Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Last week Tim took the Big 3 on a trip to Disney as a surprise for their birthdays which take place in late spring and summer. (We took a video of them receiving the surprise a couple nights before, but our kids do not react to surprises; any footage we have of them receiving a surprise is laughably anticlimactic.) They made the six-hour drive on Easter Sunday morning and spent the rest of that day at Hollywood Studios where they met up with Tim's sister Kathy, her husband Brett and their girls, Sofia and Natalie. They spent the second day at Magic Kingdom, and then half of Tuesday at Epcot before driving home.

When they got home at 8:30 on Tuesday night, they came through the garage door into the kitchen, all of them talking at once about how much fun they'd had, and telling me stories.

Delaney: I had a mental breakdown my first day there.
Me: What?
Delaney: I lost my Magic Band right before I got on the Tower of Terror.
Tim: We were only three minutes into our first day. I was like, "Nooooooo!" So I asked the elevator conductor guy if, once the ride was over, we could go back and look for it. He asked, "Is it blue? Someone just turned this in!"

There were more magic band troubles, apparently. At one point when Tim wasn't around to see, Delaney's Magic Band snagged on a fence as she was turning around, and it fell on the wrong side of the fence. Someone had had to lift her over it so she could retrieve it. It's not clear who that someone was.

Another time Timmy was having some kind of fit, "pulling a Timmy" as Tim put it. The band fell on the ground somehow and Timmy, with a scowl, kicked it toward a body of water. (I could picture this happening as clearly as if I'd been there myself. That face, that body language, that temper of his.. Timmy, our sanguine child, is often the most joyful and affectionate; but he's got a red hot temper.) His cousin Sofia dove on top of it and saved it from going into the water. Thankfully, I'm told there were only a few short episodes of Timmy's dark moods. It was a vast improvement from the time we took him when he was only 3. I said never again Disney for a kid 3 or under, and I meant it! Tim tells me that Kathy commented more than once about how good Timmy's behavior was and what a happy demeanor he had.

Annie: The third time I went on the Tower of Terror, I was sitting next to Auntie Kathy and I knew what was going to happen, so I buried my face in her arm and cried. (Tim says they actually only went on it twice.)

Timmy was scared of all fast and twisty rides, as you can clearly see in a couple of the pictures below. His favorite rides were Soarin' and a race car ride (not Test Track). He had mixed feelings about Tower of Terror, and even though I've never been on it myself I think I can understand that. Tim says he liked talking about it but he didn't like being on it.

Delaney liked everything.

Tim had a great time for the most part, except for those few times that come up inevitably, when it's impossible to meet everyone's expectations (i.e., "Daddy, can we go on Soarin' now?" "No, the line is an hour-and-a-half long, and we have to meet Auntie Kathy and Uncle Brett and see what our first Fast Pass is for.") At times it was an exercise in learning patience. Speaking of Kathy and Brett, another thing that made it easy for Tim to have fun was being able to just show up without doing any of the planning because the two of them are Disney aficionodos. When you're only going to be at Disney for a short few days, the planning is really essential.

Something that drove him crazy was seeing how much food our kids wasted at the restaurants. He might have overeaten at times just so he didn't have to see it all go to waste.

Kathy texted me a lot of great pictures throughout their stay, and I loved seeing those happy faces.
I'm so happy for Tim and the kids that they were able to take this opportunity to go to Disney and spend time with some of our Massachusetts family for a few days. What a great memory for them all and a perfect 'experience' birthday gift for Delaney, Annie and Timmy.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Joey: 16 Months

Our Joe is exploding with personality, and he has so much to say to us all the time. He mostly communicates in grunts, chirps, and lots of pointing. We've taught him to sign a little, and he's made up his own sign which means "gimme." He holds up his little chicken wing and then extends his arm out and back in repeatedly, in the direction of whatever it is he wants. The only words he's spoken clearly are "Hi," "Bye," "Ma," and "Da." He likes animal sounds too. The cow goes "ooooh" and dog goes "Woo! Woo!"
He does not like being left behind. One day as Tim was preparing to take Timmy to practice, Joe realized that he was meant to stay with me, and did not like that one bit. He put up such a stink about it, whining and clinging to his father, that we decided he could go after all. He looked over Tim's shoulder at me as he was carried out the door, with a big smile and wave. The morning his dad and siblings were rushing around getting ready to head out the door to go to Disney, he cried as if his little heart would break. One day, buddy, you'll get to go too!
He's still not a reliably good sleeper. He'll do really well for many days in a row, and then he'll be back to needing to be settled at some point in the middle of the night. He still has a penchant for waking up a half hour too early in the morning too. Last night he slept from 7 until almost 7, and I didn't hear a peep from him all night. Why can't he do that all the time?

While my mom was visiting we took him to the beach for the first time since he was an infant. He did not like it at first. He was really uncomfortable with his toes in the sand and wanted nothing to do with the water. He mostly clung to one of us and fussed. Then all of a sudden, about an hour into it, it was like a switch flipped. He was like, "I like the beach! Sand is fun! Water is fun!" There were lots of shallow little tide pools for him to play in and it was just perfect. What a relief it was for me because his mood kind of sets the tone for me whether I like it or not.
I thought he'd need time to warm up to Mom when she first got here, but he took to her right away. You always know he's made a friend when he starts handing his things to a person. He was happy to have another face around and someone else to love on him and play with him.

We're still phasing out the morning nap. He'll take it sometimes if it's quiet at home. I now nurse him three times a day: first thing in the morning, right before the afternoon nap, and right before bed. I love our routine and our nursing/snuggling time. Ever since I showed him a few weeks ago that he could 'listen to the ocean' in a seashell on top of the wardrobe, that's now part of our naptime/bedtime ritual. He points to it as soon as we walk into the room and I let him listen in each ear. As he listens he grins as though he were hearing a juicy little secret. How funny. This summer I'm packing that shell in my suitcase.
Joey is a big eater now, and he uses the 'gimme' sign a lot at the table. He gets super cranky if it's close to a mealtime and he's hungry. He is very impatient and demanding if there's a food he likes and I'm not giving it to him fast enough. The problem is, if I give it all to him at once, he will shove it all into his mouth at once, and that makes me nervous. But he's really at a point where he could use his own plate at meals. I keep treats and junk to a minimum, and boy does he love those. He is really greedy and can never have enough. I had to put away Tim's little old Easter basket that was full of candy. Out of sight and out of mind.

He is very curious, always climbing, always getting into things, and always in my hair if I'm trying to get anything done. But when he's awake and not in my hair, look out -- he's getting into some kind of trouble then.
He makes me laugh, especially when he gives me glimpses into his little world and the way he sees things. There's a particularly ferocious toy dinosaur that Timmy has. I believe it's an apatosaurus, but it looks like a meat-eater with that snarl and bared teeth. It growls and makes a stomp-stomp noise when you push a button. That dinosaur, until a couple months ago, lived in Timmy's toy box. I moved it to the top shelf of his closet because Joey was terrified of it and Timmy never played with it anyway. Today Joey and I were in there and I was curious to see if he was still scared of it. I took it down off the shelf and said, "Do you want to play with him?" Joey's eyes got big and he shook his head no a few times and whimpered. "OK, I'll put him away," I said. Joey watched nervously as I put him back on the shelf and closed the door. He stared at the closed closet door and made little worried sounds for a few more seconds. He didn't even like knowing it was in there. It's so funny how scared he is of that thing. I guess I should get rid of it since Timmy doesn't notice it's been put up anyway.

Yesterday I watched him follow a squirrel around, barking at it like a dog. He must be taking his cues from the neighbors' pets.
One more little story and then I'm done: I took Joey with me to Confession a couple weeks ago. It was face-to-face, the priest and I sitting across from each other and Joey on my lap. As I was talking with my hand resting on Joey's belly/chest, I realized something felt strange. I reached down his shirt and pulled out a toy truck, which he took from me and handed to Father. I went on and then felt something else. I reached in his shirt again and pulled out our cable remote which he then took from me and handed to Father who was probably beginning to wonder what else I was going to produce from inside Joey's shirt. I was cracking up. He is always losing that cable remote somewhere and Tim gets so irritated. I searched all over for it today and found it inside some reusable shopping bags in the laundry room.

He is just an incredible little person who gives me so many reasons to smile and laugh, and we all just love him to pieces.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A Visit from Grandy

My mom came down from Cincinnati for a few days so she could see us in our habitat here before we move away. We showed her a couple of the modest attractions our area has to offer, but mostly we hung around here playing games and taking walks. The kids weren't on spring break yet, but they had Friday off, which was the day she got here.

The kids couldn't wait to play games with her. That's their favorite activity that doesn't involve a screen. Grandy loves games too, so they were in luck. She wasn't shy about Sorrying some grandkids either. She also introduced the girls (and re-introduced me) to Spit, and that was lots of fun. There were a lot of laughs at that kitchen table.
My plan had been for all of us to go to the beach on Saturday, but Friday and Saturday were the chilliest days we've had in awhile. Instead we decied to go to the farmers' market in the morning, and then downtown for dinner later. As we were leaving the farmers' market, Mom realized that she didn't have her glasses, so she got back out to look and soon Tim followed. They came back empty-handed after awhile and that was disappointing. We left to go drop off our BOB stroller to a friend who was borrowing it and at some point Mom mentioned to me without Tim hearing, that those glasses were $300. She didn't even seem upset about it. I think she was trying not to be. When Tim and I got out of the car to knock at the friend's door I said to him with a grimace, "She says those glasses are $300." His eyes widened and I'm pretty sure he was thinking, 'No $300 glasses are getting lost today.' On the way back home he pulled into the parking lot of the farmers' market again. After looking through the pictures on my camera, he figured out they'd gotten lost at the playground. We all got out to look this time. I prayed to St. Anthony and walked with my head down, eyes combing the ground which was full of wood shavings and leaves. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack! After maybe 10 or 15 minutes had passed, Tim found it. I couldn't believe it, and I asked him where. He said they were on top of a fence post. Somebody had picked them up and left them there. I was so relieved and happy, but not as much as Mom. She remarked that she hadn't wanted to inconvenience us, but she'd have spent all day out there looking if she could have. I believe it too. I remember the time back when I was a kid, we were driving through the mountains on our way to the beach and Mom and Dad backtracked some 70 miles to a McDonald's to search for a missing retainer. In the dumpster. They found it too, tucked inside a ketchup cup.
Mom was completely in love with the huge trees in our neighborhood and all the Spanish moss. I agree they're beautiful, and I will miss looking at them.
This entire week was meant to be the kids' spring break, but after the hurricane, Monday and Tuesday became makeup days. The kids went to school Monday, and that night I had a decision to make. Tuesday was Mom's last day here, and the weather was supposed to be beautiful. I really wanted us all to go to the beach. I'd been hankering after a beach trip all spring long and I'd really, really wanted to go while Mom was here. It wouldn't have been a tough call if not for the days they'll already be missing, with the surprise Disney trip and Grace's wedding. But in the end, after weighing a day of school against a day of making memories with Grandy, there was no question. YOLO.
Mom told me on the phone the day after she left how much she'd enjoyed the one-on-one time with us. One-on-one time, especially with grandkids, can be hard to come by even with the ones she lives close to and sees all the time. It was such a gift to us as well. Delaney really enjoys Grandy humor, and I wish I could share an example, but it's 'you had to be there' kind of stuff.

Annie says her favorite part about Grandy's visit was when we went to the beach, and ordered pizza for dinner, and had Italian ice afterward. I think Annie's best memories all revolve around food.  

It wasn't too hard to drop her off at the airport on Wednesday, knowing we'll be seeing her next month in Cincinnati and the month after in Topsail, NC!

Friday, March 24, 2017


..I have been researching my ancestors.

As a gift for our 10th anniversary, Tim surprised me a six-month membership to ancestry.com! I guess he could tell how intrigued I was whenever I would see the commercials. I jumped right into building my family tree, and it is the biggest time suck ever. I am never going to get anything done around here ever again because I am so fascinated by all the little bits and pieces I'm learning about my ancestors. Here's an example: In 1882 Bernard and Julia Berning had a little girl named Margaret, and four years later, a baby boy named August. Both of those children died a year a year after that. (A five-year-old and a baby both lost the same year -- unimaginable.) Two years after that they had Julia, my great-grandmother (mother's mother's mother) and she lived to be in her 90s. She was a survivor. I have to get one of my aunts to fill me in completely on the details of this story (which did not come courtesy of ancestry, btw) but when she was a little girl she followed her younger sister (Mary, who would only live to be 9) into the street and got hit by a trolley. She lost an arm, and grew up to be first a typist using one of those old typrewriters that you definitely could really use two hands for; then a wife and mother of six kids. She raised six children with only one arm. She changed cloth diapers that required pins, with one arm. But back to her mother, Julia the elder. She gave birth to 10 children altogether, and five did not make it to the age of 10. It made me so sad to think of her burying all those babies, and I wish I knew how they all died. The first one was born while she when she was 25 and the last baby who was lost after a year, was born when she was 42. I was surprised to note a few ancestors on both sides of my tree who've had babies well into their 40s and it's serving as kind of a heads-up for me. It's not that I thought nobody had babies in their 40s; I just didn't think the chances of it were all that great.
My great-grandmother Julia with her first three kids. My grandmother (my mom's mom Miriam) is the one holding the doll.
I'm in danger of neglecting the living people in my life in favor of all the deceased, but it is such a fun diversion. The kids want me to do the DNA test too, and I'm thinking about it, but really, even just going a couple hundred years back in time, I already know the answer. I'm a little bit of everything, but mostly Irish and German, and (this last one is new to me) French. I'm trying to build Tim's tree too, but on that side the dead aren't giving up their secrets easily. I haven't gotten far, but I've traced his mom's side to Italy, and his dad's side to Russia and Nova Scotia, and I know further back will take me to Ireland as well.

The frustrating thing about this ancestry business is that the little bit I learn from public records makes me wish I knew so much more.
..I've been filling up the calendar.

We've got some exciting things coming up! My mom is visiting for a few days next month right before Easter. Tim's parents are visiting Mother's Day weekend for Annie's First Communion. My sister Grace and her fiance Joey are getting married on May 19. This is a recent development and I waited with bated breath those few days she spent trying to get a date locked down. I kept telling her not to try to schedule it around us but when it turned out we'd be able to go, I was like woo-hoo! Dresses and shoes are already on order for the bride and sister bridesmaids! Then in mid- June, we'll see her, my parents and a couple of my other siblings and their families at our beach vacation in Topsail, NC. The end of June and July will be consumed with moving stuff. The Big 3 will be in Massachusetts with their grandparents while we take care of that and while Tim goes on more work trips (boo to work trips as we're organizing and moving all our stuff overseas). Then we will get out of here ourselves and join them. Tim's sister Karen and her fiance Matt will be tying the knot August 5! A few days after that we fly to Seattle, and from there to Japan.

As busy as we're going to be, in no time at all we'll be moving away. And I'm not ready for that, not at all.
..I've been doing a lot of driving.

The kids' schools are a half hour away, and most of the time they take the bus to and from, 45 minutes each way (yikes). This semester Delaney is doing two clubs after school, art and sign language. On those days I have to leave at 2 to pick up Annie and Timmy at 2:30, then drive to Delaney's school and wait there until she's done. On Mondays we wait 45 minutes, on Wednesdays an hour and 10 minutes. Annie just started gymnastics a few weeks ago, and the place I take her is right down the road from their school. That's on Tuesday evenings. Yesterday I drove Delaney and a couple of neighbor kids to their school dance that started at 4. Delaney got off the bus at 3:15, changed into a dress and we left at 3:30. I am really, really, really hoping and praying that in Okinawa we can live close to school and to other things. I always have this feeling of dread anytime I know there's something else going on at school, or something else they want to do, and I know how much more driving there's going to be. At the same time I want my kids to be joiners and doers, and I want them to have opportunities to find things they enjoy, develop their talents and make friends. In the case of Annie especially, in the past it's been a real puzzle to figure out what she likes, and she loves going to gymnastics. She can't seem to stop cartwheeling and climbing and hanging from things like a monkey every chance she gets.
This was taken just before heading out for the dance. Delaney was so cute and excited, and I was so happy later when she told me how much fun she'd had.
At least Timmy's tee ball (sorry Tim, baseball) is on base about two minutes away. That's 6:15 to 7:15 Tuesdays and Thursdays. I would definitely not be a happy camper having to drive a half hour home at 7:15 on a school night! 
...I've been running.
Tim has been training me hard and not to brag, but I finished first in my age group (35-39) in a 5K. My prize was a ride home. (Tim had warned me if I didn't beat my age group I would have to walk home.) I didn't do quite as well as hoped to (my time was 23:53, and I would have liked closer to 23), but the thing was I had belly issues that entire day. I managed to 'mind over matter' it for the race, but I do wonder how I might have done if that hadn't been a factor. Tim let me use his Garmin(?) watch and it was a good thing I did because there were a couple times I thought I was going fast enough and the watch let me know I needed to pick up the pace.
When I think of where I started a couple months ago, with just trying to get down to eight-minute miles, I'm pretty pleased.

.. I've been sneaking in some reading here and there. 

I'm working my way through The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis as part of a little reading group with my mom and sisters. We do three chapters a week, and the chapters are short and easy to digest. Lewis' writing is so clever and funny, and I keep nodding along because I see myself in all the insights into human nature and descriptions of ways the devil tempts people.

I devoured The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy within the span of a short few days. I read it on my phone every chance I got, and I was actually happy to be the one taking Annie to gymnastics because I knew it was an opportunity to sit in a waiting room and read for an hour without having anything better to do. Maybe it was because I was starting to feel wistful about having to move away, but I was curious to read literature by a local author. Once in awhile I find a book that just grabs me from page one and won't let me go until the end, and that's what kind of book this is. The writing is beautiful, the fictional town he describes is pretty obviously the one we live in and that's a fun connection; but it's the story and the characters that are so compelling. It's about some kids (now grownups) who grew up in pretty much the most dysfunctional family ever. Lots of bad stuff happened. But there are hilarious stories woven in too, and lots of breaks from the heavier parts. I'll have to check out some of his other books. I hope they're all just as good.


.. I've lost control of my house.

And I know that I'm in big part to blame. Just see above for all the ways I mismanage my time. But now Joey whose sole aim in life is to dismantle, destroy, and unravel, has outsmarted the cabinet locks. Now I can't keep anything put away. Right now on my high kitchen counter is a bag. Inside the bag are the contents of one of the cabinets of the desk. I have to reorganize it all and find a new home for all of it. On another counter are two stacks of serving bowls. I was so unnerved by the sound of them all clanking together as Joey pulled them from the cabinet earlier today, that I hurriedly piled them up there. Then I found myself wondering, Why do we have so many bowls? Do we really need all these bowls? What if I just got rid of them all?

We do not have enough high places to put things. I am drowning in the mess. I had to go to the commissary this morning, and I tried not to look around as I headed out the door. It actually hurts me to leave things all in disarray. I won't even go to bed at night until the kitchen is clean, counters wiped down and dishes are either hand-washed or in the dishwasher. I can't get to the bigger items of cleaning that are desperately needed in this house; I am too busy cleaning up the same little messes again and again. And now with my cabinets no longer safely closed, it's like playing whackamole. 

Eek .. the woes of Rachael. Alright, off to see if I can get something done with what remains of his nap. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Joey: 15 Months

Someone said to me recently that her teenage son had said to her, "You know that baby who sits in front of us at Mass? I can't believe how much bigger and older he looks every time we see him. How can he change that fast?" She replied, "That's what they do."
A couple weeks ago when  it seemed as though Joey had given up that morning nap for good, I decided at Tim's suggestion to avail myself of hourly daycare on base once or twice a week just to have some time to myself in the mornings. Registering him there necessitated a trip to the doctor to have a form filled out. I thought we were right between the 12 and 15 month checkups but we were closer to the 15-month than I realized, and he treated it as a regular checkup instead of just filling out the form based on his last visit like I thought he would. Joey was weighed and measured, and I was pleased to hear the doctor say that he had grown a remarkable inch and a half in height (he added that three inches over the course of a year is considered acceptable) and had gained at least a pound. I might have been tempted to think there'd been a little error on the part of the people measuring him, but I had been noticing how much better his 12-18 month clothes were fitting, and how he'd been filling out his footie pajamas. I actually thought I'd been shrinking his clothes, but this is great news! It felt like getting an 'A' this time. I had the exact numbers jotted down on scrap paper which has since disappeared, so I'll have to get them next time I go to the naval hospital.
We did the hourly care a couple times after that and it went well enough, but in the last week or so his nighttime sleep has taken a turn for the worse again so he's been needing a morning nap. He's napping right now as a matter of fact and that is the one good thing I get out of this. I'm thinking maybe teething is to blame. Every time I look in his mouth I see glimpses of all the teeth he's getting and all the ones he's just gotten. He won't let me look and feel for more than a split second or two, but it's so many teeth and swollen gums. It's like he's getting all the remaining teeth at once. I'm like OK, let's just get this over with then! It's torture. I give him a dose of ibuprofen before bed. He wakes me up anywhere from one to three to maybe even five or six times a night. I go in there, cover him up, tell him to go back to sleep and leave. Then at 5:30 this morning he woke up and would not go back to sleep, so he's already adjusted to daylight savings time. I am so, so tired. Fatigue is my constant companion. I am such a wimp when I'm not getting adequate sleep. Then I torment myself by looking at Facebook and seeing all the fun things people are doing on the weekends while I'm just enjoying not getting up at 6 and not schlepping the kids around to and from various things. Weekends are about what I'm not doing. It's been a challenging time for me, that's for sure, and I gave up complaining for Lent but I'm being sorely tested. He's been taking great naps, though, and I am grateful for that.
I remember Tim saying to me when he was a few months old and just coming out of that colicky phase, "You've loved him into submission." Well, that battle is ongoing but I have plenty of help around here. His dad and siblings love on him every chance they get and it's easy because he's so cute and because he pays back the love when he's not being an ornery little booger. He gives out his adorable open mouth kisses, hugs and high-fives on request. He plays 'ring around the rosy' with us and laughs when we all fall down and he doesn't. He loves when Annie holds him and I pursue him and she trots him away just out of my reach again and again. I love to see him bouncing on her hip and squealing in delight as they go around the corner.

He folds his little hands at dinnertime when we sit down to say grace and it melts my heart. He loves the playground behind our house and can climb up and go down the tall twisty slide backwards on his own. He can also go down steps backward, but wants to try walking down them (which he can't and that's scary). If I chase him, he can't run so he staggers like a drunk and then lies down and waits for me to get him. He loves to dance and his favorite song is "Cake by the Ocean", which Annie plays on my phone for him. Then I want to take a video but I can't because it's playing on my phone, so I go to get my camera but the moment passes.. :( I'm making it my mission to get that video now that I think of it. I'm always going to want to look back at that sweet baby dancing to his favorite song.
He's getting to have a temper when things don't go his way. He screeches, falls to the floor, hits the floor with his hands, and puts on quite a performance. He has zero ability to entertain himself and will not play with any of his toys. What he wants is to empty out the top desk drawer that has all our staples, paperclips and that kind of thing. Otherwise he wants me to carry him around on my hip all afternoon. He never wakes up from a nap happy.

He's been eating really well, and I guess that would account for the growth spurt. Lately he's been loving strawberries. He gobbles them up as quickly as he can. He likes most things, but not breakfast foods. He doesn't care for eggs, cereal, pancakes, toast, any of it. He's a funny little man.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Date Night

Alternatively titled: "In Which We Discover that After Nearly 10 Years of Marriage, We Are in Fact Strangers"

A friend of mine alerted me about a week or two ago, to a "Staying Connected" marriage workshop on base to take place on a Friday night from 5:30 to 7:30. Dinner would be provided, there would be games, and the whole thing was free. It sounded like a win to me so I signed us up and booked Ben next door to watch the kids.

Tim and I don't get out by ourselves nearly enough. I think the last time was over Christmas when we went out to dinner with Scotty and Faith. We should do this more often. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to try to pick out an outfit that's "casual, so I don't look like I tried too hard.. but a little dressed up .. with just the right jewelry.." I even successfully curled my hair for the first time. I finally found what works -- a curling wand! People, you have no idea what an accomplishment this was for me. I had just told me girls that my goal by age 40 was to learn how to curl my hair. With two years and four months to go, I have achieved it.

We snapped a selfie by the boat dock before going in. As soon as we walked in we were told to go right to the buffet line and get dinner. I liked that -- no messing around, just get your dinner and start eating. I liked where this night was heading.
We ate our spaghetti and salad and chatted with other couples there, some of whom we knew already and some we didn't.

I knew there was going to be a Newlywed Game - type thing, but in hindsight I really think we should have studied. "What's your favorite color?" "What's our best memory?" "What is it about me that drives you nuts?" Because from the very first question, I knew we were sunk. It was, "What does your spouse know the most about? A) Food Network B) HGTV, C) What Not to Wear, D) DIY network and E) something else I forget. Tim needed to answer the question about me. The problem is I don't watch any of these channels with any regularity, and don't know much about any of the subject matter. But I like Chip and Joanna Gaines, and I know Tim knows that so I wrote HGTV on my little whiteboard. Tim picked Food Network. Boo.

As the game went on and the 14 other couples kept answering questions (many of them correctly!), my anxiety started ramping up. Please let us get one point, just one! There were couples who were so in sync with their answers and as they grinned at each other from across the room I started to feel like, I kind of hate you right now. Then there were a few others who were having the same kind of luck as us, and getting mad at each other. But I couldn't even be mad at Tim for not knowing the correct answer to "What do you wear that drives your spouse crazy?" Nothing he wears really drives me crazy. I wrote down the ratty long-sleeve cotton race shirt he still wears that's 10 years old. I had recently said to him as I was folding it, "I can't believe you still have this." But his answer was, "She hates when I wear my shoes in the house." That's true, but not what occurred to me in that moment. Darn.

We got one lousy point out of a possible eight. The question was, "Which superpower would your spouse want? A) Superman speed, B) Hulk strength, C) x-ray vision, and a couple other things. Initially I wrote down that he would want superman speed, but as the men started saying hulk strength one after another, I changed my answer. We got it. Phew.

There were two couples who did worse than us: one had only been married seven months, and the other was missing the husband until the last five minutes of the game. I can't even tell you how uncomfortable this was. We kept shooting wide-eyed looks at each other, like 'WTH!'

There was only one answer I was peeved at Tim for not getting right: the one about my ideal date night. The possible choices were A) Picnic and bike ride, B) Pizza and move, C) Candlelight dinner, D) something else and E) Going to bed early. I had just been telling him as we were getting ready to go out about how I missed our date nights in. The kids would go to bed at 7, and actually go to sleep then too, it was amazing. He'd cook a delicious better-than-restaurant quality dinner and we would eat it by candlelight at the kitchen table. It was like all the best parts of going out to a restaurant without worrying about driving, parking, being disappointed by an expensive meal, finding a babysitter, etc. He picked something about comfy clothes and wine -- both things I like! -- just not the best of the choices given. He was like, crap.

It was safe to say that even though we had arrived that night with no tension in our relationship, it was now thick in the air and all around us. The one thing this workshop was missing was alcohol, and I could have really used a drink. I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

The toughest question of all was one that most couples could not agree on an answer to. It was, "What did he do that made you laugh the hardest?" Oh, man. So like I said, nearly everyone was getting it wrong, even the adorable Couple Number 1 who had gotten almost everything right. That should have made me relax. But the wife half of that couple told the cutest story about how she had had an allergic reaction to something, and had itching, and sent him out to get her something and he'd come back with Preparation H. Her husband laughed about that and then revealed his answer that was something else equally hilarious. And it went on, with every couple sharing some really funny thing he'd done that made them laugh. And although Tim makes me laugh on the regular, I could not think of one good story. There was not one good story. With us it's all inside jokes, 'you had to be there' kind of stuff.

I racked my brain as it came closer to my turn, and the best I could come up with was, "Tim and I laugh about a lot of things that make sense only to us. One thing I could think of is that we like to tease each other about how "I only started dating you because you slept under my porch all night." But I butchered the whole explanation and Tim tried to help me. The line was from the movie Up and it was, "I was hiding under your porch because I love you. Can I come in?" Tim's answer: "I have no idea."


I felt considerable relief when that game was over. Then the leader passed out booklets for us to write answers to questions about ourselves and our marriage in. I found myself stumped by all of them, and I think Tim felt the same way. We kept sneaking looks at each other's answers. But there was to be no grade! And no sharing of any of the answers, so I just crumpled it up inside my purse at my first opportunity.

After that there was a Valentine themed craft for us to do, and it is the cheesiest, but kind of fun. In the example she showed us, the 'V' in love was supposed to be someone's footprints. But adult footprints are not cute, amiright? Most of us quickly figured out there was no way for a handprint and two footprints to fit on this canvas. Everyone did their own thing instead, and here's what we did. Our handprints, one on top of the other. Aw...
We got a little more than we bargained for with this date night, but we'll probably do something like this again. It was fun overall even if some parts were a little painful. We are going to study each other like crazy for the next time so we can be the nauseating couple who know everything about each other. Smooches and high-fives, lol!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Joey: 14 Months

We now have a toddler!

He finally, on the very day he turned 14 months, decided he likes to walk more than he likes to crawl. I thought he was my latest walker, but I just checked my blog archives and read Timmy's 14-month update. Timmy was still not walking at that time, so it's just another reason I'm so glad I write these things down. My memory stinks! Reading through that update, it looks like Joey is Timmy all over again. The kisses and high-fives on request, the climbing everything, and the phasing out of the morning nap .. check, check and check.
As I type this he is having a morning nap, but that has been more and more seldom an occurrence. For one thing, life often interferes and a morning nap isn't possible. But half the time, whenever we are home, he refuses to take one. My favorite baby sleep book says that most kids don't give up their morning naps until they're about 16 months old. But it also says all kids are different, and I already knew that.:) So I am holding onto it for a little while longer, but it is soon to be a thing of the past. Just like I said in Timmy's update, it is really better for me once the morning nap goes away. I get out and do things more in the morning, with that nap excuse gone.
The one glaring difference between Joey and Timmy at this age has to do with nighttime sleep. Timmy slept from 7 to 7. Joey goes to bed easily at 7, but he usually wakes up once or twice in the middle of the night, crying like someone pinched him. I go in there, pat this back, whisper sweet nothings, and then tiptoe out. Then several minutes go by and I hear him crying again, I do the same thing, and then it might even happen one more time. He's allowed to get up for the day at 6, but oftentimes wakes up crying hysterically at 5:40. Why, Joey, why?
He babbles and points at things all the time, and I talk to him about all the things he points to with his questioning chirps. He said his first word, "Hello," while holding my phone to his ear. I found that funny considering he hardly ever sees me use it for talking. I don't like talking on the phone much.

He's doing a much better job eating this month. He's kind of picky and he still doesn't do well with certain textures, but I can get him to eat something every meal. I give him a fruit and veggy pouch every day with either lunch or dinner to make sure he's getting enough of those because he may or may not be able to handle the texture of the real thing. A long-time believer of baby-led weaning, I never wanted to get into the habit of giving him purees. The other kids didn't need them. But it turns out they have their place. When I have a little guy who's not getting as many calories as is optimal, not eating as many kinds of solid foods as I'd like, and I'm trying to cut back on nursing at the same time .. for all of these reasons I am finding them useful. Those pouches are the easiest thing too -- he just sucks it all down. I foresee taking many of those pouches with me on a long plane ride in the future.
As I already mentioned, everything I talk about comes back to Okinawa sooner or later. When it comes to Joey, it is usually with a feeling of horror that I remember that this moody kid who is most manageable (really ONLY manageable) at home in his familiar routines, is going with us. We are going to be displaced for weeks and living out of suitcases before we settle down into a home there. Deep breaths.. I might as well face it, I'm scared. I keep pushing it out of my mind and then it keeps coming to me. 

Between now and then I am looking to cut back nursing to no more than three times a day, but preferably two. He does not nurse much while traveling, and I do not want to pump on a plane or in an airport. This week I've dropped the dinnertime session, and that leaves four times: first thing in the morning, mid-morning, before the afternoon nap, and before bed.

This morning we all had to go to the dental clinic for exams as part of overseas screening. All the dentist wanted to do was look in Joey's mouth and count his teeth. That was the extent of the exam; he didn't even make him sit in a chair. But Joey wouldn't have it. He buttoned up his lips like nothing to see here. I'm guessing that when he finally does have to start visiting the dentist for cleanings and exams, it's going to be about as much fun as it was getting his hair cut the first time. *eyeroll* But at least there will be no scissors involved.
Just wanted to throw in one of my shots from our photo session on the back of the truck:)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Adventure Awaits

Right before Christmas I proudly posted this on Facebook to share with one and all:

This week we got some news we've been waiting a long time for -- Tim's been selected for promotion!! I'm SO proud of him and looking forward to seeing where our Marine Corps adventure takes us to next.

It was not a big surprise at least to me; it was just a matter of waiting for what felt like weeks and weeks to get the news. But the promotion was not a given and it's a huge deal to us. That was the first piece of news we needed, and it was great. I basked in the heaps of congratulations that came our way because I am so proud of him and his accomplishments, and I love seeing him be rewarded for his years of hard work.

Then we settled in to wait for the next big piece of news we would get: the part about where the adventure would take us next. We -- or at least I -- were pretty confident we'd be headed back to eastern North Carolina. Tim's friend who is in the know, was certain this would be the case. This was going to be the logical next step in Tim's career, because the next thing he's hoping to get is command of a unit there. I just couldn't wait to have those orders in hand so we could apply to base housing on Cherry Point.

Tim said to me somewhere along the way that the people getting orders to Okinawa, Japan would be the first to receive orders since they needed the most time to prepare. He said once those people got their orders, we'd know for sure we weren't going there. He wasn't ruling out the chance of getting Okinawa orders mostly because in his 22-year career, he's never gone there before. He kept telling me not to count my (Cherry Point) chickens before they hatched, but I was looking into the schools, moving into the house in my mind, and imagining being a half hour away from my favorite beaches again. I kept saying to him, "Have the Okinawa people gotten their orders yet? What's taking so long?"

A few weeks ago while he was away on a trip, I got a FaceTime call from him right after I put the kids to bed. Our conversation went something like this:

"How did your day go?"
"Eh, just a pretty typical day."
"Are you ready for me to change that?"
"Do you have some news for me?"
"We're going to Japan?"
"Ohmygosh, hahahaha...."

Then Delaney and Timmy came running out and said, "We're going to Japan?" Tim mentioned not having wanted to tell them yet and I said, "You shouldn't have called at 8:15 then!"

So we talked for a little while about it, mostly about how we'd be so happy for this opportunity except that it means being so far away from our families. We also knew that just the logistics of moving there are staggering and mind-boggling. Then there's getting used to being in another country, in a completely unfamiliar area. Tim was taking the news harder than I was, because what it means for his career is uncertain. It's not that it's a bad thing, more that it's a detour, and he was feeling a little like WTH, Marine Corps? He hadn't seen it coming. But he says he had kind of seen it coming.

I asked him if it was a sure thing, and he said the monitor had told him it definitely was. I reminded him of what happened last time he got orders to Okinawa, and how nothing is a sure thing.. but everything works out in the end the way it's supposed to.

I felt like I took the news very much in stride considering how completely out of the realm of possibility I'd thought Okinawa was (hahahahaha, says anyone who's been a Marine or been married to one). I was just like, "OK, this is what's going to happen. We're going to make the most of it!" Then that night lying in bed I could. not. sleep. My mind started going a million miles an hour. I started to really feel sad for what was not to be after all; and then I tried wrapping my head around most likely three years of not seeing our families in Massachusetts and Ohio. Ugh. Impossible. Why do we have to go so far away?

A couple days later I shared this to Facebook:

Well, the suspense is over for us. Okinawa, Japan it is! This comes as a little bit of a shock. Not sure what I think about this. Japan is a long way away. As soon as we told Delaney she said, "Sushi. And slides." Oh boy!

And the comments I got on that post blew me away in the best possible way. Friends who are there and/or have been there chimed in telling me about things to see and do, how the schools are top-notch, the beaches are beautiful -- so much great stuff. Most of all, just being reminded again about who is already there, friends I look forward to seeing again, was so reassuring. This is something we never would have chosen for ourselves, but since the Marine Corps chose it for us, I was ready to embrace this amazing opportunity and take it for what it's worth. I love to throw the term "adventure" around when I think I'm moving five hours north to somewhere we've already been twice, but now we're looking at a no-kidding adventure. Especially with four kids in tow!

Since that day, every conversation we have either begins or ends with Okinawa. There is a long process for getting there, and we're now in the thick of it -- lots of paperwork, medical and dental stuff, passports.. I feel like it's eating up huge chunks of my time. Not to mention we are making lots of plans for places we want to go and loved ones we want to see before our August departure.

So that's where we are now. The Marine Corps threw us a curveball, but I think everything's going to be OK.

Monday, January 30, 2017

10 Free Things I Did During The Longest Month

~Of which I am inordinately proud~

January is always the longest month of the year. January is an opportunity (yes, let's call it that) to let our finances recover from Christmas, and for this year, to get on track for meeting some ambitious saving and giving goals. We might have one or two other spending freezes during the year, but January is guaranteed. We say to ourselves that we are not spending any money unless it's necessary. As far as 'necessary' goes, we ask ourselves how much do we need it? Can it wait till February? There isn't a whole lot that we need that can't wait: food, diapers and a payment for a beach vacation this summer summed it up. It's pretty miserly and not much fun at all, but I always know it's coming and I'd better make the most of it. This month, any time I did something that didn't cost us any money, I gave myself a mental pat on the back. I also took credit for some things Tim did. We're in this together.

If I see it all down in list form, I know I'm going to feel really proud of myself and maybe it will give me inspiration to do even better next January. So here goes -- things I did this month that were free or nearly free.

1) I (we) used gift cards. Christmas gift cards really take the edge off of no-spend January, and we typically get a couple Amazon gift cards between the two of us. Tim also got one for the Marine Corps Exchange, and he got himself some of his favorite Under Armour stuff as well as a Yeti mug that he's been complaining about incessantly, and spilling his coffee out of it left and right. I also earned $20 worth of Amazon gift cards through Swagbucks (my referral link). If I were smart, I'd have hoarded them all and waited till these last few unbearable days of the month to use them, but I don't have that kind of restraint. I don't even remember what I bought but it must have been good!

2) We did haircuts at home. Tim cuts his own hair and Timmy's, and when Joey gets a little bigger he'll do his too. (In the interest of full disclosure, I attempted to DIY Joey's haircut. I messed it up and it then became necessary to have my hairdresser fix it asap. My one frugal fail!)  Neither of the girls need haircuts right now, but I have given each of them a simple trim in the past. With a family our size we can save all kinds of money doing haircuts at home. Of course I spend enough money at my hair salon to more than make up for it, I guess. But not this month!

3) I decluttered and organized our stuff. I went room by room, closet by closet. I rediscovered a couple things I loved, such as the the colorful little rooster Tim brought back from Portugal. I found the perfect place to display it in our little office area. I filled up bags and boxes for Goodwill and a clothing swap. I took the kids clothing bins that had just a few things in them, and I condensed them into one or two. I took inventory of what kids' clothes we had, and what sizes and seasons they were. I got rid of nearly everything the girls outgrew, and of Timmy's outgrown clothes, I only saved the things I really, really like for Joey. I noted that we now have several empty storage bins, as I wasn't always one get rid of everything. But those empty bins will all be nice to have when we move this summer (to Japan, OMG!!), and they nest so they don't take up much space themselves.
Delaney didn't like it when I bought her soccer cleats that weren't pink, but I knew I was going to want to be able to pass them down to the boys.
4) I participated in a clothing swap. A friend down the street organized a clothing swap for women and kids. I found a lot of things my girls had outgrown or things of mine that weren't working out for me anymore, and brought them in. Then we all got to enjoy shopping for free, and everything not taken by the end of the night was donated. I struck out with kids' stuff; I couldn't find anything for them besides a couple pairs of shorts for Joey to grow into. But I got a few things for myself, my favorite being a black Old Navy vest that hadn't even been worn. Someone had bought it in the wrong size and hadn't bothered to return it. I contributed so much more than I ended up bringing home, and that's really a good thing.

5) We went to the Port Royal Maritime Center. The kids have many random days off throughout the year, and while I'm glad they have so many opportunities to recharge their batteries, I'm often at a loss as to what to do with them all day. Annie looked up this little place nearby on my phone and when I saw that admission was free and it got great reviews, I decided we'd give it a try. I'm so glad we did. It was just a tiny place, only a few rooms, and if we hadn't had the guided tour we probably would have only lasted there 15-20 minutes. But we had a volunteer who took us around and engaged the kids in discussions about the ecology of the Port Royal Sound, the history of the area and the amazing animals that live there. We all learned so much, and the kids even got to get hands on some of the animals. A typical big city aquarium experience doesn't compare to this.
We learned that the horseshoe crab has blue blood that is used in tests to make sure medical equipment is clean, so we don't get sick and die from routine medical procedures. The crab itself is unharmed and returned to the water.
Who remembers Flipper? This dolphin's story is rather sad.
6) I used the Navy digital library. I prefer reading an actual book whenever possible. I do not go to our local library downtown because you have to pay to park in the parking lot, and I don't believe in paying to park at the library, even if it is less than a dollar. (It is so irksome to need to go to the machine, use my credit card, and have it spit out a ticket that I have to go back and put on my dashboard. It's the library! The city needs to raise money some other way.) We have a library on base and we enjoy that but if I'm there for a specific book, a lot of times I'm out of luck. Especially if it's a newer, popular book or one that's being sought by several other people living here. I was glad to be able to download and read this month's book club selection right on my phone. I might have heard Amazon Prime has a digital library now too, and I'll have to look into that.

7) We did YouTube yoga. Tim and I are currently working through Adriene's Revolution: 31 Days of Yoga. I love it. She also has some good yoga for beginners and back pain yoga videos that have served us well these past few months. A lot of yoga instructors on YouTube have annoying mannerisms (especially to Tim), but Adriene reminds me of a good friend from high school -- down to earth, says 'y'all', and has a '90s pop lyric to go with just about every "lesson". It is silly and sometimes eye-roll-worthy, but it is serious yoga practice that is good for the body and good for the mind. Yoga should be fun.

9) I made my own decor and shopped the house for supplies. I made this Valentine banner using only stuff I'd scrounged up from around the house. The only thing hard to find were buttons. Annie gave me a shirt she said was too small that had six, and then I found sequins the same color from extra birthday party invitations I'd saved. I followed these instructions.
10) I ran with Stroller Warriors. It is a free running club for military spouses that has chapters all over the world. I don't take it for granted at all. When Delaney was a baby and we lived in Massachusetts, I joined Stroller Strides. A quick search of Quicken tells me that I paid $122 for a session which lasted a few weeks or a couple months to the best of my memory. I drove 40 minutes to the meetings once a week, and I remember gas being super expensive in summer 2008. It was worth it for me to get out and go running with other moms. Nowadays I am just as happy to run by myself or with Tim, but I do like to go to SW once a week. They are a fun, encouraging group of women. Being around them makes me want to set goals and not just be a lazy runner the way I'm inclined to be. (My most challenging runs are still with Tim, though. Just needed to throw that in there in case he was reading and thinking, 'But I help you set goals!')

It should go without saying, but I have to mention we've had no meals out, no coffees out, and no treats out. We only do these things a handful of times in a typical month anyway, so eliminating them altogether isn't too big a deal. I don't feel like we miss out on much at all, and when we finally do do those things again, we appreciate them more.

I am eagerly counting down until I can tell January "Don't let the door hit ya!" but I know that spending freeze months give me something invaluable. They take the focus off acquiring things, get me to take stock of what I have, appreciate the things that are right here in my backyard, and practice being grateful.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Delaney's Li'l Old Lady Shoes

The other day I fell down a rabbit hole of purging and organizing in my house, and I came across these tiny shoes of Delaney's. I smiled as I remembered the day I got them.

Delaney was almost 14 months old and a brand new walker. I decided it was time to get real shoes, an upgrade from the Robeez. (Silly me, not knowing that Robeez or bare feet were the best thing for a brand new walker. I was such a clueless new mom.)

I took her to Stride Rite and my heart skipped a beat at the sight of that entire wall of cute baby girl shoes. The salesperson measured her feet -- 3 1/2 extra-wide. I asked him to bring out every style they had in that size. How was I ever going to choose? This was going to be so much fun!

He disappeared into the back room and came out with one box. There was exactly one type of shoe in the store that came in 3 1/2 XW, and when he took them out I was so disappointed. Plain white. No bows, no sparkles, no fun little details. They looked orthopedic. They were almost identical to the very first baby shoes I had ever worn myself. But the soles of these ones were thicker, and there were little flowers on the heel so that was something.
Thanks to Quicken, I know I paid $26.99 for these beauties. I literally did not have a clue.
It's a wonder she ever learned to walk on those little mozzarella balls she had for feet!
She wore those old lady shoes well, though.
She was wearing them when we drove to the top of Mt. Washington. It was SO COLD on top of that mountain. And look, I see bare skin on that poor girl. We took the picture above just before we got in our car to drive back down. Before that she had been in a pack on Tim's back. I don't know what I was thinking when I set Delaney down on her feet on the gravel beside our car. It's bad enough to not be able to feel the ground through the thick soles of your shoes, but by this point she couldn't even feel her feet! She fell right down on her face like a domino. I really don't know how she survived me.