Category Archives: Military Life

Reece-nt anxieties

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Last week when I told Reece we were going to the airport to pick up daddy he didn’t seem to believe me.  Even the night before I said to him, “In the morning we get to go get Daddy!” to which he shrugged it off and said “okay, goodnight mommy.”  It was a bit sad but I figured when he saw Kyle his whole demeanor would change.  Thank goodness it did.

Glued to daddy

Glued to daddy

We brought daddy home and Reece was glued to him like flies on a garbage can.  There was no peeling him away.  Reece wanted to show daddy this and that and wanted to involve him in EVERY move he made the rest of the day.  Luckily Kyle had the following day off of work so Reece got to spend even more time with his hero.

But the first day back to work was hard.  Kyle went to PT and came home just as the kids and I were eating breakfast.  Reece didn’t even know he had left.  Then Kyle showered, put on his uniform and eventually left.  Reece was a little unhappy with daddy walking out the door but I wasn’t prepared for how much he would ask for him throughout the day.  Every few minutes, “Daddy at work?”  which I would answer “yes” then, “Daddy’s not coming home.” And I would have to explain to him that it was a regular work day and in just a few hours daddy would be coming home.  I tried to set up a time for me to bring Reece to Kyle’s office so he could see daddy wasn’t away but his work day was so busy there just wasn’t any time.

I figured this was a little hurdle in an otherwise smooth TDY (Temporary Duty) and transition back to normal and so far it has been.  A few nights after Kyle got back we decided on pizza for dinner so I placed the order then grabbed my keys, shoes, and Kylee to pick it up.  Kyle was cutting the grass as Reece played outside so I figured I would leave them and Kylee and I would go on our own.  Reece saw what I was doing and said he wanted to go so without a thought I loaded him up into his seat, then Kylee.

Suddenly Reece started screaming for daddy!  When I asked him what was wrong he screamed/cried to me that we couldn’t leave daddy home.  Kyle wasn’t going to go (he was still cutting the grass) so I unbuckled Reece and told him I would be back soon.  That was too much for him too.  Kyle and I explained to him what was happening ten different ways but still he wanted both parents and his sister to ALL go together.

After five full minutes of crying and us explaining to him that I would be back if he stayed and that daddy would still be there when he returned if he went Kyle finally gave up and told me to just go.  I hopped in the driver’s seat and took off.  Kyle says he cried the entire time I was away saying “Mommy and Kylee left me!”

He has gotten a little better about one of us leaving but still gets noticeably concerned until we are all together again.  Kyle and I have decided that we can no longer call his TDYs “work” because it freaks Reece out that daddy is going to “work” on regular days; it confuses him.  We have started calling them “missions” in hopes that Reece will be able to prepare himself and know the difference when daddy is on a mission and when he is at work for a normal day.  We keep reassuring him that we will always be together and no matter how long daddy has to go away for he will come back.  This is turning out to be one of the biggest hardships of military life that we have had to face as a family.

Sadly, we are quickly preparing Reece for another mission that Kyle will be going on in the very near future.  We have started talking to him this afternoon about the upcoming trip and all the changes that comes with it.  We are looking for a global map so we can track where Kyle is going/has been, setting up a calendar so we can mark the days, filling a jar of Hershey Kisses for nightly kisses from daddy, and keeping up with his routine to make the transition as smooth as possible.  I can do my best when it comes to reassuring him (and soon Kylee) but there is only so much that I can do, they are going to feel what they are going to feel and all I can do is be there to comfort them.

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To-do, almost done (plus some)

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Every time Kyle has to leave I make a list of all the things I want to accomplish while he is away.  I can’t pinpoint why I am so much more productive when he’s gone, I just am.  After I put the kids down I turn on some music and get to work.  I usually stay up until some crazy hour of the night then crash into bed out of sheer exhaustion.  It is the only thing to look forward to concerning Kyle’s absence.

This go-around I wrote out a list that had 18 things.  Easy ones such as anchoring the cable in our bedroom to the wall and more time consuming ones such as refinishing the dining room table.  It is a dream list, one I know I won’t finish but at least everything is written in one place so that I can stay reminded of the things I want to do.

Kyle comes home tomorrow morning and I must admit, while looking over this list and looking around my house I feel like I made some serious headway.  I put away all of the stray linens that were still sitting in boxes since we moved, I went through/sorted all of my clothes and thrifted a ton, I cleaned out the truck, organized Kylee’s closet by size, started Reece’s busy book, re-covered the corkboard, painted our growth chart, and anchored that damn cable in our bedroom.  In addition to checking off those things from my list I also organized the laundry room, moved the unused couch ottomam out of the living room, hung a shelf in the kitchen, cleaned up my bookshelves, organized my desk, moved and organized the kids’ bookshelf, cleaned out the fridge, and cut the grass.

I love that things are getting done.  I have these grand plans to stay as productive when Kyle is home but deep in the back of my brain I know this is not the case.  We prefer to spend our time together by being together.  We may not be doing anything glamorous but watching TV with him takes precedence over thrifting old clothes.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no intentions of becoming a bum when Kyle is not away and blaming it on wanting to spend time together.  There are so many things that need to get done around the house that would be more fun if we did it together such as painting the picnic table.  It will be hot and messy work but it will be worth it for 1. The end product and 2. A fun way to be together while accomplishing something.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even let him help me refinish the dining room table (this is a project I have a little OCD over).

I am a little sad that not everything on my list was completed.  I wanted him to come home and I proudly show him everything checked off but I know as soon as he walks in the house he will notice a big difference with all the changes I was able to make.   I feel so accomplished.  Plus there will be more trips and to-do lists in the near future.

Making plans and hoping for the best

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Thanksgiving is a big deal in my family.  The other holidays are shared within each little family or with friends but for Thanksgiving, everyone finagles their calendars to ensure we can all come together on a Thursday evening to fill our bellies with delicious turkey and all its accoutrements and simply be together.  It is a big deal and I have no plans on missing out.

This year, given that we live on an isolated formation of rocks in the middle of the ocean, getting home for the holiday is taking more planning than usual.  In addition to going home to see family in Florida for the holiday I also plan on stopping for a long layover to spend time with my Aunt and cousins who do not live in Florida and see Kyle since he will be in the middle of a long training course near where my aunt lives.

I hate making decisions and definitive plans.  There are so many factors and things that could go wrong.  With two small kids and the appropriate amount of luggage that will inevitably ensue, planning this intricate trip could take a lot of research, muscle, and sanity.

First off flights are stupid-expensive.  I am doing acrobatics trying to find flights that wouldn’t require me forfeiting one of my kids to cover the price.  I am looking at every travel planning website, individual airlines websites, and military Space-A to come up with the best course, comparing routes and finances, to ease the stress of this trip.

This brings up a whole separate list of things that can happen:

– Flight connection troubles. Delays, cancelations, or the possibility of no seats if we do Space-A.

– Renting a hotel in an unfamiliar place.

– Renting a car and driving in an unfamiliar place.

– Luggage + two small kids and I only have two hands.

– Layovers, short and long.

It seems that I also have to plan around the unknown.  Kyle will be in training and we don’t know how much time he’ll have off while we’re there.  We are flying into the airport close to my aunt so that we can spend time with her and introduce her to Kylee but also so that we can rent a car and drive to see Kyle.  If for some reason Kyle won’t be available the whole time we are there I don’t want to burden my aunt with the craziness that it my clan.  Right now it looks like Kyle will be able to spend time with us but this is the Army, nothing is ever so concrete.

The thing is I really want this to work out.  I think it would be an amazing adventure –and feat- of we can see Kyle, my aunt and cousins, and my Florida family over the Thanksgiving holiday without breaking the bank and my sanity in the process.  I can do it.  I will make it my personal mission to find flights, car rentals and hotel rooms so that this trip will work.  When the time comes I will load up our luggage and wrangle the kids using every ounce I have in me and make the best of the given situation.  It has to work out because there is no other option.

Working my butt off (and forgetting)

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On Tuesday night as we tucked Reece into bed I had a realization that hit me like a cold shower, I forgot to write and publish today!  It was like a sweeping worried feeling, like I had forgotten my homework or forgot to study for a test.  It was a strange feeling and I beat myself up for forgetting as I got ready for bed.

When I first started writing –over a year ago- it was an everyday routine.  I would set aside time to get out my random thoughts and updates, feeling so much better once they were in word-form.  Then Kylee was born and things slowed down.  I didn’t have the time or mental capacity to write as frequently.  I always wanted to return to my earlier routine but that would have to wait until my life was a little more routine, itself.  Once Kylee settled down I began writing with some regularity again but then we moved to a tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, screwing things up all over again.

The last box!

The last box!

Months had gone by before I was able to commit to writing every other day.  It was simpler than I anticipated.  I thought I would forget which days I was supposed to write, forgetting I wrote or didn’t write yesterday, but easily enough I got into the groove of things.  Every-other day allowed me some me time and reading on a regular basis.

This week has proven that no matter how simple I make things for myself I can still screw up the simplest pattern.

Last Friday I didn’t write.  This was a conscious choice.  We had moved into the new house, we were living on limited resources and I was stealing internet –sporadically- from one of my neighbors.  The kids were going a bit crazy, given we just messed up their routines, so to carve out an hour to write was not top priority.  I figured it be best for me to skip a day and focus on the kids while getting ready for the movers.

Tuesday’s missed publication?  That was just sheer absentmindedness.

Since the movers brought our stuff –Saturday- I have been working like a mule.  Besides heavy furniture, EVERYTHING was moved into the garage instead of our house -per our request so we don’t bring any uninvited roommates- so I am doing what I can to move us in while Kyle is at work.  The best time for me to move is when the kids nap; typically my writing time.  But since Saturday I have looked forward to nap time because it is when I am able most productive.

So here we are.  Thursday.  I haven’t blogged since Sunday but my house looks somewhat like a house.  The garage is left with only with garage stuff and there isn’t a single box left to unpack.  Not everything is in it’s place yet but it is close.  We are still working at figuring out our routine and I like where it is headed.  The kids are a bit mixed up but seem to be settling quicker than it took our last move.

I don’t want to think of my missing a post that I forgot or it lacked importance but rather, my blog took one for the team.  It self-sacrificed so that I may get this house and my family settled.

Good job Blog!  I am proud of you!

I get to live in paradise AND have my own sink!

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I knew this house would be better than our first home in Hawaii but when we did our walk-through before signing the lease I felt this calm pour over me; this was home.

Besides the obvious –no bugs, central AC, 2.5 bathrooms- there are little things that I missed and I didn’t noticed I missed.  Like:

Drywall.  This house has drywall which helps it not feel like a prison cell like our last house.

Unobstructed windows.  No AC units overtaking these windows, light can actually get in.

Openness.  I can cook in my kitchen and still keep an eye on the kids!

Home, Sweet New-Home

Home, Sweet New-Home

Square footage.  I am a bit spoiled from growing up in Florida where houses have good sized rooms.  Here in Hawaii, you’re living large if you can fit a queen bed and a dresser in the same room.

A garage.  I like parking Cookie where I know she is safe from the elements and assholes.

Grass.  We have a fenced in backyard and I have already let Reece go outside and play by himself (I was watching him through the window though).  I like that the outside is so easily accessible to us; we are an outdoorsy-type family.

Bathroom.  In this house the kids have their own bathroom and Kyle and I have one.  Plus, our bathroom has TWO SINKS!  Sometimes it is the little things that make me happy!

Yesterday the movers packed our old house and moved everything here.  We had them set up the furniture in the rooms and leave everything else out in the garage so that we can go through it all piece by piece for a few different reasons.  One, bugs.  Kyle saw eight can spiders and countless bugs and geckos.  We want to be sure we aren’t bringing any unauthorized houseguests into our clean home.  Two, to get rid of stuff we no longer need.  I am done hanging onto shit we aren’t using.

I like this fresh new start.  All of the bedrooms are empty except for furniture and the walls are bare.  Kyle and I have a design scheme we have agreed on and have been shopping for items that fit our plan.  We figured if we are going to be in the house for a while we might as well make it a home, not just the place we sleep for the next few years.  It has been great bring on the same page about so much of this house.  Just a before sitting down to write I called Kyle over to the big wall by the stairs and asked him what he thought about blank, he liked my idea so now I must hunt for that particular item!

This is a house I am excited to invite people over to.  I know –and I knew that others knew- the last house was not a direct reflection on the people we are but I was still embarrassed for someone to walk through my front door.  Here, I want to throw parties and host friends and family who visit.  I want to give people a tour and show them every inch, not hide or cover blemishes.  I want it to feel like an established household not some temporary dwelling.  I want it all to fit together and look like a family lives here.

As the hours pass and more boxes are unloaded it is comforting to see this house come together.  I have felt so much happier being in this house than I did on my best day in the last place.  For five months I was tense, but here I feel relaxed.  Kyle and I are creating a home for the first time in our lives, not just a livable space.  This is where we’ll be for the next little while.  This is home.

Ready to get out!

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Today is the last full day we spend in this awful house.  Looking back, has it really been so terrible?  YES!

I knew this house would suck the moment we moved in.  It was small, gross, and broken.  But it was temporary.  I figured could get over the bad parts as we wait for the new house but as I look back at the five months spent in this place I am relieved that our time here is done.

Critters run this place, not me.  I creep around corners expecting to see spiders, roaches, palmettos, beetles, centipedes, and rats!  I was brave every day.  I would slay the intruder without hesitation, every time.  I don’t think I was ever scared of the things that went bump in the night but I was plagued with anxiety, especially when it came to cane spiders.  One night Kyle and I killed four in a two hour timespan; three in our bedroom and one in the hall just outside our door.

Home, Sweet Hell

Home, Sweet Hell

The lack of central AC is normal in Hawaii but in our situation, it seemed extra crappy.  Our units were old, loud, and smelled like fish.  I preferred to not use them at all since we usually had really good airflow thanks to the trade winds.  But there were times where my annoyance with the AC’s didn’t compare to Kyle’s temperature tolerance and they were switched on.  I swear I could smell them from outside.

I don’t want to focus on all the bad of this house.  There is a lot of great qualities to living here including the view, the security, the seclusion, and now, the quiet.

I get to wake up every morning to a 180 degree view from Diamond Head to the Ewa side of the island.  I see ships coming into the harbor (military and commercial), planes coming and going (military and commercial) and millions of people go about their everyday lives.  I have stellar view that I will truly miss.

There is very little housing on this base.  So little that most people I talk to had no idea that there is housing on this base.  It is like our little secret.  Nobody ever comes up here so it is always quiet; I love it.

The absolute best thing that came from this house is the memories.

Kylee learned to crawl in this house.  She took her first steps in this house.  It was the first place she had her own room and a real bed.  She has evolved from an infant into a little girl with such a big personality.

We watched as Reece finally adjusted to all the changes.  He has a fondness for this house and screams “WE’RE HOOOOME!” when we get into the neighborhood.  It is in this house we finally let Reece go off into his room and play whenever he likes, without supervision.  He has grown from a rambunctious toddler into a little boy in the short time we’ve lived here.

Kyle and I began our Hawaiian adventure here.  There is an awesome hike just up the road that we have discovered is great for the kids and Mac.  We are able to get into nature without going too far which has led to some great memories made in an instant.  We can walk and talk and do something as a family just steps outside our front door.

I truly hate this house.  The four surrounding walls make my stomach turn every time I enter them again but my family makes it okay.  I will be sad when we leave it but –as cliché as is is- I will keep the memories with me, I don’t need this house to remember them.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

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This time Kyle picked my book.  He told me to pull all the books I was interested in and pile them up on the table so he could make a decision.  I ended up grabbing more than twenty.  He came downstairs, looked at the spines as they lay in neatly stacked piles, and within 30 seconds picked one.

I bought Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain because it looked interesting and was a National Book Award Finalist.  I am a sucker for a book with some accolades.  Plus it was about a soldier and his unit on a “Victory Tour” after a news crew captured their heroic acts in battle (This takes place during Operation Iraqi Freedom).  Right up my alley; award and military.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk  by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
by Ben Fountain

I was so pumped when Kyle picked this book because it was one that I had been wanting to read.  As soon as his decision was made I put the other books away and go to reading the first moment the kids would allow.  Within the first few pages I began to realize this was not going to be what I was anticipating.

The author, I feel, does a great job exposing the inner workings of a nineteen year old kid, home from the war.   His thoughts about hot girls, masturbating, fretting over his virginity, getting drunk, etc do not seem exaggerated or out of place.  Billy Lynn is a well thought out character ringing so true to today’s soldiers.

Billy and the other guys show signs of PTSD, war skepticism and loyalty.  They screwed with each other but had the best of intentions, they were brothers in arms.  I feel like the author did his research; either spending some time with a real unit or personally knowing someone who served.  The soldiers fit their ranks and place in the unit very well; I absolutely loved SGT. Dime he is what a Sergeant should be.

Like most soldiers I know, Billy doesn’t like people calling him a hero.  He says over and over in conversations he only did what he was trained to do, not something heroic.  He talks with a lot of people and they tell him their opinions of the war, full of American pride.   One of my favorite aspects –and one I haven’t seen before- was when the author brought the reader into Billy’s head as someone was talking to him and he wasn’t fully listening.  Sentences were long and drawn out or we’d only get fragments of what was being said (hard to explain how he does it but it makes total sense when you see it.)

It was a well written book, that is undeniable, what I didn’t particularly enjoy was that the story took place over such a short timespan.  Three hundred pages mostly dedicated to just three hours!  There was pleanty of thinking back/back story but the main story takes place during a NFL Football game.  Two thirds are about what happens before halftime alone!  I guess I had a hard time reading a book that takes place over a few hours when it takes me a few days to get through.

Fountain really hit the nail on the head with this book.  Nothing felt cliché, contrived, or pushed.  It could have easily been a memoir if Billy Lynn was a real person.   I was cheering for him to get the girl, nervous for him going back to war, embarrassed for him when he drunkenly made a fool of himself, and rooting for him in the movie deal.  I want to hear more of his story, what happens after the last page.