Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ain't I a Military Spouse?

I'm over at Spouse Buzz today with a guest post on being a Coastie wife!  Fellow military spouses, I'd love to hear your opinion in the comments section! 

Early on in our marriage, the MyCAA program was announced. I was young, anxious to further my education and desperate to find a career that I knew could move with me wherever my husband’s job took us. So I called up to register. In all my eagerness I had overlooked one small detail — that the program was offered by the Department of Defense.
In other words, as the spouse of a Coastguardsman, I was ineligible. Yes, since March 2003 the Coast Guard has fallen under the Department of Homeland Security, but, just like Sojourner Truth said of herself in her infamous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, ain’t I a military spouse?


Read more: http://spousebuzz.com/blog/2012/10/coastie-wife-aint-i-a-military-spouse.html#ixzz2AoRthRwp

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weeks End

Well this day is a bust.  It started at 4am, when Julia woke up for no known reason.  This has been happening more and more frequently.  I try to let her work it out on her own but that just seems to prolong the agony, because it involves me lying awake listening to her whine and whimper and toss and turn. So I go to her and she's immediately happy.  And then I end up nursing her because that's the fastest way to get us both back to sleep.  I stumble back to bed and it seems like I've just drifted off when Jude starts yelling "Poooooops, Mom!  I've gotta go pooopss!!"  Really?  Who gets bowel movement urges before the sun is even up?  I've never heard of such a thing.  Of course he's wide awake, and jumping and loud-whispering and flushing which captures his little sister's attention and the next thing Jon knows is he's getting poked in the eye by his 2 year old and serenaded by giggles from his 1 year old, who are both smothered between us in "Mommy-Daddy bed."  And that my friends, is a good morning.

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Things have been going downhill ever since.  Jack somehow managed to fall backward off the arm of the couch.  Jude got hit by a flying miniature folding chair.  Julia refused all three of my attempts to put her down for a morning nap.  And everyone has been just plain cantankerous.  Take morning devotions, for example.  I got two sentences into it and Jude is sobbing at my knee, trying to climb up on my lap, and Julia has a death grip on my sweatpants (yup, it's been a sweatpants kinda day) and is doing that whining/dancing move she does when she so desperately wants to be held.  And the only one who's being quiet, strangely quiet, is Jack who is mixing some sort of concoction with his oatmeal and whatever other objects he can find within arms reach.

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Morning devotions, or what some people like to call "quiet time."
It's comical, I know laughter is the best medicine but honestly, this morning I just wanted to find a quiet corner, cover my ears and scream for a few minutes.  Instead, I muddle through.  Counting the hours til naptime.  Which is where we are now.  Two babies sleeping and one watching a movie.  I'm in coping mode, sitting by the open door, watching it literally rain leaves in the yard, oscillating between thinking "oh how pretty" and "oh, how much raking we'll have to do this weekend."  I'm nibbling on my third brownie of the day and contemplating brewing a cup of tea but forcing myself to chug this glass of water instead.  I dug out my "Pride and Prejudice" soundtrack.  I actuallly have this sheet music.  And it's moments like these that I would love, love, love to have a piano.  And then I remember it's naptime... and pianos and naptime would hardly work.

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Naptime.  When I should be folding that heaping pile of laundry, sweeping up crumbs from lunch, or devising new ways to keep my boys' bathroom smelling fresh.  Instead, I'll write.  Because writing is therapeutic and heaven knows I need some therapy today.

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Check out that shiner. Strangers stop to ask him how he got it, he just runs away to bury his head in my legs.  But then Jack proudly pipes up with "I throw tubby toy at him!"
Switching gears now, while I grab Brownie #4, and sub out my water (that strangely tastes like penicillin) for some iced tea, and while my music player changes over to the "Sense and Sensibility" soundtrack ... Jon was home this week, all week.  It's nice, or it should be.  Unfortunately, he's been working late most nights and when he's not working late he's at the gym prepping for weigh-ins next week.  Which means he's only home after the kids go to bed, which is basically like not being home at all.  Some nights though, he takes the boys to the gym with him to play in the childcare center.  And that makes a huge difference.

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Another coping mechanism, long walks in the woods.
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When we can't take it anymore, we head to the woods and let the boys run wild.  Meanwhile us civilized ladies hang back and watch the leaves float to the forest floor, listen to the birds chirp and take deep gulps of autumnal scented breezes.
Monday was one of those nights he ended up working late.  Our Small Group meets on Monday nights for a parenting class, so I was on my own to get the 4 of us ready and out the door.  My first mistake was dinner, which I purposely had ready early to give ourselves plenty of time.  It went well and even tasted delicious, one of our favorite recipes where you steam tilapia over greens with a dash of red pepper flakes.  Blast you red pepper flakes for sending the dish over the edge for my boys.  Both of them kept gasping after each bite saying "too hot, Mommy, too hot!"  Ironically, Julia at ALL of hers, albeit a bit slower than usual and not without making a few faces.  So Jack and Jude are trying to clean their plates so they can have a treat at Small Group, meanwhile I'm refilling their water glasses about 5 times during the meal.  Which brings me to the next mistake.

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Jack doesn't understand why it's not hot enough for his pool, but he more than gets when it's cold enough for hot cocoa!
Jack just cannot handle a lot of beverage.  If he drinks one cup of something, anything, he will literally have to go potty 3-5 times in the next hour.  I'm not sure if it's a developmental thing or an actual problem (he's currently visiting the chiropractor right now to see if some adjustments will help with that and his nighttime bedwetting) but for now we just try to be on top of his drinking.  Clearly I wasn't thinking this night.  He went to the bathroom during dinner.  And I made everyone go again before we left, which was surprisingly a little early, and that was good because we didn't get two minutes down the road before Jack started yelling he had to go potty.  So we stopped at the closest known restroom, the grocery store, and I unbuckled everyone, herded them through the parking lot and into Safeway for a potty break.  Except Jude assured me he did not have to go.


Speaking of Jack and restrooms ... he's always giving something a bath while I'm trying to put the other two down for naps ...

Therein lies my third mistake.  Never listen to your child when he tells you he doesn't have to go pee pee.  Always insist they try.  Because again, we didn't get more than 3 minutes down the road before Jude started yelling that he had to go.  And this time I wasn't stopping, because there was no place to stop and we were so close.  Alas, not close enough.  Poor Jude wore wet pants all through Small Group.

The moral of this story is: always wait to add red pepper flakes until AFTER you've dished out the kids' portions.  Or maybe it's: keep a close eye on the amount of water the kids drink right before leaving to go somewhere.  Or perhaps: always make your child try to use the restroom when the opportunity presents itself.  And then again: remember to carry a back-up set of clothes in your bag at all times.  Yes, there are just so many lessons to be had here in just one short evening of my life.

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I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's been a long week.  And I am tired.  And now that it's many, many hours since I started writing this post.  And the kids are in bed.  And I actually did get around to cleaning the bathroom, sweeping the floor and folding all 4 loads of laundry... there is a book on my Kindle calling my name.  Let the weekend begin!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Two Birthdays, One Party

It's birthday month in our family and I did the one thing I promised I wouldn't when we first found our our youngest was due the same week as our oldest's birthday - I combined their celebrations.  I really didn't feel like doing anything, this is my third "first birthday" in four years and I'm kinda over it all.  But I couldn't not throw a party for Julia.  Especially since she may read this blog one day, and she'll certainly look at pictures, and see her brother's parties (here and here).  And then I couldn't throw a party for Julia, and travel home to PA to visit friends and family, without giving a nod to Jack's birthday.  Of the two, he's the one that was actually aware of the significance of this month.  He's only been talking about "Ogtober 12" for weeks and weeks now.

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Jack's birthday morning surprise.
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So we threw a party for Julia and added a little line for Jack at the bottom of the invitation.

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Yup, that's an electronic invite... and I emailed it out less than two weeks before the party.  I was totally on the ball this year.

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A few people wanted to know what the party theme was.  There wasn't a party theme.  Perhaps we should use the word influence, and that would have been: tea by the sea, Portsmouth, England, 1813.  I know, I know, me and my nautical themes.  And I decided to go with a blue and yellow palette, since I wanted to use what I had on hand.  No pink, no purple, apparently I haven't had enough blue these past four years.

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Since we were still setting things up when the guests started to arrive, I did a very poor job of documenting the decor.

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It was fun to plan out my ideas on Pinterest.  I wanted to utilize as much of my own resources as possible - my set of Blue Willow dishes, a dress that Marmie had picked up at a yard sale last year, a headband I made from material scraps, tablecloths that I had around the house and food that would be easy to make or buy.  In the end, the only thing I ended up buying was material, and a significant portion of that is destined to be turned into a valence in our living room.

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I always say I'm going to keep things low-key and yet we still ended up with over 30 people that stopped by.  I specifically avoided meal time so I could get away with less food.  Okay, that's not entirely true.  10:00am actually worked best with Julia's napping.  But it also meant we could do brunch foods and I gotta say, quiche is so delectable in miniature form.

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And of course, Marmie made the cakes.
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Jack specifically requested a dump truck with dirt.
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And thankfully my brother Micah graciously opened up his home to our party and guests. His house is a great central location for both of our families and he's always happy to host friends for the day! I'm sure it's not easy for a bachelor to clean and prep for guests, plus he helped me by picking up some of the food the morning of the party. Oh yeah, and he also raked up this big pile of leaves as a place for the kids to burn energy. I think it was a success!

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Present opening is always a bit crazy, times that by two and it was nearly chaos.  I was just trying to unwrap toys fast enough that each of the kids quickly crowding in would have something to occupy them and stop fighting over the first thing that got opened!

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Thank you Uncle Micah for the Billy Bob binky.
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Funny story about this doll...

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Girlfriend was being all sweet on her.  Lovin' up on dolly, giving hugs and big, drooly open-mouthed kisses.

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Then I turn around and the next thing I know she's got a little plastic knife and is literally trying to saw Baby's arm off.  Like actually making sawing motions on the dolls arm.  And then she starts stabbing Dolly in the eye.

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All I can say is, it's a good thing Lia's got some baby dolls now because she could definitely use a little practice in the caretaking department.

So we survived gift-giving and the resulting toy explosion.  I think we even got away without leaving any small pieces behind.  And we partied.  At the end of the day we met my goal, and that was to celebrate the life of my little girl and big boy. They're pretty cool kids.

And I think that should be enough first birthday parties for a while now ...

Friday, October 19, 2012

A grand ole time

We were honored to have Jon's grandparents come visit two weeks ago.  I'm sure the 6-7 hour drive was tough enough, but then to spend 4 days with our clan?  Well, let's just say the kids were just a tad excited ...

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Look at that air!

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Of course, anyone who has visited us before knows how Jude works.  He starts out at Jack's level of excitement and often he'll be the first one out the door, but generally changes his mind about halfway down the driveway.

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Julia is still getting lessons on how to say hello.

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Prior to their arrival I was working on some grape jam from the bounty of Uncle Jared's vine.  Jude was helping, as usual.  We had just finished up the batch and left the jars to cool on the counter when the Grands arrived and the fesitivities began.  Oh, and one other thing.  Jack pulled out a jar of pepper jelly from the pantry earlier that day.  I believe I said something along the lines of "put that back, it's for Daddy" and he somehow interpreted it as "this is a special treat for Daddy and Grandpa" because one of the first things he did when Grandpa arrived was tell him about the pepper jelly.  And then he ran inside and was showing Grandpa the jar of jelly before he even had a chance to say hello to the rest of us.

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And then there's the little brother, who doesn't want to be left out.  He decides he needs to show Grandpa his own jelly and goes to grab a jar sitting on the counter.  A jar that is still cooling and doesn't have a lid.  A jar whose contents he sends flailing down the wall and onto the floor.  So, instead of greeting and hugging the grandparents upon their arrival, I was scooping up handfuls of hot jam off the floor.

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And THAT was the start of our fun-filled long weekend.

I think the grandparents brought some of the cool fall weather from New York down with them. One of the first things we did was light a fire and we kept it going all weekend.  Since we hadn't seen Grammie and Grandpa since Christmas, we had a lot of catching up to do.  And next to the crackling logs was the perfect place for chatting.

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In fact, most of our time together consisted of just plain old visiting.

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Grammie and Julia have a little game they play - Grammie moves in close and Julia whacks her in the face.
And of course watching the little ones. 

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Grammie and Grandpa put up with a LOT this weekend.
Or doing both at the same time.  Goodness, they're entertaining.  And just a little excited ... even after the third day.

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Good thing Grandpa is tough!
During their stay, we invited Grammie's cousins over for dinner.  Grammie has some extended family in the area that she visits when she comes to see us.  Since we had never met, and since it's a lot harder for us to take our little brood places, we decided to have everyone here.  Jon's been looking for an excuse to do a seafood boil and we finally had our chance.  And let me tell you, when my huband offers to do the cooking, I just step back and let him have the kitchen.

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He did a phenomenal job.  We used three different recipes but this one has the gist of it. 

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Clams, muscles, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn and eggs!  My mouth waters just thinking of it!
But no meal with Jon's grandparents would be complete without finishing it off with a slice of Grammie's famous pecan pie.  She never comes visiting without one!

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We had a wonderful time celebrating the many generations in our family and look forward to our next encounter!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Life at home

I'm now in my third week of being a stay-at-home mom.  I've been mulling over this post for a while now, trying to figure out just exactly how our life has changed in these past three weeks.  I'm still not sure.  One thing I will say though, I certainly have more peace.  Not having work constantly in the back of my mind has been a huge stress relief.  I didn't even realize how much it was weighing on me until it was gone.  Of course, it didn't happen all at once.  Although technically my last day of work was a Friday, I ended up working on a report over the weekend that I emailed out on Sunday night.  And then suddenly on Monday, when my boss had a few questions about the report, I found myself cut off from my computer and email account, which brought on a frantic set of emails, calls, and texts until things were sorted out.  And then another co-worker called with a question.  And my boss texted me a few times about another possible job opening that didn't pan out.  Ironically, my first day not working felt very much like a regular work day.  But by the end of the day things quieted down.  It's been silent ever since.  I've finally stopped checking my phone every few minutes.  I no longer turn my computer on first thing in the morning.  And I can sit down to read my book without worrying that I didn't clean off my task list.  Yes, life is certainly more relaxed.

Well, as relaxed as it gets with three little ones.  I was all set to dedicate my first day off the job to my kids - the park, a walk, lots of books ... and then our small group leader called to say her son was sick and could we have small group at our house that night?  So I ended up spending the entire day cleaning my house, making apple pies, and paying very little attention to my children.

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So I decided we'd do something fun the next day.  I drove us all down to the consignment store (20 minutes away).  I even packed a lunch for the kids.  We pulled into the parking lot, my excited children jumped out of the car, and then I realized I had forgotten my wallet.  I had grabbed coats, lunches, drinks, toys, the boys' favorite music... But somehow neglected to grab my purse.  So then I had to explain to the kids that we were only window shopping and after a quick swing through the store in which I pretended I couldn't find what I was looking for, I lured them back to the car with promises of a trip to Target.  (This wasn't all a get-of-the-house-ploy, we were actually looking for sneakers for Julia.)  So we turned around, headed home to get my purse and then back out on the road where we got sidetracked by Goodwill.  We love Goodwill.  We don't love that they don't have restrooms.  My kids enjoy playing in the toy section so much that they will neglect to tell me they have to go potty... until it's too late.  So we had one accident in the thrift store.  Or so I thought.  Later I got home and realized one of my children had had another accident, of the more stinky variety, but rather then tell me or do something about it, he chose to play for another hour before I finally realized something didn't smell right.

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We took care of that, and since I was in the cleaning mood, I decided to tear apart Julia's carseat which she had smeared with her lunch that afternoon.  While I'm working out buckles and straps she wonders off towards the steps and soon I hear that heart-stopping "thump thump smack ... scream!"  Now, she had just fallen down the steps a few days earlier and was fine.  Thankfully we only have 6 steps in our split-level.  But this time was different.  She was really screaming.  And there was a little blood in her nose.  And 20 minutes later I still couldn't get her calmed down.  I couldn't tell if she was really in pain or just really tired.  Eventually, after some rocking and nursing, she fell asleep in my arms and I laid her in the crib to keep a close eye on her over the next few hours.

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When she woke up it was clear she was going to get a black eye.  Her nose was also a little swollen too.  In fact, she couldn't breathe out of it.  And when she tried, it made this strange clicking sound. I noticed all this while she was lying on the changing table and I suddenly felt queasy.  Then the room started to spin and the corners of my eyes grew dark.  I'm not typically a weak person, I don't get sick too easily, I practically delivered my own baby for goodness sake.  So I don't know what was going on.  All I know is that I was certain shes had broken her nose and it was all my fault.  It was a horrible feeling.  I kept one hand on my half-naked baby, still lying on the changing table, and crouched down on my knees until it passed, meanwhile Jude is standing next to me trying to pass off another one of his boogers.

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Anyway, to make a long story short I did call the nurse (as well as a few other people) who reassured me she thought Julia was fine.  She had her 1 year check-up the following morning and the doctor confirmed her face was just a little bruised and swollen and nothing was broken.  I thought for sure she'd be black and blue for her birthday pictures but surprisingly it cleared up within a day.  Babies really are so very resilient.

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We did put a baby gate up but Julia hasn't attempted the stairs since then.  And she now has two watchful older brothers that keep me apprised of her every move.

So yeah, so peaceful around here.  And when I'm not taking kids to doctors appointments (we've had 3 in 3 weeks) we're taking cars to "car doctors" (what my boys call the mechanics).  We had two cars in the shop at the same time last week, and had to get a rental so Jon could get to work.  Which meant lots of driving, driving, driving.  Picking up, dropping off ... and picking up and dropping off. My kids were so sick of being in the car by the end of the week.  Because there are errands too.  Now that I actually have time to run them they've seemed to multiply - Groceries, Target, CVS, the library, birthday gift shopping (we have 5 birthdays in the family in October), MOPs at church...

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In other words, I'm still waiting for life to settle down.  For that opportunity to really get organized.  To fully delve into homemaking.  It's going to happen, right?  Nearly three weeks in, and I'm still waiting for it. 
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