug-O-War champions!
Trey enjoying the SnoCone Station
Ready for the tire pull
Lots of Field Day fun!
Water fun in the final stations

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Advice on e-Readers for a Pre-Teen?

My eldest son is an avid reader ... a comment that is so understated, it's almost comical. Because of his crazy love for reading and the constant build-up of mountains of books in his room ... and the family room ... and the kitchen ... and everywhere else he spends any time, I have been thinking that an e-reader might be a good idea for him.  He has an earned reward coming up and I'm considering e-reader options.

I really think the simpler  the better in this scenario ... something he can just read books on ... no WiFi, Internet browser capabilities or chatting functions needed (in my opinion, anyway).  Color is nice, but not entirely necessary either.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  Do you have an e-reader you love?  Or don't love?
Amazon Kindle
NOOK Home screen
Barnes & Noble NOOK
Borders KOBO
Sony e-Reader

The Maine Troop Greeters

If your Soldier has ever deployed from the continental United States, it is likely that he stopped through an airport in Maine.  And if he stopped in Maine, it is also likely that he had his photo taken by one of the wonderful troop greeters there.  This is a group of highly patriotic and supportive Americans who volunteer to greet our troops as they move into and out of country. 

From the Maine Troop Greeters website:

Welcome to the official website of The Maine Troop Greeters of Bangor, Maine.We are a non-profit group of veterans and men and women supporting our armed forces serving overseas by greeting troops who arrive at Bangor International Airport.

Day or night, rain or shine,it is our commitment to welcome each troop home from war and give a proper send off to each of the young men and women heading overseas. We accomplish this by being here to offer free cell phones to call a loved one, a snack to keep them going, and handshakes to let them know we care.

Since we began greeting flights in May of 2003, the Maine Troop Greeters have greeted over 5800 flights with more than 1,190,000 service members and 296 military dogs. And it is our pledge that as long as there are U.S. armed forces serving overseas we will be here to greet them.
So ... as you can imagine, lots of Family members eagerly check the site to see if their servicemember has a photo there. In the three deployments we've experienced since they began this program, my honey has been posted at least once each time. And each time, it becomes a photo I treasure. Check out some of the latest great works from these fine Americans!

Love this Soldier!
Yep, I even love the ones where I can only see a piece of the side of his head.  :)
Red Dragons!
One last photo from Maine.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Living the New Normal

It seems we're getting back to "normal" in our home.  We're all adjusting to the "new normal" of Dad being gone, but today felt much less foreign to us.  I'm feeling good today ... both boys had great days at school yesterday, we enjoyed an early "Taco Tuesday" dinner with our neighbors and everyone slept well last night.  I checked off a few important items on my to-do list today and was even able to sneak in a quick lunch with my sweet friend, Jenn.

Today was also my first medical appointment at the new Harker Heights Medical Center, which was infinitely more convenient for me than driving onto Fort Hood to the clinic there.  It's a nice, new building and the staff was super friendly.  The highlight of the appointment came when a young child of one of the patients there pulled the fire alarm in the waiting room.  Oops.  A required evacuation ensued and we waited in the muggy hot parking lot for the HHFD to come and clear the building for us.  I was impressed with the firefighters, one of which sat down with the little boy and explained why it was important to leave the fire alarms alone unless there was a real emergency.

The rest of the appointment was as uneventful as the annual exam can be and I liked my new Primary Care Manager.  Because my timing was off due to the unexpected fire drill, I texted my neighbor to see if she could pick up our kids.  She did, and by the time I was done, I was able to meet them for "Waffle Cone Wednesday" at TCBY ... 99 cent waffle cones all day!

A few errands rounded off the afternoon, ending with a trip to the Vision Center to pick up Joshua's new eyeglasses!  He's been a bit reticent about getting eyewear, but was happy to put them on when he got them.  He blinked a few times and looked around, then said, "It's a whole new world!"  As we proceeded through Wal-Mart for a few grocery items, Joshua entertained us by reading sign after sign of print he couldn't have seen clearly before.

Life moves on for us ... and we're quickly clicking into 'deployment mode.'  With the end of the school year just days away and summer bright on the horizon, the boys are handling themselves well and looking forward to some summertime fun.  Days like today ~ uneventful but busy getting things accomplished ~ are a welcome change from the stress of pre-deployment preparations, and a healthy reminder that life does go on.

"It's a whole new world!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's the Little Things in Life

Flowers from a friend brought a smile!
I've long subscribed to the theory that it's often the little things in life that mean the most ... a handwritten note, a fresh bouquet of flowers, a piping hot cup of coffee ... these are the 'little' things that can make such a huge impact. 

Getting a note in the mail ~ written for me ... from a real person ~ is a nice surprise among the endless stacks of bills, catalogs, and credit card offers.  And, last night, opening my front door to find a friend on my doorstep with a fresh bouquet of flowers just to say "I'm here for you" ... it was one of the nicest things I could have imagined.  {Thank you, Debbie!}

Which leads me to that piping hot cup of coffee ... I am so blessed and happy to have a husband who (a) shares my love of java and (b) gets up early each morning and makes a fresh pot of coffee for us both.  It's one of those 'little' things that makes my morning and warms my heart each time I wake to the irresistible aroma of that brewing concoction.  Since this is such a joyous part of my mornings, it stands to reason that the absence of this blessed event stands out as a stark reminder of what I'll miss over the next few months.

Waking up on the morning after ... it's a mosaic of whirling emotions that takes more than a moment to reason out ... instant heartache when I realize that I am waking up alone, sudden relief to have survived that challenging first night, consuming pride at having my husband serving in our nation's defense, acute anxiety about the challenges lying in wait just around the bend, enduring compassion for the many who are experiencing the same challenges as I am, and the bittersweet consolation that at least we're on the path to getting to the end.  All of these shifting sensations strike at once and seem to culiminate in one large knot in the pit of my stomach.

Then, it's time to get up and wake the kids and prepare for a new day.  As I stand outside my oldest son's door, ready to wake him up, I think about the tears he shed as he fell asleep the night before.  He has taken our battalion's motto, "Can and Will," as his own personal mantra for this deployment.  He cried himself to sleep last night saying, "Can and will.  I can and will get through this deployment.  Can and will." 

I swallow my emotions and decide it's time to start our morning.  So I open doors, turn on lights, kiss sleepy heads hello, let out the dogs, and start breakfast.  I answer questions ... Mom, where are my shoes?  Did you make me a lunch today?  Can you sign this permission slip for Field Day? ... and warm up a cup of coffee from yesterday's unfinished pot.  I blink away tears and silently mourn the absence of fresh coffee, and the fabulous man who makes it.

And the kids get off to school and another day begins.  Day Two and counting.  Can and Will.

Monday, May 23, 2011

What It's Like When He Leaves

Saying goodbye to someone you love is never easy. Add to that the stress of preparing for deployment, planning the next months without the love of your life in the picture, and the uncertainty of military combat missions and you have a pretty taxing scene on your hands.

In the days leading up to goodbye, there is a certain pressure to say and do and feel and think, well ... more. Say all the things you want him to know before he leaves, do everything you can to enjoy your time with him, feel his presence so you can have it with you even when he's gone, and think of all the things you'll miss about him so you can memorize it, cherish it, and hold it close for future reference.  It's an impossible task, but one military spouses take on time and time again.

How do you plan events so special that they take the place of all the events he will miss over the next year?  How do you say "I love you" enough to cover all the "I love yous" you'll miss?  How do you absorb the sight of him so that you can remember what it's like to have him sitting at the breakfast table, working on the home computer, playing ball with the kids in the backyard, or walking in the front door after work?  The truth is ... you can't.  It is just not possible.

So why all the pressure to do this over and over again?  For me, I think it's just the way I deal with the separation.  I want to make sure I've done absolutely everything I can to prepare myself emotionally.  I find myself staring at him, taking in every single feature, touching his face to memorize every tiny detail, and talking about our very favorite memories together.  These are the things I want to have with me when he's gone and the things I want him to take with him as he goes.

Then, it's time.  It's time for the final goodbye, the last kiss, the closing remarks.  It can never be enough and yet it has to be done.  There is a moment ... a moment when his back turns to move on to the next thing ... to get onto a government bus, to step onto a plane, to walk to formation, or to walk out the front door ... that marks this as THE. END.  It's the end of ... dwell time, of R&R leave, of his time at home, of your time with him, of the normalcy you've worked so hard to create ...  and it is so heartbreaking you're not sure you can survive it.  A flash of panic rises in your throat and you're not sure you can breathe.

But you do.  You take one breath, and then another, then another.  You swallow the silent protests that threaten to spill out at any moment ... begging him to stay, cursing the concept of war, and admitting that you're just not sure you can do this ... and you smile, and wave, and say goodbye.  For now.