Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jellybean Update #2

Here is Asher with his special jellybeans. We began eating one jellybean a day when daddy left at the end of July, so we've pretty much eaten 60 jellybeans...or 2 months worth! 10 months of jellybeans left! It doesn't look like there could be that many in there, does it? That's what keeps me moving forward somedays....Today Asher picked brown...yesterday he picked green.

We also have been enjoying some delicious meals, courtesy of so many generous folks who are willing to go out of their way to help us. Tonight, Asher & I got to enjoy a little apple pie with Whitey's ice cream before the bedtime routine. Doesn't he look pleased?!


Hug in a Box

Wanna see what a Hug in a Box looks like?

I mailed off this package to Jake today. You cannot see all of what is inside, but beneath all that Hug are some gummy bears, Swedish Fish, Nutter Butters, a few books, and this Hug.

A few years ago, I joined our church's prayer shawl ministry. I began knitting before I was a mom, and....I didn't complete my first shawl until...well....it probably took me about 2 years! After the first shawl, I decided to try my hand at crochet. It does go a lot faster...and this is the result: And yes...it's a camoflauge prayer shawl. I made it so that it measures across my back and down my arms. When I put it on, it felt like a hug to me....so, I hope it will feel like that to Jake. Maybe sometimes it will be a pillow when he doesn't have anywhere else to lay his head. Maybe sometimes it will be a scarf to keep away the dust. Maybe sometimes it will be something to hold onto while he prays. Maybe sometimes it will be the Hug that he needs.

Additionally, before I closed up the box, I wrapped Asher's "paper hug" around the prayer shawl. I imagine this package will be the last that we send to Jake before he heads to Afghanistan. I sure hope this Hug in a Box will sustain him when he needs it most! More than anything, we just want him to know how much we love him and miss him and how extremely proud we are!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Morning Reflections

It's quiet.

It's Sunday morning, and the baby is still sleeping. If Jake were here, he would be, too.

Jake is currently in California, and for now, we have no communication out or in. He does tell me "they" will allow him to receive snail mail, so I'll have to get on that. Right now I'm putting together a package to mail off to him containing some books to read/share for the flight to Afghanistan and all the boring moments that waiting in the military provides you with, some Nutter Butters, Gummy Bears, and Swedish Fish, a DVD he ordered that arrived at the house, and a prayer shawl that I crocheted. It's waiting on a special addition by Asher....but we have yet to make the "paper hug" that we'd like to send along to daddy.

A year ago today, I was running in my first race. I was part of a marathon relay team with a group of Stroller Strides moms. Jake had shared the training portion with me...often running right along side of me, encouraging me, and keeping me going. And on the day of the race, my mom, Asher & Jake were there to cheer me on. Jake even jumped in with me and ran.

This year I wanted to do the race again. I wanted to train and feel good and participate, but the training never got done. It would merely sound like a bunch of excuses when I put the reasons out there for "Why" it didn't get done...but after such a good experience last year with an amazing training buddy who constantly pushed me or said, "Come on, you can do this," when I said or believed I couldn't, truly was what made me. And this year, it's what broke me.

I didn't have someone after work waiting for me with his workout clothes, tying up his tennis shoes. I didn't have him there with the dog on the leash and the stroller waiting to go to say, "Let's do this." and have no way to back out. Excuses, yes, but it was what worked to get me out there.

So I beat myself up this year that I didn't get the training in...but then I admitted that there are just not enough hours in the day when you are the one responsible for getting the kid and yourself fed, bathed, and in bed at a reasonable hour, after working all day long. Sure, we still get to Stroller Strides, and we're checking out the YMCA....so I CAN train if I want to. It was just so much more enjoyable when I could share it with the man I love the most.

We've talked about doing the half together next year...a mutual goal we can individually work toward throughout the year and then come together in September of next year to do as a team. Can we do it?

"Faith is being sure ofAlign Left what you hope for and certain of what you do not see." ~Hebrews 11:1

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Out of touch...

Just wanted to let everyone know that for the foreseeable future I will be out of touch. Because of training, I am not going to have communication abilities with anyone. I wanted, however, to take the time to again say thank you to all of you that are continuing to support me and my family while I am deployed - I will never be able to express how humbling it is to have such a wonderful group of people in my life and surrounding my family.

So, until the communication is re-established I'm doing alright, keeping my chin up and moving forward one day at a time. Lots of love from the desert in California!!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Highly Recommended Reads: Deployment Books for Kids

Prior to Jake's deployment, a fellow military wife recommended a book to me.

I love books, I love book recs, so I was eager to check this one out. But the book wasn't for me. It was meant for Asher.

Asher is also a lover of stories. We read (at least) one book every day...usually at bedtime. He can even "read" to me now...two of his favorites are Goodnight, Gorilla and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

We knew before Jake left that we wanted to record him reading to Asher, and we did. I've been working on uploading them to YouTube, so that no matter where we are, as long as we have internet access, we can have daddy read Asher a story. But I hadn't even thought of looking for a children's book that might explain or talk about deployment, feelings, etc. on a child's level.

Marcy suggested Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut and illustrated by Vicki Wehrman. It's the story of a little boy and his dad, who has been deployed far away, who enjoy playing catch together. Since they cannot be together in the same place to play, they devise a clever way to continue their game of catch, even while thousands of miles from each other. The concept is a little "above" Asher's head, but the rhyming storyline helps keep his attention, as well as bright pictures. This book is a hardback and is $15.95.

Of course, when I went on Amazon.com to purchase these, they targeted me! They gave me some wonderful suggestions of other books that may be helpful to me. I'm apparently a sucker, as I wound up with 3 other books for Asher in my cart! The up side of this is that I got free shipping on my order...

The next book I found was Daddy is a Soldier, written and illustrated by Kirsten Hallowell. This is a very small, paperback book, and priced at $9. The pictures and story are very age appropriate for Asher at age 2.5. I only wish that this book was a board book for the price and size. The following two stories are my favorites, and also the ones I cannot get through without choking back tears!

A Paper Hug, by Stephanie Skolmoski and illustrated by Anneliese Bennion, should have been self explanitory. Apparently I didn't think too hard about it before I began reading it. Or...I just get emotional pretty easily. Either way, this story is about a little boy who is putting together a special "going away" package for his daddy. He can't think of anything special to put in, but then he comes up with the perfect idea. As the name of the story reveals (but obviously not to me!), he comes up with a creative way to send his daddy a special hug. This one is a bargain at $6.95 on Amazon.com.
My Dad's a Hero by Rebecca Christiansen & Jewel Armstrong and illustrated by Jen O. Robertson is a book that has obviously been put together with great care and experience. From the little detals it mentions like the types of transportation soldiers use, to the MRE's they eat, and dogtags and uniforms they wear, this book has it all. It goes through all the different things a daddy may do while he is deployed, and the reasons why he must be away. There's a special place to even place daddy's picture, and the child's picture as well. I'm sure if you read this story, you'll tear up too when it is finally revealed why the daddy is such a hero.

There were also books specifically for children whose moms were deployed as well. These books helped Jake and I to have the words to say to our son to help him to understand a little better what was going on and why daddy has to go away. I hope if you are in a position to share a story like one of the above with your child or a child whose parent is deployed, that these recommendations will be of some aid to you.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Next step...

This is me as I was waiting to load our duffle bags onto an 18-wheeler so they could be transported to Fort Irwin, California...the National Training Center.

Well, I am finally in California at the National Training Center! I arrived a few days ago and have been busy setting up my living space...along side 70 other guys in an open tent with a concrete floor! The symphony of snoring in actually pretty impressive, unless of course you have my misfortune of being right by the person that snores the loudest of all of them!

Anyway, I have a few days before a lot of the training really gets going and wanted to take a quick opportunity to get online and let people know what was going on. Speaking of internet, my usage is going to be pretty sporadic due to the fact that I am only online because of the grace of others allowing me to use their internet cards! Once I get settled in Afghanistan, my internet usage will become much more regular.

I hope everyone is doing well, and echoing my wife's words, thank you to all who have been so AWESOME during this deployment...we are truly blessed with outstanding family and friends...you all make my job a lot easier to concentrate on here and make a lot of the worries I would have had go away...you all have a very special place in my heart!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Help and Humility

Five years ago when Jake was deployed the first time, this was new territory for me, and for many of our friends and family as well.

So many well-meaning folks offered their help by putting a blanket statement out there such as, "Well let me know if you need anything!"

While those thoughts were appreciated, it was really difficult while battling anxiety and depression and all the emotions of what was going on in my newly married life as a war bride, to pick up the phone and say, "Hey, remember when you offered? Well...can I come join you for dinner tonight?" Instead, I sat by myself in my apartment a lot, feeling sorry for myself, and eating an entire frozen pizza.

After the last deployment, I had a lot of anger & issues I needed to work through. But after discussing my feelings with some dear friends, they helped me to realize that while people do mean well and want to help, they don't always know how to help. In putting out those offers of helping with "whatever I need," I was never taking them up on their offers, and hence, felt like no one really cared.

I admit. The last deployment I put up a facade that everthing was OK. I didn't want to look weak or like I didn't know how to do this. I wanted everyone to think, "Look at her - she's doing so well!" I did appear that way to many people, but inside, and to my family, I was crumbling. I was a mess. I didn't sleep, I ate way too much, and every time I heard a car door slam, I had to go look at the window. I was certain that the men in uniform were coming to tell me my husband was dead.

After processing all these feelings, I've realized that people really do want to help. And while I am still not always accepting of help, I am understanding now that when people offer, they are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. Sometimes I feel like, "What did I do to deserve this?" Sometimes I feel like, "Well if Jake wasn't here...these friends wouldn't have to/need to do these things for me." I dislike feeling like I am a burden on other people. I don't like feeling needy. Please don't take these statements as ungratefulness, because I cannot express how truly amazed and grateful I am at the outpouring of love and support. But sometimes it's just hard to swallow the fact that I can't do it all on my own and that I sometimes do need a little help.

I'm learning that when people say, "I want to help..please let me know," that it's OK to say, "You know what? When I get home from work after a long day, the craziest time is about 5 PM when the dog needs to be fed and have attention, when Asher is clinging to me to have a snack & wants to play, when everything is crashing down upon me....that it'd just be nice to know that dinner could be ready in 30 minutes." It's not that I can't make dinner for myself....because I can. But it's just one less stress for me in the little 24 hours I have each day to get it all done!

So yesterday...when a PD friend asked what I needed, I broke down and told her what would be helpful. I was proud of myself. I still felt embarassed to say what would take a little stress out of my life, but then I remembered that people truly do want to help, they just need to know how they can best help, and I have the responsibility to tell them. She merely sent out an email, and has said 11 people have already responded offering that they want to assist. And before noon today, I had a lasagna dropped off to me at work so that I can cook it up & serve it! How awesome is that?!

When I saw the groceries in my house after our return from Pensacola, I cried to my mother in law and told her how I hate being a burden on people. She said that I wasn't being a burden at all, and enforced again that people are just wanting to help, to give back, to say thanks for the sacrifices that we are making as a family while Jake is gone. She truly said it best when she said, "Just allow them to be Christ's hands to you. Someday you'll be able to return the favors...but right now is not the time." I have to trust that she is right and that I just need to accept what I can at this point and believe that someday I will have the time, resources, and energy to do good in return. Until then, I can humbly say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU."

Monday, September 13, 2010

4 Day Pass

Well, we had an amazing time together as a family of 3 this past weekend.

Jake was allowed a 4 day pass and we were able to meet up with him in Pensacola, Florida for some much needed fun and relaxation together. We were so grateful that my sister Ashley was able to come along as nanny.

Our day began very early on Thursday. Our flight left at 6:35 AM, so I was trying to keep the little man asleep as long as possible, but once Papa had picked us up at 5:30, Asher was WIDE awake. He was telling Papa what a great driver he was all the way across town... "Good job, Papa...stopping at the red lights. Hooray! You found the green light! Time to go over the super bridge!"

We easily checked in and got boarded onto the plane. I had tried to prepare Asher for what was to come, and in the days prior to our trip he kept repeating ,"We're going on a big jet airplane to see Daddy on the beach!" (see previous post!) so now that it was finally time to go, I was trying to be sure he understood what that meant. As he looked out the window as we prepared to taxi down the runway, Asher asked Aunt Ash & I, "We're going to fly to the moon?" Well...maybe he wasn't really sure what was going on.

We made a connection in Atlanta and got to Florida around 10:35. When we got off the plane and made our way out of the terminal, I could see Jake. What a wonderful sight! Asher didn't notice him until we got a bit closer, but once he did, he ran straight into his daddy's open arms. Talk about worth the wait!

We enjoyed a late breakfast/early lunch at one of the many Waffle Houses down south. The waitress recommended the cheese grits as a side, so I bit. Little did I know that it was grits with a slice of orange American cheese laid on top of some grits & then covered with a little more grits! Wish I had taken a picture of it to share with you all...or ya'll as they say! We then headed to our hotel to find a beach. We stayed on the Pensacola Naval Air Base and we ended up locating a small private beach on the base on the Bayou Grande where we were able to have the place all to ourselves. We had a fun dinner at Red Robin that evening and let Asher run around the Cordova Mall to let off some steam.

The next day we ended up playing at a local swimming pool, and later that evening, dined out a local seafood restaurant on the water called The Crab Trap. Here is a view of my boys out the window sharing some time together after our huge, but delicious, meal!

Aunt Ash & Asher made sure to check out the fish tank to find Nemo before we left! After our dinner, Jake decided to take us for a drive over a really long bridge. Asher, of course, loved that! We ended up finding Pensacola Beach and drove around looking at the gorgeous houses and water. This is what we saw when we parked our car and walked out onto the beach.
The moon, the star, the sunset, and the white sand with the rolling ocean waves....it was honestly amazing and so beautiful.

And we were happy.

The next day we came back to enjoy the beach during the daytime. It was absolutely fabulous by day, as well. Look at that SKY!

After we spent some time on the beach, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and while Nanny Aunt Ash & Asher took naps, we escaped to the Will Call Sports Bar to catch Iowa vs. Iowa State and Ohio State vs. Miami. It was so nice to just do something really normal like watch football and drink beer together! The day was even sweeter when the Hawks kicked butt.

On our final day together, we enjoyed some time at the National Naval Aviation Museum. Look what was greeting us when we arrived! Do you see how tiny Jake, Ash, & Asher look beneath it!

And look there!
Jake with an Aircraft Bringer Inner Dude....AWESOME!

We enjoyed a final vacation lunch together and then drove along the coast for about an hour before we headed back to the airport. Jake was meeting a fellow soldier there to drive back to Mississippi and we would catch a plane home a few hours later. It was very difficult to say goodbye again, but in trying to look ever forward, I know that we are a few months closer to the end of this journey and we have about 10 and a half left to go. As so many of my friends have reminded me, just take it one jellybean a day and keep going.

It was a wonderful trip and upon getting home after 10 PM we were all exhausted. After such a whirlwind weekend full of fun and emotion, when I came home and saw that my dad & brother had put up the front awning that had fallen off the house the week prior, the dog safely home and happy to see us after my in-laws had graciously watched her, and my fridge stocked with some staples from the ever-amazing Thomsens, I just fell apart. It was a good cry. I was glad to be home, but sad to be without my husband.

So, to make myself feel better I ate the 4 jellybeans that we had missed while we were away, and climbed into bed with the thoughts of the past 4 days to make me drift off to sleep with a smile on my face.

Asher's Going on a Big Jet Airplane

And....it WAS awesome!