Sunday, April 22, 2018

My 1st Grade Homework: A Letter to Timmy

Timmy is "Croc of the Week" at school this week, and as part of that, I was given an assignment due Wednesday (and it's already done, yay me) to write a letter for his teacher to read to the class. She said it could be a short story, a poem, or even a series of photos and/or stories about him. I thought about what creative approach I could take, but in the end I just went with sappy. I ended up cutting my rambles down a bit, keeping in mind it was going to be read out loud to a classroom full of fidgety first graders.

Dear Timmy,

Since it's Month of the Military Child and you are Croc of the Week, I can't think of a better opportunity to let you know what a terrific kid your daddy and I think you are.

You were born here in New Bern, in the midst of a 10-month deployment. You were the easiest baby ever -- laid-back and along for the ride, full of smiles. What a special gift you were and are. You met your daddy the first time when you were six months old, and I was worried you'd be scared of him, but you acted like you'd always known him. He deployed again only a year later. You had to get used to lots of change in your life right from the very beginning.
Image by Melinda Pepper Photography
From the time you could walk, you've been the child who keeps us on our toes. Sometimes you get it in your head that there's a different, better way to do something; or a quicker or more interesting way to get where the rest of us are going. It can be exasperating, but I know that independent streak is going to serve you well one day. You can be super stubborn, too. We've butted heads plenty of times, but I know that stubbornness  -- let's call it tenacity -- is going to be very useful to you too, getting through life.

You are inquisitive, always wanting to know the how and why of everything. You like to share the interesting things you read in your books. Recently you were telling me about the world record for the longest nose and the longest beard. Books are the best food for your inquiring mind, so I'm glad you're a reader.

You have such a good heart. Today you offered your sister your sweatshirt when she was complaining about the cold, even though she hadn't been nice to you. To me, that was nicer than the prettiest bouquet of flowers you could have handed me. Always be kind to people, whether they deserve it or not. You will be so blessed for that. I know it's not easy, especially with a sibling. Now that Joey's not a baby anymore, you've got him to contend with too, always wanting whatever you have and shattering glass with his shrieks when he doesn't get it.
Your life is a revolving door of people and places, always another hello or goodbye. We can see that this latest move has been the hardest adjustment for you. This new neighborhood doesn't have as many kids, and it's harder for you to find someone to play with. There isn't much we can do about that, except to remind you of this: no matter where we go, the thing that never changes is that you've got us.

We are so proud of you, bub.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Joey: 2 1/4 (and thoughts on weaning the fourth time around)

It's time for an overdue quarterly update on Joe. I am amazed at how much he's changed even since he turned two. I just love this age on him. He is hilarious with the things he says and does, makes "duck lips" when he pouts, thinks Tim's truck is a "monser truck", and gives the best hugs.
For the record, he is still in diapers and still in a crib. He wears 2T clothing and size 7/8 shoes (cutest little feet ever!). He takes a nap every afternoon for two to three hours, and is in bed every night from about 7:30 to maybe 6 or 6:30. He is not asleep that whole time. He usually cries for me at least once to come cover him up again. (The weighted blanket is heavy, but it maybe, possibly helps him sleep as long as it's on.) Still, we're in a lot better place than we were around the time he turned two. Are we out of the woods yet? I dare not say.
He is getting to be quite the little chatterbox, and he's been starting to use phrases and sentences more. "What time is it?" is his latest favorite. He likes to assert his opinions loudly. This past Sunday in Mass he declared right at Communion time, "No Jesus. Not like-a Jesus."😬 Last night when he was in the bath, I was being silly and acting like I was about to get in with him fully clothed. He said, "No, Mama." I said, "Why not?" "Clothes off."

Bathtime is his favorite. Unlike the other kids who regularly skip a day or two, Joey doesn't miss a night of taking a bath, and sometimes he gets more than one a day if he's had a messy enough diaper (since he is intact and pulling back the foreskin to clean is a big no-no). He'll sit there till the water is ice cold if I let him, filling up the cup, dumping it out, putting the cars in the cup, lining the cars up on the edge of the tub, etc. He hates it when I wash his hair, so I only do that once every few days.
He was getting so fast on his Strider Bike before we moved. I can't wait till he gets it back. He was riding it to the playground and back, and coasting down the little hills.

In the midst of all the chaos of the last month or two, we've reached a big milestone: he is completely weaned as of March 18. And I was (am) OK with it! I didn't get depressed for days like last time, even though I was more apt to since I'm only becoming more sentimental the older I get, and that much less willing to let go of the babyhood of my littlest. I applied the lessons I'd learned from weaning Timmy and did it a lot differently this time. We were already down to just one session, the bedtime one, for several months. Dropping that last session was a big deal to me though, so I had to take it slow. First I started to mention to him frequently at bedtime, that he was getting too big to nurse and we'd be all done soon. I don't know if he understood that at all. This was January or February. In the back of my mind, a deadline was looming; we'll be leaving all the kids with Tim's parents while we go to Quantico for about a week at the end of this month and beginning of May. To say I found this daunting would be a huge understatement.
Then I tried testing the waters, omitting nursing from the bedtime routine. If I distracted him by maybe talking about something, or having someone else come into the room, he'd forget and go to sleep OK. But more often than not, he'd say, "Nurse!" if I tried taking him straight to bed after we'd looked out the window and said goodnight to the ferris wheel and the tree and whatnot. If he requested to nurse, I'd nurse him.
That went on for a couple weeks, and then I started to get more intentional. For two nights in a row, we'd skip nursing, and I'd either distract him and he'd forget or if he remembered, I'd say, "It's not a nursing night." He only got upset once, and between Tim and me, we managed to soothe him. Then the third night I'd nurse him. I worried that this would confuse him, but forged ahead anyway. Dropping it cold turkey like a bad habit the way I'd done with Timmy, hadn't worked out at all for me at all, emotionally or physically. It takes awhile before the milk factory gets the message to shut down, so this gradual approach was mostly for my benefit, I admit. Fortunately he adjusted to this schedule with minimal fuss.

Then I stretched it to every third or fourth night, with him sometimes remembering to ask but most of the time not. I told Tim that I was sure we'd be done for good once we moved out of the house and into the hotel, and we were in new surroundings; and I was right. He forgot all about it and that was that. I feel relieved and a bit wistful whenever I think about it, but all the distractions and busyness of the past several weeks have been good for my coping. Nothing else has changed -- he's still my baby. Whenever he wants to be held or to snuggle up to me, I just drink him in, more grateful than ever for those moments.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Catching Up

So where were we?  Right.. We descended out of the clouds and our sleepy kids perked up at the sight of Boston looking like a frosted cookie. I know that for northerners this has been the never-ending winter of hell, but for these kids to just get a taste of actual winter, was such a treat.

I don't know where they got the energy for it, but they played outside for a long time. I also don't know where they get the tolerance for the cold, having lived in subtropical climates for at least half their lives. Joey was wearing Crocs and not complaining. I couldn't be bothered to dig out a real pair of shoes for him -- I was trying to stay awake until it was an appropriate time of day for a nap. They are definitely made out of something different than me; either that or I just don't understand what a big deal snow is.
Annie was wearing Timmy's sneakers which were by then open toe because they were the brakes for his bike which we left on the curb in Okinawa. What a motley crew we are! Also, I never knew Tim's parents' front yard was a hill.
L-R: Natalie (9), Delaney, Alexa (14), Annie and Joey
Thanks again to our niece Sofia, for the great pictures!
Again, crossing so many time zones affected us all to varying degrees. I might have been hit hardest. For three days, every time I found myself in a moving vehicle I wanted to catch flies. Good thing I wasn't driving! The first time I did drive, four days after arrival, I might have almost made a left turn the Okinawa way (a.k.a. the British way) out of a shopping plaza in Framingham. I was like, Would someone please take my head off and screw it back on correctly? Every night I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble falling asleep -- right up until Thursday or Friday. Tim had that problem too. Strangely, Joey slept better than ever. Of course he did, because he has to be different. Delaney adjusted to east coast time the quickest, from what I observed. I think her internal clock reset at the sight of snow.
Alexa got a birthday surprise the first night when we all sat down to dinner. I love the way this family does surprises! Sam, her mother, handed her a box. The first thing she saw inside was the sled dog team and the humans being pulled. I wonder if she had any idea where this was going.
Next, she found a folded sheet of paper on which was written, "To be read by Delaney". 
Delaney's double-take was priceless. We all laughed so hard. 

There was also fun with the drone that Delaney had gotten with Christmas Amazon credit and had shipped there. 
Tim took the boys for haircuts, and the barber took way too much off Timmy. Haircuts are so hit or miss anymore. He sure looked handsome with it combed to the side, but that's not typically the way he wears it.
We had such a nice visit for almost a week. We had at least a couple big family dinners. Tim and I went out to eat by ourselves one night, and another night we went to the new house of some old friends. The few days we spent there were so fun and relaxing, that I was utterly dejected to have to pack bags again the following Friday. We really tested the cargo capacity of the old Traverse, too. Tim would think he was done fitting things in and I'd be like, "Oh yeah, and there's this." Haha. He kept saying to me, "We need a Suburban." I had to admit that at least for that day (and no other), a Suburban would have been nice. It was kind of stressful wondering if we'd have to sacrifice a stroller or a pack 'n play or something. In the end everything fit but it wasn't pretty.

We left at 5 Saturday morning and it took us 16 mostly uneventful hours to make our way down the coast, where a dinner at 5 Guys and rooms at the Cherry Point Inn awaited us. 95 was not especially bad, but when you take it through so many states, it's bound to be bad in at least a few places. I might have hated my life the entire way, and frequently let Tim know as much. I'm was so done with traveling! So sick of being in a plane or a car, and having all our stuff in bags. I don't want to go anywhere again!

We didn't get to our rooms until 9 or so that night, but we still had to make sure the Easter Bunny would find us. He did! We didn't have our baskets, but he made do with boxes. And we all managed to clean up nice for Easter Sunday Mass. A side-by-side Moe's and Duncan Donuts made for a brunch that could please everybody.
Then we got the keys to our 'home sweet home' for the next two years. It's been a whirlwind, and I am ready for things to slow down for a while.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

We Made It!

The Okinawa chapter of our life is closed. After two grueling days of travel, we landed in Boston Sunday morning. When we came out of the clouds and saw the snow, the kids were so excited. It was just the perfect amount for people unaccustomed to actual winter, and it was exactly the welcome back to New England the kids were hoping for.

I was going to just start posting cute snow pictures, but then as I started clicking through all the pictures from the last few days, I realized that there were a lot more than I expected. That's mostly thanks to Tim. I laughed at a few of them, and decided this needed to be documented.
These first pictures were from the Japan leg of the trip, when the takeoffs and landings broke up the day pretty well. The kids were all so thrilled at takeoff that you'd have thought this was their first time flying. We took off at 9:45 Saturday morning, and when the beverage service started, I was taken aback to hear the couple behind us order two glasses of wine each. I guess everyone has to cope in their own way. An hour-and-a-half later we landed in Iwakuni, where we got off the plane and waited two-and-a-half hours until the next flight. That one was maybe an hour or so to Yokota. Again we got off the plane and sat around in some room for about an hour-and-a-half, then boarded and sat on the plane for another hour while they sorted out the situation and baggage of a family with a child too sick to fly anymore. Horrible for them.
Can you spot grumpy Rachael?
We took off from Yokota, and it was eight-and-a-half long hours in the air this time, to get to Seattle. During this flight we were served dinner, and it's a challenge finding room for everything on these tiny trays and making sure no one ends up wearing their dinner. It didn't help that the trays were not flat -- they slanted downward toward our laps and had no cutout to put a cup in. As long as you had a napkin under your cup it wouldn't slide off. I decided to ask for water for Joey and keep it on my tray, forgetting that it needed a napkin underneath. Ice water right in my crotch! Fortunately I had my sweatpants to change into. It felt like we were served breakfast a few short hours after dinner, as we crossed the international date line at some point, and started Saturday over. If I managed to sleep during all of this, it was in short dozes. I read books on my Kindle most of the time, and tried to keep Joey happy. 

Joey got so tired and uncomfortable as the hours wore on. He cried inconsolably and said, "Airplane done!" I said, "I want it to be all done too, Joey!"

We ran out of water and got so thirsty. We'd all gotten on with full water bottles and asked for water every chance we got, but those tiny cups were not enough. We were parched by the time we got to Seattle, which I believe was 10 a.m. We were barked at and herded through the Customs and baggage process fairly quickly, and went outside to wait for the hotel shuttle.

Our flight to Boston wasn't until midnight so Tim got us a room at a hotel close by, and got us early check-in so we could spend the day there resting and regrouping. Tim and I curled up on one of the queen beds and with the room bright and kids playing, went right to sleep. Tim told me I slept for three hours. He took the kids to Denny's for lunch or dinner, or something. I didn't go because it felt like we'd just eaten breakfast. Instead I enjoyed having the room to myself to shower and freshen up so I might not have to arrive in Boston looking like hell. Eventually everyone had showers, everyone changed, and we re-packed some things from our bulging carry-ons into luggage. The second hardest part of this trip, right behind the tedium and exhaustion, was keeping track of everybody's stuff: Kindles, chargers, sweatshirts, socks.. We tried so hard, but it seemed like things were being forgotten or misplaced all the time.
We headed back to the airport at the conservatively early time of seven, so although we'd had lots of time to rest at the hotel, the tiredness really kicked in while we were trying to kill time there. We took advantage of the USO, where the volunteers were very welcoming, the furniture was comfy, and there were plenty of free snacks and drinks. I took a nap in the little nursery area, along with Joey in his stroller. There was a mom there on her way to Okinawa with three kids and a dog, sans husband. My eyes were closed but I could hear her filling someone in on her journey on the phone, and I was in awe that she could be doing this by herself. 
At last it was time to board for the redeye to Boston. By now, taking off had lost its thrill.
We flew jetBlue this time, and the experience was not the best. As Tim was setting Joey's car seat up he asked the flight attendant for a pillow to put behind Joey's back so the buckle wouldn't dig into him. He was told that would be $5, so he was like 'no thanks'. We might not have liked the old AMC plane, but at least we didn't have to pay for blankets and pillows. Then, once we were all buckled up and ready to go, the same flight attendant Tim had already talked to, came up to me and told me we had to move Joey's car seat to the window seat. What? This was beyond annoying. She had already seen Tim putting that car seat in the middle seat and said nothing. And now Annie who had wanted a window seat so badly after traveling in middle rows the whole way to Seattle, had to give up her seat. So we grumbled and complied. I hate stupid airplane rules that make no sense. The same flight attendant gave us two pillows to try to smooth our ruffled feathers, and it maybe helped a little. However, it was too late for Joey's back, as he was already strapped in and we were not going to be messing with him. He never complained about the buckle.
We all took a good two-hour nap to start, and were not happy when we woke up and found out only two hours had passed. Annie asked me how much longer at least 20 times. We watched a gorgeous sunrise and failed to get a decent picture of it.

Our flight was five hours long, and once we got to the east coast we jumped ahead three hours, so it was about 8 a.m. eastern time when we landed. 

Up next: snow and cousin pictures. If Tim lets me, I might be able to steal time away from packing for the drive down to North Carolina on Saturday. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018


My carry-on from the trip here, contents nearly identical to what I'll be taking for the way back
We are one day from embarking on another few weeks of nomad living, as our whirlwind tour in Okinawa reaches its end. From the time we got our orders here last February, our entire life has been consumed with getting us all approved to come here, getting our stuff here, getting ourselves here, getting our stuff back (last shipment gets picked up Monday!), and seven months after our plane touched down here, getting ourselves back to the States. Here's what we're staring down the barrel of next weekend:

-Takeoff Saturday morning
- Two stops in mainland Japan, both taking an hour or two to get to and lasting one to two hours each
- 9 hours to Seattle, where we will get all our luggage and go through Customs
- 13 hours later..
- 6 hours to Boston (where I hear it's still winter, eek!)

Back in January, I clicked on some random word generator in one of the blogs I read, in order to get my "word of the year." It was escape. I dismissed it right away, thinking to myself, 'Ha! There's no escaping what's coming for me these next few months. Escape is not an option for me.'

While it may be true that I'm not sitting on a beach somewhere with a drink in my hand waiting for it all to be over, I have found that my escapes have come in many forms and have been invaluable to my mental and emotional health. 

A good book has always been one of my favorite ways to escape from reality, and I have been reading like a fool. I have three sources for borrowing books on my Kindle: The Navy Library, Prime Reading and As for Prime Reading, surprisingly* there have been some diamonds in that rough. Two of my recent favorites are The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. I'm always checking back to see what's new. Formed is a source for mainly Catholic books and other media, but also has a collection of classics like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, which I'd never read before but figured better late than never. The Navy Library is where I wait for months at a time to get my hands on popular books like Hillbilly Elegy (interesting stuff!) and Dark Matter (which did not live up to the hype).

If you're looking for books and like my taste in reading, you can follow me in Goodreads.

Recently I went for a pedicure with a friend -- one last time for that fun nail art at Cocok (pronounced Coco) that we all have to get in Okinawa. I also had an unprecedented two massages in two months. There's a place a short walking distance away that I was given a gift certificate for a while back. I came home raving about it because it had been heavenly and such a treat. A few weeks later when I was stressing out about something, Tim told me to call that place and schedule another massage ASAP. I did so without delay, and was so happy I did. Before this, I think the last massage I'd gotten was several years before, and probably many years after the last time. Getting pampered: a much-needed escape.
This pic is from the first time I went to Cocok, and took my girls with me.
Back in December I finally found the courage to try my hand at coloring my own hair because the grays, not surprisingly with all that's going on, had gotten out of control. I'm OK with going gray, but I need to be evenly gray throughout (preferably silver), in order to want to sport it. I was at a stage where I was heavily gray at the temples but not much anywhere else. It just wasn't pretty. To my relief, it worked! Now I was uniformly brunette, but almost a little too dark. About a week and a half later, it faded to the perfect shade, and I'm so much happier than I was with the color I was getting at the salon, which turned a tired rusty color within days (and cost about seven times as much!). This is what I use, and I'm thinking of going just a shade lighter next time. Coloring my own hair may not sound like much of an escape, but it gives me a real feeling of satisfaction. I'll still need the salon for haircuts.

Just getting out of from inside these walls is enough of an escape sometimes. We get so caught up in what needs to be done, cooking, cleaning, getting ready for the next day, etc., that sometimes we have to remind ourselves to get out and go somewhere -- out in the fresh air, on a family walk, down to the beach to look at the sunset. We're always glad we did. 
Tim and I have gone out to dinner just the two of us about once a month these past few months. That is not typical for us. We've always found hiring a babysitter and going off in search of a good place to eat more hassle than it's worth. But here, we've got to because it's never been this easy. We've got a babysitter who lives right down the street and a fun walk to restaurants and shopping on the water. Tomorrow we will pack our suitcases and move into a hotel. Tonight I wasted 20 minutes curling my hair just so it could rain as we were going out the door; and we went out to dinner to celebrate 11 years of wedded bliss. Date night with the hubby: a perfect escape.
All this to say, my life is good, and I am grateful for the little ways that I can step away from life and all its concerns, and take care of myself. 😊 I'll try to remember that next week when we're over the Pacific and Joey's fussing next to me in his carseat. Some prayers would be appreciated.

* I say surprisingly because it's free with Prime membership, and when I subscribed to a free trial of Kindle Unlimited (I think it would have cost $10 a month after the trial), I found it to be absolutely worthless, just a garbage heap of the worst books I'd ever seen. So I get the quality books for free, but I'd have to pay $10 a month for nothing but trash. Hmm..

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

8 things I will not miss about Okinawa

The other day I painted kind of a rosy picture of life here, every bit of which is true. And there's even more. But right now I'm in a mood to make a list of things I will not miss about Okinawa.

1) Living in a concrete house. Sounds are magnified a thousand times as they pass through these walls. A couple nights ago I was reading a book in bed when I started to hear a thump!bump!thump! sound coming from my left. Upstairs or downstairs, I didn't know -- it seemed to be reverberating all over. I went to investigate which one of these crazy kids was up and about, and I found each of them in their beds. Delaney was sitting up and reading. I reminded her not to stay up too late and went back to bed. Then I heard it again and started to get really annoyed. Just what is going on in this house?! I walked around again and found them all in their beds. I ducked my head in the girls' room one more time and happen to catch Delaney tapping her head against the wall behind her. "What are you doing that for?" I asked. "It's relaxing," she told me. O-kaaay.. "Well, could you stop?"

I gave up months ago on training Joey to sleep through the night in this house when I can hear his every whimper as if he's right there in the room.

2) Having to drive to a post office 15 minutes away to pick up my mail. Oh, the joyful anticipation of counting down the 10-14 days it takes for an Amazon Prime package to arrive .. and then leaving the post office toting a shopping bag filled with a week's worth of junk mail.  I will not miss that at all. Instant gratification will soon be mine again!

3) A cruddy selection of produce, most of which is unaffordable. I have heard that things are available on a seasonal basis at the grocery stores and farmer's markets in town. But I don't want to drive all over. I want to shop at one place, the commissary. Delaney asked me to make kale chips recently, and I am only too happy to oblige when a kid asks for vegetables.
But not this time. Sorry, Delaney.

4) Stale PB&J. I don't feel the loaves of white bread here to choose the freshest, I feel them to pick ones that seem least stale. This one has a little bit of give.. I almost feel bad for my kids as I'm packing their lunches (they are overall pretty ungrateful for the food I give them, so that's why I say almost.).

5) The puny cupholders in our Oki cars. Neither my water bottle nor my coffee mug will fit in any of them. I realize it's a nitpicky thing, but I miss my Traverse with its multiple generously-sized cupholders.

6) The lack of adequate parking anywhere out in town. Sometimes there's just no parking at all. On a rare day that Tim had off and the kids did not, we decided to do a little bit of antique furniture shopping. There was a string of stores along a stretch of the highway south of where we live. We wanted to take the whole morning to meander in and out of them. There was just one problem; actually two. The first was the stores didn't open until 11, at which point our day is half done, there's lunch, Joey's nap, and then the kids get home. The other problem was that the stores were literally at the side of the highway with cars zooming past, and there was no parking either on or off the road. There was maybe a questionable-looking alleyway you could drive down on a steep hill and search for parking; but Tim wasn't too keen to do that. So he dropped me off at one end of the sidewalk and I walked down the road alone peering in the store windows to see if it would be worth the trouble of coming back later and trying to park. Not exactly how I had envisioned the morning going.

Of the places that do have parking, it is typically limited and consists of the head-scratching kind that makes me think, 'I can get in there, but am I going to be able to get out?' Once I had a morning dentist appointment, and since I was 15 minutes early and still had the little parking lot to myself, I executed a 16-point turn in order to get my car pointed at the busy road for when it was time to leave. It was well worth the effort.
7) The roads. Holy crap, the roads. I'm pretty sure I mentioned this before, but the side roads are crazy here. They are really narrow with corners of buildings and telephone poles jutting out into them. If I go down the wrong road and need to find my way back, you think oh, no problem: just take a series of turns all in the same direction and turn yourself around, right? NO. It doesn't work that way. I once had to meet Tim at the base where he works for a Christmas party at night, and I was kind of familiar with how to get there, but I had only done it in the daytime. I had Google Maps directing me, but I still managed to take a wrong turn down a pitch-black back road. In order to backtrack I pulled into a parking lot (on my left -- big mistake because remember, we drive on the left side of the road, so when I make a right turn I have to look both ways). I had no visibility to turn out of that parking lot because of a hedge on the right, and I just froze, a scared old lady not wanting to go anywhere, with a car full of impatient kids who'd like to go to a Christmas party and see their dad.  
I have gotten comfortable with the routes I need to know to get anywhere I need to go, and I never make wrong turns anymore because I don't drive around to new places anymore. It's a little sad, but kind of a matter of survival for me and my nerves.

8) The dollar stores that have no gift-wrapping supplies or greeting cards. I know, they have a lot of cool stuff, but what do I need the dollar store for most of the time anyway?

That's everything, I think. And now the countdown really begins -- one month to go!

Monday, February 19, 2018

In our "backyard"

I miss my blog, and I miss feeling like I have a real reason to update it ever. So the other day I thought I'd take out my camera, snap some pictures and build a post around them. I hadn't gotten out my real camera forever, and it is a great exercise, trying to capture moments I don't even notice most of the time and appreciate the things I take for granted. 
Spring has arrived in Okinawa, and the temperatures have jumped from the high '50s/low '60s to the '70s. There are still no bugs. We had nowhere to be because we went to Mass Saturday afternoon (leaving Joey with the babysitter to make it a tad easier for me with Tim away), and there was no CCD yesterday because of the holiday weekend. After some time spent putzing around with our Kindles, I sent us all outside. 
There's this amazing tree near the playground. It's the stuff of fairy tales and adventure stories. You can disappear inside it. You can climb the dense network of branches almost to the top, and there's a thick canopy of leaves that will keep you cool in the heat of summer. It is a tree meant for any kind of pretend game a kid could ever want to play. Not that the kids usually need any prompting to go play in the tree, but I brought my camera along and dropped several hints. The light is so perfect in there when the sun starts to get high. Note: If this tree had been in South Carolina, we would not be going inside because there would be snakes, spiders, gnats and mosquitoes in there. 
Timmy was in a battle with the neighbor boy.
There's something for everybody: a magical tree, a playground with a hard surface they can scooter and bike on, even a sweet little dog named Sushi for the 10-year-old who is obsessed with dogs. There are almost always other kids out playing, whose presence may or may not be appreciated by certain children of mine. Often there's a grownup for me to chat with. Kids routinely leave their bikes, Nerf guns and skateboards at the playground overnight, and find them there when they return. (This is not good training for reality, I know). The military communities I've lived in will always hold a special place in my heart, and this one is a real jewel.
This is all going to be a blip in our memories soon enough, but I want to make sure they can look back and think to themselves, this was a pretty amazing place to call home.