Monday, December 8, 2014

My kid likes creepy crawly things.

During the summer AW started showing an interest in bugs.  He'd ask questions about different kinds of bugs, look for bugs outside and ask to touch them (and get stung by them and make me feel bad for not warning him that dead ones can still sting)...  
He would spend entire hour long car rides asking me to list every kind of bug I could think of...twice and three times over, we played many games of "you be a bee and I'll be a mosquito" and buzz around the room. It all seemed like harmless little boy curiosity at first.  Kansas is a pretty buggy place and our house is a very happy place for huge spider webs, crickets, ladybugs so it all seemed normal. 

But the phase never seemed to end.  We talked about bugs day and night.  Night and day.  We watched many national geographic movies on bugs which then had to be banned because bugs are very violent and gross creatures.  

We went to an extreme bug exhibit.  
We caught a moth and kept it as a pet for an hour.
We felt bad for a stupid bug that we found caught in a spider's web outside one day and set her free and named her Julie only to have Julie jump on my ankle and bite me.  Julie was apparently a thrip and thrips are biters.  I was not a fan of Julie.  And I will never feel bad for any stupid bug again.

We bought lots of bug books.  

AW poured over any books that had bugs in them and then started taking non-fiction books out from the library.  He would spend hours looking at them over and over and memorizing all the types of bugs.  I have read so many bug books in the last few months that now I know entirely way too much information about them.  In fact, I know that not all bugs are actually bugs.  Most are in fact, insects.  And did you know spiders and scorpions are not bugs or insects?  Right, they are arachnids.  

But that's not really where the problem lies...we know much more than how many legs and eyes and body parts different insects and bugs and arachnids have...we know more than the common cute ladybug, butterfly, caterpillar, and bee varieties of insects.  We know that dung beetles eat poop, that spiders inject venom into their prey to liquify them and then drink them, that wolf spiders carry their little wolf spider babies on their backs, that praying mantises eat their boyfriends, that bedbugs, lice and ticks drink our blood,  that flies spit on food to liquify and drink it and also put their poop-covered feet on it, that giant camel spiders, giant hornets, giant cockroaches all exist...and so many other really, really, really gross, diabolical, and horrifying things. 

Here is AW in the "bug" section checking things out.  
Don't try to steer him towards the horse or unicorn section, mom.  Not happening.
Here's an overly informative and blood-curdling children's book on spiders...let's bring that one home to read before bedtime...
For some reason AW really likes the "bitey" types of bugs...mosquitoes, ticks, spiders, scorpions, wasps, fire ants, etc.  And did you know these bastards are pretty heartless creatures? And did you know there are types of wasps called tarantula hawks who attack tarantula spiders, paralyze them, drag them back to their lair and lay eggs in them and when their babies hatch they eat the spider...all while it is still alive?  Yes, I do now know these things.  And I can not "unknow" them.  It has been a long few months of creepy crawlies...Halloween certainly didn't help matters...but I'm really hoping the glimmer of happy Christmas elves and lights and snowflakes will soon change the tide to another area of interest...please...

Thursday, November 6, 2014


I went to a seminar today offered for the spouses here on post who are transitioning from being the spouses of "company grade officers" to "field grade officers."  If you are not in the military these are all foreign terms, I realize.  But it pretty much just means when we get to our next "job" we're moving up the tier in rank and it comes with new responsibilities.  And I say "we" because though it's my husband's job, and I certainly don't share his rank, as a spouse in the Army, your husband's job is the driving force for everything in your life, so it's pretty darn important to be aware of what's going on where he works.

Now, there's a little bit of a double standard with military spouses.  Though we have no legal obligation to perform any tasks just because we are married to service members, there is a history and culture and a handbook on how to be a good military wife and fact is, spouses look to other spouses for guidance and support.  You can sit in the corner and kick and scream that you don't want to do anything as an Army spouse, but honestly, I can't imagine going through this life without being involved, being helpful, and being as informed as possible when you can.  So if I "do so choose" to be a participating spouse, there are certain protocols, etiquette and customs I am required to observe and certain knowledge I am assumed to know.  

Some of the topics of the seminar were things like coping skills within our lifestyle- moving, deployments, casualties, etc., being aware of changes in politics and policies and how they affect our day to day lives, how to assist and support the senior leaders in our unit commands, how to assist in family readiness groups (FRGs) which are formal support groups for family members of Soldiers, etiquette and customs as in when to stand or sit during a ceremony or what to wear to a certain type of function,  and somewhere in there we all sang a rousing chorus of "The Army Goes Rolling Along."  Seriously, we did.

So when did I become this "Army wife?" This wife who knows the trumpet tunes of Reveille and Retreat? Or knows when it's a good time to insert a "Hooah" into a conversation?   Or laughs at a good "Fort Polk is the worst place in the Army" joke?

I sure as heck didn't know any of this stuff growing up in my little hometown corner of New Jersey.  Before I met ol' HW, I was a carefree civilian.  My knowledge of the Army came from movies.  I thought all soldiers were perpetually in basic training mode.  I pictured them living in metal barracks, sleeping on dingy green bunks with their rifles, running to cadence in their boots and crawling camouflaged in the mud...all while their drill sergeants berated them.

I never really thought of Soldiers' families.  I knew they had them but never really understood the logistics of it all.

And then I was married.  And then we were moving across the country.  And then we were reporting to a military base.  

And I got a plastic a military ID with a bad picture. But still, I didn't feel like an Army wife.  I didn't understand the lingo or the acronyms.  I didn't have more than one PCS move under my belt.  I had no war stories.  I hadn't been through a deployment.  We lived off post and I got a job in the civilian world and just went on with life as usual.  Sure, HW wore his ACUs to work everyday now instead of a suit and tie, but he went in to an office in the morning and came home for dinner.  We had weekends off and a fairly normal schedule.  

But the little things started creeping in and shaping my at the PX and the Commissary, understanding my Tricare benefits, going to social coffees and hail and farewells. Still, I felt like an outsider.  And when I looked at other spouses, I thought, I will never really know it all like they do.

But somewhere between then and now, in the space of just four years, I have become an Army spouse.  I have been enveloped into a new culture, a new family, and honestly now don't feel I fit so well into the civilian world anymore.  The gap between my old life and my new one gets wider and wider. I find it hard to communicate with non-military friends.  We face such different sets of problems and different experiences that it's hard to find that relatable, common ground.  It hits me most when I sit down in a random handful of 30 other military wives I've mostly never met before but find I have more relevant things to talk about with these "strangers" than someone I have known for years.  I guess it's because my military sisters are not strangers.  I may not know their names or their exact stories, but I know their struggles because they are my own.

So, I thought, when was that moment where I changed from regular wife to Army wife?  Was it when we said our marriage vows?  When I went to my first military social event?  When I went to my first Army Family Team Building class?  Was it the day my husband came home from work and told me he was deploying to Afghanistan in 3 months?  Was it when I stood unsure of what to say in response to that in our little kitchen in Washington State already six months pregnant and calculating what that meant in terms of my due date?

No, it wasn't those things.  

It wasn't the days of anger I had about it at first either.  Angry that I had to give up my husband at the exact time we were expecting our first baby. Angry that instead of being blissfully swept up in nursery themes and birthing classes I was simultaneously preparing to send my husband to war.  Angry that my husband would not be able to hold his baby, rock him, talk to him, smell him. Angry as I rode the bus to my civilian job with normal people who all got to have their husbands.  Angry at the situations created in this world that made my husband have to leave me when I needed him most.

It wasn't the anger.  It was the acceptance.  It was the moment I stopped telling myself this was unfair.  It was the realization that I wasn't the first military spouse to have a baby alone.  That there were generations upon generations of strong woman who have endured this life, in more arduous and dire circumstances than my own, and who had done it with grace and dignity.  When I accepted it, that he was going and I was going to be on my own with this baby, that's when the crossover happened, I suppose.  I stopped crying and started telling myself to just carry on, be strong, be supportive, be resilient.  

And we got through it.  

That year I found out the difference between brigades and battalions, I found what an FRG does, I found out how spouses support each other, and found myself becoming a new version of myself. The person that can look at what I thought were once insane challenges and smile and say, "sure, I can do it!"

As cliche as it is, I'm darn proud to be an Army spouse.  And I will go ahead and wear my charm bracelet that says so!
Now AW and DW better pick normal jobs.  Because being and Army wife I can handle, but an Army mom I'm not so sure I can do!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Trick or Treat!

Well, though it was a little bit of a slow start, our Halloween with the boys was a blast this year.  

AW was a police officer.

And DW was a criminal.
Book 'em, AW!

This is how our day went:

3:00 PM:  "Hey, AW, let's go get your costume on for Halloween!"
"My spider costume?!"
"Uh, no, your policeman costume."
"Oh.  No, thanks."
(thirty minutes of me convincing him to put on the costume)
4:00 PM:  drag family to local Halloween party at the housing office because it's 30 degrees out.  
4:01 PM: realize the party is being held outside in the parking lot.
4:02 PM: wish you had brought a heavier jacket.
4:03 PM: someone hands out some candy
4:05 PM: the first granules of sugar enter the children's bloodstream
4:15 PM:  halloween costume contest.  AW won for his age group! Woo hoo!  He could have cared less.  And what was the prize?  More candy...
Here's the winner posing on a fire truck.

5:15 PM: leave party cold and shivering while the children clutch ruthlessly to their gooey half eaten taffy bars as we shove them in the car
5:30 PM: try to convince them to eat real food instead of candy
6:00 PM: load the kiddos up in the cute wagon to go beg for candy from the neighbors

6:01 PM:  AW shyly makes his first trick or treat attempt.  He is too scared to say anything but is given candy to put in his bag.
6:07 PM:  AW makes his second trick or treat attempt.  He still can not say the words but realizes these strangely dressed people may look scary but they are putting candy in his halloween bag.
6:08 PM:  AW wildly and jubilantly races to the third house loudly shouting "Trick or Treat!  Happy Halloween!" because he realizes these people are giving him CANDY!!
6:09- 7:09 PM:  repeat of the same even throughout the neighborhood, at each house he became more and more excited to run up and get his treat.
7:10 PM:  We decide to stand on our porch and hand out candy.  AW assaults oncoming trick or treaters by running up to them with handfuls of candy and screaming "happy halloween!"  
7:30 PM:  We drag the kids inside and let them eat more candy.  Madness ensues.  They eventually pass out to the glow of a thousand glow sticks and with full bellies of chocolate, red dye #40, caramel coloring and high fructose corn syrup.  

So magical.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A trip to Pumpkin Hollow.

It's almost Halloween!  That means pumpkin patches, jack-o-lanterns, candy and costumes.  And CANDY!!!

I took the boys to a local farm the other day for some fall fun.  As I was rummaging through DW's closet to get them dressed for the day I found a pumpkin shirt that was AW's from his first Halloween a few years ago.  I thought, "Oh! That will look so cute...and might as well get one more use out of this shirt before it's too late."  Here's DW rocking his pumpkin shirt on his life size pumpkin checker board.  I bet in his head he's trying to reenact a scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or something.

And now I'll let you in on my rookie parenting mistake of the day: if you are going to put one of your children in a Halloween shirt, you'd better make sure you have a Halloween shirt for all the other children as well...or you will find yourself doing something like...well, printing off spider clip art from your computer and scotch-taping it to your other child's shirt to keep him happy...

It may not look super classy...but I will say, the spider paper did stay on his shirt all day, which was pretty impressive seeing as he was rolling around in corn mazes and hay bales...and not once did he think there was anything wrong or different about his cool "halloween shirt."  Win for me!

The farm had so many really neat things for the kids to do at "Pumpkin Hollow."  A hay slide, corn maze, barrel tractor ride, horse-drawn hayride, and a huge container of corn just to sit in and go nuts. They had a great time.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This is why I can never get anything done.

Because my attention-seeking, love-starved, cuckoo-crazy cat just will not leave me alone once the kids are in bed (she hides from their "loving affection" all day in my closet).  No matter how many times I push her out of the way, she just plops her furry behind right in front of the computer screen.  Oh, MVGC, what will I do with you...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sunflowers and apple picking.

Nothing says Kansas like sunflowers.  And nothing says fall like apple picking.  So what do we do in Kansas in the fall?  Visit sunflower fields and apple orchards of course!

One fun Sunday, HW had to study all day (as usual) and I was not in the mood to stay home on a gorgeous day.  So I decided it would be fun to take the kids apple picking.  I dressed them, got them all excited, packed them up in the car and drove to the orchards.  Trouble was, I arrived at 10 AM and they didn't open until 12PM.

Sooooo....there was this sunflower field only a half an hour away.  We rode over and we got some precious photos of AW.  (DW was passed out)

 Here a random dog just wandered into our shot.  Thanks, random dog.

Things were going pretty well at the ol' Sunflower fields so I packed the kiddos up and headed to the apple orchards.  It was a really cute place. It had a little country store, a fire pit to roast marshmallows, a duck pond and food to feed the ducks, and a fun tractor took you out to the fields to pick your apples.  Here the boys are enjoying the spoils of their picking.

What you don't see in these photos is me.  Mom.  Mom, who had a large diaper bag, camera bag, and 10 lb bag of apples in one hand and whilst with her other hand simultaneously is trying to help her short 2 year old pick apples from a tall tree branch and corral her curious, crawling one year old from diving straight into piles of rotten apples and bumblebees on the ground.  Apple picking alone with two toddlers sucks.  

Please lick the door quietly.

We were pretty fortunate in AW's first year of life to have avoided any type of sickness.  I was blissfully unaware of earaches and tylenol dosages. This was most likely because I rarely left the house with him and we kept pretty much to ourselves.  But here in Kansas,  we don't like to stay home all day and the boys have been germing it up with their peers non-stop.  Sometimes it feels like constant barrage of runny noses, fevers, puking, sneezing, and diarrhea is plaguing our home.  

I'm usually not much of a germaphobe but toddlers are straight up disgusting little creatures.  They eat dried up old food off floors, wash their hands in toilets, drink bathwater, lick toys, lick doorknobs,  lick shoe soles, lick their friends, sneeze on each other, wipe their noses on their sleeves, their blankets, their mom's new shirt...I could go on and on...just really, really, gross.

And sick kids don't sleep.  Or they will only sleep if you stay awake all night to hold them.

And sick kids like getting sick on a Friday so you have to go to the ER for care instead of being able to make an appointment with the pediatrician.  

Here's DW & AW practicing stellar hygiene at daycare.  Ebola outbreak, say what? 
But as much as these sick little disease carrying kids gross me out with their antics - I keep hugging and kissing them all day long.  And as much as I'm tired from holding them all night, I would feather be tired than see them suffer.  And as much as I love going out club-hopping with my friends on the weekends, I'd would rather spend my Friday night in the waiting room of the ER if it means they'll get the meds they need to get better quickly.  They really are just that cute...even covered in gooey boogers.  

Now let's cross our fingers these boys stay healthy throughout flu season.