Wednesday, December 26, 2007

So this is Christmas...

I'm not too sure how many of the events that have taken place over the last week I should go in to, because I'm guessing it will become one of those long dragged out posts where people log on and go, Whoa, I don't have time to read that! So I'll attempt a brief overview, which is certain to turn into a long dragged out post. You've been forewarned.
Let's start, briefly, with last week Wednesday. We are almost ready to leave for Wisconsin for the holidays. I wanted to leave early because there was some sort of snow storm headed for the midwest and I might need the extra day of travel. I loosely use the phrase "almost ready" because I wasn't actually packed, didn't have the house clean so my friend could come feed the cats, and had a small list of errands that needed to be done. Along with all the things I hadn't finished on Wednesday, we add that the dog needs to see the vet because he wouldn't walk on his front left foot. And Louisa needed to see the doctor because of a bump on her foot that has been bothering her for far too long. Can't get either in until Thursday. Great, that gives me another day to get the house clean and packed and all that fun stuff.
Thursday brings two doc appointments, and..... not much of anything else. Didn't pack much, didn't clean much. Can we say Procrastinate? Yes, I'm the queen. I was packed and ready by 6:00 pm Thursday evening. We were going to stop and get a Happy Meal on the road. The kids were in the car, very excited. I planned on driving 6 hours to Little Rock and stopping for the night. All I had to do was lock a rolling cover I have on the bed of my truck. The lock doesn't always click right away and sometimes I have to jimmy it a little. Unfortunately, I jimmied it way too much and pulled out the roll out cover way too far. It got stuck and I could not get the tailgate up. I worked on it for about two hours with some tools and a flashlight. Finally gave up since it was way too late and I didn't want to drive until 2:00 in the morning. The kids and I grabbed Husband's truck and went to get some very late dinner. Then I put them to bed and finished some cleaning I hadn't gotten done.
In the morning I told the kids we'd be on the road by 10:00 and we'd stop and get some donuts. Noon came along and we still weren't on the road and the roll up cover was still stuck. A maintenance worker came to put a new storm door on my house. When he was finished, he noticed I was futzing with my truck and asked if he could help. I showed him how the cover was jammed, and in literally two seconds he had it pulled out and working fine. figures. As happy as I was to get on the road, I was very frustrated at all the work I put in to something that took a man two seconds to fix.
We hit the road and drove for 8 hours, stopping in Memphis. We stayed at a hotel that cost us $44 total, and was actually more comfortable than some beds that I've paid over $100 for. However, a sketchy side of town, which I'm sure is part of the reason for the price break.
We got up and ate at Cracker Barrel and then took off for our last leg of the trip. A 10 hour push to Wisconsin. We made it in a little more than 10, but at least it was uneventful. The kids rode well, we watched a lot of movies on our portable DVD player, and it wasn't as hard a drive as I thought it would be.
So, we've been here since late Saturday night and we've been busy every day. My mom, Louisa, my sister, and I got to see the Milwaukee Ballet's Nutcracker on Sunday, which Louisa loved. And Christmas Eve was spent at my sister's house, which is right around the block from my parent's house. My sister had a friend dress as Santa and come give the kids presents. Hunter freaked (in a good way) when he saw Santa walk in the door. He was so excited! Christmas day we did the present thing and saw Alvin and the Chipmunks. Today was finally nice enough for the kids to play outside. I do not miss this Wisconsin cold. This is a bitter cold that sticks to your bones. I'm glad today was a little warmer.
Christmas without daddy was a little hard for all of us. I think we all had some tears at some point. He had bought them a present and had it sent to my parents house so they could open it Christmas morning. We were instant messaging with him while the kids opened it. They were stuffed animals that have a special code so you can register them with the International Star Registry, as well as registering for your own star. So now the kids have stars that daddy can look for.
But most sad is daddy. He spent Christmas in country 7200 miles from here, alone, on an "American" base that did not once recognize that it was Christmas. No special meal, no decorations, no "Merry Christmas". Just him and a buddy watching It's a Wonderful Life, and that was all the Christmas he got. That's how soldiers really spend Christmas. Not, the special dinners they show on the evening news.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Umm.... We're still here

We're still here as in, we have not left Louisiana yet. Still here.
Louisa has a thing on her foot, like a bump thing. She says it's starting to bother her pretty bad, so I said we would try to get her in to the doctor quick before we left this morning. Our clinic only takes same-day appointments, so you have to call right when the appointment lines open at 7:15 am. I waited on hold for 15 minutes only to be told that, in 15 minutes, all the appointments were gone. Wow! But, it's that time of year. Everyone is taking off to go home this week, and everyone needs to get in quick before they go for whatever reason. Sometimes the clinic does take pity on us and give us an appointment for the next day if we are in dire need. This is dire need. So they are squeezing us in tomorrow morning.
If that wasn't fun enough of an adventure, the dog has an owie on his foot. It's swollen and he can't walk on it too well. So, I call the vet at about 12:45 this afternoon. They close at noon on Wednesdays. Why?! Why does it just happen to be Wednesdays that they close at noon?! That is another thing added to my list tomorrow. I hope to be on the road by noon, but somehow, I don't see it happening.
I am not going to stress. If I stress, then my stomach pain acts up. That is the last thing I need. A two day car trip with stomach pain. We'll get there when we get there.
On another note, I have to give a HUGE thank you to my friend Jen, who loves us so much that she sent a snowglobe to Hunter all the way from Idaho! Thank You Jen!! Hunter is a happy boy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

I'm really not dreaming of a white Christmas, but I don't have a choice. I'm getting one. The north has been bombarded with *feet* of cold, white stuff. (I hate cold. I hate being cold. I hate being near anything that is cold.)
Tomorrow the kids and I, and dog, will pack up and hit the road. Wisconsin or bust. I must be half insane to do this on my own. My sister made the trip last spring. But it was warmer, and she has one tween/teen who can go to the bathroom by himself.
This time, it's cold, I have a dog who won't pee in the cold, and two out of three kids who need to be watched in the bathroom or changed.
But, without Husband here for Christmas, we want to make it as special as we can for the kids. Everyone is chipping in and doing their part. My sister has a little "Santa" surprise lined up for them on Christmas Eve, my dad is treating the girls (me, Louisa, mom, sister) to the Nutcracker Ballet in Milwaukee, my husband's brother is making a rare trip from Arizona to Wisconsin, so my inlaws will have almost all their grandchildren together in one place.
Although something is very obviously missing this year, we plan on keeping the kids busy.
Now, if only someone can invent a car that drives all by itself, and doesn't have to stop for gas, we would be all set.
Hmm.... maybe we should take the train.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Today I thank God for Technology

My father-in-law served a year in Vietnam as a Marine sometime around '69-'70. He faithfully wrote my mother-in-law a letter every single week. Once, two weeks went by before she received one and she was very worried. In today's war, families of casualties are notified within 48 hours. In Vietnam, that wasn't always the case. When she finally did get his letter, she was very relieved. He could call her, but the connection was fairly weak and they couldn't hear eachother too well. Letters were their main source of communication. At the time, they didn't have any kids yet, and eventhough he was stationed out of California, she lived at home in Wisconsin with her family.
Last year when my husband was in Afghanistan, he did not have a computer. No internet connection in the tents he slept in. His unit was somewhat nomadic, never staying at one FOB (Forward Operating Base) for too long. They did their mission and moved on. I got phone calls about every two weeks. No letters, and no email. Sometimes they'd have down time and I'd get a call every day for about a week, then they'd be off again and it would be two weeks before I heard from him.
Now that he's in Iraq and in a real barracks, I get to talk to him much more often. He has a laptop and internet connection in his room (that we pay out the roof for, but it's worth it). So we get to instant message pretty much every day. It sure beats him waiting in line to make a 20 minute phone call, which he usually cuts short because the lines are so long.
Also this time around, we have added a new feature to our communication. Webcams! A few days ago I bought us each a webcam. I still have to mail his to him, but I hooked ours up and this morning he got to see us.
We told Hunter to look at the camera and say Hi Daddy. So he grabbed the camera, shoved it up to his face and said, "Hello? Daddy?" Then handed it back to me, shook his head and said, "No Daddy." So no, Daddy wasn't actually in the camera. Daddy was amused by Hunter looking for him, though. I'm sure he saw up Hunter's nose a little more than he needed to!
Between his slow internet and my really old computer, we had a few freeze ups, but it didn't matter. It was just nice for him to see us. And we are excited to be able to see him when he gets his set up.
38 years ago, in a war that many people say is similar to this one, I wonder if my inlaws could ever imagine talking to eachother over a computer complete with video camera!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Video

Last night we went to make Daddy a Christmas Video. Very strange experience.
On the way there, we were getting Hunter to say "Merry Christmas Daddy!" and other such happy little greetings. Unfortunately, Hunter took it the wrong way. He thought we were actually going to *see* Daddy. He was disappointed when we got there and Daddy was not to be found. Hunter ran straight into the video room, looked around, and when he realized Daddy wasn't actually there, he got a sad little look and said, "Aww". Followed by a little sigh as if to say, Disappointed again.
Before we went in, Louisa started futzing with her hair. Something she's usually not worried about. "How does my hair look?" I said it looked cute and that it didn't really matter. "I have to look good for Daddy!" she replied.
The room was decorated very cute. There was a fireplace.... taped to the wall. A tree with ornaments. A couch draped in red satin. Poinsettias spread around here and there.
We sat on the couch and the guy wrote Husband's name on a dry-erase board to be sure it goes to the right soldier.
I got Hunter to say Hi to the camera. I think we got him to say that he saw Santa and ate some cookies, and then he was off to play with the ornaments on the tree. After all, he has no clue why we're talking to an empty room with a camera in it. Drew and Louisa talked about school and sports and sang "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells".
We got up to 5 minutes and I think we made it through 3 1/2 before there was a lull in the one-sided conversation and I told the kids to say the usual closing remarks, Merry Christmas, We love you, We miss you.
When we got done, my friend and her brood of 4 were outside the room coloring Christmas pictures that the nice people who set this up had waiting for us. They went in and we sat down and colored pics for Daddy.
A few minutes later the 1st Sgt's family walked in all decked out in their Redskins jerseys, toting their two chihuahuas. They had "Dad's" jersey with them as well. Kinda made me more sad then when I was doing our video. In the midst of my grief, I often times forget other families have someone they miss, too.
Not too many of us took the opportunity to make a video. I think that more than anything, it helps the kids out. As much as the guys love seeing us, it helps the kids to know they are doing something for Daddy (or Mommy). Something to help cheer them up a little.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Journal

I bought Drew and Louisa these deployment journals from Amazon. They are really nice. They have prompts to help them write about the deployment and their feelings. There's a calendar to record special days. During deployments, kids still need to have all those special days recognized. Life can't stop for them just because mom or dad is gone for a year. Another thing I like about this journal is that it includes all military branches, as well as all different kinds of deployments. Long before Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom, soldiers and marines and sailors and airmen went on other kinds of deployments that civilians probably don't realize. We still have troops in South Korea. When a soldier is stationed there for a year, often times their families cannot follow. Navy and Marines have a big base in Japan, and many times when they are stationed there, their families do not follow. So this journal also keeps those types of deployments in mind. Iraq is not the only place to get deployed to. Last year when my husband was in Afghanistan, people would give me the "oh, ONLY Afghanistan" look when I said where he was. Apparently some people don't watch the news.
Both kids grabbed pencils (well, okay, Drew grabbed a sharpie!) and started writing as soon as we got home from the spouses meeting I had to attend. The kids are like me in so many ways, and one is that they like to get their feelings out by writing them. So I knew they'd love these journals.
But that got me thinking. There are so many other aspects of life that kids could journal about if only given the prompts to do it. Why not keep some cheap notebooks handy (and believe me, we do!) and when a situation arises, write some prompts on the tops of the pages so they can write how they feel. Or even draw. Drawing journals are just as important. Ask a few basic questions about the situation that the kids can answer so they can figure things out in their head. I have done similar activities with Louisa before and it has helped her work through some issues.

All of this started because a friend sent me this link to this book! And then I ended up buying several more books that all have to do with daddy being gone and missing him. (Online shopping is one of the evilest things ever created!)

Last night I stayed up putting pictures of Daddy and the kids in frames, and laminating a few pictures for Hunter to carry around. He was carrying around a pic of Daddy that needs to be retired because it has been hugged so much. So I think the laminated ones might last longer.
Tonight we're going to make a Christmas video for Daddy. I'm doing it more for the kids than for him because they feel happy when they are doing something for him. They feel better knowing Daddy will have this little video to watch, although really I've sent him several videos already. A few of the ladies at the wives meeting wondered what they would say in front of the camera for 5 minutes. All I have to say is Drew + Hunter + sugar= entertainment!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas, Christmas, and More Christmas!

I was completely over-stimulated with Christmas events this weekend. Saturday brought us not one, but two holiday parades. And Sunday was a little event called Cocoa with Mrs. Claus.

Every year the on-post housing people host a Christmas parade that comes right through the housing areas. I think a lot of bases have these because I remember there was a lamer version of this when we were stationed in Savannah.

We live right on the main road that comes through our housing section, so all the kids and I had to do was step outside when we saw the parade start to come. Louisa had grabbed two plastic bags in case there was candy. Oh boy was there candy! The kids ended up filling the bags about half-way and I really think we got more candy from this little parade than we did at Halloween.

Later in the evening, we went to the lighted parade in town. We met up with several friends, the kids got to run around, and I got to sit and talk with real grown-ups. (There are days when I start to wonder what real conversations are like!)

There were barriers set up on the side of the streets, which made getting the candy quite difficult. We didn't get near as much candy, not because they didn't throw it, but because they didn't get it over the barriers for us to catch. My heart was aching when I saw all those un-reachable Laffy Taffy's sitting over on the other side, just begging to be taken home and eaten!

It was a long parade and Hunter enjoyed all the lights. He was screaming for joy and pointing at everything that came by. I don't know who had more fun, Hunter watching the parade, or me watching Hunter. Louisa, as always, enjoyed sitting next to her baby brother and pointing things out to him and watching his happy little face. It's so interesting to try and guess what little guys are thinking when it comes to stuff like this. Does he wonder why he's sitting on a curb at night watching cars with lights on them go by and collecting candy that mom keeps grabbing out of his hand because he just scarfed down 4 pieces?

Of course, a parade isn't a parade without one of the kids getting lost and then walking around with a policeman who's trying to help them find mom and dad again. This time Drew happened to take that prize.

Sunday, besides being my sleep-in day, brought us another Christmassy fun day. I'm so blessed with children who like to sleep in like mama does! After we all finally got up and ready to go, we headed to the youth center for Cocoa with Mrs. Claus. I told Hunter we were going to see Santa, and he went to his room to grab his Santa hat. Apparently you can't go see Santa without your Santa hat, which he wore proudly the whole way there.

When we got there, the parking lot was full, which then means we have to go park somewhere else and take a shuttle. That's very typical on this base. Most places where they hold events don't have adequate parking, so they have you park in another place and then shuttle you to the event. This was the first time that we had to actually do it, though. We just drove down the block to a credit union to park. I've never seen anyone as excited to ride a bus as Hunter was. I think that was probably the most exciting event (that he remembers) in his little life! He jumped right up on the seat next to the window, tapping the seat next to him and telling me to "sit down". His excitement in the very short ride was over flowing, until we got there and he saw the big blow-up Santa! Of which Hunter ran straight up and gave a big hug to.

Inside, the line to actually see the real Santa was far too long for me to even think about standing in. Plus, now that we've experienced the purple & gold Santa, the regular one just isn't as exciting. And really, how many pictures with Santa do we need in one year? We could have had our pictures with Mrs. Claus, as she spent most of the time walking around.

We played games, bounced on bouncies, made a craft, made cards for Daddy and other deployed soldiers, and of course drank cocoa. Drew had about 5 cups, I think. He thought it was very funny when the lady told him he was a returning customer! Oh, and I can't forget Louisa's big win. She won a cake in the cake-walk. She loves doing cake-walks, she always wins. Which was perfect for me because that evening we were having dinner at a friend's house and I volunteered to bring dessert. Thanks, Louisa!

If the trip to the youth center on the shuttle wasn't exciting enough for Hunter, the trip home was doubly exciting. We went to wait outside when we had done just about everything there was to do, and when Hunter saw the bus approaching he ran, screaming, into the parking lot as if he just won the lottery. He was jumping and running around and yelling "mama, bus! mama, bus!" He reminded me of Buddy on the movie Elf when he found out that Santa was coming to the department store! Who knew a bus would cause this much excitement in Hunter's life.

Now I'm Christmased out for the week. LSU Santa on Friday, two parades on Saturday, Cocoa with Mrs. Claus on Sunday! Who knew you could pack so much Christmas into one weekend.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Louisa, Drew, and Hunter meet the LSU Santa in Purple and Gold Land

You know how some states could care less about their professional teams because they have college teams that are worshipped from one end of the state to the other? It doesn't even matter if you went to that school. You're still a Tiger, or Bulldog, or a Gator. You grew up wearing their colors, watching your dad scream at the TV every Saturday, and celebrating the big wins as if you were on that team and contributed personally.

That's Louisiana. Around here they say, Saints, who? This is 100% Tiger country. They bleed purple and gold here. Even if you've never been to Baton Rouge, LSU is YOUR school, and YOUR team.
That brings me to the interesting situation we encountered tonight. (And I realize the timestamp at the top will say Saturday, but by "tonight" I mean Friday since I haven't gone to bed yet.) Do you ever wish you would have read the paper before heading out and driving an hour to do something special with the family? Like checked to make sure that special thing would still be there, or that the special thing didn't have any weird events going on such as "Purple and Gold day"?
Well, ladies and, well, it's probably mostly just ladies.... I give you, the Purple and Gold LSU Santa Claus!


I'm sure you understand that when you scan one of those flimsy printer pictures, you don't get good quality. These pictures don't really do this Santa justice. He was all decked out in true Tiger colors, and if I hadn't opted for the little border the kids thought was so cute, you'd see the gold and purple trees that surrounded him.
Here we are walking through the mall tonight with two missions. One, see Santa. Two, get mom new shoes because mom only owns 3 comfy pairs and the dog chewed one up and peed on the other two. That leaves mom with no comfy everyday-shoes.
Mission one, we approach the Santa-Land thingy with much anticipation. We've driven an hour just for this.... and we find the LSU Santa..... um..... what did I miss? There is a big sign behind me that says "This weekend only! Have your picture taken with Santa wearing Purple And Gold! Go Tigers!"
yipee.
Louisa (gosh I love her, and her smart mouth.... ) "Mom! How could you come on the ONLY weekend he's wearing LSU colors?" Gee, I don't know. Maybe because I never in a million years thought we'd come across a Santa wearing purple and gold! We're from Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Badgers are red and white! We don't have this issue up there! And if Santa wants to dress up with a cheesehead and the Packer green and gold, well that's cool! Purple and gold just isn't quite the same.
It's all in fun, though. The kids sat and told Santa those few things they accidentally left off their lists, and let him know that they will be at Grandma and Grandpa's house this year so please bring their presents up there.
As we left the mall, Louisa and infinite silver lining says, "Well, at least we can tell our kids someday about coming to the mall with grandma when we were little and getting our pictures taken with a LSU Santa!" And then Drew piped in, "Ya, and my son will play football at LSU so he'll think it's cool!"
Ixnay on the LSU-ay! Don't ever let your grandpa hear you say that!
So thus ends our day in Purple and Gold Land. May it be awhile before we have to return.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Isn't Snow Globe One Word?

Some "yadda yadda" things to get out of the way quick.
1) Thank you for the feedback on the boys' video. And to answer questions, yes, they really do act like that all the time! There is never, ever, a dull moment in my house.
2) Thank you for the wonderful support I've gotten the past week and a half. So far, I'm doing okay. Really. No, I'm not just saying that. This is my take on deployments, worrying does nothing. Lamenting does nothing. Being mad at the army or at the government does nothing (although from time to time it makes me feel much better!). I give all my worries over to God and let Him take care of Husband. Husband is awesome at his job, and I have 100% confidence in his ability to protect himself and his guys as much as he can. Bad stuff happens, but worrying has never once stopped it from happening. But yes, I will come on here every now and then and lament and cry and whine, but I'm an emotional woman, and because 15 months is a really long freakin time!
3) No, I haven't started the makeover on my blog yet, in part thanks to my friend Sandy who decided to throw a whole bunch more pictures at me, along with telling me to "think" about it before I went and did something. Um... ya.... thanks for the wrench, Sandy! :)

Okay, now to the point of my post. Hunter.

We have all, at some point, bought something for a gift and ended up giving it to our kids because they were just so darn cute when they were playing with it. Right? Yes? (Just play along here.)
I have this dumb battery operated snow globe that I bought for a "white elephant" gift for the playgroup Christmas party, and Hunter has adopted it. Well, he's more claimed it, and any time I try to take it back he uses his new favorite word at me, "MINE!" But he's so cute when he's playing with it. His face lights up, he loves the songs it plays, he loves the snow blowing around all magical-like. How can I possibly be so mean-hearted as to take it away when he loves it so much? Yes, a normal mom would stick to her guns and firmly say no, no, that's not yours, and give it as the gift it was meant to be.
I'm not really a normal mom. I give in too easy, and my kids are spoiled beyond belief. But, I was going to "half-way" stick to my guns. I put the snow globe away, and marched right over to Wal-Mart... to buy Hunter another one. Yes, I hang my head in shame. The problem? They were sold out, and no, they probably won't get more because it's a seasonal item and they don't really re-order seasonal items. Okay, Hunter, you can't have a battery operated snow globe.... unless I can find one at the other Wal-Mart for you. I know, I know, shame, shame, shame.
But he's so cute!
No, the other Wal-Mart in the other town by us does not have anymore either. Who knew a stupid Wal-Mart snow globe would be so popular?
I put the thing away because I know I don't have the money or the time to go find another white elephant gift. But tonight, he found it. Hidden in my closet. Apparently not very well. Awwww!!!!!!! He's so cute with it!


Must. Be. Strong.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Because you have to see the boys in action to appreciate their silliness

We were waiting for Louisa while she was cheering at a football game the other night when Drew and Hunter started their normal silliness. Drew being weird, and Hunter following.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Makeover, Antique Pics, and Christmas Cards

I'm so excited! We're getting a makeover! Not like the Mary Kay kind, but the blog kind. I was looking around at different blog designers and found Goofy Girl who did my friend Nikki's blog. (Yes, Nikki, I just linked you again!) I checked out Goofy Girl's portfolio and liked what I saw. Also, her prices weren't overly unreasonable like other blog designers I looked at. So, we're working on it, but soon we're getting a whole new look!

About two months ago, one of my playgroup mommies announced that her MOPS group was doing a fundraiser. For $10 we got a sitting with this Antiquities photography place, and a 10x13 size print. A lot of the playgroup mommies snatched up the opportunity. All of us strongly stating that we were ONLY getting the free 10x13. That was it. No packages for us. Just the free one.
Um..... I don't think many of us stuck to that. When I went to see the pictures on Wednesday, there were 4 poses of each kid, and two group poses. The photographer chose the nicer of the two group photos to be my free 10x13, but I, of course, needed to have at least one pose of each kid. But I had to buy the whole package that came with that pose. Needless to say, I spent way too much money, but it was worth it. How often do the kids get to get dressed up and take such fun pictures?
Louisa was a little apprehensive when she saw the sea foam green, lacy dress they gave her to put on (she's *not* a dress person). Once she got changed and saw the background she got excited. Although, when the photographer gave her a red velvet hat to put on, she ran over to me and said, "Mom, this doesn't match my dress!" I showed her samples of the sepia pictures the photographer had, and then she understood he was using contrasting colors because it would show up better in the picture at the end.
{This is the free 10x13 print}


Now I'm trying to work on getting Christmas cards ready. I usually don't like to send them quite so early, but we have a busy December coming up. If I don't get them done now, I'll probably forget. Then the 20th will sneak up on me, I'll leave for our trip to Wisconsin, and come home in January to a big stack of cards that never got sent.
My list of people I'm sending to grew much bigger this year. Not that I'm complaining because it means I'll *get* more cards! The first year Husband and I were married, I think we got about 10 Christmas cards total. And I gave about 30. The next year I only gave 15 or so. I have no idea why I remember this kind of stuff!

Oh, and if you get bored and have nothing to do (ya right!) go Elf Yourself! It's quite entertaining.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Long Way from Home


I have to thank the *Angels* who took pictures of our guys for us when they were on a short layover in Maine the other day. The Freeport Flag Ladies, and the Maine Troop Greeters greet every incoming military plane. They personally shake every servicemember's hand, and take pictures of everyone they can. Then they post the pictures online for families to see. We were all very excited to wade through the pictures of "our guys".
May God Bless those who give our troops such incredible support.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas list thingy

I've been tagged by Snowflake.
In turn, I'm tagging Jen, and Nikki.

1.) Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate, but it must be made with milk.

2.) Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa, who is very evil because he takes the credit for all my hard work, wraps them. But honestly, would it matter? Do the kids even notice they are wrapped?

3.) Colored lights on tree/house or white? Gotta have color!

4.) Do you hang mistletoe? no, I've never hung mistletoe

5.) When do you put your decorations up? they usually go up the first weekend after Thanksgiving, but this year the kids and I are driving ALL the way up to Wisconsin for Christmas, so we aren't decorating here

6.) What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? um.... excluding dessert? I don't think I have any besides desserts! I love these cheesy potatoes that we always make for holidays. My grandma used to get this really yummy colored, braided bread for every holiday that I miss

7.) Favorite Christmas memory as a child? my sister and I sneaking down to check under the tree long before we woke our parents up

8.) When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I was about 9 and my mom suggested that Santa might like Diet Coke instead of milk with his cookies. Also, "Santa" gave me a couple of shirts that I saw in my mom's closet one day.

9.) Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes, I always got to open one when I was little, and I let my kids open a gift on Christmas Eve now. It's almost always PJ's and an ornament, though. I like to give them the "boring" gifts so that the meaning isn't overshadowed by all the fun stuff on Christmas morning.

10.) How do you decorate your Christmas tree? we have a potpouri-type of tree. there are all sorts of ornaments on it and they all mean something or have a story behind them.

11.) Snow! Love it or Dread it? I have never liked snow. Eventhough I grew up in Wisconsin, I have always hated being cold, and I don't like being in the cold snow. It is pretty to look at while I'm in my warm house, though!

12.) Can you ice skate? I've been known to throw on some ice skates from time to time. I was probably much better when I was younger because my friends and i would either go to the roller skating rink or ice skating rink every Sunday.

13.) Do you remember your favorite gift? when I was 6 I had to have something called an Air Jammer Road Rammer. I used to say it so fast my parents had no clue what I was asking for. It didn't matter to me because Santa knew! I did get it and I think it was one of my favorites.

14.) What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? remembering that our Savior was given to us (eventhough it wasn't exaclty on Dec. 25th!), and giving gifts to people I care about to let them know how much they mean to me

15.) What is your favorite holiday desert? is chocolate a holiday dessert? I like pie, and Christmas cookies, and just about any other holiday thing with sugar in it

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? decorating the tree, and putting up the Nativity with the kids. We have serveral that we like to put up and we talk about each "character" as we place them in their spot

17.) What tops your tree? A star

18.) Which do you prefer giving or receiving? I like to get tons of gifts every year! Nah!! Really I love shopping for people, finding the perfect gift, and hopefully seeing a happy face when they open it (if all goes well!)

19.) What is your favorite Christmas Song? I like "Silver Bells", Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", Beach Boy's "Little St. Nick", Burl Ives "Holly Jolly Christmas"... I could probably go on and on with favorite Christmas songs

20.) Favorite Christmas Movie? like songs, there are just way too many movies that I HAVE to see every year. Besides the classics like A Christmas Story, White Christmas, Miracle On 34th Street, Christmas Carol (preferably the Muppets version), and It's a Wonderful Life, I also love the newer ones like Santa Clause, Elf, Grinch, etc.

21.) What do you leave for Santa? usually the standard cookies and milk

Monday, November 26, 2007

One down, 454 to go

Actually, we can't really do the countdown thing with this deployment. This unit is so crazy. They change their minds a dozen times, and when we think we know for sure what the plan is, they change it up on us again. So I refuse to do a countdown, except maybe quietly in my head.
It was so hard to know what to do yesterday. Our last day with Husband, luckily, went slow. The clock ticked each minute slowly as if it knew we needed the extra time. But I found myself wondering what to do and what to say. How do I fit in enough "I love yous" before he leaves? How do I make sure he has enough hugs and kisses to last until we see him again?
Try as he might, Husband found the smiles a little difficult to form. His eyes were not happy. His mouth was turned down. Not enough for the kids to see, but wives see everything. He watched the kids play, and tried to be with them every second he was here. His heart was very heavy, though.
He checked his packing list about 15 times. He felt sure he was forgetting something. Besides trying to figure out how to fit the 4 of us in a side pocket on his already 120 pound rucksack, he had everything on his list.
When midnight came, and we pulled in to the parking lot near his office, we saw rucksacks and duffel bags stacked higher than you can imagine. Wives hanging out their car windows grasping for their husbands one last time. Kids with their arms wrapped tight around their daddy's legs. Strong soldiers who found that one thing that can make them weak; their wives' and kids' tearful good-byes.
I walked over to our friend Richard to tell him good-bye. He was sitting in his car with his 3 year old bouncing off the walls in the backseat. Newborn baby James was wrapped tight in his daddy's arms. Richard looked at Husband and said, "Don't worry, I'll take care of him for you!"
4000 men who would rather be home for Christmas, doing their duty, serving their country, and waving good-bye to their families. Families who can't do much more than clasp their hands and pray.
I wasn't sure how long to stay with him. A lot of wives were determined to sit in their cars until they saw their husbands load the buses at 5:20 in the morning. With three very tired kids, I couldn't wait that long. And anyway, Husband is high enough on the totem pole that he really shouldn't just sit around and visit with us. He has to attend to his soldiers, check and double check to make sure everyone has everything, and that the buildings (offices and barracks) are all cleared out. So we wouldn't have seen him much anyway.
The kids and I got home at 1:00 am. Hunter had already had a 3 hour nap prior to taking Daddy to work, so he was up and ready to play. Drew and Louisa grabbed their pillows and blankets and headed to my room. I tossed Hunter in bed, and was relieved when he fell asleep quickly. The other two kids were all snuggled in, so we read a story and tried to drift off to sleep.
Before Daddy left, Louisa wrote him a note to tuck in his pocket. The note said, "Daddy, I know God will protect you in Iraq because I asked him to."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Waiting

We're sitting around waiting for midnight to come. It's a strange feeling knowing that my husband is leaving tonight on his deployment, and we're just sitting around waiting for him to leave.
We don't want to stress the kids out by talking about the deployment over and over, because there is plenty of time for that after he leaves. And really, they know what to expect. We've done this before.
So instead of focusing on the obvious, we are making today a normal Sunday. Watching football, watching a few movies, playing video games (it's rainy today if you can't tell), going out to eat, doing a little shopping, just taking it easy and giving lots of extra hugs and kisses along the way.
The clock is ticking slowly, but I'm sure once midnight comes along I'll think it went too fast.
So for now, we're just waiting for our 455 days to begin.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

One of Those Thankful List Thingy's

I'm thankful for the way Hunter's face lit up when he saw the Sesame Street float in the parade on tv this morning.
I'm thankful for Drew who was the first person to give me a hug and kiss and say "Happy Thanksgiving, Mama!"
I'm thankful for Louisa who played with Hunter today so I could sit and have some "adult time" with my friends.
I'm thankful for the look on my husband's face when he took the first bit of pumpkin pie I made for him.
I'm thankful to have friends who will be in the same boat as me for the next 15 months.
I'm thankful to be around so many heroes who are about to leave their families for an ungodly amount of time.
I'm thankful that I have the right to vote for the person I believe will clean up this mess in a way that's best for all of us (even if it's still a year away yet).
I'm thankful for family who puts up with the ebb and flow of military life right along side us.
I'm thankful for my nephew who is always good for a laugh, and cheers me up sometimes when he doesn't even know it.
I'm thankful for my mom who had to let me go this morning because the Packer game was about to start! (but did call me back later to talk about our Thanksgiving days!)
I'm thankful for my dad who would willingly battle the crowds tomorrow if I needed something for the kids that I couldn't get here.
I'm thankful for my sister who has a habit of calling me and giggling for 20 mintues straight.
I'm thankful that my kids and I are well taken care of.
I'm thankful for three happy, healthy, smart kids who love to have fun and make my life very chaotic.
I'm thankful God placed us at one of the most rural, boring bases in the army, because it forced me to get out and make friends.
I'm thankful the Lord has blessed me so I can make a list of all the things I'm Thankful for.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Random Act of Kindness, or Saying Thanks to a Deploying Soldier

Everything we do with Husband right now is put under the "one last time" category. One last time the kids see a movie with him. One last time we play at the park. One last time he gets to eat at Texas Roadhouse (his favorite restaurant). Obviously, it's not "one last time" forever, but for about 15 months or so. To the kids, that's forever.
Saturday we headed down to the "big city", aka Lake Charles, to have some dinner at the previously mentioned favorite restaurant, and play at a nice park they have there. When we were in the car, I noticed that some odd number with an area code I'd never seen had called me several times. The last time they left a message, so, of course, I listened.
"Hi Peggie, this is Kim from CafeMom!" Holy cow! I went into shock! I talk to this woman daily online, but had never given her my number. She said she had some exciting news, and could I please call her back ASAP.
When I called back, a happy sounding Kim asked me if we were going to the Texas Roadhouse in Lake Charles. No, she didn't read my mind. Earlier online I had told a few of those "online friends" that we were going to Texas Roadhouse "one last time" in the "big city". Kim did some legwork and figured out that we were heading down to Lake Charles, since that is the only Texas Roadhouse within driving distance of the base.
Her exciting news? She had called the restaurant and arranged with the manager to pay for our entire meal! She explained that she admires what we go through, and she wanted to thank us for our sacrifices. I sat there for a minute, just completely amazed. There are some people in this world who always have to work hard for what they have. They don't always make ends meet, they have times where they wonder where they'll get the money to pay all their bills, and they have times where faith in God is all that gets them through. At times, that's Kim and her husband. I was raised by parents who decided to go to college when they were in their 30's and had two girls to take care of. We never went "without" but there were times I'm sure my parents worried. So I definitely understand how BIG of a gift this was from her. But, when the Lord speaks, we listen. The Lord spoke to Kim, and she was filled with an excitement to help us, to thank a soldier and give his family a nice meal before he leaves.
Sometimes we encounter random acts of kindness that are small in nature, but big in thought. When Hunter was a small baby, and we still lived in Wisconsin, I had to run to the grocery store quick to get one gallon of milk. It was very cold, and I had to drag all three kids with me because Husband worked till 9:00 almost every night. Standing in line with my one gallon of milk and two kids begging me for a treat and only $3 to my name, the lady in front of me asked if she could pay for my milk. She said that a few weeks before, a nice lady paid for her sister's grocery bill out of the blue, and so she wanted to pass that kindness on. Later, I passed it on by paying for someone's coffee who was standing in line behind me at the convenience store. I hope that he in turn passed it on. That's a random act.
What Kim did was so much more. It took thought, and legwork, and she was almost late for work because she was looking online through our circle of friends to try and find someone who knew my phone number!
We had an enjoyable dinner. The waiter seemed to pay special attention to us. As we finished up and were putting our leftovers in the to-go box, the waiter said "My manager would like to treat you to a complimentary dessert". Our eyes got very large as we were all stuffed to the brim. But, you can't turn down free dessert! Louisa had already memorized the dessert list and told us to get the brownie. So we shared a brownie with ice cream. That was a random act of kindness on the restaurants part. Kim had told the manager our story, so he was, in his own little way, saying Thanks as well.
Louisa's exciting news from the night is that she's no longer a "child". The hostess only gave us two kids menus, for Hunter and Drew. The waiter brought her a full sized soda instead of the kids cup with a lid. She felt very grown up, but still ordered off the kids menu!

Thanks, Kim!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Three Years Ago Today....

....I breathed the biggest sigh of relief in my whole entire life.
Three years ago, Husband adopted Louisa. She loves that she has a daddy who *chose* to be her daddy. He didn't have to. She loves that she has a daddy who wanted it *official* more than anything. He didn't have to do that, either.
Louisa vaguely knows about another father, one who long ago made the decision that Husband would be a much better daddy for Louisa than he could be. That small fear always sat on my shoulder, though. If anything ever happened to me, she'd be taken away from the only daddy she new, and the brother who is her best friend, and thrown into a life with a bio-daddy that she barely knew.
That's why three years ago, I breathed the biggest sigh of relief of my life. If anything ever happens to me, Louisa will stay right here with her *real* daddy, and the two brothers she adores.
Every year on this date, Louisa and her daddy go out on a date. She loves that she has this day to celebrate that special relationship that only they have.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fried Alligator and Frog Legs

We decided to treat ourselves to some traditional Louisiana cuisine last night. We ate at a restaurant called Catfish Junction, and there was plenty of catfish. My mom would have been in fishy heaven.
As we perused the menu, trying desperately to find something that wasn't *too* risky, yet still somewhat local, Drew's eyes fell on one of the two items I was hoping he wouldn't see.
"I WANT ALLIGATOR!" *dang it* he saw it.
After me repeatedly telling him no, and no again, and no a few more times, Daddy compromised and ordered him the "sample" size. We asked the waitress what it tasted like and I'm sure you can guess what she said. "I've heard it tastes like chicken". Seriously, *everything* does not taste like chicken. In fact, I've come across a very select few things that actually taste like chicken. And usually it's something like chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, chicken fried.... chicken.
Anyway, the waitress was trying to take Drew's order when his eyes fell on the other menu item I was hoping he wouldn't see. "I want frog legs! Wait, what are frog legs?"
"Drew, frog legs are actual Frog Legs."
"Oh, I don't think I want that."
He eventually settled on stuffed crab. That he didn't eat.
As for the alligator, he did like that. He got a small dish with about 6 pieces of fried alligator. And no, it didn't taste like chicken. I guess it was a tad fishy, but I didn't try it myself. Husband, Louisa, and Drew tried it. Hunter entertained the other diners by standing in his high chair and singing at the top of his lungs. I assume he was singing something by Ozzy. I wanted to put a hat out on the floor next to his high chair, but no one else thought that was a good idea.
So when you're in Louisiana, try the fried alligator. You might be surprised. And be sure to tip the singing toddler. It's probably us. And yes, he does take requests, as long as it's something on my iPod.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Little Cry

We have very few days left before Husband is gone for a really long time. I don't need to dramatize it because it is what it is. He's deploying on an unspecified date that is getting closer and closer as each day passes. I know exactly what that means. I will be mom and dad for 15 months. No partner to ask watch the kids so I can run to the store. No friend to talk to when I've had a hard day. No lover to be with as I trudge to bed alone every night.
The kids, on the other hand, don't know exactly how long 15 months is, or what exactly it will entail. They've been here before. This deployment thing. We went through it for 8 months last year. But that was last year. In "kid time" last year was a really long time ago. The memory of not having Daddy here every day is very faded.
Drew and I looked at the calendar today to see just how many days we had left with Daddy. We don't have an actual date of departure yet, but we can estimate. We counted the days and Drew said, "Well, we're lucky that we get him home for a few weeks still".
I went back to doing my dishes and before long Drew walked by me, sat at the dining room table, and put his head down. I kind of assumed he was crying, or upset, but I tried to joke with him to get him to look up at me. He didn't look up.
I walked over and put him on my lap and gave him mommy hugs and mommy kisses. He cried for about two minutes or so. And let's face it, so did I. He's hurting. He adores his daddy. They play football and wrestle around and go to movies and work on the truck and do any number of countless things that daddies and sons do.
Just like that, Drew saw a pile of Pokemon cards sitting on the table that he is going to send to his pen pal, and asked, "Do you want to see what cards I picked out to give to him?" And that was it.
Sometimes we just need a little cry, and then we can get back to life.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Exhaustion

I don't think I've been this tired in a long time. Okay, well, maybe last week. And the week before. But really, it's been awhile since I've had this sort of exhaustion from just running non-stop. I have a lot of stress that has settled in my neck, shoulder, and upper back. It's tight and painful and as soon as I am done writing this I'm off to bed to snuggle with my heating pad.
Husband has one of those all night training thingys that he does tonight, so at least I won't have to fight for the blanket. His job is just to mostly run around and yell at people a lot to make sure they're doing their job, as far as I can tell. Isn't it nice to know that your husband (generally speaking) is the one who is good at yelling at people all day long? But it's good, he gets it all out at work and comes home happy. Mostly.
We started today off by doing some school work with Drew. When Hunter woke up, the chaos started. Feeding the zoo animals, taking a long walk, playing in the park, chasing the escaped dog halfway around the neighborhood (much to Hunter's delight). Now that Drew is home every day, Hunter has someone to keep him entertained. And Drew has a mini-me who follows him everywhere, and does everything that he does.

As soon as Louisa stepped off the bus, we shoved a snack in our tummy's and headed off for a long night.
Louisa's cheerleading coach asked us to get our girls black and red bows for their hair. One of the playgroup mommy's makes beautiful hair bows for her little girl, so I had asked her to make one for us. We drove over to her house to pick up not one, but three very cute bows that Louisa was really excited about. Eventhough Louisa and Drew aren't an active part of the daily playgroup activities, all the ladies really like them and are so nice to them. I really appreciate how kind they are to my whole family.
We arrived at the Youth Sports Complex a little before 5:00, so I let the kids play on the playground for awhile. I thought that Drew had flag-football practice at 5:00. We waited, and waited, and 5:15 came around. Apparently he doesn't have practice. Okay, I wasn't 100% that he had practice tonight, but I KNEW one or the other kid had something going on.
Drew had Cub Scouts at 6:00 at a park that is right by the sports complex. We went to play at the park and wait for scouts to start. I just had this weird feeling that maybe it was Louisa's cheer practice that was tonight. We drove back to the sports complex at 5:40 and yep, everyone was there practicing. Good thing they start at 5:30, so she didn't miss much.
Thus begins my scatterbrained pattern that will somehow weave us through a very long upcoming deployment. Last year when Husband was in Afghanistan, I could barely remember to get the kids from school on time, much less their hectic schedule.
I took Drew back to the park where his scout meeting would be. It wasn't long before his leader got there.
I went back to get Louisa, went back in time for the end of Drew's scout meeting, talked with the leader and his wife about homeschooling (to which they were very supportive), and packed up the very tired crew to hit the Burger King drive through. That is a story in and of itself.
Burger King is the only major chain restaurant that is contracted to be on any and every military installation in the world (even Iraq and Afghanistan). Our particular BK has a habitual problem of not being able to find good help. This was one of those nights where the good help was seriously lacking. The kid was not only slow, but made me repeat my order countless times. As we drove up to the window I told the kids that it will be interesting to see what we actually get. Which was followed by many good-humored jokes all at the expense of the poor, slow, young man. I had repeated many many times, "no mustard on the cheeseburger". When we got home and started to dig in, Louisa said, "Guess what's on my cheeseburger?" Since she loves to joke around about stuff like that, I didn't believe her. But yep, sure enough, mustard. Ah well, at least that's all he got wrong.
Now I'm off to bed, only to wake up and start this routine all over again tomorrow. The only difference is that I actually *know* Drew has football practice tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Many more treats than tricks

I wonder just how many people actually play tricks anymore. I remember when I was young there were those few teens who always egged and toilet papered houses, but that was small town stuff. There weren't many options for those too old to dress up and get candy. Now we have youth centers and churches and schools offering alternative activities to trick-or-treating. Tonight as we went around the neighborhood, I didn't see many teens or older kids except for the few that were handing out candy. So either they found something else to do, or I'm premature in my thinking and my pumpkins will be smashed all over the road when I wake up in the morning!
Anyway, the kids had a blast tonight. Trick-or-treat times were from 5:00-9:00 tonight, but we didn't see anyone out until 6:00. We got dressed and headed out as soon as we saw some other kids outside. We went around our block and one other block before Daddy and Hunter headed back home to take a rest and hand out candy. Today was a really long day for Daddy at work, and Hunter had already been out playing and walking this morning so his little legs were done for the night. He did do an awesome job saying both "Trick or treat", and "thank you". I was very proud of him!
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Louisa, Drew, and I hit a few more blocks before we retired. We must have headed in the wrong direction, though, because we didn't run into very many trick-or-treaters and many of the houselights were off. They both got a very big haul, regardless. One thing I noticed, though... there wasn't very much chocolate this year. At least not at the houses we went to. And of course, that is always something I notice.
We came back home and tried to fool Daddy with a game of ding-dong-ditch, but he figured us out right away!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Weekend Round-up

This past weekend we participated in some sort of Halloween event or another every day. Friday night, while Husband and Drew headed off to a Cub Scout fishing and campfire thingy, Louisa, Hunter and I walked a few blocks to a "Pumpkin Patch/Haunted House" thingy. When we got there, the line was very long, and we weren't quite sure what was at the end of it. I took a spot and Louisa walked up to the beginning to see just what it was we were in line for. The line split into two, one for the Haunted House and the other for the Hayride to the "Pumpkin Patch". One of the smaller army units stationed here was putting on the Haunted House. It must have been good because we heard a lot of screams coming from it. I'm sure the soldiers were having a blast scaring the kids (and moms and dads for that matter). I told Louisa I'd give her $100 if she went in to the Haunted House. She said no, and she didn't believe me. Guess she'll never know!
We did go on the Hayride after waiting in line for an hour. When we finally got to the Hayride, Hunter, who had no idea what we were waiting for that whole time, was more than ecstatic. You'd think he just won the trick-or-treat jackpot the way he was laughing and smiling! The Hayride dropped us off in a "pumpkin patch" and the kids got to each pick one "pumpkin" (plastic pumpkin filled with candy). So I guess it was the trick-or-treat jackpot!
This is Hunter and Louisa on our way home. There was a big bright moon, and I was actually trying to get the moon in the background, but in the picture it's just a little dot.
Saturday we were supposed to go to a Pumpkin Farm with our playgroup friends, but things just didn't work out that way. We did get to go to a pumpkin farm complete with corn maze when we were home in Wisconsin, so we didn't miss out on the fun experience. We did, however, end up looking all over our little area for Halloween costumes. We had a costume party on Sunday to go to, and Louisa, Drew, Husband, and I all still needed costumes. We found Drew's right away. For the past month now he has changed his mind about what he wanted to be daily. We saw a knight costume and that was it! He was totally psyched about it. Louisa is a much harder sell. She gets one thing in her mind and isn't happy till we find it. Thank God we finally found it after checking both local WalMart's twice. She found an Elizabeth Swan (pirate version from Pirates of the Caribbean 3 movie) and the search was over. Finally. (did I mention we went to both WalMart's twice?) The search produced nothing for Husband and I, though. We were exhausted and hungry and decided to go home, after we bought some pumpkins to carve. Gotta love WalMart and their $2.88 pumpkins!
When we got home we carved them. Well, Daddy carved them. We all kinda played in the goo. Hunter loved the goo, Drew wasn't as excited about it. Hunter was really excited with the Scooby-Doo jack-o-lantern that Daddy carved for him. Drew picked out a skull (ya, kinda scary for a little guy, but he's tough!), and Louisa picked out a cat that's supposed to be sitting on a moon, but I didn't get the moon done. And by "picked out" I mean picked out a template from a book we had.
Yesterday, Sunday, was the big costume party. Our playgroup was celebrating it's one year anniversary, so the organizer thought it would be fun to make it a Halloween costume party. We donated some stuff for prizes, and in the morning Louisa and I went to help set up. She got to make napkin ghosts, and at the party she was in charge of a toss-the-bat-beanbag game. She really likes when she gets to help out so much like that.
While we were setting up in the morning, Husband called me with a great costume idea. He was in Drew's room and saw Drew's Cat In The Hat stuffed animal, when the idea of being Thing 1 and Thing 2 came to his head. I went and bought two red t-shirts and some blue hair spray stuff. We sprayed the blue stuff on me, but it didn't look very good so we settled on blue hats. I was very happy with our costumes. Quick, easy, inexpensive.
The party was a big hit. Everyone had an awesome time. And they should! The organizer has been planning it for months now!
We don't have any more Halloween fun until Wednesday when we get to go trick-or-treating. But I do have some Halloween-type stuff planned for Drew's school time tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Two Days Down

Now that we are finally settled after our trip home to Wisconsin, Drew and I have started our homeschool routine. We've only been through two days so far, but both days reassured me that keeping him home for awhile is a good thing. I hate second-guessing myself, but I was worried that maybe we made the wrong decision. Both yesterday and today proved that we're headed in the right direction, at least for now.
Drew does not sit and complete his work very well. He needs to have someone on him all the time to sit and do his work. He wants to make excuses why he should get up and go to the garbage can or go to the bathroom. Of course at home he has the temptation of getting a snack from the fridge and procrastinating even more. But we have a set snack time to prevent him from taking advantage of that.
I can't imagine a teacher, who has 25 other kids to deal with, being able to make him sit still and do his work. It's a challenge for me, and it's just the two of us. I also know how to engage him much better than his teacher did. I can tell the second he gets bored and I've lost him. I know when to switch activities, or even just give him a short break. The past two days "my way" has been working. I know we're just at the beginning, though. We have a long way to go. He's loving the one on one attention, and he's enjoying all the different things we can do because it is just the two of us. Like today he got to write his spelling words in flour. That was a huge hit! Then we took a nature walk, learned about autumn, and collected items for a collage. He really wants to learn anything that we throw at him. He just needs someone to make sure that he is staying on task. I really don't think he got that in his class.
Yesterday, Wednesday, we went to the parish (county) school board building to see if we needed to fill out any more paperwork than the stuff we had already sent in to the state BOE. We talked to three different, very nice and helpful, ladies. None of whom were surprised in the least that we had issues with this school's principal. It seems he has less than a stellar reputation 'round these parts. This is his first year in this particular school, but there is a reason why he left his old school. Something about many parents threatening to pull their children from school unless they found a new principal. Huh! Interesting! Wonder how many people will have to pull their kids from Drew's school in order for the school board to consider another principal change? But really, I'm just speculating through rumors I've heard *wink wink*.
An extremely understanding "textbook and curriculum" lady gave me the complete first grade curriculum. I can go back to get the textbooks if I want them at a later time. Since I kind of went in to this homeschool thing so "spur of the moment", I'm just doing some trial and error things for now to see exactly where Drew is at. (gotta LOVE the internet and all the free stuff you can get from it!) I have also gotten so many suggestions from homeschool people, that I think I have enough lesson plans to last until 5th grade! This same lady also offered to help us out if we ever want to go back to the elementary school. She said that she would be an advocate for us if we wanted to meet with the principal to get Drew back in to school at some point. I really don't want him back in that particular school, but it's a good feeling knowing I have someone on *my* side if I need them. Way too many teachers and staff down here use the "good ole boy" system and back eachother up. So I like that someone down here is working for us, the parents and students. Sometimes it feels like we're in this alone.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bloggin from the Rents

Here I sit at 4:30 in the morning at my parents house, wide awake. I tossed and turned all night, and finally gave up about 4:00 and decided to log on and catch up with email and friends. Also hoping that blogging will make me tired enough to go back to bed.
First, I'll give the good news. No, Husband does not have to deploy early anymore. *sigh* Back and forth, back and forth. Welcome to my life as a military wife!
Second, The Trip So Far.
Saturday we headed out on our long trip from Louisiana to Wisconsin. Driving. Straight through. With three kids and a dog. Fun. Thank the Lord for whoever invented portable DVD players.
We arrived at the InLaws on Sunday morning. They live w-a-y up in Northern Wisconsin. Luckily it wasn't as cold as I thought it would be. I didn't bring hats and mittens, so I was a little nervous we would all freeze. It was cold and rainy the whole time we were up there, though. Monday the InLaws took us up to Duluth to an aquarium. We also stood on the shore of Lake Superior and watched a big boat come in. The kids stood on some rocks and let the waves splash up on them. It was a tad windy, and chilly, but fun. The whole time we were at the InLaws, we saw a total of six bald eagles. I wasn't too fast with the camera, though, so no pictures of them.
Wednesday morning we headed out to the UP of Michigan to visit an old army buddy of Husband's. They recruited together for a few years, and our families spent a lot of time together. It was very nice to see them, if only for one night.
Thursday morning we left Houghton, Michigan and headed down to southern Wisconsin. We made a stop in Madison to visit my grandpa. He just got moved into a nursing home. He's pretty miserable because he has always been so independent. He's legally blind, but he can see enough to get around. Unfortunately, his memory isn't quite what it used to be, and he can't live on his own anymore. It's been a year and a half since my grandma died, and he is so lonesome without her. It's hard seeing such an active person stuck in a place where he can't be as active. But, my mom and uncles are making sure Grandpa is well cared for and has everything he needs. My mom worked as a nurse in nursing homes for many years, so she knows how things are supposed to be done. She will be steadfast when it comes to Grandpa's care.
Yesterday, Friday, Husband and I left the kids with my parents and got us some new tattoos. In the city where we went to high school there is a place that I always wanted to go to get a tattoo. It's rated the best in southeastern Wisconsin and I saw a lot of good work from there. We made an appointment awhile back because they usually book up fast. This was Husband's 5th, and my 3rd.
Today, Saturday, we have a wedding to go to. One of Husband's cousins is getting married and luckily for us, we happen to be in town.
Sunday we spend some quality time with the Rents and Monday morning we head back for home. Well, Louisiana anyway. Not quite sure where "home" is anymore.
See, I knew blogging would help, now I'm tired. Hopefully I can get a few hours of sleep before the kids wake up and start annoying me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Is it over yet? Can I open my eyes?

This has just been one of those weeks. An unbelievable week where everything went so fast I'm surprised I don't have whiplash. I think I just kind of closed my eyes, held on, and waited for the ride to be over with like that roller coaster the kids made me ride at Six Flags this summer.
Tuesday Louisa gave her big speech at school for her campaign. She did very well. I wish I could have seen her. I can just imagine her walking up with such confidence, giving the 4th grade audience no reason *not* to vote for her. Competition wasn't that tough, though. There were three candidates in all for the treasurer position and she felt she was a shoe in the whole time. I'm glad *she* had such confidence; I was nervous as heck!
Wednesday was voting day. Her biggest issue was, should she vote for her best friend for president, or for the kid who made the funniest speech and who everyone else was voting for. In true Louisa fashion, she voted for her BFF. Although I did make a point to tell her that she should always vote for the one she believes is the best candidate. Even President Bush's BFF doesn't *have* to vote for him. (if he has one!)
After school on Wednesday, Louisa walked in the door complaining about this and that. Not one word about the election. Finally I had to ask. "So? The election? How'd it go?" She looks down and says, "Oh ya, that.................... I WON!!!!!"
WAHOO!!!!!
So now Louisa is the school treasurer for student council. She gets a desk at the front of the meetings that will say "Louisa Treasurer". Funny, but that's what she's most excited about! And the popular kid with the funny speech won president.
While Louisa is soaring in school, Drew is having quite the opposite time. His school life is crumbling causing a lot of stress on all of us. Tuesday we got a note from the teacher that said he will no longer get bathroom privileges. In those words. To us that meant she wouldn't let him use the bathroom all day. Husband wrote a note asking her to clarify and wondering just how she expected a 6 year old to hold it for 7 1/2 hours every day. I'm not sure how the phrase "losing bathroom privileges" could be taken wrong, but apparently it was. Wednesday we got one of the rudest notes that I've ever seen from a teacher. It was signed off on by the principal, so apparently he approves of his teachers talking to their parents that way.
Honestly, we've been thinking about homeschooling Drew for quite awhile now. We had some homeschool websites bookmarked "just in case", and this note was just the last straw in a series of issues. There is actually much worse that has happened at the school concerning Drew, but I just don't really want to go into it. It's all a little infuriating.
Drew is smart. Crazy smart. Because of that he gets bored easily. He writes wrong answers on tests on purpose. Every week he has words wrong on his spelling test, yet when you ask him orally he knows how to spell the word. He can add and subtract in his head no problem, but when you put a test in front of him, half of them are wrong. He acts up in class, misbehaves in the bathroom, and doesn't always follow directions. The teacher tells me this like it's news. Like I haven't dealt with Drew for the past 6 years and I have no idea how he is. Ya, I know! I really really know how he can be. But just because he can misbehave sometimes, doesn't mean he should constantly be singled out in class as the sole troublemaker. He didn't stand a chance in that classroom with that teacher. He never got to start each day with a clean slate. She set him up for failure from the second he walked in every morning. I can't have some teacher take my kindhearted, intelligent little boy and squash him down every day. It's not right and I refuse to put up with it.
Thursday we sent a note to school saying that it would be his last day. Louisiana state law says all we have to do is send a note to the principal letting them know we are withdrawing him and a short reason why. That was it! Now we have to file paperwork with both the parish school district and the state BOE. Louisiana is a pretty easy state when it comes to homeschooling.
Thursday morning my husband got a call from the principal who wanted to ask us to keep Drew in school. The principal mentioned how Drew needs more discipline.... and more discipline...... and more discipline..... and that was it. For 10 minutes my husband tried to find a compromise with a principal who kept repeating the word "discipline" over and over. My husband said, "Can you guys give him more work to do, because he's bored in class and he gets antsy?" Principal says, "Your son just needs more discipline!" My husband says, "When my daughter, who is gifted, was little her teachers always gave her extra work and that worked well for her. We just think Drew needs more work to keep him occupied." Principal says, "You need to keep your son in a classroom so he can get more discipline!" Notice the broken record here?
One thing I'd love to know is, who is most responsible for a child's discipline? The school, or the parents? Why does this principal think that his school is the only way Drew will get discipline? Also, and the thing that bothers me the most, why is the word "discipline" the first and only thing that comes out of this principal's mouth?! What happened to "Education"? Why isn't THAT the first and only word that comes from his mouth? Why do I want my child in a school where education comes second, or last?
So, now I add "homeschool mom" to my hat pile. I know we'll do good. Drew has such a good attitude about staying home. He realizes that he wasn't learning much in school, and that at home we get to learn so much more. Besides math, reading, and spelling, he gets to pick every week or every month a topic HE'D like to learn more about. Like dinosaurs, or storms and weather, or space and universe.... it's endless.
I know a lot of people who are pro-school may be asking me, "Wait, what about socialization? He won't get that now that he's home!" Let me give you a glimpse as to just how much socializing these kids get to do in this school. Morning breakfast, no talking. Morning classroom activities, no talking. Lunch time, no talking. 30 minute recess, talking. Afternoon classroom activities, no talking. Gym class, no talking. Music class, no talking. Bathroom break, no talking. Are you getting the picture? Let's see how many times I said "no talking" compared to how many times I said "talking". Amazing isn't it? Is he really missing out on socializing? He's in Cub Scouts, he plays sports, and we attend just about every family activity they have on post. I think he'll be just fine.
Add to my emotional day yesterday the moment that Hunter bashed a baby in the head with a toy at a playgroup meetup. The whole thing went in slow motion for me. I was talking about pulling Drew from school, and in the corner of my eye I saw Hunter pick up a rather big and heavy toy. Very slowly I saw him raise it above the baby, and then bring it down on her head. It didn't register at first. Then I jump up, yell "holy crap!" and grab Hunter. The mom grabs the baby and assures me it's fine. I pack up our stuff as fast as possible and take off, holding back tears that I just know are going to come pouring out the second I reach the truck. I emailed the mom and the baby is just fine. It probably sounded much worse than it is. All I know is that I thank God very often that babies are so resilient.
Today is Friday, and it should be rather uneventful. We have to pack to go on a trip home to Wisconsin. I have to go pick up the $100 worth of Pampered Chef I ordered from a friend today, give her our fish to babysit, and take our house key to another friend so she can come feed the cats.
Oh, and then there's the wrench that Husband threw in this morning. He will probably be leaving for Iraq early after all. It's only 10 days earlier than everyone else, but he'll still miss out on Thanksgiving with us.
I think I'll just sit here and wait for the "all clear" so I can open my eyes again!

Monday, October 08, 2007

On the Campaign Trail

Louisa is running for treasurer on her student council. She participated in the student council last year by being a class representative, but this year she's actually running for a position. We chose "Treasurer" because we were told that last year only one person ran for that position. We thought it would be easy! This year there are 4 candidates for treasurer, so Louisa will actually have to work at it. And really, it doesn't matter what position she runs for, it's the experience she gets from it that matters.
In her school, 4th graders can run for President and Treasurer, and 3rd graders can run for Vice President and Secretary. We figured President would be too hard to run for because so many kids do each year. They also have primary elections, so if more than 4 kids run for a position, they can narrow it down to the top 4.
We spent all day yesterday making 3 big poster board signs to hang in her school. We got as creative as we could, but I also wanted her to do most of the work. Several of the other kids in school had their parents make all of their signs. It's so obvious that the kids didn't make them. I always believe in having the kids put forth most of the effort for their school projects. Even if the project looks like a 4th grader did it, it's her campaign so she needs to do the work. I helped out and fixed some mistakes and added a few things, but she was proud to say she worked hard on her posters. I drove her to school this morning a little early so that she could hang them up. We talked about good "high-traffic" areas like right next to the 4th grade bathrooms, on the wall that leads to the stairs that all 4th graders use every day, and in the cafeteria.
Tonight we have to write a 2 minute speech that she will give to her 4th grade class tomorrow. We have a few ideas of what we want to say. Louisa is not afraid to get up in front of people. She has the skills to make a good speech while adding her sunshine personality to it. Honestly, I have no idea who's kid she is! I could never ever stand up in front of people without bursting into a hysterical, embarrassed laughter. I still get giggly sometimes when I talk in front of people.
Louisa has a good attitude about the election. She knows that if she doesn't win, she can still campaign in her classroom for class representative. And even if she doesn't get that, she's involved in so many other activities that she will be fine. This is a good experience for her and she's learning a lot about the election process as she goes.
Voting is on Wednesday, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's Clean!

Let's see, how long ago did I post about this? I issued my challenge on August 24. I showed a picture on August 26. And now, finally, on October 6 (yesterday) my dining room is clean!There are a few boxes still stacked in one corner, but otherwise, it's spotless! We even shampooed the carpet.
Last night we had some guests over and we had to get the house clean. I wanted to have a little get-together for my two friends who just had babies. A "Welcome Baby" party of sorts.
I was a little sad that I was the only mommy without a tiny one to snuggle. I tried to snuggle Hunter, but he was too squirmy! I am happy to see my friends so excited with their babies. It was nice to get together so they could show their new baby boys off. (and I got my dining room clean!)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Pre-Deployment Brief

Sounds really official, doesn't it? I was at a "briefing" last night!
Acutally, it was far more boring than it sounds. I'm trying to make it into something more enigmatic to take away from how badly I wanted to take a nap.
We sat in a very hot theatre packed to the brim with soldiers, wives, a few children, and a row full of speakers who probably wanted to be someplace else at 6:00 on a Thursday evening. Seventeen speakers to be exact. A few of them were a bit entertaining like the extremely enthusiastic woman telling us about the Army Community Services. She either drank a little Jack on the way over, or she likes her job way too much!
Then there was the American Red Cross guy. A real groovy cat with long hair, a beard, and a dry sense of humor. He said that he'd be more than willing to take advantage of us wives while the guys were gone.... for volunteering opportunities that is! I mean really, if he meant the other thing he'd have 50 infantry soldiers on his butt faster than he could say "Grateful Dead".
We learned where they'll be deployed to and some specifics about what they'll be doing. And no, I can't tell you! At least not until they're over there and doing it.
A week ago we had a bit of a scare. We know the date the unit is leaving (no, I'm not telling you that either!), but we had found out that Husband was going to have to leave two weeks earlier than everyone else. There are only a very small few people trained in loading all their gear, and he was one of them. He would have to leave when the gear (in big huge metal containers called "connexes") went over. I was a little sad that he would miss Thanksgiving. And I was sad that I wouldn't get to attend the big Hail & Farewell. It's not that big a deal, but I didn't get to be a part of it when he went to Afghanistan last year, so I kind of wanted be there this time. We sit in a gym and cry and say good bye to our guys and they load the buses and head to the airport. Probably not near as exciting as I picture in my head, but it's one of those rituals I'd like to be a part of.
Yesterday we got the good news that he doesn't have to go early. He'll deploy at the same time as the main group of his unit. It doesn't mean much, just that we'll have a few extra weeks with him.
I'll report more when he's gone. The unit that our guys are replacing have been there for 15 months now and it's time for them to come home and be with their families. Daddies will come home to new babies they haven't met, husbands will come home to new wives they married right before they left, and life will go on as usual for most of them. Everyone in the army has to do their time. It's a fact that we've all grown used to.
Say your prayers for them, thank a veteran or servicemember, and support the troops in any way you can.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

ADD?

Hunter and I did our usual grocery shopping routine today. I put something in the cart, he takes something out of the cart. I try to be the fun mommy and let him help me shop. He throws cans of soup on my feet. Every shopping trip it's the same. Every shopping trip he throws things at me, and I smile and pick it up and pretend I'm having fun.
Today, as usual, he wouldn't sit. He's old enough now that he's figured out the totally un-childproof seat belts on the shopping cart. In a flash he has it undone and he's standing up in the cart. Then I have half a dozen people with too much time on their hands tell me that he's not supposed to stand in the cart. Gee. Thanks. Because I have no idea what will happen if he falls on his head.
When we got to the check-out, and I was placing my dented cans and smashed bread on the conveyor belt, realizing the many many things I had forgotten to get and dreading the idea of having to do this again in a few days, Hunter decided to undo his seat belt and stand up. Then sit down. Then stand up. The grab a few things off the conveyor belt and throw them. Then take the poster board I was buying for Louisa and throw them. Then scream until I let him pick out some M&M's. Then scream because he wanted the lady to scan the M&M's. Then scream because I wouldn't let him sit on the loaf of bread.
While I was paying, and wondering what the heck I bought that just added up to almost $200 when my husband only gave me $100 to shop with, the cashier said, "Is he ADD?"
Someone hold me back because I'm about to jump over this counter right now and show her what ADD is! First, what business is it of hers? If he *was* ADD, then there's nothing I can do about it. And usually two-years-old is way too young to diagnose it. Second, it's not even called ADD anymore! Pick up a book once in awhile. Watch the news. Pull yourself away from "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" long enough to learn something really intelligent.
I gave her my don't-ever-mess-with-my-kids-mama-lion look, and said "NO!"

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Today


She

Would


Have

Been

30


Today

Tabitha Lee

October 2, 1977- November 2, 2004