Monday, June 18, 2018

Topsail 2018

On June 9, the Schlossers made their annual pilgrimage from near and far (mostly far -- Cincinnati) to the beach. It was Topsail again for the second straight time, because we all love it so much. Tim and I had to take separate cars because sadly this time he would need to be spending most of the week at work. That's just how it worked out; it was a pretty important week for Tim, but more on that in another post. So I loaded up the Traverse with Annie and Joey and maybe half the stuff I'd packed, and set out on the ninety minute drive to Topsail from New Bern. We left around naptime, and that was intentional. Joey would sleep and we'd arrive around 3, which was check-in time. It felt like it took forever, but both kids were sleeping and I was singing along with the radio and sipping coffee. At last we crossed the Intracoastal Waterway and it wasn't long after that I was slowing down and scanning the numbers on the mailboxes trying to find our piece of paradise for the week. 

My brother Scotty who was staying two houses over, saw our car and came walking over. The sight that greeted him when he got closer was me holding Annie's hair while she threw up on the gravel driveway. "Did she get a little carsick?" he asked hopefully. I grimaced. "No, she hasn't been feeling good for the last day or so. There's been something going around." Scotty was gracious in that moment and still glad to see us, but I can't help but feel that my words might have echoed through his mind a few times and filled him with dread. 

Soon after, I unpacked the car and installed Annie on the living room couch in the duplex we had for just ourselves and no innocent healthy people, and hoped and prayed that the worst was over. Spoiler alert: it wasn't. Throughout the whole week, there would be at least one or two of the entire group not feeling well at any given time. 'Not feeling well' could mean vomiting or just lying on the couch all day watching the Disney Channel. Or a little bit of both. Or hurling in the middle of a living room rug right before the start of someone's birthday party😬, and then being back at it playing an hour or two later. Poor Annie threw up maybe once or twice more that first day, and then went two days without eating or moving off the couch. At the end we tallied up 6 out of the 34 of us that had thrown up at least once on this trip. One adult and five kids.

It was a challenging trip in other ways. As I already mentioned, Tim had to work. We arrived on Saturday, he left on Sunday afternoon, and it left me feeling so deflated. It is not the same without him, both because I enjoy his company and because he is kind of the 'wind beneath my wings' on vacation, doing a lot of the work and freeing me to relax. Knowing that he was now also feeling like crap did not help. But we forged on and made the most of it. On Tuesday afternoon I took the kids and headed back so that we could be ready for his change of command ceremony on Wednesday morning at Cherry Point. (He was feeling better by then, thank goodness.) By mid-afternoon Wednesday the kids and I were back at Topsail. That latter part of the week there was a lot of rain. Ain't nobody got time for rain or sickness on the beach vacation! 

So the stars didn't align exactly the way we wanted or hoped this time. Last year's Topsail vacation was almost too good to be true, and it's a little too much to expect that it will always be this way. The true test of our mettle is our attitude when things start going awry. We'd already survived the cockroach house, so we could handle anything, right?

Within the first 48 hours of this vacation I began to see the good, joy-filled moments of the week as the precious gifts that they were. They were sprinkled throughout, these wonderful memories, and I took them as they came with so much gratitude.  Here are some off the top of my head:

- Snuggling my newest nephew Taj, while drinking my morning coffee on the back deck (my sister Grace and her family were in the duplex next to me)
- Beers and laughs with my parents and siblings on the deck after the kids had gone to bed
- The sight of Timmy not lacking playmates as he ran around with all the boy cousins born within a year or two of one another
- Grace playing with my hair and telling me Taj's birth story
- Margaritas and a pretty view of the bay at our Ladies' Lunch
- Finally getting my butt off the sand and bodyboarding on Friday. Those were some good waves, and it made me feel like a kid again instead of a mom about to turn 39.

Looking at these pictures, you'd never know we'd had any problems. I could have just shown you these pictures and told you about how we had another amazing vacation and everything was perfect, but I like to keep it real here.
This was our first night, and I was still pretending to myself he'd be there all week.
My sister Anna's husband Robert, and Lizzie
Caleb, or "Spindleshanks" as Mom as dubbed him, on Sophie's back
Grace's Joey, with Elise and Joey. Elise will be 3 next month!
Anna with her oldest and youngest (due in November:))
Mom and Lizzie
Delaney was never this taken with her own baby siblings. Taj had us under some kind of spell.
Caleb .. those eyes!
The rapidly changing weather made for some of the best photos.
I have always had this thing where I'm nervous to hold other people's babies, even my sisters'. Maybe I'm worried they'll cry, or get hungry, or just know I'm not the one they want holding them. I find myself waiting for the reason I'll need to hand them back to their mothers. With Taj, there was none of that. Holding him was pure bliss, even when he was awake.
Tim came back on Friday evening just in time for dinner and group photos on the beach.
Grace's Joey and Lotus are missing from this photo. Poor Lotus didn't see the light of day from Thursday on.
As always, it was tough leaving on Saturday, especially with Tim back and the sun shining; but it made it easier knowing that I'll see them again when Joey and I go up for Sophie's wedding at the end of this month. We'll try not to bring any sicknesses along to wreck your wedding, Soph!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Annie's 9th Birthday

Every time one of the kids has a birthday, it feels like my birthday except better since I'm not the one who's another year older.😊 I remember the agony and the joy of bringing them into the world, and marvel at how much they and I have changed since then. The kids themselves see each birthday as a magical milestone, a precise line between their new age and the last. Annie asked me the day before what time she'd been born. I told her 5:23 a.m. and she nodded, satisfied to know that first thing in the morning of the 19th, she would in fact be nine years old.
I did not sleep in Saturday morning; I got up at the usual time of 7 at the request of my new nine-year-old, so she didn't have to wait any longer to open her presents. She was overjoyed with the roller skates and jump rope that her daddy and Delaney had picked out for her. She ran to them and gave them hugs after opening them. Then she opened the Converse sneakers that she knew I'd picked out, and ran over to give me my hug. I thought it was funny how she'd kept track of exactly what came from whom, instead of thinking of her presents as from both parents. She misses nothing. She'd already seen the gift bag on the highest shelf of my closet and asked if she could open it first thing in the morning. (True, I hadn't made much effort to hide it.) She also knew what her father and sister were up to when they went on an errand the night before by themselves. I'm not raising a fool!
Annie has never rollerskated so safely.
Later in the morning the girls and I gathered up our birthday supplies and headed out for Annie's painting party with the girls in her class.
She had an incident when her hair went in the paint, and I said, "Annie's hair is always going into everything." (Especially her dinner) She was a fan of having green ends and didn't want to wash it out.
These two were the first done with their paintings and just hovered around the cake until the other girls were done and it was time to sing. Of course they did.πŸ™„
Tim picked up Annie's dinner of choice, sushi, early in the afternoon so it would be there waiting for us when we got home from Mass. Annie had two spicy tuna rolls, and maybe some ramen noodles and miso soup. I didn't notice much because I was too busy feasting on all the sushi and cutting up things for Joey.
It had been decided days before that we would roast s'mores that night, but when the weather took a turn for the worse, the girls got really pouty at the idea of taking a rain check. I would have said too bad, but Tim's way nicer than I am. When the rain took a break he went ahead and made a fire in the wet backyard. Everyone was happy.
That was that, another birthday in the books. I am grateful on her birthday and always, for the gift of Annalise Elizabeth in our lives. I can't wait to see what her last year in single digits holds for her.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Grandma and Grandpa's visit, and my first time away from the Fabulous Four

We had our first guests at our new digs here in North Carolina. It was not so much a leisurely visit for them, though. Tim's parents came up last Thursday so they could stay with the kids while I went to join Tim in Quantico, VA for the spouses' portion of Commanders' Course which would be the following Monday through Friday. I documented as much of their visit as I could before I took off Saturday morning. I felt torn between "Freedom!" and "But I don't wanna go!". This would be my first time separated from the 'Fabulous Four' (as Delaney dubs them), not just the 'Big Three'. I have never been apart from my baby for even a night, so I was worried about him missing me, especially at naptime and bedtime. But I'm sure it's obvious to anyone scrolling through these pictures, I had no reason to worry about Joe. He was in heaven with his grandparents there, and I was kind of in the background. I always build things up in my mind to be such a bigger deal than they turn out to be in reality.

Even still, when it came time for me to say goodbye, that was a little tough for us both. Goodbyes are hard for him -- he doesn't even like when we take separate cars to get to the same destination. His sadness is short-lived, though, and out of sight is out of mind to him for the most part. Tim Sr drove us all to drop me at the airport, and I gave each kid a hug and kiss in turn, and told them to be good. Joey cried, saying, "Joey go! Joey go!" I kept the goodbye cheerful and short, telling him I was going on an airplane to see Daddy, and we'd both be back in a few days. Although my heart was heavy, I knew that as soon as the car rounded the bend, he was probably already cheering up. There was too much fun to be had with Grandma and Grandpa to waste time on crying.
I enjoyed two short flights sans kids -- lots of reading and coffee sipping time.😊 Tim picked me up the Reagan Airport, and we had the rest of the weekend all to ourselves. We ate Afghan food the first night and Vietnamese the next. We test-drove a Mustang we had no intention of buying, and did some shopping because I needed to return some things at Old Navy and find a few more pieces to complete my business casual wardrobe for the next few days. No denim allowed! (Did I overthink it? Tim would tell you just a bit.) We went for a run around Quantico, but since I've fallen out of the habit of running, I slowed Tim down too much. We talked to the kids on the phone at least a couple times and I loved hearing how cute they sound on the phone. I asked Tim if he remembered how the older kids, when they were little, never gave him the time of day when he was away and wanted to talk to him on the phone. He said, "I distinctly remember." (He was always so bummed.) We were/are pretty amazed at what a good phone conversationalist Joey is at only age 2. He must have learned from his siblings. It melted my heart to hear his sweet little voice telling me he loved and missed me.
We snapped this right before leaving the room Monday morning.
I didn't sleep much on Sunday night because I was a bundle of nerves. What was there to be so nervous about? It was just a gathering of all husband's peers and their spouses, during which we'd spend time mingling or sitting in an auditorium (sometimes with the Marines, but mostly with other spouses) listening to presentations, or in a classroom in small groups. I anticipated it like the first day of high school. Will I fit in? Will I find anyone to talk to? Eek!

The first day was the hardest, but after that it was OK. Highlights for me were, in no particular order:

 • the spouses' field trip to (and tour of) the Commandant's house at 8th and I
 • when the Commandant and his wife came to talk to us 
 • a presentation that Tim and I got to hear together about generational differences (bottom line: Gen X ruined the Millennials with all their helicoptering, and as a result most young Marines have never made any decisions.)
 • Anytime Tim and I got to have a class together or go to lunch together, which unfortunately didn't happen often. Most of the time our lunches overlapped by maybe a half hour anyway.
 • lunch with a friend from Parris Island
 • dinner with old friends and Tim's soon-to-be Executive Officer
 • When Tim and I visited our pictures at the Homecoming Exhibit at the National Museum of the Marine Corps
 • The barbecue social on the quad. 'Social' is a dirty word to us, like a how early can we get away with leaving? kind of thing. We both had to make an exception here because in the random seating arrangement we ended up with two great couples who were fun to talk to; and the barbecue was delicious and I don't even usually like barbecue. 
So many tulips!😍
I was so glad they scheduled in time for us to get pictures with Chesty.
Quick 'Rachael story' for you: For our tour of the Commandant's house, we were all allowed to wander upstairs and downstairs and go anywhere there wasn't a closed door or a velvet rope. There were Marines stationed in various areas, and one Marine whose main job was to guard a half-million dollar Tiffany lamp. But he could also, like all the others, tell you a story/anecdote about each portrait, piece of furniture, really any object in the room. In the room with the Tiffany lamp, the Marine standing there told us that one of the couches was the one that Grand old Man of the Marine Corps, Archibald Henderson, died on. I asked if I'd get yelled at for sitting on it and he said no. But I prided myself on going through every room and not disturbing a single artifact even though I really wanted to sit when my feet started to hurt. There would be no butt imprint of mine on anything. After an hour or two of us milling around the house, one of the facilitators called, "Ladies, start heading to the exit!" I was already in the foyer and I obediently started walking to the nearest door. I didn't even get to lay a finger on that door though, because out of nowhere a little man in a checked blazer started barking, "No-no-no-no-NO!" as he swept toward me. One of the other ladies I was with grabbed my wrist and playfully slapped it. You can't take me anywhere! So there I am in the picture above, with the Forbidden Door (as close as I dared!) behind me.

We were all dismissed early that day, so Tim and I decided to run to the Marine Corps Museum quickly before it closed. We had already been through the museum a few times before, but we hadn't been back together since our photos had been on display. We got a picture of us next to our photos, and while Tim chatted with the person who'd taken it, I continued down the wall, lingering at each set of pictures and the stories they told. It was a very moving experience to look into all those faces and feel that emotion in my own gut.

Meanwhile, back home, our kids were NOT missing us whatsoever. 
May the 4th
We drove home Friday afternoon and arrived around 8. I was so happy to see all of them. It's not a perspective I often get, going away and coming back. In fact, I think the last time I was away for longer than two nights was our honeymoon. Joey fused himself to my body for the first few minutes, and I held onto him like, I'm never letting you go again!

We thought we'd get Saturday to spend all of us together, but to our disappointment, Tim and Carolyn opted to leave Saturday morning. It's a long drive to Massachusetts, and I think weather was a concern for Sunday. So we were sad to see them go, but happy and grateful they came. We'll see them again next month when they come down for the change of command.