Julie's Mission at Home: A Soldier's Wife's Journey of Health, Family and Survival

Journey with me as I document my experiences in parenting, getting healthier, and being a wife to my wonderful soldier and a mom for my two boys!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Saying Goodbye

Good gracious, this last weekend was difficult. Argh. I believe we are doing pretty well, honestly--it is a challenge at times, but we are thus far emotionally stable and just sort of getting through our days, adjusting to the changes and the absence. I think the size of our house (small) really plays a part in emphasizing the fact that he is not occupying space in it. Just speaking of percentages, Neal was taking up a large percentage of space, you know? I mean, he isn't a tub-o, but with the limited space we have here, his absence is really noticed when he is gone. Does this even make sense?
I've taken some videos of Neal with the kids, but we never got around to recording Neal reading children's books on camera. Maybe we can figure out a way for him to do that and send it home. I think it would be a great thing to be able to play to both of the kids, but especially to help little Andrew in keeping Neal's face familiar. He'll quickly bounce back once Neal is home again, I know, but it hurts my heart to think that when Neal gets back Andrew won't know who he is. I want to try to aid in making that less of a reality, so the pictures, videos, and webcam access will hopefully help.
We also have these cool little doll thingies that are in the army fatigue print, with a place to put a picture of our soldier's face. It's a nice idea for military kids.
I am totally open to hearing ideas about increasing/improving communications, especially for kids (like my kids' ages, 11 and less than 1 right now) while he's deployed. Any thoughts are welcome!
I want to take this moment to thank the "Power of Pinesol, Baby."

Oh. My. Garage.

Suddenly, yesterday, my most favorite places in my living room started smelling like a men's urinal. Like this old, dehydrated, built-up urine smell. It did not smell this way the day before. It did not smell like this in the past. Just suddenly yesterday, BOOM, my favorite haunts for relaxation, nursing, blogging, etc were like PeePee Land. Oh my heavens, it's disgusting!

I did the sniff test until nearly hyperventilating, smelling furniture and the floor. The only thing I have found thus far is the baby jumpy thing, where Andrew had a peepee accident yesterday morning. I can't imagine that was the culprit for this entire section of my house, but I quickly removed the washable fabric to clean, and now have doused the surfaces with sudsy lemon-scented Pine Sol. I washed off the computer desk, the pleather computer chair, and used a damp Pine Sol cloth to wipe down my favorite chair. I smelled all of my clothing in the last day or so to see if somehow it was ME. Nothing smells like urine!

It's such an insidious smell, too. It penetrates your SOUL.

On a related note; my journey to weight loss and health has taken a sudden turn for the better, as I am too grossed-out to want to eat. It smells like a dang dirty bathroom and the tingly-ammonia smell that makes my eyes water a little is a definite deterrent for bad eating habits. Scratch that: It's a definite deterrent for any eating habits. I popped a bag of popcorn last night, thinking I wanted a snack. I ate a few bites and had to just throw it away. I was too grossed-out!

This is giving me bad ideas about how to curb my appetite.

I'm going to take a moment here to switch gears and just say how blessed I am, we are, to have such a great FRG. The (mostly) ladies who make up the group and give supportive comments on Facebook in addition to attending activities, etc, are just precious. We have shoulders to lean upon and people we can just talk with and know that we're in the same boat. It's such a wonderful resource to have. Also, the groups who have stepped forward to offer help and support are really great--specifically the Oak Ridge VFW, for one. We've been adopted by them and I know they will help if anything is needed in the coming year or so. Very reassuring to both families at home as well as soldiers!

I have projects I need to finish, probably with help, as he was unable to finish them before he left. I have to replace the front door. I also need to take apart the changing table/shelving unit and fix it, then put it back together. For these two projects I plan to ask for help. I think I have a person for the changing table who is far more talented in such matters than I, but I still need to figure out the door stuff.

I also think I'm going to get a security system reactivated for the house. Any thoughts on this? We're already set-up with one, it's just not activated. My parents (dad and stepmom) have had one for years, but otherwise I have little experience with them. Input appreciated!

Okay, ciao for now. More another time, as I have lots to do today! It is Day 3 of this journey, and I'm anxious to make my soldier proud on the home front as he makes me proud where he is.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New York CityPass!

Oh, my GOODNESS! So, so excited! We made the "big" purchase for our sight-seeing in NYC the other day--we purchased, online, our CityPass Booklet E-tickets through CityPass.com! Really great and conventient way to book stuff like sight-seeing, etc. What we really loved is the fact that it includes such a variety of places on the tickets, and when you turn in the e-ticket voucher you actually receive a booklet of *real* tickets--so no waiting in lines for tickets at the sights! We also loved how easy it was to book this. Very easy online process. And--best of all--all the prices are discounted!! We, of course, are looking to save moolah, so this was a GREAT feature. We're saving as much as 50% off ticket prices for some places, just by booking with CityPass!

Here's what we have on our tickets (we may skip one or two things, but we're going to try to see it all):

--Empire State Building Observatory
--Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
--Statue Cruises OR Liberty State Park in NJ
--American Museum of Natural History
--Guggenheim Museum OR Top of the Rock
--The MoMA
--The Met

We are really looking forward to this trip. It'll be a very nice little family vac-ay before Neal is "gone-gone" for a long while. We just have to figure out where we're staying, and how the travels are going to play out. Not certain yet on that one!

We recently had our Yellow Ribbon Event with Neal's unit. This was a briefing for family and soldiers in preparation for deployment. It was strongly suggested at that time that we not mention much of anything, and certainly no details, about the deployment process. OPSEC is for safety of both families and soldiers, so on the blog I will not put specific dates, times, or locations. Hopefully the fact that I say he is deploying is okay--I guess I'll find out if this is problematic.

We are amazed that it is already Daylight Savings' Time! Where has time gone? Truly, truly...time flies so very, very quickly. Children grow and change so rapidly, and it is with this that I feel a sense of age. I don't particularly feel older when I think of my upcoming birthday. It is when I think about my almost-one-year-old and my 11+ year old that I think about the passage of time and as soon as I turn around, they are older and wiser and just so beautifully developing and growing and learning and *being.* It is such a bittersweet thing, watching your children grow. You want so desperately and simultaneously to cling to whatever stage they're in while still wanting, yearning for them to grow and develop into just amazing people. You have to learn the fine art, the life-long struggle, to "let go and let God." Otherwise, I believe, insanity will surely take over.

Off to play "Band Hero" with my older son--I'm going to rock some awesome vocals. Fun!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Neal's Going Away Part-ay!

Here we have Aaron and Andrew at Neal's going away party. Fun!
Neal and Andrew, in a cuddly moment at the party!
Christy (and Chuck) put a great patriotic cake together!
The very shocking Lady Liberty. Whew, that is a spooky picture...but it was fun dressing up!
A picture of the spread! We decorated in red, white and blue and had a similar theme with the foodstuffs! People brought loaded nacho bar, red, white and blue chips with dips, and I did a blueberry/red grape/pineapple hearts spread with cream cheese dip, and a veggie platter with red bell peppers, cauliflower, and blue corn chips for dipping! We had delicious mini burgers with a variety of cheeses on 'em, we had little pigs in blankets, more veggies and fruits with dips, and some kid-decorated sugar cookies with--you guessed it--red, white and blue frosting!

We had a wonderful night of celebrating Neal and our friendships. Lots of folks were there--no family, sadly, could attend. We had approximately 35-40 people (including children) there, though! Really fantastic!

I was the only fully insane person when it came to dressing up, but Christy was a sort of hybrid Dolly Madison/Martha Washington/Betsy Ross! Most people wore red, white and blue. I managed to find a funky "Uncle Sam"-ish hat for Brandon to wear, which was perfect. :)

It was a lovely way to have a positive, upbeat, laid-back send-off party for Neal before stuff gets heavier. I know it's difficult for people to know what to say or do with this--I can read it in their faces when they ask about details. It is similar to that "sick family" or "recently deceased loved one" conversation you might try to have with someone you love. If that person isn't your particular family or friend, it seems exceedingly awkward and scary to broach the subject. There is the perpetual "what do I say?" question that haunts you, and then, if you're me, you finally decide to just call. Just listen. Maybe nod, or vocalize some understanding sounds, but otherwise offering support and love and just honestly being a person to be there is what I guess is important. There isn't a magic thing to say that is "right." Maybe there is, actually: "I'm here for you. This must be difficult. I want to help in any way you might need it. Let's hang out, or chat, or maybe I can babysit while you grocery shop." You get what I mean...that stuff means a lot more than "wow, sorry to hear so-and-so is gone," or whatnot. This is true for funerals, or goings-away, or illnesses, or deployments, or whatnot. No magic, special words make things right--but they can make a difference in the actions they offer. If you have verbs, and not just words to offer, then you're on the right track to saying the "right" thing.

That being said, that's what so many of my friends and family have! They are loving us with verbs. Some people don't say much, which I don't mind. I really have no desire to constantly discuss Neal's pending deployment. However, I know who to go to when I want or need to chat, or need more than that. I also know who to avoid...the "war sucks" people, for instance. Wow, war sucks...really? And it sucks that he's leaving for a year? Well thank you for that. Not helpful, and frankly not commiserating, but thanks anyway. One of those good intentions, bad outcome situations. But truly, I am not angry with these friends and others--they don't know any better, and I do think they mean well. They just aren't verb people at this time.

Hey, more on this later! I don't want to seem bitter or moody (which sometimes I am). I appreciate the outpouring of love, support, fun, offers of babysitting and food. To answer your questions about whether or not I would like any of those things: Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New York or Bust!

So we're going to New York City!

Pretty excited. Almost giddy about it, and totally would be if it just wasn't surrounded by the fact that the days in NYC will be our last days for a long time with Neal. Kinda hard, that one. Lots hard.

But let's focus on the fun stuff! This Spring, we'll be visiting NYC for approximately 4-5 days. Whee! I've never been, Neal's never been--and Aaron and Andrew haven't either, lol, so yay! We are exploring together.

Very, very hard, planning and investigating, and not having lots of time to work with! To really get a good visit to New York City, I'm pretty sure you need at least 2 years. Sadly, we will not be spending that much time on vacation, so lots of "weighing of options" is taking place now. We aren't that far off from when we leave, and by April we need to be booking hotels and such.

First we'll travel to New Jersey, where we'll meet up with Neal. It'll be great after not seeing him for a while! Then we'll go on our little family trip to The Big Apple! So far I'm making a list of "Top Places We Should Consider Visiting." Then, from there, we'll decide as a family which things we will pick. Can't help but wish for more time, but we'll make the most of it, without going crazy rushing here and there. Here's the list thus far:

The Met (probably a whole day, or most of a day, spent there)
Central Park (not far from the Met!)
Lombardi's Pizza
Katz's Deli
Ellis Island
Statue of Liberty

That's my list so far--I'm trying to get down no more than 15 to have to narrow down, so I'm not too overwhelmed. By "I" I mean "we"--we're planning this as a family! I've just been the one charged with the research-type work. It's fun!

Any ideas or suggestions on NYC stuff, from hotels to sights, is really welcome! Also, we're probably taking a cab from New Jersey--is this what you would recommend?

Can't wait to update you on more plans! This will be a great little vacation, I'm sure. And we're travelling with kids, which should make it interesting, fun, and maybe a bit challenging. We'll see!