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


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!"
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.